Scope and arrangement
This collection consists of the business and personal files of E.T. Williams, which detail his career in finance and real estate, as well as his art collecting, participation in social clubs, family life, philanthropy, donations to politicians, and early career in the Peace Corps. Included are business files, correspondence, donation records, event invitations, legal documents, meeting minutes, real estate documentation, and travel records, which illustrate Williams' professional life and personal interests.
Williams spent considerable time negotiating the purchase and sale of his family's art collection, and retained records of the galleries, museums, and institutions to which he donated, loaned, or sold this art. The art collecting files consist of appraisals, correspondence with art museums, gallery consignment forms, inventories, loan forms, and sales agreements. The artists most frequently discussed are Romare Bearden, Joshua Johnson, Hale Woodruff, and Lois Mailou Jones. Some of the museums with which Williams conducted business include the Carnegie Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Minnesota Museum of Art, the Mint Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Parrish Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, and Whitney Museum of American Art. These files are notable for revealing the manner in which works of art exchange hands among collectors, investors, galleries, and institutions.
The banking records are comprised of pocket day-timers, yearly pocket planners, and banker's diaries from Williams' tenure at Chase Manhattan Bank. These items provide a glimpse into the nature of the day-to-day work during Williams' banking career, and the individual business interactions that occurred. Also among the banking records are files from Williams' time as a trustee at the Fiduciary Trust Company.
Williams kept up an active social life and maintained membership with a number of exclusive social clubs, these include The Church Club of New York, Comus Club, Knickerbocker Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Reveille Club, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, and the University Club of New York City. Williams' involvement is documented though correspondence and event invitations, offering insight into the nature of these clubs and their participants. Of note is a Reveille Club scrapbook that compiles biographies of the club's members.
Contained within the Peace Corps files is a 1962 certificate of service, a photograph of Williams in Ethiopia, and papers relating to his international travel. The most information regarding his Peace Corps service is found in a file of personal correspondence, which holds letters Williams wrote while living abroad. Of special interest is a small collection of photographs of family and friends that Williams' labeled, "pictures of home."
The personal files are comprised of biographical information and materials related to Williams' family. Williams saved much of his personal correspondence, some of which covers his time with the Peace Corps and living in Washington, D.C. The personal files also convey details of the lives of Williams' daughters, Brooke and Eden, and their correspondence with family while away at college. Williams retained wedding invitations, funeral announcements and obituaries, records of vacations and travel, and several versions of his biography and resume. Among the personal artifacts are Williams' scrapbook, his high school diploma, his wife's Westover diploma, and their expired passports. The scrapbook contains items chronicling Williams' activities as a high school student, volunteer work with the Junior Red Cross, and service with the Peace Corps. Included are clippings regarding Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I have a dream" speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Williams can be seen in the background of some of the images he collected of these events.
The philanthropy files detail Williams' monetary donations and service on the boards of numerous foundations, museums, and non-profit institutions. His family's philanthropic activities are acknowledged through thank you letters, commemorative brochures, and invitations to charitable events. Among the organizations represented are Brooklyn College, the Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Romare Bearden Foundation, the Schomburg Society of Black Art and Culture, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Woodlawn Cemetery.
Williams was also a frequent donor to political campaigns, exclusively within the Democratic Party. The politicians files contain letters of appreciation from politicians such as Al Gore, Andrew Cuomo, Barack Obama, Bill Bradley, Bill Clinton, Carl McCall, Charles Rangel, Chuck Schumer, Chris Owens, Cory Booker, Geraldine Ferraro, Howard Dean, Larry Graham, and Paul Tsongas. Also of note are materials from Williams and his wife's attendance at the 1992 Democratic National convention and Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008.
The Real Estate and Investment files are strongest in portraying Williams' work as a real estate investor, particularly the co-op conversion of the Fordham Hill apartments in the Bronx. Williams kept meticulous records of his business transactions, which characterize all aspects of his real estate investments and operations management. Included are the plans for the Fordham Hill co-op conversion, board meeting minutes, correspondence, financial records, legal papers, memoranda, property appraisals, and shareholders files. These files represent all aspects of Williams' real estate investing, and reveal the details of the co-op conversion process as well as his work as president of the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation. Williams also kept records on his family's homes in New York City; Sag Harbor, Long Island; Naples, Florida; and Dark Harbor, Maine.
Files are arranged alphabetically by category, and chronologically within each category. The categories are Art Collecting, Banking and Finance, Clubs and Societies, Peace Corps, Personal Files, Philanthropy, Politicians, and Real Estate and Investment.