Skip to main content

Frances H. Johnson Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00313

Scope and Contents

The Frances H. Johnson papers contain correspondence, newspaper clippings, programs from musical performances, fliers, wedding invitations, and minutes and other related material from the Hartford Philharmonic Society and Hartford School of Music. The letters, most of which were written by others to Johnson, pertain largely to musical matters, whether artistic or business-related. The largest batch of letters is from the Scottish-born pianist and composer Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945), who was a teacher and longtime friend of Johnson's. A few letters in the collection were written by others to people other than Johnson, including a letter from 1921 written by the composer Camille Saint-Saens to Isidore Philipp, who gave it to Johnson.

Correspondence to Frances H. Johnson (FHJ) is arranged alphabetically by author and then by date, with undated letters last. Enclosures (e.g. programs and the like) are kept with correspondence where the association with a letter is obvious. Envelopes and slips of paper with notes in FHJ's hand, containing identifying or explanatory information, are also included in this series. Correspondence to/from others is arranged alphabetically by author.

The papers include notes by FHJ (handwritten lists of correspondents, possibly written at the time of donation); handwritten notes, printed brochures, invitations, and membership lists from the Hartford Philharmonic Society and Hartford School of Music. Also included are the Memoir of Helen Hopekirk by Josephine F. Allen (Mrs. B.P. Clark); music programs and fliers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York; newspaper clippings, mostly from Hartford newspapers; and photographs.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1885 - 1947


Language of Materials

English and French

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Frances Hall Johnson, born in 1865, was a trained classical pianist who also taught music and was active in promoting musicians locally as well as bringing renowned performers to Hartford. In about 1892 she founded the Musical Club of Hartford, a venture which began on a small scale, with eight or so members meeting and entertaining one another at their homes. In fifteen years the membership numbered 500. Johnson served on the boards of the Hartford Philharmonic Society and the Hartford School of Music (known today as the Hartford Conservatory). In 1931 Johnson published a book, Musical Memories of Hartford: Drawn from Records Public and Private. Johnson, who lived with her sister Rose, died in 1947.


0.667 linear feet (2 containers)


The collection consists mainly of letters written to Frances H. Johnson by various correspondents including Helen Hopekirk. A few of the letters are written by various correspondents to other people. Also included are clippings, programs from musical performances, fliers, and wedding invitations as well as material related to the Hartford Philharmonic Society and the Hartford School of Music.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Frances H. Johnson Papers were donated around 1945 to Smith College by Miss Frances H. Johnson of Hartford, Connecticut. There appears to be no formal record of accession apart from an announcement in the Friends of the Smith College Library annual report of March 1946.

Johnson decided to donate her papers to Smith at the suggestion of her neighbor, Mary A. Goodman of the Smith College Class of 1896. Goodman is referred to in correspondence between Johnson and Margaret Grierson, Smith College's librarian at the time.

Related Material

- Johnson, Frances Hall, Musical Memories of Hartford. Hartford, CT: Witkower's, 1931

Processing Information

The collection was partially organized by an unknown person who is likely responsible for the dates written in blue pen on many of the otherwise undated letters. It is presumed that these dates were taken from the postmarks of their original envelopes and that the dates correspond more or less to the date on which the letter was actually written. An exception is the June 17 letter from Kay (last name not given), which has been dated 1948 but, because Johnson died in 1947, is more likely to have been 1943 or 1944. To the rest of the undated letters, where possible, dates have been added in pencil, in brackets, and most of the leftover envelopes have been discarded. Many letters remain undated.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.



Finding aid to the Frances H. Johnson Papers.
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Caroline J. White
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-12-06: Finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063