The papers of Jessie Trefethen document her twenty-one years of teaching practical art at Oberlin College, her career as a watercolorist, her views on the teaching of art at Oberlin College, and her personal history in the last few years before her death in 1978. Except from one letter from Trefethen to her mother, there is essentially no information about her family, or her life before coming to Oberlin.
The collection is organized into four record series: I. Biographical Files; II. Correspondence; III. Files Relating to the Oberlin College Fine Arts Department; and, IV. Printed Matter. Within each series, files are mostly arranged chronologically, though in the case of the correspondence file, the files are arranged alphabetically by the recipient of the letters, and chronologically within each folder.
The biographical papers are not extensive, containing only a document written by Charles James Wright about Trefethen's career in art (1970), an obituary (1978), five articles (1926, 1946-47, 1949) and a copy of a will of a distant relative, Henry Trefethen (n.d.). Correspondence with Herbert E. Ward documents Trefethen's artistic and medical history from 1968 to 1975, including her lengthy hospitalization in 1972 and 1973 due to heart problems. Also documented, in the only letter to her mother, Elizabeth Mank, is Trefethen's pleasure trip to France in the summer of 1925.
Trefethen's interest in the teaching of art is illustrated in her writing about the history of the Oberlin College Art Department (1836-1947), which includes many key names of the practical art department such as Antoinette Brown Blackwell (private drawing teacher, 1850) and Georgiana Wyett (1855-87). Trefethen wrote at length in this manuscript, contained in Series III, about the department from its inception in 1836 until the time at which she taught. Also noteworthy are the reports which Trefethen wrote to the President of the college, Ernest H. Wilkins (1880-1966), in which she described the condition of the fine arts program year by year (1927-1933), as well as the supplies needed to pursue her methods of teaching.
Finally, the collection includes printed matter (Series IV) consisting of many brochures detailing the exhibits at which her paintings were shown. Many of the brochures include small prints of the paintings, most of which concern landscapes along the rocky coast of Maine. Also included are invitations to gallery openings.
Series I. Biographical Files, 1970, n.d. (2 folders)
Biographical materials include a short biography of Jessie Trefethen, written by Charles James Wright of the University of Louisville (1970), as well as a transcript of the will of Henry Trefethen, a distant ancestor.
Series II. Correspondence, 1925, 1968, 1971-75 (3 folders)
This series consists of letters sent by Jessie Trefethen to Elizabeth Mank (mother) concerning personal matters. Also included are letters to Ellen Johnson (Oberlin College Art Librarian, 1934-46; faculty, fine arts, 1945-77) concerning personal matters, her own art exhibits and her views on teaching art at Oberlin. Letters to Herbert Ward concern personal matters and Jessie’s medical problems.
Series III. Files Relating to the Oberlin College Fine Arts Department, 1927-33, n.d. (3 folders)
Yearly reports to Oberlin College President Ernest H. Wilkins (1927-33), other correspondence with the president concerning the art department, and a manuscript written by Trefethen regarding the history of art at Oberlin College (n.d.) are all contained herein. A copy of the history, published by the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, has been inserted by the Oberlin College Archives staff.
Series IV. Printed Matter, 1925-27, 1941, 1945, 1965, n.d. (1 folder)
Included in this series are seven brochures from exhibits which displayed Trefethen’s paintings, and other memorabilia from art galleries and displays, such as those in Portland, Maine and New York City.
Series V. Drawings, 1937, n.d.c.
Two of Trefethen’s drawings are included in this series. The pencil drawings are portraits of Oberlin College President Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880-1966) and Professor Kemper Fullerton (1865-1941) of the Oberlin College Graduate School of Theology. Both drawings are on buff paper and measure 25” x 19 1/8”.
Series I. Biographical Files, 1970, n.d.
Articles and biographical sketch of Jessie B. Trefethen,
1926, 1946-47, 1949, 1970, 1978
Will of Henry Trefethen, n.d.
Series II. Correspondence, 1925, 1968, 1971-75
Box 1 (cont.)
Letters to Ellen Johnson from Jessie Trefethen, 30
December 1968, 27 April 1972, n.d. (2 letters,
1 greeting card)
Letter to Elizabeth Mank (mother) from Jessie Trefethen,
12 August 1925 (1 letter)
Letters to Herbert E. Ward from Jessie Trefethen, 12
January 1971 – 28 February 1975 (15 letters,
Series III. Files Relating to the Oberlin College Fine Arts Department, 1927-33, n.d.
Box 1 (cont.)
Reports to Oberlin College President Ernest H.
Letters to and from Ernest H. Wilkins, 30 June
1930 – 21 December 1931 (3 letters)
History of Fine Arts at Oberlin College, by Jessie Trefethen,
manuscript and published article (copy), 1933, n.d.
Series IV. Printed Matter, 1925-27, 1941, 1945, 1965, n.d.
Box 1 (cont.)
Brochures and memorabilia from art exhibits, 10 April
1925 – 13 November 1965, n.d. (7 brochures)
Series V. Drawings, 1937, n.d.
Map case II, Drawer 16
Pencil drawings (2)
Kemper Fullerton, 1937
Ernest Hatch Wilkins, n.d.