Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Dan Dickey Collection MS 308
MS 308  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (64.45 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Preferred Citation
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Comments
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Processing Information

  • Title: Dan Dickey Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 308
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 5.0 Linear feet (10 boxes)
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1920-1962
    Date (inclusive): 1865-1990
    Abstract: This collection contains the personal papers and family papers of Dan Dickey, a San Diego painter, sculptor, and muralist partly known for his work under the WPA Federal Art Project.
    creator: Dickey, Daniel

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Dan Dickey was born in New York on March 17, 1910 to parents Roy Dickey (1878-1953) and Ellen Rose Dickey (d. 1952). The family moved to Chicago when Dickey was very young, and his parents divorced in 1914. Dan was raised in Chicago by his father (who was a commercial artist working in advertising) and stepmother, Alice Manning Dickey, who married Roy Dickey in 1916. He majored in English at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, graduating in 1932. In the years following his graduation, he studied art in New York at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students’ League and traveled in Europe with his family.
    In 1935, during the California-Pacific International Exposition, Dickey and two college friends, Malcolm McDowell (“Mac”) and Paul Swartz traveled to San Diego, where Dickey would spend the rest of his life. He painted portraits at the Exposition, where he met artist Foster Jewell and his wife Melisse, also an artist and a trained nurse (b. 1896). In 1937, Melisse divorced her husband, and she and Dickey became lifelong partners. Their relationship went through a period of turmoil when, in 1950, Dickey married former student and fellow local artist Ethel Greene, but they divorced in 1952, and Dickey and Jewell formally married in 1955.
    From 1937-1939, Dickey worked for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. In 1944, he joined San Diego muralist Belle Baranceanu in painting six murals for a World War II bond drive. During 1944-1945 he wrote a column called “The Visual Arts” for the San Diego Journal. He was a member of the San Diego Art Guild and the La Jolla Art Center, and his paintings and sculptures appeared in exhibitions at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the California State Fair. His first solo exhibition was held at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego in 1948.
    Dickey died in San Diego on November 2, 1961.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains material related to Dickey’s family, his elementary and secondary education and class notes, and other material from his time at Carleton College. Dickey’s art career is documented by clippings, writings, correspondence, and exhibition catalogs. Of particular significance is the voluminous correspondence that survives between Dickey and his parents, spanning from the 1920s to the 1950s. A scrapbook (compiled by Roy Dickey) documents family activities during the first decades of the 1900s. Many of the photographs feature Dan Dickey as a child.
    Correspondence and family papers include those of his wife, Melisse Jewell Dickey; his father, Roy Dickey; his mother, Ellen Rose Dickey; his step-mother, Alice Manning; and his maternal grandmother, Rose Higgins.


    This collection is arranged in two series:
    Series I: Dan Dickey Papers;
    Series II: Dickey Family Papers.

    Preferred Citation

    Dan Dickey Collection, MS 308, San Diego History Center Document Archives, San Diego, CA.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Scrapbooks are extremely fragile. Many of the letters are very soiled and some are brittle.


    All original artwork has been removed to the Curatorial department. Most of original photographs have been removed to the Photographs department.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The collection was donated by Ettilie Wallace, a San Diego journalist and close friend of the Dickeys. Wallace assumed ownership of the collection after Melisse Dickey’s death in 1963.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Amy Fry in September 2008.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Dickey, Alice Manning
    Dickey, Ellen Rose Higgins
    Dickey, Roy
    Dickey, Velma Melisse Holben Jewell
    Greene, Ethel J.
    Ilan-Lael Foundation.
    Ruocco, Lloyd, 1907-1981
    Wallace, Ettilie
    Art, American--California--San Diego--20th century
    Artists--California--San Diego