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Finding Aid for the Mae Babitz papers, ca. 1920-2000
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Mae Babitz papers
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1920-2000
    Collection number: 1740
    Creator: Babitz, Mae
    Extent: 17 boxes (8.5 linear ft.) 12 oversize boxes 5 map folders
    Abstract: Mae Babitz (1911-2003) illustrated architectural landmarks of Los Angeles from 1940 to 1970 and was instrumental in saving Simon Rodia's Watts Towers from destruction. The collection includes artwork as well as personal correspondence and correspondence with the City of Los Angeles with respect to exhibitions, acquisitions and saving the Towers. Babitz is most known for mid-century illustrations of Los Angeles architecture, some of the only surviving records of buildings that no longer exist. Examples include buildings at Bunker Hill, the Bradbury Building, Hollywood Hotel, Watts Towers, and various Victorian homes. A self-trained artist, Babitz used pencil, quill and ink on watercolor paper; she painted at site, primarily of Victorian buildings. After many years of working to get the City of Los Angeles to acquire Babitz's artwork for posterity, her daughter, Mirandi Babitz donated the materials to UCLA in 2006. Collection consists of extensive personal and professional correspondence, personal photographs, loose papers, exhibition fliers and booklets, newspaper and magazine clippings and ephemera of Mae Babitz's life as an artist. In addition to personal and work related papers, the collection includes over 70 illustrations that were shown in galleries and public buildings, and many other earlier sketches and drawings. Also included are correspondence and internal documentation related to and generated by the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mirandi Babitz, 2006.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Daniella Perry in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Kelley Wolfe Bachli, 2010.
    The processing of this collection was generously supported by Arcadia   funds.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Mae Babitz papers (Collection 1740). Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 6603237 


    Mae Babitz, adventurer, historian, activist, preservationist, artist, wife and mother, was born in Crowley, Louisiana in 1911 to Cajun-French ancestry and baptized Lily May Josephine. Her childhood was spent in the oilfield boomtown, Spindletop, Texas. Babitz moved to Los Angeles in 1934, worked as a secretary and fell in love with Los Angeles architecture. She married musician, Sol Babitz, violinist and consultant to Igor Stravinsky. Igor and Vera Stravinsky became godparents of the Babitz children, Eve and Mirandi. Mae Babitz started a career as an artist in the 1950s as buildings began to be demolished to make way for postwar architecture styles. A self-trained artist, she illustrated primarily Victorian buildings on-site, using pencil, quill and ink on watercolor paper. While some illustrations are in the private collections of the Stravinskys, Edward James and Eugene Berman, most are here at UCLA. Babitz worked with Kate Steinitz and Dr. Elmer Belt in the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana at UCLA. During that time, Babitz helped found the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts in 1959. The Committee lobbied both the City of Los Angeles and private donors and held various fundraisers to successfully save the Watts Towers from destruction. Babitz wrote a biography of Simon Rodia, the research of which included many interviews with Rodia and travelling to his birth place in Italy. The Committee sponsored a documentary film as well. Babitz hosted regular meetings of like-minded artists, poets and musicians, including Igor and Vera Stravinsky, Bernard Herrman, Ingolf Dahl, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Pagent, Jellyroll Morton. She and her husband helped found the Ojai Music Festival.
    In the 1960s, Babitz began travelling to Europe with her husband who was awarded Fulbright and Ford Foundation fellowships for European research in baroque musicianship. In these two decades, two major suites of illustrations were completed: "Vanishing Los Angeles" and "The Ancients." Her artwork was showcased in various galleries including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California Institute of Technology and in private collections of Saul Steinberg, Milton Thomas, Vera Stravinsky, Kate Steinitz and Edward James. Babitz was active in the local arts community, holding memberships in the Los Angeles Art Association, All-City Art Festival, Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers (Founding member, Board member, Archivist), Elmer Belt Library (assistant to Kate Steinitz), Hollywood Arts Council, Beverly Hills Arts League and Friends of the Municipal Gallery. Some of her awards include the California Centennial Exhibition of Art award, Honorable Mention at the All City Art Festival (1957, 1964, 1972) and the Los Angeles cultural Heritage Board Resolution award (1970). Sol, Mae and their daughter, Mirandi, spent many years of working to get the City of Los Angeles to acquire Babitz's artwork for posterity. After all attempts proved fruitless, Mirandi donated the materials to UCLA in 2006. Mae Babitz died in 2003 in Los Angeles.

    Scope and Content

    Collection consists of correspondence, personal photographs, loose papers, newspaper and magazine clippings, ephemera of Mae Babitz's life as an artist, Kate Steinitz materials and materials related to the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts. Materials in the collection range from the 1920s to the 1990s. In addition to personal and work related papers, the collection includes over 70 illustrations that were shown in local art galleries, banks, art festivals and public buildings, and many other earlier sketches and drawings of Los Angeles and European buildings and scenery. Also included are press releases, price lists and exhibition booklets in which Babitz appears. Personal correspondence includes letters written during Sol and Mae Babitz's travels in Europe, giving a glimpse into postwar Germany and France. Extensive correspondence with her close friend, Edward James, English poet and artist, takes place during his travels in Central America, Mexico and Europe. Periodically James discusses his battle with bipolar disorder as well as local sentiments during the Cold War. Letters occasionally mention the Stravinskys and Peter Yates. There are also photographs and descriptions of James's architectural feats in Xolitil, Mexico. Babitz worked as a secretary for Kate Steinitz, archivist at the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana at UCLA. The collection includes Kate Steinitz materials consisting of correspondence and many clippings of art, magazines and newspapers. During this time, Babitz cofounded the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts. The collection includes correspondence, fliers, interview notes and transcripts and film and audio reels related to Simon Rodia and saving the Towers from destruction.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Mae Babitz Personal Papers
    2. Artwork Documentation and Research Files
    3. Edward James correspondence
    4. Watts Towers
    5. Kate Steinitz materials
    6. Artwork.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Mae Babitz --- Archives.

    Related Material

    Information about materials that are not physically or logically included in the material described in the finding aid but that may be of use to a reader because of an association to the described materials.