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Guide to the Douglas Tilden Papers, 1860-1970
BANC MSS 89/124 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Chronology
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Douglas Tilden Papers,
    Date: 1860-1970
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 89/124 c
    Collector: Tilden, Douglas, 1860-1935
    Extent: Number of containers: 11 boxes, 4 cartons, 6 oversize volumes, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 11.6
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Collection includes personal and professional correspondence (chiefly incoming), contracts, sketches, diaries, scrapbooks, manuscripts of published and unpublished writings, and "written" conversations between Tilden, who was deaf, and others. Also includes medals, other personal memora bilia. Principal correspondents are his daughter, Gladys Tilden, James D. Phelan & Alexander Stirling Calder.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Douglas Tilden, Papers, BANC MSS 89/124 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: Gladys Tilden Papers,
    Date: 1875-1982 (89/229 c)

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    Photographs have been transferred to The Bancroft Library's Pictorial Collections.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Douglas Tilden Papers were given to The Bancroft Library at the bequest of the estate of Gladys Tilden.

    Biographical Chronology

    [Excerpted from Douglas Tilden: Portrait of a Deaf Sculptor by Mildred Albronda, (T. J. Publishers: Silver Spring, Maryland / 1980)]
    1860 Born May 1 in Chico, California to Dr. William Peregrine Tilden and Catherine Maria Hecox Tilden.
    1861 Moved to Stockton where Dr. Tilden became resident physician of what is now the Stockton State Hospital.
    1864 or 1865 Lost hearing and speech due to scarlet fever.
    1866 January 25 entered the California Institution for the Education of the Indigent Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind in San Francisco, which later moved to Berkeley and then, Fremont, and became known as the California School for the Deaf.
    1869 California School for the Deaf relocated to Berkeley.
    1873 Dr. William P. Tilden died in May.
    1879 Graduated from the California School for the Deaf and takes position as teacher there.
    1883 Became interested in sculpture.
    1885 Wrote Deaf Mutes and Their Education, published in the Overland Monthly. Modeled small statuette, Tired Wrestler. When this came to the attention of California School for the Deaf's board, they offered him the opportunity to study in New York and Paris.
    1887 Spent eight months in New York studying art.
    1888 Arrived in Paris; studied under deaf sculptor Paul Choppin, among others.
    1889 The Baseball Player (plaster) accepted in the Salon. Assisted in inaugurating the first International Congress of the Deaf, in Paris.
    1891 The Baseball Player (bronze) unveiled in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
    1892 Tired Boxer purchased by subscription of individual members of the Olympic Club, San Francisco.
    1894 Exhibited Football Players (plaster) in Salon. Returned to the United States and accepted a position to develop the first Department of Modeling at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. Elected a member of the Bohemian Club.
    1895 Bronze, Bear Hunt, arrived at the California School for the Deaf from the Chicago World's Fair.
    1896 Married Elizabeth Delano Cole, also deaf, June 6, in her Oakland home.
    1897 Admission Day monument unveiled in San Francisco.
    1900 Daughter Gladys born, January 5. Football Players installed at the University of California, Berkeley.
    1901 Resigned teaching position to set up his own studio in Oakland. The Mechanics unveiled in San Francisco.
    1903 Received the commission in a national competition for a monument to the California Spanish-American War volunteer infantrymen. Son Willoughby born September 4.
    1904 Received the commission for Oregon Volunteers.
    1905 Spearheaded the organization of the California Association of the Deaf.
    1906 California Volunteers unveiled. San Francisco earthquake and fire. Tilden temporarily in Portland, Oregon.
    1907 Senator White statue completed. Junipero Serra monument installed in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
    1910 Elected president of the California Association of the Deaf.
    1912 Twelve Stages of Man (bronze) bas-reliefs placed on McElroy Fountain in Lakeside Park, Oakland.
    1914 Worked on model, Modern Civilization, for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
    1915 - 1916 Wrote novel, The Autobiography of a Dummy, later renamed The Gap.
    1918 Moved his studio to 314 Hobart, Oakland.
    1920 Became a machinist.
    1924 Elizabeth filed for divorce. Went to Hollywood to work in the Hal Roach Studio fabricating animals for movie sets. Built new studio at 834 Channing Way, Berkeley.
    1926 Divorce final. Finished The Bridge.
    1929 - 1930 Assisted Brother Cornelius in the Art Department at St. Mary's College, Moraga, California.
    1931 Created plaster bust of painter William Keith for the opening of the Keith Gallery at St. Mary's College.
    1934 Mother, Catherine Maria Hecox Tilden Brown, died.
    1935 Found dead in his studio, August 6.

    Scope and Content

    Principal correspondents are nearly equally divided among deaf activists, artists and art world figures, and personal friends and business associates. Among deaf activists are Olof Hanson, a Washington state architect; Jaye Cooke Howard, a Minnesota printer, at various times an elected official of the National Association of the Deaf; George S. Porter, of the New Jersey School for the Deaf and editor of the Silent Worker; Oscar Regensburg, a National Association of the Deaf official; and George Veditz, a Colorado poultry publisher, also active in the NAD. Among art world figures are Karl Bitter, a sculptor and professional art administrator; A. Stirling Calder, Panama-Pacific International Exposition; Eugene Gruet, Jeune, his French founder; Col. James Jackson, the director of the Oregon Volunteers effort; Willis Polk, San Francisco architect; and Lorado Taft, art historian. Among his personal friends are two deaf artists, Theophilus d'Estrella and Granville S. Redmond. Ella Sterling Mighels, who first approached him about a pioneer mother sculpture, became a personal friend and served to critique his literary efforts. There are also a number of correspondents who were in some way connected with the California School for the Deaf. Among these are A. William Caldwell, L. E. Milligan, Elwood A. Stevenson, and Warring Wilkinson. Due to the solicitation of Wilkinson, W. E. Brown became a patron of Tilden's, purchasing The Baseball Player.
    Title: outgoing correspondence
    will have to be found in the collections of the persons to whom he wrote, as he made very few copies of his outgoing letters. In this collection there are only four principal recipients: Brother Cornelius of St. Mary's College, Jack and Charmian London, and Mrs. Wildey Meyers, a friend and booster of his literary efforts. Brother Cornelius' letters are entirely transcripts, prepared by Tilden's daughter Gladys; the location of these originals is not known. The letters to Jack London are also transcripts, made by Miss Tilden from originals in the Huntington Library.
    Because of Tilden's deafness, there is a box of written conversations, mostly undated, encompassing various topics relating to his art and interests. Once again, Miss Tilden prepared transcripts for some of the conversations.
    Title: Personal and family papers
    contains biographical information, newspaper clippings, articles about Tilden, his marriage license and divorce Papers, and bills and receipts (one folder from his years in Paris), as well as a file of writings by his mother Catherine Maria Hecox Tilden Brown.
    Material from organizations and associations in which Tilden was interested or active is found in
    Title: Series 4, Associations, 1876-1968.
    These are primarily organizations devoted to deaf interests. As a graduate of the California School for the Deaf he was intensely interested in the welfare of the school and in education for the deaf. He was a strong advocate in the separation of the educational facilities of the deaf and the blind, as well as opposing the relocation of the school from Berkeley. He was opposed to the method of education known as oralism and quarreled with the school authorities over the issue. Another squabble with the school erupted over his alleged indebtedness to them. The school's Board of Trustees had extended funds to Tilden to further his education and development as a sculptor abroad. Tilden was under the impression that the money advanced was a scholarship, but the Board considered it a loan. The Bear Hunt, after its exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, was shipped to the school. Tilden requested it's removal to an exhibit at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art which was denied, pending payment of the debt. The group still stands on the grounds of the California School for the Deaf, now in Fremont. Miss Tilden continued to clip newspaper articles concerning some of these organizations long after her father's death.
    Tilden was a founding member of the California Association of the Deaf, an organization designed to advance the moral, social, and intellectual standing of the deaf in California. About the same time, he became involved in a bitter and long-lasting dispute with the National Association of the Deaf, involving, among other things, the relationship of state associations to the N.A.D. The 13 folders concerning the "Tilden Plan in this series contain clippings relating to this controversy. In addition, one folder in the
    Title: Writings series
    (carton 4, folder 26) also pertains to the Tilden Plan.
    Title: Sculpture and Sketches, 1889-1970, (Series 5),
    contains a miscellany of contracts, specifications, newspaper clippings, insurance papers, notes, and the like, relating to particular sculptures, whether or not actually cast. The Bear Hunt folders contain a manuscript titled The Amazing History of the Bear Hunt, in which Tilden details his perception of the dispute. Miss Tilden typed and annotated this manuscript as she continued the fight on into the 1950s. The sketches are preliminary works and portray particular sculptures such as The Bridge or ideas such as serpents or architectural ornamentation. Only those titles actually cast into sculpture are italicized.
    Title: Writings, 1884-1935,
    does not contain all of Tilden's published work. Tilden did not always retain copies for himself, or even if he did, he often used the reverse side as writing paper for other purposes. Where it was possible to identify the writing on the reverse, photocopies were made and placed in the appropriate series. Tilden used several pseudonyms, chief among them Zeno. Much of the Zeno writings were mere paragraphs, which appear in a scrapbook and several folders at the end of the published subseries. In the unpublished works there are several drafts of his autobiographical novel, The Autobiography of a Dummy, later titled The Gap, at the urging of Ella Sterling Mighels. In addition there is a Russian novel, Bread Upon the Waters, which, in correspondence to various publishers, he requested be reviewed by a male reader, as a woman reader would probably take offence at his portrayal of women. At the end of the writings series are two folders which contain unidentified fragments.
    Title: Five scrapbooks, 1860-1935
    were assembled by Tilden's daughter, Gladys, after his death. They give an overview of Tilden's life, and contain photographs, newspaper clippings, bills and receipts, mementos, and other such material. All of the identifications and annotations in the albums were done by Miss Tilden, who continued to add newspaper clippings concerning Tilden and/or his interests to these albums into the 1970s. Correspondence has been removed from the albums and placed in the appropriate correspondence series.
    Researchers should be aware that Miss Tilden's papers, also owned by The Bancroft Library, contains correspondence from her father as well as the notes of her own research into Tilden genealogy.