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Guide to the Gladys Tilden Papers, 1875-1982
BANC MSS 89/229 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: Gladys Tilden Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1875-1982
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 89/229 c
    Creator: Tilden, Gladys, 1900-
    Extent: Number of containers: 12 boxes, 4 cartons Linear feet: 9.8
    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: The collection contains personal (including family) and professional correspondence regarding fashion activities, her employment with the architect Richard Joseph Neatra and the California Youth Authority, and research on her father, Douglas Tilden, and Eliza Woodson Farnham. Also included are poetry, fictional writings, an unpublished autobiography, an a variety of personal memorabilia.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Manuscripts Division. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Gladys Tilden Papers, BANC MSS 88/229 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collection

    Researchers should be aware that The Bancroft Library also holds the Papers of Miss Tilden's father, Douglas Tilden (BANC 89/124 c).

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    Videotapes/sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Division of The Bancroft Library.
    Maps have been transferred to the Map Room.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Gladys Tilden Papers were given to The Bancroft Library on June 1, 1989 at the bequest of the Gladys Tilden estate.

    Biographical Chronology

    1900 Born January 5 to the sculptor Douglas Tilden and his wife Elizabeth Delano Cole Tilden. Lived in the Cole's Victorian mansion at 1545 Webster, Oakland.
    1901 Grandfather, L. G. Cole, dies.
    1903 Brother, Willoughby Lee, born.
    1907 Moved to coach house at 1545 Webster.
    1909 Mother at St. Helena Sanitarium due to nervous breakdown.
    1917 Moved to Hobart Street near Webster in Oakland.
    1918 Graduates from Oakland High School. Parents separate. Father moves into studio at 314 Hobart.
    1918-1919 Attends Heald Business College.
    1919-1922 After graduating from Heald Business College, works as administrative secretary to William B. Bosley, general counsel to Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
    1923 Webster Street property in Oakland sold. Moves, with Mother, to Fillmore Street in San Francisco.
    1924-1926 Office manager for Blyth & Company, investment bankers.
    1925 Begins attending evening classes at the San Francisco School of Fine Art, studying under Rudolph Schaeffer and Lucien Labaudt.
    1926-1927 Administrative secretary to James D. Black, vice-president and general manager of San Joaquin Light & Power Company.
    1927 Leaves March 19 for New York City. Sails to Paris, France on March 31.
    1927-1933 Obtains position in office of French Vogue, variously as business manager, office manager, copyeditor, editorial assistant to Michel de Brunhoff. Supervises layout, art work, production, and mailings. After departure of de Brunhoff, takes over as managing editor for Vogue's Paris Trade Bulletin under it's various titles. In its pioneer color editions, it is Gladys' handwriting that appears in the final copy, as part of the layout. Travels throughout Europe.
    1929 Does French and German synopses for Frank Farley of Paramount Pictures.
    1930 Brother Lee dies.
    1931 Meets, in Paris, divorcee William Taylor of Philadelphia, who becomes the love of her life.
    1934-1935 Accepts position as traveling representative for Bonwit-Teller covering all social and style events, buying, reporting, marketing surveys, and fashion lectures.
    1935 Father dies August 6. Returns to California. In October moves into Father's studio on Channing Way, Berkeley.
    1936 Continues fashion activities: advertising for City of Paris Dry Goods Company and I. Magnin, and California fashion reports for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Coordinates Bay Area fashion show and presents department store fashion lectures. Develops her own fashion segment on radio KYA, with frequent guest appearances on radio KGO.
      Continues Douglas Tilden's lawsuit against the California School for the Deaf over Bear Hunt, Albert K. Whitton as attorney.
    1937 Continues free-lancing for Vogue. Helps create About Town, assumes advertising sales.
    1938 Creates In Person for the H. S. Crocker Company. Continues to report on fashion for various fashion and style publications ( Vogue, House and Garden). Writes suede publication and associated advertising for trade.
    1939 For the H. S. Crocker Company, edits the Golden Gate International Exposition Official Guidebook, and various associated publications ( Today at the Fair, brochures, various post cards booklets) including research, copyediting, proofreading, design and layout, supervising production (1st and 2d editions).
    1940 Moves to Los Angeles. Continues free lance fashion reporting activities, editorial consulting. Becomes advertising and editorial representative for several of her own accounts: Magda Polivanoff, Scully Brothers Suede, Catalina Swimwear.
    1941 Invents ration chart adopted by Office of Price Administration, and syndicated in coast to coast newspapers during the duration of the war. Staff feature writer, advertising copy and sales, production supervisor for California Stylist and California Men's Stylist. In December buys apartment house at 1868 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles.
    1942-1944 Accepts position as first woman managing editor in the engineering department of Douglas Aircraft Company. In order to understand the material she was editing, attends UCLA's Aviation Ground School and works for four months as assembler. Attends Santa Monica Technical School studying aircraft power plant assembly. Begins teaching aircraft mechanics.
    1945-1948 Mother in poor health, in and out of Southern California rest homes.
    1948 Sells Greenfield Avenue property; buys cottage at 434 Veteran Avenue, Los Angeles.
    1949 Becomes licensed real estate agent. Mother dies. Begins research on father, Douglas Tilden.
    1951 Sells property on Veterans Avenue; purchases house at 10404 Ruthven Lane in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.
    1953-1954 Advertising and office management for Paul J. Howard's California Flowerland. Handles rentals for two real estate firms: Cowen & Carls and Philip Norton, Inc.
    1954 Sublets Ruthven Lane; rents apartment on Wellworth Avenue.
      Edna Woolman Chase's book, Always in Vogue, published.
    1955-1956 Begins work for Richard Neutra, architect, managing office and editing manuscripts.
    1956-1957 Begins work for the UCLA Atomic Energy Project editing manuscripts for publication.
    1957 Joins research staff of Veterans Administration Hospital, Los Angeles, as an editor. Begins genealogical research.
    1958 Returns to Berkeley and resides in Hotel Durant.
    1959-1961 Moves to Sacramento and begins work for the California Youth Authority, Division of Research. Begins serious research in 1961 on Eliza Woodson Farnham, first female matron of Sing Sing Prison, and early feminist.
    1962-1969 Employed by California Public Utilities Commission, first in Los Angeles office, returning to San Francisco office in 1963. Rents apartment in Berkeley in 1963. Retires from state employment in March of 1969.
    1973 Meets Mildred Albronda, docent for M. H. De Young Memorial Museum specializing in tours for the hearing impaired, who proposes a brief biographical work on Douglas Tilden.
    1975 Picks up her own research on Douglas Tilden, languishing since about 1954.
    1988 Suffering from Alzheimer's disease and unable to care for herself, becomes a ward of Alameda County. Supervision of her affairs assumed by the District Attorney's office.

    Scope and Content

    With the exceptions of letters to her mother and father, most of Gladys Tilden's family correspondence is with relatives on the Tilden side of the family, and occurred after her father's death in 1935. Her mother, adopted as an infant, was an only child. Tilden's correspondence with her parents was with them individually, as they separated in 1918 and later divorced. Letters with her father concern art, literature, politics, current events, and his sculpture. He was emotionally supportive of her blossoming career in the fashion industry in Paris, the site of his own art education. Her letters to him are contained in the Douglas Tilden Papers (89/124 c). Letters to her mother describe current fashions, her work, and life in Paris.
    Each sub-series (incoming, outgoing, neither to nor from) in her personal and professional correspondence can be divided into four distinct and separate areas: fashion activities, research on her father and his works, research on Eliza Woodson Farnham, and personal matters, such as employment and finances. Her fashion activities are well represented in the incoming letters, though less well among her outgoing correspondence. Either she did not retain copies of her letters relating to that period in her life or she later destroyed them. Extant within this area are her letters to Bonwit-Teller, the New York department store; Edna Woolman Chase, the editor of Vogue from 1909 to 1952; and Edward A. Cohen, of Bonwit-Teller. Principal among the incoming correspondence relating to the fashion industry are letters from Katherine Johnson, a Conde Nast compatriot; Graf Merveldt, a Parisian artist; and Mrs. Chase, of Vogue. Others are Bonwit-Teller, the store; Paul J. Bonwit and his son Walter Bonwit, and Edward A. Cohen, of Bonwit-Teller; Main Rousseau Bocher, an expatriate American who became an instant sensation as a fashion designer in Paris; and Lillian Farley, an American in the French editorial offices of Harpers Bazaar. These letters illustrate the intense competition within a fledgling industry on its way to becoming big business.
    The correspondence relating to Gladys Tilden's research on Tilden and Farnham is with numerous scholars, libraries, historical societies, and students. The research on her father, Douglas Tilden, languished for many years, overshadowed by her interest in Eliza Farnham. Doyce Blackman Nunis, John Matthews, and Walter David Lewis are principal correspondents concerning Eliza Woodson Farnham. Among those concerning Douglas Tilden are Albert K. Whitton, a San Francisco attorney who represented her interests in a lawsuit against the California School for the Deaf over title to Tilden's Bear Hunt sculpture. Other principal correspondents relating to Douglas Tilden are Brother Cornelius, an art professor at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California; Mildred Albronda, a San Francisco museum docent who wrote Douglas Tilden: Portrait of a Deaf Sculptor, published in 1980; and Henry Lee Perry, historian for the Bohemian Club. Millie Robbins, a San Francisco Chronicle feature writer and columnist, corresponded with her about both Tilden and Farnham, as well as history of the Bay area.
    Notable among her personal outgoing correspondence is that to Richard Joseph Neutra, an architect for whom she worked as an office manager, and Keith S. Griffiths, her supervisor at the California Youth Authority.
    After returning to the United States due to her father's death, and discouraged from returning to Paris because of the impending war, she carried on her fashion activities, but these were becoming increasingly draining--a great deal of effort for little monetary return. With her mother living with her, money was a source of constant worry. In 1937, Bill Taylor, whom she hoped to marry, died in Philadelphia. The stress of these personal crises led her to seek psychoanalytic treatment in 1941.
    The most interesting item within Series 3: Personal and family papers is the stream-of-consciousness autobiography written as part of her therapy with Dr. Stanley Marcus. In it she discloses many details of her very difficult childhood, as a hearing child of rather temperamental, deaf parents and her feelings and response to such circumstances. She also reveals details of her life in Paris, 1927-1935, making up somewhat for the lack of outgoing correspondence concerning this part of her life. Away from both of her parents and without the burden of interpreting for and protecting them, she felt free to engage in new experiences and experiment with lifestyles different from her Victorian upbringing. She became part of a group of stylish, trendy, and unrestrained artists, models, writers, publishers, and actors. Series 5: Fashion, 1927-1954 contains the work from her Parisian years, as well as that from her subsequent fashion activities.
    Tilden's Paris years were to have an immense influence on the remainder of her working life. With the United States' entry into World War II, the fashion industry became, practically overnight, superfluous and trivial. During this time she worked as a managing technical editor for the Douglas Aircraft Company. Forced to surrender her position to a man after the war, she found the fashion industry as she had known it entirely changed. America no longer necessarily looked to Europe for trends and guidance, and Parisian experience was no longer of value to employers. She returned to office/administrative positions in private business and civil service, but none as challenging, glamourous, or as personally fulfilling, as her Paris years. These events are alluded to in many of her later writings, contained in Series 4.
    Many of these later writings, although cast as fiction, are clearly autobiographical. One title When I Sat Down to Play the Chickering Piano, relates a poignant episode from her childhood concerning piano lessons and her father. Her most significant publications outside of the fashion industry were done for the Crocker Company as part of the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. The purpose for her research on both Eliza Farnham, and her father, Douglas Tilden, was to produce a book about each of them. However, she never progressed past the research stage. This material is found in Series 6.