Finding Aid for the Howells/Frechette Collection

Given in 1979 by Dr. Van Derck Frechette, a longtime member of the N.Y.S. College of Ceramics' faculty, this extensive collection includes letters and memorabilia of a remarkable family. Details of social, literary artistic, and political life in the 19th and early 20th century in the United States and Canada are perceived through the eyes of William Cooper Howells (1807-1894) and his children and grandchildren, among whom were a U.S. consul, a journalist, a translator/poet/artist, a newspaper editor, a novelist/critic, and a portrait painter.

William C. Howells' son, William Dean, a literary giant (author, editor, lecturer, critic) of his day, was primarily responsible for bringing Henry James into the forefront of American attention. He was also a close friend of Mark Twain's; one item in the collection is a copper plate engraving made by Twain himself.

The donor's grandparents are subjects of James Doyle's Annie Howells and Achille Fréchette, based largely upon the author's research of this collection. Annie Fréchette was a journalist; her husband the official translator for the Canadian House of Commons.

Family documents, scrapbooks, diaries, lectures, etc. augment the 7000 letters exchanged not only among the family members but also with such luminaries as Twain, Hamlin Garland, James Garfield and other literary and political figures. The flavor of American/Canadian life from the Civil War to past the turn of the century is vividly portrayed, with glimpses into such diverse settings as the New York Art Student League and rural Ohio; Quebec/Montreal home life and visits to European capitals.

Anyone studying Canadian history may be interested in the closely-documented account of Edmond Fréchette's service in the Northwest Mounted Police at Fort McLeod, Alberta, from 1874-82, with its frequent references to the Sioux and Cree Indians. There is an unusual opportunity here for ceramics researchers to investigate the letters and papers of Howells Fréchette (1879-1962); he was chief of the Industrial Minerals Division, Department of Mines and Resources, Ottawa, for many years.

For African history scholars there is an anonymous ms, written by an Englishman, describing safaris into what is now South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. A map showing the routes traveled in 1870 and 1874 is among these papers.