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Frank Alvah Parsons lectures on art and prints of period rooms

Identifier: KA-0037-01


Frank Alvah Parsons (1866-1930) began as an instructor at the New York School of Art in 1904. He became director in 1911, renaming the school the New York School of Fine and Applied Art to reflect his reorientation of the institution toward practical design disciplines. The school was later renamed to honor his leadership. The collection consists of published editions of Parsons' lectures, and prints he used to illustrate them.


  • 1917 - 1922



1.2 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents of Collection

The collection consists of the text of 21 lectures given by Frank Alvah Parsons and published individually by Ross Studios between 1917 and 1922. The collection also includes approximately 100 black and white prints depicting historic rooms and four prints of color charts. Some prints are numbered and were most likely used by Parsons as visual aids. The publications may also have been sold bundled with illustrations.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

Frank Alvah Parsons was born April 1, 1866 in Chesterfield, Massachusetts. In 1901, after a period of European travel, Parsons moved to New York City where he pursued a degree in Art Education from Columbia University, graduating in 1905.

Parsons began teaching at the New York School of Art (later Parsons The New School for Design) during the 1904-1905 academic year. At that time, the New York School of Art was primarily an institution for the instruction of fine arts. Parsons became co-manager of the school in 1907, and in 1911, became the school's director. Innovations Parsons introduced include the addition of departments for costume design, interior decoration, and commercial illustration (these departments would eventually become known as Fashion Design, Interior Design, and Graphic Design, respectively). Parsons reincorporated the school as the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in 1911. In 1921, he established overseas facilities for the school in France. The Paris Ateliers evolved into what is now Parsons Paris.

In the public imagination, Parsons became inextricably linked to the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. Through relentless speaking engagements and print publicity undertaken on school's behalf, Parsons raised the institution's profile on an international level. He also found the time to serve as a mentor and guide to many students, including William MacDougal Odom and Van Day Truex, both of whom would later serve as presidents of the school.

In addition to administering the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, Parsons continued teaching and often lectured at museums, universities, organizations, and private clubs throughout the United States and Europe. He wrote several design books, including The Principles of Advertising Arrangement (1912), Interior Decoration, Its Principles and Practice (1915), and The Psychology of Dress (1920).

Frank Alvah Parsons died On May 25, 1930. The New York School of Fine and Applied Art was formally re-named Parsons School of Design in 1941.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged in 2 series. Lectures are chronological according to numeration on publication title pages; lecture illustrations are by lecture number.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Probably transferred to the archives from Parsons School of Design's Adam and Sophie Gimbel Art and Design Library circa 1994.

Related Materials

The following collections in the New School Archives include notes on Frank Alvah Parsons' lectures: the Marion Reed student notebook (KA.0069), the Roy Fleming collection (KA.0065), and the Cleora Clark Wheeler student notebook and bookplates (KA.0061). The Harry B. Baker papers (KA.0090) include a letter from Parsons describing his dismissal of the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts' student government in 1927. The Constance P. Brown papers (KA.0057) include clippings about Parson's lectures and his death, promotional materials for his books and lectures, and correspondence from Parsons to Brown. The Francis J. Geck papers (KA.0052) include correspondence from Frank Alvah Parsons regarding Geck's teaching and tour coordinator post at the Paris Ateliers in the 1920s. The Geck papers also contain booklets about Parsons. The Frank Alvah Parsons correspondence and tribute by James Wilfrid Kerr (KA.0106) consists of correspondence from Frank Alvah Parsons to former students James and Rose Kerr, along with Kerr's eulogy, "Mr. Parsons and Forty Ex-Servicemen."

Guide to the Frank Alvah Parsons lectures on art and prints of period rooms
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
August 2, 2010
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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