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Alfred Corning Clark papers

Identifier: MP-0024-01


Alfred Corning Clark (1844-1896), heir to a large part of the Singer sewing machine fortune, was an American art patron and philanthropist who traveled extensively in Europe, meeting many prominent figures in the arts of the late nineteenth century.

The collection contains many photographs of those figures, a few of which are autographed, a book of scores containing opera excerpts and art songs by European composers of the period, a song manuscript personally dedicated to Clark, and other items pertaining to Clark’s interests in music and art.


  • 1865-1895



0.4 Cubic Feet (1 scrapbook, 1 bound volume of scores, 3 folders)

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Content Description

This collection consists of materials relating to the artistic interests and European travels of American art patron and philanthropist Alfred Corning Clark (1844-1896). The materials, collected by Clark, consist of two concert programs from New York music clubs, several inscribed portrait photograph cards of prominent individuals of the late nineteenth century, including Clark himself, as well as Johannes Brahms, an indexed scrapbook of photographs of various European stage personalities, politicians and members of royalty, and a book of musical scores with excerpts of works by composers of the period. The scrapbook also contains three issues of The Season, a critical arts journal, a picture of male wrestlers from an unknown publication, and a manuscript score of a song entitled, “J’ai peur de vous,” composed by Heinrich Panofka and dedicated to Clark.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical Note

Alfred Corning Clark (born November 14, 1844, died April 8, 1896, New York, New York) was an American philanthropist and art patron. Clark’s father, Edward Cabot Clark, was a successful lawyer in New York City who, in 1851, purchased a half-partnership in a new company started by Isaac M. Singer, inventor of the sewing machine. The firm was incorporated in 1861 as the Singer Manufacturing Company, and Edward Clark’s investment earned him an immense fortune, which he in turn invested into real estate holdings, including the construction of the Upper West Side apartment building, The Dakota. Alfred, the youngest of the four children of Edward, expressed little interest in the family business, preferring to spend time in Europe studying art and literature, where he became fluent in Norwegian and Swedish. In 1879, his English translation of Viktor Rydberg’s Roman Days, from the original Swedish, was published in the United States.

In 1866, Clark met Lorentz Severin Skougaard, a Norwegian operatic tenor, in New York, and as of 1869, he began making annual summer trips to Skougaard’s family home in Norway. Nicholas Fox Weber, biographer of the Clark family, has posited that the relationship between the two was romantic; nevertheless Clark married Elizabeth Scriven in 1869, while continuing his annual European trips. By 1875, Skougaard had moved to Manhattan to an apartment owned by Clark on the same block where he lived with his wife, and Skougaard was a frequent guest at the family estate in Cooperstown, New York. In 1880, Clark wrote to his father from Milan, asking him to leave the family fortune to his older brother, Ambrose, so that he may pursue his study of art and literature free from business obligations; however, Ambrose died that year, leaving Alfred the sole surviving heir. In 1882, upon the death of his father, Clark inherited a fortune of approximately $35 million, making him one of the wealthiest individuals in America. That same year, Alfred and Elizabeth’s fourth son was born.

Three years later, in 1885, Skougaard died suddenly of typhoid fever in New York City. Clark self-published a biographical sketch of him that year, and in 1886 commissioned a young, unknown sculptor, George Grey Barnard, to create a memorial for Skougaard: a sculpture of two male figures, entitled Brotherly Love. Clark also commissioned another work from Barnard, again a study of two males, entitled Struggle of the Two Natures of Man, which gained great acclaim and is, as of 2022, part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Barnard’s collection of medieval sculpture eventually formed the basis for the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum.

Among Clark’s philanthropic works was the Alfred Corning Clark Gymnasium in Cooperstown, New York (as of 2022 the Clark Sports Center), a clubhouse built in 1892 for the Mendelssohn Glee Club, of which Clark was an amateur member, and he anonymously donated $64,000 over fifteen years to the Norwegian Lutheran Deaconesses Home and Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, in honor of Lorentz Skougaard. In addition to being a patron and collector of art, Clark also had a keen interest in music. In 1887, Clark donated $50,000 to the family of eleven-year old Polish-born piano prodigy Josef Hofmann, who was in the middle of an extensive American concert tour. With the money, Hofmann was able to return home to study and resume his concert career at the age of eighteen; Hofmann was later to be acknowledged as one of the greatest pianists of his age, as well as a notable inventor.

Clark died of pneumonia in 1896 at age 52, leaving his fortune to his sons and his wife Elizabeth, who pursued her own philanthropic endeavors. Two of Clark’s sons, Robert Sterling Clark and Stephen Carleton Clark, became noted art collectors.


“Alfred Corning Clark.” New York Times, April 12, 1896, 5.

“Bishop Potter’s Widow Dead.” Baltimore Sun, March 6, 1909, 5.

Blumberg, Naomi. “George Grey Barnard.” In Encyclopedia Britannica. Last modified May 20, 2022. Accessed June 27, 2022.

Clark Sports Center. “History of the Clark Sports Center. Accessed June 27, 2022.

Dickson, Harold E. “Barnard and Norway.” The Art Bulletin 44, no. 1 (March 1962).

“Gave His Wealth in Secret Way.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 19, 1902, A2.

Mahler Foundation. “Josef Hofmann (1876-1957).” Accessed June 27, 2022.

Weber, Nicholas Fox. The Clarks of Cooperstown. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.


Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Custodial History

Collection formerly housed in the Harry Scherman Library of Mannes College the New School for Music, formerly Mannes College of Music. No known accession record exists.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from Harry Scherman Library of the Mannes School of Music to The New School Archives and Special Collections, 2015.

Guide to the Alfred Corning Clark papers
Jason Adamo
September 23, 2022
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