Collins Family Papers
An Inventory to the Collection
Edna Gertrude Collins (1885-1968)
Edna Gertrude Collins was an Austin painter known primarily for her landscapes, portraits and murals. She also taught art classes at Austin High Evening School from 1942-1960, She was born in Toronto, Canada, on April 9, 1885 to Henry Guest Collins and Helena Gertrude Anderson, prominent local musicians. As a child, she attended schools in Germany and Canada before immigrating to the United States in 1901 following her father in 1894. Edna went on to study art in Austin under Robert Hill and Allen Tucker. She also studied at the Art Students League in New York City, the Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans and at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a close associate and friend of portraitist Wayman Adams and attended the Sophie Newcomb College at the urging of his wife, Margaret Burrough Adams. The renowned Adams had begun a portrait of Collins during the last year of his life, but was unable to complete the painting due to failing health. Collins had said that she considered completing the portrait but decided against it because it would ruin the integrity of the work. Other close friends and associates in the Austin art circle were noted muralist, Kindred McLeary (1901-1949) and architect Harold Everett "Bubi" Jessen (1908-1979). During 1943-44, Collins was commissioned to paint several murals in the theaters and recreations halls of Camp Swift, where she worked with German prisoners of war to complete the project. Other mural commissions included the Texas State Capitol, the Engineer's Club and the Pioneer Drive-In. In 1945, she was asked to create a scroll to commemorate the founders of the Austin Women's Club where she also gave talks from time to time and had a one-woman exhibition in the fall of 1952. For many years, Collins worked out of her home studio located at 305 East 18th St. Edna Collins died on August 20, 1968 at the home of her sister, Rosina Guest West, in Berkeley, California.
Henry Guest Collins (1842-1929)
Henry Guest Collins as born in Ossett, Yorkshire England on July 6, 1842. The son of Episcopal minister, Oliver Larry (O.L.) Collins, he originally intended to become a clergyman like his father. Due to poor eyesight, however, he went on to become a farmer and, later, a musician. He immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1860 and then to Austin, Texas in 1894 after being offered a position as director of the music department at the Texas School for the Blind. In 1884, while still living in Toronto, the 42-year-old Collins married 18-year-old Helena Anderson, who also served on the music faculty at the School for the Blind. In 1890, Collins moved his family to Berlin, Germany for three years in order to study music and organ. In addition to serving on the music faculty at the Texas School for the Blind for 35 years, Collins was very active in Austin's music community. For 18 years, he was the organist and choirmaster for St. David's Episcopal Church. While in that capacity, he brought the first pipe organ to Austin. He also served as president of the Austin Music Teacher's Association and was an active member of the American Guild of Organists and the Texas Music Teacher's Association. Guest Collins was the author of numerous musical compositions. He died on February 12, 1929, at the age of 87, while seated in his studio preparing to give a music lesson.
Helena Gertrude (Anderson) Collins (1965-1949)
Born in Toronto, Canada, August 26, 1865, Helena served on the music faculty at the Texas School for the Blind for a number of years and also taught voice out of her home studio. According to Edna, her father first saw her mother playing jacks on the steps of her family's home when she was just ten years old. In 1884, when she turned 18, he married her. Following the death of her husband, Helena moved to Corpus Christie for several years before returning to Austin and teaching voice once again at the family homestead at 1608 Red River St. Helena died in Berkeley, California, August 31, 1949.
Rosina Guest (Collins) West (1887-1974)
Rosina Guest Collins was born on October 23, 1887. She was married to George H. West and lived in Berkeley, California. She and George had two daughters, Helena and Maida. She died in Berkeley on November 22, 1974.
Kindred McLeary (1901-1949)
Born December 3, 1901 in Weimar, Texas to Dr. Sam and Marnie Kindred McLeary, Kindred McLeary was a nationally-renowned architect, muralist and educator. He earned a degree in architecture from the University of Texas in 1927 and studied painting abroad at the School of Fine Arts at Fontainebleau, France and at the American Academy in Rome. In 1928, McLeary entered one of his paintings, Cotton, in a national art exhibit sponsored by the Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio. The painting, depicting an African-American woman reclining nude in a field of cotton with other African Americans standing around her, was considered obscene by some in the local religious and artistic communities. Despite the controversy, which appeared in the San Antonio papers for several days, the painting was defended by the museum's art curator, Eleanor Onderdonk, and left hanging through the juried exhibit. Prior to McLeary's untimely death in May, 1949 from an accidental fall while sweeping leaves off of his roof, he served on the faculty of Carnegie Tech in Pennsylvania (now Carnegie-Mellon University) where he taught freshman classes in design. An accomplished muralist, a number of McLeary's works have occupied the walls of the Federal Building in Pittsburgh, the post offices in South Norwalk, Connecticut and Madison Square on 23rd St., New York City, the Biesecker Memorial Library in Somerset, Pennsylvania and the State Department Building in Washington. D.C. Many of his murals were funded by the Works Projects Administration. From 1954-1977, the mural in the State Department, America the Mighty (1941), or "Defense of Human Freedoms", as McLeary liked to call it, was covered because it depicted soldiers with heavy weaponry guarding American freedom and was therefore considered offensive to visiting diplomats. The mural was later moved to the Pentagon.
Source: Truman McMahan, "MCLEARY, KINDRED," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmccy), accessed March 09, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
The collection (1842-1963, undated) is arranged into five series by family member and is comprised of correspondence, creative works, assorted material, photographs and negatives. The bulk of the collection is contained within the first series, Edna Collins, and is composed of material created by or belonging to her. The vast majority is divided almost equally between the Correspondence (1896-1963, undated) and Creative Works (1940-1949, undated) subseries. Correspondence is primarily to and from immediate family members as well as friends and includes letters and several Christmas cards (1940-1949, undated). Creative Works contains personal writings including a significant number of typed transcriptions of a variety of literary works by authors as diverse as Charles Williams, Aldous Huxley, Aesop, Swami Prabhavananda, Emil Ludwig, Benjamin Franklin and Carl Jung. The transcriptions folders also contain numerous typed and handwritten excerpts, summaries and notes of writings by various authors. In addition, Creative Works contains two manuscripts (one annotated) for a piece Collins was writing on her experience painting murals at Camp Swift during World War II entitled, "Decorating Theaters ar Camp Swift: 1943-1944". Additional items pertaining to Camp Swift include two photographs, a watercolor sketch of one of the theater murals and a cost break down for her work. Personal Writings (undated) contains personal biographies, reflections, dreams and poetry. Assorted material (1936-1961, undated) includes clippings, printed material, financial and legal documents and various notes and lists. The Kindred McLeary (1929, 1940, 1945-1949, 1962 undated) subseries contains a number of letters written to Collins by her friend and associate Kindred McLeary, a small amount of biographical and printed material pertaining his life and work as well as correspondence related to his untimely death at the age of 48 in 1949. The last suberies, Photographs and Negatives (circa 1940-1945), contains 39 black and white prints, six black and white nitrate negatives and one color negative. Most of the prints depict two men, one of whom is dressed in military uniform, in various locations in China and Japan during World War II. There are also two black and white photographs pertaining to Kindred McLeary.
The second series, Henry Guest Collins (1855-1944, undated), is comprised of correspondence, creative works and assorted material. The bulk of the series, Correspondence (1855-1927), includes letters received by Guest Collins pertaining to personal and professional matters. The Personal Writings subseries (1899-1944, undated) contains lectures on the history of church music, notes and lyrics. There is also a journal (1902, undated) owned originally by a Jane Young, dated November 24, 1811 as well as an entry written by Guest Collins in 1902 entitled, "Notes for Short Addresses on The Church for Americans". The nature of the relationship between Young and Guest Collins or the reason why Guest Collins was in possession of the journal is unclear. Assorted Material (1881, 1919, 1930, undated) is made up of printed items such as programs and bulletins for both church and non-church related musical recitals, song lyrics, talks, notes, lists and a small numer of financial and legal documents.
The third and fourth series, Helena Gertrude (Anderson) Collins (1892-1947, undated) and Rosina Guest (Collins) West (1896-1963, undated) are made up almost entirely of correspondence, the vast majority of which is addressed to Edna. There are a small number of clippings and legal documents related to Helena Gertrude Collins and her career as a voice teacher in Assorted Materials (1902-1949, undated).
The last series contains biographical material (1858-1946, undated) related to the Collins family and includes genealogical information related to Henry Guest Collins' side of the family. There is also additional biographical material related to Edna Collins' life and career as an artist.
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
Open to all users.
All material was donated by Miss Edna Collins in January, 1964.
Collins Family Papers, (AR.C.001). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1964/004
Donation Date: January, 1964
Final Processing and encoding by Susan Rittereiser, 2011/April
Detailed Description of the Collection