Book Quotes: History of Art in Mississippi

It’s been a while since our last Book Quotes series, way back in May, when summer had only just begun. Now, here we are in October when summer has yet to end, giving new meaning to that formerly romantic phrase “Endless Summer.”

At any rate, I thought it was time for another Book Quotes, but this time, we can’t finish it all in one week, so I’m planning this one as an occasional series over the next few weeks. The book in question, The History of Art in Mississippi, is one that I was unaware of until I bought the Bibliography of Early American Architecture back in May. While you may think the book would be all about fine art, in fact, it looks to me like the majority of it is dedicated to architecture. So I guess the inclusion of architecture in the more recent Art in Mississippi by Patty Carr Black has precedent within the state.

History of Art in Mississippi was published in 1929 by Dixie Press in Gulfport and compiled by the Mississippi Art Association based in Jackson and led by president Cantey Venable Sutton. In my post about the Bibliography, I noted that it was difficult to determine what is still in copyright and what isn’t, but after doing as much due diligence as I’m capable of, I think that History of Art in Mississippi’s copyright lapsed when its original 28-year copyright lapsed in 1957. I found a really accessible resource online that helped me work through the various possibilities “Research the Copyright Status of a Book: Protected or Public Domain?” by Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Office. The document directed me to the Catalog of Copyright Entries helpfully digitized by Google Books, and there is no indication that our History of Art was ever renewed in the 1950s.

I go through this fairly wordy and boring exercise to establish that I’ve tried to make sure I have the right to re-print this, but if someone out there actually is holding the copyright in their hands, please let me know before you sue my pants off, ok? This book is too interesting to pass up, and I hope you’ll find it so as well. Besides, I would be embarrassed to not have any pants left.

I found it particularly interesting that the authors of The History of Art in Mississippi went into great detail about buildings that had just been built, or were even still under construction as the book was compiled. They seemed to place their own time period on the same level culturally as the antebellum era, virtually ignoring (as everyone did) the Victorian period. We saw a similar pattern in the WPA Guide’s chapter on Architecture in our last book quotes.

In this love of the early 20th century, MissPres readers may agree. According to the on-going poll over to the right, MissPresers are steadfastly refusing to participate in the debate between the Antebellum (13%) and the Modernists (10.5%) and have overwhelmingly (so far) cast their votes for the two architectural styles of the 1910s through the 1940s: Art Deco/Moderne (21%) and Craftsman (16%). Isn’t that interesting? (And if you haven’t voted yet, jump right in, don’t be shy–you don’t even have to register or anything. We believe in a secret ballot here at MissPres.)

Let’s get started with the Introduction before we get into the book. I love this preface because it shows what an organic group effort the book was, almost completely prepared by women, and some with names that are still recognizable 80 years later.



Many requests have come to members of the Mississippi Art Association for information about Art and Artists in Mississippi. Material unavailable and with little or no information to impart, these answers were most inadequate.

On one notable occasion, Mrs. W.Q. Sharp, while president of the Mississippi Art Association, responded to such a request coming from California club women. After sending all available information California, the local club members became concerned lest California art students might know more about Mississippi’s art than her own people. So it was determined to write a History of Art in Mississippi.

In the spring of 1925 a movement was begun in the Art Study Club of Jackson, at that time the strongest Art Club within the state, to begin work on such a volume. Chapters were apportioned to respective members who went diligently to work, delving for art facts. Some data was compiled and as the magnitude of the job and its many problems developed, months and years sped by, and the final publication of a book, such as they had dreamed of, seemed still far away.

In the spring of 1929 this chrysalis of a book was placed in the hands of the president of the Mississippi Art Association. And she, with the aid of her capable assistants, now presents this little volume, hoping that it will meet a need and unfold for many something of the intimate beauties of Art that lie in the lives and homes of the people of Mississippi.

Those, without whose untiring efforts the book could not have been written, are Miss Bessie Lemly, with her valuable advice and deep knowledge of the subject; Miss Bettie McArthur, Mrs. Vallie Young, Miss Wm. B. Moore, and Mrs. Pat Eager with their glowing descriptions of lovely ante-bellum homes; and Mrs. Mims Williams, whose love for hand-woven coverlets gives us a clearer vision of pioneer days. Mrs. A.P. Hamilton and Mrs. Chas. Sherrod helped greatly on paintings, and Mrs. Jas. Loyd and Mrs. Roy Hogue on statuary. Miss Eva Hamilton, Mrs. John A. Kirk and Mrs. Stuart Irby collected much data on architecture, and Mrs. W.B. Hamilton and Mrs. D.J. Patton contributed much on the subject of education in the state. The artist list was compiled by Mrs. Alfred Sternberg and Mrs. Philip Markley; for it was felt that a book on Art would not be complete without a list of those who are striving to perpetuate Art in Mississippi. [Interestingly, this list, which I won’t reproduce, doesn’t include architects, even though the authors clearly consider architecture to be Art.]

Those publications to which we are very much indebted are: Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s Historic Homes in Mississippi from the publications of the Mississippi Historical Society; Eliza Calvert Hall’s Hand-woven Coverlets, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, and Archæology in Mississippi, Calvin R. Brown. Mr. Gordon Marks of The Jackson Daily News helped us greatly, as did also Dr. Dunbar Rowland of the State Hall of Archives and History. To these and many others do we wish to express our appreciation for their help in gathering authentic facts pertaining to Art in the State of Mississippi.

Cantey Venable Sutton

Jackson, Miss., November 12th.

This is the first in a series of excerpts from The History of Art in Mississippi. Want to read more?

Categories: Architectural Research, Books

7 replies

  1. Copyright, shmoppyright. I say if it ain’t on the Google Books site, it ain’t worth readin’! Just kidding, …of course. Looking forward to the next installment! Nice find and thanks for sharing!


  2. Malvaney, you may have beaten me at getting Lost Mansions of Mississippi: Volume II before me but I’m afraid I picked up a copy of this book off Ebay about two years ago. :-)

    I am interested in the copyright issue for old books. I have a program from the second Columbus Pilgrimage from 1940 or 1941 that might be a good book to digitize if the copyright has lapsed. Hopefully the Columbus Pilgrimage people did not renew the copyright but being a program, I don’t think they did.


  3. I look forward to the rest of this–I agree, great find. I find the sociological aspects interesting in this first post as well. Having collected a few old history and sociology books myself, it is always of interest to see how the work was influenced by the historical time in which it appeared.



  1. Mississippi Architect, September 1964: At the Beginning of the Mississippi Museum of Art « Preservation in Mississippi

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