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George Mather Richards papers

Identifier: MC-290

Scope and Contents

The George Mather Richards papers include works written and drawn by Richards dating approximately from his graduation from Williams in 1904 until his death in 1958. The writings include the partial draft to his work "The Tales of Creation" along with more than 50 handrawn pen and ink illustrations accompanying the work. There are also over 160 handdrawn pen and ink illustrations for Richard's work called "The Human Shell" which shows what people wore in different cultures throughout time. The collection includes typed and handwritten drafts, illustrations, and over 190 digital jpeg files of some of the illustrations.


  • Majority of material found within 1904 - 1958


Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

The George Mather Richards papers are open for research. Researchers are encouraged to contact Special Collections staff prior to a visit.

Conditions Governing Use

In consultation with Special Collections staff, reproductions may be made upon request. Material in this collection is subject to copyright.

Biographical / Historical

George Mather Richards (Williams 1904) was the son of Zalmon Richards (Williams 1836). Zalmon was one of the original founders of Delta Upsilon and later the first president and one of the founders of the National Teachers Association(NTA), a collegiate organization which later became the National Education Associate (NEA).George Mather Richards was the first legacy member of Delta Upsilon.

George was born on September 8, 1880 to Zalmon, 69, and his second wife, Mary Frances, 46, nee Mather, who was a descendant of Cotton Mather, and was the only only child for either of them. Zalmon and his first wife, Minerva, owned a number of very successful private schools starting in 1836 when he bought all the stock of Cummington Academy, where he had earlier gone to school. There were at least 5 more schools created and later sold by them, until Minerva died just after they had sold the Union Academy in Washington D.C. in 1852. Zalmon became principal for Columbia College which later became part of George Washington University. Salmon's last school, Electric Seminary was taught in their 4 story home at 1301 Corcoran Street NW, in Washington DC. This home is now a National Historic Landmark due to Zalmon being the first President of the NTA, and NEA prior to the Civil War. After both of his parents died, George Richards enrolled in Williams College and graduated in 1904. While there he was active with various literary and art projects in addition to his studies and membership in Delta Upsilon. He was a frequent illustrator for campus publications and found this to be his career later.

Upon graduating from Williams, he enrolled in the New York School of Art, where Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase were teaching, as well as a student/instructor, Gertrude Lundsborg who George would later marry. While there, George roomed with Vachel Lindsay, who later became known as America's Vagabond Poet. George's classical education from his parents, Williams College and a summer of study in Italy prepared George so he was able to create amazing illustrations of historical characters, plus create instructive art which was used to illustrate a series of school books by Edna McGuire. He painted for his own enjoyment which allowed him the license to express less traditional concepts. A collection of his works were shown at Rollings College in a retrospective exhibit in 1959 after his death in 1958.

George and his wife Gertrude had only their daughter Elisabet "Bets" Richards Harter. Bets herself was also an artist. Besides the many pieces of canvas art by Bets and her parents George and Gertrude, there was the material her father had created for 3 books which he planned to publish, but his sudden death prevented. One book he had titled "The Human Shell" which featured 140 pen and ink drawings of clothes throughout history. Another was titled "Creation" and has another 30+ illustrations of the beginning of various religions, and the last is a children's book of wood cuts titled "Zoo-phabet" with each page representing a letter and an animal which was clearly meant to be a child's book.

George's daughter, Bets, graduated from Rollings College in 1935 where George and his wife conducted lectures and lessons based upon their accomplishments in art, an endeavor their daughter excelled in as well. Bets married John Harter, Yale 1935, and their only child, William George Harter, did not become an artist, but excelled in physics, and became UC Irvine's first Physics PhD. He continues as an educator at the University of Arkansas where he's taught graduate Physics' students for 30 years.

Biographical/Historical note primarily authored by donor, William George Harter.


1.5 Linear Feet (1 records storage box)

291 Megabytes

Physical Location

L2 Storage, F6a and atstorage.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William George Harter, 2018.



George Mather Richards papers
Zepka, Laura
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Williams College Archives & Special Collections Repository

Sawyer Library
26 Hopkins Hall Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267