Skip to main content

Adele Earnest Papers

Identifier: A0008

Scope and Contents

The Adele Earnest Papers contain materials related to Earnest's publications, her work as a folk art dealer and appraiser, and her relationship to the American Folk Art Museum. The collection includes photographs of decoys, weathervanes, and other artwork exhibited at the Stony Point Gallery and the American Folk Art Museum. There are handwritten and typed drafts of material written by Earnest, including her books, magazine, and newspaper articles, as well as her research materials and correspondence.

The bulk of the material in this collection was amassed at the Stony Point Art Gallery and pertains to business conducted at the gallery; however, there are some personal materials such as notebooks from college, and various insurance and banking documents. Some material that included personal information, such as social security numbers and banking information, has been restricted.


  • 1913 - 1993


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. Access to sensitive materials may be restricted at the discretion of the American Folk Art Museum.

Conditions Governing Use

The Adele Earnest Papers are owned by the American Folk Art Museum. The collection is subject to all copyright laws, and is dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship.

Biographical Note

Adele Earnest (1901-1993) was a folk art collector and dealer, who wrote several books about American folk artists and their work. She was especially interested in sculpture, particularly duck decoys and weathervanes. Born in 1901 in Waltham, Massachusetts, Earnest studied at Wellesley College and managed the Eva LeGallienne’s 14th Street Repertory Theater before her career in folk art began.

In 1939, she established the Stony Point Art Gallery in Stony Point, New York, where she exhibited and collected American folk art. Earnest had relationships with several folk artists and their families, including Elmer Crowell, William Edmondson, and John Scholl, as well as collectors such as David and Nelson Rockefeller. She corresponded with and held exhibitions of these artists and highlighted their work in her book, Folk Art in America: A Personal View (Schiffer Publishing, 1984).

Earnest was also an expert in decoys, publishing The Art of the Decoy: American Bird Carvings (Schiffer Publishing, 1982), which explores the history and tradition of bird decoys throughout the world. Through her extensive collection of decoys, she developed relationships with many other collectors and carvers of decoys.

In 1961, Earnest was one of six founding trustees of the American Folk Art Museum (originally established as the Museum of Early American Folk Art). She corresponded regularly with the curators and directors of the museum, and she donated some of her decoy collection and the Archangel Gabriel weathervane to the museum.


11 cubic feet (18 standard document cases; 2 half-size document cases; 1 oversized flat case 15 x 19 x 3"; 1 record carton 4.75 x 5.75 x 10.5"; 1 35 mm reel case; 1 7" audio reel box)

Language of Materials



The Adele Earnest Papers contain photographs; correspondence with folk artists, folk art collectors, and institutions related to folk art; original research and drafts of Earnest’s published works; and other writings regarding folk artists. Earnest was the owner of Stony Point Art Gallery, which sold and exhibited folk art. A great deal of this collection pertains to Earnest’s work at the Stony Point Art Gallery. Earnest was also a founding trustee of the American Folk Art Museum, and the collection contains correspondence with early directors and curators of the museum. Earnest donated the Archangel Gabriel weathervane to the museum, which became the original insignia of the American Folk Art Museum. Many of the works described and photographed within this collection are now in the permanent collection of the American Folk Art Museum.


The Adele Earnest Papers is organized into ten topical series. This arrangement is based on the organization that was created in 1993, when the material was donated. The museum librarians, Rita Keckeissen and Eugene Sheehy, did some preliminary processing by establishing an order primarily with regard to the bulk of material. Much of this order was maintained, with some reorganization for clarity.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Series 6 contains audio visual materials, which contains one undated audio reel interview with Adele Earnest and a 16mm film, dated 1964. A copy of the transcript of the interview may be found in Series 6, but because the interview has not been digitized and the American Folk Art Museum does not have the appropriate audio player to listen to the interview, the transcript has not been verified as to its completeness. The audio reel is damaged, and the Museum does not have a 16mm projector to view the film.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Adele Earnest, 1993

Processing Information

After this material was deposited with the museum, some rough sorting and preliminary organization was undertaken by American Folk Art Museum librarians Rita Keckeissen and Eugene Sheehy. With the consent of then-Director Gerard Wertkin, the following decisions were made with regard to this collection:

1. Books and magazines were removed from the collection and integrated into the library catalog, with the book plate "Gift of Adele Earnest."
2. Catalogs, announcements, and clippings relating to exhibitions have been interfiled into the museum exhibition files.
3. Clippings from newspapers and a wide range of ephemeral materials (mostly relating to decoys, weathervanes, and folk art collectors and collecting) have been interfiled into the museum subject files.

A Guide to the Adele Earnest Papers
Emily Dunne and Mimi Lester
April 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the American Folk Art Museum Archives Repository

47-29 32nd Place
Long Island City New York 11101 United States
(212) 595-9533