Skip to main content

The John Montelius Papers

Identifier: A0014

Scope and Contents

The collection contains photographs, journals, and pamphlets. The photographs are largely carte de visite or tintypes of members of the Montelius family and friends. The journals are handwritten by John Montelius, regarding his family and life spent living in New England between 1838 and 1866. The journals also contain several drawings, paintings, and examples of calligraphy.


  • 1829 - 1866


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 John Montelius 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

John Montelius was a farmer and calligraphy teacher who lived in Springvale, Maine, in the latter half of the nineteenth century. His journals chronical his daily life from 1838 to 1866. Entries in the journal generally focus on the weather conditions for that day and how it affected his farm and major events in his family and social life.

Montelius was a young man with a several children when the entries begin in 1938. Montelius lived most of his life in Springdale, Maine, but often traveled to other cities on the East Coast and had relatives in Chicago, Illinois, and Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania.

Montelius was involved in several social and political groups; he mentions attending several temperance meetings and helping to create a local debate club. A number of historical events are mentioned in the journals, including the assasination of Abraham Lincoln, battles of the Civil War, slavery in the United States, "The explosion of the great gun on board of the Princeton," and "The Great Tornado of 1861."

Significant events in the journal are often noted in the margins with a short phrase or word about the event.

In the fall of 1847 and the winter of 1853, most of Montelius' family died. Reasons for death are not noted for all members of the family, but his son Howard had scarlet fever. His last remaining child, Charles Edward, was sent away to live with relatives. In 1857, Montelius remarried and had a son. The last entry in the journals was made on February 18, 1866.

The majority of the journal entries are about keeping records of his finances, the weather conditions for maintenance of his farm, and various clippings for his own reference; however, there are scattered examples of Montelius' relationship with his family. The entries after the death of his first wife are heartfelt, and the journals contain drawings Montelius made with his children. The pamphlets were created to teach his children mathematics, penmanship, geography, and history.

The photographs in the collection depict various members of the Montelius family and some friends. The majority of photographs are carte de visite, and the name and state of the studio are printed on the verso. Many of the photographs were taken in Illinois and date around the 1860s and 1870s, but the majority are undated. There are two larger images and three tintype images.


1.00 cubic feet (half-size document case; flat cases 15 x 9.5 x 3")

1 file(s) (oversized file)

Language of Materials



The John Montelius Papers contain photographs, journals, and pamphlets created in America in the mid to late 1800s. The photographs portray members and friends of the Montelius family. The journals contain handwritten diary entries by John Montelius about his everyday life and focus on the weather and his family. The pamphlets are handwritten educational tools focused on mathematics, calligraphy, drawing, and geography and maps. Montelius was a farmer and calligraphy teacher who lived in Springdale, Maine, and Cedarville, Illinois. He also traveled through much of the eastern half of the United States. In addition to chronicles of his daily life, the journals contain examples of his calligraphy; pen and ink drawings; watercolors; and various newspaper clippings.


The John Montelius Papers is organized into two series. The arrangement of the journals and pamphlets is based on the type of item, then chronologically.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The photographs are in excellent condition. The bindings on the journals are very weak. Most pages are very brittle, and most entries were written with iron gall ink. Some pages on which the ink is concentrated have burned through. Gloves are required to view the journals.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Christine Williams Ness, 1979

A Guide to the John Montelius Papers
Emily Dunne
May 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