Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Talbot Faulkner Hamlin papers and architectural records, 1880-1959 (bulk 1916-1955) 

Hamlin, Talbot, 1889-1956.
Phys. Desc: 
9.1 linear feet of papers; 510 drawings; 2166 negatives; 1691 photographs; 160 postcards
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Biographical Note

Talbot Faulkner Hamlin was born on June 16, 1889 in New York City. He was the second of the four children of Alfred Dwight Foster Hamlin (1855-1926), professor of architecture at Columbia University, and Minnie Florence Marston Hamlin (1859-?). Hamlin's formal education began in the Trinity School in New York in 1898. His parents transferred him to the Horace Mann School in New York in 1900, from which he graduated in 1906. Hamlin went on to Amherst College and received his Bachelor of Arts in classics and English in 1910. In the fall of 1910, Hamlin enrolled in the School of Architecture at Columbia University and began his forty-six year association with the university. He received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1914. Upon graduation, Hamlin was hired as a draftsman in the New York architectural firm of Murphy and Dana. He became a partner of the firm in 1920 and the firm's name was changed to Murphy, McGill and Hamlin, following Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s (1879-1933) departure in 1921. The firm lasted until 1924, when Henry Killam Murphy (1877-1954) withdrew and the firm became known as McGill and Hamlin. This partnership with Henry J. McGill (d. 1953) ended in 1930 when Hamlin began his own firm, which lasted until the Depression, when commissions became scarce. During his years as a professional architect, Hamlin participated in various projects, mainly located in the United States and Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines. The bulk of his projects in the United States were residential and institutional (schools and churches), while projects in Asia were institutional (schools and monuments) and commercial. Although more than once Hamlin expressed his interests in modern architecture through his writing, his design showed a disparity: the United States works were mainly in the eclectic historical style that was still dominant at that time, while the Asian works incorporated indigenous detailing within conventional Beaux-Arts compositional arrangements. Hamlin's academic career began in 1916 when he was appointed a part-time instructor of architectural history and theory in the School of Architecture at Columbia University. In 1934, he relinquished his professional practice and accepted the full-time position of Avery Librarian for the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Among his major contributions to Avery Library, Hamlin established the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Hamlin remained librarian until 1945, when he resigned in order to devote more time to his professorship. Hamlin served the University for thirty-eight years, until his retirement in 1954. In addition to teaching, Hamlin's academic achievement also rests on his publication and public service. He had been an avid writer since his youth. In his lifetime, he published eight book-length works and miscellaneous essays, encyclopedia and dictionary articles, critical and book reviews, as well as poetry, plays, and fiction. He was also the editor of the four-volume Form and Functions of Twentieth Century Architecture (1952). Among his publications, the most notable are Greek Revival Architecture in America (1944) and Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1955). The latter won him the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1956. Hamlin had appreciation for modern architecture and brought attention to Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Russian avant-garde architecture in his writing. Nevertheless, most of his major works are on historical architecture, particularly pre-modernist American architecture. Hamlin was also an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians and active in historical preservation in New York. Hamlin became ill during a trip to Florida and died on October 7, 1956, in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains professional and personal writings, published papers, correspondence, photographs, architectural records, student work, and research materials related to the academic and architectural practice of Talbot Faulkner Hamlin. The largest portion of the collection, Series 1, relates to his academic life as an architectural historian and educator from 1916, when he accepted his first position at Columbia University, until the publication of his last book, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, in 1955. This part of the collection contains correspondence, notes, records of public activities, reference files, scrapbooks, writings and lectures. Notable correspondents include William Lee Woolet, John Summerson, William Gray Purcell, Hugh Morrison, Nikolaus Pevsner, Walter Muir Whitehall, Charles Peterson, and Sigfried Giedion. This series also includes correspondence with various students and historians about the early 19th-century architect Minard Lafever, whom Hamlin was researching. Series 2 and 3 contain materials relating to the publication of two of Hamlin's books, Greek Revival Architecture in America and Benjamin Henry Latrobe, respectively, including manuscripts, drafts, notes, published papers, lectures, and illustrations used and not used. Hamlin's career as a practicing architect was relatively brief and few architectural records from his professional practice survive. Series 4 contains drawings, files and specifications, and photographs of approximately eighty projects in United States and Asia. Projects particularly represented include Wayland Academy, Hangchow, China, 1919; Peking University, Peking, China, 1919-1922; and Ginling College, Nanking, China, 1919-1925. Additionally, Hamlin traveled extensively and photographs that he took en route also form a significant portion of this collection. Series 5 contains photographic prints and negatives taken in many regions of the United States and in more than sixteen foreign countries. Most of the photographs record his visits to architectural sites, with a small group of images documenting his fondness for sailing during these trips. Of note in this series are images of the Paris Exposition, 1937; the San Francisco Fair, 1939; Frank Lloyd Wright's California houses, undated; colleges in China and Korea, 1922; and other scenes in China, Japan, and Honolulu, 1922. Lastly, a small body of personal papers and student work, Series 6, completes the collection. It includes Hamlin's art and sketch books, private correspondence, fiction and poetry, personal and family photographs, student papers and drawings.