Charles Over Cornelius papers, 1921-1932

Charles Over Cornelius papers, 1921-1932
1.2 linear feet (in 3 manuscript boxes)
This collection is made up of two series: Professional Papers and Personal Papers.
The Charles Over Cornelius papers are in two series. Series I documents his professional life as an architect and associate curator of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Series II is made up of personal papers. Much of the material is undated, although some catalogs and correspondence are dated 1931-1932, around the time he resigned from The Met in February of 1931. The professional folders include manuscripts of his first book, "Furniture Masterpieces of Duncan Phyfe," and more writings on Phyfe that were possibly used in the exhibition and the catalog. There are architectural drawings from an alteration and a restoration that he worked on. There are a few pages of notes in several of his mostly blank, pocket-sized notebooks. The bulk of his papers are photographs, postcards and glass negatives of houses and furniture, some of which he used in his books and others for restoring colonial or pre-Civil War properties for his clients. There are vendor communications and invoices that dealt with his restoration work. In his personal papers, there are almost 90 letters from his sister, mother, and brother-in-law sent mostly between 1921 and 1930. The Cornelius papers were separated from the donated papers of Arthur C. and Mariam Y. Holden. Arthur C. Holden was a principal in the architectural firm of Holden, McLaughlin & Associates where Cornelius was an architect in the latter part of his career.
Biographical / Historical Note
Charles Over Cornelius (1890-1937) was born in Sewickley, PA and died in Irvington-on Hudson, NY. He was an architect who was also an associate curator of American art at The Met. Among his known architectural projects was the renovation of Dey House in Wayne, NJ, which served as Washington's headquarters during 1780. Prior to that project, he received the commission to design a library at Blair House in Washington, D.C. in 1920.
Cornelius received his B.A. from Princeton in 1913, and his B.S. from MIT in 1916. That same year, he entered the architectural practice of Frank A. Colby in New York. In 1917, he was hired by the Metropolitan Museum, and became an Assistant Curator in the Department of Decorative Arts in 1918. In 1925, he was appointed Associate Curator of American Art. While at The Met, he consulted with clients on their private collections. He resigned from The Met in February, 1931, and around that time was an associate in the architectural practice of Holden, McLaughlin & Associates in New York.
In 1922, he curated the first exhibit at The Met to be devoted to one cabinetmaker, in, "Furniture from the Workshop of Duncan Phyfe," and he would write, "Furniture Masterpieces of Duncan Phyfe." In 1924, R. T. H. Halsey and Cornelius would write, "A Handbook of the American Wing," a publication of The Met about the American Wing building which is devoted entirely to American art of the colonial, revolutionary, and early republican periods. In 1926, he would write, "Early American Furniture," and contribute to, "Mahogany, Antique and Modern: a Study of its History and Use in the Decorative Arts."
This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please call (212) 854-4110 or email
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