The Howells-Frechette Collection at Alfred University is an extensive collection of letters and memorabilia from aremarkable family. The material details the social, literary, artistic, and political life in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States and Canada as perceived through the eyes of William Cooper Howells (1807-1894) and his children and grandchildren, among whom where a U.S consul, a journalist, a translator/poet/artist, a newspaper editor, a novelist/critic, and a portrait painter.
William C. Howells’ son, William Dean Howells, a literary giant (author, editor, lecturer, critic) of his day, was primarily responsible for bringing Henry James into the forefront of American attention. He was also a close friend of Mark Twain. One item in the collection, shown above, is a mounted and boxed copper plate engraving made by Twain as a birthday gift to Howells in 1902. On the plate Twain notes “I cannot make a good mouth, therefore leave it out. There is enough without anyway. Done with the best ink. M.T.”
Family documents, scrapbooks, diaries, lectures, etc. augment the 7000 letters exchanged not only among the family members but also with such luminaries as Twain, Hamlin Garland, James Garfield and other literary and political figures. Researchers interested in the flavor of American/Canadian life, the Northwest Mounted Police in Alberta, Ottawa’s Department of Mines and Resources, and southern Africa in the 1870s will also find material of interest.