Creator: Emma Fordyce MacRae; various
Dates: 1850-2008 (bulk 1915-1957)
Quantity: 6 document boxes
Acquisition: Accession #: 2018.023 ; Donated by: Jennifer Kissel
Identification: A91 ; Archive Collection #91
Citation: [Document Title]. The Emma Fordyce MacRae Collection, [Box #, Folder #, Item #], Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.
Copyright: Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be addressed to the Librarian/Archivist.
Language: English
Finding Aid:

Processed 2018 by Amber Wingerson, Curatorial Assistant.

Updated by Karla Kaneb, June 2020.

View the collection here.


Emma Fordyce MacRae was born Emma Dean Fordyce on April 27, 1887, in Vienna, Austria to American parents, Dr. John Addison Fordyce and Alice Dean (Smith) Fordyce. Raised in New York City, MacRae’s father was a professor of dermatology at New York University and later Columbia University, while her mother came from inherited wealth. MacRae was exposed to the arts through yearly visits to Europe and her primary education at Miss Chapin's School and the Brearley School, both all-girls schools in Manhattan. She later pursued her artistic training at the New York School of Art under Kenneth Hayes Miller and at the Art Students League under Luis Mora and E.F. Blumenschein. Additionally, MacRae continued her studies under John Sloan and George Bridgeman before opening studios in New York and in Gloucester. Her first exhibited work was “Italian Fishing Boats,” shown at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1918. 

Starting early and persisting throughout her career, MacRae’s paintings fell into three main categories: floral still-life, figural studies (mostly of women), and landscapes. She worked in a flat, linear, primarily two-dimensional style with references to Old Masters and Japanese prints. MacRae was known for her unique painting style where she used paint sparingly and often scrapped away sections of paint to reveal a textured, chalky canvas. These techniques gave her paintings an antiqued look, while also feeling modern. 

Throughout her long and illustrious career, MacRae’s paintings were exhibited at several prestigious museums and galleries throughout the country. These included: The National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy, Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, Chicago Art Institute, John Herron Art Institute of Indianapolis (now the Herron School of Art and Design), the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington D.C., Currier Museum of Art, and Boston Art Club. Emma also exhibited paintings between 1937 and 1945 as part of The Philadelphia Ten Painters. The Philadelphia Ten, also known as The Ten, was a group of female artists from the United States who exhibited together from 1917 to 1945. 

In addition to the Philadelphia Ten Painters, MacRae was a part of several artists groups and organizations, including the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, Allied Artists of America, North Shore Art Association, National Association of Mural Painters, Boston Art Club, The Philadelphia Ten Painters, and New York Society of Painters. She received full membership in the National Academy of Design in 1951. 

MacRae also received several awards for her paintings, including: Academy of Design awards for “Cosmos” and “EasterLilies,” the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors for “Neda Gray”, the Kingdon Gould Prize of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors for “Stelka” (1928), The Edith Penman Memorial Prize of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors for “Stelka” (1934), and the National Arts Club Medal for “Cosmos” (1930).

Emma Fordyce MacRae was married twice. The first in 1910 to Thomas MacRae, which was dissolved in 1920, although the couple lived together for less than a year. The second to Dr. Homer Swift in 1922. She had one child, Alice MacRae, from her first marriage. MacRae retained her first married name throughout her professional painting career. Personally, she went by Swift upon her second marriage.


Gift of Jennifer Kissel, ex-wife of Stephen Kissel (grandson of Emma Fordyce MacRae).


This is a personal manuscript collection of Emma Fordyce MacRae regarding her private life, domestic life, career, and extensive information about her family. It includes paper, photographs, diaries, address books, books, and objects, including embroidery, wood, and a weapon. The paper contents range from correspondence to legal documents to handwritten notes. The collection ranges from 1850 to 2008, while the bulk of the materials date from 1915 to 1957.

The largest series, Series 1: Correspondence, is broken down into three sub-series: family correspondence, friends and acquaintances to Emma Fordyce MacRae, and professional correspondence to Emma Fordyce MacRae. A large section of the first subseries, family correspondence, is not addressed to Emma, but rather other family members, including a large section of letters addressed to her parents. The exception to this is the correspondence from Stephen Kissel to his grandmother, Emma, which begins with his first childhood letters and continues throughout the rest of her life. The second subseries contain letters addressed to Emma from several friends and acquaintances with many references to Emma’s paintings and exhibitions. This sub-series of correspondence also includes letters from romantic interests of Emma. The third sub-series of professional correspondence is from galleries and museums, requesting paintings or updating Emma about her current and past exhibitions.

Series 2 contains personal items and writings of Emma’s, including a diary, travel logs, a scrapbook, address books, and a local cookbook from a Rockport church.

Series 3 comprises of family history information about Emma, her parents, and each of her parents’ ancestors. This includes family trees, hand-written questionnaires filled out by Emma, and newspaper announcements of family marriages and deaths. Additionally, there is information about the Kissel family car business, which is the family Emma’s daughter Alice married into. 

Series 4 is a wealth of legal information, including several family members’ wills, power of attorney, land grants, and Emma’s divorce from her first husband. Many of the legal documents include correspondence about the legal process of different wills and cases, which I have included in this series. The correspondence included provides the reader with the legal correspondence associated with each case, the steps that were taken during the legal process, and, in some cases, the personal thought process behind them.

Series 5 has some slightly disjointed financial information, such as a few checks and a warranty, in addition to some family investment information. 

The photographs of Series 7 range from Emma as a young girl to photographs of her grandson, Stephen Kissel. This includes two photo albums, several photographs, and photocopies of photographs. Few are dated or labeled, but the viewer can discern some information about those pictured, such as a family picture of Emma, her daughter, and her parents circa 1916. Series 8 contains books that belonged to earlier generations of Emma’s family. Series 9 contains several objects, including pieces of embroidery given to Emma and her brother, Addison, from both grandmothers as well as objects with an earlier family history. 


  1. Correspondence (1857-1976)
    1. Family Correspondence, 1857-1976
    2.  Friends and Acquaintances to Emma Fordyce MacRae Correspondence, 1920- 1973
    3. Professional Correspondence to Emma Fordyce MacRae, 1917-1969
  2. Personal (1900-1927, undated)
  3. Biographical and Family History (1874-1969, undated)
  4. Legal (1850-1974, undated)
  5. Financial (1898-1939)
  6. Professional Ephemera (1926-2008)
  7. Photographs, undated
  8. Books, undated
  9. Objects, undated


Box 1

Series I: Correspondence

I. Family Correspondence, 1857

II. Family Correspondence, 1900-1922

III. Family Correspondence, 1922-1933, undated

IV. Copies of family correspondence, 1915-1922

V. Correspondence, to Mrs. J.A. (Alice Dean) Fordyce, 1876-1926

VI. Correspondence, to John A. Fordyce, 1903, 1915

VII. Correspondence, to Dr. J.A. Fordyce, 1915-1925

VIII. Correspondence, to Dr. J.A. Fordyce, regarding career, 1912-1914

IX. Correspondence, to Addison Fordyce, 1915

X. Correspondence, regarding Addison Fordyce, 1915

XI. Correspondence, regarding Addison Fordyce, 1918 and undated

XII. Correspondence, from Stephen Kissel, 1943-1957

XIII. Correspondence, from Stephen Kissel, 1960-1971, undated

XIV. Kissel Family Correspondence, 1971-1976, undated

XV. Correspondence, to Emma F. MacRae, 1930-1939

XVI. Correspondence, to Emma F. MacRae, 1947-1973, undated

XVII. Correspondence, from Benjamin Earl Appleton, 1920-1921

XVIII. Correspondence, from A.W. Burnett, 1920


Box 2

Series I: Correspondence

I. Correspondence, from A.W. Burnett, 1920

II. Correspondence, from A.W. Burnett, 1921

III. Correspondence, from A.W. Burnett, 1921, undated

IV. Professional Correspondence, to Emma F. MacRae, 1917-1928

V. Professional Correspondence, to Emma F. MacRae, 1928-1969, undated

Series II: Personal

I. Diary, Emma Dean Fordyce, 1900

II. Diary, travel log, Emma Dean Fordyce, 1905

III. Travel logs, 1911, 1921, 1914, 1926, undated

IV. Scrapbook, Emma F. MacRae, undated

V. Address books, undated


Box 3

Series II: Personal

I. Copy of Address book, undated

II. Name cards and invitations, Emma F. MacRae, 1927, undated

III. Rockport Cookbook, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

Series III: Biographical and Family History

I. Family Tree, undated

II. Biographical and family records, 1898-1899, undated

III. Biographical information, Smith family, undated

IV. Biographical information, Thompson Dean, 1891

V. Biographical information, Fordyce family, 1969

VI. Biographical, Dr. J.A. Fordyce, published 1925

VII. Emma Fordyce MacRae, biographical, 1927-1941, undated

VIII. Newspaper, marriage and death announcements, 1874-1925, undated

IX. Marriage announcement, Alice Dean and J.A. Fordyce, 1886

X. Marriage announcement and certificate, Emma Fordyce MacRae, 1910

XI. Marriage service and materials, Emma Fordyce MacRae and Dr. Homer Swift, 1922

XII. Dr. J. A. Fordyce, death certificate, 1925

XIII. Marriage certificate, Alice MacRae and Lester Kissel, 1934

XIV. Newspaper articles, Dr. Homer Swift, 1953, undated

XV. Letterhead, Fordyce crest, undated

XVI. Cemetery map, 1914

XVII. Kissel car materials, 1917-1961

Series IV: Legal

I. Will, James Smith, undated

II. Federal land grant, 1850

III. Robert Burlan, Certificate of the Register of the Land, 1858

IV. Land purchase, 1873 V. Legation papers, 1887

VI. Larchmont manor, Company deed, 1887

VII. Thompson Dean, will and estate papers, 1894-1903

VIII. Alice Dean Fordyce, Dean family estate papers and correspondence, 1890-1904

IX. Inventory of Larchmonth residence, 1905

X. Legal correspondence about MacRae divorce, 1917-1921

XI. Court papers, MacRae divorce, 1920

XII. Wills, 1925, 1926

XIII. Legal documents concerning the wills, 1927-1928

XIV. Power of Attorney, 1928

XV. Alice Dean Fordyce, instrument of trust, July 18, 1934

XVI. Emma Fordyce MacRae, legal correspondence, 1953, 1968

XVII. Legal documents, settling will of Emma F. Swift, 1974


Box 4

Series V: Financial

I. Investment information, 1898-1927, undated

II. Financial, receipts, checks, etc., 1907-1941

III. Estate finances, unknown family member, 1911-1915

IV. Warranty information, 1922

V. Emma Fordyce MacRae, tracking painting sales, 1922-1939

VI. Cash book, 1926-1929

Series VI: Professional Ephemera

I. Membership, society papers, 1926-1939, undated

II. Emma Fordyce MacRae, publication features, 1929

III. Certificates, 1963, undated

IV. Exhibition materials, Emma Fordyce MacRae, undated

V. Posthumous Exhibitions, 1983-2008

VI. Exhibition catalogs and materials, 1920-1939

VII. Exhibition catalogs and materials, 1939-1977

Series VII: Photographs

I. Photographs, family, undated

II. Photocopies, family photographs, undated

III. Photo album, undated

IV. Photographs, Cook family land, labeled, undated

V. Photographs, travel, undated

VI. Photographs, family homes and interiors, undated

Series VIII: Books

I. Note found with the books, undated


Box 5


I. Objects have been pulled from their series in the regular sized boxes and replaced with “Document Removed” documentation that will guide researchers to the Oversized Box, including:

I. Family Tree

II. Greenwood Cemetery map

III. 1873 Land purchase

IV. 1850 Land grant

V. 1887 Legation papers

VI. 1858 Land certification

VII. Larchmont Co. deed

VIII. Photography

IX. April 15, 1929, Town & Country (MacRae painting featured on the cover)


Box 6

Series IX: Objects—to be moved to Main Complex, Lower Level, Storage Room 2

I. Embroidery from grandmothers on both sides of her family made for her and her brother

II. Knife and cover

III. Wood from a hammer from MacRae’s mother’s side (great, great, great grandfather), labeled

IV. Small metal frame with a picture of MacRae’s brother, Addison Fordyce, in his WWI uniform

V. WWI field service medal