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Helen Hyde diary at age 12
June 7, 2024

The Childhood Diaries of Artist Helen Hyde

The CHS Collection contains over one hundred diaries, providing a unique firsthand glimpse into a specific time, place, and individual’s life. The earliest diary in the collection, written by Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncado, the Spanish military commandant of Alta California, dates back 250 years. There are also multiple diaries written by both men and women, documenting their journeys to California by sea and overland during and after the discovery of gold and the massive wave of migration west. Later diaries focus on family and work life, with observations about growing businesses, religious activities, education, politics, and community. It is rare to find a diary written by a child, but CHS has a few in its collection. This blog post highlights a couple from a young, budding artist in San Francisco in the late nineteenth century.

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The Childhood Diaries of Artist Helen Hyde


The Childhood Diaries of Artist Helen Hyde (1868–1919)

 

helen-01_a Artist Helen Hyde as a young girl

Left: Diaries, Helen Hyde Papers, 1851–1958. California Historical Society (MS 1085) Right: Helen Hyde, age twelve, circa 1880. Portraits Collection, California Historical Society (PC-PT)

About the Diaries

Young Helen’s diaries document her daily life and routine during the period of 1881–1882, when she lived in San Francisco. They provide a glimpse into the life of a privileged young woman living in San Francisco during the late 19th century, documenting the “pleasant” weather and focusing on her dance and painting lessons. She also describes her family, including her father’s death, and the assassination of President Garfield.

 

Helen Hyde Papers, 1851–1958. California Historical Society (MS 1085) 

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Helen Hyde Papers, 1851–1958. California Historical Society (MS 1085) 

About Helen Hyde

From biographical sources, we know that Helen began her art education at the age of twelve under the guidance of Danish artist Ferdinand Richardt. Her diaries are filled with pencil sketches, showcasing her natural talent and passion for art. As she continued to develop her skills, she became an accomplished artist, studying in cities such as New York, Paris, and Tokyo. Helen’s woodblock prints and etchings gained recognition and praise, and they continue to be displayed in numerous galleries and exhibitions today. This remarkable Californian went on to become the first American woman to study Japanese printing techniques in Japan, solidifying her place in art history.

 

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Left: Helen Hyde Papers, 1851–1958. California Historical Society (MS 1085)
Right: Helen Hyde, [back reads Helen Hyde…painter], undated. Portraits Collection, California Historical Society (PC-PT)

 

HH sketchbook circa late 1890s early 1900s

Helen Hyde Papers, 1851–1958. California Historical Society (MS 1085) 

About the Collection

CHS is fortunate to hold not only two early diaries from Hyde but also some of her later sketchbooks, which display her artistic interests and evolving style. The holdings include original etchings, engraving tools, records of her prints and exhibits, and other personal memorabilia. For more information on the collection, please see the Guide to the Helen Hyde Papers MS 1085.

 

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Helen Hyde, undated. Portraits Collection, California Historical Society (PC-PT)

 

More on Helen Hyde:

In Memoriam Helen Hyde, American Japoniste
Pioneering Women Printmakers: Helen Hyde and Lilian May Miller in Japan
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Helen Hyde

About the Diaries Held in the CHS Collection:

Day-by-Day Records: Diaries from the CHS Library
Day-by-Day Records: Diaries from the CHS Library. Part II

 

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