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Fatherless Children of France Collection

Identifier: SC055-FATH

Scope and Contents

The collection contains autographs, manuscripts, photographs and artwork from some of the greatest names in literature, art, politics and the military of the First World War era. In addition to the materials forming “Their Book,” this collection also contains items that ultimately were not included in the final collection to be auctioned, and correspondence of Anna O’Neill Johnson pertaining to the formation of the collection and auction. Additionally, there are a few items associated with “Their Book” including two medals from the Orphelinat des Armẻes.

The collection is organized into three series: “Their Book;” Unused Contributions; and Anna O’Neill Johnson Correspondence. Materials in the collection date from 1866 to 1985 with the bulk dating from 1916 to 1919. The later materials pertain to the donation of the collection to Holy Cross. The first series, “Their Book,” maintains the original order of the auction catalog. The lot numbers in the auction catalog have been retained as identifiers in order to make it easier to cross reference. The missing items from the collection are listed separately at the end of the box and folder listing. The third series, Anna O’Neill Johnson Correspondence, also contains newspaper clippings and these have been photocopied for preservation purposes.


  • 1866-1985

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Materials believed to be under copyright or other restrictions are available for limited noncommercial, educational and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States copyright law and with proper citation. Please note that the College of the Holy Cross may not hold the rights to all items in this collection. Users assume responsibility for identifying all copyright holders and for determining whether permission is needed to make any use of the content. For permission under rights held by the College, please contact

Historical Note

The Fatherless Children of France was an organization formed by American women in October 1915 with the objective to provide relief to the French children orphaned by the First World War. There were thirty-six chapters or committees throughout the country including New York City and Boston. The organization supported the work of the Orphelinat des Armẻes, a French society formed in Paris at the beginning of the First World War, by advertising subscriptions of $35.650 a year. The money raised by these subscriptions went directly to the French orphans to supplement the stipends provided by the French government.

While the subscriptions were successful, an auction was organized to raise additional funds. Anna O’Neill Johnson of the Boston Committee devised and directed the plan of asking well-known people of the period to contribute to a “book,” which would be auctioned. Each was asked to contribute a manuscript, an autograph, an artwork, a photograph, etc. on a uniform piece of paper, which was provided. These contributions were compiled into a volume called “Their Book.” The initial plan was to bind the contributions into a single volume but due to the size and nature of some of the contributions, it was not feasible. Instead, Mary Crease Sears designed a morocco case to hold the collection and a portfolio was created for the oversize artwork. The contributions were to be sold separately and an auction cataloged was created by the American Art Association. This new plan provoked outrage from many of the contributors and from Mrs. Johnson herself. She arranged to purchase the entire collection before the planned auction took place. Mrs. Johnson maintained the collection until she donated it to Holy Cross in 1953.


7.93 Cubic Feet (25 flat boxes, 1 document box, 1 shoe box and 13 oversize folders)

Language of Materials







Acquisition Note

This collection was donated to Holy Cross on December 2, 1953 by Anna O’Neil Johnson in memory of her husband, Dr. David J. Johnson, who attended the Holy Cross Preparatory School from 1891-1893. Some items from the original auction were not included in the donation. It is unknown why these materials were excluded. A list of these items may be found in the General Note.

Related Materials

SC056-FATH: Fatherless Children of France – Felton Hall Scrapbook

Kirby, Thomas E. (Thomas Ellis), 1846-1924. 1921. The Fatherless Children of France : Catalogue of Original Signed Drawings, Etchings, Manuscripts, Photographs, Contributed by Famous Men and Women of the World War to “Their Book” to Be Sold at Unrestricted Public Sale on Monday Afternoon and Evening February 28th, 1921, under the Managment of the American Art Association, Madison Square South, New York City. American Art Association (Copies available in the Archives)


The following items from the original auction were not included in the original donation. The location of these items is unknown.

1. Auction Lot 58 - Lord Kitchener of Khartoum Signed Photograph 2. Auction Lot 99 - Cardinal D.J. Mercier Photograph 3. Auction Lot 100 - Cardinal D.J. Mercier Autographed Sentiment (in French), December 12, 1918 4. Auction Lot 108 - Cardinal L.Y. Lucon Autographed Message (In French), February 13, 1919 5. Auction Lot 131 - Hilaire Belloc Autographed Poem, no date 6. Auction Lot 137 - Robert Bridges Original Autograph Manuscript Sonnet, September 28, 1917 7. Auction Lot 185 - Joyce Kilmer Autographed Manuscript, June 14, 1918 8. Auction Lot 199 - Claude Monet Autographed Message (in French), September 1920 9. Auction Lot 204 - Alfred Noyes Autographed Manuscript Poem, no date 10. Auction Lot 205 - Alfred Noyes Autographed Manuscript Poem, no date 11. Auction Lot 205A - Alfred Noyes Autographed Manuscript Poem, no date 12. Auction Lot 230 - Count Ilya Tolstoy Autographed Poem (in Russian), no date 13. Auction Lot 325 - Mathurin Meheut Original Watercolor

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Revised April 2020; Spring 2021

Repository Details

Part of the Distinctive Collections Repository

One College Street
Worcester MA 01610