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> Introduction
Yaddo Founders
Lola Ridge
Sylvia Plath
       Coming Soon 
Newton Arvin
Constance Carrier


The poet and playwright Katrina Trask (1853-1922) and her husband, Spencer Trask (1844-1909), the prominent Wall Street financier and philanthropist, turned Yaddo, their country estate in Saratoga Springs, New York, into a renowned artists’ retreat. Since the first group of artists set foot on the 400-acre property, the mansion has hosted more than 6,500 writers, painters, and composers.

Over the last eight decades, guests at Yaddo have collectively won sixty-three Pulitzer Prizes, fifty-eight National Book Awards, twenty-four MacArthur “genius” awards, and a Nobel Prize.

yaddo photograph

From Yaddo: Making American Culture

Unconquered by Flames: The Literary Lights of Yaddo is one of fifteen exhibitions across the country celebrating the unique contributions by some of these artists. This exhibition in the William Allan Neilson Library begins on level one with some background information about Yaddo and its founders. The manuscripts of poet Lola Ridge, one of the creative community’s first guests, are on display in the Alumnae Gymnasium. The show moves upstairs to the Book Arts Gallery on level three to examine Newton Arvin’s pivotal role in Yaddo’s history, as well as the work of Yaddo and Smith alumnae Sylvia Plath and Constance Carrier. The personal papers of these writers are part of the extraordinary special collections at Smith College, which houses over 18,000 linear feet of manuscripts and over 40,000 rare books. This is the first of three exhibitions this year to recognize and celebrate the centennial of the libraries at Smith College.

Yaddo: Making American Culture

The Yaddo Records, 1870-1980 were recently deposited at the New York Public Library. The archive contains the administrative records of The Corporation of Yaddo since its establishment in 1900, as well as the institutional records of Yaddo from 1926, the year Yaddo began accepting guests. The Records are housed in over five hundred boxes and also include the personal papers of Yaddo’s principal founders Spencer and Katrina Trask, and George Foster Peabody. Yaddo: Making American Culture, a major exhibition and catalog edited by exhibition curator Micki McGee, celebrated the opening of the archive at the New York Public Library, October 24, 2008 through February 15, 2009.

Spencer Trask, an important Gilded Age financier, invested in railroads and Thomas Edison’s inventions and ably managed the company responsible for spreading electricity throughout the country. He also installed Adolph Ochs as publisher of The New York Times and served as president, saving the paper from extinction in 1896. Trask began his philanthropic bequests with a lecture fund to Princeton, his alma mater, in 1891. The Spencer Trask Lecture Series sponsored talks by T. S. Eliot, Margaret Mead, and other seminal figures. Spencer Task is best remembered for sharing his wife Katrina’s dream and establishing Yaddo as an artists’ colony in 1900.

Spencer Trask

David S. Worth, Spencer Trask: Enigmatic Titan. New York: Kabique, 2008


Next Page: Yaddo Founders

Original exhibition curated by Karen Kukil.
Web exhibit designed by Karen Kukil
Annie-Sage Whitehurst (Smith class 2011),
and Melissa Paa Redwood (Smith class 2010).

Copyright Note

All items in this exhibit are owned by the Sophia Smith Collection, The Mortimer Rare Book Room, and the Smith College Archives. They are reproduced by kind permission of The Corporation of Yaddo for the estates of Spencer and Katrina Trask, George Foster Peabody, Elizabeth Ames, and Eloise Gard Wright; Elaine Sproat for the estates of Lola Ridge and David Lawson; James Benét for the estates of Laura Benét, Frances Rose Benét, and William Rose Benét; Denise Scott Fears for the estates of Cyril Kay Scott, Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe; Donna Kahan for the estate of Henrietta Glick; Anne M. Cushman for the estate of Nancy Cox-McCormack Cushman; Marcia Durant Liles for the estate of Genevieve Taggart; Claire Metcalf for the estate of Gerald Sykes; and Barbara Carrier Block for the estate of Constance Carrier

The materials available on this Web site are for research only. Publication and/or broadcast in any form (including electronic) requires permission from Smith college and the appropriate copyright holder.

For more information on obtaining permissions and how to cite materials, see Terms of Use.

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