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The Bliss Album of Garden Photographs

The Bliss Album of Garden Photographs consists of 188 black-and-white photographs mounted on paper that is edged on the left with a linen strip having four punch holes. Apparently, these photographs formerly were bound together with album covers which are no longer preserved. Each paper mount has a number printed on the back beginning with 101 and ending with 305. Most photographs also have this number repeated in pencil on the back of the paper mount. Although unsigned and undated, these photographs were most likely taken by Stewart Bros. Photographers of Washington, D.C., who are known to have photographed the gardens between ca. 1929 and 1932. Surrogates of most, but not all, of these photographs are in the garden photograph collection of the Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection, and many of these have the Stewart Bros. Photographers stamp on the back of the photograph as well as occasional dating and identification annotations.

The Bliss Album of Garden Photographs is presumed to be a set of garden images assembled by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. It may be their personal album or, possibly, the album that was sent to Mildred Bliss’s mother, Anna Barnes Bliss, in California. It is known from correspondence that the Blisses had garden photograph albums sent to various people. For example, on February 22, 1935, Beatrix Farrand wrote her aunt, Edith Wharton: “Mildred’s attachment to Dumbarton Oaks is really almost like an attachment to her own child, and her pleasure was in consequence great when she knew you had liked the album of “Oaks” pictures which she had sent you.” In the Bliss album, the photograph numbers establish groupings of images from various parts of the garden and possibly may indicate a preferred progression for visiting the various garden areas.

Seventeen photographs are missing from the Bliss Album of Garden Photographs—numbers 107, 151, 152, 161, 177, 187, 221, 280, 284, 293–299, and 303—and it is not known whether these have been lost after the album was unbound or were not included in the original album.