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Sylvia Hortense Bliss papers, 1868-1984.
Bliss, Sylvia Hortense, 1870-1963.
Library Call Number Copy Material Location
Vermont Historical Society Library  Doc 236  Manuscript  Vault-Manuscript 

Personal Author : Bliss, Sylvia Hortense, 1870-1963.
Title : Sylvia Hortense Bliss papers, 1868-1984.
Physical Description : 5.5 linear ft. (6 boxes).
General Note : Continued in Doc 240, 430-432, MSA 160.
Summary :

The Bliss Papers, 1868-1984, are a comprehensive collection of the papers of Sylvia Hortense Bliss assembled for the most part by her biographer, Forest K. Davis, prior to Bliss' death. The collection includes not only information about her personal life and copies of almost all of her literary output (often in the original format) but it also reflects her intellectual curiosity on subjects as diverse as botany, philosophy, psychology, and music. The papers include her correspondence, diaries, notebooks, her published and unpublished writing (both poetry and prose), and fragments of her literary work as well as reviews. Information about Bliss' life includes photographs, genealogy, and a memorial scrapbook compiled by Lou Whitney Bliss after Sylvia died.

The collection consists in large part of Sylvia Bliss' letters. She wrote to her family during the periods she was away from home studying music and undergoing medical treatment in Boston, and later in her life while on short vacations from the East Calais, Vermont, farm. The most voluminous correspondence is that of Forest K. Davis and Bliss between 1956 and 1962. During this period, Bliss answered Davis' queries about her life and literary work and sent him envelopes stuffed with her papers. Davis' arrangement of the envelopes has been retained: chronological by the date of Bliss' response. The contents of the envelopes are miscellaneous and Davis' notes on each envelope are a convenient inventory of the contents.

The portion of the collection related to Forest Davis is relatively small and consists of his letters to Sylvia Bliss between 1954 and 1962, as well as his correspondence with Lou and Barbara

Biographical or historical data :

Sylvia Hortense Bliss was the oldest child of Elmina Marsh (d. 1935) of East Calais, Vermont, and Warren Earl Bliss (1840-1930) of East Calais and Woodbury, Vermont, who married January 25, 1866. Sylvia (December 13, 1870-March 14, 1963) and her siblings, Clifford Earl (August 29, 1875-April 9, 1962), and Grace Marsh (1877-1922), were born in Toledo, Ohio. In 1885, the family returned to the East Calais farm where Elmina Marsh Bliss had been born.

Sylvia Bliss studied music in Iowa and was a student of music at Syracuse University under private teachers for two years. Apart from several sojourns in Boston, brief summer holidays, and winters in Florida in her later years, Bliss lived in East Calais with her parents and, in her final years, with her brother and sister-in-law in Rochester, Vermont. Bliss taught piano lessons and was a church organist; she read widely and was a self-taught botanist. Her four hundred specimen herbarium which she gave to Montpelier's Kellogg-Hubbard Library was lost in the 1927 flood.

Bliss' early published writings were short-stories in the Vermont Watchman and State Gazette and The Vermonter: The State Magazine. By the 1930s she was a regular contributor of poetry and short prose pieces to Driftwind, a literary journal, published and edited by Walter J. Coates, in North Montpelier, Vermont. Between 1909 and 1918, Bliss sought medical treatment for a speech handicap with Boston neurologists Dr. Morton Prince and Dr. James J. Putnam. It was during this period that Bliss researched and published several articles in the American Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology on subjects that interested her as a layperson.

Bliss' invalid sister, Grace, with whom Sylvia had an uneasy relationship, died in 1922. After her parents' death Bliss made her home with her brother, Clifford, and his wife, Lou Whitney Bliss (February 20, 1885-November 26, 1964). Their daughter, Barbara Whitney, was born in Northfield on April 19, 1915. Barbara Whitney Bliss, widow of A. Harlow Martin, married Gerald L. Rice and they have a son, Gerald L. Rice, Jr.

Personal Subject : Bliss family.
Parker family.
Marsh family.
Whitney family.
Conner, Mary Andrews.
Allen, Mrs. H. C.
Bassett, Preston.
Backman, Priscilla Davis, 1922-2015.
Davis, Evangeline.
Subject Term : Laughter.
Literature Vermont.
Geographic Term : Vermont Poetry.
Calais (Vt.) Archival resources.
Genre/Form : Diaries.
Manuscripts for publication.
Added Author : Bliss, Lou Whitney, 1885-1964.
Bliss, Barbara Whitney, 1915-
Davis, Forest K., 1918-2008.
Monroe, Will S., 1863-1939.
Peach, Arthur Wallace, 1886-1956.
Coates, Walter John, 1880-1941.
Orton, Vrest, 1897-1986.
Prince, Morton, Dr.
Putnam, James J., Dr.
Electronic Resource : Click here for full text of finding aid.