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Frank Lloyd Wright's Paternal Family

"I will send you a piece of my music to criticise instead of writing you a long letter . . . . It is a Psalm tune which is I find the most difficult kind of composition, because I cannot bring out my ideas fully in so short a space." In July 1843 William Carey Wright, the father of "the greatest American architect of all time," writes to his brother Thomas concerning his choice of a musical form, which he presents as a geometric puzzle--fitting art into space. William--the would-be doctor, musician, teacher, and preacher--is one of several members of the Wright family who correspond with Frank Lloyd Wright's uncle, Thomas Goddard Wright, and with Frank's cousin, William Russell Wright, in a newly-acquired collection of papers, which date from 1833 to 1892.

Scant information exists regarding the paternal lineage of Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1885 he was just seventeen when his father divorced his second wife, Anna Lloyd, and left his family: Frank never spoke to or heard from his father again. William, however, did teach his son the structural composition between music and buildings. Expressed in letters to his family are William's ideas and his varied interests from music to medicine, revealing possible similarities and differences between father and son. In addition, the charismatic and independent personalities of other family members surface in the Wright Family Papers. Frank Lloyd Wright's aunt, Abigail Wright Bartlett Whitaker, owned her own shop: she was a seamstress and dressmaker. His grandfather, David Wright, discusses his fascination with the language structure of Native Americans from his missions to Martha's Vineyard and Virginia. Frank's uncle David, an ante-bellum merchant in the South, notes that "far too little friendly feelings exists between the North & South now & by the [rousing] of the Northern abolitionists it is becoming coldness & I fear disunion & when this is done, happy, prosperous, America is no more."

To explore the Wright Family Papers, request Ms. Coll. 822 in the reading room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Letter No. 1 from William Carey Wright to Thomas Goddard Wright, July 1843

Letter No. 2 from William Carey Wright to Thomas Goddard Wright, July 1843


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