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Lynnwood Farnam papers (MSS 20)

Identifier: MSS 20

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the personal papers of Lynnwood Farnam, including correspondence, diaries and notebooks, scrapbooks, programs, clippings, and church service programs, all which document his personal life and career as a church and performing organist and head of the new organ department at the Curtis Institute of Music. The collection includes an extensive collection of photos and specifications of organs that Farnam viewed and played during his career and travels (1900-1928). In addition the collection contains correspondence and papers that were collected during attempts to write Farnam's biography, as well as materials added to the collection since it was donated to the Curtis Institute of Music.


  • circa 1850-1972


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research, though some materials are too fragile to be handled.

Biographical / Historical

Lynnwood Farnam (1885-1930), considered one of the greatest organists of his time, grew up in Dunham, Quebec, Canada. At age fifteen he won a scholarship to study piano at the Royal College of Music in London, switching to organ in his second year. After completing his study in London Farnam returned to Canada where he served as church organist first for St. James Methodist Church (1904-1905) and then St. James the Apostle Anglican Church (1905-1908), both in Montreal. From 1908-1913 Farnam acted as Director of Music at Christ Church Cathedral, also teaching at the McGill Conservatorium for one year in 1913. In addition to teaching, Farnam also built his reputation as a performing artist with frequent organ recitals in Montreal. In 1913 Farnam moved to the United States to serve as organist for Emmanuel Church in Boston, later moving to New York in 1918 to accept a position at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. The following year however, Farnam left New York after volunteering in the Canadian Army. He served in England, performing mainly musical and clerical duties. Once back in New York he stayed at Fifth Avenue for just one year before accepting a position at the Church of the Holy Communion in 1920, a position he held until his death in 1930. In 1927 Farnam was appointed as head of the new organ department at the Curtis Institute of Music for the 1928/1929 school year, coming down to Philadelphia one day a week. However, just two years later, on November 23, 1930, Farnam died of liver cancer after a brief six-week illness.


9.5 Linear feet ((14) archival boxes, (3) 11x15 photo boxes, (1) 11x17 photo box.)

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into the following series: Series 1: Organ specifications Series 2: Diaries and notebooks Series 3: Scrapbooks Series 4: Memorabilia and miscellaneous materials Series 5: Correspondence to and from Lynnwood Farnam Series 6: John Greene collection Series 7: Lawrence Apgar collection Series 8: Photographs Series 9: Clippings and programs Series 10: Printed materials

Custodial History

Farnam's personal papers and notebooks were inherited by Farnam's sister Arline Farnam Hall, who left them in the care of Farnam's biographer John Greene, along with the family correspondence. In 1952 Greene arranged for the donation of the collection to the Curtis Institute of Music which also included his working papers and collected materials.

Related Materials

The Founders Records in the Curtis Institute of Music Archives include correspondence between Mary Louise Curtis Bok and Lynnwood Farnam (1927-30) as well as correspondence with the Farnam family and prospective biographers (1930-32) and John Greene (1959-60). Copies of clippings relating to Farnam from the Curtis Institute of Music's annual scrapbooks are kept in the Curtis Archives Vertical Files.

Lynnwood Farnam Papers (MSS 20)
In Progress
Helene van Rossum
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
revised 2017

Repository Details

Part of the Curtis Institute of Music Archives Repository

1720 Locust St
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States