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Joan Root Collections

Identifier: ROO

Scope and Contents

Most of the material comprising the Joan Root Collections consists of correspondence she received from Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, who amassed one of the world's greatest private collections of medieval arms and armor, which he bequeathed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. During most of the years of their correspondence, from 1969 to 1974, Mrs. Root served as vice chair and chairperson of the Museum Guides. The earliest correspondence pertains to arranging trips for the guides to visit von Kienbusch at his New York City residence and view his collection. Mrs. Root continued to correspond with von Kienbusch until his death in 1976. Von Kienbusch's letters focused on personal interests, such as Root's family and von Kienbusch's other passions--angling and his alma mater Princeton University, as well as occasional discussions of museum and private acquisitions of medieval arms. Although von Kienbusch often made reference to his blindness, which came on him sometime during the mid-1960s, his letters make readily apparent that it did not keep him from collecting, traveling and entertaining. A few of Root's letters to von Kienbusch are included as well as those written by other Museum staff and associates of von Kienbusch. Other related material includes an entire issue of the Museum's Bulletin devoted to his collection as well as newspapers clippings and press releases about PMA's acquisition. There are also photographs of von Kienbusch, several of his obituaries, and a brief essay by Mrs. Root in which she recalls her relationship with him and identifies other individuals whose correspondence is included here.

The second subgroup highlights a completely different interest of Mrs. Root--a small compilation of ephemera pertaining to the City of Philadelphia. Most of the pieces are from the 1876 Centennial, along with a piece from the 1926 Sesqui-centennial and the 1879 dedication of the equestrian Washington Monument, which now stands across the street from the main entrance of the museum.


  • 1876-1926, 1969-2000


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Joan Root Collections are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

In 1969 Joan Root (Mrs. Stanley W., Jr.) served as vice chairman of the Museum Guides Program, which at that time operated as the Volunteer Guides. By the 1970-1971 annual report, which appears to be the first issue to record all the volunteer guides, Mrs. Root is listed as chairman of the weekday program. She chaired the program until 1974. Mrs. Root was also a member of the Women's Committee, and served as its President from 1977 to 1979. She remained an active member of the Committee until 1996. She continued to be involved with the museum until her passing in 2018.

Born in 1884, Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch lived his entire 91 years at 12 East 74th Street in New York City. By the early 1970s, von Kienbusch devoted the entire second floor of his residence to house his collection of medieval arms and armor, which was comprised of more than 1100 objects, including 35 full suits of armor, and more than 135 swords and 80 helmets. Von Kienbusch graduated from Princeton University in 1906 and spent most of his life working in the tobacco industry. His family made their fortune in leaf tobacco. One of his earliest jobs, however, was with Bashford Dean, who at the time he hired von Kienbusch in 1912 was the curator of armor for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Von Kienbusch represented Dean at armor auctions since the latter's presence at such events often caused prices to rise. Although von Kienbusch was completely blind the last 12 years of his life, he continued to add to his collection with the assistance of Harvey Murton, one of the last armorers, who also worked in that capacity for 43 years in the Metropolitan Museum's Arms and Armor Department. Prior to his death in 1976, von Kienbusch bequeathed his collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as his related library. Princeton University received his collection of rare books on angling and certain paintings, manuscripts and objects, as well as funding for men's and women's athletics, student aid, the library, and art museum. His bequest to women's athletics was the first endowment the university ever received for that purpose. He was survived by his two daughters, Mrs. Bayne Kelley and Mrs. John W. Little.


0.25 linear foot

Language of Materials



Most of the material comprising the Joan Root Collection consists of correspondence and other materials related to Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, who amassed one of the world's greatest private collections of arms and armor, which he bequeathed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This collection also includes a small compilation of ephemera pertaining to the City of Philadelphia, namely the Centennial, Sesqui-centennial and dedication of the equestrian monument of George Washington in Fairmount Park.

Custodial History

Gift of Joan Root, September 2000.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams. Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Guide to the Joan Root Collections
Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States