Guide to the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers, 1860s-1933


The collection concerns the Bryant family, who came to Durham, North Carolina to found the Southern Conservatory of Music. There are seven diary volumes: five by James Alonzo Bryant, Gilmore's father and a Bethel, Vermont farmer, and two by Mattie E. Bryant, Gilmore's wife and voice teacher; 19th and early 20th century tintypes, an ambrotype, an albumen print, and gelatin silver photographs of members of the Bryant, Clark, Bird, Dean, Chamberlain, and McConoll families from Vermont, and others; sheet and manuscript music by Bryant; and a copy of the 1920-1921 illustrated Southern Conservatory "Calendar," as well as a sheet of examination grades.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Gilmore Ward Bryant papers
Bryant, Gilmore Ward, 1859-1946.
2.0 Linear Feet, 3 boxes; 35 items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

Content Description

Gilmore Ward Bryant (1859-1946), originally from Bethel, Vermont, founded the Southern Conservatory of Music in Durham in 1898 or 1899, along with his wife, Mattie E. Bryant. The collection contains seven diary volumes: five by James Alonzo Bryant, Gilmore's father and a Vermont farmer, containing brief entries related to the weather, visitors, farm tasks and sales, and church activities; and two by Mattie Bryant, containing brief entries about weather, church activities, visitors, and Conservatory events.

The collection is rich in photographs depicting members of the Bryant, Clark, Bird, Dean, Chamberlain, and McConoll families from Vermont, and others. There are 19th and early 20th century tintypes, many mounted in two small personal albums; an ambrotype; an albumen print; and gelatin silver photographs.

The Conservatory's history and Bryant's career in music are represented by published and manuscript sheet music composed by Bryant (there is also one piece by P.A. Schnecker), and a sheet of examination grades. A copy of the 77-page illustrated "Calendar" of the Southern Conservatory of Music, contains information about its mission, faculty, administration, facilities, and programs, accompanied by many images of the Conservatory building, its faculty and staff, interior rooms, and students at practice.

More Biographical / Historical Info


Arranged in the following series: Diaries and Memorandum Book, Photographs, Conservatory Records, and Sheet Music.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Gilmore Ward Bryant papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Diaries and Memorandum Book, 1871-1923

Set of diaries include several kept by James Alonzo Bryant, farmer in Bethel, Vermont (1871-1878), in which Gilmore Bryant is mentioned as helping his father with farm chores and going away to school. Brief entries typcially mention the weather, visits, church activities, and farm tasks and sales. Mattie E. Bryant's 1921 and 1923 diaries follow the same pattern, with brief entries focused on visits and health, and, as wife and partner of Gilmore W. Bryant, on Conservatory activities such as lessions, concerts, and the school calendar. She mentions in 1923 that Trinity Church burned down; later that spring, she writes of closing the old Conservatory in downtown Durham and moving to Alston Avenue, then open country ("just like camping out".

Diary, James Alonzo Bryant, Bethel, Vermont, 1871
Box 1
Diary, J. A. (James Alonzo) Bryant, Bethel, Vermont, 1872
Box 1
Diary, J. A. (James Alonzo) Bryant, Bethel, Vermont, 1873
Box 1
Diary, J. A. (James Alonzo) Bryant, Bethel, Vermont, 1878
Box 1
Diary, Mattie E. Bryant, 1921
Box 1
Diary, Mattie E. Bryant, 1923
Box 1
Memorandum book, C. W. (Charles Wakefield) Crowell, Salisbury, N.C., 1921

Charles Wakefield Crowell (1875-1940) was the father of Nora Lee Crowell, Max Wiley Bryant's wife. According to the memoranda and notes, he seems to have been in the construction business in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Box 1
"Grandmother Bryant," cased tintype, circa late 1860s

Written on image: "Grandmother Bryant - Mrs. McCollom." Tintype is loose inside a leather-covered decorative case.

Box 1
Gilmore Ward Bryant as a child, tintype in paper mount, circa 1865
Box 1
Portrait, half-plate ambrotype, possibly James Alonzo Bryant, circa 1870s

Large glass plate; original case is housed separately in folder. Fragile: please handle with gloves.

Box 1
Photograph album with tintype portraits, circa 1870s

Small leather-covered decorative album (3.5x3.5 inches) contains 20 tintype portraits of family and friends. They are almost all 16th-plate size (about 1.375 x 1.625 inches or 3.5 x 4 cm). The first is of a man, E. McCollom, a last name associated with the Bryant family (and spelled various ways in historical records); there are also related family members by the name of Clark. Other family names that all appear to be relations include Bird, Bundy, Durkee, Dean, Chamberlain, and Hatch. Many are children.

Box 1
Photograph album with tintype portraits, circa 1870s-1880s

Paper inside covers, but missing outer covers; measures 4 1/4 x 5 1/8 inches. Similar to the previous album, contains tintype portraits beginning with Clark family women and relations. Includes a portrait labeled Gilmore Ward Bryant, about 10 years of age, about 1869. Most are 16th-plate (about 1.375 x 1.625 inches or 3.5 x 4 cm) but others are larger. Names include Bird, Bundy, Dean, Hatch, Howe, Chamberlain, and Bryant. Photographers' names present: L.T. (Luther T.) Sparhawk, West Randolph, Vermont; and H.A. Lesure, Rochester, Vermont.

Box 1
Max Wylie Bryant with Conservatory pupils?, mounted albumen, circa 1910

A young man standing in background, with four women sitting, front, holding sheet music. The youth of the man would indicate Gilmore Bryant's son, Max Wylie, who was about 16 in 1910; Gilmore would have been in his forties or fifties in this time period. His mother may be the woman in black dress. Albumen print, image size 7 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, mounted on cardstock.

Box 2
Cased gelatin silver photograph, woman with two adult children, 1910s

May be Mrs. Mattie E. Bryant with son and daughter-in-law.

Box 2
Unidentified female child, about 5 years of age, sitting, gelatin silver print, 1920s?
Box 2

3. Conservatory of Southern Music Records, 1920-1933 and undated

A small series of examination grades, various fragmented notes, and the illustrated school guide for 1920-1921, containing illustrations and detailed information about the school: its facilities, administration, faculty (with portraits), programs, and requirements.

Calendar of the Southern Conservatory of Music, Durham, N.C., 1920-1921

Paper covers, stapled, with illustrations; 47 pages. Contains portraits of faculty and director; images of the building, interiors and exterior shots. Gives details on the Conservatory's mission, its location, facilities, administration, programs, requirements, and academic calendar.

Box 2
Examination grades, 1932-1933, and jottings on family history (1990s?)
Box 2

4. Sheet Music, 1895-1911 and undated

Contains two groups of sheet music, manuscript (12 items) and published (5 items). In one folder for the "Topsy Turvy" composition was found a strip of very small portraits of Mrs. Bryant - this was left in its original location.

Manuscript music compositions by Gilmore Ward Bryant, between 1890 and 1930
(12 items)

Most are undated and are whole pieces of several pages each; they include a polonaise and a waltz. One item, "Topsy Turvy," also contains several music fragments, perhaps related to it or to some other composition; also found in its pages was a strip of very small silver gelatin portraits of what appears to be Mrs. Mattie Bryant. This has beeh retained in the original location with the sheet music.

Box 3
Published music compositions by Gilmore Ward Bryant and one other, 1895-1911
(5 items)

Pieces by Gilmore W. Bryant: Reverie Poetique (undated); Delsarte March (1895); Mazurka Fantastique (1909); and Dialogue (1911). There is also a student's score by P.A. Schnecker, Rustic Dance (1904).

Box 3

Historical Note

Gilmore Ward Bryant (1859-1946), originally from a farm family in Bethel, Vermont, taught piano in many locations in New England and the South. He was reportedly invited to Durham by Washington Duke, who financed the design and construction for what was to become the Southern Conservatory of Music. Finished in 1898, the grand Italianate-style Conservatory stood on the corner of Main and Duke Street.

Bryant was its founder and director until his retirement sometime in the 1930s, and his wife Mattie Emily Bullard Bryant, an accomplished musician and teacher, served as head of the Voice Department; his daughter-in-law also served as a teacher. Bryant was also a composer, publishing many pieces from the 1890s through the 1930s.

According to Mattie's diary, in the summer of 1923, the Bryants purchased their own land and laid the cornerstone for a new Conservatory on South Alston Avenue, then open countryside, and the old Conservatory was demolished in 1924. Mattie Bryant passed away in 1934; Gilmore Ward Bryant in 1946, in Durham. Their only son, Max Wylie Bryant, worked at Erwin Mills and continued to live in Durham until his death in 1967.

Related Material

There are a number of scattered materials related to the Conservatory of Music in the Rubenstein Library and University Archives collections; these include images, manuscripts, and printed materials such as commencement programs. There is material related to its dedication in the Benjamin Duke papers, and references to comic operas performed there in the Durham Savoyards records.

To find these materials, search the Rubenstein collection guides site using the term "Southern Conservatory of Music."

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The Gilmore Ward Bryant papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2000.

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Paula Jeannet, June 2017.

Accession(s) represented in this collection guide: 2000-0363