R. Tait (Robert Tait) McKenzie, 1867 - 1938
Papers, 1880 - 1940
UPT 50 McK37
62 Cubic ft.
Prepared by Theresa R.Synder
Updated by Nicole Topich
Access to collections is granted in accordance with the Protocols for the University Archives and Records Center.
The University of Pennsylvania Archives and Records Center gratefully acknowledges the Hoxie Harrison Smith Foundation, which generously supported the arrangement, description, and cataloging of this collection and the Colonial Dames of America, Chapter II, whose gift supported the archival supplies used in housing the collection.
Gift of Ethel O’Neil McKenzie, 1971. The collection was roughly processed and inventoried in 1979. Additions to the McKenzie Papers were received in 1996 (1996:069 and 1996:70), and 1999 (1999:024 and 1999:051).
The R. Tait McKenzie Papers is organized into four series: Papers, 1880–1940; Photographic, 1880–1938; Art, 1880–1938; and Memorabilia. As part of the 2012 additions, a fifth series Memorial Fund, 1930-1958 was added.
R. Tait McKenzie, physician, physical therapist, physical educator, and sculptor, served the University of Pennsylvania as its first Professor of Physical Education, 1904-1929. Wishing to be relieved of the administrative work required of his position, McKenzie took a year's leave of absence in 1929-1930 and in 1931 was appointed J. William White Research Professor of Physical Education. His new post permitted him to focus his efforts almost exclusively on his sculpture. In 1937 he became Professor Emeritus.
R. Tait McKenzie was born on May 26, 1867 to William McKenzie, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, and Catherine Shiells McKenzie. His father died while McKenzie was a young boy of nine years. McKenzie spent his youth in the town of his birth, Almonte, Ontario. At the age of eighteen he entered McGill University and stayed nearly twenty years, as undergraduate, medical student, and after earning the M.D. degree in 1892, as Medical Director of Physical Training and Lecturer in Anatomy. It was in his undergraduate years that his interests in physical education and art first developed. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, was a childhood friend of McKenzie's, who attended McGill with him. It was Naismith who kindled McKenzie's interest in gymnastic activities later, at McGill, McKenzie assisted Naismith in teaching gymnastics at the university. This not only gave McKenzie the opportunity to earn money to pay for his education, but served as the beginning of a career in physical education which would last more than fifty years. It was also at McGill where he developed his theories on physical education.
McKenzie believed that physical education and health activities had a beneficial relationship with the academic program in higher education. He taught that a full understanding of that relationship helped the student preserve health and physical efficiency, learn certain muscle skills, and to conduct himself as a gentleman in the social relationships of competitive games. McKenzie's theme was that exercise kept human beings well, serving as a preventative measure to illness. In 1904 he was appointed a full faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. McKenzie was attracted to Pennsylvania by the newly constructed gymnasium at Franklin Field, and viewed this as an opportunity to test his theory of physical education as a vehicle of preventative medicine. He developed a physical education program which became part of the core curriculum at the University. His book, Exercise in Education and Medicine, (Philadelphia : W.B. Saunders Company, 1909), set forth the evolution of physical education in the United States and discussed exercise as a necessity for all individuals. As a staunch advocate of amateurism, McKenzie believed intercollegiate athletics should be an educational program fully controlled by the institution. His advocacy led to the "Gates Plan" at Penn, which brought the alumni-controlled Council of Athletics under the direction of the administration's Department of Physical Education. The Gates Plan was implemented in 1931 and subsequent years and placed the administration of student health, physical instruction, and intercollegiate athletics in McKenzie's Department of Physical Education. It brought McKenzie well-earned stature and prestige at the University, but also saddled him with an unrelenting demand for his administrative presence.
McKenzie's first efforts at sculpture resulted from his inability to find sculptured pieces that demonstrated points in lectures on anatomy. His series of four Masks of Facial Expressions (1902) was his first public endeavor in sculpture. In 1903, excited by the direction of the Society of College Gymnasium Directors and recognizing a need for illustrative art, he proceeded down the career path for which he would be best known, that of sculptor. His Sprinter (1902) and Athlete (1903) were initially inspired by the short lived, but internationally popular movement of anthropometry. The art world soon found much to criticize in this style and McKenzie turned his attention to the study of European masters. By this time, however, his earlier interest in anthropometry was well known and his formal training in medicine was viewed as an unorthodox, if not unsuitable preparation for the practice of fine art. The result was that many art critics viewed his early work unfavorably. McKenzie traveled to Europe for study in an attempt to address these criticisms. At the University of Pennsylvania, McKenzie was afforded a private studio in the tower of Weightman Hall, (reached only by bringing down a jointed ladder) and he was surrounded by athletic programs and their participants to serve as models for his artwork. It was his association with Percy Gardner and E. Norman Gardiner, scholars of Greek sculpture, that did much to rehabilitate and enhance his reputation and image as a sculptor. They used his work to illustrate their publications; his reputation further grew overseas with his art shown at the Roman Exposition of 1911.
As his sculpture began to receive recognition, his work in relief also received notice. McKenzie mastered the art of the medallion, creating both memorial pieces and awards. At the 1912 Olympics, his most acclaimed medallion, Joy of Effort, was set into the wall of the great stadium at Stockholm. His relief entitled, Passing the Baton, was inspired by the Relay Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania. He produced medals for the Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Association (ICAA) to commemorate tennis, swimming, track and field, gymnastics, fencing, and golf as well as dozens of medals of other academic and athletic organizations.
McKenzie maintained his private practice while working as an educator and artist and was particularly interested in preventative medicine. Yet he also developed an interest in rehabilitation. His tenure at Penn included the first appointment at any American university as a professor of physical therapy. The war intensified his efforts in this area, and he was later recognized by the Academy of Physical Medicine for his contributions in rehabilitation. McKenzie served as the medical officer in charge of Heaton Park, Manchester, England during World War I. His involvement in the war remained that of a physician, and in 1918 he published two books, Reclaiming the Maimed and A Handbook of Physical Therapy. The latter was adopted by British, Canadian, and American armed forces as the official manual of hospital rehabilitation.
McKenzie's only sculpture completed during this period was Blighty, a representation of a young Seaforth Highlander on leave in France. After the war McKenzie was commissioned to do a number of memorials, including The Call, the central figure of the Scottish-American war memorial; The Volunteer, in Almonte; Alma Mater, the Girard College memorial; and The Homecoming, the Cambridge memorial. It was in this post-war period that McKenzie's great reputation was achieved. His work was displayed at several major exhibitions, including a show at Gump's Gallery in San Francisco in 1923; Grand Central Art Galleries in New York in 1924; Georges Petit Galleries in Paris in 1924; New York in 1927; Toronto in 1928; the London Fine Arts Society in 1930; at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1932 (where he won a prize for his Shield of Athletes); the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York in 1934; and the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.
Demands placed on him by art commissions and exhibitions, coupled with his many speaking engagements on his concern over the mounting professionalism in college sports, prompted McKenzie to submit his resignation from his position as Director of Physical Education in 1929. The University offered McKenzie a one year leave of absence and upon his return in 1931 appointed him the J. William White Research Professor of Physical Education, the first appointment of its kind. His works on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania include theYouthful Franklin , commissioned in 1911 by the Class of 1904 and installed in front of Weightman Hall; the Provost Edgar Fahs Smith statue, installed on Smith Walk; and the J. William White collection at Gimbel Gymnasium. McKenzie continued his work in sculpture until his death in April of 1938. His heart was buried in Edinburgh at the base of his Call, which he considered his best work. This was in keeping with his belief in a spiritual inheritance from the Greeks, who held that the heart was the seat of the soul. He married Ethel O'Neil of Hamilton, Ontario, in October of 1907. She was a musician and poet whose collected poems were published in Secret Snow. They had no children.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The collection of R. Tait McKenzie document the entire span of his career, as physician, educator, and sculptor. The Papers series includes the correspondence of R. Tait McKenzie, 1880-1938; Ethel McKenzie's papers regarding the estate settlement, 1938-1940; the business and financial records of McKenzie, 1893-1938; personal records, 1907-1936; professional organizations and clubs, 1912-1938; University of Pennsylvania files, 1900-1938; lectures and speeches, 1884-1938; writings and manuscripts, 1891-1938; published reprints, 1882-1938; clippings and scrapbooks, 1880-1939; and books and printed ephemera, 1915-1925, n.d. The photographic series contain prints, lantern slides, glass negatives, and photo engraving blocks. Exhibition documentation, works on paper, and plaster casts, studies, and proofs represent the Art series. The Memorabilia and Oversized series fill out the collection.
The Correspondence subseries detail the range of career interests of R. Tait McKenzie including art, athletics, physical education, anatomy, medicine, and physical therapy. Major correspondents with R. Tait McKenzie include: Marquis de Aberdeen, Burdick Cabinet Company, Stuart Campbell, William J. Cromie, William Henry Drummond, Lea and Febiger, Sir Andrew Macphail, Mill of Kintail staff, William O. Partridge, Edward R. Peacock, George P. Pilling, Samuel Scoville, Lord Seaforth, Harvey Smith, and Benton Spruance. Ethel McKenzie's Correspondence subseries largely deals with the estate settlement of her husband, the bulk of her papers include condolence letters from friends and colleagues. His Business and Financial subseries records include his early medical practice account books, 1893-1917 and card files of medical cases. Bills, receipts, and correspondence, 1902-1938, may also be found in this subseries and include exchanges with the American Association of Anatomists, the American Nurses Association, Anton Basky, James Bourelt and Sons, Ltd., Brown Brothers & Co., Bureau Brothers, Caproni & Bros., Vivian Chappel, College of Physicians, Compagnie der Bronzes, Desbarats & Co., Doll & Richards, Inc., Elliott & Fry, Ernest, Brown & Phillips, Florentine Art Plaster Co., Girard Trust Co., Gorham Silver, Library of Congress Copyright Office, Mackenzie & Company, Medallic Art Co., Harold Pratt, and Roman Bronze Company.
The Professional Organizations and Clubs in which he participated are also documented in the collection. These papers form the next subseries. They include the Academy of Physical Medicine, the American Olympic Association, the American Physical Education Association, American Posture League, Art Club, Athenaeum, British Great War Veterans of America, Canadian Club, Charakaa Club, Commission for the Study of Educational Problems, Contemporary Club of America, English Speaking Union, Fencer's Club, Lenape Club, Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Conference, National Amateur Athletic Federation of America, National Collegiate Association, National Physical Education Association, National Sculptural Society, Philadelphia Sketch Club, Playgrounds Association of America, St. Andrews Society, St. George Society, Scottish-American Memorial Association, Society of Directors of Physical Education in Colleges, T-Square Club, and the YMCA.
The University of Pennsylvania subseries best documents his interests in physical education and physical therapy. The curriculum and educational theories promoted by McKenzie are reflected in his departmental correspondence, 1900-1928. Information on the Council of Athletics, 1921-1924, as well as the various activities of the department may be found in this subseries. McKenzie maintained files on annual reports, athletic demonstrations, boxing, courses, examinations, finances, football, the gymnasium, his sabbatical, student statistics, and apparatus design. In addition, the University's participation in the Association of American Colleges and the formation of the Gates Plan are present in this subseries. The records in this subseries richly document an important period in the history of fitness, physical health, and athletics.
The Lectures and Speeches subseries complements his University papers and are divided among his interests in physical education, medicine, and art. His earlier lectures, given in the period when he was McGill, 1884-1904, cover his interest in anthropometry, anatomy, personal hygiene. The work of his first years at the University of Pennsylvania and his focus on physical education are most prominent in his lectures and speeches from 1904 to 1928. Topics include physical education, physical efficiency of college students, physical training, and commencement addresses at various physical education programs. This period also includes several speeches and lectures on his war activities, and his interests in art begin to appear often in his lectures. By 1928 his speeches and lectures, while continuing to address physical education, are mainly focused upon his sculpture.
McKenzie's Writings and Manuscripts subseries include diaries and anecdotes on travel as well as several chapters of autobiography. Writings on physical education, physical therapy, and art appear throughout the subseries. Similarly his published reprints cover the range of his interest, but it is here that one will find the bulk of information on his war work. Third party Published Reprints is a subseries which includes biographical articles about R. Tait McKenzie, but the bulk serves as a comprehensive reference file on physical education from 1882 to 1940 and includes material from and information on schools across the nation, perhaps gathered in his advisory capacity to the Gates Plan. This subseries also offers information on the Kellogg, Sargent, and Seaver tables of measurement. The Clippings and Scrapbooks subseries documents his career from the 1890s to his death in 1938 and the burial of his heart in Edinburgh. Books and Printed Ephemera, the last subseries of the Papers Series, represent travel interests and guides used by McKenzie in his travels.
The Photographic series begins with images of R. Tait McKenzie, his family, his friends, and his colleagues. There are formal portraits, academic portraits, military portraits, college and childhood portraits, and snapshots of McKenzie. Ethel McKenzie, the extended McKenzie family, the Mill of Kintail, and the Philadelphia home are also represented in this series. His work during World War I is documented in an album and in loose snapshots, and these images range from war wounds to rehabilitation to the hospital grounds. The bulk of the photographic series documents the art of McKenzie. Images for most of his art work, both sculpture and relief, may be found in this series. Several works have been photographed from multiple angles and their files include these images. On occasion there are images of McKenzie with the work. Images of models for specific works have been retained with the corresponding file, but there are additional files of images of unidentified models and reference images within the series. Lantern slides, glass negatives, and photo engraving blocks fill out the series.
The Art series represents the largest series within the collection. The exhibitions of R. Tait McKenzie's work from 1906 to 1936 open the series and include documentation on shows with Doll & Richards of Boston, McClees Gallery of Philadelphia, the Art Association of Montreal, the Art Club of Philadelphia, Art Alliance of Philadelphia, the Fine Art Society of London, Ferargil Galleries of New York, Galries Georges Petit, Grand Central Art Galleries, the Art Gallery of Toronto, Brookgreen Gardens of South Carolina, and the Dominion Memorial on Canada. Works on paper follow the documentation on exhibition. Included here are watercolors, drawings and crayon sketches from 1880 to 1938 and are largely landscapes, studies for sculpture, and other whimsical sketches. The bulk of the Art series is a collection of plaster casts, studies, and proofs of McKenzie's sculpture and medallions. There are sculpture studies for Dean West, busts of Andrew Flemming West and George Whitefield, William Haynes, the Pan Fountain, the George Whitefield statue, Girard College Alma Mater, and a man working at an anvil and another working on a canoe. More than sixty medallion studies and proofs are available from the collection.
Memorabilia including modeling tools, paint brushes, scrapers, a portable writing desk, a pair of moccasins, wooden bust stands, and a modeling tray with tools and three medals on the interior tray illustrate the artist's tools. Oversized items, largely photographs, art work, reference publications, and watercolor portfolios finish out the collection.
In 2012, additions were added to the correspondence, papers, photographs, books and printed ephemera, lantern slides, photo engraving blocks, oversize, and University of Pennsylvania subseries. The Memorial Fund materials were also incorporated into the collection as a new series. This series documents the activities of the R. Tait McKenzie Memorial Fund from 1930 to 1958, including the dedication of the memorial in 1947, through correspondence, financial records, publications, reports, and photographs.
McGill, Jean. The Joy of Effort : A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie, (Bewdley, Ontario : Clay Publishing), 1980.
Kozar, Andrew J. The Sport Sculpture of R. Tait McKenzie, (Champaign, Illinois : Human Kinetics Books), 1975 (1st ed.), 1992 (2nd ed.)
Many contemporary works used the collection while still in the possession of R. Tait McKenzie. One of the more significant works is Christopher Hussey's Tait McKenzie : A Sculptor of Youth, (London : Country Life, Ltd.), 1929.