Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton

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Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton
Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton (portrait).jpg
Born (1889-03-25)March 25, 1889
Louisville, Kentucky
Died July 26, 1971(1971-07-26) (aged 82)
Phoenix, Arizona
Nationality American
Known for Many and diverse fields of the arts and sciences
Notable work
  • Church at Ranchos de Taos
  • Edmund Nequatewa
  • Walpi
  • Navajo Shepardess
  • Sunset and Moonglow
  • Lonesome Hole
  • Sedona From Red Ledge

Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton (March 25, 1889 – July 26, 1971) was an American artist, author, educator, ethnographer, and curator. She is one of the principal founders of the Museum of Northern Arizona. She was a member of the Philadelphia Ten, exhibiting at the group's annual shows from 1926 to 1940. She was also a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, the American Watercolor Society, and the American Federation of Arts. She is known for her advocacy of the arts, Native American rights, and women's rights. For her advocacy of Native American arts, she received a certificate of appreciation from the United States Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board in 1935. In 1982, she was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame.[1]

Personal background[edit]

Mary-Russell Ferrell was born on March 25, 1889 in Louisville, Kentucky. She is the daughter of Joseph and Elise (née Houston) Ferrell. Her father was known as one of the first Anglo-Americans to explore the Tenaya Canyon in what is now Yosemite National Park. After he died in 1904, Elise Ferrell remarried businessman Theodore Presser.[2]

In 1904 at age 15, Mary-Russell Ferrell enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women,[3] graduating in 1909 with honors. After her graduation, she opened a studio in Philadelphia. Her projects included art restoration and commercial art projects. In addition, to the commercial art, her studio produced; Mary-Russell Ferrell was showing as a member of the Philadelphia Ten's annual exhibit in Florida, the Midwest, the Eastern States of the US and Europe.[4]

On May 23, 1912, Mary-Russell Ferrell married Harold Sellers Colton, a zoology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. They had two sons, Ferrell, born in 1914 and Sabin born in 1917. Sabin died of valley fever in Tucson in 1924. Their marriage lasted until her death.[5]

Professional background[edit]

In April 1926, the Coltons moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. During this time, she painted in and around the Colorado Plateau. She also established the Museum of Northern Arizona. Through her writing, painting and work as an advocate of Native American peoples and Native American arts, she made contributions to progressive education, the Indian arts and crafts movement and archeology.[6]

Colton served as the curator of art for the Museum of Northern Arizona for 20 years. She also recorded the history of the Colorado Plateau through her paintings and her MNA exhibits. She wrote 21 articles and two books.[7] As an artist and the curator of art at the museum, Colton often worked with Native American artists to bring recognition and acceptance of their work into the international art community.[4]

Throughout her career as an artist, Colton painted a variety of subjects including landscapes, figures, still life and genre scenes.[8] She is known for her sensitive portraits utilizing vibrant, unusual color values.[4] The Christian Science Monitor of September 2, 1920, printed a copy of her painting, Sunset on a Lava Field. The author wrote; "In her Arizona canvases, Mrs. Colton gives full sway to her love of color. One is impressed by the sense of vast remoteness that she manages to capture for these western paintings that are bringing her increasing recognition."[7]

Prominent works include
  • Church at Ranchos de Taos (c. 1913)
  • Edmund Nequatewa (c. 1942)
  • Walpi (c. 1914)
  • Navajo Shepardess (c. 1916)
  • Sunset and Moonglow (c. 1917)
  • Lonesome Hole (c. 1929)
  • Sedona From Red Ledge (c. 1952)
  • Sunset on a Lava Field (c. 1919)

Published works[edit]

  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell. Hopi Dyes, Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona, 1965.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell and Harold Sellers. "Petroglyphs, the record of a great adventure", Washington D.C. American Anthropologist, 1931.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell; Nonabah Gorman Bryan; Stella Young. Navajo and Hopi Dyes, Salt Lake City, Utah: Historic Indian Publishers, 1965. ISBN 978-1-883736-08-8
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell. Art for the schools of the Southwest, an outline for the public and Indian schools, Museum Bulletin, No. 6, Flagstaff, Arizona, Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, 1934.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell and Edmund Nequatewa. Truth of a Hopi and other clan stories of Shung-Opovi, Museum of Northern Arizona. No. 8, Flagstaff, Arizona, Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, 1947.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell. "Hopi silversmithing, its background and future", Plateau, Vol. 12, No. 1, Flagstaff, Arizona, Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, 1939.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell. "Letter to the Editor", Coconino Sun, August 12, 1927.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell, and Harold Sellers. The Little Known Small House Ruins in the Coconino Forest, Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association Vol. 5. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, American Anthropological Association, 1918.
  • Colton, Mary-Russell Ferrell. "Technique of Major Hopi Crafts", Museum Notes. Vol. 3, No 12. Flagstaff, Arizona, Museum of Northern Arizona, 1931.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brown, Wynne L. (2003). More than Petticoats : Remarkable Arizona Women. Guilford, Conn.: TwoDot. ISBN 0-7627-2359-9. 
  • Burns, William James. We Must Grow Our Own Artists : Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, Northern Arizona's early art educator and advocate : a dissertation, Atlanta, GA:Georgia State University, 2010
  • Fielding, Mantle. Dictionary of American painters, sculptors & engravers.Poughkeepsie, NY: Apollo, 1986. ISBN 0-938290-04-5, ISBN 978-0-938290-04-9
  • McConnel Tayloe and Jill Torance. The Grand and Enchanted:the Legacy and Influence of the Colton House, Mountain Living. Flagstaff, Ariz.: 2007
  • McLerran, Jennifer. Clubwomen, curators and traders : early- to mid-twentieth-century Navajo weaving projects.American Indian art magazine. Vol. 36, no. 4 (autumn 2011) Scottsdale, AZ : American Indian Art, Inc.,2011.
  • Abrams, Amy. "Brushes with Greatness." Arizona Highways 85 (April 2009):46-51.
  • Arizona Women's Hall of Fame." Phoenix: Arizona Historical and Arizona Department of Library, Archives, and Public Records (an Arizona Historical Society Museum Monograph),1987
  • Babcock, Barbara and Nancy J. Parezo. Daughters of the Desert: Women Anthropologists and the Native American Southwest, 1880-1980. Albuquerque: University New Mexico Press, 1988.
  • Bennett, Tony. The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. London: Routledge, 1995
  • Braudel, Fernand. On History Trans. by Sarah Matthews. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • The Perennial Philadelphians: The Anatomy of an American Aristocracy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1999
  • Cline, Platt. Mountain Campus: The Story of Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff, Ariz.:Northland Press 1983
  • Cline, Platt. Mountain Town: Flagstaff's First Century. Flagstaff, Ariz.: Northland Publishing 1994
  • Colton, Harold Sellers. 'History of the Museum of Northern Arizona.' Plateau, 26(1).(1953)
  • Colton, Harold S and Frank E. Baxter. "In the Days of the Painter Desert and the San Francisco Mountains". Bulletin No.2. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona; 1932
  • Colbert, Edwin H. Digging into the Past: An Autobiography. NY: Dembner Publishing; 1989.
  • Danson, Edward Bridge. The Museum of Northern Arizona: A Brief History. "Plateau, 50(4) 1978.
  • Darnell, Regna Diebold. The Development of American Anthropology, 1879-1920: From the Buruea of American Ethnology to Franz Boas. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms.
  • Downum, Christian E." One Grand History: A Critical Review of Flagstaff Archaeology, 1851-1988." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona; 1988.
  • Eaton, Linda Robertson. "The Hopi Craft Exhibition" Exhibition. Vol.36, No. 1. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum; 1994.
  • Fewkes, Jesse Walter. Archeological Expeditions to Arizona in 1895. In Annual Report of the Bureau of the American Ethnology, 2:519-742. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 1895.
  • Fewkes, Jesse Walter. Preliminary Account of an Expedition to the Pueblo Ruins near Winslow, Arizona, in 1896. Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington D.C. 1896.
  • Fewkes, Jesse Walter. Pueblo Ruins near Flagstaff, Arizona: A Preliminary Notice. American Anthropologist 2:422-50. 1900.
  • Fewkes, Jesse Walter. Two Summers' Work in the Pueblo Ruins. In Twenty-Second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for 1899-1900.Part 1, pp. 3–195. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 1904.
  • Fewkes, Jesse Walter. An Archeological Collections from Young's Canyon, Near Flagstaff, Arizona. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 77(10): 1-15. 1926.
  • Leacock, Eleanor and Gladys Amanda Reichard. Women Anthropologist: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Ute Gacs, Aisha Khan, Jerrie Mcintyre and Ruth Weinberg, pp 303–9, New York: Greenwood Press. 1988.
  • Haury, Emil W., and Lyndon Lane Hargrave. Recently Dated Pueblo Ruins in Arizona. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 82(11). 1931.
  • Hinsley, Curtis Matthew. A Matter of Vision: Century of Science in Flagstaff, 1894-1994.Flagstaff: Flagstaff Festival of Science. 1994.
  • Magnum, Richard K. and Sherry. One Woman's West: The Life of Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. Flagstaff: Northland Publishing, 1997
  • Magnum, Richard K. and Sherry. "The Hopi Silver Project of the Museum of Northern Arizona" Plateau. New Series, Number 1.Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona; 1995
  • Miller, Jimmy H. The Life of Harold Sellers Colton, Tsaile, AZ: Navajo Community College Press; 1991.
  • Olberding, Susan Deaver. "Telling the Story of the Museum of Northern Arizona." Plateau, New Series (no.2, 1997) ISSN 0032-1346
  • Roat, Evelyn C. The Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff: K.C. Publications; 1968.
  • Smith, Watson. The Story of The Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona; 1969.
  • Stetter, Rick, ed. "The Museum: Fifty Years." Plateau Vol. 50, No. 4. Flagstaff: The Museum of Northern Arizona; 1978.
  • Tabott, Page, and Patricia Tanis Sydney. The Philadelphia Ten: A Women's Artists Group, 1917-1945. Philadelphia: Galleries at More & American Art Review Press.
  • Vitiello, Domenic. Engineering the Metropolis: The Sellers Family and Industrial Philadelphia. Ph D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 2004.
  • Walls, Nina de Anegli. "Educating Women for Art and Commerce: Philadelphia School of Design, 1848-1932." History of Education Quarterly34 (Autumn 1994): 329-355
  • Westheimer, Duffie. "The Annual MNA Indian Art Exhibitions." Expedition. Vol. 36, No. 1.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum; 1994.
  • Wilcox, David Robert. Creating Field Anthropology: Why Remembering Matters. In Curators, Collections, and Change: A History of Field Museum Anthropology 1893-2001, edited by Stephen E. Nash and Gary M. Feinman. Fieldianna Anthropology New Series No. 36 Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. 2010
  • Wilder, Joseph Carleton. Journal of the Southwest Vol 52, Num 4 (Winter 2010) The Southwest Center; University of Arizona, Tucson ISSN 0894-8410
  • Wright, Margaret Nickelson. Hopi Silver: The History and Hallmarks of Hopi Silversmithing Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 2003.


  1. ^ Breuning, Robert. "Director's Message", Plateau, New Series, Vol. 7, No. 2, Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, 2012. ISBN 0-89734-153-8
  2. ^ Magnum, Richard K. and Sherry. One Woman's West: The Life of Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. Flagstaff: Northland Publishing, 1997.
  3. ^ "Mary Russell Ferrell Colton". Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Horstman, Eugenia. "Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton", Plateau, New Series, Vol. 56, No. 1, Museum of Northern Arizona. Flagstaff 1984. ISSN 0032-1346
  5. ^ Magnum, Richard K. and Sherry. One Woman's West: The Life of Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. Flagstaff: Northland Publishing, 1997.
  6. ^ Arizona Women's Hall of Fame. Phoenix: Arizona Historical and Arizona Department of Library, Archives, and Public Records, 1987.
  7. ^ a b Olberding, Susan Deaver. "Telling the Story of the Museum of Northern Arizona", Plateau, New Series, No. 2, 1997.
  8. ^ Petersen, Allan. "Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton: Discovering the West", Plateau, New Series, Vol. 7, No. 2, Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, 2012.

External links[edit]