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Mary Atkins Photographs

Identifier: MSS-019

Collection Description

Mary Atkins Photographs consists of thirteen black and white photographs, between 1897 and 1905, taken during Mary Atkins’s trips to Europe and India with Fred and Lizzie Jacquemot. Photograph identifications are written on the back, presumably by Lizzie Jacquemot given contextual clues such as references to Mary Atkins as, “Aunt Mary."


  • between 1897 and 1905

Conditions on Access

This collection is open for research. Appointments are necessary for the use of manuscript and archival collections.

Conditions on Use

These records are the property of the Nelson Gallery Foundation and it retains all rights, including possible copyright, which they may contain. Notification of intent to publish, quote, or cite archival materials is required. Contact the archives via

Administrative/Biographical Sketch

Mary McAfee Atkins was born in Salvisa, Kentucky, on October 22, 1836 or 1840 (sources differ). She taught school in her hometown until 1878 when she married her old friend James Burris Atkins, a widower with no children. They settled in Kansas City, where he had lived and worked in the mill business since 1865. James Atkins also made some very successful speculations in downtown real estate. When he died in 1886, he left her a sizable fortune and extensive property holdings.

Mary Atkins was in deep mourning for a year after the death of her husband. Friends like Sarah Jenkins and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Salmon Jacquemot, James Atkins’s niece, helped her gradually to overcome her grief. She visited Europe for the first time in 1897, and would return on at least four more trips, visiting France, Germany, and Switzerland, among other countries. In June of 1900 she embarked on a year-long trip around the world with Lizze Jacquemot and her husband, Adolph Frederic “Fred” Jacquemot, a native of Switzerland. She developed a deep appreciation for art as a result of her time in Europe, the Louvre being a special favorite.

Mary Atkins died on October 13, 1911, while visiting Colorado Springs. Soon after, the extent of her fortune, which had grown to almost $1 million thanks to her smart management of her widow’s inheritance, became known. Her will provided that $300,000 of her estate be set aside to purchase land and erect a building to be used as a museum of fine arts for Kansas City. This bequest was borne of the love of art she developed on her European travels and a desire to improve her community.

The cause of an art museum for Kansas City was not the only beneficiary of Mary Atkins’s largesse. She left $100,000 to the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church, made bequests in total of $412,000 to various family members, and divided another $70,000 among local orphanages and a settlement house, the Nettleton Home for Aged Women, the city’s humane society, and First Christian Church of Kansas City.

The trustees of Mary Atkins’s trust soon discovered, however, that though $300,000 was very generous, it was insufficient to build an art museum. Through wise investments, the trust grew to $700,000 by 1927, and at that time the trustees decided to join forces with the administrators of the estate of the Nelsons and Kirkwoods to realize the dream of a first-class art museum for Kansas City.


13 Photographic Prints (in 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



The Mary Atkins Photographs consist of thirteen black and white photographs. Subjects include Mary McAfee Atkins, her niece, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Salmon Jaquemot, and husband, Adolph Frederic “Fred” Jacquemot, and his two sisters, in various places throughout Europe and Asia.

Note on Collection Organization

Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Found in the archives, 2017. Source unknown.


Additions to the collection are not anticipated.

Related Archival Materials

Mary Atkins Papers, MSS 003; Mary Atkins Folder, Vertical File; Lisa Campbell Ernst Research Collection on Mary Atkins.

Finding Aid of the Mary Atkins Photographs, MSS 019
Finding aid prepared by Tara Laver and Miranda Mahoney
2022 November
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Archives Repository

4525 Oak St.
Kansas City MO 64111 United States