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Susan Dwight Bliss, 1822-1966

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 16 January 1822

Identity:

Susan Dwight Bliss, the daughter of George T. Bliss (d. 1901), a prominent New York banker and his wife Jeanette Atwater Dwight Bliss (d. 1924), was a health board organiser, museum patron and philanthropist.

Life:

Bliss was a founding member of the social service executive board of St Luke's Hospital, worked for many years with the hospital's Auxiliary and was involved with the Hospital Visiting Committee of the New York State Charities Aid Association. She was particularly concerned with the social and medical welfare of children and adults with psychiatric problems.

Bliss inherited a substantial fortune from her father, a banker with Morton, Bliss & Co. and a large shareholder in several corporations, including Phelps Dodge, and his wife Jeanette Atwater Dwight Bliss, who herself had a considerable inheritance from her father, Amos T. Dwight, a cotton merchant. Bliss lived in the family mansion at 9 East 68th Street in New York with her widowed mother for many years, and then on her own, never marrying. There she maintained and added to the book, manuscript and art collections begun by her parents.

Amongst her collection were a significant number of Whistler etchings. She donated some of these to Bowdoin College Museum of Art in September 1963, including K0160224, K0350216, K0390236, K0550z11, K0920z10, K1810314, K1860230, K2060126, K2410211 and K4160z02. Further etchings were given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (K0210227, K0240309, K0420339, K1830144, K1860215, K2020707, K2070904, K2140402 and K3290z01) in 1967, as well as with other generous art donations. Her family's impressive collection of rare books were gifted to the university libraries of Princeton, Bowdoin, Harvard and Yale. In 1927 she presented her mother's Mary Queen of Scots collection, consisting of manuscripts, printed books, prints and medals to the Bibliothèque nationale de France. At Bliss's death in 1966, she bequeathed approximately $2 million to Yale University for establishing professorships and encouraging scholarship in epidemiology and public health. Her personal papers and manuscripts are held at Columbia University Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library.

Bibliography:

Roylance, Dale, 'Illustrated Books', Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. XX, no. 1, 1958, pp. 53-56; Wainwright, Alexander, 'An Anonymous Gift', Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. XIX, nos 3 & 4, 1958, pp. 209-11; New York Times, 10 February 1926; 'Royal Association Books in the Bliss Collection', Yale University Library Gazette, January 1966, pp. 160-67; Bibliothèque nationale. Collection de manuscrits, livres, estampes, et objets d’art relatifs à Marie Stuart, reine de France et d’Écosse, Paris, 1931.

http://library.cpmc.columbia.edu/hsl/archives/findingaids/bliss.html (accessed August 2009); http://library.bowdoin.edu/arch/exhibitions/Bliss/bliss.shtml (accessed August 2009); http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hou01258 (accessed August 2009); http://blogs.princeton.edu/rarebooks/2009/04/post_2.html (accessed August 2009).