Thursday, July 9, 2009

Amy M. Sacker, Artist

Amy M. Sacker book cover for Under the Lilacs, AlcottIn a recent post, I wrote about the Boston 1905 census data on working women. In this and some future posts, I will focus on specific working women from that year.

My first subject is an artist named Amy M. Sacker. She was born in Boston in 1872 and studied at the School at the Museum of Fine Arts (which was then located in the basement of the Museum, in its Copley Square location).

Amy M. Sacker book cover for The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation, JohnstonShe won numerous prizes for her work at the School, and upon graduation began teaching decorative design at the Cowles Art School. When that school closed in 1900, Amy put plans in place to found her own school (The Miss Amy M. Sacker School of Design and Interior Decoration) the following year. She remained affiliated with the school for another 40 years. One measure of her school's appeal is the huge number of society weddings, announced in the pages of The New York Times and other newspapers, that listed the bride as a graduate of Sacker!

When the Society of Arts and Crafts was founded in Boston, Amy showed her book covers, bookplates, and illustrations at their first exhibit in 1897 (what is believed to be the first professional crafts exhibit in the U.S.). She remained affiliated with the SAC throughout her career. (The SAC is still active to this day, with a gallery on Newbury Street in Boston.)

Amy M. Sacker book cover for The Breath of the Gods, McCallAmy was a prolific book cover designer in the golden age of book cover design--the late 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century (after which paper jackets largely superseded the cloth covered bindings as a design element). She designed thousands of book covers during her career, and in 1905 she was designing for Little, Brown and L.C. Page in Boston (though she would move to Houghton Mifflin in 1907). Among her 1905 designs are the book covers shown throughout this post. Amy executed the popular floral designs of the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as heraldic designs, but she was one of the first to put figurative designs on book covers, as in two of these examples.

In 1905, her studio/school were located at 8 Beacon Street in Boston.

In addition to her school, and her book design work, she was also teaching at Simmons College in Boston by 1911, traveling to Europe to study, and creating pieces for exhibits.

She exhibited her work throughout her life; this photo shows her at an exhibit of her portrait work in 1949, when she was 77 years old!Amy M. Sacker portrait exhibit in 1949
Illustration Credits and References

All of the illustrations in this post, and much of the information about Amy Sacker, are courtesy of Mark Schumacher's terrific treasure trove on the website of the library of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, which includes biographical information researched by Anne O'Donnell.

Amy Sacker's designed The Breath of the Gods and Under the Lilacs for Little Brown; and The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation for L. C. Page.


Mark said...

Thank you for the mention of our work! Although some writers speak of "thousands" of covers, it is my guess that "hundreds" may be more accurate. I have identified about 255 titles (not always unique designs, however), and I cannot imagine that there are more than 400 in all. (Sometimes I hope that there are 258, so that I have only three more to find !! )

SantaFeKate said...

Thanks Mark! But what would you do if you actually didn't have any more to look for?!?

Mark said...

Actually, since this e-conversation a few months ago, my colleague Paul Hessling has in fact come across a few more titles, and I turned up one written by Amy Blanchard. There is actually a wonderful "back story" to it, which you can read about at

Take care!


SantaFeKate said...

That's exciting, Mark! And it was fun to read about the collector (and her "rules" for caring for a book)!

Anonymous said...

The URL for my Sacker web site has had to change. It is now



SantaFeKate said...

Thanks Mark--I'll check it out!

Mark said...

Just a bit of an update . . . .

The count of Sacker's titles is up to about 335 ! The latest new design is at

Found, along with a couple new titles (known designs) and some variants, on Flickr !!

SantaFeKate said...

Thanks for sharing this, Mark! Sorry it's taken me a year to comment back.