UNIVERSITY RESEARCH LIBRARY
Department of Special Collections
OCCASIONAL PAPERS 7
los angeles author
UNIVERSITY RESEARCH LIBRARY
Depaitnu'iit of Special Collections
OCCASIONAL PAPERS 7
Photograph of Olive Percival.
(Courtesy of Mildred Bryant Brooks.)
Los Angeles Author
With Brief Descriptions of the Olive Percival Collections at
The Denison Library by Judy Harvey Saliah
The Huntington Library by Jane Apostol
Special Collections, UCLA by Dan Luckenbill
Department of Special (Aillections
University Research Library
University of Clalijomia
Copyright 1992: The Regents of the University of California
LOS ANGELES AUTHOR AND BIBLIOPHILE
"When I go into a bookstore these days, my heart beats
wildly, my cheeks burn and I hardly breathe until I am outside
again," Miss Olive Percival wrote in her diary in 1896. "How
splendid a thing it would be to have one thousand dollars to
buy books with! Ah! me!" One thousand dollars remained a
lordly sum to a woman whose salary as an insurance clerk in
Los Angeles never exceeded $150 a month.
By the time of her death in 1945, however, she had built a
collection of ten thousand books. Her house was crammed with
a score of other collections as well, among them hats, dolls,
daguerreotypes, silver, textiles, quilts, fans, bookplates, La-
lique, and Oriental art.
Olive May Graves Percival was born on July 1, 1869, in a
log cabin on her family's debt-ridden farm near Sheffield,
Illinois. She claimed to have few pleasant memories of her
childhood, which was darkened by parental discord. Her father
died when she was ten, and for the next fifty years her closest
companion was her strong-willed and often sharp-tongued
mother, Helen Mason Percival. Olive's adored younger sister,
Edna, died in 1893 at the age of seventeen. An older brother,
Leo, remained aloof from the family.
In 1887 Helen Percival and her daughters moved to Los
Angeles, lured by reports of a city "where house-plants never
froze and where, even at Christmas-time, ripe oranges hung
on the trees." Olive arrived in May and rode a mule-car from
2 JANE APOSTOL
the depot to the cottage on 6th Street, where her mother had
taken lodgings. The city was fragrant with honeysuckle, a happy
welcome for someone who always treasured flowers. Main
Street was still unpaved, but Los Angeles had electric lights
and boasted a few buildings that were four stories high.
Until 1891 Olive Percival was a saleswoman in the People's
Store of A- Hamburger & Sons, which three decades later
would become a branch of the May Company. Her second job
("all longhand work") was with McLellan & Golsh, fire in-
surance agents. In 1895 she became Sub-Agency Clerk with
the Home Insurance Company, and remained with the com-
pany for more than thirty years. Although admired as a
successful businesswoman, she detested office work and called
it a soul-benumbing routine. Wistfully she dreamed of some
other career: as poet, essayist, landscape painter, art lecturer,
antiquarian, doll's milliner, botanist, or chef. To some extent
she was all of these, but achievement fell short of her ambition.
Soon after her arrival in Los Angeles, Olive Percival began
to keep a diary. Although she burned many of the volumes,
twenty-three remain, chronicling her life in California until
1944. The first diary ('A Book of Miscellanies," she called it)
spans the years from 1889 to 1899. The entries reveal an artist's
eye for color, a poet's sensitivity to nature. They also reveal
the young woman's lively range of interests, from playing
euchre to camping out beneath the stars. She attended one of
the first Los Angeles exhibits of etchings and engravings,
visited John Gutzon Borglum's studio, and wandered through
Chinatown with artist Helen Coan. She saw Bernhardt in La
Tosca and heard Paderewski play. At a chrysanthemum show
she admired not only the flowers but their names: Moon-
OLIVE PERCIVAL 3
window, Moon-shadow, Thousand Cranes, Above-the-clouds.
Active in several organizations, she was secretary of the Ladies'
Athletic Club in 1891 and a Woman's Press Club delegate to
San Francisco in 1897.
Olive Percival began writing for publication in 1896. ("I
want money, not Fame," she candidly admitted.) Just before
her twenty-eighth birthday she sold her first poem and also her
first article (a feature story on Indian baskets). "I thought $1.50
a liberal price for my inch of rhyme, accepted by 'Life' last
month," she wrote in June 18%. "Today the check for $24.45
from 'Demorest' seems magnificent and I shall experiment with
a bank account. When I am thirty, thirty! perhaps I can have
a nice little home for Mother."
Despite a lament of "petty Successes, dreary and frequent
Failures," Miss Percival ended her first diary on a triumphant
note. "Yesterday morning, bright and early, we chose the site
for our new house," she said in May 1899. "We shall be under
our own roof-tree (at last) on my 31st birthday. One year late."
She built her two-story, half-timbered house on the western
bank of the Arroyo Seco, about five miles north of downtown
Los Angeles and a hilly half-mile walk from the streetcar. Her
address was on San Pascual Avenue, in what now is Highland
Park but then was called Garvanza. The picturesque area
attracted many authors and artists, of whom Charles Fletcher
Lummis was the best known (and - by Miss Percival - the least
Mary Austin, who lived for a brief time in Garvanza,
described the Arroyo as she saw it at the turn of the century.
"At most seasons of the year [it is] a small trickle of water
among stones in a wide, deep wash, overgrown with button
4 JANE APOSTOL
willow and sycamores. . . . Tiny gold and silver backed ferns
climb down the banks to drink, and as soon as the spring freshet
has gone by, brodiaeas and blazing stars come up between the
boulders worn as smooth as if by hand."
Olive Percival christened her country acre the Down-hyl
Claim. Here she held memorable at-homes, garden teas, and
moon-viewing parties. Local artists, writers, and book-lovers
were frequent guests. Among them were her warm friends and
admirers, poet Hildegarde Planner, naturalist Charles Francis
Saunders, artists Julia and William Wendt, and bibliophiles
Alice Millard and Irving Way. Visiting celebrities - Alvin
Langdon Coburn, William Vaughan Moody, Vita Sackville-
West - also enjoyed the hospitality of the Down-hyl Claim.
The hostess had visitors sign what she called "the gueste
bookes of Mistresse Olive Percival, Spinster." A number of
pages have her own water-color designs or the art work of her
guests. Carl Oscar Borg drew two landscapes; Elmer Wachtel,
a self-portrait; Ernest Batchelder, his sketching-rabbit crest. In
addition to these artists - all associated with what has been
called the Arroyo Culture - several Japanese visitors enlivened
the guest books with brush drawings and calligraphy.
Shortly after building the Down-hyl Claim, Miss Percival
realized another dream - travel in a foreign country. A fortnight
in Mexico in 1899 inspired her first book, Mexico City: An
Idler's Note-Book. Chicago bibliophile and publisher Herbert
S. Stone issued the little book in 1901. It received many
favorable reviews, including one in \hc Mexico City Herald, which
called the author "a graceful and simpatica impressionist."
Charles E Lummis dismissed the book, however, as "a prettily
made ecstacy over a very brief visit to the ancient capital."
OLIVE PERCIVAL 5
Illustrations for the book include two photographs taken
by Miss Percival. Her photographs also helped illustrate Jane
Torrey Connor's serial novel, "A Red Parasol in Mexico," which
appeared in Out West in 1908. Miss Percival enjoyed using a
camera, and she was especially proud of her views of the sea
and the picturesque old breakwater at San Pedro, The well-
known Santa Barbara photographer W. Edwin Gledhill thought
the pictures worthy of being exhibited in New York.
Miss Percival often visited the artists' colony in San Pedro
with writer Amanda Mathews, one of her Arroyo neighbors.
Both women had stories in From the Old Pueblo, and Other
Tales, a little book published in 1902. A few years later the
friends enjoyed a birthday party in San Pedro. 'Amanda is going
to make a fete for me," said a cheerful note in the diary.
"Because I prefer fresh mackerel to cake, my candles are to
illuminate a fish!"
In 1903 (the first year since 1899 for which there is a diary)
Miss Percival visited San Francisco, where she met Jack Lon-
don at a dinner party. Years later, in notes she called biographi-
cal trivia, she jotted down her impressions of the author. "Boy!
Soft flannel shirt - curls. Wanted to talk Socialism. I wanted
to talk Chinese Bowls as I had been in cellars of Chinatown
all afternoon, picking over barrels of them!"
Chinatown excursions - whether in San Francisco or Los
Angeles - delighted her. She photographed in both cities - as
early as 1894 in Los Angeles. The photographs document an
era that she treasured for its exotic flavor. In 1910 she wrote
regretfully of Old Chinatown: "How it has changed since 1887! The
men wear tan shoCvS; Fedora hats; trousers and frocks of American
wool, instead of black linen, blue cotton, pongee, brocade!"
6 JANE APOSTOL
Miss Percival wrote a number of short stories with a
Chinatown setting. She sold a few, but could interest no one
in publishing the stories as a book - a book she planned to
dedicate to a Chinese tea peddler she had known for fifteen
years. In rejecting the manuscript Bobbs-Merrill told her, "We
are, however, unwilling that it shall go back without some
expression from us of our enjoyment of your delicate touch
and your sympathy with the Oriental mind and character. Could
you do something in the way of a novel that would be as artistic
as these short stories, we should certainly be able to consider
it very seriously." Although she tried, she was never able to
write a novel, or what she called a "seller."
In 1911 she did publish a book of verse, Leaf-Shadows and
Rose-Drift, Being Little Songs from a Los Angeles Garden. "I
am truly in a mental panic," she wrote in 1911 after sending
off the manuscript. "All the jingles jingled so thinly, so cheaply
at the last. (And I included one that I wrote coming in on the
car this morning - merely because I want the word 'Peacocks'
in my first book of garden verse!!)"
Miss Percival had the Riverside Press print her book, for
which she designed the cover. The title and a decorative device
appeared on the front and on the back, suggesting a volume
that was Oriental, as well as Western. "Few will care for my little
verses," she admitted, "but I want every subscriber to be pleased
with the format." ^^ Orders were disappointing, and she bridled
at the words of Idah Meacham Strobridge, a friend and fellow
author who lived nearby on the Arroyo. With some annoyance
she observed, "Mrs. Strobridge . . . cheerfully states she made $1000
on each of her three books. Of course her price was $1.75 (mine
is $1.25) and she was a nuisance about making people buy."
OLIVE PERCIVAL 7
Leaf-Shadows and Rose-Drift won gentle praise. Arthur
Dow, the woodcut artist and painter, said that the poems were
"what pictures should be, harmonies built up in a way that is
peculiarly personal - put together with perfect simplicity.'
Irish baritone Brabazon Lowther set eleven of the verses to
music as "A California Garden Cycle."
Miss Percival first met Arthur Dow during a memorable
trip to the East Coast in 1910. The trip was both vacation and
rest cure. She was suffering from neuritis in both arms but
hoped, she said, to restore her health with a regimen of new
plays, good music, special exhibits, and charming society. All
these things she was able to enjoy as the guest of a wealthy
friend, Margaret Brewer Fowler, who maintained a New York
apartment as well as a home in Pasadena.
A high point of the visit to New York was a morning spent
looking at hundreds of Arthur Dow's Japanese prints. "Some
of them were all in tatters," she wrote; "only a little piece of
one was there. I finally told him, with a laugh, that he bought
prints as I did: for one piece of color, for one good line, for
the beauty of composition as well as for all combined! He
thought me appreciative and discriminating and that made me
During her holiday Miss Percival saw other notable collec-
tions: among them the Morse collection of Japanese pottery
in Boston and the Walters collection of Oriental porcelain in
Baltimore. Charles Lang Freer, in Detroit, showed her rare
examples of Chinese and Japanese ceramics, some of his
treasured works by James McNeill Whistler, and Whistler's
magnificent Peacock Room. (He also subjected her to what
she called an unhappifying tirade on Whistler's biographers.
8 JANE APOSTOL
Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell.) In New York she saw a number
of studios and galleries, visited the Art Workers' Club for
Women, attended the opening of a Whistler exhibit at the
Metropolitan Museum, and caught a glimpse of "Blue Boy" at
the Lotos Club before it traveled on to Henry Huntington's
San Marino mansion.
Miss Percival received a warm welcome in New York from
old friends and from new acquaintances. One of the many new
friends that she made was Elizabeth Custer (widow of General
George Armstrong Custer), who gave a tea in her honor. In
Philadelphia she was delighted to meet artist George Wolfe
Plank, with whom she had corresponded, and who later de-
signed two bookplates for her. Although they never met again,
she and Plank exchanged long and affectionate letters for more
than thirty years.
On her return home, thrilled by all the beauty she had seen,
Olive Percival resolved to do something on behalf of art in
Southern California. Since 1903 she had been a member of the
Friday Morning Club, a cultural center for women of the Los
Angeles area, and she had addressed the club on two of her
favorite subjects: New England antiques and Oriental porce-
lain. At her suggestion the club formed an art committee in
1910. As the initial chairman ("working hard and spending too
much of my own money"), she organized two critically
acclaimed exhibits. The first, held in 1910, was an American
etching show. A number of the works, including three by
Whistler, came from her own collection. In 1911 she arranged
a bookplate exhibit, the first ever held in Southern California.
"The village still regards Bookplates as a 'fad,' if at all," she
lamented. "To my mind no more of a 'fad' than a visiting card
OLIVE PERCIVAL 9
or proper letter-paper." She used a variety of bookplates for
the volumes in her own library; and also collected bookplates,
wrote about them, and designed them. Although an amateur
artist, she received an award of merit in 1926 for her children's
In addition to visiting museums and galleries on her trip
east in 1910, Miss Percival attended a woman suffrage meeting
in Madison Square Garden. "Think of paying $2.00 a seat to
have someone talk equal suffrage to you!" she wrote indignant-
ly. "It's free in California." In 1911 California became the
sixth state to give women the vote. Miss Percival was jubilant.
As she had told the Los Angeles Times in 1910, "Women whose
place in life forces them to think for themselves and to work
for themselves deserve to take their own part in making the
best possible conditions of living under any government of
which they are subjects."
In 1912, when she voted in her first presidential primary,
the polling place was a millinery shop. "It seemed a comedy
stage setting," she noted in her diary; "quite lacking in the
majesty of The Law as one imagines it; certainly free from the
objectionable features as set forth by the men antis, who did
not wish Woman to lose her 'bloom,' her 'purity,' her interest
in the home!" Mockingly she added, "I came away from the
polls . . . with my interest in religion, my home and mankind
undiminished. I'm still a perfect lady!"
Although equal suffrage had prevailed, few women were
sanguine about achieving equal pay for equal work. "I am of
the pioneer generation of office -women," Miss Percival wrote
in 1908, "and cannot reasonably hope for the salary a man
would receive for the same work. (A man, too, would be given
10 JANE APOSTOL
some kind of title!) If a woman points out these injustices, even
in the mildest lowest-pitched voice, she is immediately called
a crank, a bore, a strong-minded old maid!"
It is quite possible that men considered Miss Percival "a
strong-minded old maid," but surely they never found her a
bore. She had a lively mind and spirited opinions. Her friend
Hildegarde Planner observed that she also had "a capricious,
rebellious and daring streak in her soul." Miss Percival thought
of herself as plain and deplored her unclassic profile, but she
had a pleasant face and expressive brown eyes. Slim as a young
woman, in later years she was - as Hildegarde Planner again
observed - "shapely, well-proportioned, and firm in her stays.
Three suitors were vying for Olive Percival's hand in 1907,
and she already had rejected an elderly Pasadena millionaire.
Her three beaux were Ralph Mocine, whom she admired as an
artist; Antony Anderson, art critic for the Los Angeles Times;
and Anderson's friend Clarence McGehee, a young Times
reporter with an interest in Oriental art. Miss Percival yearned
for children, but not for marriage with anyone who had yet
proposed it. "How perverse is fate! Men I admire never admire
me - not until they have married and gotten a new perspective
at least," she confided in her diary, and then added, "Women
like me, and children - and no dog or cat ever misunderstood
me!" In 1911 she stoutly declared, "I no longer interest myelf
in new friendships with men; they absorb too much time.
Anyway, only married men are acceptably well-bred or inter-
csting." Despite her words, she continued to have men
friends - and she turned down at least two more proposals.
In 191 1 Helen Percival also was being courted. Olive wrote
in her diary: "I think I'm wholly reconciled to the breaking up
OLIVE PERCIVAL 11
of our little home - that all is going to be right for Mother;
and for me (when out of debt) and then, at the thought of
having my Mother living with someone else, and the thought
that I have never 'had' any real 'people' who were genuinely
concerned about me, I am again desolated!" In an outburst
of anger and resentment she declared, "I've always been far
more of a real Mother to her than she has been to me - and
she has treated [me] with the consideration due a troublesome
beggar - no more!"
Within a few months Mrs. Percival abandoned the notion
of remarrying. In 1914, however, she abruptly left for the East,
to marry a man whom she barely knew. She did indeed marry,
but within a fortnight asked to return to the Down-hyl Claim.
"Of course I replied 'Yes' immediately," said Olive. "Mother
undoubtedly is unbalanced, but I am very glad she is coming
home, for no one else in the world can be expected to put up
with her dreadful outbursts but her daughter, who has accus-
tomed herself to them. Poor, poor Mother!" The diaries
make no further mention of the escapade. The two women
grew increasingly close to each other, sharing a love of books
In a downhearted mood Miss Percival once wrote, "It has
never seemed fair to me that all the family-burdens should have
been mine and so I sometimes exult in cheating 'Fate' (or
whatever it be) by squandering money on myself, in the way of
Books and Japanese Art! I daresay it is much the same sort of
sin as getting drunk, in order to forget.""
By 1910 her library held more than three thousand volumes.
Books, to her, were a comfort and delight; collecting them was
a passion. When she spoke of wickedness and temptation, she
12 JANE APOSTOL
meant yielding once more to the lures of an old-book catalog.
"I am performing many penances these days, at the end of a
year in which I have been too extravagant in the matter of
books," she confessed in 1905 after making purchases that
totaled $339.66. "I must sell many of my Chinese stories to The
Times, whose niggardly wage is 20c per inch; I must give up
many magazines, nearly all plays, Friday Morning Club lunch-
eons - and I must not buy any candy or flowers, nor more than
one book a month! Until I am out of debt, I must cultivate
Economy each day, each hour."
Despite her stern resolve, she found it difficult to limit her
book buying. In self-defense she wrote in 1906, "My library is
a great, great solace after the continual grind of these office
years and, although I buy much, I really am a careful buyer.
Life is so soon done, why should I not snatch this rose-of-
pleasure as I plod along, even though I ought not?"
She was indeed a careful buyer, often ordering books that
cost only a dollar or two. She spent twenty dollars, however,
for a signed copy of Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Grey,
and spent twice that much for a 1495 edition of De Rerum
Natura, the great philosophic poem of Lucretius. One early
purchase was Sir Richard Burton's translation of the Arabian
Nights, an unbowdlerized edition costing seventy-five dollars.
"The literal translation is a bit too much for me," Miss Percival
admitted, "although I do believe I have the perspective of the
student. Fancy, one of my nice men friends seeing such books
on a spinster's drawing-room table! I have prudently, or
prudishly, put them out of sight. But oh! for the easy grace of
those old Oriental story-tellers, however coarse and non-intel-
OLIVE PERCIVAL 13
Asked in 1907 what ten books she would take to a desert
island, Miss Percival put the Bible, Shakespeare, and the
Arabian Nights at the top of her list, followed by the diaries of
Pepys and of Judge Samuel Sewall, who knew one of her
Percival ancestors. She also chose David Copperfield, The
Spectator, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, and Marias the
Epicurian (preferably bound in vellum). With a flash of wit and
practicality she ended her list with a book by Hannah Glasse:
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy.
Miss Percival collected plays, poetry, history, biography,
travel books, art books, garden books, children's books. It was
the children's books she thought of when floodwaters threat-
ened the Down-hyl Claim in 1914. Warned to evacuate, she
filled two baskets to take with her if forced to leave. In one
she packed her cherished Kate Greenaway books. In the other
she placed a mother cat and five kittens. (It is typical of Miss
Percival that she did not flee the Arroyo but stayed on, bailing
One of her favorite English booksellers was William H.
Downing of Birmingham. (She admired, among other things,
the courtly style of his business letters.) An early Los Angeles
favorite was C. C. Parker, who in 1895 opened a pleasant little
shop on Broadway, not far from where she worked. "Probably
half of my books came from his book-shelves," she wrote in
1935, when Parker went out of business. "It is too tragic that
a real book man cannot succeed in this huge town - But all
the department stores have Book Sections now. Poor Mr.
One bookman who did succeed was Ernest Dawson; the
business he launched in 1905 still flourishes today. Miss Per-
14 JANE APOSTOL
cival enjoyed the atmosphere of the shop. Wearied by office
chores, she went to Dawson's to rest her mind. Upset by the
extraction of two teeth, she went to Dawson's to quiet her
nerves. And when Dawson's sponsored a tea, she went to chat
with other bibliophiles. "Someone kept bringing up gentlemen
and introducing them," she reported happily on one occasion,
"so I hardly got my tea drunk. "^^
On a visit to Dawson's in 1932 she browsed through a
collection of bookplates assembled by her old friend Irving
Way, who had died a few months earlier. Noted typographer
and illustrator Will Bradley described Way as someone who
would trade his last shirt for a first edition. Miss Percival
considered him her most valued literary friend. "He had such
fine taste in books and in the arts of the book!" she recalled.
"For years, he called on me at the office almost every morning
- always with some interesting bit of book news or a glamorous
memory of the days when he was a publisher, going frequently
to London to interview the literary great of the 1890s."
The Chicago firm of Way & Williams was the only
American publisher to issue a book from the Kelmscott Press.
The little book, on handmade paper and bound in vellum, was
Rossetti's Hand and Soul. Way secured the rights after calling
on William Morris at the Kelmscott Press in 1895. "A very
pleasant experience," he said, "which gave our firm an auspi-
In 1904 Way moved to Los Angeles, where he sold sub-
scription books and acted as a book scout for collectors. It was
a precarious means of earning a living, and occasionally he
borrowed a little money from Miss Percival, or sold her a
special volume from his personal library. "I am buying more
OLIVE PERCIVAL 15
than I ought," she wrote in 1915, "but it is the way to help.
And I know his needs and his books! '
One of the books was a copy of SentimentalJoumey bound
by T J. Cobden-Sanderson. "I did not care for the book (I've
an old, autographed Sterne)," she said; "but how I've always
coveted this binding! It is full crushed levant, green, with
all-over design of tiny golden hearts. But when poor Mr. Way
said he would be glad if I would take it for $20.00, I was only
too happy to avail of the opportunity, although it means doing
without clothes, which I much need. Cobden-Sanderson does
very little work now and I knew I'd never again get such a
chance." Years later she proudly lent her copy oi Sentimental
Journey to her friend Alice Millard for a splendid exhibit of
Miss Percival met bibliophiles George and Alice Millard in
1915, shortly after they arrived in California. George Millard
had headed the rare book department of McClurg's Bookstore
in Chicago, and he continued to sell rare books (advertising
"libraries formed or enriched") from his home on Huntington
Drive in South Pasadena. The Millards quickly endeared
themselves to Miss Percival by describing her as the best-read
woman they had met in California. She was a frequent guest
of the Millards, taking pleasure in the opportunity to hold a
Caxton, a Kelmscott Chaucer, a teakettle once used by Charles
Dickens. As she wrote after her memorable first visit to the
house, "I saw many, many precious wonders, while the Millards
explained things in their sweet, cool, well-bred way."
George Millard died in 1918, and Alice carried on the
business - first in South Pasadena and then in the famous
Pasadena house designed for her by Frank Lloyd Wright. The
16 JANE APOSTOL
two women continued their friendship, with Alice Millard
sometimes consulting Miss Percival as to the wording of an
advertisement or announcement.
In 1920 the English bibliophile Halliday Sparling, who had
been secretary of the Kelmscott Press, called on Miss Percival
at the Down-hyl Claim. He greatly admired her library, remark-
ing that in no other American household had he seen so many
books. In the last ten years her collection had doubled, going
from three thousand to six thousand volumes. She and the
Sparlings became warm friends during the couple's two-year
stay in California. It was partly at her urging ("I talked him into
fervor, enthusiasm," she said) that Sparling wrote The Kelm-
scott Press and William Morris Master-Craftsman. The book
appeared in 1924, with a graceful note of thanks in the preface
"to Miss Olive Percival, of Los Angeles, for an unwearied and
inspiring discussion of doubts and difficulties."
By 1924 the books at the Down-hyl Claim stood two deep
on the shelves and even replaced the dishes in the china pantry.
Although Miss Percival acquired some of the books through
English catalogs, she bought many others in downtown Los
Angeles. When she began working for the Home Insurance
Company in 1895, the office was at 203 South Broadway, across
the street from Ward's bookstore and a few blocks from
Parker's. In 1904 Home Insurance moved to 4th and Spring,
and the following year Ernest Dawson's Antique Book Shop
opened nearby. Miss Percival found it an almost irresistible
temptation to visit one of the bookstores on her lunch hour or
after a Saturday half-day of work.
Other tempting shops in the area carried Chinese and
Japanese antiques and art goods: H. B. Kendrick & Co.,
OLIVE PERCIVAL 17
Nathan Bentz & Co., Kakiuchi Brothers, Nishikawa Brothers,
Suyetomi's, Suzuki's, The Yamato. Miss Percival knew them
all, as well as the galleries of the remarkable Grace Nicholson,
who erected in downtown Pasadena a building inspired by the
Palace of Fine Arts in Peking. Of the career women among
her friends, she thought Alice Millard and Grace Nicholson
the most enviable because their work was congenial, free from
monotony, and carried on in beautiful surroundings.
Miss Percival was a discerning buyer. In 1907 she happily
repeated H. B. Kendrick's comment "that he never had been
able to fool me about any Oriental ware! I am quite as delighted
as if someone had said I were beautiful!" The new Los
Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art also recognized
her expertise and consulted her in 1913 about some Chinese
porcelains that had been offered for a loan exhibit. She would
not lend any of her own pieces, fearful that they would be badly
arranged and displayed. "There is no room planned for Orien-
tal Porcelains," she wrote indignantly, "and the curator or
manageress who mixes them up, in tapestry-lined cases, with
General pottery and porcelain ought to be imprisoned in the
crazy-quilt room at a county fair, with brass bands (off the key),
megaphones, pianolas and talking-machines, a glare of elec-
tricity, and no ventilation!
When Miss Percival began collecting Japanese prints,
around 1900, she had the advantage of looking at - and perhaps
purchasing - some that Arthur Dow sent to Los Angeles
painter Regina O'Kanc for her study and disposition. By 1908
Miss Percival's collection was large enough that she could lend
seventy-five works, including several by Hiroshigc and
Hokusai, to the Ruskin Art Club of Los Angeles. In addition
18 JANE APOSTOL
to woodblock prints, she collected Chinese and Japanese
porcelain and Japanese scroll paintings, lacquer, bronzes,
sword guards, and stencils. "Consolations-for-Drudgery," she
called them; "precious and very comforting Things."
At her famous garden teas Miss Percival enjoyed bringing
a hint of the Orient to the Arroyo. Then festive cloth koi
floated above the garden, Japanese poems fluttered from
windbells, and colored lanterns hung like blossoms in the trees.
"Japan has beautified everyday, commonplace existence; has
demonstrated that Happiness and a perfect, a refined Beauty
of life may be attained by the poor," she wrote appreciatively.
"I am grateful for this, to me a perception most important."
Admiration for the Japanese and their culture led her to
protest several anti-Japanese measures. In 1907, when San
Francisco fought to send Japanese children to a segregated
school, she denounced the board of education as "seven-dif-
ferent-kinds-of-an-ass." Los Angeles Evening News editor
Samuel T Clover shared her views. In a gesture of appreciation
she gave him an antique sword guard chosen for her years ago
in Japan by Ernest Fenollosa and by her friend Mary F. Denton,
a teacher at Kyoto's Doshisha University.
In 1913, when California passed a land law discriminating
against the Japanese, Miss Percival wrote a passionate letter
of protest, which was printed in the Los Angeles Times and
reprinted by the Japan Society of New York. To help defeat an
alien land law initiative on the California ballot in 1920, she
hired small boys to distribute several thousand pro-Japanese
brochures. The measure passed by an overwhelming majority,
but she continued to champion Japanese rights.
Not all of Miss Percival's friends shared her sympathies.
OLIVE PERCIVAL 19
"My ultra liberal, democratic views on the Oriental question
have so often brought me the accusation of being 'un-
American,' " she wrote in 1908, "that I am going to join The
Daughters of the American Revolution." She did join the
DAR, claiming descent from patriot Levi Robinson. In addition
she joined the American Society of Colonial Families (as a
descendant of William Tracy of the Virginia Colony) and joined
the Society of Mayflower Descendants (as tenth in line from
Edward Fuller, who signed the Mayflower Compact). Her
interest in these groups did not preclude her from belonging
also to the Japan Society of London, the Japan Society of New
York, the local Japan-American Club, and the Japanese-
American Woman's Club.
Miss Percival never visited Japan although she had longed
to go there since 1893, when she read her first book about the
country. She once toyed with the idea of teaching in Japan -
an idea encouraged by her Kyoto friend, Mary Denton, who
thought Miss Percival was wasting her life as an insurance clerk.
Nothing came of the idea, however, and she had to find comfort
in the rueful pledge, "I vow I shall see Japan and China and
The Taj, if I have to wait until I am a ghost!"
In 1915, after laboring for twenty-four years as an insurance
clerk, Miss Percival declared: "It has been a hard, an unlovely
disciplining - the associations most uncongenial. ... I am not
a merchant but a farmer and I loathe, with my entire soul, mind
and heart, the memory of my office years - which have looked
so easy or successful to other girls and women."" Despite her
unhappiness, she continued to work until 1929, resigning only
after the title of chief clerk - hers since 1916 - was taken from
her and given to a much younger woman.
20 JANE APOSTOL
"Apparently I am not needed and certainly not wanted,"
she wrote in her brief letter of resignation. "I understand that
the Company does not pension women but ... I shall not mind
being a precedent, especially as I shall be entirely without
income. In July I shall be sixty-one, one of the Pueblo's
Pioneers and I've been with The Home about 33 1/2 years."
The board of trustees voted to place her on the company's
reserve force and to continue the salary of $150 a month that
she had earned since 1906. "O, I am so surprised, so grate-
ful!" she wrote in valediction.
On March 29, 1929, Miss Percival left the office for the
last time. "I merely said, 'Good-night, Girls,' and made a quiet
exit," she wrote in her diary. "No farewellings, no explanations,
were due from me."
Four years before she retired. Miss Percival lamented, "My
heart breaks every morning, as I hurry away from Mother-dear
and the blooming Garden - and the Cats, who try to lure me
to play along the paths." ^ Helen Mason Percival was then
seventy-eight years old and in failing health. "Poor, little
withering-flower Lady," said Olive compassionately.
Helen Percival died in February 1928, leaving her daughter
in an anguish of loneliness. She found it hard to accept her
mother's death and did not refer to it in her diaries until August
1929. Then the garden that both women had loved brought a
kind of healing. "When Mother-dear was on her death-bed,"
Olive Percival wrote, "she asked me not to forget the oleander
she had just started Today, it has begun to bloom - a lovely pink! "
OLIVE PERCIVAL 21
Looking at her arroyo acre in 1899, Miss Percivai had seen
only chaparral and a few live oaks and sycamores; but she
envisioned fruit trees, roses, herbs, old-fashioned perennials,
a native plant garden, a little Japanese garden. She never
doubted that she would have them all. As she wrote in an article
for The House Beautiful, "Everything, even a dry stick, will
grow for certain garden-lovers, born at the right time of the
moon and unafraid of the haughtiest manicures that be!" In
1918 she walked about the Down-hyl Claim and proudly
counted 253 varieties of flowering plants, shrubs, and vines, in
addition to her beloved roses.
One of her unpublished manuscripts, "The Children's
Garden Book," suggests her garden philosophy. "I must tell
you one thing that a garden is not," she sternly advised, "and
that is a mere collection of rare and expensive plants, all
correctly labeled perhaps and all kept alive with much difficul-
ty, like the heart-broken, captive animals in the zoo. A gar-
dener's garden is not a real garden nor a happy place at all. It
looks all industry, drudgery! Of course there are no weeds, but
there are no great dreams and seldom any mysteries.
Dozens of pathways at the Down-hyl Claim led to half-hid-
den little gardens, each as satisfying to an artist's eye as to a
flower lover's. On one spring day Miss Percivai wistfully
observed, "The white irises, daffodils, hyacinths, the Kate
Greenaway effects of clumps of primroses bordering the paths,
made me feel that the life of a flower painter would be the
perfect one!" Instead of paintbrush and palette she used her
camera. She liked to print her photographs on blueprint paper,
achieving the color she admired so much in Oriental porcelain.
Many snapshots of her various gardens show a tiny
22 JANE APOSTOL
Japanesque area with a hint of miniature woods and mountains.
Few would guess that the lichened rocks and dwarf junipers
hid some ugly water pipes leading into the kitchen. Arthur
Dow, who visited the Down-hyl Claim in 1911, told his hostess
admiringly, "Your Japanese Garden shows what anyone with
taste and gumption can do with an impossibility.
Miss Percival's sundial proclaimed, "Qui laborat orat," a
motto paraphrased in one of her diary entries. "I worked hard
on this the Lord's Day," she said, "and, in a truly worshipping
mood, repotted 50 Primroses; Oxalis; little Roses; Jerusalem
Cherry-trees; etc., etc. - besides setting out many Ins.
Primroses (especially white ones) were among her favorite
flowers. She loved old-fashioned roses (Marechal Niel, La
France, Lamarque, Jacqueminot), and she was fond of other
sweet-smelling plants like gardenias, jasmine, daphne, honey-
suckle, and amaryllis.
She also admired Billbergia, which she whimsically likened
to a milliner's flower. It was a natural association for Miss
Percival, who delighted in custom-made hats adorned with silk
and velvet flowers: violets, perhaps, or roses, poppies, daisies,
forget-me-nots. Her fondness for hats led to her collecting
them, and she accumulated more than a hundred. The oldest,
found in a Yankee cousin's attic, dated back to 1840. Some-
times Miss Percival amused her guests by arranging the hats,
like flowers, on tall green sticks along the garden paths.
Miss Percival generously shared plants and cuttings from
her garden; and she took pleasure in making up bouquets for
friends, for the neighborhood children, and even for people
whom she did not know at all. She once asked her mother to
take small bunches of lilies of the valley to the Broadway
OLIVE PERCIVAL 23
Department Store and give them "to the homeliest girls she
saw, the oldest and plainest!" During World War I, Miss
Percival had the idea of shipping apricot, peach, and prune stones
to France to help replant orchards cut down by the retreating
Germans. "I would like to feel there were trees over there of 'my'
planting," she wrote, "for I am a tree-worshipper!"
She enjoyed gathering flowers and arranging them in such
varied containers as a Seifu sake bottle, a Chinese crackle bowl,
an old Chelsea cup. "Flowers do take a lot of time," she
admitted, "but rooms seem too dead without them." ^ In 1933,
when she entertained English author and garden lover Vita
Sackville-West, Miss Percival noted with satisfaction: "V. Sack-
ville-West much admired my flower-arrangements (particularly,
the two trays of wee vases in which were various flowers of
Spring: camellias, pansies, scillas, one daffodil, Mexican daisies,
ranunculus, one big blue-and-white cineraria, etc.!) and the big
ivory-white platter of huge pomelos, with green loquat leaves.
Gave her two of the pomelos and some calavo 'toast' for her
train journey." She gave her also a carton of Billbergia corms
for the wonderful gardens at Sissinghurst Castle.
"We have no paved streets, no gas, no electricity, no
water-bills, no postmen," ' Miss Percival wrote of the Down-
hyl Claim in 1914. She never did have electricity or a furnace,
but until the end of her life made do with oil lamps and
candles and with fireplaces for heat. As poet Hildegarde
Flanner wrote in a charming and affectionate memoir, "The
primitive and the cultivated were mingled at Down-hyl Claim
within-doors, and in the garden the white primroses were
encouraged, with a kind of reverence, to give the air of
delicacy that only a lady could achieve, no matter if the
24 JANE APOSTOL
temperature in the house called for red woolen underwear fit
for a lumberjack."
The two Percival ladies used to sit by the fireplace in the
evening, Olive busy with pencil, needle, or scissors while her
mother read aloud. "It is impossible for me to sit in my chair
and fold my hands idly, like-a-lady," Miss Percival declared.
Instead, she took pleasure in designing bookplates, mono-
grams, embroideries, and quilts; in sewing doll clothes and in
carving wooden toys. She also liked painting decorations on
the large wooden cheese boxes in which she stored her old hats
and bonnets. "I know I'm not an artist," she once admitted.
"I've never had any training! But this I know (and am grateful
to God for it) I have millions of good Ideas and a little talent
for applied design and so intense a love of Pure Beauty that I
see phases of it everywhere and am as glad as a child!"
In 1912 Miss Percival found an enchanting new activity.
Inspired by a letter about antique paper dolls, she began
making paper dolls herself. "I don't in the least care how silly
it looks!" she said. "Have made 1840, 1876 and 1912 ladies and
hats." The handwork was a pleasant diversion at a time when
she confessed herself, "Horridly melancholy, for no real reason
- only the full realization of the accumulated failures of the
years and the forlorn over-worked years of grind and genteel
poverty ahead. Is poverty ever genteel? Nice 1840 word."
The letter sparking Miss Percival's interest in paper dolls
came from Wilbur Macey Stone, who shared many of her
collecting interests and who was an authority on childen's
literature and toys. She sent Stone dozens of her handmade
paper dolls, which he later described in an essay written for an
exhibit at the Newark Museum in New Jersey. "The most
OLIVE PERCIVAL 25
sophisticated paper dolls I own," he said, "are the product
of a lover of things old and curious, in Los Angeles. . . . She
made these for sheer enjoyment of her inventive faculty. The
dolls vary in size from nine inches tall to one inch short.
Really, that is the only way to describe them. And each, large
or small, is perfected to the least detail of coiffure and lace
Miss Percival made at least five hundred paper dolls.
Among them are infants, children, fat ladies, toe dancers, club
presidents, elocutionists, debutantes, and cooks. All are
dressed in turn-of-the-century costumes made from handsome
scraps of paper. The ladies have extra hats and purses to put
on and take off, and the children have a supply of animals and
toys. One small boy has a pet mouse and several pockets in
which to shelter it.
"They raved over my Paper Dolls!" Miss Percival reported
after showing them to some friends. "Everyone does and they
are unique, delightful!" So are the "childish (very childish)
book-marker things" that she was making at the same time
for her collection of children's books. The enchanting little
paper bookmarks, some of them only an inch or two in size,
are decorated on both sides with cut-out hearts, trees, flowers,
ladies, animals, and castles. Almost four hundred of the book-
marks survive, each one different and each one signed.
Some of Miss Percival's most charming creations are the
little valentines made for her friends, and the even tinier
valentines made for favorites in her collection of antique dolls.
Her pleasure in dolls had been delayed about half a century.
"Began earning my living at 1 5," she once explained, "and there
never was much time to play, even when I was 10. Mother said
26 JANE APOSTOL
I was 'always a woman.' I can't remember a time without its
little duties, responsibilities Now I can be as trivial as I like
- as I dare.
Although never taught to sew, she made delightful cos-
tumes for her old dolls and was especially proud of their little
hats - nearly two hundred of them. "Is all this Doll Millinery
Art?" she asked. "Or an absurdity, triviality? Well, I've no brain
for bridge - and I like Dolls, given up when I was about 10 -
which was too soon."
Perhaps the dolls helped satisfy maternal longings. "How
I do love children - almost OAiybody's!" she once declared.
A motherly friend to youngsters in the neighborhood, she
patiently answered their questions, told them stories, and
taught them nursery rhymes and the names of flowers. During
the Great Depression she saw to it that the poor children
next-door were properly clothed and cared for, and she grandly
paid them a nickel for every good drawing done at school.
With a pension of $150 a month she survived the Depres-
sion without undue hardship. Many of her friends and neigh-
bors were less fortunate. She helped them when she could, and
no one went away hungry from her door. For more than a
decade she gave food and clothing to one old woman who lived
in a tent in the Arroyo. "She is an expensive nuisance to me,
poor thing," Miss Percival wrote, "but it seems to be my duty
to feed her. No one else will."
She felt a special pang of sympathy for the once well-to-do
who lost their money in the Depression. Among them was her
close friend Florence Moore Kreider, who had to find work
and take in lodgers when her husband's business failed. In
Dawson's Book Shop Miss Percival chanced upon poignant
OLIVE PERCIVAL 27
evidence of her friend's altered circumstances. "Alas!" she
wrote in 1933. "One of the books I got at Dawson's (Henry
Adams' Mont-Saint-Michel) came from the shelves of Florence
Moore Kreider and has her autograph on fly-leaf! And this
means she has begun to sell personal things to keep the pot
a-boihng! Poor Florence! Poor Sam!"
While others were selling their possessions, Miss Percival
continued to add to hers. "Have bought numerous little things,
all charming and quite cheap, thereby helping the nice new-
poor," she wrote in 1932. It comforted her to have such good
reason for spending money instead of saving it.
By 1932 her savings account had dwindled to $500, and she
had to practice many small economies. Sometimes she did her
own laundry, a considerable chore in a house with no hot
running water and no electricity. "Washed 48 colored handker-
chiefs and 38 white ones. Saved $4.30!!" she wrote on one
occasion. On another she boasted, "This summer and spring
I've washed my own underthings, ironed my smocks - thereby
saving over $30.00." Most of the latter she promptly spent
for a book on Chinese snuff bottles. As she had once declared
after a strenuous round of window washing, "All the money I
save in this horridly hard way I'll squander on Books! Then a
perfectly clear conscience." Another time she wrote, "My
23rd consecutive day of very hard gardening - so hard that I
pity myself, especially when I look upon my hands! So, I shall
credit O.P. with [$j3.00 a day and spend the amount (not on
household bills, taxes) for books or some beautiful antique."
One thing she dearly wanted was an antique silver teapot,
a symbol of the elegance and propriety she so admired. She
did without many things (even foregoing a general anesthetic
28 JANE APOSTOL
when she had a tooth pulled) in order to buy a Georgian teapot
for her sixty-fifth birthday. "I felt it was time," she explained,
"that I (who have had much to do with the establishing of
tea-drinking - when others were serving beer or sweet punches
or cocoa -) had a suitable tea-pot! Now, my tea-things are all
proper and right, simple but very good."
The following year she again made sacrifices in order to
buy a few more pieces of silver. "But now," she triumphantly
announced, "I have as much silver as if I had had a big wedding
with presents! No one ever gives silver to a woman unless she
is getting married. But I've bought my own - and do not dare tell
anyone, for fear they'll point a finger and cry 'Spendthrift!' '
Quickly she added that she had just ironed nine smocks,
thereby saving $4.05.
For years Miss Percival dreamed of writing a best seller to
bring in extra money. Her manuscript of "The Children's
Garden Book" made the round of publishers for a decade and
was rejected by them all. The manuscript is a quaint compen-
dium - what she called a potpourri of fiowery facts and garden
lore. It includes her own charming outline drawings and
sketches of some delightful garden plans. They have such
alluring names as the Kate Greenaway Garden, the Garden of
Aladdin, the Flying Carpet, and the Sliced Cake (a garden of
pink and white). People had praised her manuscript and
drawings, she told Dr. Norman Bridge in 1923, "but that does
not apparently get book-covers."
She was no more successful with her next manuscript, a
lengthy memoir in free verse called "Aunt Abby and Others:
Pictures and Impressions of the American Background, 1830-
1930." Miss Percival described her poem as a spiritual inven-
OLIVE PERCIVAL 29
tory. It pays tribute to old-fashioned ideals, courtesies, and
elegance; and it looks upon the present with dismay. Only a
few things in modern life excite her admiration:
Motor Trucks, Gas Cooking Ranges, Steam Shovels!
The Electric Light over one's pillow book, desk!
City Water Supply, Stainless Steel and Tinned Chicken.
Are they not the time-saving marvels, mystifications?^
She hoped "Aunt Abby" would win a $5,000 prize offered
by the Atlantic Press for the most interesting book dealing with
the American scene. "I have been disciplined through the years
and have learned how to swallow the failures," she wrote after
mailing off her manuscript. "But O, how much I want one
victory!" The editors, however, awarded the 1931 prize to
Archer Butler Hulbert's Forty-Niners.
In 1933 Miss Percival began work on Our Old-fashioned
Flowers, a little book that was published after her death. The
opening essay, on flower name history, is a lyric appreciation
of "the old-time flower worthies." It repeats themes sounded
in "Aunt Abby" and evokes the midwestern town where Miss
Percival grew up. Much of the book is devoted to lists of
old-fashioned flowers and herbs, their names given both in
Latin and in English. She delighted in the evocative English
names: ladies-in-the-mist, touch-me-nots, bachelor's buttons,
prince's feathers; and she took special note of that splendid
mouthful, meet-her-in-the-entry-kiss-her-in-the-buttery (better
known as Johnny-jump-ups).
In November 1940, with the last thirty-five dollars from
an old savings account. Miss Percival paid half her taxes,
bought half a cord of firewood, and commissioned Ward
30 JANE APOSTOL
Ritchie to print three hundred Christmas cards with her poem
"Christmas Tree Market":
I do not want a blue one -
Nor rose du Barry, oyster-white nor mauve!
I do not want that pink, chartreuse or silver!
But one from snow-sweet, quiet grove.
I want a plain, clean, green one,
Agleam with berry red, not tinsel, gold -
O! Christmas brought me such big and fragrant green trees,
When you and I were six years old!^
She was charmed by Ritchie and impressed by his work as
poet, printer, and book designer. "His own little book of free
verse is exquisite, in format and in ideas!" she said. "I do want
Ward Ritchie to do a little book of vers libre for me."
Toward the end of her life Miss Percival said of her poetry,
"I think I am impelled to write verse (that no one cares about)
because I am so lonely, so remote from friends and little
gayeties, with so very little to look forward to in the years left
me. Am not unhappy - but the life I planned, wanted, was
By 1940 she was in poor health, seriously overweight and
troubled by arthritis and high blood pressure. Although she
complained of tiredness (and of the stepladder seeming heavier
than usual) she kept up with her garden and household chores,
even chopping kindling, nailing up a rickety balcony, and
hauling fifty-pound sacks of peat and fertilizer from the terrace
where the delivery boy had dumped them. With some amuse-
ment she reported the doctor's orders:
OLIVE PERCIVAL 31
That I must not garden so much - not lift heavy things and that I
must rest for two hours (he said lie down) every day!! I can not lie down
that long daily - too much to do just to keep this small, quite unimportant
household running. But I can, with joy, take all that time to sit and read
and sew. I'll try it. Also I can neglect the garden but not cheerfully. The
only pleasant remark was that he mistook me for a woman of 60, instead
of 71 1/2.^^
For years Miss Percival had dreamed of moving to a more
convenient house. "I wonder if there is anything in the world
I enjoy more than ideally planned and arranged homes?" she
asked herself in 1906. "It is true, and I do not apologize - that
to me domestic duties are 'fine arts.' My 'dream' house is
beautiful; everything in it is beautiful in the truest sense; the
management of it is intelligent; and all who enter are soothed
or inspired. William Morris would know what I mean.
She purchased a building lot in 1930, and for the rest of
her life she made plans for a little Elizabethan cottage that she
tentatively named Primrose Court. In 1939 she wrote,"No
dreams left except a dimming one of new house (with enough
book-shelves, closets, fireplaces) on Pasadena lot - and a much
smaller garden with a fruit tree walk, terraces (some of them
trellis-inclosed, for jasmine and roses), a long perennial border,
a tiny out-of-doors 'theater,' an herb garden and a croquet
ground. Hope this dream will continue to be a comfort." ' It
was indeed a comfort, but it remained a dream.
Lack of shelf space did not keep Miss Percival from adding
to her library. One of her last purchases recalled an early
memory of Los Angeles. "The Major Truman book came
today," she wrote in 1 941 . "He used to take the same street-car.
. . . The Major (white, silvery hair, pink checks were his),
32 JANE APOSTOL
immaculate and always with kid gloves (brown) and an empty
market basket stared at everyone as he walked down the aisle.
Once he winked at me. He did want to know me and I am sorry
I did not make his acquaintance, as he had interesting pioneer-
ing years. But I was always dignified on the old South Pasadena
car ride." The last diaries took special note of two other
additions to her library: a book on Japanese prints and a book
on roses by the great English horticulturist Ellen Willmot.
A passionate Anglophile, Miss Percival grieved when Eng-
land was caught up in war, and she suffered vicariously through
the Blitz. One newspaper item moved her especially. "Almost
wept," she said, "when I read of the annual Daffodil Show in
London yesterday! The joy those flowers brought to the people
working, living, so bravely in that devastated city of blackened
Miss Percival also grieved that Japan, which she so ad-
mired, was now an enemy country. She still defended Japanese
culture, and she remained loyal to her Japanese friends. A
poignant entry in her 1943 diary reads: "Surprise box from poor
dear Mrs. Sakai, at Manzanar. She sends a delightful toy - a
pink yarn poodle!!" The Sakais, whom she had known for at
least twenty years, stored many of their belongings at the
Down-hyl Claim when they left for an internment camp.
During the forties Miss Percival was saddened by the
deaths of many old friends, including sculptor Julia Bracken
Wendt, painter Eugene Torrcy, and fellow garden enthusiast
Charles Francis Saunders. And she was desolate at parting with
a more recent friend, Charles (Jack) Masse, when he moved
to Northern California in 1942. Masse was twenty years
younger than Miss Percival, but he shared her interest in
OLIVE PERCIVAL 33
gardens, books, antiques, and music. He gave amusing parties
in his log cabin by the Arroyo Seco; and he was a frequent
guest at the Down-hyl Claim, sometimes reading aloud to Miss
Percival or singing favorite songs, including one of her own
poems that he had set to music. "I cannot think of any man as
talented, as courteous and as charming and as admirable as
he," she wrote in 1941. "I'm glad we've been such good friends
for five or six years. I regret I am so much older than he. (The
most companionable man I know.)" A year later she said
goodbye to Masse. "We had tea but no music," she wrote
after a sad farewell.
Lonely, despondent over the war, and in continued poor
health, Miss Percival wrote in December 1942, "I've been very
depressed, but pray unceasingly for Courage, Faith." When
she again took up her diary, in May 1943, her mood seemed
tranquil. "Cool but sunny and flower-sweet!" she wrote. "The
grasses are ripened and yellowed. The red roses are all bloom-
ing but nearly done. Am so glad to see about six of the lovely
old-fashioned Jacqueminots. And the honeysuckle is heavenly
sweet and more abundant than ever, which compensates for
so much that is over or dead."
Her last diary notes are those of a dedicated gardener. On
October 12, 1943, she wrote, "The hot weather continues. How
I shall rejoice when rain falls on the thirsty garden, the dusty
trees." A few days later she observed, "A fairy mist, a silvery
fog like a thick chiffon veil. . . . Hope it means rain." It did,
indeed. "A nicely cleansed world!" she wrote on October 18.
"An Aprilly day with glorious blue sky, fluffy white clouds &
then a shower every hour or so!" Freed of the burden of
watering the garden, she happily planted bulbs, took daphne
34 JANE APOSTOL
cuttings, potted Billbergia. That evening she and her little black
cat, Bon-bon, enjoyed the warmth of the fireplace, lit for the
first time that season. Later she looked from her bedroom
window and observed that "the night sky was a glory - thick
Apparently Miss Percival kept no diaries after 1943, She
continued to find pleasure in her garden, a pleasure she
expressed in "Anodyne":
Old? Old? Old?
Nay, nay, not yet,
Except by carefully calendared years, -
For I have this bird-haunted, tree-shaded garden
To work in, read books in, drink tea in,
To dream dreams in -
To remember - forget! ^''^
It was in her garden, in November 1944, that she suffered
a stroke. She lay in the garden overnight, with Bon-bon as
companion, until a neighbor found her. Miss Percival spent her
final days in a Pasadena rest home, in a pleasant room filled
with books and flowers. "She is anxious to keep her room
fragrant," one visitor reported, "and told me that she keeps
herself 'immersed in fragrant powders.' " Olive Percival
died on February 19, 1945, at the age of seventy-five. Her ashes
were buried on a hillside at Forest Lawn, next to the grave of
actress Alia Nazimova, whom she had once compared to some
wonderful and oversweet fiower, like tuberoses or datura.
On her seventy-second birthday Miss Percival had written
out her will. "I, Olive Percival, spinster," it began, "being
mindful of the uncertainty of life in this beautiful world, hereby
OLIVE PERCIVAL 35
record that I wish to dispose of my property (trivial yet
precious) as follows." She left carefully considered gifts to
fifty-two friends. To landscape architect Charles Gibbs Adams,
for example, she left her best potted daphne and Ellen Will-
mot's magnum opus. The Genus Rosa. To etcher Mildred
Bryant Brooks she left a Whistler etching; and to poet Hil-
degarde Planner she left books by and about Louise Imogene
Guiney and Emily Dickinson. To Jack Masse, in sentimental
remembrance of pleasant times together, she left, among many
other things, her favorite fireside chair and a William Wendt
painting and sketch of the Down-hyl Claim. All her real
property she left to her devoted friends Alice Gibbs and
Florence Moore Kreider, whom she named as executors.
Her will benefited several institutions: Scripps College, the
Children's Home Society, the Society for the Preservation of
New England Antiquities, the Casa de Adobe, the Pasadena
Humane Society, and the Pasadena Institute of the Arts (which
received some of her treasured tea things, both Oriental and
Occidental). To Scripps went an exuberant collection of dolls
and doll furniture, paper dolls, miniature toys, textiles, hats,
costumes, valentines, and daguerreotypes. "I do believe all
these will serve as valuable Americana to The Students within
the next two or three generations," she said. Miss Percival
felt a special bond with Scripps, not only because it was a
woman's college but because one of the original trustees was
Margaret Brewer Fowler, who had been her warm and
In drawing up her will. Miss Percival did not forget herself.
She arranged for the publication of two of her manuscripts:
Our Old-fashioned Flowers (with the copyright assigned to the
36 JANE APOSTOL
Pasadena Humane Society) and Yellowing I\y, a collection of
her poems. She instructed that the books be printed, simply
but well, by Ward Ritchie. They are charming little volumes,
pleasant to the hand and eye.
"Also, if not too selfish, fantastic," she requested, "I would
like Mr. Paul Howard, of Los Angeles, to grow a Rose to be
named for me." In 1949 Howard patented an Olive Percival
Rose, described in his catalog as cherry red, of luminous quality,
with blooms of great charm and grace. An Olive Percival Rose
was planted at the White House, and it also was chosen to
honor the teachers of America; but it did not succeed commer-
"What shall endure even for a generation to show that
Olive Percival once lived?" the mistress of the Down-hyl
Claim asked despairingly as she neared her fortieth birthday.
The answer lies in three prestigious libraries, each with a
Percival Collection. The collection inherited by Scripps, with
its joyful abundance of dolls and doll clothes, paper dolls, and
little toys, inspires a holiday exhibit held every four years at
Christmas time. It is a fitting tribute to someone who once
declared, "I love being a Christmas-keeper!"
The University Research Library at UCLA owns thirty
boxes of Percival material, including letters, photographs and
negatives, scrapbooks, guest books, typescripts of articles and
poems. Miss Pcrcival's own bookplates (plus those she
designed for friends), and hundreds of her handmade book-
marks. UCLA also owns the Olive Percival Collection of
OLIVE PERCIVAL 37
Children's Books, more than five hundred volumes that span
two centuries of juvenile literature, from a 1707 edition of
Elizabethan epigrams to the 1914 edition of Walter Crane's
Sleeping Beauty and Blue Beard. Nearly three-fourths of the
books are British imprints, and many have historic and biblio-
graphic information written on the flyleaves in Miss Percival's
small, neat hand. The collection includes ABC books, spellers,
primers, chapbooks, nursery rhymes, natural histories, and
treatises on manners and morals. Absent, however, are Miss
Percival's beloved Kate Greenaways, for these were not of-
fered to the university. Even so, Lawrence Clark Powell, Chief
Librarian when UCLA purchased the collection, called it
perhaps the finest of its kind in a public library in the West.
Powell acquired the books (at the bargain price of a thousand
dollars) from Ernest Dawson, who bought Miss Percival's
library after her death.
Also at UCLA, in its William Andrews Clark Memorial
Library, are some of the volumes of 17th and 18th century
literature collected by Miss Percival. Many of her books in the
two UCLA libraries still wear the hand-lettered jackets that she
fondly made for them. As she once explained, after covering some
volumes with bits of wallpaper and Italian blockprint paper,
"The poor little books looked so shabby and forlorn and were
falling to pieces. Books are not inanimate things!"
The Huntington Library owns more than seven hundred
photographs (most dating from the turn of the century) that
Miss Percival took in Mexico, Los Angeles, San Pedro, and San
Francisco. Also at the Huntington are three book-length
manuscripts that Miss Percival had dearly hoped to publish:
'Aunt Abby and Others," "The Children's Garden Book," and
38 JANE APOSTOL
"The Green Balcony and Other Little Incidents of Old China-
town." Of more interest to scholars are the diaries spanning
more than fifty years. The originals are at the Huntington. A
typescript of two thousand pages is in the UCLA Library, and
another copy is at Scripps College. Lawrence Clark Powell, who
had the transcript made, once considered editing the diaries, but
they are as yet unpublished.
Sometimes the diaries serve as a kind of Baedeker to
downtown Los Angeles - suggesting, for example, where to
shop for fancy groceries, have a pleasant luncheon, or enjoy
afternoon tea. In addition the diaries take note of changing
mores, such as the first dinner party at which Miss Percival saw
women smoking. (It was in 1909, at the home of Southwest
Museum director Hector Alliot.)
The diaries also refer (for the most part with disapproval)
to a changing cityscape. When a new museum opened in
Exposition Park in 1913, Miss Percival described it as an ugly
building on a wretched site. When the new central library,
designed by Bertram Goodhue, opened downtown in 1926, she
lamented that it had little beauty and insufficient light. When
Bullocks Wilshire opened for business in 1929, she thought the
Art Deco building was interesting but not charming. In 1921
she visited "the new and wondered-about Hotel Ambassador"
and declared it "over-advertised, as all California achievements
arc! Shops were sweet but the furnishings of the hotel proper
seemed both scant and mediocre. And not a tub of Lilacs,
Roses, Lilies on the staircases and along the corridors as are
seen in Eastern hotels." She ended her architectural re-
marks on a happier note in 1940, delighted that her friend
Dwight Gibbs was working for the preservation of three
OLIVE PERCIVAL 39
buildings in the historic center of Los Angeles - the Pico
House, the Merced Theater, and the Baker Block- all of them
fairly new when she first arrived in the city.
The diaries give fascinating glimpses of artists, actors,
writers, society leaders, and career women who played a role
in the intellectual life of Los Angeles from the turn of the
century until the 1940s. Above all the diaries portray a woman
who resolutely created for herself a world of beauty that helped
compensate for thirty years of uncongenial work and much
personal unhappiness. She found beauty in nature, books, and
art. The shadow of sycamore branches by moonlight (resem-
bling an old Japanese stencil) gave her as much sensual delight
as a vellum binding or a raku jar. In her quest for beauty she
became a passionate collector of exquisite things and a con-
noisseur of Oriental art. She was also a respected bibliophile,
an inspired gardener, and a celebrated hostess. Not a great
artist, she nevertheless showed talent as a poet, a photo-
grapher, and a creator of paper whimsies.
Despite her accomplishments, a sense of failure haunted
her. "I wonder if it has been well to have kept diaries all my
life," she asked, for in them she confided her dreams,
self-doubts, and disappointments. She destroyed many of the
volumes, but those that survive give valuable insights into an
era and into a remarkable woman. Praise usually embarrassed
her, but Olive Percival cherished the words of an admiring
friend who said, "You are a wonder to me with that quiet
tenacious sense of beauty fostered in the crudest town in all
the U. S. . . . When you are dead, my lady, others yet unborn,
toiling and beauty-hungry women will know of you and learn
something of the secret."
1. Diary of Olive Percival, January 28, 1896, Olive Percival Collection,
Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino. Unless otherwise indicated, all
manuscript citations are from material in the Huntington. The author
appreciates the opportunity to use the collection, as well as the Olive Percival
Collection at Scripps College in Claremont and at the University of California,
2. Percival, "For the 75th anniversary of Sheffield Church," November
3. Diary, May 17, 1896.
4. Diary, June 30, 1896.
5. Diary, February 9, 1896.
6. Diary, May 9, 1899.
7. Mary Austin, California, The Land of the Sun (London: Adam and
Charles Black, 1914), pp. 30-31.
8. Mexico City Herald, March 31, 1901.
9. Charles F Lummis, "That Which Is Written," Land of Sunshine 14
(May 1901): 424. The diaries are never complimentary to Lummis, whom
Miss Percival characterized as a poseur and tippler. She had unbounded
admiration, however, for his first wife, Dorothea Rhodes Lummis Moore.
10. Diary, June 14, 1906. In 1906 Amanda Mathews published Hiero-
glyphics of Love: Stories of Sonoratown and Old Mexico, based on her
experiences as a teacher in Mexico City and in the Mexican community of
Los Angeles. She married Congregational minister and author Charles Edwin
Chase in 1914.
11. Memo book, "Biographical Trivia for Memory Sketches," August
12. Diary, October 21, 1910.
13. Bobbs-Merrill Company to Olive Percival, October 3, 1912.
14. Diary, September 7, 1911.
15. Diary, September 14, 1911.
16. Diary, December 7, 191 1. In addition to writing about the Western
desert, Mrs. Strobridge established the Artemisia Bindery ("At the Sign of the
Sagebrush") on the Arroyo Seco, published local authors, and exhibited the
work of local artists. She and Olive Percival shared an interest in genealogy.
OLIVE PERCIVAL 41
17. Diary, January 25, 1912.
18. Travel diary, March 3, 1910.
19. Notes by Olive Percival in Friday Morning Club Scrapbook #33,
program for December 1910, Friday Morning Club Collection, Huntington
Library. Over a period of forty years Miss Percival kept almost all of the club's
program notices, pasting them neatly into scrapbooks and sometimes adding
comments on the speakers or rating them with hearts or zeros. Three of Miss
Percival's closest friends were prominent members of the Friday Morning
Club: Edith Cohn, Florence Moore Kreider, and Jane Wright.
20. Diary, April 8, 191 1. The exhibit featured two thousand bookplates,
including seven of her own designs. For more about Olive Percival as
bookplate designer and collector, see Clare Ryan Talbot, Historic Bookplates
in California (Los Angeles: Graphic Press, 1936), pp. 104, 109-110. See also
Audrey Spencer Arellanes, "Olive Percival and Her Bookplates," in American
Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers, Year Book, forthcoming.
21. Travel diary, February 24, 1910.
22. "Would Woman's Vote Suppress Anarchy?" Los Angeles Times,
October 16, 1910.
23. Diary, May 14, 1912. On October 10, 1911, iht Los Angeles Times
had predicted that woman suffrage would unsex society, destroy the home,
and place an intolerable burden on women.
24. Diary, October 30, 1908.
25. Hildegarde Flanner, "My Late Miss Percival: A Different Image,"
Huntington Library, HM 49982. See also the published version in Different
Images: Portraits of Remembered People (Santa Barbara, California: John
Daniel, 1987), pp. 73-94.
26. Diary, January 13, 1909.
27. Diary, February 28, 1911.
28. Diary, July 12, 1911.
29. Diary, July 7, 1911.
30. Diary, January 29, 1914.
31. Diary, September 6, 1907.
32. Diary, December 13, 1905.
33. Diary, December 21, 1906.
34. Diary, May 2, 1907.
35. Diary, June 26, 1935.
42 JANE APOSTOL
36. Diary, May 19, 1933. For a brief history of the store, see Fern
Dawson Shochat, The Fiftieth Anniversary of Dawson's Book Shop: 1905-1955
(Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop, 1955).
37. Diary, January 21, 1932.
38. Homer P. Earle, " W. Irving Way: Rescued from the Archives," Hoja
Volante 91 (February 1968): 6.
39. Diary, June 23, 1915.
40. Diary, February 20, 1915.
41. Diary, April 21, 1915. For more about the Millards and Irving Way
in California, see Robert Rosenthal, "Los Angeles «fe Chicago: Two Cities,
Two Bibliophiles," in John Bidwell, ed., A Bibliophile's Los Angeles (Los
Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 1985), pp. 3-27.
42. Diary, December 5, 1924.
43. Diary, December 19, 1907.
44. Diary, October 10, 1913.
45. Diary, June 5, 1914.
46. Diary, October 15, 1909.
47. Diary, February 13, 1907.
48. Diary, January 27, 1908.
49. Diary, May 22, 1908.
50. Diary, June 23, 1915.
51. Olive Percival to Wilfred Kurth, March 4, 1929, Olive Percival
Collection, University Research Library, UCLA (119/3/1/5).
52. Diary, April 8, 1929.
53. Garden diary, February 25, 1924.
54. Diary, July 28, 1924.
55. Diary, August 25, 1929.
56. Percival, "The Down-hyl Claim: The Garden," Tlie House Beautiftd
34 (September 1913): 102.
57. Percival, "The Children's Garden Book," pp. 1-2.
58. Diary, March 8, 1920.
59. Diary, December 8, 1911.
60. Garden diary, November 15, 1914.
61. Diary, December 19, 1907.
62. Diary, October 17, 1917.
63. Diary, March 27, 1932.
OLIVE PERCIVAL 43
64. Diary, March 28, 1933.
65. "The Down-hyl Claim: The Story of Building the House," The
House Beautiful 35 (January 1914): 36.
66. Planner, HM 49982.
67. Diary, March 11, 1922.
68. Diary, May 14, 1914.
69. Diary, October 3, 1912.
70. Wilbur Macey Stone, "A Showing of Paper Dolls and Other Cut-out
Toys, From the Collection of Wilbur Macey Stone," Newark (N. J.) Museum
catalog for exhibit December 7, 1931-February 29, 1932, p. 15. Sketches of
some of Miss Percival's paper dolls appeared in Edith Flack Ackley, Paper
Dolls, Their History and How to Make Them (New York: Frederick A. Stokes,
71. Diary, December 8, 1934.
72. Diary, October 3, 1912.
73. Diary, February 7, 1932.
74. Diary, February 18, 1932.
75. Diary, May 22, 1908.
76. Diary, June 15, 1934.
77. Diary, June 6, 1933. Florence Moore Kreider was president of the
Friday Morning Club from 1924 to 1925. She served on three municipal
commissions: the Playground Commission, the first Board of Motion Picture
Censorship, and the Los Angeles Board of Charities.
78. Diary, October 29, 1932.
79. Diary, February 18, 1932.
80. Diary, September 19, 1934.
81. Diary, October 1, 1929.
82. Diary, December 5, 1932.
83. Diary, August 20, 1933.
84. Diary, June 2, 1934.
85. Olive Percival to Norman Bridge, December 27, 1923. Miss Percival
hoped for an advance from Bridge, who once told her to let him know if she
could not find a publisher. Bridge was a benefactor of the I,os Angeles
Symphony, the California Institute of Technology, and the Southwest Mu-
seum. In 1918 he asked Miss Percival to lend some porcelain to the museum,
but she thought the galleries were too poorly lighted for a satisfactory exhibit.
44 JANE APOSTOL
86. Percival, "Aunt Abby and Others: Pictures and Impressions of the
American Background, 1830-1930," p. 341.
87. Diary, April 15, 1931.
88. Percival, "Christmas Tree Market," Yellowing I\y (Los Angeles: The
Ward Ritchie Press, 1946), p. 36.
89. Diary, November 8, 1940.
90. Diary, November 23, 1940.
91. Diary, March 4, 1940.
92. Diary, January 30, 1906
93. Diary, July 11, 1939.
94. Diary, January 23, 1941. The book was Semi-Tropical California by
Benjamin Cummings Truman, author, editor, publisher, booster, and bon
95. Diary, April 19, 1941.
96. Diary, June 3, 1943.
97. Diary, October 5, 1941.
98. Diary, August 20, 1942.
99. Diary, December 2, 1942.
100. Diary, May 6, 1943.
101. Diary, October 16, 1943.
102. Diary, October 18, 1943.
103. Percival, "Anodyne," Yellowing hy, p. 37.
104. Mira Culin Saunders to Jane Wright, November 26, 1944, Olive
Percival Collection, University Research Library, UCLA (119, Box 1, Cor-
105. Percival, Last Will and Testament, July 1, 1941, Olive Percival
Collection, University Research Library, UCLA (119, Box 1).
107. Margaret Fowler was the widow of wealthy lumberman Eldridge M.
Fowler, who died in 1904. She was instrumental in founding the George Junior
Republic of California (now the Boys Republic), to which she donated 221
acres in the Chino Valley. Mrs. Fowler initiated the practice of making Delia
Robbia wreaths ornamented with seed pods and other plant materials, and
selling them to benefit the school.
108. Last Will and Testament, July 1, 1941.
109. Diary, May 26, 1908.
OLIVE PERCIVAL 45
110. Diary, November 28, 1922.
111. For more about the collection, see Robert R. Hertel, "Remember-
ing Childhood," Library Journal 78 (January 1, 1953): 23-31, and Lawrence
Clark Powell, Fortune & Friendship: An Autobiography (New York and
London: R. R. Bowker, 1968), pp. 120-121.
112. Diary, May 19, 1916.
113. For his appreciative remarks on Olive Percival, see Lawrence Clark
Powell, The Alchemy of Books (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1954),
114. Diary, February 26, 1921.
115. The Pico House and Merced Theater, on Main Street, have been
declared State Historical Landmarks. The Baker Block was demolished to
make way for the Hollywood Freeway. Altadena architect Dwight Gibbs
helped design the interior of the Pasadena Playhouse. For twenty years he
and his wife Alice were among Miss Percival's closest friends.
116. Diary, June 25, 1933.
117. Fay Coughlin, quoted in Diary, April 6, 1912.
Arellanes, Audrey Spencer. "Olive Percival and Her Bookplates."
In American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers, Year
Di Biase, Linda Popp. "Forgotten Woman of the Arroyo: Olive
Percival." Southern California Quarterly 66 (Fall 1984): 207-219.
Planner, Hildegarde. "My Late Miss Percival: A Different Image."
In Different Images: Portraits of Remembered People. Santa Barbara:
John Daniel, 1987, pp. 73-94.
Hertel, Robert R. "Remembering Childhood." Library Journal 78
(Jan. 1, 1953): 23-31.
Powell, Lawrence Clark. "Books, People, and the Earth on Which
We Live." In Vie Alchemy of Books. Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie
Press, 1954, pp. 142-145.
Books by Olive Percival
Leaf-Shadows and Rose-Drift, Being Little Songs from a Los
Angeles Garden. Cambridge: Printed at the Riverside Press, 1911.
Mexico City: An Idler's Mote-Book. Chicago: Herbert Stone and
Our Old-fashioned Flowers. Pasadena: The Ward Ritchie Press,
Yellowing Ivy. [Los Angeles]: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1946.
Articles by Olive Percival
"The Down-hyl Claim: The Garden." The House Beautiful 34
(September 1913): 102-104.
"The Down-hyl Claim: The Story of Building the House." The
House Beautiful 35 (January 1914): 36-39.
"Individual Christmas Cards: The Drawings of George Wolfe
Plank." Vie House Beautiful 37 (December 1914): 20-21.
OLIVE PERCIVAL 47
"The Lost Art of Indian Basketry." Demorest's Family Magazine
"Note on the Wood-Engraving of George Wolfe Plank." Book-
plate Booklet 3 (May 1910): 50-53, 70.
"Some Los Angeles Bookplates." Tlie House Beautiful 36 (August
OLIVE PERCIVAL HOLDINGS
AT THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY
The Olive Percival Collection at the Huntington Library is
uncataloged, except for the photographs, which are in the
photo archives. Three literary manuscripts, 'Aunt Abby, and
Others," "The Children's Garden Book," and "Once, In Old
Chinatown," were purchased from the estate of Olive Percival
in 1946. All other material was the gift of her executor,
Florence Moore Kreider, and came to the library in install-
ments from 1945 to 1948.
The listing below is primarily by type of material,
OLIVE PERCIVAL COLLECTION
Garden Diaries: 1913-1926 and 1930-1931; 8 volumes
Personal Diaries: 1889-1899, 1905-1926, 1929-1936, 1939-1942, and
1943 (scattered entries); 23 volumes
Memoranda of My Eastern Journey, August 16, 1903-January 12,
[Journey to East Coast, January 15-April 10, 1910]
[San Diego Notes, June 1914, June 1915]
San Francisco Exposition, 1916
Manuscripts by Olive Percival
The Children's Garden Book. [Frontispiece by George Plank,
decorations by the author. Bound]
50 OLIVE PERCIVAL
Aunt Abby and Others: Pictures and Impressions of the American
Background, 1830-1930, From Cape Cod to Los Angeles.
Once, In Old Chinatown. Sketches in Outline. [Originally called
"The Green Balcony, and Other Little Incidents of Old
Chinatown." Bound; second copy, unbound]
Stories set in Chinatown
And the Sins of the Parents
A Daughter of Time
The Foolishness of Fools
The Girl of the Four Jade Bracelets
Miss Wong's Strategem
Of a Friendship
The Rhapsody of Kim Wah
The Story of Owyang
The Story of Red-Lily
The Three Felicities
A Trivial Life
When the Long Night Comes
Life, My Life
Morning Comes - Night Comes
The Old House
The Old Mirror
Ta'o copies of article "sent to Sarah Boyden for the 75th anniversary of
the Congregational Church, Sheffield, Illinois, 3 November 1929".
OLIVE PERCIVAL 51
My First Visit to San Diego and La JoUa, May 1912
My Third Visit to San Diego and La JoUa, November 1920
Ca. 1901-1937; 15 volumes
Various topics: recording purchases of books and prices, pur-
chases of silver, books wanted, obituaries (yearly lists of
friends who have died), notes from books read, notes on
places visited, etc. Also one volume, order book for Leaf-
Shadows and Rose-Drift
Drawings by Olive Percival
Sketchbook: San Antonio Canyon, 1893
Sketchbook: Mexico, 1899
Watercolor: plan of central part of Los Angeles in 1847, with
explanatory notes, 1918
Photographs Taken by Olive Percival
Album 217 (1-752)
1-57: San Pedro waterfront views, 1906
58-132: Los Angeles Chinatown, 1894-1911
133-164: San Francisco Chinatown, ca. 1897-1903, with emphasis on
165-172: Mission San Luis Rcy, 1899; Pasadena residence, 1906;
Friday Morning Club, ca. 1906; Pershing Square, 1927
173-274: The Down-hyl Claim (522 San Pascual Ave., LA): exterior
views of Miss Percival's house and garden, 1910-1939
275-347: The Down-hyl Claim: interior views, 1901-1941
348-394: Tombstones in Calvary, Fort Hill, and Mission San Gabriel
cemeteries, ca. 1890-1922, with emphasis on 1922
52 OLIVE PERCIVAL
Photographs Taken by Olive Percival (continued:)
395-720: Views of Mexico, 1899
721-749: Exterior views of Down-hyl Claim
750-752: Miscellaneous, including house at 1217 S. Hill, Los An-
Inclusive dates: 1912-1946; 15 items
Includes letters from: Bobbs Merrill Co., J. B. Lippincott Co.,
Florence Moore Kreider, and Ella Mae Riggs to the Huntington
Includes: paper bookmarks, cut and pasted by Olive Percival, 73
book-plates collected by Olive Percival (many with cat motifs),
handmade folders (one with articles written by Wilbur Macey Stone
or referring to his collections), scrapbook, engagement books for 1908
and 1914; book presented to Olive May Percival in recognition of 25
years continuous representation of The Home Insurance Co., New
York, January 1, 1921; catalog from Paul J. Howard's California
Flowerland, full-color picture on cover of the Olive Percival, "an
exquisite new Paul J. Howard Rose for 1949,"
Miscellaneous Illinois items
Article on Illinois history, 2 sermons, newspaper clippings
Also in the Percival Collection are manuscript items related to Anna
Held Hcinrich, Ellen Terry, the Byam family, Jamie Spring Peet, et
al. Appended to a sketch written about Rebecca Buffum Spring are
remarks by Olive Percival on Jennie Spring Peet.
OLIVE PERCIVAL MATERIAL IN OTHER
COLLECTIONS AT THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY
Hildegarde Planner Collection
Memoir of Olive Percival, November 8, 1983 (HM 49980)
My Late Miss Percival: A Different Image, September 22, 1983
Hildgarde Planner to Olive Percival, 116 letters, 1923-1944 (HM
Mary Ellen Hockett Planner to Olive Percival, 1924-1928 (HM
Olive Percival to Hildegarde Planner, 1926-1944 (HM 50110-
Olive Percival to [John Monhoff, 1943?] (HM 50113)
Edwin Hill Bliss Collection
Olive Percival to Ida May Van Dyke Holme, February 3, 1905 (Box
Myron Hunt Collection
Olive Percival to Virginia Pease Hunt, August 31, 1915 (Box 12:24)
Friday Morning Club Scrapbooks
Albums 33-35, 1903-1941, belonged to Miss Percival, who pasted in
her program notices and occasionally added comments on the
Katherine P. Bumham Bookplate Collection
Contains 10 of Olive Percival's personal bookplates
OLIVE PERCIVAL HOLDINGS AT UCLA
DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
In 1946 Lawrence Clark Powell purchased for UCLA 527 of
Olive Percival's children's books, primarily English. This was
to form the core of what has become one of the half-dozen
finest collections in North America. Gifts to the UCLA Library
of Olive Percival's manuscripts, correspondence, photographs,
and realia came shortly after, primarily from Florence Moore
(Mrs. Samuel) Kreider, executrix of the Percival estate (1949-
1950) and Jane (Mrs. George V.) Wright. Other items were
given by Miss Theresa Levy and Hortense (Mrs. Lemuel)
Goldwater (1949), Mrs. Kirby (1949), Marjorie Van Deusen
(1950), Mrs. Henry B. Pflueger (1950), Ward Ritchie (1950
and 1959), Dawson's Book Shop (1983), and Edith Armer
(Mrs. Morris) Cohn (date of gift unknown).
Further material relating to Olive Percival and her circle
can be found by checking the Manuscripts Catalog (not yet on-
line); for example, one of Frank Hazenplug's drawings for Miss
Percival's Mexico City: An Idler's Note-Book.
The material, which now comprises forty-five document
boxes, has been processed, most having been done by Brooke
Whiting in 1961. The finding aid in the department gives
complete descriptions of most material. The following list is
primarily by type of material, with a brief indication of the
OLIVE PERCIVAL 55
Affiliations, Subscriptions, Contributions, 1911-1939; 13 items
The American Society of Colonial Familes, the Friday Morning
Club, Japan Society (London), Japanese Relief Committee
for Southern California, etc.
Articles by Olive Percival
"Browsings in an Old Book Shop." Clipping from the Graphic,
July 18, 1914
"August. A poem." Clipping from Saturday Night. August 26,
"About Sake, and the Pleasing Art of Seike-Sets." Clipping from
The Craftsman, June 1904
"The Story of Suey Ho Yee." Published in From the Old Pueblo...
"The Down-hyl Claim: 1 - The Garden." Clipping from Tlie House
Beautiful, [September 1913]
"The Down-Hyl Claim: 2 - The Story of Building the House."
Clipping from Vie House Beautiful, January 1914
"The Lost Art of Indian Basketry." Demorest's Family Magazine,
Biographical Information, 1941-1949 and no date; 23 items
Clippings, tributes, typed sheet of events in Olive Percival's
childhood, letters about Olive Percival, and information
about the disposition of her properties, including information
from Dawson's Book Shop
Books by Olive Percival
Mexico City: An Idler's Note-Book...
Leaf-Shadows and Rose-Drift...
Books, Pamphlets, etc. from Olive Percival's Library; 13 items
Some have family associations, some are records of organizations,
such as the Severance Club, Los Angeles, the Japan Society,
London, catalogs of Asian art, etc.
Bookmarks, 1916 and no date; 13 items
Made from paper cut-outs, birch bark
Bookplates; 12 document boxes
Also Christmas greetings
56 OLIVE PERCIVAL
Children's Books, Book Lists; 8 items
Catalogs and articles. Dawson's (1947) features books from Olive
Index to Books in Percival's Collection of Children's Books
Clippings; 14 document boxes
Clippings, ephemera, pictures, and plates for pictures, all relating to
Olive Percival and her Collection; 1 document box
Correspondence with Home Insurance Company, 1908-1929; 9 items
Correspondence with Jane (Mrs. George V.) Wright, 1945-1946; ca.
Correspondence (various), 1891-1945; ca. 100 items
Diaries (personal), transcripts; 5 document boxes
The Down-hyl Claim, The Gueste Booke of Mistresse Olive
Percival, Spinster, Who abides near the faire cittie of Los
Angeles & in the goodlie Province of California (the last
signature is dated 1936)
Mistresse Olive Percival, Spinster, Her Guest Booke, The Down-
hyl Claim, Los Angeles (from 1910; the last entries are dated
Letters to Florence Moore (Mrs. Samuel) Kreider, 1945-1946, about
Olive Percival; ca. 30 items
Manuscripts (most are typescripts or carbon copies; undated, except
for those which give indications that they were copied or were to
be delivered as lectures):
A Word about Japanese Ceramics [read by Mrs. Stilson, Ruskin
Art Club, 1909?]
Anthology of Modern Verse [poems]
Children's Books of 1905 [The Friday Morning Club, 24 Novem-
The Christmas Card Drawings of George Wolfe Plank [pub-
lished in Vie House Beautiful]
OLIVE PERCIVAL 57
Christopher Columbus and His Four Voyages. To be read May
Concerning Music Plates
The Down-hyl Claim
In Pursuit of the Antique in Modern New England [read before
the Friday Morning Club of Los Angeles, March 18, 1904]
Japanese Poems: Fireflies, Dragon FHes [manuscript in Japanese
style notebook; copied by Olive Percival, 1911]
Japanese Poems: Love [manuscripts copied in 1911]
My Hats and Bonnets of the Yester Years [typed list]
Old Fashioned Flower Gardens
Our Old-fashioned Flowers
Some Japanese Poems [copied for Florence Moore, 1912]
To Remember [poem]
Where Are the Bonnets of Yester Year [notes apparently collec-
ted from an article of this title]
William Vaughn Moody
Memorandum Book of Purchases (1905-1933) zmd Engagement Book
Miscellaneous, 1920-1947; ca. 40 items
Paper cut-outs, cards, bits of paper and cloth, pressed leaves and
Catalog of Paul J. Howard's California Flowerland with illustra-
tion in color of the Olive Percival Rose [added to the
collection in 1948]
Stationery box, clippings
Notes written to Mrs. Wright by Olive Percival
Boxes: candy box
Negatives of photographs taken by Olive Percival; ca. 2,000 items
Some are glass negatives
58 OLIVE PERCIVAL
Cards and scraps of paper with notations, sometimes with ad-
dresses, impressions of people: Ernest A. Batchelder, Carrie
Jacobs Bond, Sheldon Cheney, May Curran, Mary E. Foy,
Charles F. Lummis, Amanda Mathews, Wilbur Macey Stone,
Idah Meacham Strobridge
Names and addresses torn from envelopes
Notes for cooking, childhood memories, Christmas cards (one is
Down-hyl Claim, 1923)
Place card, signed "With my love, Swami Prabhavananda" from
dinner March 1939, 1946 Ivar St., Hollywood
Pictures, framed and unframed, 1845-1925 and no date; ca. 115 items
Wilbur Macey Stone (1938), Olive Percival in her garden (1915),
Mrs. Percival (1891, 1925), cats, flowers, garden, tea kettles,
furnishings and interiors
Scrapbooks, 1937 and no date; 6 items
Clippings about her writings and clippings of poems
Wood Chest and 46 cuts
Cuts are for bookplates, Christmas cards, etc. (some for Olive
Zinc blocks based on Olive Percival's designs and pictures; 1 docu-
OLIVE PERCIVAL HOLDINGS
AT THE DENISON LIBRARY, SCRIPPS COLLEGE
Judy Harvey Sahak
Bequeathed to Scripps Q)llege were Olive Percival's collec-
tions of cards, dolls and doll furniture, miniatures, paper toys,
photographs, and valentines. She states: "I believe all these
will serve as valuable Americana to The Students within the
next two or three generations,"
The collections are uncataloged except for three books
written by Olive Percival. A detailed list of the collections was
prepared by student assistant Kira Koplos in 1991 following an
inventory. Student assistants prepare an exhibit of the Percival
Collection every four years at Holiday time to give students a
glimpse of everyday life in the early twentieth century.
Advertisements. Four almanacs (1884-1892); 101 advertisements,
mostly for paper, books, clothes, hats. (Many from the Japan
Articles. Nine miscellaneous articles on valentines; fourteen articles
and books on dolls
Books by Olive Percival: Leaf-Shadows and Rose-Drift, Cambridge:
Riverside Press, 191\\ Mexico City: An Idler's Note-Book, Chicago:
Herbert Stone, 1901; Our Old-fashioned Flowers , Pasadena: Ward
Ritchie, 1947; Yellowing Ivy, Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie, 1946
Boxes. Six large wooden hat boxes; eleven miniature hat boxes which
hold many doll clothes; eighty cardboard boxes. (All of the boxes
were hand decorated by Olive Percival with applied bits of paper,
doilies, ribbons, etc.)
Cards. 135 Christmas cards; one album with greeting cards (mostly
Christmas and New Year's); 34 miscellaneous cards. (Includes
bookmarks, miscellaneous picture cards, many from the early
60 OLIVE PERCIVAL
Correspondence. 41 letters from children to Olive Percival; six letters
from doll expert Wilbur Macey Stone; nine letters from Frank
Baer, expert on valentines. (Miss Percival wrote brief description
Doll Clothes. Includes dresses, coats, skirts, purses, mittens, socks,
sweaters, pants, shoes, and shirts. Most of the doll clothes appear
to have been handsewn with particular dolls in mind
Dolls. 18 ceramic dolls (l"-5"); seven porcelain busts (2"-6"); 13 dolls
with porcelain heads and cloth and leather bodies; one wooden
doll (8"); two wooden and leather dolls (8" and 10"); one corncob
doll (7"); four dolls with papier-mache heads and cloth bodies
(14"- 18"). (Many of the dolls have names ["Tommy Tlicker,"
"Pinky," "Evelina"]; most are dressed and have tags specifying
where they were acquired and their history)
Hats. 211 (less than 2" in diameter); 68 (more than 2" in diameter).
Handwritten diary by Olive Percival, detailing hat styles and their
use from 1840 to 1916. (The hats were all handmade by Miss
Percival of straw, fabric, beads, lace, ribbons, plumes - all styles
of hats from many cultures and time periods)
Paper Dolls. 361 (T'-IO"). Includes 170 accessories ranging from chairs
and clothing to animals. Doll dresses are two-sided with petticoats
underneath. Represented are not only ladies, but boys, girls, and
types (e.g.. Club Presidents and Fat Ladies)
Photographs. 73 (of 76) daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintyjies; one
leatherbound notebook with notes on the collection. Fifty photographs,
presumably taken by Olive Percival. Nine framed photographs of
Miss Percival and her garden of hats and dolls
Postcards. 100 from all over the world. (Mostly black and white, some
Tea Sets. Eleven tea sets, with cups ranging from 1/2" to 2" in diameter
Toys and Miniatures. Nearly 200 pieces in wood, metal, glass. Includes
musical instruments, animals, human figures, complete town
scenes, farmyards, and doll furniture (tables, stoves, chairs, tools,
Valentines. 175 valentines from 1820-1930 (22 of the oldest are
framed); 13 valentines handmade by Olive Percival and mailed
from one doll to another (r'-3")
1. Spring Street and the People's Store, which hired Olive Percival as
a salesclerk in 1887. (Courtesy of Huntington Library.)
'''"'\ ^v'*'"^ ^-^ < ,,4,
Vi-Ll>|^ i>- S-*.—^^'
\',^>^*tu^ vj;X>-v, 4-'-^ & .-iT^vv , ^ GL^
2. Even her handwriting revealed Olive Percival's decorative sense,
as shown by this manuscript page from her diary. (Courtesy of
i- t\'vj^ , e^'Ky - ^>-^^^^,^^
3. Olive Percival drew this amusing sketch on a camping trip in 1893.
She and her friends took the new wagon road into San Antonio
Canyon, below Mount Baldy. (Courtesy of Huntington Library.)
•^-^^^^^ .^ir ^m»nifp^. m.
4. A photograph taken by Olive Percival shows her Arroyo Seco
cottage, the Down-hyl Claim, around 1900. (Courtesy of Huntington
5. During a brief visit to Mexico in 1899 Olive Percival took hundreds
of photographs. Some were used to illustrate a novel written by her
friend Jane Torrey Connor. (Courtesy of Huntington Library.)
6. "Is there anywhere a more uniquely picturesque 'street' of sea-side
cottages than the Breakwater?" OHve Percival asked when she took
this San Pedro photograph in 1906. (Courtesy of Huntington Library.)
7. Olive Pcrcival took this photograph in the Old Chinatown section
of Los Angeles in 1902. (Courtesy of Huntington Library.)
3» - 1
8. One of the water-color sketches with which Ohve Percival illustra-
ted her guest books. (UCLA Special Collections.)
J llClr^ ^^ ^tcy '£^-^^ — . c^L
2 ^^ /?/. c/^'7?777^^.Y*
9. Idah Meacham Strobridgc, of the Artemisia Bindery, signed Olive
Percival's guest book with this whimsical sketch. (UCLA Special
10. George Wolfe Plank designed this bookplate for Olive Percival's
garden books. He also designed a music marker for her. Plank
illustrated several books, including one by Vita Sackville-West, and
he drew covers for Vogue and Vanity Fair. (UCLA Special Collections.)
11. In 1912 Olive Percival found a pleasant new diversion: making
paper dolls. (Courtesy of Denison Library, Scripps College.)
A ^B^Px^ TEAT
12. Olive Percival sketched seven garden plans for her "Children's
Garden Book," a manuscript that she never published. Her Kate
Grecnaway garden plan featured a grassy area, old-fashioned flowers
along the garden walk, and bright color accents in the gates and
garden furniture: old gold, canary yellow, peacock blue, Chinese red,
and various shades of green. (Courtesy of Huntington Library.)
/• • • •
• • • •^'
13. One of the handmade valentines that Olive Percival delighted in
sending to her friends. (Courtesy of Mildred Bryant Brooks.)
14. Olive Percival and her mother photographed by Charles Francis
Saunders in his Pasadena garden in 1927. (Courtesy of Huntington
This hook was prepared with Xerox Ventura Publisher 2.0
and published by UCLA Publication Services