59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the Sydna White Research Papers, circa 1981-1992, undated

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard Museum, Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU 427
Creator White, Sydna, 1907-1998
TitleSydna White research papers
Datecirca 1981-1992, undated
Extent1/2 box
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractThe collection contains research papers related to the Tisbury Museum created by the museum's founder, Vineyard Haven artist, musician and patron of the arts Sydna White.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to the library's staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 427, Sydna White Research Papers.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Sydna White in 1992 and 1993. (Accession no. 1992.097; 1992.117; 1993.026)

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Insley Julier December 2012. Machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick April 2014.

 Processing of this collection and creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury through the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act. Machine-encoding of the finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Related Materials

Related Materials

See also, oral history interview with Sydna White, conducted by Linsey Lee, 1994.

Index Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • Andrew G. Pierce, Jr. (Schooner)
  • Jirah Luce House (Tisbury, Mass.)


  • Clippings
  • Color negatives
  • Color photographs
  • Correspondence
  • Research notes

Geographic Name(s)

  • Tisbury (Mass. : Town)
  • Vineyard Haven (Mass.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Smith, Jesse, 1877-1952


  • Historic buildings--Massachusetts--Tisbury
  • Historic buildings--Massachusetts--Vineyard Haven
  • Ships

Biography/Historical Note

Sydna White was the eldest of four children including, Isabel, Gordon and Robert, born to Wilfred O. White and Ruth Eldridge White. She was the granddaughter of chart maker George W. Eldridge and in her later years she worked on the family publication, The Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book. White's father invented a spherical compass, which he manufactured in Boston along with other nautical instruments and the family lived outside the city in West Newton and Waban, Massachusetts.

Originally a summer resident of Tashmoo, White eventually made the island her home in the late 1950s. She was a musician, painter and patron of the arts, organizing with Dick Robinson the Music in the Garden, concert series behind her house at the Fourway, from 1969-1979 and founding the All Island Art Show in 1958. The art show, which continues to this day, was held first in the yard of her Vineyard Haven home and later at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. White also served as organist for the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury for over a decade.

White was an active member of the island community and is attributed with saving the historic Jirah Luce House in Vineyard Haven from demolition. White turned the Luce house into the Tisbury Museum in 1981. The museum functioned from 1981 to 1988, when it merged with the Duke County Historical Society. In 1984 Sydna White received a Creative Living Award from the Permanent Endowment for Martha's Vineyard. She died at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital at the age of 90 in 1998.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection includes research notes, photocopies of clippings and photocopies of primary source documents gathered by Sydna White in the course of her research for the Tisbury Museum. Papers in the collection relate to the Tisbury captain Jesse Smith, 1877-1952, his brother, pilot Louis E. Smith, the schooner, Palestine, the schooner, Andrew G. Pierce, Jr., captain William M. Randall, Louise H. Randall, captain Henry Stevenson and the bum-boats Susie D. and Eben A. Thacher, which provisioned other vessels in the Vineyard Haven harbor and were later converted to cargo carriers. It seems likely that many of these materials were gathered after a painting of the Andrew G. Pierce, Jr. by Antonio Jacobsen, 1850-1921, was donated to the Tisbury Museum in 1981. The vessel was captained by Jesse Smith. Other materials in the collection relate to the Ritter House, later known as the Jirah Luce House, which housed the Tisbury Museum. Luce house materials include a typed history, color negatives and color photographs of the interior of the house, shot by Peter Simon.


The collection is arranged alphabetically.

Collection Contents


Bum-boats Susie D. and Eben Thacher, Captain Randall and Louise Randall, undated 


Jesse Smith, Louis Smith and Antonio Jacobsen, undated 


Jirah Luce House Color Negatives, undated 


Jirah Luce House Color Photographs, undated 


Jirah Luce House Research Notes, undated