Lewis Richards Papers

Summary Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections
Creator -
Farwell, Arthur, 1872-1952
Creator -
Farwell, Gertrude
Creator - Correspondent
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
Richards family, (Lewis Richards, 1881-1940)
Creator -
Richards, Berthe Smedt
Creator -
Richards, Lewis
Smedt family, (Lewis Richards, 1881-1940)
Lewis Richards papers
Date [inclusive]
2.0 Cubic feet

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: "Item title, Collection title, Collection Identifier, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan."

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Biographical Note

Lewis Richards was born April 11, 1881, the son of Reverend Jonathan and Huldah Richards, in St. Johns, Michigan. After attending school in Ann Arbor, he studied music at the University of Michigan Conservatory and then continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. Richards graduated with distinction in piano from the Royal Conservatory, the first American to do so.

Richards married Berthe Smedt, a native of Belgium, on July 11, 1908, and they had two children, Elsa Loomis and Roger Lewis. Also in 1908, Richards began his professional music career, touring Europe and America. In America Richards played at the White House, Steinway Hall, Carnegie Hall, Aeolian, and many others.

Richards took a hiatus from touring during World War I to become General Secretary (later Director) of the London Office of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, under Herbert Hoover's Food Administration. Richards was awarded the Médaille la Reconnaissance Française in 1919 for his efforts.

After living abroad, Lewis Richards and his family returned to Michigan. In 1927 he became head of the Music Department at Michigan State College (now Michigan State University). He was not only instrumental in expanding the music program, but also in the planning of the modern music building on the Michigan State College campus built in 1939.

Richards was a member of several professional organizations: the Capet String Quartet, Société des Instruments Anciens of Paris, Beethoven Association of New York, Alpha Epsilon Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, Association of American University Professors, and Kappa Sigma. He also received an honorary M.A. from Wesleyan College.

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Scope and Contents note

The Lewis Richards collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, musical programs, legal documents, and other items primarily involving the musical career of Lewis Richards.

The correspondence is arranged chronologically. Most notable among the correspondence is Queen Mary's secretary stating payment for the Queen's purchase of two cushions at an exhibition of Belgian Lace supporting the Belgium Relief Commission. Also included is correspondence from President Herbert Hoover thanking Lewis for a performance at the White House, and a second letter extending sympathy to Mrs. Richards at the death of her husband in 1940. Correspondence from Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) Presidents Shaw and Hannah is also included in the collection. The bulk of the correspondence deals with family matters.

Also in the collection are many newspaper clippings announcing Richards' recitals throughout the United States, and a collection of obituary notices after his death in 1940.

The four scrapbooks in the collection provide a detailed account of Richards' activities on tour and at Michigan State College. The first scrapbook contains newspaper clippings announcing his performances and critiques of his playing ability in the United States and in Europe. The second scrapbook contains clippings from local newspapers about campus life during Richards' years at the college. The third scrapbook contains newspaper clippings about his recitals. The fourth scrapbook, given to Richards by the Department of Publications at Michigan State College, contains newspaper clippings pertaining to the new MSC music building and dedication festivities.

Several programs from Richards’ recitals are also included within the collection, from Carnegie Hall to the MSC Concert Course at the People's Church in East Lansing. Also in the collection is an issue of the Bulletin containing an announcement of artists for the 1929 season at Steinway Hall, listing Lewis Richards as harpsichordist. MSC publications within the collection include the 1931 MSC Music Department catalog with short biographies of music faculty.

The collection also contains legal documents involving royalties for a musical composition and the monetary valuation of the estate of Lewis and Berthe Richards.

The Arthur and Gertrude Farwell papers in the collection contain a nativity ceremonial by Gertrude and a music composition by Arthur, head of theoretical subjects at the MSC music department.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections

Conrad Hall
888 Wilson Road, Room 101
East Lansing , MI, 48824

Revision Description

  May 2016

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Legal Status note

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Commission for Relief in Belgium.


  • Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Photographs
  • Press releases
  • Publications
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings

Geographic Name(s)

  • Belgium

Personal Name(s)

  • Richards, Elsa Loomis
  • Richards, Roger
  • Walker, Robert


  • Harpsichord
  • International relief
  • Music -- Instruction and study
  • Music -- Performance
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Belgium
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Civilian relief

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Correspondence undated 

1168 1

Correspondence 1880-1910 

1168 2

Correspondence 1912-1917 

1168 3

Correspondence 1923-1926 

1168 4

Correspondence 1927-1930 

1168 5

Correspondence 1939-1965 

1168 6


1168 28

Family History 1915 

1168 7

Legal Documents 1923-1926 

1168 8

Newspaper Clippings. Recitals 1908-1930 

1168 9

Programs 1908-1944 

1168 10-1

Press Releases Undated 

1168 12

Dedications of Music Building 1939 

1168 13

Newspaper Clippings. Obituary 1940 

1168 14

Bulletin. Publication 1929 

1168 15

Michigan State College. Publications 1931-1945 

1168 16

Farwell, Arthur and Gertrude papers 1937-1946 

1168 17

Miscellaneous 1910-1946 

1168 18

Scrapbook. Department of Publications Undated 

1168 19

Passports 1920-1921, 1931 

1168 20

Population register, and legal documents 1855, 1857, 1877 

1168 20A

Marriage Certificates, and population register from Forest, Brabant Province, Belgium 1908 

1168 21

Medaille la Reconnaissance Francaise medal and relief pin 1919 

1168 22

Scrapbook. Recitals 1909-1926 

1168 23

Musical Compositions Undated 

1168 24-26

Conducting Baton Undated 

1168 27

Miscellaneous musical compositions 


Audio recordings 


Scrapbook. Performances 


Scrapbook. Campus life 


Piano roll 




Animals. Dogs. 

Collection Photographs


Collection Photographs


Collection Photographs


Collection Photographs

Homes. Interiors. 

Collection Photographs

People. Gabrilowitsch, Ossip. 

Collection Photographs

People. Groups 

Collection Photographs

People. Richards Family. 

Collection Photographs

People. Richards Family. 


People. Richards, Berthe Smedt. 

Collection Photographs

People. Schuster, Alexander. 

Collection Photographs

Oversized Photographs 


People. Richards, Lewis. (2 folders)