Foster Brothers (Firm : Boston, Mass.)

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Established by Stephen Bartlett Foster (1856-1932) and John Roy Foster (1863-1931), Foster Brothers opened in 1893 at 164 Boylston Street, Boston. By 1896, Foster Brothers had moved to 3 Park Square, just around the corner from its first location. Eventually, the business relocated to 4 Park Square, where it stayed for the remainder of its existence. The original Foster Brothers factory was housed in the old Parkman’s Market building on Cambridge Street in Boston. In 1918, the Fosters built a new factory in Arlington, the suburb in which the brothers lived.

Foster Brothers was known for high quality frames that featured expert carving and gilding by fine craftsmen, consistent with the esthetic and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement of the time. Their frames that incorporated elements of early Dutch frames especially appealed to Boston School artists such as Edmund Tarbell and William MacGregor Paxton. Custom orders were welcomed from museums, galleries, collectors, and artists. In the 1890s, Foster Brothers operated a small gallery that featured watercolors and sketches by local artists; sporadic exhibitions continued throughout the 1930s. Early business cards and advertisements indicate that the company sold "wedding presents, etchings, engravings, water colors and picture frames." Among its best selling merchandise were mirrors in a wide variety of styles. As early as 1898, Foster Brothers began to copyright and publish reproductions of paintings, drawings, silhouettes, and miniatures. These were framed in sets and sold by Foster Brothers in its retail shop and by mail order; in addition, they were distributed through department stores, furniture stores, gift shops, and interior decorators.

John Roy Foster was in charge of promotion and merchandising, designing the retail line, and managing the company’s wholesale and mail order businesses. Stephen Bartlett Foster managed the factory and oversaw all aspects of the manufacturing. Helen J. Foster, John’s daughter, studied art at Smith College and by the late 1920s was a successful manager and saleswoman in the retail store. The Depression brought a sharp decline in sales. After the deaths of John and Stephen Foster, Helen and her husband, Shattuck Osborne, owned and managed Foster Brothers for another decade. Although the business closed in 1942, Foster Brothers frames continue to command high prices and are highly prized and sought after today.

From the guide to the Foster Brothers records, 1875-1973 (bulk 1893-1942), (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Established by Stephen Bartlett Foster (1856-1932) and John Roy Foster (1863-1931), Foster Brothers opened in 1893 at 164 Boylston Street, Boston. Makers of picture frames, mirrors, etc. Also sold prints and reproductions.

From the description of Foster Brothers records, 1875-1973, bulk, 1893-1942. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220243808

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Foster Brothers records, 1875-1973 (bulk 1893-1942) Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Pond, Bremer Whidden, 1884-. Drawings of trees, 1915-1928. Cornell University Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Foster, John R. person
associatedWith Foster, John Roy, 1863-1931. person
associatedWith Foster, Stephen Bartlett person
associatedWith Foster, Stephen Bartlett, 1856-1932. person
associatedWith Osborne, Helen Foster person
associatedWith Osborne, Helen Foster. person
associatedWith Osborne, S. W. person
associatedWith Osborne, S. W. person
associatedWith Pond, Bremer Whidden, 1884- person
associatedWith Richter, C. F. person
associatedWith Richter, C. F. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Massachusetts--Boston
Subject
Art--Economic aspects
Picture frame industry
Picture frame industry--Massachusetts--Boston
Picture frames and framing
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1915

Active 1928

Active 1875

Active 1973

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