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Fényes-Curtin-Paloheimo Collection

Identifier: nmsfamh0011

Scope and Content

The Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Collection is divided into eight series. They are grouped according to the individual who collected the papers with a few exceptions. The women were personally engaged in the preservation of indigenous languages, the ethno-botany of plants used by the Native American and Spanish New Mexican cultures, and the architectural and cultural heritage of the Spanish Colonial Southwest--- each utilizing her individual talents. The papers provide an overview of their lives in New Mexico, California and their travels around the world and interaction with figures such as photographer Ansel Adams, writer Mary Austin, Mabel Dodge Luhan, archaeologist Adolph Bandelier, historian Charles Lummis, Carl Oscar Borg, Museum of Modern Art Director, Rene D’Harnoncourt, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Smithsonian linguist John P. Harrington, and nearly one hundred others. Over eighteen hundred correspondents have been identified.

Personal Activities include Writings, Personal Documents, Travel, and Personal Correspondence. There is extensive correspondence between the women who wrote to each other every day when apart. The correspondence is particularly interesting as in many cases, both sides of a conversation exist. It is sorted alphabetically by correspondent.

Financial includes banking statements and registers, insurance, income taxes, investment information, property and estates. The women usually kept every receipt. Receipts are found throughout. These papers demonstrate the women’s control and direction of their finances.

Legal includes wills, estates and litigation.

Professional includes areas of expertise, and writings and associations with museums and institutions.

Series 1. Eva Scott Fényes Papers Separated by Eva. Contains: Genealogy, Personal Correspondence, Legal, Financial records and Diaries but not divided into same distinct subseries as other series. Contains a series of letters from Dr. Fényes describing his training in the use of X-ray technology.

Series 2. Leonora Scott Muse Curtin Papers Subseries include Personal Activities, Financial, Professional and Legal. Professional notes include botanical material and research used in writing Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande. Also associations with Museums and Institutions such as the Santa Fe Garden Club and the Kenmore Association.

Series 3. Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo Papers Subseries include Personal Activities, Correspondence, and Financial. Professional includes material on The Native Market, Vocational training and work with John P. Harrington, Smithsonian linguist, Navajo notes and Arabic notes.

Series 4. Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo and Yrjö A. Paloheimo Papers Subseries include Personal Activities, Financial, Legal, Professional which contains material on the founding of the living history museum, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, and the Pasadena Museum of History.

Series 5. Yrjö A. Paloheimo Papers Subseries include Personal Activities, Financial which includes Finnish business and family interests, Legal, Professional including museums and institutions with Finnish-American interests such as Finlandia Foundation and Finlandia University.

Series 6. Family Papers Subseries include Personal Activities which includes dog papers, building of 614 Acequia Madre [Acequia Madre House], personal and professional involvement with Museums and Institutions that continued through generations such as the School of American Research and the Southwest Museum. Clippings from newspapers are identified by the family member who collected them when indicated, but often impossible to discern. Magazines and articles were difficult to separate by individual family member.

Series 7. Oversize From various subseries. Oversize items include documents, family portraits, houses, newspaper clippings, photographs and travel.

Series 8. Photographs, Scrapbooks and Albums These are identified by the person in whose personal papers the photos were found, or who created the albums or scrapbooks when possible, and sorted according to subject and date. Often times, both of the Leonoras worked on the same album. There are thousands of photographs, negatives and transparencies documenting their lives, travels around the world, early New Mexico, Native American pueblos and ceremonies, their friends and colleagues, and family. Numerous scrapbooks are filled with notes, Christmas cards from artists and well known personalities, clippings, photographs and other material documenting their interests and events in their lives.


  • 1847-2005

Language of Materials

English Spanish German French Navajo Finnish Arabic

Access Restrictions

All access is by appointment only. Some material may be restricted for reasons of privacy, cultural sensitivity or condition. As the processing is ongoing, additional evaluation of the content and condition of the papers is necessary. Researchers should inform the archival staff of their areas of interest when arranging an appointment to confirm availability.

Copy Restrictions

Use of the materials is governed by all applicable copyright law. Acequia Madre House reserves the right to restrict any materials from reproduction at any time. Property rights reside with Acequia Madre House. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. The Archives physical ownership of the materials in its collection does not imply ownership of copyright. It is the user's responsibility to resolve any copyright issues related to the use and distribution of reproduced materials. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact Acequia Madre House.

Biography / History

Eva Scott Muse Fényes (1849-1930) was the child of publisher Leonard Scott and Rebecca Briggs. The family prosperity was largely the result of real estate investment. Born in New York City, she travelled to the Caribbean, Europe and the Near East with her parents. Educated largely by tutors at home, she spoke several languages and was instructed by her father in the intricacies of financial management. Her artistic talents were nurtured by instruction from prominent artists such as Stanford Gifford and James Smillie. She painted her surroundings as a chronical of her life. Three thousand of these painting are now at the Pasadena Museum of History. She married U.S Marine Corps Lieutenant William S. Muse in 1878 with whom she had a child, Leonora born in 1879. In 1889 she ventured to Santa Fe, New Mexico with her daughter and divorced her husband while there. Several lifelong friendships, as with archaeologist Adolph Bandelier were formed during this time. The exposure to Native American cultures rekindled an interest formed years before in Florida where she had supported artistic work by American Indian prisoners. She continued her studies of art in Europe and North Africa, where she met her second husband, Dr. Adalbert Fényes. The family moved to Pasadena, California where astute investment in property and her own watchful management allowed her the resources to create a luxurious lifestyle with a circle of artists and intellectuals around her. With the encouragement of notable preservationist, Charles Lummis, she began to document fragile adobe structures in California through her photographs and paintings traversing the state by stagecoach, wagon, automobile or even mule or horseback, while continuing to manage extensive business holdings. She supported Lummis in his efforts to preserve these structures and in his founding of the Southwest Museum. Returning frequently to New Mexico, she painted with the Santa Fe and Taos artists who flocked to the area in the early part of the 20th century. Along with her daughter Leonora S.M. Curtin and her granddaughter, Leonora F. Curtin [later Paloheimo] she joined with Mary Austin and Frank Applegate to found the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, and supported American Indian artisans and causes. She died in 1930 just four years after collaborating with her daughter and granddaughter to design and build a substantial house for family use on the Acequia Madre, the main irrigation ditch that remains a water source for the neighborhood.

Leonora Scott Muse Curtin (1879-1972) was born at White Plains, New York to Eva Scott Muse and Lt. William Sullivane Muse. At the time, her parents lived on the East Coast where her father was stationed as an officer in the US Marine Corps. Leonora first came to Santa Fe with her mother as a small child in 1889. Mother and daughter spent almost two years in the New Mexico Territory, during which time Eva divorced her husband. Leonora did not see her father again.

Educated primarily by governesses during her childhood, she spoke several foreign languages and had a lifelong interest in the art, archaeology, and the cultures of Spanish and Native American New Mexico.

In her teens, while her mother studied art in Europe and Egypt, Leonora attended boarding schools in England, and Switzerland. In 1896, Eva married Dr. Adalbert Fényes, a physician and amateur entomologist. The family settled in Pasadena, where their home was frequented by important artists and cultural figures. She met her husband, Thomas E. Curtin, in Santa Fe where he was a lawyer in the District Attorney’s office. After their marriage, they lived in Colorado Springs where he worked with emerging railroads and development of the area. In late 1903, their daughter Leonora Frances was born.

Tom Curtin died in 1911 after a lengthy illness. Mrs. Curtin never remarried. The Curtins went to live in Pasadena with her mother, Eva Fényes but they soon began to spend part of each year in Santa Fe. They traveled around the world, and were sometimes joined by Eva, as well as Dr. Fényes. The Curtins spent almost a year in India in 1920-21 during one of two trips to Asia.

Leonora was named by Dr. Edgar L. Hewett as a member of the Board of Regents and the Women’s Board of the Museum of New Mexico. Later she served on the Executive Board of the School of American Research, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles, California. She was a trustee for the Kenmore Association and founded the Santa Fe Garden Club.

Mrs. Curtin collected information about the varieties and uses of local herbs and plants by both the Native American and Spanish American cultures interviewing local friends, curanderas, and native healers. She studied the origins in the Arabic history of Spain and of many Spanish herbal uses. These years of research resulted in two books, Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande, for which Mary Austin wrote the introduction and By The Prophet of the Earth which documents plant uses by the Pima Indians of Arizona.

In 1926 the women worked together to design and build a home located on an alfalfa field next to the Acequia Madre, the “mother” irrigation ditch. The women rejected designs from prominent architects, choosing to have their own plans realized. Today, that house is the home of the Women’s International Study Center.

In 1932, Mrs. Curtin and her daughter purchased the property in La Cienega that is now the living history museum, El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Part of the property was leased to a dairy from 1934 to 1947. Mrs. Curtin and her daughter Leonora used the other portion as a country retreat, enjoying the scenic beauty of the region.

Mrs. Curtin died in Santa Fe in 1972.

Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo (1903-1999) was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, December 7, 1903. She was the child of Thomas E. and Leonora Scott Muse Curtin and the grandchild of Eva Scott Fényes. When her father died in 1911, she moved to Pasadena with her mother to her grandmother’s home. She was schooled primarily by governesses and spent much of her childhood in the company of adults. Leonora traveled around the world with her mother and visited Japan, China, Ceylon, India, Penang, London, and Paris. She became a founding member of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society with family friend, Mary Austin. Artistic, she studied with Gerald Cassidy, but she was most active with the literary group in Santa Fe during the 1920s.

Leonora worked with J.P. Harrington of the Smithsonian Institution, on Navajo and Zuni reservations recording and analyzing Native American languages. Together they attempted to include Native American textbooks in classrooms. She conducted language research with Mrs. Curtin in Morocco for J.P. Harrington. She explored the relationship of the Spanish and Arabic languages at the Smithsonian Institution for him also.

During the Depression, Leonora worked with Brice Sewell to formulate craft training in the NM state vocation system. Leonora succeeded in convincing WPA officials in Washington to include craft training in its vocational arts programs making New Mexico the first state to do so. In 1932, Leonora opened the cooperative, The Native Market as a place for Spanish Colonial artisans to demonstrate and sell their work made in vocational arts programs.

In 1946, Leonora married Yrjö A. Paloheimo of Finland. His family had been involved in Finland’s struggle for independence from Russia, along with Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, to whom he was related. He had been Commissioner of the Finnish Pavillion and Dean of the diplomatic corps at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. They settled at the Fényes home in Pasadena which became the Finnish Consulate for Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico. They adopted four Finnish children, Nina, Eric, George and Eva, and traveled between homes in California, New Mexico and Finland.

The Pasadena property became home to Pasadena Historical Society in 1970. The family moved to Carpenteria, California. The Paloheimos restored structures at El Rancho de las Golondrinas for their own use and then to recreate Spanish Colonial history. They began to plan a living history museum. In 1972, El Rancho de las Golondrinas Living History Museum opened to the public. After Mrs. Curtin’s death in 1972, the Paloheimos lived at 614 Acequia Madre when in Santa Fe.

In 1986, YA Paloheimo died of cancer in Santa Fe. Sibelius Academy, the Finnish National School of Music, established a campus at the Paloheimo family estate, Kallio Kuninkala, in Finland. Their son George became director of El Rancho de las Golondrinas Living History Museum.

Leonora died in Santa Fe, November 27, 1999.


757 Linear Feet


This collection documents the lives of three generations of one family, grandmother, Eva Scott Muse Fényes, mother, Leonora S.M. Curtin, and daughter, Leonora Curtin Paloheimo. The personal papers of the women contain extensive correspondence, diaries, thousands of photographs, business and financial documents, travel records, scrapbooks, clippings, and ephemera.


The records are arranged in eight series, six of which have been further arranged in subseries. The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:
  1. Series 1. Eva Scott Fényes Papers, 1847-1959
  2. Series 2. Leonora Scott Muse Curtin Papers, 1883-2000
  3. Subseries 1. Financial, 1900-1990
  4. Subseries 2. Personal Activities, 1883-2000
  5. Subseries 3. Professional, 1890-1992
  6. Series 3. Leonora Scott Muse Curtin Papers, 1904-1999
  7. Subseries 1. Financial, 1961-1993
  8. Subseries 2. Personal Activities, 1904-1999
  9. Subseries 3. Professional, 1930-1995
  10. Series 4. Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo/ Yrjö A. Paloheimo Papers, 1927-1998
  11. Subseries 1. Financial, 1930-1996
  12. Subseries 2. Legal, 1940-1980
  13. Subseries 3. Personal Activities, 1927-1998
  14. Subseries 4. Professional, 1930-1997
  15. Series 5. Yrjö A. Paloheimo Papers, 1940-2005
  16. Subseries 1. Financial, 1940-1986
  17. Subseries 2. Personal Activities, 1950-1985
  18. Subseries 3. Professional, 1940-2005
  19. Series 6. Family Papers, 1879-1999
  20. Subseries 1. Employees, 1926-1998
  21. Subseries 2. Personal Activities, 1879-1999
  22. Series 7. Oversize
  23. Series 8. Photographs, 1853-2000
  24. Subseries 1. Eva Scott Fényes, 1853-1930
  25. Subseries 2. Leonora Scott Muse Curtin, 1898-1980
  26. Subseries 3. Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo, 1920-1990
  27. Subseries 4. Yrjö A. Paloheimo, Undated
  28. Subseries 5. Family, 2000

Related Archival Material

Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers The Pasadena Museum of History, Pasadena, California "Capturing California’s Romantic Past: the Watercolor Works of Eva Scott Fenyes," online exhibit Autry National Center of the American West, Los Angeles, California The J.P. Harrington Database Project Department of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis

Separated Material

Water damaged materials have been separated for special attention and evaluation to be performed in the future.


Books that relate to this material or have used material from the archive.
  • By The Prophet of the Earth: Ethno-botany of the Pima. Leonora S.M. Curtin.Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. A Complete Online Version of the Original Printed Book.
  • El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Carmella Padilla, Photography by Jack Parsons, Foreword by Marc Simmons. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009
  • Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande. Leonora S.M. Curtin. Santa Fe: Laboratory of Anthropology, 1947. Revised edition by Michael Moore 1997
  • Home Lands: How Women Made The West. Virginia Scharff, Carolyn Brucken. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2010
  • Houses of Los Angeles, 1885-1919 Volume I . Sam Watters. New York: Acanthus Press, 2007
  • Indians of the Rio Grande Valley. Adolph Bandelier and Edgar Hewitt, Illustrations by Eva Scott Fényes.Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico, 1937
  • Imprisoned Art, Complex Patronage, Plains Drawings By Howling Wolf and Zotom at the Autry National Center. Joyce M Szabo. Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research Press, 2011
  • The Native Market of the Spanish New Mexican Craftsman: Santa Fe 1933-1940. Sara Nestor. Santa Fe: Colonial New Mexico Historical Foundation, 1979
  • New Mexican Furniture 1600-1940: The Origins, Survival and Revival of Furniture Making in the Hispanic Southwest. Lonn Taylor and Dessa Bokides. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1987
  • New Mexican Tinwork, 1840-1940. Lane Coulter and Maurice Dixon, Jr. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990
  • New Mexico Colcha Club: Spanish Colonial Embroidery & The Women Who Saved It. Nancy C. Benson. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2008
  • The Santa Fe House: Historic Residences, Enchanting Adobes and Romantic Revivals. Margaret Moore Booker. New York: Rizzoli, 2009
  • Spanish New Mexico: The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection. Edited by Donna Pierce and Marta Weigle. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1996

Processing Information

The papers found in the desks, drawers, shelves and closets used by family members at their home in Santa Fe, were removed and placed into boxes after the death of Leonora Paloheimo. During processing, they were first removed from one box at a time, separated to reflect the collector (series)—not necessarily the author of the material. Then subsequently separated by type of the material or information [represented as sub-series]. Some have been further described. The papers were kept together to preserve indications of original order whenever possible.
Guide to the Fényes-Curtin-Paloheimo Collection, 1847-2005
Edited Full Draft
© 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the Acequia Madre House Repository

Acequia Madre House
614 Acequia Madre
Santa Fe NM 87505 USA
(505) 983-6538