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RG3936.AM:  Thomas Berger Johnson, 1890-1968

Papers:  1927-1975

Omaha, Douglas County; Harvard, Clay County; Lincoln, Lancaster County; and Seward, Seward County, Neb.:  Artist

Size:  1.25 cu.ft.; 2 boxes


Thomas B. Johnson was born in 1890 in Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska. He received his schooling in Omaha, and then in Harvard, Clay County, Nebraska, and Stanton, Iowa. Johnson studied at the Department of Fine Arts at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, from 1921-1923, under Dr. Birger Sandzen. From 1923-1924 he was at Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and during 1926-1927, he studied at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. After a special course in welding in the early 1930s, he became associated with the Laboratory Division of the College of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Nebraska. Johnson continued his art work during his tenure with the University, as well as during his retirement, which began in 1955. At this time, he and his wife, Fay, moved to Seward, Nebraska. He died there in 1968.


This collection consists of one box of manuscript material arranged in five series: 1) Correspondence, 1927-1975; 2) Art Work Theme Notes; 3) Essays; 4) Newspaper Clippings; and 5) Miscellany. This collection relates to Thomas B. Johnson’s work as an artist, including research on themes and subjects appearing in his artistic productions.

Series 1 consists of correspondence, 1927-1975, received and written by Thomas B. Johnson and his wife, Fay. Much of the correspondence deals with Johnson’s art exhibitions and donations and loans of work to various institutions. Also included is a series of correspondence with his former teacher, Dr. Birger Sandzen. The Art Work Theme Notes of Series 2 consist of research material gathered by Thomas B. Johnson for use in his art works. Included are notes for his series on Christ, Religion, Indians, and Negro Spirituals.

Series 3 contains essays, some written and some collected by Thomas B. Johnson. Two essays, “Philosophy of Art” and “Renaissance Art,” both written by Johnson, are in this series. The newspaper clippings of Series 4 relate to the Nebraska Arts Council, Art Exhibitions and Styles, and Artists. Biographical information about Johnson, as well as publicity for his art shows, are included in several news clippings. Series 5 contains miscellany, which includes a biography of Thomas B. Johnson, listings of his art works and gifts to the Nebraska State Historical Society, notes on Freemasonry, pamphlets, poems, notes, and results of a school art contest.

An additional box of materials relating to Fay Sherwin Johnson was added in 2010. See the description section for more information.

Note:  See the photo component [RG3936.PH] for related images. See the NSHS Library Catalog and the Nebraska History index for published materials about Thomas Berger Johnson. The Nebraska History Museum has block prints, pencil sketches, oils, charcoal drawings, and painting supplies of Thomas B. Johnson. Not all items are on exhibit. Interested researchers should contact the Museum to schedule an appointment.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1927-1975

Box 1


  1. 1927-1961

  2. 1962-1975 and undated

Series 2 – Art Work Theme Notes

  1. Christ Series

  2. Religious Material

  3. Religious Material for Exodus and Messianic Prophecies

  4. Indian Series

  5. Indian Legends – Includes tape recording of Indian Manuscript read by Thomas B. Johnson

  6. Indian Material

  7. Indian Legend and Lore

  8. Essays and Notes on Indian Culture

  9. Negro Spiritual Series – Includes tape recording of lecture and commentary about drawings

Series 3 – Essays

  1. “Philosophy of Art,” “Renaissance Art,” “Mind,” – all by Thomas B. Johnson

  2. Assorted Writings by Thomas B. Johnson

  3. “Life and Language of the Old Testament,” by Mary Ellen Chase, Smith College

  4. “Vocabulary of the Visual Arts,” from a series of lectures by Thomas M. Messer

Series 4 – Newspaper Clippings

  1. Nebraska Arts Council, Art Exhibitions and Styles, Artists – includes news clippings about Thomas B. Johnson

Series 5 – Miscellany

  1. Biography of Thomas B. Johnson; listings of his works and gifts to the Nebraska State Historical Society

  2. Freemasonry notes

  3. Pamphlets on festivals, art museums, and Concordia Teachers’ College, Seward, Nebraska

  4. Poems, Notes, and Advertisements

  5. School Art Contest Results, 1966

Box 2

Miscellaneous papers relating to Fay Sherwin Johnson including a memory book (Harvard High School, class of 1913), correspondence, newspaper clippings and biographical information.



African Americans — Songs and music


Art and artists — Nebraska

Indians of North America — Culture

Indians of North America — Religion and mythology

Johnson, Thomas Berger, 1890-1968


AIF   12-12-1979

Encoded TMM   05-12-2010