Anna E. Reid Hall

1857, Julian, Nebraska ‒ 1928, Lincoln, Nebraska

(Mrs. F.M. Hall)

One of early Nebraska’s most vital crusaders for the arts, Anna Hall was also an artist herself and an informed art collector. As a long-time resident of Lincoln married to a prominent attorney, she had an extensive list of accomplishments: organizer of the first private art classes west of Omaha; co-founder of the Haydon Art Club, Lincoln’s first arts organization, and its successor, the Nebraska Art Association; painter of oil and watercolor still lifes, landscapes, and figures; exhibitor with the Haydon Art Club; and advocate and benefactor of Sarah Moore in 1884 as the first art teacher at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Anna and her husband, Frank M. Hall, traveled extensively, together creating an art collection and endowment that has played a major role in the founding and ongoing support of Lincoln’s Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, now Sheldon Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of Nebraska. In addition to art-related activities, Anna Hall was the local and state chair of the woman’s suffrage movement; promoter of the Lincoln City Mission; founding organizer of the Lincoln YWCA; and four-term president of the Lincoln Women’s Club and State Chair of its counterpart, the Nebraska Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Anna Reid was born in 1857 in a log cabin near Julian in Nebraska Territory, ten years before statehood. The largest nearby settlement was Nebraska City. Her parents were Ephraim and Mary Matilda (Temple) Reid, and they came to Nebraska in 1855. Anna grew up on the family farm, taught in a country school, and in 1880, earned a diploma from Nebraska State Normal School, which became Peru State College. In print, she is usually referred to as Mrs. F.M. Hall, her name after marriage in 1882 to Frank Hall.

Frank was born on a farm near Prentice, Illinois and moved to Richardson County, Nebraska near Humboldt. From 1872 to 1876, he studied at Nebraska State Normal School in Peru. The couple met on that campus, and married in Hamburg, Iowa in 1882. Frank studied at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and then read law with General Amasa Cobb and Turner Mastin Marquette at their Lincoln offices. He was admitted to the Bar in 1880, and the law firm, located at 12th and O Streets, then took the name of Marquette, Deweese & Hall. Over the years, the firm name transitioned from Marquette, Deweese & Hall to Hall, Cline & Williams to Cline, Williams, Johnson, Wright & Oldfather, and continues into the 21st century.

Anna and Frank first lived at 524 North 16th Street (now part of the University campus) and, according to Anna in her transcript for The Hall Collection, “our income the first year of our married life was, as I remember, about $900….Frank Hall mowed the lawn, took care of the horse and buggy, the Jersey cow, and Anna milked twice a day.” (Embury 89)

In 1895, they purchased a Queen Anne Victorian-style home at 1039 South 11th Street. With their three-story ‘improvements’ including servants’ quarters, 400 square foot garden gazebo, carved cherry wood interior, and 20 stained glass windows, five fireplaces, and elegant furnishings, it became a show place and center of social life in Lincoln. “It was reported that every square inch of the house was filled with art objects.” Anna wrote: “We both love beautiful things, and were always willing to spend our money to possess them, and when either of us wanted anything personally that we thought we could afford we bought it without consulting the other. (Embury 90)

In creating their art collection and staying abreast of contemporary art movements, the Halls had the guidance of Lawton Parker, nationally known artist from Kearney, Nebraska and an impressionist painter who had lived at Giverny near the studio home of Claude Monet. In Paris, Parker had a small academy and was active in salons and “drew the attention of the Halls to contemporary art styles such as American Impressionism and Childe Hassam.” (Geske 8) In 1891, the Halls took a grand tour of Europe followed with travel in the United States including New York; Old Lyme, Connecticut; Boston, Cape Cod, Gloucester, and Provincetown, all in Massachusetts, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Among their selections were paintings by Nebraska women artists Elizabeth Dolan, Sara Hayden, Sarah Wool Moore, and Cora Parker. Moore’s painting, The Beggar Boy, was the first purchase of the Hall Collection.

Anna Hall shared collecting stories with civic groups. On April 21, 1900, The Courier of Lincoln had this description: “Mrs. Hall is known throughout the state as an enthusiastic art student and critic. She gave a delightful talk illustrated by stereopticon views of the great buildings and monuments of Paris….The most delightful slides were those made from snap shots taken by Mrs. Hall on her trip abroad last summer. The old peasant women were especially good…closing with an account of a visit to Barbazon (sic).”

On their travels, the Halls became friends with many artists, including Nicholas Brewer, a fashionable portrait painter, who had exhibited in Omaha in 1910, and who hosted the Halls in his studios in Chicago and New York. “Befitting their interest in art and their position in society, the Halls eventually commissioned from Brewer pendant portraits of themselves, which he painted at their home in 1916. According to the artist, Frank took special interest in the way in which his wife was depicted. Brewer remembered Anna as possessing a ‘superb figure of statuesque charm, which [Frank] wished clothed in scant diaphanous draperies, low at the bust and with a train, which he insisted on arranging to suit himself.’ In contrast, Brewer’s portrait of Frank reflected his request to appear serious and studious and show him seated with his eyeglasses ‒ ‘the instrument of his profession ‒ in his left hand.’”(Veneziano 31)

From this description, one can get the impression that Frank Hall was anxious to convey a couple in the traditional concept of marriage ‒ the professional man with a wife whom he could afford to outfit beautifully and who had leisure enough to be a conveyor of pleasure and the ‘soft side of life.’ However, the reality likely differed because in 1916, the year the portrait was painted, Mrs. Hall was leading the statewide women’s suffrage movement. To the Lincoln Women’s Club, she said: “During the past twenty-five years, the fields of woman’s activities have been greatly enlarged. She has become an important factor in business and professional worlds and a readjustment of her relationship to the home and business world is fast taking definite form. The four walls of the home no longer constitute the bounding lines of her activities any more than they do those of men.” (The Lincoln Star, 4/2/1916)

For the remainder of her life, she was committed to women’s independence causes, but seems always to have combined that with community activity related to promoting the fine arts through education, collecting, and creating.

Anne Hall took art classes and wrote about it in a transcription of notes, likely from the 1920s: “My study of art under Sarah Wool Moore was the event that turned our attention to art. Miss Moore was asked by the University to come and take charge of the art class that was then conducted in University on a salary to be paid by the University. And when she arrived, owing to some hitch in the arrangement, her salary was not forthcoming. One morning Prof. George E. Howard appeared at our door, related the circumstances and said, ‘Now Mrs. Hall, you’ll have to get together a group of women and girls who will pay for a class in drawing and painting and get Miss Moore to teach it until the University can take it over.’ The Halls and Howards were old friends, and I went to the task with enthusiasm and soon had a fine group and Miss Moore was furnished quarters by the University when the class commenced its work. These women in the class had been induced to come in the class in order to paint pictures to hang in their homes and the homes of their friends. I did not want to do that so I said to Miss Moore, ‘I want to learn to draw and paint,’ so she had one real art pupil and sent me to work. I studied with her for four years until I had made about a half a dozen studies from life.” (Embury 16-18)

By 1885, Sarah Moore’s fourth quarter salary was $75, but by the third quarter of the next year, it was raised to $125. By this time Moore’s skills were so obvious including her adding plastic anatomy and perspective that, in 1885, the School of Fine Arts was organized, removing the Art Department schedule from being listed with the agriculture courses. Having facilitated the hiring of Sarah Moore, Anna Hall then helped Moore to bring a group together at Moore’s home on May 28, 1888 “to discuss exhibitions of works of art in Lincoln. Forming the Haydon Art Club, these people initiated activities that led in 1900” (Pierson, Sheldon Sampler, 1) to the Nebraska Art Association, now the Sheldon Art Association, on the University campus. As a member of the Haydon Art Club, Anna Hall oversaw the formation of committees to bring the first art exhibition to Lincoln in 1888. It was a single painting, The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by Karl Von Piloty, and was borrowed from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Mrs. Hall and her husband paid the rental fee of $500, and the exhibition, reaching all across the state, was a history-making success with thousands of persons attending.

Anna’s study with Sarah Moore led to inclusion of Anna’s work with the Haydon Art Club in the Fourth Annual Exhibition, December 1891 to January 1892, at the Armory Building of the University. Other Haydon Art Club shows included Midwinter Exhibition, December 25, 1897 to January 9, 1898; and Sixth Annual Exhibition, February 1 to March 1, 1899, in the Gallery of the University Library.

Although Anna supported Moore in the formation of the Haydon Art Club (named for English artist Benjamin Haydon) and facilitated her arrangement of being paid by the University, she also did a big turn-around and in 1891 ‘facilitated’ the departure of Sarah Moore from the University and from the state. It was a time when the University was thriving, so what happened? To understand, one would have to read between the lines of the Haydon Art Club minutes. In 1891, those minutes record that Anna Hall declared she would no longer attend any meetings at the home of Sarah Moore. Club meetings were then changed to the home of historian A.J. Sawyer. The next year Moore resigned mid-term, left Lincoln, and moved to Pittsburgh. Carrie Moote Barton finished the year and stayed until February 1893. Cora Parker succeeded Sarah Moore and Carrie Barton.

Eight years later, Anna Hall chaired a Haydon Art Club committee to “explore the feasibility of reorganization and gave a spirited report at the Haydon Art Club meeting on March 6, 1900 at the University Library. She supported reaching members beyond Lincoln by changing the name from the Haydon Art Club to The Nebraska Art Association (later changed to Nebraska Art Association) and making the goals much more far reaching. Having made her case at length of the potential strengths, she told the Haydon Board: “It is high time to marshall the forces of the state.” Trustees supported her, and in its first year one-thousand people joined The Nebraska Art Association.” (Pierson Early Years, 1) F. M. Hall was elected President, 1901 to 1904, and directed Lawton Parker to select 55 paintings for the first exhibition. For the first three decades of the 20th century, Anna Hall ‘marshalled’ the forces of the state, often supported by her husband. However in 1928, Nebraska lost both Mr. and Mrs. Hall.

Frank Hall died on June 9, 1928. Anna Hall continued to live in their home, but five months later, The Lincoln Star newspaper had this headline: “Mrs. F. M. Hall is Found Dead in Her Home: Former President of Woman’s Club Victim of Heart Attack: Well Known As Church Worker and Patron of Art.” The article continued: “Mrs. Frank M. Hall, 71, one of Lincoln’s most active club and church workers and a leading art patron, was seized suddenly with a heart attack about 5:30 o’clock Thursday afternoon and died while alone in her home….When the Misses Jennie and Rose Carson called at 6 o’clock to accompany her on a dinner engagement, they found the body in the front hall. Mrs. Hall was dressed as if ready to leave and was trying evidently to reach the telephone when stricken. Her only servant had been absent for some time because of a relative’s illness. Although Dr. H.E. Flansburg and Dr. E.N. Depen, who soon arrived, decided that death was due to acute dilation of the heart, Mrs. Hall had never complained of such an ailment. But an hour before she had spoken with Miss Carson over the telephone and earlier in the day had attended a funeral. Wednesday evening she was a dinner guest at the home of her niece, Mrs. W.E. Morley. The evening before that, she entertained a dozen friends at the Country Club. Frank Hall, the husband of the deceased and a leading attorney here, died only last June. Mrs. Hall retained a life interest in his quarter million dollar estate, which now goes mostly to the University of Nebraska art gallery. A $5,000 legacy for the benefit of the Lincoln mission in Nan Laos, Siam was established as a memorial to Mrs. Hall, while $5,000 was bequeathed also to the local First Presbyterian Church.”

In 2012, the book, A Legacy of Giving: The Anna and Frank Hall Collection was published by Sheldon Museum of Art and was largely based on the research of Dr. Stuart Embury of Holdrege. The introduction by then museum director Jorge Daniel Veneciano, had these words: “Until this year, works published with funds from the Hall bequest bore Mr. Hall’s name solely….Such was the practice, more common, a hundred years ago than it is today, of recognizing men for civic largesse while women worked behind the scenes of history.”

For those of us knowing the life story of Anna Hall, the revised title of the bequest was indeed a much-justified correction because Anna Reid Hall was much more than just a Mrs. ‘behind the scenes.’

Anna Hall is not represented in the Museum of Nebraska Art collection.


Bucklin, Clarissa, Nebraska Art and Artists, p. 23, Print
Embury, Stuart P., M.D., The Life and Legacy of Frank M. and Anna Hall, Print
“General Federation of Women’s Club,” Wikipedia, Web, Apr. 2015
Geske, Norman: On Making a Museum: A Reminiscence, p. 8, Print
Lincoln Daily News, newspaper: 10/22/1914
McKee, Jim, Email to Lonnie Dunbier, May 25, 2015. Information on Frank Hall.
Pierson, Lonnie (Dunbier) Sheldon Sampler: A Century of Patronage, A Century of Achievement, Nebraska Art Association publication, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1988, Print
Pierson, Lonnie (Dunbier), Historian of the Nebraska Art Association, 1986 to 1990, research notes and records including “Talk for Mayor’s Art Awards Dinner,” May 5, 1988; “Voices, For Nebraska Art Association Annual Meeting,” April 1, 1990; Text by Pierson in history, Early Years of The Nebraska Art Association, and records of Minnie Ladd
The Nebraska State Journal, newspaper: 10/27/1899, 11/21/1901
The Lincoln Star, newspaper: 1/11/1914, 10/11/1914, 3/28/1916, 11/23/1928, 12/9/1928
Veneciano, Jorge Daniel, Introduction, and Essays by Stuart Embury, Norman Geske, and Brandon K. Ruud, A Legacy of Giving: The Anna and Frank Hall Collection, Print
Walsh, Stacey, Collections Manager, Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska, Haydon Art Club and Nebraska Art Association Exhibition Information
Watkins, Albert, History of Nebraska, Volume II, p. 494, Print

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier
Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945