The following letter was written by Pauline Williams, daughter of "John & Kittie" whose Clemens' sand bottles is now at the Iowa State Historical Museum
525 No. Austin Blvd.
September 4, 1962
Mr. Jack W. Musgrove
Iowa State Dept. of History and Archives
Des Moines, Iowa
Dear Mr. Musgrove:
Re: the sand painting which Mr. Andrew Clemens made for my father, I wish to give the following information.
Some time prior to 1889, Andrew Clemens demonstrated his art and exhibited his work at the Kohl (or Cole) and Middleton Dime Museum, Chicago. At that time the artist's brother, who lived in McGregor, Iowa, contacted my father, in Chicago, and asked him to find a room for his mute brother. This my father did and also obtained the glass containers used by Mr. C. in his art. To show his gratitude for this, Mr. C. offered to make a sand painting as a gift for father. He suggested an engine or a ship. Father preferred the ship and suggested a scroll with my parents' date of marriage. Father said the artist made paintings this size for about $35.00. He could copy a photograph in sand, too.
Mr. C. filled the bottle upside-down - i.e. he did the flag in the ship before the mast, etc. The surplus sand was removed from the center of the bottle by crude scoops. Each bit of the design or picture was stamped in place with a chamois covered miniature mallet and then the surplus sand went to the center of the container. If one grain of sand ever becomes dislodged the picture will be ruined.
I was interested in noting that the sand painting was not moved by air to Des Moines as I'm sure it would have exploded.
Mr. Clemens had to work in a very cramped position with his head just above the level of the table. My parents said he developed tuberculosis from this and this later caused his death.
This sand painting, which I donated to the Chicago Museum of Natural History, was expressed to Tacoma, Washington and back, when my parents were just married.
My parents were born in McGregor, Iowa. Their names were John Robilliard Williams and Catherine Luthe Williams.
It is gratifying to know you prize this sand painting very highly as it was our family's most cherished possession. I gave it to the Museum as I felt it was a work of art and would be safer there than in a home. I hope to see it the next time I am in Des Moines.
I trust this information may be of use to you.
Pauline L. Williams