Skip to main content

Emily Spencer Hayden photograph collection

Identifier: PP 0092


This collection contains photographs taken by Emily Spencer Hayden, a photographer from Baltimore County. Subjects include her daughters and friends, as well as her home, "Nancy's Fancy," in Catonsville, Maryland.


  • 1861-1984


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Emily Harrison Spencer Hayden (1869-1949) was a photographer who lived in and around Baltimore. She was born near Randallstown at her family's farm, called “The Martin's Nest.” Her parents were Edward Spencer (1834-1883) and A.C. Bradford “Braddie” Harrison Spencer (1841-1882). Edward was a writer and dramatist who wrote at times for the Baltimore Bulletin and the Sun, and whose best known play was “Kit, the Arkansas Traveler.” He also collaborated with J. Thomas Scharf on his historical works on Baltimore City. Braddie Spencer was born in Talbot County, and the couple married in 1861. The Spencer family had 4 children, Emily, Katherine, Robert, and Webster Lindsley. Sometime before 1880 they moved to Baltimore City so that Edward would be closer to his literary colleagues and for access to formal education for the children.

With the deaths of both Braddie and Edward Spencer in the early 1880s, care of the younger Spencer children was left to a woman named Eliza Benson (1836-1921), known as “Mammy.” An African American woman, a freed slave, Benson had worked for the Harrison and Spencer families for many years when the parents died, and would live with Emily Spencer Hayden after Emily married and had children. A family friend, Mr. John McCoy supported the children financially, and the oldest Spencer boy was old enough to work. At the time of Edward Spencer's death, the family resided at 294 North Stricker Street in Baltimore, Maryland.

Emily Spencer graduated Western High School as valedictorian in 1878, and worked as a first grade teacher in the Baltimore Public Schools for a time. In her spare time, she was a painter, reader, skater, and singer in the Ascension Episcopal Church choir. She met Charles S. Hayden (born 1870, Baltimore), possibly at the Shakespeare Club which both attended. After Charles’ graduation from law school and acceptance to the bar, the two married on September 1, 1893. They moved to Mosher Street, and their first child, Ruth, was born in 1895. In around 1901, the family moved to Windermere Ave. in Waverly, where two more children were born: Catherine Spencer Hayden in 1902 and Anna (Nan) Bradford Hayden in 1905. Emily became friends with her neighbor, the poet Lizette Woodworth Reese, who often spent time at “Nancy’s Fancy” with the family.

When Emily began making photographs in the 1890s, her husband gave her a camera. She was already an accomplished artist who especially enjoyed making watercolors of Maryland scenes. In 1906, the family moved to a home called “Nancy's Fancy” on nine or ten acres in Catonsville near Mt. de Sales Academy. This land and house, along with family and friends, were the focus of Emily's photographic work for the next 40 years. The thirteen room house was built in 1732 by the Davis family. The house was torn down in 1970 to build the Christian Temple Church. Emily transformed an upstairs bathroom into a dark room, and did all of her own developing and printing, working with a large format camera. She submitted her work to publications and exhibitions in the United States and abroad.


7.08 Linear Feet (1 full Hollinger box; 5 Oversize flat boxes)

Language of Materials



The photographs are arranged by topic and by size. The collection is divided into eight series: Series I: Hayden Family; Series II: Family Homes; Series III: Portraits; Series IV: Goucher College; Series V: Nature; Series VI: Places; Series VII: Modern Photographs; and Series VIII: Glass plate negatives. These series reflect the subjects of Hayden’s photographs. Several photographs include duplicate prints, and these are noted in the container list. Duplicates within the same box were given the same image identification number. Boxes 3-6 contain mounted photographs that were used in an exhibition at the Maryland Historical Society. All of the photographs in the collection were taken by Hayden, unless specifically noted in the container list.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Philip H. Wanzer, Jr. and Mrs. Anna Bradford Agle in 1983, 1985, 1993, and 1994.

Related Materials

MS 1263, Dorsey papers, 1821-1881.

Scope and Contents

Hayden especially liked to take pictures of her daughters, female friends and family and their children. The collection includes a large number of portraits of her youngest daughter, Anna “Nan” Bradford Hayden, which document her growth from baby to young adulthood. Some of these photographs feature props, such as her teddy bear and a Brownie camera. Another often photographed subject is her family’s maid and former slave, Eliza “Mammy” Benson. The portraits depict Benson in domestic settings, such as the kitchen or with children. Her friend, Sue Collins, also appears frequently in Hayden’s work, and she did a series of poet Lizette Woodworth Reese, in a garden. She also took many photographs of her home, Nancy’s Fancy, its gardens, and orchard, as well as the animals which the family kept. Her portraits were often taken in the house or gardens surrounding the property. She also took a series of photographs featuring students from Goucher College in which they perform a dance or play of “Cupid and Psyche.” A note on back of one of the photographs states that the women’s performance stopped traffic on Edmondson Avenue. The students were probably part of a group called the “Dickens Club.”

The modern photographs in the collection appear to have been taken by the donors of the collection, either Hayden’s daughter, Anna “Nan” Bradford Hayden Agle, or her nephew, Philip H. Wanzer. They show the family homes as they looked in 1984. The glass plate negatives were donated by Wanzer and reference images of those negatives are included in the collection in Series VIII.

Guide to the Emily Spencer Hayden photograph collection
Under Revision
Katherine Cowan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States