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Jerry L. Caplan Papers

Identifier: 2013.001

Scope and Contents

The Jerry Caplan collection contains materials pertaining to Caplan’s personal pastimes and professional activities which frequently overlapped.  The collection is the result of his work as an artist at Chatham College, in Pittsburgh, and as a teacher of the international art community. Caplan taught pipe sculpture, raku, and paper pulp workshops across the United States and in England, Australia, New Zealand, Hungry, Switzerland, and Brazil.  Materials relate to artworks, art techniques developed by Caplan, and art education including projects for Chatham College, workshops and exhibits.  Additionally, the collection includes a small number of papers and photographs about Caplan’s family. Materials are primarily dated between the 1980’s through 2004 with some family and World War II photographs dating from the 1930’s and 1940’s.


  • created: 1930-2004
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1980-2004
  • Other: Date acquired: 06/07/2013


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright over the Jerry L. Caplan materials has not been given to Chatham University.  Please see the Archivist for copyright information.

Biographical or Historical Information

Jerry Caplan (1923-2004) was a prominent Pittsburgh artist and art professor at Chatham College. He was recognized for his innovative art techniques including smokeless raku, pipe sculptures, and paper pulping.  Caplan shared his art techniques through workshops held around the world. Caplan was born to Jewish Ukranian immigrants, Louis and Yetta Kapler, and grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. His father worked in the Strip District at the Pennsylvania Railroad Produce Terminal. Caplan had a life-long aspiration to become an artist, attending drawing and painting classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art from the age of seven. Caplan served in the US Army as a member of the 84th Engineer Battalion. He and other artists in the Battalion were responsible for creating military camouflage. They wove camouflage netting and constructed dummy boats, planes, and tanks to throw off enemy surveillance. As the Battalion photographer, Caplan was responsible for taking aerial photographs of the dummy installations. After the war he was employed in the pipe industry, manufacturing large clay pipes. Here Caplan gained inspiration for pipe sculptures and ceramics, which led to the creation of some of his seminal works. Under the GI Bill, Caplan attended Carnegie Mellon to attain both a bachelors and masters degree in art. He was the student of Louise Bouche, Morris Kantor, Jon Corbino, Byron Browne, and John Hovannes. Caplan was Professor of Art at Chatham College from 1959 to 1988. He served as the chairman of the art department from 1962 until 1972 and again in the 1983-1984 academic year. Caplan taught art courses on advanced drawing, ceramics, clay and metal sculpture, casting techniques, design, oil painting, raku, and watercolors. His primary subject was sculpture. His lasting contributions to the Chatham University campus include the sculpture Metamorphosis and a tribute sculpture to Martin Luther King Jr. Caplan organized and taught art workshops throughout the country and internationally. His most prominent events were pipe sculpture workshops at Logan Pipe in Logan, Ohio, at Pipe Symposiums across California, and workshops in England. In Pittsburgh Caplan taught at the Pittsburgh Center for the arts and served as President of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Caplan has been recognized for his creative work with Jewish communities including Temple Emmanuel in Upper St. Clair, Temple Beth El in Mt. Lebanon, and the Holocaust Center at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. Jerry Caplan and his wife, Becky, had two sons, Gregory and David.  Caplan had two grandchildren, Jemila and Sharon through Gregory Caplan and his wife Susan.  Jerry Caplan’s second son, David Caplan, died of a brain aneurism at age 21.  Donna Hollen Bolmgren was Jerry Caplan’s best friend and studio associate from 1969 until Caplan’s death in 2004.

Note written by


26.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Jerry L. Caplan was a professor of art at Chatham College from 1959 until 1988. He taught a variety of art courses including oil painting, design, drawing, ceramics, and sculpture, the latter being his primary subject. Caplan was the innovator of pipe sculpture, a technique in which industrial clay pipes are shaped, cut, and joined to form artworks. In his personal time, Caplan taught workshops for pipe sculptures, raku, and ceramics across the United States and around the world.

Arrangement Note

The Jerry L. Caplan collection has been preserved according to its original order as much as possible. The personal papers remain in the order in which they were stored in Caplan’s file cabinet. The photographs are kept in their original albums, drug store envelopes, or grouped together as Caplan organized them. The publications series has been rearranged in chronological order. The slides series is in original order and has been boxed according to the order in which Caplan filed them in binders and slide carousels. The collection is arranged in seven series: Series 1. Artifacts Series 2. Audiovisual Series 3. Personal Papers Series 4. Photographs Series 5. Publications, 1949-2004 Series 6. Scrapbooks and Sketchbooks Series 7. Slides

Source of Acquisition

The Estate of Donna Hollen Bolmgren

Accruals and Additions


Processing Information

Collection processed by Alison Fulmer and Rejoice Scherry, MLIS students at the University of Pittsburgh. Completed July 22, 2014.


Archon Finding Aid Title
Alison Fulmer and Rejoice Scherry
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Chatham University Archives Repository

Woodland Road
Pittsburgh PA 15232 US