Scope and arrangement
The papers in the Gypsy Rose Lee Archive span the years 1910-1970 and document her professional life and some aspects of her family history, as well as the varied interests and pursuits of her private life. Through her work in burlesque, on the stage and in television, Gypsy Rose Lee's papers also reflect many aspects of popular entertainment in America from the 1930s through the 1960s. The collection includes correspondence, manuscripts, scripts, contracts, financial records, personal papers, photographs, scrapbooks, clippings and ephemera.
The largest part of this collection consists of photographs. There are approximately 1100 personal photos, mostly black & white snapshots, spanning the years ca. 1910-1969. Gypsy Rose Lee was an avid amateur photographer and in addition to her personal photographs, the collection contains approximately 900, 35 mm color stereographic slides, many from her European tour in 1951 and South Pacific tour in 1954. The other portion of the photographic series includes images by professional photographers, most are 8x10 in size, with some 11x14 portraits. Span dates range from the 1920s to the late 1960s with many vaudeville and burlesque photos.
The correspondence series contains mostly personal correspondence with family members including her mother, grandmother and sister June Havoc. There is some correspondence with Charles Davis referring to the development of their artist colony in Brooklyn in the 1940s. A few intimate notes are included in the collection from Ethel Merman, Rags Ragland and Mike Todd.
Personal papers include files relating to Gypsy Rose Lee's interests in pets, decorating, needlework, sewing and gardening. They also include ephemera collected on her trips to Europe and other mementos of her career. Several boxes contain details of her sewing projects, and the decorating and landscaping of her California home.
The bulk of Gypsy Rose Lee's professional papers deals with her late 1960s talk show, her writings, and scripts. Included are the original typescripts of her memoir Gypsy and the play The Naked Genius. There are also approximately 300 burlesque scripts dating from the 1930s and 1940s. Also in the collection are unique programs from her vaudeville and burlesque eras. Ironically, there is little material regarding striptease except for some performance photos and nightclub routines.
The Gypsy Rose Lee papers are arranged in eleven series:
This sub-series includes many letters in the personal correspondence files from Anna Thompson (Gypsy Rose Lee's maternal grandmother) and her aunt Belle Thornton. Subseries have been created for the correspondence of Rose Thompson (Gypsy's mother), June Havoc (Gypsy's sister), Arnold R. Mizzy (Gypsy's first husband), Julio de Diego (Gypsy's third husband), and Erik Lee Kirkland Preminger (Gypsy's son). Among the general and business correspondence files are letters and notes from her colleagues and friends including Fanny Brice, Michael Todd, George S. Kaufman, Ethel Merman, Hedda Hopper, Rags Ragland, Walter Winchell, Jerry Weidman, Ashton Stevens, Irving Hoffman, Deems Taylor, Charles Coburn, Bide Dudley, Roland Young and Burns Mantle.
- 1936 - 19714.16 linear feet. (13 boxes)
Personal papers include files on pets, ephemera, clothing design, and trips. Also included are calendars, address books, and extensive information on the decoration of Gypsy Rose Lee's California home and garden.
- 1923-19651 box
Most of the legal papers in this series involve lawsuits and potential lawsuits filed by and against Gypsy Rose Lee. Notable are the marriage license and divorce papers from her first husband Arnold Mizzy and an affidavit from a Seattle doctor declaring that Miss Lee was born in the year 1908, not 1914.
- 1937-19704 boxes
Financial papers including checkbooks, etc.
- 1919 - 196914 boxes
The bulk of this series deals with the Gypsy Rose Lee Talk Show that ran from 1965-1968. Included are separate guest biographies, usually with a photograph, and many photographs of Gypsy Rose Lee and her guests on the show. There is also a separate box of extensive material on her autobiographical presentation, A Curious Evening.
- 1941-19704 boxes
Gypsy Rose Lee was the author of books, plays, and several autobiographical stories and articles. This series includes manuscripts, typescripts, galleys, copies of magazine articles and correspondence relating to her work as a writer. Works include The G-String Murders, Gypsy, Mother Finds a Body, The World on a String, and photocopies of various articles.
- ca. 1930-19698 boxes
These files include burlesque scripts, and scripts for television, movies, radio, theater and nightclubs, representing many of Gypsy Rose Lee's performances from the 1930s through the 1960s. The burlesque scripts are filed alphabetically by title and are supplemented with a card file index arranged by title and subject. The other scripts, arranged alphabetically by title, include scripts from the plays Darling, Darling; The Women; Threepenny Opera; Auntie Mame, Gypsy (Musical); the movie Belle of the Yukon, and several television shows.
- 1920-19593 boxes
Contains sheet music, probably used in Gypsy Rose Lee's nightclub act, ca. 1950s. Also includes music and lyrics for "Hard Boiled Rose", a song from Miss Lee's vaudeville act; "For Charity Sweet Charity" written by Harold J. Rome with performance rights exclusive to Gypsy Rose Lee; and her signature song "Let Me Entertain You."
- 1910-196921 boxes
This series is the largest in the collection and is divided into two categories: personal and professional. The photographs document a vast time span of Gypsy Rose Lee's life, showing her in 1918 as a young girl posing with her mother to a mature woman with her own television show in 1968. There are approximately 1100 personal photos (mostly snapshots), 900 35 mm stereographic slides (mainly of trips to Europe and South Pacific), and approximately 2200 professional photographs.
Personal (snapshots & negatives), ca. 1910-1969 Box 57-ca. 1910-1949 Includes Gypsy Rose Lee as a baby and young girl; vaudeville snapshots; Miss Lee outdoors at her Long Island home, ca. 1936; a portrait album of photos taken by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, ca. 1941; Gypsy Rose Lee pregnant, 1944; and Gypsy Rose Lee with her third husband Julio de Diego and son Erik during her carnival tours, ca. 1949.
- 1916-195912 vols. (6 reels of microfilm)
There are twelve volumes of scrapbooks in the Gypsy Rose Lee Archive; contents are predominantly clippings. They are a good source of documentation for notable events in her early career. All loose photographs, programs and correspondence were removed and integrated into the rest of the collection. The scrapbooks were then microfilmed for patron use.
This series includes programs and clippings. The programs are from shows in which Gypsy performed. Clippings from New York City newspapers are not included.