Scope and arrangement
The Lillian Gish papers (75 lf.) span the years 1909-1992 and consist of correspondence including letters from friends, family, fans and business associates, personal papers, business, legal and financial documents, scripts, writings, photographs including early D.W. Griffith silent film photographs both candid shots taken during shooting and film stills, portraits by famous photographers, personal and family photographs, publicity and production photographs and snapshots, scrapbooks on the careers of both Dorothy and Lillian Gish, programs for early silent films and theatrical productions, clippings and ephemera that document the life and career of Lillian and Dorothy Gish from the early 1900's until Lillian's death in 1993. The collection contains information about the personal and professional lives of both the Gish sisters and many biographical bits of information about their family and friends as well. The papers are valuable documentation not only for the early days of film and the theater of the 20th century, but also for the broad scope of friends and acquaintances who corresponded regularly with Lillian Gish and influenced all aspects of 20th century life, history and culture. Gish's correspondents included statesmen, writers, ambassadors, housewives, professors, critics, playwrights, actors, producers, directors, photographers, soldiers, children and students. The materials in the collection document broad aspects of 20th century social history including politics, current events, journalism, performing arts, daily life and culture. Missing from the collection is any significant correspondence from George Jean Nathan.
The correspondence series, containing approximately 10,000 letters, not only gives an intimate view of the theater and film industries of the 20th century but also reveals the variety of relationships in her life including friend, sister, film idol and professional colleague. In her personal correspondence there are not only letters from her childhood friend, Nell Dorr, but also her replies to Nell, which were likely returned to her after Nell Dorr's death. Similarly, there is a series of letters from Laura McCullaugh, a long-time friend of Lillian and Dorothy who was Dorothy's companion in Rapallo, Italy until her death in 1968. Other correspondents include: George Abbott, James Abbe, Rodney Ackland, Mary Astor, Brooke Astor, Brooks Atkinson, Hugh "Binkie" Beaumont, Romney Brent, Kevin Brownlow, Huntington Cairns, Ronald Colman, Katharine Cornell, Noel Coward, Nell Dorr, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gielgud, Dorothy Gish, Peter Glenville, Ruth Gordon, Helen Hayes, Lucy and Nathan Kroll, Emmet Lavery, James MacArthur, Maurice Maeterlinck, Sir Ian Malcolm, H.L. Menken, Una Merkel, Colleen Moore, George Jean Nathan, Sean and Eileen O'Casey, Eugene and Carlotta O'Neill, Albert Bigelow Paine, Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers, Cyril Ritchard, Herb Sterne, Gloria Vanderbilt, Edward Wagenknecht, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams and Alexander Woollcott, among others.
The personal papers include appointment books and notebooks; biographical materials, including testimonials to Lillian Gish and family genealogical data; personal data including dress size and phone and address lists; medical papers; Dorothy's Gish estate papers. Other items included are inspirational writings and invitations including 2 inaugural invitations from Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
Legal and financial papers contain information on her real estate matters in New York, Masillion, Ohio and California. Included in the legal files are the papers dealing with the breach of contract lawsuit filed against her by Charles Duell and Inspiration Pictures in 1924.
The photograph series, over 4000 items, is a large part of the collection and contains photographs pertaining to the life and careers of both Lillian and Dorothy Gish. There are many portrait photographs done by well known artists such as James Abbe, Charles Albin, Kenneth Alexander, Apeda Studios, Cecil Beaton, Nell Dorr, John Engstead, Friedman-Abeles, Hartsook, Roddy McDowall, Ben Pinchot, Maurice Seymour, Talbot, Vandamm, Edward Steichen, Carl Van Vechten, White Studios and Witzel, among others.
Production photographs include a large collection of photographs of her days with D.W. Griffith and the silent film era as well as photographs of theatrical and other film roles. Some titles include: Her First False Step, An Unseen Enemy (1912), The Saving Grace (1914), The Birth of a Nation (1915), Enoch Arden (1915), The Lily and the Rose (1915), Daphne and the Pirate (1916), Intolerance (1916), Sold for Marriage(1916), Hearts of the World(1918), Broken Blossoms (1919), I'll Get Him Yet (1919), Peppy Polly (1919), Flying Pat (1920), Way Down East (1920), Orphans of the Storm (1922), The White Sister (1923), Romola (1924), La Bohème (1926), The Scarlet Letter (1926), Nell Gwyn (1926), Annie Laurie (1927), Tip Toes (1927), The Enemy (1928), The Wind (1928), One Romantic Night(1930), Camille (1932), Hamlet (1936), Life with Father (1939-1940), Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944), The Magnificent Yankee (1946), Duel in the Sun (1947), Trip to Bountiful (1953), The Cobweb (1955), Night of the Hunter (1955), The Unforgiven (1960) and Uncle Vanya (1973), among others.
Remaining materials in this series consist of art photographs by Nell Dorr of her family and friends, 2 photographic scrapbooks containing platinum prints for production of Camille, family photographs and photograph scrapbooks of Lillian and Dorothy Gish and autographed photographs of friends and professional acquaintances.
Professional Work Files include correspondence, contracts, programs and other ephemera dealing with films, plays and public appearances made by Lillian Gish throughout her life. Materials on Way Down East, The Birth of a Nation and many others are included.
Writings in the collection are primarily from Lillian Gish's original work entitled Silver Glory. This manuscript evolved through time to become The Movies, Mr Griffith and Me, her book about D. W. Griffith and the silent film era; Infinity in an Hour, a television program which dealt with the same topic; and a lecture series Lillian Gish and the Movies, also with the same focus. Other writings in the collection include speeches and lectures by Lillian Gish as well as writings by others which she collected.
Presentation items from fans and friends contain poetry, cards, writings, handmade books and other ephemeral materials proclaiming the love and devotion felt by so many towards Lillian Gish.
Scrapbooks consist of 33 volumes of clippings on the careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish. These scrapbooks primarily document the period between 1914 and 1940. Some production scrapbooks include: Star Wagon, Young Love, Life With Father, Nell Gwyn, Beautiful City and Clothes Make the Pirate, among others.
The Lillian Gish papers are arranged in fourteen series:
- 1909-199239 boxes 10 reels microfilm
This series contains letters from Lillan Gish's family and close friends, business associates and fans spanning 1909 until her death in 1993. The series is divided into 5 sub-series: Family Correspondence; Nell Dorr Correspondence; Laura McCullaugh Correspondence; Albert Bigelow Paine Correspondence and General Correspondence. Boxes 1-10 are available on microfilm only. The classmark for the microfilm is: *ZC-591.
- 8 boxes
This series is made up of three sub-series: Appointment Books and Notebooks, Biographical Materials, and Personal Files. It contains medical papers relating to Lillian Gish and other personal items including a lock of her hair and her measurements, appointment and date books, genealogy files on the Gish family, address books and Christmas card lists, household papers and documents regarding Mary Robinson Gish and the estate of Dorothy Gish. Other personal items include invitations, valentines and cards as well as inspirational writings and photographs.
- 4 boxes
This series consists of 4 sub-series and documents most of Lillian Gish's financial and legal matters. Of special note in this series are the papers relating to the Duell lawsuit and her property and real estate materials. Papers document her career, such as contracts may also be contained in Series 4 - Professional Work Files.
- 7 boxes
This series consists of two sub-series and documents the career of Lillian Gish. Included in these files are correspondence, ephemera and legal materials about films, plays, television, lectures and personal appearances. There is some crossover in the legal and financial materials related to career and these may also be found in the Series III - Legal and Financial Papers.
- 10 boxes
This series consists of six sub-series and documents the writings of Lillian Gish as well as others. Of special note in this series is the manuscript entitled Silver Glory which was the basis for The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me, the television program Infinity in an Hour and the lecture series Lillian Gish and the Movies. Also included are speeches, lectures and articles written by Lillian Gish.
- 5 boxes
This series consists of three sub-series and contains information which Lillian Gish collected throughout her life. Of special note is the sub-series containing information about D.W. Griffith.
- 1943-19881 box
Included in this series are clean scripts of plays, television programs and motion pictures which were sent to Lillian Gish for her review. None of these scripts are for productions in which Miss Gish appeared.
- 4 boxes
This series consists of 2 sub-series and contains tributes and awards given to Lillian Gish. Included as well are many presentation items of a personal nature sent by fans and close friends.
- 1922-19661 box
Includes telegrams (1938), Lucy Kroll correspondence and contracts (1959-1962) [and 3 letters from Lillian, who was on location for The Unforgiven, to the Krolls], fan mail (1922-1924), Dorothy's 1925 passport, snapshots, clippings, programs, insurance papers (1922-1966) and 2 scrapbooks of halftones.
- 24 boxes
Includes personal photographs of Lillian and Dorothy Gish with friends and family members, photographs and portraits of the Gish family and relatives, production photographs from many films, plays and television programs in which the Gish sisters appeared, professional protraits by many well-known photographers of the era, autographed photographs of friends and professional colleagues, and 2 photograph scrapbooks from the early careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish.
- 1913-19936 boxes
Clippings document the career of Lillian Gish from early silent film through her life and career in stage, screen and television. Included in this series are not only U.S. clippings but foreign newspaper clippings as well.
- 8 oversized boxes
The oversized photographs consist of portraits and photographs of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, portraits of family members and pictures of friends. Included as well, are photographs by Laura Gilpin and many oversized portraits by Nell Dorr. There are also production photographs from films and plays the Gish sisters were in.
- 2 boxes
This series consists of 4 sub-series and was created primarily as a means to provide easy storage and shelving. The sub-series mirror other portions of the collection and are arranged to reflect from where in the collection the materials were removed.
- 1915-198933 vols
The scrapbooks consist of 33 volumes of clippings, programs, photographs and some correspondence documenting the careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish. Included are scrapbooks documenting the productions Nell Gwyn, Young Love, The Star-Wagon and Life With Father. One scrapbook is a tour scrapbook written through the eyes of Lillian Gish's dog, Malcolm. Of special note is a Lillian Gish scrapbook containing many unique programs from late in her career.