Scope and arrangement
The Mielziner family papers consist of correspondence, most of it personal but some of a more formal nature, other papers, a few sketches, clippings, ephemera, and family photographs, some of which have been placed in small albums.
Much of the correspondence is between family members. During periods of separation, Leo and wife Ella wrote to one another, the boys wrote to their parents while away at camp, and in later years the sons continued to write to one another. The parents kept a number of childhood letters and drawings by their sons, especially Valentines, as well as a poem about King Arthur written by 9 year-old Jo, which his parents arranged to have published in F. P. Adams' newspaper humor column (clipping included with original poem). As Leo Sr.'s health began to fail in the early 1930s, letters from both sons, and from other friends and relatives, increased in number.
Correspondence from other relatives includes a series of detailed, vivid letters written by Ella's mother, Margaret McKenna Friend, describing life in the wartime Paris of 1914-1919. During the period when Kenneth MacKenna was working in the movies, 1929-1934, his letters shed interesting light on life in Hollywood from an insider's perspective, as his marriage to star Kay Francis put Kenneth on the "A-list" for parties. Aside from a few brief notes from Kay, there are no celebrity correspondents represented here, but Kenneth's own letters to his parents and brother describe tennis matches with Charlie Chaplin, boating trips with Howard Hawks, a dinner party with the 1932 Olympic Committee at the home of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, etc. Once he is back in New York, Kenneth writes of dinners with the Bogarts, Noel Coward, Moss Hart, etc. The best known Mielziner correspondent outside the world of show business is Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1909-1976), author of numerous murder mysteries, a friend of the family who corresponded with Ella.
Many of Jo Mielziner's letters to his parents describe his current projects, but not in great detail. In the wake of failed shows, he sometimes speculates about the possible causes. He also mentions the work of other theater professionals, as in the note to his parents dated March 26, 1935, written just before leaving, with Kenneth, for the premiere of the latest offering from the Group Theatre, Waiting for Lefty ("Don't know what to expect," writes Jo, "probably a good performance and too much propaganda").
The photographs are mostly family vacation shots, family group portraits, and a few formal, studio-posed portraits, including several copies of a trio portrait made up of Leo Sr., Kenneth, and Jo. There are many photos of Jo and his second wife Annie Laurie Jacques vacationing at Eaton's Ranch, a "dude ranch" located in Wolf, Wyoming, during the summer of 1934.
The Mielziner family papers are arranged in two series:
- 1890-193546 folders
This series consists of correspondence between Leo Mielziner and his wife Ella, letters to the couple from their sons, correspondence between Kenneth and Jo, notes written by their wives (Kay Francis and Annie Laurie Jacques, respectively), and letters to Leo, Ella, Kenneth, and Jo, from relatives and friends.
- ca. 1890-19353 folders, 2 boxes, 1 portfolio
This series consists of personal papers of various kinds, and photographs of Mielziner family members, relatives, and friends.