Scope and arrangement
The Helen Hayes papers primarily span the years 1905–1963 and consist of a wide variety of material. There is correspondence, the majority from friends and colleagues; speeches and writings, including drafts and handwritten index cards of speeches; and clippings from her earliest days in theater and covering her work in film, television, and radio. The collection includes programs for theatrical productions and awards ceremonies; awards and ephemera including her honorary degrees, appointments to committees, and citations for her charitable work; and designs including costume designs for theatrical productions and artwork created by friends and colleagues. There are photographs, including family pictures, candid shots and professional portraits from childhood, production stills and publicity from theater, film, and radio, and portraits by famous photographers. Also included are a significant number of scrapbooks, some dedicated to particular theatrical productions and others that cover all aspects of her career and life. In fact, the scrapbooks comprise fully half of the collection.
The strength of this collection lies in its ability to illuminate all aspects of Hayes’s public life by documenting not only her professional activities, but also the political, social, and charitable causes near to her heart. Hayes’s life as a performing artist and public figure brought her into contact with influential figures in politics, medicine, and the arts, such as Maxwell Anderson, Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt, Anita Loos, Dr. Jonas Salk, and Alexander Woollcott. The collection provides a window into how Hayes’s interest in the human condition manifested itself through the public realm of her art.
The Helen Hayes papers are arranged in nine series:
- 1868; 1912 - 19621 box; .5 linear feet
This series contains letters and telegrams from Hayes’s friends and colleagues, including a few letters and notes from her immediate family. Correspondents include Brooks Atkinson, Stephen Vincent Benet, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mamie Eisenhower, Mary Martin, Paul Muni, Eleanor Roosevelt, Kim Stanley and Thorton Wilder. Of particular note is the correspondence from actor William Gillette and screenwriter and director Nunnally Johnson. Gillette’s handwritten correspondence, written in an idiosyncratic, poetic style, reveals him to be a highly creative, emotional personality and a somewhat unusual paternal figure in Hayes’s life. The Nunnally Johnson correspondence provides a witty window into Hollywood, containing anecdotes about casting sessions, writing, and producing films.
- 1935 - 1960; Undated1 box; .25 linear feet
This series contains drafts of various speeches Hayes gave at award ceremonies and convocations and includes handwritten index cards and edits. Further information about Hayes’s honorary degrees can be found in Programs, Awards and Ephemera, and Oversized material. While this series also includes a few sides and show rundowns, it contains no scripts from any of Hayes’s theatrical, film, or television productions.
- 1873; c. 1909-19602 boxes; 1 linear feet
This series contains clippings covering all aspects of Hayes’s career including her early days in theater and film, various honors, her public appearances, and profiles in magazines and newspapers.
- 1911 - 19631 box; .5 linear feet
This series contains programs from theatrical and radio productions and award ceremonies. Those interested in Hayes’s honorary degrees and awards should also see the Awards and Ephemera series and the Oversized materials. Of special note is the It’s Fun to Be Free program, a rally in support of American intervention in World War II. The program contains messages from President Roosevelt, Helen Hayes and Burgess Meredith; essays by Wendell Willkie and Alexander Woollcott; and a poem entitled What is America? by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht.
- 1817; 1857; 1887; 1935-1960; Undated1.5 boxes; .75 linear feet
This series contains Hayes’s honorary degrees from such institutions as Carnegie Institute of Technology, Columbia University, New York University, and Princeton University. Those interested in Hayes’s honorary degrees and awards should also see the corresponding institution folders in Awards and Ephemera series and the Oversized materials. The Ephemera in this series contains an advertisement for a performance by Edwin Booth as Hamlet, most probably from Helen Hayes’s maternal grandmother.
- 1921] - 1963; Undated.5 boxes; .25 linear feet
Of particular interest in this series are Vincent Price’s pencil sketch of Hayes in her Victoria Reginacostume, Fred Gwynne’s watercolor and ink of Mrs. McThing, and Hayes’s collage, created for Charles MacArthur, containing a telegram from Hayes to MacArthur. The collection also includes reproductions of Hirschfield drawings. Those interested in designs should also see the Designs and Artwork folders in Oversized Materials.
- 1905-1963; Undated6 boxes; 3 linear feet
This series contains both production stills and publicity photographs from Hayes’ theatrical, film, television, and radio productions; professional portraits by distinguished photographers; photographs of Hayes’s public appearances; autographed portraits from Hayes, in addition to autographed portraits from friends and colleagues; both personal and professional photographs from Hayes’s childhood, including candid photographs from her 1917 cross-country tour of Pollyanna. Included in her personal photographs are portraits taken by Charles MacArthur, an amateur photographer. Professional photographs include those by Cecil Beaton, Charles Sinclair Bull and Vandamm Studios.
- 1926-195921 boxes; 13.25 linear feet
The scrapbooks contain clippings, programs, photographs, artwork, correspondence, and telegrams covering Hayes’s career in theater, film, and television. Several scrapbooks were done professionally and are dedicated to particular productions. Several volumes created by Elmer Lewis, Hayes’s Nyack neighbor, include correspondence to various theaters seeking information and memorabilia about Hayes’s tours. Lewis includes both the outgoing and incoming correspondence in the scrapbooks, offering significant insight into the difficulties and triumphs of touring the United States in the 1930s. The highlight of this series is the Ladies and Gentlemen scrapbook which contains opening night telegrams, a backstage visitors log, a crayon drawing of Hayes and Orson Welles by Mary MacArthur, a colored pencil drawing by Beatrice Lillie, and Charles MacArthur’s Academy Award nomination certificate for Jane Eyre.
- 1914-1962; Undated8 boxes; 9.5 linear feet
The oversized material is organized to mirror the earlier series in this collection and therefore includes programs, awards and ephemera, designs and artwork, and photographs. Further material and information can be found by consulting the corresponding folders in each of the series. Included in this series are autographed portraits of Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, costume designs, an autographed set design for Ladies and Gentlemen by Boris Aronson, and an architectural drawing for the proposed National Theatre.