Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

Archives related to: Jaffe, William B., 1904-1972

titleGloria Swanson Papers, 18??-1988.
repositoryUniversity of Texas, Austin
descriptionThe papers of this well-known American actress encompass her long film and theater career, her extensive business interests, and her interest in health and nutrition, as well as personal and family matters.

The papers of actress Gloria Swanson (ca. [18--]-1988, bulk 1920-1983, 620 boxes) document her career accomplishments, her business ventures and her various interests, as well as her childhood, family, personal relationships, and private life. Included are correspondence, photographs, scripts, production records, financial and legal records, publicity materials, clippings, scrapbooks, published materials, film, audio recordings, music, writings, art work, and artifacts.

In the foreword to her autobiography, Swanson explained her eighty year accumulation of "files and scrapbooks and photographs and films and letters and documents" with the statement "I never throw anything away." Also a diligent custodian, she shepherded records from California to New York, installed state-of-the-art mechanical filing cabinets in her office in the 1950s, and even hired an archivist to order her papers after they were "ransacked" during the writing of Swanson on Swanson. This process was begun in 1980 by Raymond W. Daum.

As many files as possible have been placed in the context of their original creation, left in their original order, and grouped together in the appropriate series. Materials which had apparently been separated for research or otherwise segregated (such as "VIP" correspondence) have been reintegrated into the collection. Other parts of the collection, which were so chaotic as to be virtually unuseable (i.e., United Artists, Health and Nutrition subseries, clippings, photographs, etc.), have had order imposed upon them.

The collection contains extensive records (including numerous film stills) of previous hitSwanson'snext hit career in motion pictures, encompassing sixty-six films, ca. 1914-1975. Her film career spanned the early days of slapstick two-reelers, the peak of the silent era, and the transition to sound and other technological developments. Her role as one of the first women to independently produce her own films at United Artists, 1925-1933, is traced by the records of her production companies. These companies produced six of her films, including the controversial Sadie Thompson, and the legendary Erich von Stroheim fiasco Queen Kelly, as well as her first "talkie," The Trespasser. previous hitSwanson'snext hit watershed role of later years, that of Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), is also well documented.

Additionally, the collection also contains evidence of Swanson's varied personal enthusiasms: art (original art and sculpture by Miss previous hitSwansonnext hit, including a design for a United Nations Postal Administration stamp issue commemorating the Decade for Women, 1980); fashion (in addition to costume designs and the records of her commercial clothing line, there are associations with designers such as Coco Chanel, Edith Head, René Hubert, Givenchy, Pauline Trigere, Adam Werlé, and Valentina); health and nutrition (an early enthusiast of organic foods, her papers document a tireless crusade against chemical additives, inorganic pesticides, and pollution, her efforts in the passage of the so-called Delaney Bill in 1958, and participation in the Independent Cancer Research Foundation, the Committee for Independent Cancer Research, and the Patients' Aid Society); music (she sang on film, television, and stage, and numbered George Gershwin, Rosa Ponselle, and Jascha Heifetz among her friends); psychic phenomena and religion (her proclivities as a spiritual seeker are indicated in materials concerning such organizations as ESP Research Associates Foundation, the United Church of Religious Science, and the University of Science and Philosophy); politics (her campaign activities for Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, and Ronald Reagan are included); science and technology (including visits to Bell Helicopter and to NASA, from which she cherished an autographed picture and drawings by Werner von Braun); and travel (England, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Russia, and Sweden, represented chiefly through photographs).

There is a wide range of correspondence, located primarily in Series I., but also scattered through the other series due to the inevitable overlap of personal, career, business, and other relationships. Among Miss previous hitSwanson'snext hit correspondents are family, friends, business associates, acquaintances, and fans, spanning many notables from numerous fields of endeavor: Michelle Amon, Kenneth Anger, Robert Balzer, Vilma Banky, Beverly Bayne, Henry G. Bieler, Earl Blackwell, Virginia Bowker, Charles Brackett, Lewis L. Bredin, Harry A. Bruno, Carol Burnett, George Bush, Francis X. Bushman, Richard Evelyn Byrd, Walter Byron, James Cagney, Eddie Cantor, Carol Channing, Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Colman, Noel Coward, Fleur Cowles, Joan Crawford, George Cukor, Gloria Daly, Marion Davies, James J. Delaney, Cecil B. DeMille, Indra Devi, Thomas E. Dewey, Marlene Dietrich, William Dufty, Allan Dwan, Nelson Eddy, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, Harlan Ellison, Douglas Fairbanks, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Michael Farmer, José Ferrer, Allan Jay Friedman, George, Duke of Kent, George Gershwin, Margaret Ghika, Lillian Gish, Hubert de Givenchy, Elinor Glyn, Samuel Goldwyn, Ram Gopal, Edmund Goulding, D. W. Griffith, Gladys Griffith, Alec Guiness, Edmund Gwenn, Forrest Halsey, Oscar Hammerstein II, Helen Hayes, Will H. Hays, Edith Head, William Randolph Hearst, Ethel Helmsing, Katharine Hepburn, Conrad Hilton, Prince Franz Hohenlohe, Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, Edward Everett Horton, L. Ron Hubbard, René Hubert, William Bradford Huie, George S. Kaufman, Buster Keaton, Edward Moore Kennedy, Harold J. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy, Rose Kennedy, Jean Kerr, Edward I. Koch, Henri de la Falaise, Beatrice LaPlante, Henri Langlois, Rod LaRocque, Jesse L. Lasky, Evelyn Laye, Vivien Leigh, Alan Jay Lerner, Mervyn LeRoy, Clare Boothe Luce, Joel McCrea, Roddy McDowell, Frances Norton Manning, Arlette Marchal, Stanley Marcus, Frances Marion, Gene Markey, Herbert Marshall, Somerset Maugham, Louis B. Mayer, James Michener, Condé Nast, Marshall Neilan, David Niven, Richard M. Nixon, Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, Albert Parker, Louella Parsons, Mary Pickford, Zasu Pitts, Harold Prince, Ronald Reagan, Charles Revson, Carroll Righter, Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph M. Schenck, Else Schiaparelli, David O. Selznick, Ted Shawn, Eunice Shriver, Herbert K. Somborn, Adela Rogers St. Johns, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Steichen, Preston Sturges, Ed Sullivan, Joseph Patrick previous hitSwansonnext hit, Joseph Theodore previous hitSwansonnext hit, Constance Talmadge, Norma Talmadge, Bess Truman, Valentina, Erich von Stroheim, Raoul Walsh, Barbara Walters, LeRoy P. Ward, Jack Warner, Clifton Webb, Orson Welles, Dan Werlé, Billy Wilder, Lois Wilson, Sam Wood, Adelaide Woodruff, Florenz Ziegfeld, Adolph Zukor, and others.

An extensive index of correspondents (which also includes photographic subjects, prominent photographers, and some topics) has been created in order to locate materials which are dispersed through the collection. The index is selective and should by no means be considered exhaustive. Persons and subjects were selected for their own intrinsic importance, as well as their quantity and importance within the collection. Individual actors in the stills are not indexed. However, a Film Credits List is included in this inventory which lists the individual cast members for each of previous hitSwanson'snext hit films.

Though this collection is substantially complete, it is probably weakest in the area of personal materials for the 1920s through the mid-1940s. The permanent move to New York in the late 1930s, the arrival of long-time staffers such as Gladys Griffith in the 1940s, and the longevity of these arrangements seem to have contributed to a more stable and consistent climate in which the more comprehensive papers of the 1950s through the 1970s were created. Items not present in this archive include the bulk of Miss previous hitSwanson'snext hit film holdings, which were acquired by George Eastman House in 1967. For further information on those materials, see folders 201.1-201.8. For the disposition of certain other items after her death in 1983, see box 441.

Due to size, this inventory has been divided into separate units: The collection is now arranged in seven Series: I. Correspondence (1907-1983, 85 boxes), II. Career (ca. 1914-1983, 118 boxes), III. Business Interests (1921-1982, 76 boxes), IV. Other Interests (1923-1983, 51 boxes), V. Biographical/Personal Papers (ca. [18--]-1983, 110 boxes), VI. After Death (1983-1988, 1 box), and VII. Formats (1889-1983, 147 boxes). Though these groupings represent a comprehensive structure never realized during Swanson's lifetime, they continue, to some extent, the arrangement process begun in 1980. Internal files document various surveys of the papers, 1980-1982 (see folders 16.4-17.8).
extent620 boxes plus art, audio discs, bound volumes, film, galleys, microfilm, posters, and realia (292.5 linear feet)
formatsCorrespondence Film Clippings Legal Papers Scrapbooks
accessContact Assistant Film Curator for access. Original audio recordings and films are unavailable for use until preservation copies are made.
record source
finding aid
acquisition informationPurchase, 1982, and gifts, 1983-1988.
updated03/16/2023 10:29:58