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Monroe Wheeler papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 136

Scope and Contents

The Monroe Wheeler Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, personal and financial papers, photographs, graphic items, clippings, and objects which document Wheeler's life and work, principally as director of exhibitions and publications at the Museum of Modern Art. The collection spans the years 1890-1995.

The Papers are housed in 266 boxes and are arranged in 10 series: Correspondence, Writings, Personal Papers, Financial Papers, Photographs, Graphic Items, Clippings, Health and Estate Materials , Museum of Modern Art Records, and Objects. Oversize materials are stored in boxes 260-266.

Series I, Correspondence , contains letters found in Monroe Wheeler's archive following the processing of the Glenway Wescott Papers. When the two groups were originally received, a curatorial decision was made to classify all correspondence to or from Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler into Wescott's archive. However, despite attempts to segregate all correspondence, a number of letters were discovered among Wheeler's manuscripts and personal papers. Letters to or from Glenway Wescott were integrated into the Glenway Wescott Papers (YCAL MSS 134), leaving only letters to or from Monroe Wheeler. Readers are reminded that the bulk of Wheeler's correspondence is interfiled with Wescott's as part of YCAL MSS 134. What exists here is as a small addendum.

Several of the correspondents included in the General Correspondence subseries of the Glenway Wescott Papers also appear here, most notably: Mario Amaya; Brooke Astor; Alfred H. Barr, Jr.; Paul Cadmus; Henri Cartier-Bresson; Sir Kenneth Clark; David Leavitt; George Platt Lynes; Russell Lynes; Loren MacIver; Somerset Maugham; Christian William Miller; Marianne Moore; Raymond Mortimer; Alejandro Otero; Bernard Perlin; Anatole Pohorilenko, Ralph Pomeroy; Katherine Anne Porte; Nelson Rockefeller; Pauline and Philippe de Rothschild; James Thrall Soby; Bernardine Szold-Fritz; Virgil Thomson; and Diana Vreeland. Names which are found only in this group of correspondence include friends of Wheeler's, many from New York social and art circles: Riva Castleman; Max Ernst; Antonio Frasconi; Piet Mondrian; Satyajit Ray; Yves Vidal; Schuyler Watts; and John Hay Whitney.

The second subseries, Third-party Correspondence, contains letters among friends and associates of Wheeler's, such as several letters to Christian William Miller (including a group from George Platt Lynes), and several to Barbara Wescott (including one from Marianne Moore).

Series II. Writings , gathers together material from Wheeler's varied careers. (Wheeler's writings specifically done for the Museum of Modern Art are filed in Series IX.) Some of the earliest items in the General Writings subseries date from the 1920s, including advertisements written for the Coal and Iron National Bank and articles written for the Central Manufacturing District Magazine. Later works include drafts of the foreword for a catalog of David and Peggy Rockefeller's art collection, and an article for Artforum, "I Remember MOMA".

The Lectures & Speeches subseries includes notecards and typescripts principally on art subjects. The Writings about Monroe Wheeler contain profiles of Wheeler, mostly from art magazines. Writings of Others includes original drafts by artists ("Sculpture" by Arthur Lee and "La Morale de l'Art" by Gino Severini) and a number of copied works.

Series III, Personal Papers consists of 12 subseries, including Diaries, Datebooks (referred to as "appointment books" in the Glenway Wescott Papers), and notebooks. The Wheeler/Wescott Art Collections subseries documents the acquisition, loan, and sale of the two men's art objects. Club and Organizational Affiliations details Wheeler's involvement with a number of arts, social, and civic groups. Found among the General Items are personal files, Christmas cards sent by Wheeler, material concerning the estate of Marie Doro (a friend of Wheeler's), juvenilia, historic literary items (a letter by Benjamin Constant from 1817 and a letter by Arthur Symons from 1907), military papers, and a number of folders of travel information.

Several groups of items have been kept together to provide snapshots of Wheeler's life at certain periods. The contents of these have been fully described: Blotter pad (ca. 1930s); Cross leather portefeuille (ca. 1933-34); Folder of items from 1920s (ca. 1921-28); Folder of items from 1930s (1931-33); Set of postcards: "Paris - Santiago - Madrid - Toulouse - Paris, MW, GW, & GPL in a Ford - July - August 1933"; "Various documentary material of years gone by to remind Monroe of things in chronological order" (ca. 1941-67). Letters have been cross-referenced in Series I.

Series IV, Financial Papers , contains three subseries. Following Labelled Folders and Checkbook Ledgers are General Financial Papers, arranged chronologically. These have been subdivided into the following categories: receipts; cancelled checks; tax materials, investment information, and checking account information.

Series V, Photographs , follows the same arrangement as the Photographs series in the Glenway Wescott Papers. Individual shots of Wescott and Wheeler are followed by Photographs of Other People, Photographs in Series, Art Photography, Photographs of Artists' Works, and Various Subjects

Series VI, Graphic Items , gathers together other visual media. Among the Artwork Originals are a print after Cruikshank (made by Paul Cadmus) and a proof of a design by Alexander Calder. Wheelers collection of postcards (art and travel scenes and views) is housed in Other Items. Two carrying cases hold slides of artworks, possibly used by Wheeler in lectures.

Series VII, Clippings , covers a wide range of subjects, with a focus on art, people, and travel. Coverage of activities of Wescott, Wheeler, and the Wescott and Wheeler families is included here.

Series VIII, Health and Estate Materials , documents Wheeler's health, mainly in the 1980s, when he required frequent medical attention, and matters related to the management of his estate which were acquired from his executor, Anatole Pohorilenko, in 1998. Included here are items related to Wheeler's final years as well as documents concerning the settlement of his estate, such as correspondence, receipts, and files.

Series IX, Museum of Modern Art Records , is divided into thirteen subseries and documents Wheeler's career at MOMA. The first subseries, Correspondence, centers around letters directly related to MOMA. Correspondence kept here was either found in boxes distinctly containing MOMA material, or is on letterhead that is clearly connected to MOMA. However, since several correspondents appear here as well as in Series I and in the Correspondence series of the Glenway Wescott Papers, it is advisable to consult all three locations for related letters.

The first groups of correspondence are office files, which appear to have come directly from Wheeler's office at MOMA. The files, which date from the years 1956-67, are arranged alphabetically by topic, but in an idiosyncratic fashion: the filing key may be a person's name (not necessarily the correspondent), the name of an exhibit, or even a general topic. No complete cross-index to the contents of these files exists, though another office file, "Index to Monroe Wheeler's Files" (Box 238, folder 3067), provides some information about the content of his files. Following a group of office files relating to special categories (such as "Altercations" and "Offers to MOMA (Works of Art)") is a section of loose letters, divided into: Alphabetical, Third Party, and MOMA Membership. Office memos are also filed here.

The next sub-series, MOMA Exhibition Material, documents Monroe's work with museum exhibitions. Planning notes, catalog text drafts, clippings, and other material are arranged alphabetically by the name or subject of the exhibition. Office files, which contain a variety of notes and other material, are interfiled. Materials for a number of exhibitions held at museums other than MOMA are filed in the next sub-series, Non-MOMA Exhibitions Prepared by Monroe Wheeler.

Wheeler's long administrative service to the museum is detailed in the following sub-series, Committee Material, which brings together agendas, reports, minutes, and other meeting materials. Wheeler also served as director of publications at MOMA and several of his projects are documented in the MOMA Publications subseries, along with writings by others and several general office files relating to publications. Further sub-series contain: Printed Items, Press Releases, Clippings, and Photographs.

Other Office Files is broken down into sections relating to artists, reproductions of artists' works, people, travel, MW organizational affiliations, and various subjects. The subseries, Other Material, contains miscellaneous items related to MOMA, such as event seating lists, material from other museums and galleries, and loose notes.

Two special categories of information end the MOMA series. The first contains material relating to the International Council of MOMA, for which Wheeler served as counsellor following his retirement. It is made up mostly of meeting materials, 1967-1988. The information in the last sub-series, Rockefeller Mission to Latin America, concerns Nelson Rockefeller's controversial trips in 1969 as President Richard's Nixon's envoy to assess the cultural and social climates of several Central and South American countries. Included here are background briefing packets, reports, and notebooks Wheeler kept while traveling with Rockefeller.

Series X, Objects , contain several pieces of memorabilia, such as Wheeler's knit caps, Wescott's top hat, a tie given to Wheeler from Wescott, and Wheeler's Legion of Honor certificate and medal.

Series XI, Materials Removed from Printed Works , contain letters, newspaper clippings, and other papers.

Oversize contains materials from Series II, II, VI, VII, and IX.


  • 1890-1995


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Monroe Wheeler Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase from Monroe Wheeler, 1988, with later purchase and gift from Anatole Pohorilenko, 1998.

Associated Materials

Glenway Wescott Papers, YCAL MSS 134

Monroe Wheeler Collection of George Platt Lynes Photographs, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY.


117.42 Linear Feet (268 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Monroe Wheeler Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts,personal and financial papers, photographs, graphic items, clippings, and objects which document Wheeler's life and work, principally at the Museum of Modern Art.
Series I, Correspondence, contains letters found in Monroe Wheeler's archive following the processing of the Glenway Wescott Papers (YCAL MSS 134), which holds the majority of letters to and from Wheeler. Series II. Writings, gathers together material from different periods of Wheeler's life, principally having to do with his careers. Personal Papers consists of 12 subseries containing material documenting various activities. Financial Papers contains three subseries. Photographs contains items which were not integrated into the main collection of images cataloged in the Glenway Wescott Papers (YCAL MSS 134). Series VI gathers together various Graphic Items. Clippings covers a wide range of subjects, with a focus on art, people, and travel. Series VIII, Health and Estate Materials, documents Wheeler's health, mainly in the 1980s. Series IX, Museum of Modern Art Records, contains thirteen subseries of material about Wheeler's career at MOMA. Objects contains several pieces of realia.


Monroe Wheeler was born on February 13, 1899 in Evanston, Illinois. Following his primary education, he pursued a number of careers, but his avocation of choice was as a printer. Upon receiving a small printing press as a gift from his father, Wheeler began producing chap books of poetry under the imprint, Manikin Press. One of his first works was The Bitterns, a collection of poems by Glenway Wescott, whom he had met in Chicago in 1920 and who would become Wheeler's long-time companion. (See the biographical sketch in the Glenway Wescott Papers, YCAL MSS 134, for more information.)

In 1921, Wheeler traveled with Wescott to Germany, where he wrote a series of articles about the post-war economy for a Chicago trade journal, Central Manufacturing District Magazine. After his return to New York in 1923, he worked for the Coal and Iron National Bank as a copywriter. In 1925 Wheeler moved with Wescott to Villefranche, in the south of France, where they entered a vibrant literary and artistic circle populated by the likes of Jean Cocteau and Isadora Duncan.

In 1926, another important figure entered Wheeler's life when he was introduced to George Platt Lynes, an aspiring writer and publisher. Lynes fell in love with Wheeler, and eventually, he became a third partner in the existing relationship. In part through Wheeler's encouragement, Lynes eventually found his most rewarding metier, as a fashion and figural photographer. (Lynes died in New York City in December, 1955.)

In 1930, while still in France, Wheeler entered into a partnership with Barbara Harrison to establish the Harrison of Paris press, the goal of which was to publish fine editions of new and neglected classics. Over 5 years, they produced 13 titles, including works by Thomas Mann, Katherine Anne Porter, and Glenway Wescott's A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers, with illustrations by Pavel Tchelitchew.

In 1935, following the marriage of Barbara Harrison to Glenway's younger brother, Lloyd, Wheeler and Wescott moved back to the United States. They soon set up households both on the farm in New Jersey bought by Barbara Harrison and Lloyd Wescott and in New York City, where they shared a series of apartments with George Platt Lynes.

It was at this time that Wheeler began an association with the Museum of Modern Art when, in 1935, he guest-curated an exhibit. His position at MOMA became permanent in 1938 when he was hired as Membership Director, then moved quickly into the position of Director of Exhibitions and Publications. Wheeler's innovations in publication and exhibit design soon became well-known. Among his most popular shows were "20th Century Portraits" [1942-43], "Chaim Soutine" [1950], "Georges Rouault Retrospective" [1953], a Pierre Bonnard memorial exhibit [1964], and "Turner, Imagination and Reality" [1966]. In 1951, in recognition of his work in bringing French artists to the attention of American viewers, he was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor by the government of France.

In 1967, in preparation for his retirement, Wheeler shifted his duties at the museum. Having long been a trustee of the museum, he was appointed counselor and joined the International Council in its biannual meetings. After his official retirement in 1967, he continued to advise the museum on exhibitions and serve with a number of civic and arts organizations, including the Grolier Club, the International Graphic Arts Association, and New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. In 1969, Wheeler traveled as a cultural advisor with Nelson Rockefeller on a presidential mission to Latin America. In the 1970s, Wheeler traveled extensively and worked on projects documenting the history of MOMA and the collections of the Rockefeller family. Monroe Wheeler died in Manhattan on August 14, 1988 at the age of 89, 18 months after the death of Glenway Wescott.

Processing Information

The Glenway Wescott Papers contain materials from the Monroe Wheeler Papers - and vice-versa. Wescott and Wheeler lived together or shared residences for over six decades. Their professional and personal papers were understandably mixed when they were transferred to the Beinecke Library in 1988 (with further additions in 1998). During the processing of the papers, efforts were made to segregate papers reflecting Wescott's writing and activities from those documenting Wheeler's personal and professional life. All personal correspondence for both men was grouped in one series and classed with Glenway Wescott's papers. (However, Wheeler's professional correspondence from MOMA, as well as a smaller group of vestigial letters found among his personal effects, are classed in the Monroe Wheeler Papers.) Another group of overlapping material placed mainly in the Glenway Wescott Papers is photographs in Series VII. Audio Recordings of Monroe Wheeler are stored with the Wescott Papers in Series XII. For other materials, the reader should find parallel groups in both the Glenway Wescott Papers and the Monroe Wheeler Papers (such as Financial Papers, and Clippings.)

CAVEAT: Readers are advised, when looking for correspondence or names of persons, to look in both the Glenway Wescott Papers and the Monroe Wheeler Papers.

Significant materials relating to other persons and entities were also received with the papers. These have been cataloged separately: Harrison of Paris Records, Nelson Lansdale, George Platt Lynes, Marianne Moore, Ralph Pomeroy, Frances C. Lamont Robbins, and Katherine Anne Porter

Guide to the Monroe Wheeler Papers
by Timothy G. Young
September 2000
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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