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Katharine Buell Wilder family papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 18
Scope and Contents

The Katharine Buell Wilder Family Papers provide documentation on the lives and careers of Katharine Buell Wilder, Robert Holman Wilder, Susanna Wilder Heinz, and other members of the Buell, Heinz, Samter, and Wilder families. The papers span the dates 1774-1996, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1906-1996.

The papers are divided into five series. Series I, Family Correspondence, contains three boxes of chronologically arranged Wilder family and Samter-Heinz family personal correspondence. Series II, Professional Correspondence, contains alphabetically arranged correspondence, much concerning Katharine Buell Wilder's writing career. Series III primarily holds drafts of unpublished writings and the remaining two series contain a variety of family papers and photographs. The collection also has four boxes of Oversize material and concludes with the papers comprising the 1987 Addition.

Series I, Family Correspondence , is divided into two chronological sections, Wilder Family and Samter-Heinz Family. Wilder family correspondence is found in Boxes 1-2, folders 1-39. A scattering of family letters covering the period 1852-1900 is housed in folders 1-4. Perhaps the most interesting are a June 27, 1880 letter from George Frederick Wilder to Abigail G. Holman describing a visit to Cleveland, a small series of 1885 condolence letters following the death of the Wilder's infant son Harold, and a handful of letters from Mary Holman Barrett to her daughter Abigail Holman Wilder. Robert Holman Wilder's first letters describe a 1913 trip to Europe.

Katharine Buell Wilder is the recipient of the bulk of the WilderFamily letters. Correspondents include Alfred Ely Buell, Anna Dodge Buell, Lucy Burton Buell, and, most importantly, her daughter Susanna. The Buell family letters discuss finances, family history, and the sad life of Katharine's father Alfred. A Williams College educated lawyer, Alfred Ely Buell abandoned his family after the death of his wife in 1902. He occasionally wrote to his daughter in subsequent years, but died a pauper in San Diego. His last illness and death are describe in a November 2, 1928 letter of Lucy Burton Buell.

Susanna Wilder's letters to her parents begin in 1928, when they were in New York City trying to save their publicity business. A group of 1930-35 letters date from the time when Susanna attended Camp Arden in Brattleboro, Vermont. The volume of correspondence increases for the period 1937-50 and provides some insight into college life at Smith and her teaching career. The Wilders endured difficult financial circumstances after the collapse of their publicity business. The correspondence shows that Susanna received considerable financial assistance from aunt Elizabeth Loving Hamilton during her undergraduate years. Once she began teaching she often sent money to her parents.

In her interesting letter of January 31, 1938, Katharine discusses the success of German shock troops on the Italian front during World War I and the war writings of Hemingway and Remarque. In a September 27, 1938 letter, she describes the recent hurricane and expresses the fear that war in Europe is inevitable. Susanna discusses a 1941 visit by Eleanor Roosevelt to Smith and the operation of the Tennessee poll tax in a November 1944 letter. Other letters concern such subjects as the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake and Wilder family history. In one of the last letters in the section, Robert F. Kennedy thanks Bernard Heinz for his support in 1968.

The Samter-Heinz Family correspondence, Boxes 2-3, folders 40-70, primarily covers three periods in the life of Jeanne Samter Heinz between 1906 and 1913. The largest group of letters covers the period between September 1906 and August 1907 when Jeanne and her cousin Edith Klauber of New York City were attending Mont Choisi finishing school in Lausanne, Switzerland. The correspondence consists of letters and postcards sent to her from family and school friends in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and from Klauber relatives in Munich. The major correspondents are her parents, Samuel Samter and Julia Klauber Samter; her sister and brother-in-law, Minnie Samter Levy and Abram Levy; aunt, Elise Klauber Bloch, in Munich; and cousin, Sophie Schwartz, in Munich. Family news and news of friends and relatives in Scranton are the chief subjects of correspondence. The letters also provide information on life on the Hill in Scranton. Jeanne's first letters describe a 1908 trip to Munich, where she took singing lessons. Folders 61-69 concern the wedding and honeymoon of Jeanne Samter and Bernard Heinz (1880-1968). Married on June 30, 1913, Jeanne and Bernard traveled to the West Coast on their honeymoon. Their letters describe the journey. In addition, the correspondence includes a number of letters written to the honeymooners from Samter and Heinz relatives.

The Samter-Heinz correspondence also contains a number of interesting early twentieth-century postcards. A 1911 Bavarian card, for example, mourns the death of the regent, while another from 1915 honors Kapitänleutnant Weddigen who "starb den Heldentod auf U29."

The two groups of correspondence provide an interesting contrast between the genteel poverty of the Wilders and the comfortable middle class affluence of the Samters, a merchant family affiliated with Reform Judaism.

Series II, Professional Correspondence , consists of one box of alphabetically arranged letters, mostly written to Katharine Buell and Robert Holman Wilder. The earliest significant correspondence dates from World War I and includes four letters to Katharine from L. H. Delabarre of the "Ambulance Américaine de Compagnie No. 1" attached to the French First Army; letters from European friends Abbé Ernest Dimnet, Gladys Reynolds, and an unidentified John (folder 96) from Rome; and several 1917 letters congratulating Katharine on her marriage. Folder 90 holds two letters of introduction for "Captain Robert H. Wilder" from the mayor of New York City, John Purroy Mitchel. A group of 1928-29 letters concerns Katharine's one major publication, The Other Side of Main Street, "a comedy of modern America." Included are four Sinclair Lewis letters and letters from such appreciative readers as A. F. Bennett, Norman Hapgood, and William Lyon Phelps.

Major correspondents in the series include Richard Washburn Child, Hutchins Hapgood, Fannie Hurst, John T. McCutcheon of The ChicagoTribune, and Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. The series also contains rejection letters from Charles B. Blanchard, Thomas B. Costain, Ray Long, and Edward Weeks; a 1929 letter from William R. Moody at the time of his resignation as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Northfield Schools; a Christmas card from Owen Johnson; and single letters from Eleanor Roosevelt and Elliott Speer.

Series III, Writings , is located on Boxes 5-6 of the Wilder Family Papers. The greater part of the series consists of unpublished manuscripts by Katharine Buell Wilder of "The Chisolm Trail" by John Noble, ghostwritten by Katharine Buell Wilder; "For God and Country: The Life and Military Career of John Wesley Bennett;" "French King Valley," a story of the Connecticut River around 1824; "The Last of the Wintersets," chapters 1-3 of "The Murder of Elliott Speer," and the shorter "Kipling's Home in America." "For God and Country" recounts the Civil War experience of Lt. Colonel John Wesley Bennett, a member of the First Vermont Cavalry and the staff of General George Armstrong Custer. "The Murder of Elliott Speer" concerns the spectacular unsolved killing of Speer, headmaster of Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts. He was murdered in his study on September 14, 1934 with a blast from a shotgun. For additional material on the Speer case, see Box 8, folder 179 and Box 14, folder 273. The series also contains three folders of papers relating to The Other Sideof Main Street and copies of early published writings, a World War I era short story, three pamphlets on pacifism and propaganda published by the United States Naval Institute, and a 1910 newspaper article on Puerto Rico by Robert H. Wilder.

Series IV, Family Papers , is housed in Boxes 7-9 of the Wilder Family Papers. Most of the papers concern family members, but the series also includes scraps of writings of Horace Greeley on "The August Election," perhaps of 1869; autograph letters of Thomas Moore and Thomas Nast; newspaper clippings about Elliott Speer; and papers on Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Scattered throughout the series is a variety of papers on Buell, Clark, Holman, Klauber, Loving, Noble, Samter, and Wilder family history and genealogy. The largest quantity of papers, however, concerns such individuals as Bernard Heinz (1915-), Jeanne Samter Heinz, Susanna Wilder Heinz, Katharine Buell Wilder, and Robert Holman Wilder. Included are a baby book and childhood correspondence of Bernard Heinz; wedding memorabilia and postcards of Jeanne Samter Heinz; writings, articles about, and Smith College materials of Susanna Wilder Heinz; a 1949 autobiography of Katharine Buell Wilder; and cartoons, drawings, and watercolors of Robert Holman Wilder. In addition, Family Papers house a typescript of "Yesterdays," the reminiscences of Louis Samter Levy, a Wall Street lawyer; a notebook of Bavarian Court German exercises kept by Julia Klauber Samter; and a 1928 Firma Rosa Klauber 70th anniversary book written in German. Other items of interest are autograph photographs presented to Jeanne Samter Heinz by Nelson Eddy and Lauritz Melchior, information about Camp Arden's Children's Crusade (Box 7, folders 149-50), and the 1844 discharge of Augustus F. Holman from the United States Marine Corps (Box 8, folder 156).

Series V, Photographs, consists of three boxes of alphabetically arranged photographs of people and places. The bulk of the photographs are of several Buells, Heinzes, Samters, and Wilders. Many are formal portraits and portraits of family groups, but snapshots and passport photos are also included. Items of interest include an 1896 photo of Bernard Heinz (1880-1968) and Harold Stark, the future chief of naval operations, taken at camp and several fine portraits of young Katharine Buell Wilder.

Oversize papers are housed in Boxes 13-16 of the collection. They include illustrations for "French King Valley," by Robert Holman Wilder; scrapbooks kept by Susanna Wilder Heinz; a scrapbook on the Elliott Speer case; photo albums kept by Jeanne Samter Heinz; Katharine Buell Wilder's scrapbook covering her years at Painesville High School in Painesville, Ohio; and cartoons and drawings by Robert Holman Wilder.

Additions since 1987 consist of five acquisitions which took place in 1987, 1994, 1994, 2002, and 2015.

The 1987 Addition to the Wilder Family Papers. The papers contain letters written by Bernard Heinz, (1915-) and a photograph album documenting his stay at Sundown Ranch in Aripine, Arizona in the summer of 1930. Two additional folders of 1941 correspondence concern Bernard's investigation of family owned mining claims in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the sale of which is traced in folders 296-97. The Addition also includes autobiographical and biographical information on Susanna Wilder Heinz, Samter family notes, and a copy of Lindenwood Tales by Marguerite Behman published by Wilder & Buell in 1921.

The December 1993 acquistion, consists of one box of photographs, personal memorabilia, and family writings.

The December 1994 acquisition, contains Bernard Heinz's writing and research from both his personal projects and assignments for newspapers and magazines. Also included are family photographs from his side of the family and Susanna Wilder Heinz's side of the family. The series also includes his personal papers.

The June 2002 acquisition, includes Bernard Heinz's professional and personal writings and research. It also includes his and Susanna Wilder Heinz's personal papers and family photographs.

The December 2015 acquisition, contains Susanna Wilder Heinz' s personal papers, photographs, and writings. The series includes correspondence documenting her speaking engagements at Unitarian Universalist churches, her work on a book about her cat, and her relationships with her family members.

The Katharine Buell Wilder Family Papers provide information on the writing career of Katharine Buell Wilder, but the collection is probably most useful for those interested in family and women's history. The difficult economic circumstances of Katharine and her disabled husband are well documented, as are the educational experiences of their daughter Susanna, the close relationship between parents and child, and the affluent circumstances of the Samters of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The 1993, 1994, 2002, and 2015 acquisitions document both Bernard Heinz and Susanna Wilder Heinz's careers as writers. Bernard Heinz's interest in Theodore Winthrop, Frederic Church, New Haven and Connecticut history are documented in his writing and research. Susanna Wilder Heinz's drafts of a book about her cat and cat ownership and her speaking engagement correspondence depict her career as a writer and a religious educator.

Conditions Governing Access

Box 18: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Katharine Buell Wilder Family Papers is 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

The papers were donated to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library by Bernard and Susanna Wilder Heinz in 1977, 1986, and 1987. 1993 and 1994 acqusitions were donated by Bernard Heinz. 2002 and 2015 acquistions were donated by Susanna Wilder Heinz.

1764 - 1996
Majority of material found within 1906 - 1987
26.18 Linear Feet ((45 boxes) + 1 broadside)
Related Names
Wilder, Katharine Buell, 1889-1957
Language of Materials