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Myers family papers

 Collection
Call Number: YCAL MSS 27

Scope and Contents

The Myers Family Papers document the lives of Richard Edwin Myers, Alice Lee Herrick Myers, and their children Frances Margaret Myers, Richard Herrick Myers, and Alice Lee Myers. The papers span the dates 1908-86, but the bulk of the material dates from between 1916-45.

The papers are divided into three series: I. Personal Correspondence, Boxes 1-8; II. Family Correspondence, Boxes 9-19; and III. Family Papers (Boxes 20-28), divided into three sections, Richard E. Myers Papers, Alice LeeHerrick Myers Papers, and Richard Herrick Myers Papers. Oversize material is located in Boxes 29-31.

Researchers interested in Stephen Vincent Benét and other literary figures of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s; Paris and its expatriate circles; World Wars I and II; and the lives of a socially prominent twentieth-century American family will find the Myers Family Papers extremely rewarding.

The Personal Correspondence contains eight boxes of alphabetically arranged correspondence of literary, artistic, musical, and theater personalities like Stephen Vincent Benét, Philip Barry, Nadia Boulanger, Grace Flandrau, John Gielgud, Jerome Hill, Charlotte Kett, Archibald MacLeish, Gerald Murphy, Howard Vincent O'Brien, and Cyril Richard.

In Series I, the letters from Stephen Vincent Benét are interfiled with letters from his wife, Rosemary, and with letters to the Benéts from Richard E. Myers. According to Alice Lee's notations, Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét were introduced in the Myers's Paris apartment shortly after they settled there in 1920. From that point onward, the letters reveal a close personal friendship between the Myers and the Benéts. Exchanges on parenting are mingled with discussions of Benét's work and the work of other literary figures. Myers's letters from 1929 to 1932 to the Benéts, for example, are full of anecdotes about Ernest Hemingway, Archibald MacLeish, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.

One early letter of July 27, 1922 from Myers to Benét illustrates the nature of their friendship. He chides Benét on his short stories saying, "I wish you'd do another big thing . . . I'm afraid [the short stories will] affect your style bye and bye and you won't be able to do the things you ought to do. Be careful Steve . . . And don't you dare get Fitzgeraldish." Benét sent Myers many original poems, which are mentioned in the correspondence, but found in the scrapbooks in Series III, Family Papers. Newspaper clippings about and photographs of the Benéts can also be found in the scrapbooks. After Stephen's death in 1943, the Myers remained close to the Benéts and, according to one undated newspaper clipping, Richard gave the eldest Benét daughter away in marriage.

The correspondence of expatriate Gerald Murphy reveals a closeness between the Myers and the Murphys that is similar to that with the Benéts. The letters begin in 1931 just before Murphy left Paris to return to the family business in New York City. Murphy mentions little, if anything, about his work or his painting; he writes mostly of food and wine, his travels, his friendships, and his family.

Letters from others in Series I reveal the breadth of the Myers's associations. From 1927 to 1973 they corresponded with various members of the Flandrau family. Charles Macomb Flandrau and sister-in-law Grace Flandrau write of mutual friends, their travels, and their work. Opera singer Emma Eames and music teacher Nadia Boulanger discuss their musical careers. They also encouraged Richard to pursue his musical interests. The correspondence of John Gielgud, Peter Ustinov, and Charles Nolte describes the theater world of the 1940s through the 1960s, especially in Great Britain. Newspaper clippings, photographs, and additional pieces of correspondence related to these and other figures can be found in the scrapbooks in Family Papers.

The interrelated nature of the correspondence is underscored by that of Charles Child. A museum brochure of 1935 enclosed with an unknown letter shows that some of Child's paintings were owned by the Benéts and were used as illustrations in some of their books. The 1952 correspondence of Child's twin brother, Paul, and Paul's wife, Julia Child, is liberally sprinkled with drawings by Paul. It forms a kind of journal of their travels abroad, not unlike the narratives found in the Myers's own correspondence.

These and other themes are expanded in the second series, Family Correspondence . Arranged chronologically from 1916 to 1980, the letters in Series II record events that shaped the lives of Richard and Alice Lee Myers and their children, as well as the lives of extended family members.

Most of the letters are between Richard and Alice Lee who, although emotionally close, led geographically separate lives for much of their marriage. Both were prolific correspondents and they wrote in detail of their daily interests. Social activities were especially important and they shared with one another their experiences with, and their thoughts about, their closest friends and acquaintances.

The letters of 1936, for example, contain references to Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sidney Howard, Archibald MacLeish, Nadia Boulanger, Sinclair Lewis, Kathleen Norris, Elenor Wylie and William Rose Benét, Radclyffe Hall, Donald Ogden Stewart, e. e. cummings, Gilbert Seldes, John Peale Bishop, Janet Flanner, and Ernest Hemingway. There are also innumerable comments throughout this series about the Benéts, the Murphys, the Barrys, and the Fitzgeralds. The Myers traveled with these friends and their children played together.

The letters also provide a great deal of information on Myers family life. The earliest, written in 1916-17, are courtship letters. The correspondence from 1918 to 1919, concerning Alice Lee's experience in the Red Cross, and Richard's military service, is rich in detail about World War I. Alice Lee's letters to her sister Frances Herrick, during this period, are particularly interesting. Also included are typescripts of these World War I letters, prepared later by Alice Lee, who hoped to publish them. Letters from Fenimore ("Billy") Merrill to Dick in Series I also concern the war.

Between World War I and II, the major events highlighted in the family correspondence are more personal in nature. Typical subjects include Richard's job changes, Alice Lee's buying trips for Mark Cross and her own shop, and the children's experiences in various schools and summer camps.

From 1941 through August 1945, the bulk of the correspondence concerns World War II. Letters from son Dicky while he was in training with the R.A.F. in Bermuda, England, and Canada; letters from Richard while he was with the OSS in London; letters from daughter Fanny while she was serving in the Office of War Information in London and Paris; and letters from Alice Lee in the States give detailed accounts, from a variety of perspectives, of the War and its effects on American and European life.

The smallest group of letters covers the period 1946-80. The marriages of the daughters, their families, countless social affairs, and Richard and Alice Lee's involvement in various beneficent causes are typical topics of discussion. After Richard's death in 1958, the volume of correspondence decreases sharply.

The third and last series, Family Papers , contains scrapbooks, diaries, writings, clippings, and memorabilia related to the interests of, and the events in the lives of, Richard E. Myers, Alice Lee Herrick Myers, and Richard Herrick Myers.

The Richard E. Myers Papers contain his writings, including some original musical compositions, printing plates for "Alien" (with words by Archibald MacLeish), and a list of his sheet music collection that was donated to the New York Public Library.

The Alice Lee Herrick Myers Papers contain material related to her interests. Her fashion articles for the Chicago Daily News and her clippings files on fashion and food are included in her papers. Also found is material on American and European society. The most important material in the Alice Lee Herrick Myers Papers is related to the Red Cross and World War I. In addition to clippings, photographs, and memorabilia, there is a folder of orders and other papers that show the official side of her work. Also included is correspondence to and from non-family members, arranged chronologically, showing the circumstances of her work. This correspondence contains letters from wounded soldiers and letters from the parents of deceased servicemen. The World War II material is similarly organized. Most of the correspondence is from servicemen who stayed with Alice Lee and from mothers whose sons were also killed during the war.

Richard Herrick Myers's premature death had a profound effect on the family and seems to have foreshadowed his father's death fifteen years later. Except for the Avon Old Farms school material, all of the Richard Herrick Myers Papers are, in some way, related to Dicky's death, including twenty-seven folders of alphabetically arranged letters of sympathy. In Box 27, folder 427, under the heading "memorials," is a poem by Archibald MacLeish dedicated to the memory of Richard Herrick Myers. The material related to the death of Richard E. Myers is similarly arranged. Other World War II material concerns his service in the Royal Air Force. Richard's diary, datebooks, notes, photographs, and memorabilia paint a clear picture of his service and the chronologically arranged correspondence to and from his friends provides a glimpse into the lives of servicemen.

Material about these and other events in the lives of the Myers can also be found in the scrapbooks located in Oversize, Boxes 29-31. Their custom-made Christmas cards from the 1920s and 1930s, for example, and newspaper articles about national and international events are located there, together with photographs, poems, and letters from friends and acquaintances, arranged in random order. Box 21, folder 333, however, holds informal indexes for two of the scrapbooks that Alice Lee made after her husband's death.

Dates

  • 1908 - 1986

Creator

Language

English

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 32: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Myers Family 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

The papers were donated by Frances Myers Brennan in 1987.

Extent

15 Linear Feet (32 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.myers

Overview

The papers contain correspondence with family, friends, and acquaintances, plus a variety of personal papers, including obituaries, letters of sympathy, diaries, and scrapbooks documenting the lives of Richard E. and Alice Lee Myers and their children. Prominent correspondents include Stephen Vincent Benét, Nadia Boulanger, Grace Flandrau, John Gielgud, Charlotte Kett, Archibald MacLeish, and Gerald Murphy.

RICHARD EDWIN MYERS (1887-1958)

Richard Edwin Myers was born in Chicago on December 25, 1887. After graduation from the University of Chicago in 1911, he considered becoming a pianist and songwriter, but his first job was in the shipping department of the American Radiator Company in St. Paul. In 1917, however, he moved to New York City to pursue a theatrical career. These plans were interrupted by World War I, when Myers joined the U. S. Army and served in the American Expeditionary Force in France.

Upon demobilization, he returned to Chicago, where in 1920 he married his college sweetheart, Alice Lee Herrick. From 1921-28 Myers was advertising manager for the American Express Company in Paris. For the next four years he remained in Paris as an associate editor of the Ladies Home Journal, but returned to New York City in 1932 and was hired as a sales representative for M. Lehmann Inc., a wine and liquor retailer. During World War II he served in the Office of Strategic Services in London and after the war became a director of M. Lehmann, Inc.

Well known in New York and Paris social circles as a fine amateur musician, the former student of Nadia Boulanger composed the piano music for Archibald MacLeish's "Alien" and some music for Philip Barry's play "Without Love." In 1949 Richard E. Myers received the Cross of the French Legion of Honor for encouraging the performance of French music in the United States and for his work with American aid to France. He served on the board of directors of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. He was also a connoisseur of French wines, associate editor of Gourmet, and a regular contributor to Town & Country.

Richard E. Myers and Alice Herrick Myers had three children: Frances Margaret ("Fanny") born in 1921, Richard Herrick ("Dicky") in 1923, and Alice Lee ("Boo" or "Lee") in 1929. After a long illness, Myers died on August 8, 1958.
ALICE LEE HERRICK MYERS (1890-1986) Alice Lee Herrick was born in Chicago on August 27, 1890. After the death of her mother in 1898, Alice and sister Frances lived with their grandmother, Mrs. Anthony French Merrill, in Camden, Maine. She majored in English at the University of Chicago, where she met her future husband, and after graduation worked in Chicago. In 1918 she volunteered for service in the American Red Cross and worked in France and Germany in its Bureau of Canteens.

After marriage the couple moved to Paris, where she directed the bilingual education of their children and managed a dress shop that featured embroidery work by Russian emigrées. In 1933 she wrote, from Paris, a fashion column for the Chicago Daily News. The talent, however, for which Alice Lee was best known, particularly during her Paris years, was her skill at entertaining. The Myers's home attracted scores of American and French writers, playwrights, singers, producers, critics, musicians, and diplomats, many of whom became close personal friends. Alice Lee remained in Paris for two years after her husband began working for M. Lehmann, Inc., but thereafter New York City became their permanent home.

The children finished their education in New York City and Connecticut. During World War II, Fanny served with the Office of War Information in London and Paris. Dicky enlisted in the Royal Air Force but was killed on a training flight in Canada on November 28, 1943. Alice Lee nursed her husband during his long illness in the 1950s and after his death remained devoted to her family and friends until her death on June 5, 1986.
HERRICK-MYERS FAMILY William Josiah Herrick (-1917) m. Irene Waldron (-1898)
Frances ("Fanny") Herrick
Alice Lee Herrick (1890-1986) m. 1920 Richard Edwin Myers (1888- 1958)
Frances (“Fanny”) Margaret Myers (1921-2001) m. 1946 Francis ("Hank") Brennan (1910-1992)
Christopher Herrick Brennan (1950-) m. 1974 Ellen Silverberg (1951-)
Richard ("Dicky") Lee Brennan (1957-) m. 1995 Elizabeth Helen Gery (1953-)
Richard Herrick Myers (1923-1943)
Alice Lee Myers (1929-) m. 1953 Philip W. Wrenn*
Richard ("Dickon") Seward Wrenn** (1958-)
Laura Wrenn** (1959-)

* divorced, 1967

** adopted children
Title
Guide to the Myers Family Papers
Author
by Ellen Zak Danforth
Date
March 1988
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2010-02-10: Transformed with yale.addEadidUrl.xsl. Adds @url with handle for finding aid. Overwrites @url if already present.
  • 2007-08-13: beinecke.myers.xml converted for compliance with Yale EAD Best Practice Guidelines with brbl-migrate-01.xsl (mr2007-08-13).
  • 2007-03-08: PUBLIC "-//Yale University::Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library//TEXT (US::CtYBR::::[MYERS FAMILY PAPERS ])//EN" "myers.xml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977