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Alice Rogers Smith papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 29

Scope and Contents

The Alice Rogers Smith Papers contain correspondence addressed to Alice Smith; her personal papers, including photographs; the writings of twin- sister Amy Margaret Smith; and art work of the Smiths' friend, George Plank. The papers span the dates 1880-1971.

The twins were born on May 26, 1883 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Samuel and Florence Rogers Smith. The two sisters are best known for their editorship, together with George Plank and Margaret H. Scott, of The Butterfly Quarterly from 1907-09. The Smiths, who lived on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, never married. Amy died in 1928 and Alice Rogers Smith on December 17, 1971.

The papers are divided into two series: Correspondence (Box 1) and Related Papers (Boxes 2-3), plus two boxes of oversize papers. Series I contains the correspondence of Alice Smith. Her primary correspondent was George Plank, whose first letter on September 24, 1928 commiserates with her concerning the death of her sister, Amy Smith. From 1940-43 he wrote to Smith about serving in the Home Guard, about war drills and food rationing, and on March 17, 1942 he wrote about Ezra Pound, who "is in Rome Hee-hawing for Musso!!! I always thought he was bogus, but now I'm sure of it." In the fifties, Plank wrote about their mutual friends, including Charlie Brimer, James Whitall, Sir Trevor and Lady Bigham, and Plank's sisters, "Ady" and Amy. The writers, H.D. and Bryher, were also his close friends. One January 20, 1954 letter describes Bryher's first husband, Robert McAlmon, as "a drunken American," and also mentions her second husband, Kenneth Macpherson, who has a photographer boyfriend and "seems to have given up his black boys." An undated excerpt at the end of his correspondence has a design for H.D.'s bookplate on the verso (Box 1, folder 19).

Bryher's first letter to Smith is a 1942 Christmas card of a bulldog designed by Plank (Box 1, folder 5). Her correspondence from the late fifties and sixties concerns her estate in Switzerland, Plank's four-week visit to Kenwin in January 1961, and H.D.'s illnesses and death in 1961. H.D. wrote thank-you letters to Smith for her presents of balsam cushions, and she sent Moravian beeswax candles from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in return.

The remaining letters from Lady Bigham, Edy Craig, Vita Sackville-West, and other mutual friends often mention Plank. Violet Gordon-Woodhouse's October 29, 1947 letter about "Sachie Sitwell dedicating his new Book to me" was actually written to Plank, and it was passed along to Alice because she was mentioned in it. Gwen Parkes, who was Plank's housekeeper, wrote about Plank's death on May 4, 1965 and the Australian novelist, Patrick White, wrote on May 23, 1965 to thank Smith for telling him of Plank's death: "he had a very good and long life--one of the best lives I can think of, as everybody liked him, and he doesn't seem to have been touched by jealousy, ambition, or any of the more destructive lusts."

Series II, Related Papers , is divided into three subseries and begins with the personal papers of Alice Smith. Her papers contain early family photographs and an album (Box 2, folders 29-37) of the twins and George Plank in their twenties at Asbury Park, Deal Lake, and the Shark River. A 1907 photograph shows the editors of The Butterfly Quarterly holding the first edition of their magazine (Box 2, folder 34). Later Smith photographs include pictures of friends, such as Olive Percival and Georges Cote (Box 2, folders 37-38); their house, "Willow Way," in Christiana, Pennsylvania; and the Fifth Church garden in Philadelphia. Folder 41 contains a 1941 photograph of Plank in his Home Guard uniform; a picture of his sisters, Alice and Ada; views of Marvells; and Plank's English friends, such as Lady Sackville ("BM"), Vita Sackville-West, Edy Craig, and Clare Atwood. A small collection of art work contains one of Atwood's engravings as well as an engraving of Notre Dame by L. Robin (Box 2, folder 26).

The second subseries (Box 3, folders 48-55) contains two diaries of Amy Smith's trip to Europe in 1925-26 to visit Fred Allen, an old Philadelphia friend, and George Plank. There are also typescripts of her essays and poetry, as well as printed articles and poetry from the 1928-29 Philadelphia Record and Christian Science Monitor.

The third subseries of Related Papers houses material of George Plank. His first bookplate, which he designed for Alice Smith, is in folder 56. Over forty printed Christmas cards, which Plank designed for the twins, are included, as well as a pen and ink drawing for Alice Smith's last card in Box 3, folder 59.

On May 14, 1920 Plank painted a watercolor of the twins (Box 5) which was printed as a Vogue cover in late November. The collection includes more than forty printed magazine covers by Plank for Collier's, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. The first four issues of The Butterfly Quarterly are also found in the papers, as well as a 1933 article from Modern House & Garden about Marvells (designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens), in which Plank made "an intriguing use of book-end and other papers for covering the walls" (Box 4, folder 64).


  • 1880-1971 (inclusive)


Physical Description

Other Storage Formats: Oversize

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Alice Rogers Smith 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 bulk of the material was donated to The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1973-74 (through the good offices of Norman Holmes Pearson) by Gertrude Traubel, who was the executrix of Alice Smith's estate. Bryher also donated some correspondence from Vita Sackville-West to Alice Smith in July 1973.


2.75 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers contain correspondence and personal papers, including photographs, writings of Amy Margaret Smith, and art work of George Plank.
Guide to the Alice Rogers Smith Papers
by Karen V. Peltier
March 1988
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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Access Information

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