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Sara and Gerald Murphy papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 468

Scope and Contents

The Sara and Gerald Murphy Papers are comprised of correspondence, diaries, photographs, objects, artwork, audiovisual material, and printed material documenting the lives of the Murphy family and their circle of friends. The Papers also provide insight into Gerald Murphy's career as a painter. The Murphys' lifestyle is richly documented in photographs and various artifacts, which constitute an array of material culture. The Murphy Papers are a window into the American expatriate community in France during the 1920s, the creation of modern art, and the everyday life of a socially and artistically prominent family. The papers document the Murphys' friendships with a number of prominent authors and artists, including Ellen and Philip Barry, Katherine and John Dos Passos, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Fernand Léger, Ada and Archibald MacLeish, Dorothy Parker, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, and Monty Woolley. The Papers also provide evidence of the Murphys' ancestors and their business ventures, including Patrick Murphy and the Mark Cross Company and Frank Wiborg and the Ault and Wiborg Company. The Papers document industry (printing inks and leather goods) during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Murphys' upbringing, education, early travels, and courtship are documented in diaries, notebooks, and photographs. Sara Murphy's diaries, particularly those from 1898 to 1915, provide insight into her life as a young adult and her training in art. Her father, Frank Wiborg, kept detailed diaries that also give a sense of Sara Murphy's childhood and adolescence. Photograph albums record the family's travels, and provide rich insight into the Wiborgs' milieu as well as travel, photography, and customs at the turn of the nineteenth century. Diaries and photographs of Gerald Murphy during his adolescence, while attending Phillips Academy Andover and Yale University, are present in the Papers, although to a lesser degree.

The Murphys' everyday life, style, and circle of friends are documented throughout the Papers. Recognized for infusing the quotidian with creative flair, the Murphys' stylistic choices are represented by photographs and objects, which range from barware to costume jewellery to Mark Cross Company leather goods. Photographs of the Murphys' homes in the United States, France, and Switzerland, recipes in the Personal Papers series, and household goods located in the Objects Series provide insight into the Murphys' decorative tastes and talent for entertaining.

The Murphys' relationships are reflected in correspondence, photographs, and home movies, which illustrate expatriate life in France during the 1920s and the fate of the friendships over time. Fernand Léger is photographed visiting the Murphy family in Switzerland and the United States, and his collage postcards suggest his playful and intimate bond with the Murphys. The Murphys' correspondence and other documents provide evidence of their role as muses to their friends, for example, they were portrayed in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, Archibald MacLeish's J.B., and Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Honoria Murphy Donnelly's diaries and notebooks date from her childhood and adolescence and provide a child's perspective of the Murphy family, including their frequent travels and circle of friends.

Both Sara and Gerald Murphy received artistic training and Gerald Murphy seriously applied himself in becoming a painter while living in France during the 1920s. Examples of Sara Murphy's artwork can be found in the Artwork series as well as tucked into the pages of her father's diaries, located in the Wiborg Family Papers series. Documents pertaining to Gerald Murphy's work as a painter can be found in the Artwork Series. Gerald Murphy's brother, Frederic Murphy, in correspondence with their mother describes visiting Gerald in his studio and provides a unique contemporary (and familial) perspective on his artwork. Material relating to the revived interest in Gerald Murphy's paintings beginning in the 1960s can be found in the Honoria Murphy Donnelly Papers Series.

The Papers also chronicle Gerald Murphy's careers in the military and with the Mark Cross Company. Gerald Murphy's experience studying landscape architecture at Harvard University is documented in his notes and sketches found in the Personal Papers series. His work to revive the Mark Cross Company can be found in the Objects series, which contains various Mark Cross handbags, some of which were designed by Gerald Murphy and are stamped with patent numbers.

The efforts of Gerald Murphy's father, Patrick Murphy, to transform the Mark Cross Company into a successful business specializing in luxury leather goods are documented in his papers, which include notes regarding advertising and merchandising, dating from the early twentieth century. Combined with the Murphys' collection of Mark Cross products, Patrick Murphy's papers represent various aspects of the Mark Cross Company's history.

Several documents pertaining to Gerald Murphy's brother Frederic Murphy (1885-1924) and sister-in-law Noël Haskins (b. 1895) are also present in the Papers. Frederic Murphy's service with the Tank Corps during World War I is documented in several series. These items give insight into American involvement in World War I as well as the perspective of an American soldier from training to deployment to post-war injuries. Frederic and Noël Haskins Murphy's lives in France following World War I are also represented in correspondence and photographs (located in the Photograph series).

Papers relating to Frank Wiborg, Sara Murphy's father, document his work as a partner in the ink manufacturers Ault and Wiborg Company. Frank Wiborg's diaries date from 1873 to 1914 and are a window into his rise as a businessman and the concurrent social and political status of the Wiborg family. The diaries are a record of a prominent industrialist family, who had homes in Cincinnati, New York City, and East Hampton, Long Island, and who were engaged in a number of civic organizations. In his diaries Wiborg provides insight into the daily affairs of the Ault and Wiborg Company and by extension the history of the ink manufacturing industry at the turn of the nineteenth century. Copies of posters for the company and Wiborg's treatise Printing Ink: A History with a Treatise on Modern Methods of Manufacture and Use also document the business.

Honoria Murphy Donnelly's work as an adult to recall, interpret, and preserve memories of her parents and her upbringing is illustrated in her correspondence, publishing projects, and collection of clippings. For example, Donnelly's book Sara & Gerald provides insight into her parents and family life. During research Donnelly interviewed a number of friends and family members, such as Hester Pickman and Noël Haskins Murphy, recordings of which are located in the audiovisual material series. Donnelly's work with a number of researchers interested in her parents and their circle of friends is demonstrated in her correspondence, collection of clippings, and audiovisual material. Donnelly's collection of writings by others based on the Murphys' lives illustrates the Murphys' enduring inspiration and fascination.


  • 1854 - 2005


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 93-97, 169, 229-230, and 173-198, 237 (audiovisual material) Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Boxes 170-171 (clippings): Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Boxes 199-204 and 220 (photograph negatives): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information. Preservation prints for reference use are available in the digital library.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sara and Gerald Murphy 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

Acquired by gift and purchased from John Donnelly, Laura Donnelly, and William Donnelly, 2008-2016.


Organized into ten series: I. Correspondence, 1911-1980. II. Personal Papers, 1884-1962. III. Photographs, 1880-1990s. IV. Artwork, 1897-1928. V. Objects, 1915-1967. VI. Audiovisual Material, 1932-1999. VII. Honoria Murphy Donnelly Papers, 1925-2003. VIII. Patrick Francis & Anna Elizabeth Ryan Murphy Papers, 1863-1931. IX. Wiborg Family Papers, 1854-1930. X. Additions Since 2011, 1880s-2005. XI. January 2016 Acquisition, circa 1850s-1997.

Associated Materials

Mark Cross Company objects are also located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


75.89 Linear Feet ((203 boxes) + 21 broadside, 33 cold storage, 1 record album storage, 1 art, 2 roll)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The collection consists of the personal and family papers of Gerald and Sara Murphy, including material created and accumulated by Gerald and Sara, their children Baoth, Patrick, and Honoria, and the Wiborg family. The collection documents the Murphy's unconventional and artistic lifestyle and their role in the American expatriate community in Paris and Antibes, France during the 1920s and early 1930s, as well as their personal connections with artists and writers of the Modernist period. Also found is material relating to Gerald's father, Patrick Francis Murphy, and his stewardship of the leather goods company, Mark Cross.

Sara Wiborg Murphy (1883-1975) and Gerald Murphy (1888-1964)

The lives of Gerald Murphy and Sara Wiborg Murphy are described in Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, A Lost Generation Love Story (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998) by Amanda Vaill and Sara & Gerald (New York: NYT Times Books, 1982) by Honoria Murphy Donnelly. The following is a brief timeline identifying key events in their lives:

1883 November 7: Sara Sherman Wiborg born.

1888 March 26: Gerald Cleary Murphy born.

1912: Gerald Murphy graduates from Yale University.

1915 December 30: Sara and Gerald are married.

1917 December 19: Honoria Adeline Murphy is born.

1917-1918: Gerald Murphy serves in the U.S. military.

1919 May 13: Baoth Wiborg Murphy is born.

1919 September: Gerald Murphy begins his studies at Harvard University in landscape architecture. The Murphys move to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1920 Summer: Reside at "The Glebe" in Litchfield, Connecticut.

1920 October 18: Patrick Francis Murphy II is born.

1921 June 11: Sail for Europe.

1921 Summer: Visit Croyde Bay, England.

1921 September: Reside in Paris, France. Reside at the Hôtel Beau-Site before moving to rue Greuze in October.

1922 June: Visit Houlgate on the coast of Normandy, France.

1922 October: Reside in Versailles, France at the Hôtel des Reservoirs.

1923 Summer: Visit Antibes, France and stay at the Hôtel du Cap. The Murphys befriend the Picassos. The Murphys and friends throw a "Mad Beach Party."

1923 September: Reside in Versailles, France.

1924 February: Reside in Antibes, France. Visitors include: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and family, Donald Ogden Stewart, John and Katy Dos Passos.

1924 April: Reside in Saint-Cloud, France, at 3 rue Gounod.

1924 May: Frederic T. Murphy dies (Gerald Murphy's brother).

1924 June: Reside in Antibes, France.

1924 September: Reside in Saint-Cloud, France.

1925 March: Reside in Antibes, France.

1925 Summer: Move into "Villa America" in Antibes, France. Guests include: Fitzgeralds, MacLeishes, Rudolph Valentino, Dos Passos, and Stewart.

1928-1929: Reside in California.

1929 May: Reside in Antibes, France.

1929 October: Reside in Montana-Vermala, Switzerland.

1931 Summer: Reside in Bad Aussee, Austria.

1932 January: Reside in Antibes, France.

1932 Summer-1934: Reside in New York City and "Hook Pond," East Hampton, New York.

1934 Summer: Visit Europe.

1934 December: Gerald Murphy becomes President of the Mark Cross Company.

1935 March 17: Baoth Wiborg Murphy dies of meningitis.

1935 Summer-1937: Reside in Saranac Lake, New York.

1937 January 30: Patrick Francis Murphy II dies of tuberculosis.

1937 Summer: Visit Europe. Trip with Alice Lee Myers.

1938: Reside at "Swan Cove," East Hampton, New York and summer in Europe. Sailing with Dos Passos.

1939: Reside in New York City and East Hampton, New York and spend the summer in Europe.

1949: Reside at "Cheer Hall," Sneden's Landing, New York.

1964 October 17: Gerald Murphy dies.

1975 October 9: Sara Murphy dies.

1998 December 22: Honoria Murphy Donnelly dies.

Murphy Family Tree

Family members who are prominent in the papers appear in boldface.

Timothy Murphy
- Patrick Francis Murphy (1858-1931) m. Anna Elizabeth Ryan (circa 1858-1932)
- - 2 Frederic Timothy Murphy (1885-1924) m. Noël Haskins (b. 1895)
- - 2 Gerald Cleary Murphy (1888-1964) m. Sara Sherman Wiborg (1883-1975)
- -- 3 Honoria Adeline Murphy Donnelly (1917-1998) m. John Shelton (b. 1919; divorced 1948-1949) m. William M. Donnelly (1916-1988)
- - - - 4 John Charles Baoth Donnelly (1951-)
- - - - 4 William Sherman Donnelly (1953-)
- - - - 4 Laura Sara Donnelly (1954-)
- - - 3 Baoth Wiborg Murphy (1919-1935)
- - - 3 Patrick Francis Murphy (1920-1937)
- - 2 Esther Murphy (1898-1962) m. John Strachey (1901-1963; divorced 1933) m. Chester A. Arthur III (divorced)

Wiborg Family Tree

Henry Paulinus Wiborg (1821-1867) m. Susan Isidora Bestow (1832-1876)
- 2 Frank Bestow Wiborg (1855-1930) m. Adeline Moulton Sherman (1859-1917)
- - 3 Sara Sherman Wiborg (1883-1975) m. Gerald Cleary Murphy (1888-1964)
- - 3 Mary Hoyt Wiborg (1887-1964)
- - 3 Olga Marie Wiborg (1889-1937) m. Sidney Webster Fish (1885-1950)
- - - 4 Stuyvesant Fish (1926-2003) m. Virginia Small
- 2 Harry Bestow Wiborg (b. 1857)

Sherman Family Tree

Charles Robert Sherman (1790-1829) m. Mary Hoyt (d. 1852)
- 2 Charles Taylor Sherman (1811-1879) m. Elizabeth Williams
- - 3 Mary Hoyt Sherman m. Nelson A. Miles (1839-1925)
- - 3 Henry Stoddard Sherman
- - 3 John J. Sherman
- - 3 Charles F. Cook Sherman
- - 3 Anna Wallace Sherman
- - 3 Eliza A. Williams Sherman m. Colgate Hoyt
- - 3 Elizabeth Bancroft Sherman m. James D. Cameron
- 2 James Sherman
- 2 William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) m. Ellen Boyle Ewing
- - 3 William Ewing Sherman
- - 3 Thomas Ewing Sherman
- - 3 Charley Sherman
- - 3 Philemon Tecumseh Sherman
- - 3 Maria Ewing Sherman
- - 3 Mary Elizabeth Sherman
- - 3 Eleanor Mary Sherman
- - 3 Rachel Sherman
- 2 Lampson P. Sherman
- 2 John Sherman (1823-1900) m. Margaret Cecilia Stewart
- - 3 Adopted daughter
- 2 Hoyt Sherman (1827-1904) m. Sara Elvira Moulton
- - 3 Adeline Moulton Sherman (1859-1917) m. Frank Bestow Wiborg (1855-1930)
- - 3 Frank Allen Sherman (1856-1902) m. Ada Louise Bacon
- - - 4 Sara Moulton Sherman (1888-1969) m. William Ledyard Mitchell (1881-1964)
- - 3 Helen Sherman (1873-1961) m. William Griffith
- 2 Mary Elizabeth Sherman m. William J. Reese
- 2 Fanny Sherman (b. 1829)
- 2 Amelia Sherman m. Robert McComb

Separated Materials

One exhibition catalogue was removed from the collection to be cataloged independently from the Papers and has a provenance note linking it to the Murphys.

Processing Information

The Sara and Gerald Murphy Papers received full processing in 2010-2011. At that time the Papers were organized into series and subseries based on provenance and formats. The Papers were in no discernable order when they arrived at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Some material in the Papers was previously used by researchers and had been organized into subject files to facilitate this use. These subject files were not maintained during processing as they were not believed to reflect the ways in which Sara and Gerald Murphy created and maintained their documents.

Prior to acquisition a number of items from the Papers were featured in the exhibition "Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy" curated by Deborah Rothschild and held at Williams College Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and Dallas Museum of Art. An item-level list created by Rothschild was consulted during processing for information about the use and provenance of several items. Amanda Vaill's biography Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, A Lost Generation Love Story and Honoria Murphy Donnelly's memoir Sara & Gerald were also referred to during processing.

Since 2011, additional materials have been added to the collection. In February 2015 these additions were organized into five subseries mirroring the organization given to the papers during processing in 2010-2011. The finding aid was revised in October 2021 to reflect the most recent addition.

Guide to the Sara and Gerald Murphy Papers
by H. Dean, Brooke McManus
2011. Revised: October 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2014 July: Finding aid revision description not supplied.

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Access Information

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