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Muriel Draper Papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 49

Scope and Contents

The Muriel Draper Papers document the personal life and artistic and political interests of Muriel Draper. The papers span the dates 1881-1977, but the bulk of the material dates from 1925-50.

The collection consists of four series. Series I, Correspondence, is alphabetically arranged and housed in Boxes 1-10. Boxes 11-14 hold Series II, Writings, arranged by type and alphabetically. Series III, Personal Papers, is contained in Boxes 15-17 and arranged alphabetically by type. Series IV, Subject Files, is located in Boxes 18-25 and has been divided into two subseries, People and Organizations and Causes. The material in each is alphabetically arranged. Box 26 contains Oversize material placed in series order.

Series I, Correspondence , located in Boxes 1-10, contains all of the personal correspondence of Muriel Draper and documents many aspects of her life, her friendships, and her political and artistic interests. There is relatively little correspondence dating from before 1914, and nearly all of that is family correspondence, with the exception of brief social notes such as the 1913 letter by Henry James. Muriel's 1905 letters to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Sanders, describe her impressions of travel through Italy, her enjoyment of life on Capri, and her acquaintance with Norman Douglas. There are also several letters from various Draper siblings containing family news and discussing the deaths of their parents in 1908 and 1911.

There is somewhat more information concerning the breakup of her marriage to Paul Draper, her return to America with their two sons, and her attempts to establish a new life in New York. The Draper marriage had been troubled almost from its inception in 1909, and involved Paul's heavy drinking and gambling which led to severe financial difficulties and probable infidelities on both sides. In the summer of 1914 Paul Draper embarked on a singing tour of Germany which he hoped would recoup his gambling losses, and for the next three years the couple was involved in the painful process of ending their marriage. This process is rather fully documented in the correspondence of Muriel and Paul themselves, of members of the Draper and Sanders families, and of several others.

Series II, Writings , is divided into four sections. The first section, Articles, contains mostly typescripts and printed versions of short pieces by Draper on various subjects, including the arts, interior decoration and her eminent friends. There are many articles concerning her experiences in the Soviet Union, including "Five Days in Moscow." "My Foreign Loan Breakfast," and "Prelude to Departure" satirize American distrust of Communism.

The second section, Books, is housed in Boxes 12-14. Folders 398-442 hold manuscript and typescript of America Deserta, a critique of American society and culture, particularly "the dullness, shabbiness and monotony of its thought and ideas." A section of the book was published in the January-March 1933 issue of Hound and Horn, and it was announced for publication by Harper & Brothers as Divided We Stand.

Material relating to Draper's published memoir, Music at Midnight, includes manuscript and typescript versions of several chapters, an incomplete corrected typescript, and three folders of fan mail (Box 14, folders 456-58). There is also a short proposal for a film of the book, to star Bette Davis and Franchot Tone.

Broadcast scripts, the next section, is located in Box 14, folders 460-476 and contains material written by Draper for her 1937-38 NBC Radio spot, "It's a Woman's World," including interviews with Lotte Lehman and Mother Bloor. Folder 474 holds several fan letters as well as memoranda sent to Draper by the network.

The fourth section, Short Stories, contains manuscripts and typescripts of seven short stories by Draper, including her first, "Christmas Day--1914."

Series III, Personal Papers , fills Boxes 15-17 and contains a variety of materials, including artwork, greeting cards, newspaper clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous papers. Material on the Draper family includes newspaper clippings, obituaries, Paul Draper Jr's application to Groton, and the death certificate for Raimond Draper ("Smudge"), who was killed while flying in the R.A.F. in 1943. Folder 498 contains notes and doggerel poems by Paul Draper, including two which satirize Muriel's relationships with men.

There is a considerable amount of information on two of Draper's professional pursuits, interior decorating and lecturing. Material on interior decoration is located in Boxes 15-16, folders 511-527. There are rough and completed sketches of room treatments, floor plans, photographs of various decorating jobs, and two folders of descriptions of decorating by Draper herself. Material on her lecture tours is found in Box 16, folders 528-32 and consists of contracts, itineraries, publicity material, and drafts and note for three lectures, all on fashion and style.

Box 16, folder 535 holds the record of one of Draper's attempts to earn money: her investment in the North Boca Raton Company, a Florida real estate development firm which failed in the collapse of 1927. Other information on Draper's finances can be found in Box 15, folder 508.

Photographs of persons are located in Box 16, folders 539-55 and include portraits of Muriel and Paul Draper, Norman Douglas, Lincoln Kirstein, Mark Tobey, and Carl Van Vechten, some of which were taken by Van Vechten. Box 17, folders 556-63 contains other photographs, such as shots of houses, chairs, and window displays.

Series IV, Subject Files , is housed in Boxes 18-25 and has been divided into two sections: People and Organizations and Causes. The first section, People, consists of material gathered by Draper about a variety of persons, many of whom were her friends and correspondents. The largest amount of material, however, concerns Georges Gurdjieff and the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. In addition to a complete typescript of Beelzebub's Tales and of "The First Chapter of the Third Series", a lecture given by Gurdjieff to the New York Group founded by A. R. Orage, there are seventeen folders of papers documenting Draper's involvement with the Institute through the Orage group. Box 20, folder 627 contains mainly appeals for money from the Institute, along with brief notes giving reassuring information about Gurdjieff's good health. Folders 628-29 hold neatly typed study notes made from lectures, apparently in the New York Group, while the five folders following house less organized notes and exercises, including a self-analysis by Draper. Material on A. R. Orage details his work with the Group and his changing attitudes towards Gurdjieff, who criticized his teaching and ordered him out of the group during his American trip in 1930.

There are also significant amounts of information on her friends Lincoln Kirstein, Ellery Larsson, Walter Lowenfels, and Mark Tobey. The Kirstein files consist of copies of articles by and about him and the American Ballet Theatre, theater programs, a typescript carbon of a collection of Kirstein's poetry, "Post-cards," and two folders of letters to Kirstein, one of which contains Paul Draper Jr.'s memories of his mother.

The papers relating to Ellery Larsson include manuscripts and typescripts of his poetry, and a typescript of the text of his 1939 collection Weep and Prepare. Folders 659-61 hold pencil and crayon drawings, mostly of distorted shapes and patterns, done by Larsson over a thirty year period.

Artwork dominates the papers concerning Mark Tobey. Box 22, folders 710-14 hold drawings done for Draper by Tobey. Many of these are cartoons of Draper herself, often captioned; others are caricatures of friends. The collection also contains an autobiographical sketch of Tobey, papers concerning the possible sale of paintings, and a copy of Tobey's obituary.

Like many of Draper's friends, Walter Lowenfels sent her copies of poems recently written or published. In addition to five folders of typed poems, there is also corrected page proof of "An Elegy for D. H. Lawrence" and a copy of an unnamed short story.

Other authors are also represented in Subject Files. For example, the series contains galleys of E. E. Cummings's Him; poems by Cary Ross, H. Phelps Putnam, Ruth Lambert Jones, John Brooks Wheelwright, and Humbert Wolfe. In two cases, friends sent her galleys of works in which she appears. There are galleys of "Muriel" (Chapter 10 of European Experiences) by Mabel Dodge Luhan and of Edmund Wilson's Travels in Two Democracies.


  • 1881 - 1977
  • Majority of material found within 1925 - 1950


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Muriel Draper 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 Muriel Draper Papers were the gift of Muriel Draper in 1951 and 1952.


13.67 Linear Feet (31 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Muriel Draper Papers document the personal life and artistic and political interests of Muriel Draper. Major correspondents include George Antheil, Samuel Courtauld, Paul Draper, Max Ewing, Lincoln Kirstein, Walter Lowenfels, and Mark Tobey. The collection also contains manuscripts of many of Draper's writings, including the largely unpublished America Deserta, and records of her activities as a member of the Congress of American Women, the League of American Writers, and similar organizations.

MURIEL DRAPER (1886-1952)

Muriel Draper was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1886. She was the youngest daughter of Thomas S. Sanders, one of the earliest investors in the American Telephone Company. She grew up at the family home, Birchbrow, and attended public schools in Haverhill. In 1905 and 1906 she and her parents lived in France and Italy, where she first met Norman Douglas.

In 1909 she met and married Paul Draper, a lieder singer who was then attending Harvard. Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to Italy, where Paul studied music and Muriel made the acquaintance of Mabel Dodge Luhan. The Drapers moved to London in 1911, and their house in Lisson Grove soon became a gathering place for many of the musicians, artists, and authors of the day, including Artur Rubenstein, Pablo Casals, Duse, John Singer Sargent, Henry James, and Osbert Sitwell. Paul Draper Jr. was born in 1910, and Raimond Sanders Draper ("Smudge") in 1913.

Paul Draper's gambling led to financial difficulties, and he left London for a singing tour of Germany in July 1914. After the outbreak of the War, he made his way first to England and then back to the United States, where he attempted to renew his singing career. Muriel and the children remained in London, without the money to travel, until later in 1915, after Paul Draper had been committed for treatment of alcoholism. The couple separated, and divorced a few years later. Paul Draper died in 1925 at the age of 38.

Muriel moved to New York and became an interior decorator, working with the architect Paul Chalfin for several years. From 1920 to 1922 she was affiliated with Mary Garden as assistant manager of the Chicago Opera Company. In 1922 she opened her own decorating business, which she operated until 1927. During the 1920s, she also published articles and sketches in Harper's, Town and Country, Vogue, and other magazines. In 1929 her memoir of her life in Europe, Music at Midnight, appeared and was well received.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Draper was well-known as a hostess and an encourager of artists and writers. Among those she befriended and entertained were George Antheil, Max Ewing, Lincoln Kirstein, R. E. F. Larsson, Walter Lowenfels, and Mark Tobey. Through A. R. Orage she become seriously involved in the work of the New York Group of Gurdjieff disciples.

Following the success of Music at Midnight, Draper embarked on a five year career as a lecturer, speaking to women's organizations and civic groups throughout the United States. In addition to her life in London, her topics included "Has the Cause of Women an Effect?" "Live in Your Houses", "We All Wear Clothes," and other aspects of contemporary life and fashion.

Draper made her first visit to the Soviet Union in 1934-35 as a gift from her friend Arthur Courtauld. Her experiences there, described in a series of articles, confirmed her enthusiasm for the Communist experiment, and from this time she became more politically active. In 1937 she visited Spain during the Civil War. On her return she joined the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee and spoke about the Loyalist cause at many fund-raisers. She also used her 1938 NBC Radio program, "It's a Women's World," as a platform for discussion of many political and social issues.

In 1942 she helped organize the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship. She headed its women's division and was one of the delegates to the Women's International Democratic Federation meeting in 1945. She then participated in the founding of the Congress of American Women, the American branch of the W.I.D.F., becoming its president in 1949. She traveled again to the the Soviet Union at least twice between 1946 and 1949, and wrote and lectured in favor of Soviet "peace" proposals and of their domestic achievements.

The C.A.W. came under attack from the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1949 as a Communist-front organization, and the Department of Justice demanded that it be registered as a foreign agent because of its affiliation with the W.I.D.F. Draper and the other members of the executive committee voted to dissolve the organization in 1950.

Draper spent her last years living quietly in New York City, in increasing ill-health. She died on August 26th, 1952.

Guide to the Muriel Draper Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme and Heidi L. Eberhardt
October 1990
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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