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Benét Family Papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 1107

Scope and Contents

The Benét family papers consists of correspondence, manuscripts, and other papers documenting the lives and activities of four generations of the Benét family. Material relating to members of the Rose, Mahon, and Carr families can also be found. The collection spans the years from 1849 to 1994.

The defining thread to the collection runs from Brigadier General Stephen Vincent Benét and his wife Laura Amanda (Walker) Benét through their son James Walker Benét and his wife Frances Neill (Rose) Benét, through their three children, Laura, William Rose, and Stephen Vincent, to the children of William Rose and Stephen Vincent Benét.

The three siblings, Laura, William Rose, and Stephen Vincent established the Benét family's literary reputation in the early to mid-20th century. The papers of Laura Benét are particularly well represented here. The Correspondence series includes large files of letters to Laura Benét from her mother and her two brothers. The Writings series includes over 50 examples of her work, with drafts and printed versions of short forms such as poems, reviews, stories, and essays. And the Other Papers series includes 26 diary volumes dating from 1922 to 1978, as well as scrapbooks and other material.

Collection material is chiefly in English; with some material in French.


  • 1836 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 55: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Box 56 (videocassette): Restricted fragile material. Reference copy may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Benét 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

Acquired through gift and purchase from Laura Benét, Thomas Benét, and Rebecca (Benét) Sawyer, 1977-2017.


Organized into three series: I. Correspondence, 1854-1994. II. Writings, 1849-1973. III. Other Papers, 1871-1994.

Related Materials

Material by or relating to the Benét family acquired by the library from non-family sources is located in the Benét Family Collection (YCAL MSS 1108). Additional material by or relating to Stephen Vincent and Rosemary Benét can be found in the Stephen Vincent Benét and Rosemary Benét Papers (YCAL MSS 1046). Additional material by or relating to William Rose Benét can be found in the William Rose Benét Papers (YCAL MSS 1100).


26.65 Linear Feet (56 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

Benét family

Brigadier General S. V. (Stephen Vincent) Benét was born 22 January 1827 in St. Augustine, Florida. He studied at Hallowell's school in Alexandria, Virginia and then at the University of Georgia and the United States Military Academy, where he graduated in 1849. He was appointed to the Ordnance Corps, and served at the Watervliet Arsenal, at Washington, at Frankford Arsenal, again at Washington, and then at the St. Louis Arsenal. In 1859 he became Assistant Professor of Geography, History, and Ethics at West Point, and from 1861 until 1864 was instructor of Ordnance and the Science of Gunnery. From 1865 until 1869 he was in command of Frankford arsenal. In 1869 he became Assistant to the Chief of Ordnance, and in 1874 he succeeded to Chief of Ordnance with the rank of Brigadier General. He translated Jomini's Political and Military History of the Campaign of Waterloo (New York, 1853) and he is the author of a treatise on "Military Law and the Practice of Courts-Martial" (1862) and "Electro-Ballistic Machines and the Schultze Chronoscope" (1866).

He married Laura Amanda Walker and together they had two sons, James Walker Benét and Laurence Vincent Benét.

James Walker Benét (1857-1928), a Colonel in the U.S. Army, was born 16 July, 1857 in Richmond, Kentucky. He graduated from West Point Academy in 1880 and went on to serve most of his military career in the Army Ordnance Department. From 1890 until his retirement in 1921, he served at the Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia (1890-1984); Bethlehem Iron Works, South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1894-1898); Ordnance Headquarters, Buffalo, New York (1898-1899); Watervliet Arsenal, New York (1904-1905, 1919-1921); Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois (1904-1905), Benicia Arsenal, California (1905-1911), and Augusta Arsenal, Georgia (1911-1918).

James Walker Benét married Frances Neill Rose (1860-1940) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1883. Ms. Rose, born 23 October, 1860 in Washington, D.C., was the child of William John Rose and Mary Lee Mahon. She attended Mrs. Sutton's School for Girls. Their children include authors Laura Benét, William Rose Benét, and Stephen Vincent Benét.

Laura Benét (1884-1979) was educated at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, and at Vassar and Moravian colleges. She worked at the Spring Street Settlement in New York City from 1915 to 1917 and at the American Red Cross in Augusta, Georgia from 1917 to 1919. She later took on editorial and free-lance writing assignments. She was the author of several poetry collections, fiction, and biographical works.

William Rose Benét (1886-1950) was educated at Albany Academy and Yale College (1903-1907). After college, Benét worked for Century Magazine as a reader. He served in the U.S. Air Services during the First World War, and after the war took work as a copy writer for an advertising firm. In 1920, Henry Seidel Canby brought Benét on as an assistant editor at the New York Evening Post and in 1923, Canby, Benét, and their fellow editors left the Post to form the Saturday Review.

William Rose Benét was the author of several collections of poetry, a novel, and a collection of essays. His autobiography in verse, The Dust Which Is God (1941), was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1942. In addition to his long-standing (1923-1950) position with the Saturday Review, Benét contributed to several compilations of English-language poetry and literature.

William Rose Benét married four times, to: Teresa Frances Thomson (1912-1919), with whom he had three children, James Walker Benét (1914-2012), Kathleen Anne (Benét) Fry, and Frances Rosemary (Benét) Dawson; poet Elinor Wylie (1923-1928); actress Lora Baxter (1932-1937); and children's book author Majorie Flack (1941-1950).

Stephen Vincent Benét (1898-1943), educated at Summerville Academy and Yale College (1915-1919), was a well known and widely read author in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. After the success of his long poem, John Brown's Body (1928), for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1929, he regularly published poems, short stories, and other work in popular magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and The Saturday Evening Post. His short story, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1936) was awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award in 1937. In addition to poetry and short stories, he is the author of novels, book reviews, essays, radio and stage plays, screenplays, and speeches.

Stephen Vincent Benét and Rosemary Carr married in 1921. They had three children, Thomas, Stephanie Jane, and Rachel.

Biographical information taken from Arlington National Cemetary website and other sources.

Processing Information

The Benét Family Papers contains material acquired by the library through gift and purchase from Laura Benét, Thomas Benét, and Rebecca (Benét) Sawyer from 1977 through 2017. Manuscript material formerly classified under multiple call numbers, as well as printed ephemera that had been cataloged separately, was brought together and processed during 2016-2017.

Former call numbers: Za Benét, Uncat Za Ms 261, Uncat Za Ms 359, Uncat Za Ms 361, Uncat Za Ms 628, Uncat Za File 386, Uncat Za File 392, Uncat Mss 53, Uncat Mss 65, Uncat Mss 651, Uncat Mss 821, Uncat Mss 1256,and Za B434 +1.

Guide to the Benét Family Papers
Michael L. Forstrom
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.