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Wilbur Lucius Cross papers

Call Number: MS 155

Scope and Contents

The Wilbur Lucius Cross Papers include correspondence, speeches, writings, research notes, subject files, and memorabilia which document Cross's education, scholarship, teaching career, service to Yale University, and tenure as governor of Connecticut. The files are composed of Cross's personal papers and do not include administrative records from Yale or from the governor's office.* The papers highlight Cross's research on the development of the English novel; public reaction to Cross's books, public appearances, proclamations, and political campaigns; his participation in numerous academic and civic organizations; and his autobiographical research for and writing of Connecticut Yankee.

Wilbur Cross and his estate donated the bulk of the papers to the Yale University Library in 1948. Dorothy A. Turner Carper and others donated additional Cross materials between 1943 and 1965. The papers are arranged in four series: Arranged in four series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1881-1947; II. Subject Files, 1876-1948; III. Addresses, 1919-1945; IV. Writings, 1886-1927.

The series titles are generally descriptive of their contents and arrangement by record type, but all series contain correspondence. Cross's speeches are also dispersed throughout the collection. The papers cover Cross's entire career beginning with his high school education and poultry business, ca. 1876-1878, continuing through his undergraduate and graduate training, and detailing his academic and political careers and activities following his defeat for reelection in 1938. Series II is the largest in the papers and contains the widest range of material for all phases of Cross's career.

Series I includes personal correspondence dating primarily during Cross's last term as governor and from the years following. The correspondence is composed of invitations, requests for contributions, and congratulatory messages from Cross's friends and supporters. Many letters concern Cross's participation in civic organizations or election to professional or honorary societies.

Correspondence in folders 22-23, 52-56, 59, and 74-75 all concerns Cross's nominations and elections, and the folders include letters from the general public as well as personal friends. Folders 24-29 and 43 contain correspondence concerning Cross's books and folder 27 in particular contains special messages of tribute from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Willa Cather, and Oswald Garrison Villard. Cross's correspondence with Nicholas Murray Butler, Robert Underwood Johnson, Grace Vanamee, and Hamlin Garland in folders 2-7 concerns the internal policies and administration of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as plans for public occasions honoring major contributors to American culture from 1927 to 1930. Cross's exchanges with the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski are included in folder 72. Correspondence arranged in chronological order in folders 73-85 includes letters from Cross's student days and early teaching career at Yale. There is some correspondence with Cross's friends and colleagues William Lyon Phelps and Clifford Beers in folder 76.

Series II includes correspondence, printed material, minutes, and organizational papers which are arranged by topic and concern the breadth of Cross's activities. Nearly one third of the folders in the series contain speech notes or writings for various occasions.

The series includes files of background information and memorabilia used by Cross in writing his autobiography. Material on the Cross family is found in folders 94, 102, 151, 152, 171, and 248, while material from and reflections on Cross's childhood, teenage years, and education in Willimantic, Connecticut is included in folders 162, 177, 210-211, 234-236, and 247. The series also contains notebooks, Compositions, and correspondence from Cross's Yale undergraduate and graduate years and teaching positions prior to joining the Yale faculty in 1894. These are in folders 128-133, 155, 226-228, 231, 241-242, 251, and 290.

Many of the subject files relate to Cross's research on literature, the English novel, Henry Fielding, and Laurence Sterne. Research notes and printed material will be found in folders 126, 149, 154, 161, 191, 193-200, 215-221, 223, and 254-255. Cross's participation in educational, scholarly, and learned societies and institutions is reflected in correspondence, minutes, and printed material in folders 87-92, 96, 99, 101, 134, 144-145, 166, 243-244, 285-289, 295-296, and 300-301. Cross's interest in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Berkeley Divinity School, Connecticut College, and Yale University are prominently represented in these files. Cross's work as agent for the Yale Class of 1885 is also well-documented (folders 275-283).

Cross's tenure as governor of Connecticut is reflected primarily in speeches and files of congratulatory messages (folders 135-141) on Cross's political campaigns. Folders 119-123 contain lists of contributors to Cross's campaigns and correspondence of his political agent Edgar Furniss. The subject files also contain occasional copies of state agency reports, which Cross received as governor; files, which include photographs, documenting the disastrous flood of 1936 and the hurricane of 1938; and Cross's gubernatorial messages to the Connecticut General Assembly and Thanksgiving proclamations. The files also contain a wealth of memorabilia such as souvenir programs and greeting cards collected by Cross as governor and in the years following. Folder 263 concerns Cross's unsuccessful 1946 election campaign to fill a Senate vacancy for the short term between election day and the convening of the new Congress.

Series III, ADDRESSES, contains manuscripts or notes for speeches, filed with related correspondence, invitations, memorabilia, and photographs. There are very few printed copies of speeches but there are some duplicate copies of items in the subject files. The files, which are arranged chronologically, begin with Cross's speeches at various cultural and educational celebrations. The bulk of the series, however, consists of Cross's political and gubernatorial addresses, which include campaign appearances, communications to the General Assembly, and radio talks. The series contains a few ceremonial addresses at Yale functions, and some notes in the undated folders may be for course lectures.

Series IV, WRITINGS, contains manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks, background material, and memorabilia for Cross's literary and autobiographical writings. The series includes a handwritten and typed manuscript of Connecticut Yankee, as well as the manuscript for Development of the English Novel, and an annotated printed copy of The Life and Times of Laurence Sterne along with a typed copy and illustrative material. Material for The History of Henry Fielding (folders 379-387) includes extensive correspondence files with Fielding collector Frederick S. Dickson and Cross's research assistant Constance H. White. Some of the material in these files also concerns contributions to the Fielding Fund and the estate of Thomas A. Lounsbury. The scrapbook at the end of the series includes reviews of Cross's publications, along with photographs from Yale events, correspondence, and memorabilia relating to Yale and the Yale Review. There is also a bibliography of Cross's works written into the scrapbook.

*The Connecticut State Library in Hartford, Connecticut, maintains the voluminous official records of Cross's four terms as governor of Connecticut.


  • 1876-1948


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Correspondence between W. L. Cross and Catherine A. Turner Carper in box 2 is closed until 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Wilbur Cross, the estate of Wilbur Cross, Dorothy A. Turner Carper, and others, 1943-1965, 1989.


Arranged in four series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1881-1947. II. Subject Files, 1876-1948. III. Addresses, 1919-1945. IV. Writings, 1886-1927.


14 Linear Feet (34 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers are composed of correspondence, speeches, writings, research notes, subject files, and memorabilia which document Wilbur Cross's education, scholarship, teaching career, service to Yale University, and tenure as governor of Connecticut. The papers are Cross's personal files and do not include administrative records from Yale or from the governor's office. The papers highlight Cross's research on the development of the English novel; public reaction to his books, public appearances, proclamations, and political campaigns; Cross's participation in numerous academic and civic organizations; and his autobiographical research and writing for Connecticut Yankee.

Biographical / Historical

WILBUR LUCIUS CROSS, B.A. 1885. Born April 10, 1862, Gurleyville, Conn.; died October 5, 1948, New Haven, Conn.

Father, Samuel Cross, owner of silk and grist mills in Gurleyville; son of Eleazar and Hannah (Williams) Cross. Mother, Harriet Maria (Gurley) Cross; daughter of Lucius and Abigail (Shumway) Gurley. Yale relatives include: Alice E. Sanderson Cross (School of Fine Arts 1911-1912) (daughter-in-law); Wilbur L. Cross, 3d, 41 (grandson).

Natchaug High School, Willimantic, Conn.; teacher in district school at Gurleyville 1880-1881. Second and third composition prizes Sophomore year; high oration appointment Junior and Senior years; Junior exhibition speaker and second premium; Townsend Premium and winner DeForest medal Senior year; Senior Debating Club; Class monitor; Psi Upsilon, Phi Beta Kappa.

Principal Staples High School, Westport, Conn., 1885-1886; Ph.D. in English literature Yale 1889; instructor in English literature Shady Side Academy, Pittsburgh, 1889-1894; on Yale faculty 1894-1948 (instructor in English 1894-1897, assistant professor 1897-1902, professor 1902-1922, Sterling professor 1922-1930, professor emeritus 1930-1948; dean Graduate School 1916-1930, dean emeritus 1930-1948; acting provost 1922-1923; editor The Yale Review from 1911 to 1940 and editor, emeritus 1940-1948; served the University in many other capacities, among them Alumni Fund agent for Graduate School 1930-1948; delegate to Missions Centennial in Honolulu 1920; fellow ex-officio Yale Corporation 1931-1939 associate fellow Timothy Dwight College 1936-1948; trustee Sheffield Scientific School 1910-1916 [ex-officio 1931-1939]; trustee ex-officio Peabody Museum of Natural History 1931-1939; librarian Sheffield Scientific School 1906-1915 and on governing board; honorary member Aurelian Honor Society; chairman Yale committee of New Haven's Tercentenary 1937-1938); Governor of Connecticut 1931-1939; author: "The Influence of English Literature on the Continent in the Eighteenth Century"; The Development of the English Novel; The Life and Times of Laurence Sterne; The History of Henry Fielding; An Outline of Biography from Plutarch to Strachey; The Modern English Novel; Four Contemporary Novelists; Proclamations of His Excellency Wilbur L. Cross; Connecticut Yankee: An Autobiography; editor department of English literature in New International Encyclopedia 1901-1903; editor: Macbeth; Ivanhoe; Silas Marner; Works of Laurence Sterne; Life of Sterne; Travels With A Donkey, and An Inland Voyage; Robinson Crusoe; Political Romance; The Life and Times of Tennyson (from 1809-1850); Tristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; Twenty-Five Years After; The Yale Review Anthology; general editor English Readings for Schools; committee editor The Yale Shakespeare; co-editor Love's Labour's Lost; lecturer at Columbia 1903, Daniel S. Lamont Memorial Lecturer at Yale 1931-1932, and lectured before many college and professional groups; Litt.D. University of South Carolina 1918, Columbia 1923, Yale 1930, Brown 1931; L.H.D. University of Michigan 1923; LL.D. Wesleyan 1932, Harvard 1933, University of Rochester and University of California at Los Angeles 1934, Trinity (Conn.) and Union (N.Y.) 1935, Yeshiva College 1943; Chevalier Legion of Honor (France) 1929; award silver bowl by Yale Club of Montclair 1932, silver cup by Mory's Association 1934, and gold medal of honor by New Haven Advertising Club 1943; named in his honor are Wilbur L. Cross Library at University of Connecticut, Wilbur L. Cross Parkway in Connecticut, and Wilbur L. Cross High School, New Haven; trustee Connecticut College (acting chairman board of trustees 1942), Berkeley Divinity School, and University of Connecticut; chancellor American Academy of Arts and Letters; director New Haven Free Public Library; honorary president Connecticut Prison Association 1937; president Graduates Club of New Haven 1922-1926, Elizabethan Club 1927-1929, National Institute of Arts and Letters 1931-1935, American Guild for German Cultural Freedom 1938, and Authors Club, New York; member jury on poetry Pulitzer Prize awards 1927; on advisory board John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 1930-1936; board member the Hartford Retreat; member College of Electors of the Hall of Fame; honorary life member New Haven Advertising Club; honorary member Second Company Governor's Foot Guard, Yale Alumni Association of Hartford, Litchfield County University Club, Hartford Club, Harvard Club of Connecticut, and Sons of Italy (awarded Civic Romanum 1937); member Society of Mayflower Descendants, Society of Colonial Wars, Society of Colonial Governors, Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the American Revolution, American Philosophical Society, Masonic order, and Episcopal church.

From 1931 to 1939 Cross served as governor of Connecticut.

Married July 17, 1889, in Willimantic, Helen Baldwin, daughter of William Burrill and Helen Mar (Baldwin) Avery. Children: Wilbur Lucius, Jr., '12 S., Samuel Avery, '18 S., Elizabeth Baldwin (died 1903), and Arthur William (died 1912). Mrs. Cross died in 1928.

Death due to bronchopneumonia. Buried in Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven. Survived by two sons, two grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

From: Yale Obituary Record, 1948-1949, pp. 10-11.

Guide to the Wilbur Lucius Cross Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan and William E. Brown, Jr.
October 1986
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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