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William C. Bullitt papers

Call Number: MS 112

Scope and Contents

The collection provides a rich resource for the study of Bullitt's career as a diplomat and public servant. Although this collection constitutes what Bullitt considered his personal files and hence does not contain a comprehensive record of his official service, it contains extensive material related to his government work. It provides a more intimate or mundane view of his activities through private correspondence with his colleagues, personnel records, photographs, and files related to travel, social events, and purchases. However, there is also a wide selection of memoranda, official telegrams, and reports that can be found in Series II or as enclosures to correspondence in Series I. There is material relevant to his service as Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1933-1936), Ambassador to France (1936-1940), Ambassador-at-large (1941-1942), Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy (1942-1943), and his two stints as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State (1917-1919 and 1933). Information about Bullitt's involvement with American negotiations on the recognition of the Soviet Union can be found in Series II, his mentoring of George F. Kennan in Series I and II, his reports to Franklin Roosevelt on conditions in France and around Europe during the outbreak of World War II in Series I, and wartime advice to Roosevelt on how to handle the Soviet Union in Series I and II. Unlike the files from Bullitt's service with the Roosevelt administration, the materials from his work with the Wilson administration, his 1943 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia, and his 1948 investigation into American aid to China for the Joint Congressional Committee on Foreign Economic Cooperation provide a much more comprehensive picture of these public undertakings.

Beyond his work as a public servant, the collection documents his efforts as an author and journalist through a substantial body of drafts, notes, related correspondence and research materials, and unpublished manuscripts of a novel, plays, short stories, and a screenplay. There is extensive material concerning Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the psychological study of the former president which Bullitt co-authored with Sigmund Freud, including several chapter manuscripts and fragments in Freud's hand, and an unpublished book-length biography of Wilson written by Bullitt. The collection also contains much material relevant to Bullitt's work as a journalist in the 1910s, 1940s, and 1950s. Since his later journalism is concerned largely with the threat of communism and the Soviet Union, there is extensive information about these issues in Series I and II, as well as material documenting his ties to Nationalist China, Korea, and Vietnam and his interest in European unification.

The papers provide copious biographical material about William C. Bullitt throughout his life although the materials are much thinner on his youth before 1909. There is also a small amount of material concerning Louise Bryant, Bullitt's second wife, including correspondence in Series I, photographs in Series IV, and subject files in Series VI.

The collection also includes a small amount of materials relating to Bullitt's daughter Anne Moen Bullitt, consisting of personal correspondence and photographs, correspondence with researchers interested in her parents, and materials relating to her fourth husband, Daniel Brewster.

The materials that comprise the William C. Bullitt papers originally arrived at Yale between 2003 and 2005 with the papers of Louise Bryant as part of a deposit from their daughter Anne Moen Bullitt. The Bullitt papers constituted the vast majority of this deposit, but since most of the Bryant material had been stored separately and it appeared to be papers originally collected and saved by Bryant, not by her daughter or Bullitt, the Louise Bryant papers became a separate collection maintained in Manuscripts and Archives at the Yale University Library. A small portion of the Bryant papers were intermingled with the Bullitt materials. An effort was made to separate this intermixed material, but some Bryant material may remain in the Bullitt papers and vice versa. All of the correspondence between Bullitt and Bryant was kept with the Bullitt papers. Photographs of Bullitt, which do not picture Bryant, have been removed from the Bryant papers and unified with other photographs of him in the Bullitt papers.

A small portion of the Bullitt papers concerning World War I and the Paris Peace Conference had previously been on deposit at Yale until 1967 when Anne Bullitt removed them upon her father's death. (See Series II) Before the Bullitt papers came to Yale in 2004, the bulk of them were housed in several filing cabinets and trunks in his daughter's home in Ireland. A smaller portion of the collection came from Bullitt's farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Much of the material arrived in labelled folders and most of this folder arrangement and the folder titles were retained. However, there was little apparent structure to the files above the folder level, and so an organization scheme was imposed by archivists. Most of Bullitt's correspondence arrived in folders arranged alphabetically within each year. In order to create a single alphabetical run for the correspondence, all of the correspondence was sorted, alphabetized, and refoldered by archivists. Correspondents with whom Bullitt exchanged more than approximately five letters received individually labeled folders.


  • 1813-1998
  • Majority of material found within 1909 - 1967


Conditions Governing Access

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Copies of commercially produced audiovisual materials contained in this collection cannot be made for researcher use outside of the repository.

Original born digital files, as well as preservation masters, may not be accessed due to their fragility. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist request that they be made. Born digital files cannot be accessed remotely. System requirements include a Manuscripts and Archives computer and file viewing software.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by William C. Bullitt has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other 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

The materials previously deposited by Anne Moen Bullitt and her Estate were donated to Manuscripts and Archives by the William C. Bullitt Foundation, Inc., in 2008; gift of William C. Bullitt Foundation, Inc., 2013; gift of Nili Museum-Beit Aaronsohn, 2013.


Arranged in seven series and four additions: I. Correspondence, 1882-1967. II. Diplomatic and Public Papers, 1813-1956. III. Writings, 1888-1984. IV. Photographs, 1891-1964. V. Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings, 1933-1952. VI. Personal and Family Papers, 1840-1998. VII. Printed Matter, 1882-1965.

Associated Materials

Louise Bryant Papers (MS 1840). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.


1669.12 Megabytes

143.35 Linear Feet (307 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, government documents, writings, speeches, photographs, research materials, printed matter, motion picture film, and other material which document William C. Bullitt's career as a diplomat and journalist and his personal and family life.

Biographical / Historical

William Christian Bullitt, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 25, 1891. He was the first child of the wealthy lawyer William Christian Bullitt Sr. and his wife Louisa Horwitz Bullitt. Bullitt attended the DeLancy prepatory school before enrolling at Yale University. He joined the Class of 1912, but a year's absence due to illness delayed his graduation until 1913 (Phi Beta Kappa, Townsend Debating Prize, Scroll and Key Society, Dramatic Association, Yale Daily News. He attended Harvard Law School for less than a year and left after his father died in 1914. For the second half of 1914, he traveled extensively throughout Europe including Germany, Russia, France, and Great Britain. Returning to Philadelphia, he joined the staff of the Philadelphia Ledger where he rose to the positions of Washington correspondent, associate editor, and foreign correspondent. In 1915, he accompanied Henry Ford's peace expedition to Europe and gained recognition for his reporting on Ford's efforts to facilitate a peace settlement. The following year Bullitt married Aimée Ernesta Drinker of Philadelphia.

Bullitt began his career as a diplomat in December 1917 when he joined the State Department as a special assistant to the secretary. There he was appointed chief of the Bureau of Central European Information, which produced weekly intelligence reports on the European powers. In December 1918, he sailed to France to serve as an attaché to the American Commission to Negotiate the Peace and chief of the Division of Current Intelligence at the Paris Peace Conference. Under instructions from Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Bullitt undertook a secret mission to Russia in February 1919 to investigate conditions there, accompanied by the journalist Lincoln Steffens. After the mission, Bullitt grew critical of President Wilson's plans for a post-war peace settlement, resigned from the State Department, and testified against the Treaty of Versailles before the Senate.

From 1919 to 1933, William Bullitt withdrew from government service. In 1921, he was managing editor for the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation in New York City. He spent the rest of this period writing and traveling, splitting his time between his farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Paris, Turkey, and various tours through Europe. In addition to a number of unpublished plays, short stories, and a screenplay, Bullitt published a satirical novel It's Not Done (1926) about upperclass society in Philadelphia and wrote another novel "The Divine Wisdom" which was never published. Sometime after meeting Sigmund Freud in the mid-1920s, Bullitt began a collaboration with the doctor to write a psychological analysis of Woodrow Wilson. By 1932, the book manuscript was finished, but it would remain unpublished until 1966. After divorcing Aimée Ernesta Drinker, he married the journalist Louise Bryant in 1923 who gave birth to their daughter Anne Moen Bullitt the following year. In 1930, Bullitt divorced Bryant and won sole custody of Anne.

After the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bullitt returned to the State Department in 1933 as a special assistant to the secretary. He served as the executive officer for the American delegation to the London Monetary and Economic Conference of 1933 and assisted with negotiations for American diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union, meeting repeatedly with the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov. In November 1933, Roosevelt appointed Bullitt the first U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and he arrived in Moscow to a warm welcome by Soviet leaders. During his time in Moscow, Bullitt established the embassy and mentored a later generation of American Soviet experts including George F. Kennan and Loy W. Henderson, who served on the embassy staff. Relations with the Soviets cooled quickly and Bullitt found himself virtually ignored by Stalin's government. In August 1936, Bullitt became the ambassador to France and established extraordinarily close and cordial relations with French leaders. As tensions mounted in Europe in the late 1930s, Bullitt regularly reported directly to Roosevelt on developments in France and its neighbors. When the Germans invaded France and the government fled Paris for Bourdeaux, Bullitt remained behind and, because of his popularity with the French, was appointed provisional mayor of Paris until the Germans occupied the city. He returned to the United States in July 1940 to advocate American intervention in the war, giving a widely publicized speech at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.

Unsuccessful at securing a higher office in the Roosevelt administration, Bullitt held the position of ambassador-at-large in 1941. Early in 1942, Roosevelt sent him to North Africa and the Middle East on a fact-finding mission. In June 1942, he took the position of special assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. There he wrote several long memoranda for Roosevelt advising the president on plans for the post-war peace settlement and warning of the threat the Soviet Union and international communism continued to pose. In the early 1940s, Bullitt was also urging Roosevelt to dismiss the Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles because of Welles's homosexuality. Welles resigned in 1943. In August 1943, Bullitt left the Roosevelt administration to run as the Democratic Party candidate for the mayor of Philadelphia, but lost in the general election. Frustrated in his attempts to join the American armed forces, Bullitt served as a commandant and aide to General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny in the Free French Armed Forces until the end of the war.

Bullitt spent the next nine years as a journalist and writer on current affairs. The major theme of his writing was the danger of communism. In his 1946 book The Great Globe Itself, he criticized Roosevelt's policies toward the Soviet Union which Bullitt viewed as surrendering large parts of the world including Eastern Europe to Stalin's communist dictatorship. Bullitt wrote articles for Life, Reader's Digest, Time, and Look magazines, most based on his visits to Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. He had especially close ties to Taiwan including a friendship with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek and a house he maintained there in the early 1950s. In 1948, the Joint Congressional Committee on Foreign Economic Cooperation requested his assistance as a consultant to write a report on the Economic Cooperation Agency and American aid to China. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bullitt primarily concerned himself with his family and friends, his farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, and his other private business interests. He died of leukemia in Neuilly, France, on February 15, 1967.

Additional Sources:

Will Brownell and Richard N. Billings, So Close to Greatness: A Biography of William C. Bullitt (New York: Macmillan, 1987).

Separated Materials

The photographic copies of the Aaron Aaronsohn diaries from the original accession in boxes 173-175 were discarded due to poor condition and replaced by PDF print copies provided by Nili Museum-Beit Aaronsohn in 2013.

Guide to the William C. Bullitt Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Sahr Conway-Lanz and staff of Manuscripts and Archives
August 2005
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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