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The Charles Ives Papers

Call Number: MSS 14

Scope and Contents

The Charles Ives Papers include music, literary writings, correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, writings about Ives, Ives's collection of music by others, and various miscellaneous materials. The music manuscripts, which constitute Series I of the Ives Papers, are described in John Kirkpatrick's A Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue of the Music Manuscripts of Charles Ives (1960) and James B. Sinclair's A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). Series II through X are described in the present register.


  • 1874-1983 (inclusive)


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment.

Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.

Conditions Governing Use

The Charles Ives Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Charles Ives Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Harmony Twichell Ives in 1955.


In 10 series as follows: I. Music manuscripts. II. Literary writings. III. Correspondence. IV. Scrapbooks. V. Diaries. VI. Photographs. VII. Programs. VIII. Writings about Ives. IX. Ives's collection of music by others. X. Miscellaneous.


51 Linear Feet (70 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Music, correspondence and other writings, photographs, and additional materials by and about the American composer and insurance executive Charles Ives (1874-1954)

Biographical / Historical

Charles Edward Ives was born in Danbury, Connecticut on October 20, 1874, the first-born son of Mary Parmelee and George Edward Ives. The influences on him as a young musician were many and varied--European concert music, American nineteenth-century parlor music, ragtime, other vernacular and functional musics, sacred music, and his father's unusual interests in sounds. George Ives, being the town bandmaster and a well-trained musician, was the strongest influence on young Charlie; the father's favorite composers, among them Bach and Stephen Foster, became the son's inheritance. As a teenager, Ives was the youngest organist in the state and an excellent athlete. Charles was a freshman at Yale College when George Ives died in 1894. The Ives family, although an early and prominent one in New England, was unusual in its Emersonian interests and actions; ideas of transcendentalism and self-reliance were part of Ives's background. At Yale, Ives was not a good scholar, but he held the position of organist at Center Church in New Haven for four years, and he was already composing extraordinarily experimental music that he learned to keep away from his professor, Horatio Parker.

Realizing that he would not be able to support himself and a family with the kind of music he wanted to compose, Ives determined to make his living in business. He joined an insurance firm in New York City, met his future partner and lifelong friend, Julian Myrick, and soon applied his inventive mind to improvements and innovations in the business that eventually made him financially secure and had long-range benefits for his company, Mutual of New York, and for the insurance business as a whole. In 1908 Ives married Harmony Twichell, a nurse and daughter of a prominent minister, the Reverend Joseph Twichell, of Hartford. They devoted themselves thereafter to a life that encompassed two careers for Ives--the successful businessman and the iconoclast composer. Unable to have children of their own, the Iveses adopted a daughter, Edith, and the family lived comfortably in New York City and in a country home in West Redding, Connecticut. Along with his father's musical talents, Ives seemed to have inherited George Ives's weak heart, for in 1918 he suffered a serious attack that left him a semi-invalid and sapped his energies; his composing days were virtually over by 1920, and business activities were curtailed, ending with retirement in 1930. He died in New York on May 19, 1954.

Ives was a thinker and an inventor of ideas. He thought about music, about life, about music and life together, about the common man, about religion, about politics--and he invented new ways of expressing his thoughts in his music. Ives also was a writer, not as gifted in his literary efforts as in music, but with a bravura style and spirit that simulated his music writing. Ives's literary endeavors were also concerned with music and society, the dangers of war, the ugliness of politics, and the insurance business. During his healthy and creative years, Ives wrote and composed with passion and conviction. Considering that he worked only on weekends and evenings, Ives produced a substantial body of music and literature. His music is often termed "inclusive," in that he saw no reason to exclude any style so long as it served to express his ideas. The songs alone number over 200 and include a wide range--from traditional parlor songs to the most outrageously innovative experiments. The music manuscripts are in themselves unusual visual artifacts, often extremely complicated and at times indecipherable, a situation that has added to existing editorial and publication problems complicated by Ivesian traits such as multiple choices for performers, unusual instrumentation, multilayering, quarter-tones, etc. The availability of Ives's music today is due largely to the efforts of several younger musicians who "discovered" Ives in the twenties and thirties, among them Henry Cowell, Elliott Carter, Bernard Herrmann, Lehman Engel, Lou Harrison, Jerome Moross, and E. Robert Schmitz. Recognition of Ives came about gradually. Foremost among Ives enthusiasts was pianist John Kirkpatrick, who began to play the "Concord" Sonata in the late twenties, finally giving the first full public hearing of "Concord" in 1939, following ten years of study and practice. This occasion proved to be a turning point in Ives's career. Kirkpatrick's continuing dedication to Ives's music as performer and editor assured further recognition and publication. More recently, the Charles Ives Society has been responsible for guiding and assigning editions and re-editions of the music.

Register to The Charles Ives Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Vivian Perlis
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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