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Deborah Cornell Colwell collection on Katharine Cornell

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0219-0004

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of a book, clippings, and photographs.


  • 1936-1975


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

Deborah Cornell Colwell collection on Katharine Cornell, 1936-1975 is open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Katharine Cornell was a respected theater actor, writer and producer. Cornell established a rich and respected career and remains one of the most well-known performers exclusive to theater work.

Cornell was born February 16, 1893 in Berlin, Germany. Raised in Buffalo, she developed an avid interest in performance from an early age, staging plays for her family and friends. Throughout her adolescence, the city of Buffalo provided an outlet for acting ambitions. At the age of 23 she began performing in theater companies in New York City and Detroit, and established herself as up-and-coming actor with favorable reviews. Cornell’s Broadway debut occurred shortly after meeting director Guthrie McClintic, with whom she would act, produce, and collaborate for her entire career. In 1921, Cornell and McClintic were married, though it was widely understood that this was a marriage of convenience. That year marked the beginning of her ascent to fame on the stage, a period of time that lasted 40 years.

Cornell’s career experiences showed a wide range of genres, with both comedy and drama in her repertoire. Noteworthy roles included the eponymous Candida in George Bernard Shaw’s play of the same title, a role she revisited four times; Countess Ellen Olenska in a stage adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (1928); and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (1933). Though Shaw and Shakespeare were considered unfashionable by early 20th century American theater standards, Cornell demonstrated a formidable sense of independence as an actor and in turn persuaded audiences to embrace these authors again. Arguably her most famed and praised role was as poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Cornell played this role to critical acclaim in Cleveland, Buffalo, and finally New York for a total of 370 shows. She also played this role for American soldiers stationed overseas during World War II.

Cornell’s last role was in Jermone Kilty’s Dear Liar. Though she avoided film work, Cornell was briefly featured in the 1954 film Stage Door Canteen and narrated The Unconquered, a documentary about friend Helen Keller. She retired at the age of 68 in 1961, shortly after husband McClintic passed away. Katharine Cornell passed away on June 9, 1974 at the age of 81.


.2 Linear Feet (1 half manuscript box)


The Deborah Cornell Colwell collection on Katharine Cornell contains items related to Katharine Cornell’s career and legacy, including newspaper clippings, photos, and a book.


This collection is arranged in one series.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by Deborah Cornell Colwell to the University Archives and received on March 11, 2013.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources

219.1 Katharine Cornell collection, 1890-1974
219.2 Liz Dribben collection on Katharine Cornell, 1890-1974
219.3 G. Thomas Pagnotta collection on Katharine Cornell, 1890-1978

Processing Information

Processed by Elizabeth Stengel, October 2013.


Finding Aid for the Deborah Cornell Colwell collection on Katharine Cornell
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Stengel.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)