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Katharine Cornell collection

 Collection — Box: 1-22, 23A-D, 24-41, 42-44+, 45-64, 65-67+, 68
Identifier: MS-0219-0001
Materials in this collection pertain to Katharine Cornell's life, career, and legacy. They were collected during Cornell's life by several individuals, including Cornell, Guthrie McClintic, A. Conger Goodyear, and Nancy Hamilton. The collection contains personal and professional papers, clippings, publications, awards, correspondence, books, photographs, and physical ephemera from personal and professional endeavors. Audiovisual materials in the form of tapes are included.


  • 1890-1974


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The bulk of the Katharine Cornell collection records are 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 the materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.


58.26 Linear Feet (10 manuscript, 2 half manuscript, 52 flat boxes, 6 oversize boxes, 1 LP box)


The Katharine Cornell collection, 1890-1974 contains materials about Cornell's life and legacy, collected by family and close friends. Includes clippings, articles, photographs, books, scrapbooks, and personal items formerly in Cornell's possession.

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. 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 an 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 William Shakespeare’s 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 staged a version for American soldiers stationed overseas during World War II.

Cornell’s last role was in Jerome 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 McClintic passed away. Katharine Cornell passed away on June 9, 1974 at the age of 81.


Materials in the collection are generally arranged alphabetically by title or surname, depending on the format of the material. Those without titles are grouped according to subject matter and format. Series I. is arranged by format and listed alphabetically, respectively.

Series II., subseries B and E are arranged alphabetically by author surname. Subseries A, C, D, and F are arranged by format and subject matter; materials with an attributable creator are alphabetized by name or title.
  1. Professional/Publicity Records and Materials
  2. Personal Records and Materials

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated in several parts from various donors, including Guthrie McClintic, Nancy Hamilton, and A. Conger Goodyear, starting in 1952.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

MS 219.2 Liz Dribben’s Katharine Cornell Collection, 1890-1975. University at Buffalo, University Archives. MS 219.3 G. Thomas Pagnotta: Katharine Cornell Collection, 1890-1978. University at Buffalo, University Archives. MS 219.4 Deborah Cornell Colwell Collection on Katharine Cornell, 1936-1975. University at Buffalo, University Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by Elizabeth Stengel, December 2013. Finding aid encoded by Danielle White, August 2014. Finding aid revised by Matthew Oliver, January 2016.



Finding Aid for the Katharine Cornell collection
Finding aid prepared by Archives staff.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

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