Research Catalog

Helen Hayes papers

Helen Hayes papers, 1817-1963 (bulk 1905-1963).
Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993.
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42 Items

StatusContainerFormatAccessCall NumberItem Location
Box 1Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 1Offsite
Box 2Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 2Offsite
Box 3Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 3Offsite
Box 4Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 4Offsite
Box 5Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 5Offsite
Box 6Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 6Offsite
Box 7Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 7Offsite
Box 8Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 8Offsite
Box 9Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 9Offsite
Box 10Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 10Offsite
Box 11Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 11Offsite
Box 12Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 12Offsite
Box 13Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 13Offsite
Box 14Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 14Offsite
Box 15Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 15Offsite
Box 16Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 16Offsite
Box 17Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 17Offsite
Box 18Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 18Offsite
Box 19Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 19Offsite
Box 20Mixed materialSupervised use *T-Mss 1990-026 Box 20Offsite


29 linear feet (42 boxes)
The Helen Hayes papers primarily span the years 1905-1963 and consist of correspondence, the majority from friends and colleagues; speeches and writings, including drafts and handwritten index cards of speeches; clippings from her earliest days in theater and covering her work in film, television, and radio; programs for theatrical productions and awards ceremonies; awards and ephemera including her honorary degrees, appointments to committees, and citations for her charitable work; designs including costume designs for theatrical productions and artwork created by friends and colleagues; photographs, including both family photographs, candid shots and professional portraits from childhood, production stills and publicity from theater, film, and radio, and portraits by famous photographers; and scrapbooks, some dedicated to particular theatrical productions and others that cover all aspects of her career and life. In fact, the scrapbooks comprise fully half of the collection.
  • Artwork.
  • Awards.
  • Clippings.
  • Correspondence.
  • Costume design drawings.
  • Notes.
  • Photographs.
  • Printed ephemera.
  • Programs.
  • Scrapbooks.
  • Set design drawings.
  • Speeches.
Access (note)
  • Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photography and photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
Location of Other Archival Materials (note)
  • Helen Hayes correspondence with Anita Loos, *T-Mss 2005-016 at the Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Indexes/Finding Aids (note)
  • Collection guide available in repository and on internet.
Call Number
*T-Mss 1990-026
Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993.
Helen Hayes papers, 1817-1963 (bulk 1905-1963).
Restricted Access
Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photography and photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
Helen Hayes Brown was born in Washington, D.C. on October 10, 1900. Her parents were Frank and Catherine Essie Brown. With her mother's encouragement, Hayes made her stage debut at the age of five and began performing both in amateur productions as well as the stock company, The Columbia Players. While performing in a recital for Miss Minnie Hawke's School of Dance, Hayes was spotted by Lew Fields. Fields, half of the Weber and Fields comedy team, as well as a producer, recognized Hayes's talent and cast her in the New York production of Old Dutch in 1908. Deeming Helen Hayes Brown too long to fit on a theater marquee, Fields shortened her name to Helen Hayes. In over twenty-five productions, from 1908 until 1917, Hayes appeared on Broadway, in summer stock, and with numerous touring companies. The 1918 production of Dear Brutus garnered her positive notices, began her lifelong association with James M. Barrie plays, and introduced her to William Gillette. Gillette, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, became an important mentor and acting coach throughout Hayes's life. In the 1920s, Hayes made the transition from young adult to ingénue roles. By 1926, she appeared in another James M. Barrie play, the revival of What Every Woman Knows, achieving her first true critical and commercial success; the character, Maggie, remained her favorite role throughout her lifetime. Hayes married Charles MacArthur, playwright, in 1928. They had a daughter, Mary, in 1930, and in 1937 adopted a son, James. Mary, an aspiring actress, died of polio in 1949, at the age of nineteen. James became an actor and had a successful career in film and television. Charles MacArthur died in 1956; Hayes never remarried. During the early years of her marriage to MacArthur, the couple relocated to Hollywood in order for Helen to try her hand at movies and MacArthur at screenwriting. Hayes won the Academy Award for her first film, The Sin of Madelon Claudet. In general, Hayes was dissatisfied with her Hollywood experience, as she did not feel her acting style suited film and was disappointed in the quality of scripts. In 1934, after the negative experience of filming What Every Woman Knows, Hayes declared she had given up film for good. Hayes and MacArthur decided to re-settle their family in Nyack, NY. Hayes did not have a significant role in film for another 13 years. With the success of Mary of Scotland in 1933, followed by her triumph in Victoria Regina in 1938, Hayes's reputation as one of the great actresses of the theater was established. Although she worked steadily in radio, film, and television, Hayes's first love was theater, and the majority of her career was focused in that direction. She appeared in plays by Shakespeare, O'Neill, Thorton Wilder, and Tennessee Williams. Her last major appearance was in 1971 as Mary in Long Day's Journey Into Night; after which she was forced to retire due to asthma and allergic reactions to stage dust. In addition to her artistic career, Hayes was a dedicated activist for various political, charitable, and social causes. She campaigned vigorously for Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon, and at the request of Franklin Roosevelt, gave speeches and organized programs to rally support for American intervention during World War II. She was a tireless fundraiser and spokesperson for the March of Dimes; in particular, during the first vaccination trials in 1953. Other organizations with which she was involved include the American National Red Cross, Stage Door Canteen, Girl Scouts of the USA, Actor's Equity, and ANTA. Throughout her life, she advocated the importance of theater to American culture. In 1961, at President Kennedy's behest, she led the Theatre Guild's American Repertory Company on a worldwide tour featuring productions of The Glass Menagerie and The Skin of Our Teeth. Hayes is one of only nine people to win an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy and an Oscar. In addition to acting awards, Hayes received numerous appointments, honors, and honorary degrees. Helen Hayes' impressive career spanned eight decades during which she saw major success, both artistic and commercial, in the media of stage, screen, television, and radio. Because of her dedication to theater, she earned the title of "First Lady of the American Theater." Helen Hayes died in 1993 at her home in Nyack, NY.
Location of Other Archival Materials
See also Helen Hayes correspondence with Anita Loos, *T-Mss 2005-016 at the Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Collection guide available in repository and on internet.
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Finding Aid
Research Call Number
*T-Mss 1990-026
View in Legacy Catalog