Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Eleanor Belmont Papers, 1851-1979

Summary Information


Belmont (1878-1979) was an American actress and a prominent public figure. The collection includes correspondence, subject files, and personal materials.

At a Glance

Call No.: Ms Coll\Belmont
Bib ID 4079125 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Belmont, Eleanor Robson, 1879-1979
Title Eleanor Belmont Papers, 1851-1979
Physical Description 33 linear feet (37 boxes 159 volumes 1)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

The following boxes are located off-site: Boxes 15-37. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



Selected materials cataloged; remainder arranged. The collection is arranged into four series.



Correspondence, manuscripts, and papers reflecting Belmont's associations in the theatrical, musical, philanthropic, and social worlds. There are ten letters from Theodore Roosevelt, ten from George Bernard Shaw, twenty-two from Israel Zangwill, fifteen from Frances Hodgson Burnett, fifteen from Edith Wharton, and nine from Herbert Hoover, as well as letters from Anatole France, Mary Austin, Stephen Vincent Ben'et, Nicholas Murray Butler, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight David Eisenhower, Clyde Fitch, Harriet Ford, John Galsworthy, Ellen Glasgow, Yvette Guilbert, Amy Lowell, Archibald MacLeish, Edgar Lee Masters, John J. Pershing, Arthur Wing Pinero, William Howard Taft, and William Butler Yeats. In addition to the manuscripts of Mrs. Belmont's own writings, among them her autobiography FABRIC OF MEMORY, the collection contains a manuscript of Anatole France's "La Petite Ville de France" and a typescript of George Bernard Shaw's "Democracy and THE APPLE CART." There is also a considerable body of correspondence, notes and reports of the organizations with which Mrs. Belmont was associated, including the American Shakespeare Festival Foundation, Educational Dramatic League, Metropolitan Opera Association, Motion Picture Research Council, and the Red Cross.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1851-1980

    The Correspondence is divided into Cataloged (1851-1979) and Arranged Correspondence (1908-1980.) The cataloged material is arranged individually by last name, then by date. The arranged material consists of general and family correspondence arranged alphabetically, then by date.

  • Series II: Subject Files, 1904-1979

    The subject files relate to the Belmont family and Mrs. Belmont's philanthropic causes. There are extensive files on August Belmont's estate which have information on the New York Subway, the Belmont racing stables, and the several properties. Other files reflect Mrs. Belmont's interest in Belmont genealogy and her pride in the Belmont connection to Commodore Perry. There is extensive documentation on the organizations with which Mrs. Belmont was associated including the American Shakespeare Festival Foundation, the Metropolitan Opera Association, the Community Service Society, Unemployment Relief, and the Red Cross. There are also files related to her theatrical life including a file on George Bernard Shaw, Israel Zangwill, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. Included are drafts of her speeches, her autobiography, and her play, In the Next Room. The files are arranged alphabetically by subject.

  • Series III: Personal and Biographical, 1906-1975

    This series contains awards and honors, mementoes, photographs, articles and clippings on Mrs. Belmont. There are clippings, cards, and letters on her 100th birthday celebration as well as documentation on her death in 1979.

  • Series IV: Oversized Materials

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

The following boxes are located off-site: Boxes 15-37. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Eleanor Robson Belmont Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Alternate Form Available

Royal Cortissoz letters are on: microfilm.

Ownership and Custodial History

Gift of Eleanor Robson Belmont, 1962 & 1966; Bequest of Mrs Belmont, 1979.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Belmont, Eleanor Robson. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1962. Accession number--M62.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 04/04/89.

Processed by Henry Rowen, 1980-1981.

Revised by Gwynedd Cannan 1999.

Revision Description

2009-06-26 File created.

2012-09-13 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Actresses Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
American Red Cross Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
American Shakespeare Festival Foundation Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Austin, Mary Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Benét, Stephen Vincent, 1898-1943 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Butler, Nicholas Murray, 1862-1947 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Charities Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Educational Dramatic League Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Eisenhower, Dwight D (Dwight David), 1890-1969 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fitch, Clyde, 1865-1909 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ford, Harriet, 1868-1949 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
France, Anatole, 1844-1924 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Galsworthy, John, 1867-1933 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Glasgow, Ellen Anderson Gholson, 1873-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Guilbert, Yvette, 1865-1944 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Masters, Edgar Lee, 1868-1950 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Metropolitan Opera (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Motion Picture Research Council Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Motion picture industry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Music -- United States -- Societies, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Opera -- United States -- Societies, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pershing, John J (John Joseph), 1860-1948 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pinero, Arthur Wing, 1855-1934 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Taft, William H (William Howard), 1857-1930 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theater -- United States -- Societies, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Yeats, W. B (William Butler), 1865-1939 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Zangwill, Israel, 1864-1926 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biogprahical Note

Eleanor Robson Belmont, actress socialite and philanthropist was born December 13, 1878 in Wigan Lancashire England to an actress mother and a musician father. Her father died when she was very young and her mother Madge Carr Cook remarried to the actor Augustus Cook immigrated to America. Eleanor was educated in American boarding schools after which she joined her mother Madge Carr Cook in the San Francisco-based Frawley Stock Company. She quickly graduated to starring roles while touring with the company. In 1900 she moved to New York where she was signed by the impresario George Tyler of Liebler and Company. She was a sensation acclaimed for her beauty her sweet rich speaking voice and her natural manner. Her greatest hit was Israel Zangwill's Merely Mary Ann in 1903. While playing the role in London, she captivated George Bernard Shaw who wrote Major Barbara for her. She was never able to play the part she inspired due to contractual obligations, but she continued to be a popular draw starring in Nurse Marjorie (1906), Salomy Jane (1907), and Dawn of Tomorrow (1909). In 1910, she left the stage to marry the banker, August Belmont.

After marriage, as she tells us in her autobiography Fabric of Memory, life became a "world of horses, polo, social events, new friends, civic interests, and farming." She supported her husband's pursuits including the Belmont racing stables, the construction of the New York Subway, and the Cape Cod Canal. Both Belmonts actively took part in the war effort in World War I. Mrs. Belmont was appointed to the American Red Cross and she courageously traveled dangerous waters to personally inspect the Red Cross overseas effort. After the war, she helped develop the peacetime American Red Cross.

Mrs. Belmont was widowed in 1924 but continued to be active in philanthropic causes. During the Great Depression, she raised funds with the Women's Committee of the Central Emergency Unemployment Relief Agency devoting special attention to the needs of the single working woman. When World War II broke out Mrs. Belmont again served the war effort through the Red Cross.

Mrs. Belmont maintained her interest in the theater. In 1931, she co-wrote and produced a play In the Next Room. Her theatrical fame and her training as an actress had contributed to her success as a fundraiser, and the performing arts remained one of her causes. She was especially fond of the Metropolitan Opera Company. In 1933, she became the first woman to sit on its Board of Directors. She founded the Metropolitan Opera Guild in 1935 as a permanent vehicle for raising money and as a basis of support. She lived to see the Opera emerge from the precarious financial predicament in which she found it to become a thriving, well-supported, well-attended institution.

Mrs. Belmont died at the age of 101 in 1979. On her hundredth birthday, December 13, 1978, she had told the New York Times that, "the secret to long life is no diet no special care nothing like that. It's doing what you want and doing it happily."