Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Ernest Hunter Wright Collection, 1892-1968, bulk 1924-1968

Summary Information


The Ernest Hunter Wright Collection contains the unpublished manuscripts, and correspondence of Ernest Hunter Wright, a professor of English beginning in 1910 and the head of the Department of English from 1933 to 1947, the collection also contains his wife Mary Heritage Wright's diaries and manuscripts.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1395
Bib ID 4079505 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Wright, Ernest Hunter, 1882-1968
Title Ernest Hunter Wright Collection, 1892-1968, bulk 1924-1968
Physical Description 2.5 linear feet (5 document boxes)
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.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material 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.



This collection is arranged is arranged in five series.



The Ernest Hunter Collection comprise manuscripts, correspondence, diaries, legal and banking papers, and a few photographs. The collection focuses on the period between 1947 and 1968 when Wright died, and is concentrated in the management of the Cragsmoor Community Properties.

  • Series I: Manuscripts, 1930-1968

    Series I of the Ernest Hunter Wright papers mainly documents the period between Wright's retirement from Columbia in 1947 and his death in 1968. He was very busy and prolific during this time, and wrote many articles on a variety of subjects. The manuscripts in the collection are quite varied, reflecting his many interests, and most remain unpublished. The manuscripts are almost entirely undated, and are organized alphabetically. There are multiple drafts of many of the manuscripts, which are in separate folders, and as close to the order they were written as could be discerned.

  • Series II: Correspondence, 1908-1968

    A portion of the personal correspondence contained in this series is between Ernest Hunter Wright and Mary Thomas Branham, a former student who sent also sent him an unpublished manuscript that she wrote about living in Dublin as a disabled woman. There is one letter from his daughter written right before his death, and a few letters from while he was completing his PhD. There is also a group of letters related to an article Wright wrote in Scientific American posing a question about the mechanics of skipping stones on water. Many people responded with ideas, and Wright had an extended correspondence with a young man named Kirtson Koths on the subject.

  • Series III: Personal Papers, 1892-1962

    The papers are related to his time at Columbia University as well as his retirement. A number of the papers are related to Mary Edith Branham, a student of Wright's at Columbia. She was in a wheelchair after a childhood bout of polio, and worked as an assistant to the President. Branham moved to Dublin with her husband after Columbia, and wrote a manuscript about life as an academic and handicapped woman traveling in Ireland. During Wright's time as chair of the English Department, his responsibilities required him to deal with a variety of department transactions and this series contains receipts, speeches and notes. The personal papers also contain Wright's report cards from Lynchburg, Virginia in the 1890's. There is also a folder of greeting cards and Christmas papers, and a small print of a hill signed by Heskell. Five photographs are included in the personal portion of the collection.

  • Series IV: Cragsmoor Community Properties, 1950-1954

    A large part of the collection is contained within Series IV, a group of papers related to the Cragsmoor Community properties. This series is made up of correspondence and organization files, with some legal papers interspersed among the letters. The general correspondence file contains letters regarding the general fundraising and upkeep up the theater from a variety of local artists and friends. Wright wrote extensively to raise money, both to buy and maintain the theater, and organized all of the tenants of the theater and adjoining restaurants. Many of the letters contain financial pledges to the community, or responses to his requests. Because of the financial difficulties of maintaining the theater, Wright also wrote to the creditors of the theater. This series also contains insurance policies, leases, and other business papers in relation to the letters. Wright also kept meeting minutes, leases, and legal papers related to the community ownership of the theater.

  • Series V: Mary Heritage Wright

    Series V is entirely focused on Mary Heritage Wright, and is some of the earliest material in the collection. Mary Wright's diaries from the 1920's describe the Wright's daily life at Columbia and Cragsmoor, and detail their personal lives and work. Mary Wright's series also contains a complete draft of a book she edited, Your Land and Mine, a compilation of poems and fictional works by a variety of authors. Many were reprinted versions of published works, including previously published writings by Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau. The book is organized by geographic region and concentrates on New England.

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.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material 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 approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Ernest Hunter Wright Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material at Columbia

Columbia University English Department Letters Collection, MS#0257

Cragsmoor Theatre Programs (Cragsmoor, N.Y.). New York State Library


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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Estate of Mrs. Wright. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1969. Accession number--M-69.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 09/--/89.

Papers processed Alison Lotto, New York University and the Palmer School, 2013 2011 February.

Papers recataloged Lea Osborne 2011 February 17.

Revision Description

2009-06-26 File created.

2011-02-17 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne

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:"
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Personal papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Prints (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Report cards Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Columbia University -- Faculty Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. Department of English and Comparative Literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Community organization Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cragsmoor Theater Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Literature -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theater Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Women -- Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wright, Ernest Hunter, 1882-1968 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Hunter Wright was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1882. He came to New York around 1900 to work with a social worker on the Bowery and attend Columbia College. During Wright's senior year, with Seth Low as his sponsor, he helped to found a school at the Young Men's Institute on the Bowery. Wright was responsible for hiring teachers and beginning instruction while the rest of the staff was assembled. The students paid $12 a year in tuition, and the school was intended to prepare them for college.

Wright graduated from Columbia in 1906 and received his Ph.D from the University in 1910. He worked as an instructor of English beginning in 1910, became a full professor in 1928, and from 1933-1947 was the head of the English Department. During that time, he wrote The Meaning of Rousseau and The Authorship of Timon of Athens. His academic writing was on a variety of subjects, including the Romantics and Shakespeare. Wright also edited The Richards Encyclopedia in 1933 with his wife Mary Heritage Wright.

The Wrights owned a home in Cragsmoor, New York where they spent the summers and retired after Wright left Columbia in 1947. In 1950, the community theater was threatened with closure, but Wright convinced many of his friends to provide financial support to buy the theater from its owner. The theater was purchased in 1950 by Cragsmoor Community Properties, and from 1950-1953, with Wright as President the organization invited theater groups in to perform in the summer.

After managing the theater for 3 years, Wright retired from the Cragsmoor organization, and concentrated on writing articles and manuscripts, mainly autobiographical stories and non-fiction articles, many unrelated to his scholarly texts. Wright wrote about his early time in New York, particularly when he lived on the Bowery, including an autobiographical story "Groton on the Bowery." He wrote on literary topics, particularly poetry, ethics, and Shakespeare. Wright also became interested in social commentary, and produced articles about safe driving, rules of the road, and the politics of violence in film. One of these articles about how to skip stones was published in Scientific American in 1957, and Wright received many responses to the question. Wright also wrote a series in the New York Times called "Speaking of Books." His health slowly deteriorated throughout the 1950's and 1960's, and he died in 1968. Mary Wright died a year later and bequeathed her husband's papers to Columbia University.