Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Philip Butcher papers, 1864-2005, bulk 1940-1990

Summary Information


The Philip Butcher Papers contain correspondence, journals, subject files, research files, printed material, and photographs related to the life and work of Philip Butcher, primarily, but also related to James Butcher. Philip and James Butcher, brothers, were professors at Morgan State University and Howard University, respectively.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0176
Bib ID 4079733 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Butcher, Philip, 1918-2011
Title Philip Butcher papers, 1864-2005, bulk 1940-1990
Physical Description 6.75 linear feet (15 document boxes 1 flat box)
Language(s) English .

Books from Butcher's library are shelved on Stack 15, Cage 21, Range 6B

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 in four series.



These papers consist of correspondence, journals, photographs, printed material, ephemera, clippings, programs and playbills related to the professional careers and World War II service of Philip Butcher and his brother, James.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1940-1997

    The ingoing and outgoing correspondence in this series relates primarily to Philip Butcher's academic career. Correspondents, many of whom were Butchers' mentors, colleagues and students, include Arna Bontemps, Lionel Trilling, and James Alan McPherson among others. Writing projects, conference proposals, research queries and other academic interests are the topics of most letters. A few brief manuscripts can be found within the correspondence.

  • Series II. Subject Files, 1864-2005, undated

    Included here is an array of material, both personal and professional. Clippings, bulletins, conference proceedings, committee work, funding applications, photographs, and autographed articles written by Philip Butcher's former students and colleagues at Morgan State University are here. Also included are programs, playbills, and photographs of James Butcher's professional activities at Howard University. A smattering of correspondence can be found within the subject files.

  • Series III. Research Files, 1883-1997

    William Stanley Braithwaite, George Washington Cable and Thomas Walker--three of Butcher's longstanding research interests--are the primary focus of this series. Materials include notes, clippings, correspondence, photographs and ephemera related to his research.

  • Series IV. Personal and Professional, 1930-1989, undated

    The bulk of this series concerns Philip and James Butcher's service in the US Army during World War II. A typescript copy of Philip's extensive World War II journal is here. The material created or gathered by James Butcher includes a journal, notes and photographs of a trip from Monrovia to Dunbar Farms in the interior of Liberia; and a lifeboat log kept by H. E. Sorenson, Master of merchant vesselCape Decision,which was torpedoed early in 1943 enroute from Charleston, SC to Dakar. James was on theCape Decision,when it was hit and spent ten days, journeying 900 miles to safety, with Sorenson. This series also contains US Army service handbooks and bulletins, Fort Huachuca publications and ephemera related to the variety of entertainment provided by the Special Services Division.

    Also included here are a few of Philip Butcher's projects and proposals.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Conditions Governing Access

Books from Butcher's library are shelved on Stack 15, Cage 21, Range 6B

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 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); Philip Butcher papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Other Repositories

James W. Butcher Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center of Howard University.

James W. Butcher Papers, 1910-1949 (MS 507) Historical Society of Washington, D. C.

Reproduction Note

The George Washington Cable letters and manuscripts in various U.S.repositories are on: Type of reproduction--microfilm

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers Entered in AMC HR 02/--/91.

Papers Processed HR 02/10/92.

Papers Processed HR 02/10/92.

Papers Reprocessed Megan French (Columbia University GSAS, 2013) Thai Jones (Columbia University GSAS, 2011) April Holm (Columbia University GSAS, 2010) 2009.

Findign Aid Written Alix Ross 03/--/2009.

Papers Processed HR 03/22/93.

Revision Description

2010-06-26 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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:"
Butcher, James W., Jr. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Butcher, Philip, 1918-2011 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Butcher, Vada E. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cable, George Washington, 1844-1925 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Howard University Players Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
McPherson, James Alan, 1943-2016 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 -- Liberia Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Personal narratives, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Charles Philip Butcher (1918-), born and raised in Washington, D. C., graduated from the prestigious Dunbar High School. His mother, Jennie Rosa Lawrence Jones Butcher, like her mother before her, was a teacher. James W. Butcher (1875-1950), his father, retired in 1926 from a job with the Government Printing Office and became a wood-worker. He was best known for the "Butcher-Built Dollhouses" that he crafted and sold to fine department stores from Washington, DC to New York City.

Philip Butcher, who specialized in American Literature, received an AB (1942) and an MA (1947) from Howard University, and in 1956 he was awarded a doctorate from Columbia University. From 1947 until his retirement, Butcher taught in the English Department of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. He became a full professor in 1959, the same year that his first book, George W. Cable: the Northhampton Years, was published by Columbia University Press. Cable had been of interest to Butcher since his student days at Howard University and had been the topic of his Master's thesis. Butcher was married to Ruth Butcher with whom he had two daughters, Wendy and Laurel.

World War II temporarily interrupted Butcher's scholarly trajectory and he served three years (1943-1946) in the United States Army. Although Butcher spent most of the war in Great Britain as an NCO in the Special Service Division, he did a stint at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where the 92nd and 93rd Infantry--two entirely African-American Divisions--were trained. After V-E Day he was transferred from Britain to Germany with the 449th Signal Heavy Construction Battalion. Butcher, was discharged with the rank of Technical Sergeant.

Actor-playwright-director and Howard University professor James W. Butcher (1909-1994) was Philip's older brother. James received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in 1932 and his Master's degree, in theatre, from the University of Iowa in 1941. During World War II, James, who achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, served as a Theatre Consultant with the Special Service Division of the United States Army, which had been established to provide recreation and entertainment for the troops. His initial posting was Fort Huachuca, Arizona, but in 1943 James was assigned to Liberia. When a German submarine sank the merchant vessel, Cape Decision, in which James was traveling, he and the other survivors drifted around the Atlantic on a life-raft for ten days before being rescued. His second attempt to reach Liberia was successful and James spent over two years, writing and directing theatre productions, along with Ossie Davis, in Monrovia.

James taught at Howard University from 1934 to 1976, excluding his stints in the US Army or pursuing graduate education. For the last thirty years of his life he was married to Vada Easter Butcher, his third wife. He had one daughter, Grace Toni Jones, from his first marriage to Grace Desmond. Margaret Just Wormley was his second wife.

Philip and James Butcher had three sisters: Edith Harris, Nellie Forsyth (1904-1989) and Jennie Weir.