Hemingway Family Archive

The Leicester Hemingway Family Archive, 1852-1961

Gift of Anne Hemingway Feuer & Hilary Hemingway Freundlich, 2007


The Hemingway Family Archive is perhaps the single most important acquisition for the Julian W. Abernethy Collection of American Literature since the purchase of Henry David Thoreau's personal copy of the first edition of Walden in 1940. The collection joins the ranks of other major Hemingway archives in more than 75 private and institutional collections, the most distinguished of which include those at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, in Boston, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Tom Staley, Director of the Ransom Center, has deemed the collection "a particularly fine catch for Middlebury," one that "matches very well with the other collections."

The final product of a vast family archiving project undertaken by writer Leicester Hemingway (1915-1982), younger brother of the legendary Ernest (1899-1961), in the process of researching and writing his biography, My Brother Ernest Hemingway (1962), the collection contains more than 1600 items. Listed in the inventory are scanned color copies of 151 handwritten or typed letters by Ernest Hemingway, from childhood until shortly before his death. There are copies of Ernest's published articles in Esquire, as well as copies of drafts of a number of articles and book chapters. Of significant literary note is the 15-page carbon copy typescript of the original two opening chapters of The Sun Also Rises, excised before publication by the author at the recommendation of his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. This draft varies slightly from the only other known copy, now at the John F. Kennedy Library.


Among the vast manuscript holdings, the bulk of which date from the mid-19th century until shortly before the author's death in 1961, are original letters, diaries, notes, original stories, architectural drawings, etc., of Ernest's family including his mother, father, grandparents, and siblings. Items of particular interest include diaries of grandfather Anson Hemingway dating from the 1850s; family Civil War letters; courtship letters of his parents, Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway, prior to and after their marriage; and revealing letters to Grace from Ernest's four wives, (Elizabeth) Hadley Richardson (1921-1928), Pauline Pfeiffer (1928-1940), Martha Gellhorn (1940-1945), and Mary Welsh (1945-1961).

There are nearly 700 original family photographs, including photographic portraits of Hemingway ancestors and the wedding portrait of Clarence and Grace Hemingway. A telling representation of the rise in popularity of snapshot photography among the turn-of-the-century American middle class, the childhood of Ernest Hemingway and his siblings (sisters Marceline, Ursula, Madelaine, Carol, and brother Leicester) at home in Oak Park, IL, and at their summer retreat on Walloon Lake, in northern Michigan, is documented on an impressive scale and provide images that offer fascinating insights into the Hemingway family dynamic. Later original and exhibit photos record Hemingway's marriages, his three sons (Jack, Patrick, and Gregory), literary colleagues, his beloved residences in Key West and Cuba, as well as his well-known wartime, hunting, and fishing exploits that informed and inspired so much of his writing. Perhaps the most important aspect of this collection is the span of time—more than a century—represented by the materials. While a number of the original Ernest Hemingway items, represented by copies in this collection, are available in other repositories throughout the United States, this archive provides a broad familial context for the writer's personal life and published works in a single location.

Here at the College, the acquisition of the collection has generated broad and positive media coverage, stimulating a revived awareness and interest in the Abernethy Collection. Special Collections has received a number of smaller interesting gifts of Hemingway-related materials as a result. The superb replica of the Hemingway's legendary fishing boat, the Pilar, a gift to the College by Middlebury resident Jack Goodman following the acquisition of the Hemingway Collection in 2007.

The significance of the Hemingway Collection as a curricular resource had an immediate impact on faculty and students, who have made use of the materials in many classes and independent research projects. Beyond offering a rich context for understanding Ernest Hemingway's childhood and early development, the original family letters, photographs, and other documents, also promise to provide keen insights into family and domestic life in late 19th and early 20th century America. Until this extraordinary collection is completely processed and cataloged, its full research potential for students, faculty, and Hemingway scholars, is yet to be realized.

In 2008, an exhibit consisting of only a few dozen items out of thousands in the Hemingway collection, was mounted for the official opening of the Axinn Center at Starr Library. The Hemingway materials represent the development of a towering figure in 20th Century American literature whose work resonates throughout the study of academic disciplines represented by the departments in residence at the Axinn Center—English and American Literatures, American Studies, History, and Film & Media culture.