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Guide to the James Beard Collection
1919-1985 (Bulk 1965-1981)
 MSS 139

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2596
Email: fales.library@nyu.edu

Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Peter Cherches, March - April 2007.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 13, 2016
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Title: James Beard Collection
Dates: 1919-1985 (Bulk 1965-1981)
Abstract: This small collection of materials related to the noted cookbook author and food industry consultant James Beard includes selected correspondence, clippings, photographs, and personal effects.
Quantity: 0.2 linear feet (1 box)
Call Phrase: MSS 139

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Biographical Note

James Andrews Beard was born in Portland, Oregon on May 5, 1903. He studied briefly at Reed College in Portland but left in 1923 to join a touring theatrical troupe and pursue a career as an actor and singer. In the mid-1930s he began to supplement his income with catering work, and in 1937 he settled in New York and opened a gourmet food shop, Hors D'Oeuvre Inc. The work at the shop led to Beard's first book, Hors d'Oeuvres and Canapés, in 1940.

During the war years, Beard served with the U.S. Seamen's Service, establishing sailors' canteens in Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Rico, Panama and Marseille. When he returned to New York he resumed writing cookbooks, publishing prolifically and establishing himself as America's most noted culinary authority. In 1946 he was given his own segment on a pioneering television program, NBC's "I Love to Eat," becoming one of the first TV chefs.

Over the years, Beard contributed articles and columns to numerous magazines, including Women's Wear Daily,  House and Garden and  Gourmet. In the 1970s he wrote a syndicated newspaper column, "Beard on Food."

In 1955 Beard established the James Beard Cooking School, in New York, and for many years he served as a consultant to food producers and restaurateurs. He also ran his own restaurant, in Nantucket, for a while.

Beard published over twenty books in his lifetime, among them The Fireside Cookbook,  The James Beard Cookbook,  Delights and Prejudices, a Memoir with Recipes, and  James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking.

James Beard died on January 21, 1985 at age 81.

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Scope and Content Note

The James Beard Collection at Fales Library comprises a small collection of Beard materials considered significant by Beard's personal assistant, Emily Gilder. Included is miscellaneous incoming correspondence; of special note are three letters from writer M.F.K Fisher and a number of letters from Elizabeth David, the noted British cookbook author credited with bringing French and Italian cookery into the English home. There are clippings of articles by and about Beard, notes transcribed from tapes made by Beard, photographs, and personal effects including medical records, a last will and testament, and Beard's high school yearbook. Also included are a number of items by and about writer José Wilson, features editor for House and Garden magazine and Beard's close collaborator on his newspaper and magazine columns as well as a number of cookbooks.


The James Beard Papers are organized into seven series. Correspondence files are arranged alphabetically by subject/author heading. All other series are grouped by type of material. Descriptions are at the folder level.

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Manuscripts and Notes
  3. Series III: Biographical Materials
  4. Series IV: Articles
  5. Series V: Invitations and Menus
  6. Series VI: Jose Wilson
  7. Series VII: Miscellaneous

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Beard, James, 1903-1985
  • David, Elizabeth, 1913-1992
  • Ferrone, John
  • Fisher, M. F. K., (Mary Frances Kennedy), 1908-1992
  • Wilson, José

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence.
  • Ephemera.
  • Manuscripts for publication.
  • Medical records.
  • Notes.
  • Photographs.
  • School yearbooks.
  • Wills

Subject Topics

  • Cookery, American -- History -y 20th century.
  • Food industry and trade -- United States.

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.)

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Administrative Information


The James Beard Papers were donated to Fales Library in 2003 by restaurant-industry consultant Clark Wolfe, a friend and professional colleague of Beard's. Beard himself saved next to nothing; the materials in this collection were rescued from the wastebasket by Beard's personal assistant, Emily Gilder. In 1986, shortly after Beard's death, Gilder gave the collection to Wolfe with the instruction to "do the right thing when the time comes." With the establishment of a major culinary archive at NYU the time had come.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers. Appointments are necessary to consult archive and manuscript materials.

Use Restrictions

Collection use is subject to all copyright laws. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Director of Fales Library and Special Collections. Please contact fales.library@nyu.edu. or call 212 998 2596.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); James Beard Papers; MSS 139; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence including 8 letters from British cookbook author Elizabeth David, 3 letters from noted writer M.F.K. Fisher, and miscelleaneous correspondence, including letters from chef Paul Bocuse and food historian Betty Fussell.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 David, Elizabeth
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Fisher, M.F.K.
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Miscellaneous

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Series II: Manuscripts and Notes

Scope and Contents note

Beard's notes, mostly transcribed from tapes. There is the beginning of a memoir (1978), and numerous notes mostly dating from Beard's trip to France in 1974.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Beard Memoir Transcript
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Transcribed and Handwritten Notes

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Series III: Biographical materials

Scope and Contents note

Miscellaneous personal effects and documents, including numerous photos of Beard, family and friends, Beard's 1920 high school yearbook, medical records, a Last Will and Testament, and an analysis of Beard's handwriting commissioned by the Bergen Record.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Photographs [bulk undated]
Box: 1 Folder : 7 High School Yearbook
Box: 1 Folder : 8a Last Will and Testament
Box: 1 Folder : 8b Honorary Doctorate, Reed College
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Medical Records
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Handwriting Analysis

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Series IV: Articles

Scope and Contents note

Articles by and about Beard, mostly from newspapers and popular magazines.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Articles by Beard
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Articles about Beard

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Series V: Invitations and Menus

Scope and Contents note

A small collection (3 items) relating to events in which Beard participated.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Dinners and Events - Invitations and Menus

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Series VI: José Wilson

Scope and Contents note

Materials relating to Wilson's working relationship and friendship with Beard. Wilson was a collaborator with Beard on cookbooks and newspaper and magazine columns. Included are notes to Beard and Emily Gilder (Beard's secretary), a typescript of a column, as well as Wilson's suicide note to Beard (she died in 1980), and Beard's obituary for Wilson.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 14 José Wilson Materials
undated; 1980

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Series VII: Miscellaneous

Scope and Contents note

Otherwise uncategorized items, including a manuscript for a staged reading based on the letters of Beard and Helen Evans Brown by Beard's friend and associate John Ferrone, blank checks, and miscellaneous unattributed manuscripts (including a Beard biography and a Beard bibliography).

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 15 John Ferrone - Halo of Truffles (photocopy)
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Miscellaneous

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