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Guide to the Brooke Astor Papers
 MS 3157

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Eri Matsuda and Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 01, 2022 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents

The collection includes personal papers and photographs of the socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor, as well as some documents concerning her parents, other family members, and her husbands. Papers related specifically to Brooke include correspondence, mostly from the 1970s-2002, reflecting her social connections with the extended Astor family, leaders of cultural and religious institutions in New York City, and other prominent people. Much of this correspondence is social in nature, with pleasantries, courtesies, invitations, acknowledgements of gifts, and other such matters. There are many photographs in the collection, also from the 1970s-early 2000s, that similarly reflect Astor's social and philanthropic circles.

Brooke Astor's literary and artistic aspirations reaching back to her youth are documented in the collection with short essays, poetry and fiction, as well as photograph transparencies of drawings. Diary entries from 1915-17, when Brooke Russell was a teenager, and transcripts of interviews from the 1990s with the elderly Brooke Astor, bookend the writings by and about her. A dinner party record from 1937-41 and photographs from the first half of the twentieth century give glimpses into Brooke's life during that time, including photos of her second husband, Charles Marshall, and third husband, Vincent Astor. Glimpses into Vincent's life and career are also represented in the collection with documents recognizing his contributions with the U.S. Navy in World War II, a detailed appraisal of his country estate Ferncliff, his probated will, and some photographs and other documents.

The collection also holds several documents relating to Brooke's parents and grandparents. Among these are a bound volume of letters written by Brooke's mother, Mabel Russell, from Haiti in 1923-27 where she lived during the tenure of her husband, John H. Russell Jr., as American High Commissioner. A photograph album dating from about 1912 includes photographs from Honolulu and China, where John Russell was stationed at the time, and several of these photographs depict Brooke and her family. Family history papers in the collection also include several letters from the 19th century authors Robert Traill Spence Lowell and Mary Lowell Putnam to Brooke's maternal grandparents.


The collection is organized in 5 series:

Series I. Family Papers, 1884-2002

Series II. General Correspondence, 1953-2002, 2007

Series III. Writings by and about Brooke Astor, 1915-2005

Series IV. Photographs, circa 1885-2007

Series V. Memorabilia, 1956-2007, undated