Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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

Creator: 
Wright, Ernest Hunter, 1882-1968,.
Phys. Desc: 
5 document boxes (5 document boxes 2.5 linear feet)
Call Number: 
MS#1395
Location: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

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.

Scope and Contents

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.