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James P. J. Murphy Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS118

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The James P. J. Murphy Papers primarily consist of correspondence and signed photographs of well-known artists, musicians, authors and stage figures of the 1930's and 1940's. The papers are arranged in 845 folders in 9 boxes.

James P. J. Murphy had a good eye for art and chose materials wisely, and at a meager cost, he amassed an enormous autograph collection. He began in the early 1930's, mainly trying to get signed photographs of musicians and stage personalities, including Paul Bowles, Noel Coward, Arthur Fiedler, Sir John Gielgud, Jascha Heifetz, Wanda Landowska, and Arturo Toscanini. In the 1940's and 50's Murphy moved on to artists and writers and include correspondence from Berenice Abbott, W. E. B. DuBois, Rachel Carson, Marc Chagall, Asa Cheffetz, Eugene O'Neill, Salvador Dali, Ruth Gordon, John Dos Passos, Rudolf Laban, and Herman Wouk. Photographs from this period include Prentiss Taylor (by Carl Van Vechten), George M. Cohan, Milton Avery, Robert Casadesus, Walter Gropius, Robert Frost, Flora Robson, Leopold Stokowski, and Eugene Ormandy.

Housed elsewhere in Special Collections, but not in this collection, are more than 190 prints in lithography, etching, drypoint, and wood engraving executed chiefly by American printmakers during the same period. Special Collections also contains about 700 first editions collected by Murphy, many of them signed, including materials signed by Denise Levertov, Marianne Moore, Rachel Carson, Carl Sandburg, John Dos Passos, Albert Schweitzer, Christopher Morley, Eugene O'Neill, and Arthur Miller. These are now a part of Special Collections' rare books section.


  • 1930 - 1965

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Little is known of James P. J. Murphy, the man assiduously collected the autographs of hundreds of artists during the 1930's to the 1950's on photographs, books, prints and brief pages of correspondence. He was probably born in Philadelphia in the early 1920's, was a veteran in the Second World War and lived out most of his life in Philadelphia and its environs. In his final days, he lived in Gloucester City, New Jersey in a boarding house owned by his mother, Susan Murphy.


4.5 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial history note

Having no other heirs aside from his mother, James P. J. Murphy requested that his collection be deposited in a library. Susan Murphy donated the collection to the Jesuit Mission Fund office at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia in the early 1980's, and the collection was soon sold to Georgetown University Library.

James P. J. Murphy Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057