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Julie and Thomas Kernan papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS181

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Julie and Thomas Kernan papers are organized into 7 series: correspondence by notable individuals and friends who were frequent correspondents; files on Jacques and Raissa Maritain; correspondence by Julie and Thomas Kernan; subject files which include correspondence and material about the various organizations and miscellaneous business that the Kernans were involved with; manuscripts and published works by Julie and Thomas Kernan; a large collection of information and correspondence regarding Kernan family genealogy; photographs of family and friends; and news clippings about Thomas Kernan, World War II and the internment of Americans, and miscellaneous prominent figures.

Of particular interest is substantial correspondence (some 200 letters) written by Thomas Kernan in France to Julie Kernan and his aunts in the U.S., over a 50-year period from about the mid-1920s through the 1960s and early 1970s. The letters provide detailed insight into the events surrounding the Nazi invasion of France, its impact on civilian life and business. Thomas Kernan's daily experiences in an internment camp for over 13 months are also recounted. The correspondence is accompanied by rare print ephemera, such as programs for plays by the internees, directed by Kernan, and various documents and passports carried by foreign diplomats and members of the American Red Cross for safe conduct through occupied zones.

The series of files maintained by Julie Kernan about Jacques and Raissa Maritain are valuable for the 20 letters and cards written by Jacques Maritain to both brother and sister. Included is the typed manuscript of Julie Kernan's translation of Raissa Maritain's work, "The Divine Ways: a Little Work of Saint Thomas Aquinas," published by Basilian Press in 1942. In addition, there are numerous articles by various scholars about Jacques Maritain, as well as news clippings regarding his death.

Other notable correspondents include Cornelia Borgeroff, friend and secretary to the Maritains; Rene de Chambrun; Paul Claudel; Ernest Dimnet; William J. ("Wild Bill") Donovan; Stanislas Fumet; Henri Gheon; Antoinette Grunelius, friend of the Maritains; Helen Iswolsky; Emmet Lavery; Marie Belloc Lowndes and her daughter Susan Lowndes Marques; Francois Mauriac; Andre Maurois; Conde Nast; John U. Nef, American educator; and Harry Yoxall, British journalist.

The Kernan family genealogical files pertain to Dr. Edward Dolan Kernan (1808-1874); and to his son Dr. Thomas Dickenson Kernan (1832-1896), great grandfather and grandfather, respectively, of Thomas and Julie Kernan. Material includes medical practice affidavits; property tax and slave purchase receipts; and medical lecture admission tickets. Genealogical research consists of numerous carefully constructed family trees for the immediate family and its branches. Much correspondence between Julie and Thomas Kernan and various historical societies in Old Salem, North Carolina, concerns the restoration and preservation of the ancestral home there, built by Samuel Benjamin Vierling in 1800. Other accompanying material includes printed matter, such as brochures, on the Moravian Church in Old Salem, to which Samuel B. Vierling belonged for some time.


  • 1765-1988
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1975

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.

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical note

Julie K. Kernan was born in Roanoke Virginia, January 24, 1901. Her brother, Thomas D. Kernan was born on March 18, 1903. Their parents were Edward O. Kernan (1860-1916) and Rosalie Gravely (1869-1908).

Julie Kernan grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. She graduated from St. Patrick's High School, and attended Catholic and George Washington universities. In 1926 she earned a degree in French studies at the University of Grenoble. Her long career in publishing began in the editorial department of the international law division of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1919 to 1929).

From 1931 through 1935, Ms. Kernan was editorial secretary for the French Book Club. She resided in Paris until 1934. In 1935 she returned to the U.S., taking a variety of editorial and managerial positions with publishers in New York. These included Longmans, Green & Company, as editor of religious publications (1935-1950); David McKay & Co., as manager of the religious book department (1950-1953); and P.J. Kenedy & Sons, as editor (1953-1966).

Ms. Kernan retired in 1966. Her last residence was in Washington, D.C., where she died on May 24, 1988.

Throughout her life, Ms. Kernan was a prodigious writer and translator. Her published works include: “The Catholic Church in Action,” in collaboration with Michael Williams (1934); “St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angel of the Schools,” by Raissa Maritain, translated by Julie Kernan (1935); “The Life of Jesus,” by Francois Mauriac, translated by Julie Kernan (1937); “We Have Been Friends Together,” memoirs by Raissa Maritain, translated by Julie Kernan (1942). Other translations include: “Raissa Maritain's Adventures in Grace” (1945); and “Notes on the Our Father” (1963); as well as Henri Daniel-Rops on Monsieur Vincent (1961); Jacques Chabanne on Saint Augustine (1962); “Port Royal, the Drama of the Jansenists” by Marc Escolier (1968); and “The Huguenot Wars” by Julien Coudy (1969).

One of Ms. Kernan's most remarkable works is her reminiscence of her long friendship with Jacques and Raissa Maritain in her book, “Our Friend Jacques Maritain,” published by Doubleday in 1975.

Thomas Kernan was educated at Georgetown University, receiving a B.A. in 1922, and M.A. in 1923. In 1925, he joined the staff of Conde Nast Publications in New York City. He was general manager of the staff and later circulation manager of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and House and Garden magazines.

In 1937, Kernan became the publisher of the French edition of Vogue in Paris. When Nazi Germany invaded France in June 1940, he remained in the country assisting with the evacuation of French and American friends and the preservation of their property.

Kernan returned to the U.S. in 1941, resigning from Conde Nast the following year. He became a freelance journalist for some time until August 1942, when he returned to France with the American Red Cross to further assist in the evacuation of American civilians and diplomats.

In November 1942, Kernan was interned with the American diplomatic corps at Lourdes. Early in 1943, he was moved to Baden Baden, Germany, where he would be detained for another thirteen months. Here, he wrote his novel, "Now with the Morning Star," perhaps the first to be written in an internment camp. After his release, Kernan entered the U.S. Intelligence Service and served in England and Germany with the Office of War Information from 1944 through the end of the war.

In the years after the war, and for the rest of his life, Kernan continued to reside in France. He inaugurated the French edition of House and Garden magazine, composing from its pages several deluxe and best-selling books on architecture, interior decoration, and gardening. Kernan officially retired from Conde Nast in 1969. His various residences In Paris included the Place Vendome and the Rue de Marignac. He also bought and renovated a country house on the Rue de la Montaigne, St. Aignan, in Senlis.

Thomas Kernan was author of several books including “Across a World” in collaboration with John J. Considine (1942); “France on Berlin Time” (1941); and the aforementioned novel, “Now with the Morning Star” (Scribner's, 1944, 1951 and Bodley Head, 1945). Books by both Thomas and Julie Kernan were translated and published variously in French, Spanish and German.

Thomas Kernan died in France on May 9, 1975.


4.2 Linear Feet (4 Hollinger boxes (3 Record Storage; 1 drop front flat 11x14"))

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Julie Kernan, July 1977; 1988.

Julie and Thomas Kernan papers
Lisette C. Matano, Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
1991, 1992, 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

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