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Joyce Kilmer Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS83

Scope and Contents

The Joyce Kilmer papers consist of three categories of material: correspondence, manuscripts, and printed material (news clippings, photographs, and scores for music set to poems by Joyce and Aline Kilmer). Letters include those from Joyce Kilmer to Aline Kilmer (total 44), to his young son Kenton (total 4), and to friends such as Rev. James J. Daly, S.J., and to Rev. Charles O'Donnell, C.S.C. Other correspondence is that of Joyce Kilmer's mother, Annie Kilburn Kilmer to friends William L. Lanahan and Dorothy Tyrrel, as well as of Kilmer's father, Frederick Barnett Kilmer. In addition, some 50 folders contain correspondence from notable writers and poets to the Kilmers, including: Anna Hempstead Branch, John Bunker, Witter Bynner, Theodore Maynard, and Harold T. Pulsifer.

The collection includes original royalty statements from the publishers of poems by Joyce and Aline Kilmer. Autograph manuscripts, as well as typed carbons of poems by Joyce Kilmer include “Holy Ireland,” “Try a Tin Today;” and lectures, and essays on other poets. Manuscripts by other authors include those of John Bunker, Rev. James Daly, S.J., and Rev. Charles O'Donnell, C.S.C. Photocopies of theses by Sister M. Arthemise Dalton, O.P. and Sister Roberta Marie Sherry, S.N.D. de N., provide biographical information on Aline Kilmer. Additionally, the color facsimile of the diary of Col. William Donovan is notable for the transcription of Joyce Kilmer's poem, "The Peacemaker," copied into Colonel Donovan's book.

The collection is completed by news clippings about Joyce Kilmer (primarily obituaries), as well as of Aline Kilmer, and other members of the family. Black and white photographs of individuals include Fr. Daly, Fr. O'Donnell, Margaret Widdemer, and William Butler Yeats.

The Croix de Guerre medal presented to Kenton Kilmer on behalf of his father is included along with a photostat of the citation.


  • 1907 - 1980
  • Majority of material found within 1917 - 1941


Conditions Governing Access

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.

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

Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was the son of Frederick Barnett Kilmer, a chemist with Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company, and of Annie Kilburn Kilmer, a poet. Joyce Kilmer attended Rutgers College (1904-1906) and graduated with an A.B. from Columbia University, New York, in 1908. In June of that year, he married Aline Murray whom he’d met at Rutgers Preparatory School. Kilmer was editor of the school paper and collaborated with Murray on literary projects. She was the daughter of Kenton Murray and Ada Foster who later married Henry C. Mills Alden, editor of “Harper's” magazine. Ada Foster also wrote poetry and was published frequently by the “New York Times.” In 1907, Aline Murray graduated from Vail-Deane School in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a year before her marriage to Joyce Kilmer, in 1908.

The year following his marriage, Joyce Kilmer taught high school Latin in Morristown, New Jersey. He and his wife then moved to New York City, where, after a round of random employment, he joined the staff of the “Standard Dictionary” (1909-1912). During this period, he also did considerable occasional writing for magazines. After a year as literary editor of the “Churchman,” a publication of the Episcopal Church of which he was a member at the time, Kilmer was hired by the “New York Times” Sunday magazine and book review sections (1913). During the fall of that year, Joyce and Aline Kilmer converted to Roman Catholicism.

Besides his work for the “New York Times,” Joyce Kilmer wrote for the “Literary Digest” and “Current Literature”; he wrote prefaces to books including Hilaire Belloc's “Verses” (1916) and Thomas Hardy's “Mayor of Casterbridge” (1917); and lectured extensively on contemporary literary matters. Kilmer's major book publications include:

“Summer of Love” (The Baker & Taylor Company, N.Y., 1911)

“Trees and Other Poems” (George H. Doran Company, N.Y., 1914)

“The Circus and Other Essays” (L.J. Gomme, 1916)

“Main Street and Other Poems” (George H. Doran Company, N.Y., 1917)

“Literature in the Making” (a series of interviews with literary personages) (Harper & Bros., 1917)

“Dreams and Images” (Boni and Liveright, N.Y., 1917; later published as Joyce Kilmer's “Anthology of Catholic Poets,” 1939)

For a full listing of publications by Joyce Kilmer, see the “National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints,” pp. 27-29.

When the United States entered World War I, Joyce Kilmer enlisted. He had originally joined the Officers' Reserve Training Corps, but resigned to enlist in the 7th Regiment, National Guard, New York. In July 1917, the 7th Regiment was mustered into Federal service. At this time, Kilmer transferred to the 165th Regiment (originally known as the "Fighting 69th") of the 42nd ("Rainbow") Division, which he accompanied to France (October 1917) as senior statistician. With him was Fr. Francis P. Duffy who served as regimental chaplain and with whom Kilmer became close friends during their time abroad.

For a time, Kilmer worked in the adjutant's office, but in April 1918, he requested a transfer to the Regimental Intelligence Section. Many of his letters to Aline Kilmer describe his time in this section, working in dugouts, camping in various locations of the French countryside, of which Rouge Bouquet is memorialized in the eponymous poem. On July 30, 1918, during the American advance through the Soissons-Marne-Reims salient, the first battalion of the 165th Regiment attacked a village held by the Germans in the hills above the Ourcq River, near Seringes-et-Nesles. Kilmer was sent ahead of the battalion with the Intelligence Section. He was later found in the woods, shot through the head by an enemy bullet. He had originally volunteered to assist Col. W.J. Donovan as a replacement for Lt. Oliver Ames, who had just been killed.

Kilmer's bravery was honored by burial near the place where he fell. He was reburied with fellow officers at the American Military Cemetery of Fere-en-Tardenois. Later, the French government was to present the Croix de Guerre in Kilmer's honor to his mother Annie Kilburn Kilmer, his widow Aline Kilmer, and to his son Kenton Kilmer (December 21, 1918). Joyce Kilmer had entered the 165th Regiment as a private and had been promoted from corporal to sergeant.

Joyce and Aline Kilmer had five children: Kenton, Rose (who died at age four), Deborah (aka. Sister Michael, O.S.B.), Michael (who died in 1927), and Christopher (“Kipper”). After Kilmer's death, the family remained in Larchmont, New York, where they had moved in 1917 while the former went through military training in Plattburgh and Camp Mills, Mineola, Long Island, prior to his departure for France. Eventually, Aline Kilmer was to move the family back to New Jersey. They resided at Englewood Cliffs during the period approximately from 1926 to 1929. After that, Aline Kilmer retired to Stillwater.

A poet in her own right, Aline Kilmer published several volumes of verse, as well as of prose:

“Candles that Burn” (George H. Doran Company, c.1919)

“Vigils” (George H. Doran Company, c. 1921)

“Hunting a Hair Shirt and Other Spiritual Adventures” (George H. Doran, c.1923)

“The Poor King's Daughter and Other Poems” (George H. Doran Company, c.1925)

“Emma, Nicky and Greg” (George H. Doran Company, c.1927)

“Selected Poems” (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1929)

“A Buttonwood Summer” (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1929, 1930)

Aline Kilmer died on October 1, 1941, at her home in Stillwater, New Jersey.

Kenton Kilmer resided in Vienna, Virginia, with his wife, poet Frances Frieseke. They were the parents of 10 children. Mr. Kilmer attended Georgetown University, from 1930 to 1931, although he obtained his A.B. from St. Mary's College in Kansas. He would later acquire his Master's degree from Georgetown University, in 1931. Two of Mr. Kilmer's sons are also Georgetown University alumni, Nicholas J. Kilmer, A.B. 1962, and Hugh Kilmer, a former student of the Georgetown University Graduate School.

A number of biographical works are available on Joyce Kilmer. Of the most notable are those by his mother, Annie Kilburn Kilmer and by Robert Cortes Holliday, editor of the “Bookman” magazine, family friend, and Joyce Kilmer's literary executor.

“Memories of My Son, Sergeant Joyce Kilmer,” by Annie Kilmer (Brentano's Publishers, N.Y., 1920) “Joyce Kilmer: Poems, Essays and Letters,” by R.C. Holliday (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1918, 1940)


2.25 Cubic Feet (5 boxes and 1 oversized folder)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Kenton Kilmer, 1981, 1984 and 1989; and Miriam A. Kilmer, 2004. This collection combines two accessions: GTM-GAMMS83 and GTM-041222.

Related Materials

The Booth Family Center for Special Collections holds several collections related to Joyce Kilmer and his family.

Joyce Kilmer Papers
Lisette C. Matano
circa 1989-1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-11: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

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