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Trumbull Family Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Trumbull

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, diaries, photographs, and other materials of the Trumbull family of Chicago, Illinois.

The Trumbull family correspondence spans 1876 until 1956. Most of this correspondence takes place between Fay, Florence and Annie and their family in Chicago during their time in Vienna from 1901 until 1911. The collection includes letters between all ten Woodlawn Trumbulls, Bee’s family the Fosters, and the next generation of Trumbulls. Additionally, letters from Cornelius Shaver and suitors of Fay, Florence and Annie Trumbull make up a small section of the correspondence.

Photographs and Miscellaneous series includes the diaries of Annie, Fay and Florence Trumbull from 1900-1903, date books, family photographs, photographs of “Uncle” Cornelius Shaver, clippings about Chicago concerts and Jeffrey Short’s involvement with the USO, programs and an autograph book.


  • Creation: 1876-1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1876 - 1950



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Trumbull Family Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Trumbull Family Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of the Trumbull Family

Chicago family who sent their daughters to study concert piano in Vienna in the early 1900s.

Herman “Jay” Trumbull Sr., born 1845, and Mary Elizabeth “Bee” Foster Trumbull, born 1859, married in 1877 in Chicago, Illinois. The young couple lived a quiet, middle class life in the Woodlawn neighborhood and Jay supported his growing family as a fruit and poultry merchant. The elder Trumbull daughters, Fay, born 1878, Florence, born 1881, Annie, born 1884, and Gladys, born 1889, became local celebrities due to their precocious musical talent. Their parlor concerts and community recitals attracted the attention of wealthy newspaperman Cornelius H. Shaver, a life-long bachelor notorious for befriending and supporting young women and their families. Due in part to his poor health, Shaver had taken leave of the newspaper business and was living a life of leisure in Chicago, Nantucket and abroad. After taking an interest in Fay, Florence, and Annie, Shaver began hosting and funding their trips first to Nantucket in 1895 through 1899 and then to Europe from 1901 until his death in 1924.

During their European travels, Fay, Florence and Annie lived in Vienna, Austria, taking part in the lively musical community surrounding their teacher, Professor Theodor Leschetizky. Leschetizky was a popular teacher, attracting students from all over the world, including other young Chicagoans. Despite Shaver’s strict rules restricting the Trumbull girls’ contact with other men, the girls cultivated many friendships and romances both with local and foreign men while in Vienna. Although Florence eventually became engaged to Dr. Alban Spooner in 1903, he died in early 1904, before they could marry. She remained unmarried until her death in 1954, despite many marriage proposals. Similarly, Fay Trumbull entertained several romantic connections while in Vienna, but remained unmarried until her death in 1947. Despite other short romances, Annie married her long-time suitor, Jeffrey Robson Short, in 1911, after exchanging over a decade of correspondence between Europe and Chicago.

Even though Shaver funded the Trumbull girls’ musical education and helped pay Bee and Jay Trumbull’s mortgage, the girls grew resentful about his controlling behavior. Their relationship with Shaver deteriorated after 1910, when Fay and Annie returned home following the death of their father. Gladys, who joined her sisters in Vienna in 1909, stayed in Vienna under the funding of Shaver until his death in 1924. She returned to Chicago only once before her own death in 1970. Florence remained in Europe until 1921, when she returned to America and became a piano teacher in Chicago.

Though the eldest three sisters continued a lifelong friendship after returning to the States, the contact between the younger Trumbull siblings was less consistent. Like her sister Florence, Gladys Trumbull became an assistant to Leschetizky and remained in Europe, where she married Aane Aaneson and settled in Oslo, Norway. The other Trumbull siblings (Jay, born 1887, Beatrice, born 1892, Denslow, born 1894, and Cornelia, born 1897) carried on sporadic correspondence with these elder sisters, although many of the siblings would not see each other past their childhood years.

After living a cultured and independent life in Vienna, Annie Trumbull Short settled into life as a housewife in La Grange, Illinois, in 1911, not far from Beatrice in Winnetka and Fay and their mother Bee in Woodlawn. Fay and Bee eventually settled in Oklahoma City, where Fay became a successful piano teacher. Bee died in 1945, followed by Fay in 1947, and Florence and Annie in 1954.

For a more complete biography, including commentary on the letters, see Marian Short Harris's book Uncle and the Girls (1995), Newberry Library call number folio CS71 .T87 1995.


3.3 Linear Feet (8 boxes)


Correspondence, diaries and photographs of the Trumbull family of Chicago from 1876 until 1956. The collection gives candid insight into the lives of the young Trumbull sisters while studying music in Vienna through their letters home to Chicago. The most sizeable contribution of correspondence comes from prolific letter-writer Florence Trumbull, who wrote regularly to her sisters and mother, Mary Elizabeth Foster Trumbull, over the course of five decades.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1876-1956
Boxes 1-7
Series 2: Photographs and Miscellaneous, 1880-1990
Box 8

Collection Stack Location

1 35 7


Gift of Thomas B. Harris, 2011.

Processed by

Emma Martin, 2011.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Trumbull Family Papers, 1876-1990, bulk 1876-1950
Emma Martin
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States