A Guide to the Helen Norris Cummings Papers, 1865-1949 Cummings, Helen Norris, papers 72

A Guide to the Helen Norris Cummings Papers, 1865-1949

A Collection in
Alexandria Library
Local History/Special Collections
Accession Number 72


Alexandria Library, Local History/Special Collections

Alexandria Library
Local History/Special Collections
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Email: lhsc@alexandria.lib.va.us
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© 2007 Alexandria Library. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Michele Lee, Reference Librarian

Alexandria Library, Local History/Special Collections
Accession Number
Helen Norris Cummings Papers 1865-1949
Physical Characteristics
This collection consists of the research materials of Helen Norris Cummings, founder of the Cameron Club, member of the Federation of Women's Club, and local historian.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Helen Norris Cummings Papers, Accession #72, Alexandria Library, Local History/Special Collections, Alexandria, Va.

Acquisition Information

Esther Green Estate, 1986.

Biographical/Historical Information

Helen Norris Cummings, daughter of Norris Cummings (1834-1904) and Emma Ricketts Cummings (d. 1930), resided in Alexandria from about 1894 until 1949, the time of her death. The family came from Philadelphia, where Norris had been involved in "William Cummings and Son," his family's international shipping business. Helen was active in community affairs. In 1894 she founded the Cameron Club, a member of the Federation of Women's Clubs. (See Cameron Club Collection). She also held various positions in the Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs.

Scope and Content

The correspondence spans the period from 1870 to 1943. Most of the pre-1905 letters deal with genealogy, and the majority of these are addressed to Emma, Helen's mother. Approximately half of the 1905 to 1920 letters are also Emma's. Many of Helen's letters deal with political issues, such as immigration and radicalism. Box 72E Folder 4 contains numerous letters from congressmen. These appear to be responses to her comments on immigration. Among the agencies from which she received letters are the National Republic, The Movement Against Socialism in the Church, and the Industrial Defense Association.

The subject files contain mostly printed matter and a few pieces of correspondence. These files are divided into two subseries: "Subject-Who's Who" and "Subject." Handwritten notes on many documents indicate that Helen kept files on (at least) people, legislation, nations, and organizations. She wrote "Who's Who" on materials relating to particular individuals. Only part of the index to her files remains. It appears that she divided the subjects into broad topics and then alphabetized them within each topic. According to the surviving index (Box 72N Folder 15), File #5 was "Patriotism and History," and File #3 was "Radicalism." Because it is impossible to reconstruct the entire filing system, the folder titles reflect either folders that remained from her file cabinets, or were created because Cummings labelled papers. For example, when Lloyd House received this collection there was not a folder labelled "Labor." One was created, however, because Helen wrote "Labor" at the top of a pamphlet.

The miscellaneous sections at the end of each subseries are a catch-all, not created by Helen. Because of the overlap of people with subjects, and subjects with other subjects, information in folders are not exclusive. For example, there is a "Who's Who" folder on Earl Browder, the Communist Party's candidate for president in 1936 and 1940. These is also a "Subject" folder on the Communist Party. Necessarily, these two overlap. The folders "Trials," "Citizenship," "Immigration," and "Constitution-U.S." contain articles about, or letters to newspaper editors, written by Helen. Several folders, particularly "Immigration," and "Subsidiary Movements," contain issues of "The Daily Data Sheet of the Key Men in America." The purpose of these appears to provide information about Communist and Socialist activities in the U.S. At least one clipping in the subject files was printed after Helen's death. This may have occurred because Esther Green continued to maintain these files.

The Personal/Family series contains genealogical information, as well as obituaries of Helen, Norris, William Cummings (Helen's grandfather), and various other relatives.

The oversize materials include a clip sheet from the National Patriotic Council and approximately a dozen posters in Russian. There are also a few anti-Communism and anti- Socialism posters.

The bound volumes include Helen's diaries from 1894 to 1929 (not a complete set), an account book, a letter book, a prayer book, and an autograph book.


This collection is organized into five series: Correspondence, Subject Files, Personal/Family, Oversize, and Bound Volumes. Also, at the end of the collection (Boxes 72V and 72W) are two boxes of unidentified photo plates.

Related Material

Photos were transferred to the photograph collection. The photos from this collection and the Esther Green Collection are mixed. Also, papers relating to the Ricketts family are now in the Ricketts Collection.

Separated Material

Adjunct Descriptive Data

Contents List

Box 72: Correspondence 1870-June 1902
Box: 72
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Box 72A: Correspondence July 1902-December 1905
Box: 72A
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Box 72B: Correspondence January 1906-1916
Box: 72B
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Box 72C: Correspondence January 1917-December 1927
Box: 72C
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Box 72D: Correspondence January 1928-December 1933
Box: 72D
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Box 72E: Correspondence January 1934-December 1937
Box: 72E
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Box 72F: Correspondence January 1938-1943, undated
Box: 72F
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Box 72G: Subject Files-Who's Who: Jane Addams - Maxim Litinov
Box: 72G
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Box 72H: Subject Files: Who's Who Broadus Mitchell - American Negro Labor Congress
Box: 72H
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Box 72I: Subject Files: American Political Prisoners League - China
Box: 72I
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Box 72J: Subject Files: Christ Church - Federal Council of the Churches
Box: 72J
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Box 72K: Subject Files: Flag, U.S. - I.W.W. [Industrial Workers]
Box: 72K
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Box 72L: Subject Files: India - Social Security
Box: 72L
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72M: Subject Files: Socialism - Women's Peace Party
Box: 72M
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Box 72N: Subject Files: World Revolution - Subject Indexes [Incomplete]
Box: 72N
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Box 72O: Subject Files-George Washington Bicentennial 1932
Box: 72O
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Box 72P: Personal/Family
Box: 72P
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Box 72Q: Oversize
Box: 72Q
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Box 72R: Bound volumes 1850-1929
Box: 72R
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Box 72S: Bound volumes-Bible 1773
Box: 72S
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Box 72T: Bound volumes-Bible 1858
Box: 72T
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Box 72U: Bound volumes-Bible 1837
Box: 72U
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Box 72V: Unidentified photo plates
Box: 72V
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Box 72W: Unidentified photo plates
Box-folder: 72W
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