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William Wetmore Story Papers

Identifier: SC 01076

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Scope and Contents

Letters and poetry of the American sculptor, essayist, and poet, William Wetmore Story. Includes an 1846 poem entitled, "Plea for Peace,"; an 1851 reply to a request for an autograph of his father, Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845); and an 1894 letter giving his opinion on a book and enclosing the clipping of his poem, "In the Rain."


  • Creation: 1846-1894


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

William Wetmore Story (February 12, 1819 - October 7, 1895) was an American sculptor, art critic, poet and editor.

He was the son of jurist Joseph Story and Sarah Waldo (Wetmore) Story, and graduated from Harvard College in 1838 at the age of nineteen. He moved to Italy in 1856 after receiving a commission for completing a bust of his late father, which resides in the Memorial Hall/Lowell Hall. Story's home, in the Palazzo Barberini, became a central location for Americans in Rome. His most famous work, Cleopatra,(1858) was described and admired in Nathaniel Hawthorne's romance The Marble Faun, and is on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Another work, the Angel of Grief, has been replicated near the Stanford Mausoleum at Stanford University.

Story submitted a design for the Washington Monument, then under construction. Although the Washington National Monument Society concluded that his design seemed "vastly superior in artistic taste and beauty" to the obelisk already under construction, the obelisk continued to be built, and is what we see today as the monument. In addition, Story sculpted a bronze statue of Joseph Henry on the Mall in Washington, D.C., the scientist who served as the Smithsonian Institution's first Secretary. His "Libyan Sibyl" is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Story is buried with his wife, Emelyn Story, in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, under a statue of his own design (Angel of Grief). His children also pursued artistic careers: Thomas Waldo Story (1855-1915) became a sculptor, Julian Russell Story (1857-1919) was a successful portrait painter, and Edith Marion (1844-1907), the Marchesa Peruzzi de' Medici, became a writer.


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Custodial History

This collection was formerly identified as Mss. 83s St7.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase. Source: Cesi Kellinger. Acquired: 02/01/1983.

Processing Information

Processed by Cynthia B. Brown in 1983.

Guide to the William Wetmore Story Papers
SCRC Staff, Karen King
June 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository