Scope and Content Summary
Title: Ellen Browning Scripps collection,
Date (inclusive): 1840-2000 (bulk 1880-1936)
Collection number: D1981.1
Scripps, Ellen Browning, 1836-1932, and Harper, J. C. (Jacob
70 cubic feet
Claremont Colleges. Library.
Abstract: The Ellen Browning Scripps Collection contains correspondence,
financial material, newspaper business documents, travel materials, diaries, and materials
documenting Ellen Browning Scripps's many philanthropic activities. Her philanthropies
include Scripps College, Scripps Clinic and Hospital, Scripps Institution of Oceanography,
and many other local and national projects, organizations, and institutions. The collection
covers the years 1840 to 2000 with the bulk of the material ranging from 1880 to 1936. This
collection also contains materials of J.C. Harper, E.W. Scripps, and other family members,
business acquaintances and friends who had close relationships to Ellen Browning Scripps.
Physical location: Ella Strong Denison Library
This collection is open for research with permission from Ella Strong Denison Library
staff. Glass plate negatives in box 2 are restricted to staff use only.
Property rights reside with Scripps College. Literary rights are retained by the creators
of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact
Ella Strong Denison Library staff.
Ellen Browning Scripps Collection. Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College,
Gift of the Edward W. Scripps Trust, Cincinnati, Ohio and Margaret Scripps Buzzelli in
1981 and 1992.
Preliminary arrangement by library staff. Processed by History Associates Incorporated,
Ellen Browning Scripps, educator, publisher, and philanthropist, was born on October 18,
1836. Her middle name "Browning" commemorates the minister who converted her grandmother and
baptized her mother. Ellen lived with her parents on 13 South Molton Street in St. George
Parish, London, until the death of her mother in 1841. She was then placed in a boarding
school for three years.
Ellen was exposed to books and publishing at an early age as her grandfather, William
Armiger Scripps, was an accomplished publisher in London and her father, James Mogg Scripps
(1803-1873), was a successful bookbinder.
Her father was married three times and fathered a total of thirteen children. His first
marriage was to Elizabeth Sabey (1805-1831) in 1829. They had two children, William Sabey
Scripps (1829-1831) and Elizabeth M. Scripps (1831-1914). James Mogg's second marriage was
to Ellen's mother, Ellen Mary Saunders (1804-1841) in 1833. They had six children, Ellen
Sophia Scripps (1833-1834), James E. Scripps (1835-1906), Ellen B. Scripps (1836-1932),
William Armiger Scripps (1838-1914), George H. Scripps (1839-1900), and John Mogg Scripps
(1840-1863). His third marriage was to Julia Adeline Osborn (1814-1893) in 1844. They had
five children, Julia A. Scripps (1847-1898), Thomas O. Scripps (1848-1853), Frederick T.
Scripps (1850-1936), Eliza Virginia Scripps (1852-1921), and Edward Wyllis Scripps
In 1844, three years after the death of Ellen's mother, her father moved her and her five
siblings to the United States. They set sail on a 44-day voyage on the Francis Burr. Upon
arriving in America, the family settled in Rushville, Illinois, where several of Ellen's
family members had already settled. Ellen's father commented to her grandfather regarding
his decision to emigrate to America that "it was on the children's account that I came,
believing that I could do nothing for them in England. They will no doubt do well here."
According to Edward Wyllis Scripps (E.W.), the family had a life in Rushville "not far
removed from a pioneer farmer. All of the children were required to contribute their labor
to the family's support. There were no servants. My mother was the head of the household."
Since there were no public schools in Rushville in the 1840s and 1850s, Ellen attended
seminary and a private school. She then attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois from
1856-1859 where she graduated with honors in mathematics. She was the first female graduate
of Knox College. According to E.W., Ellen was the only one of James Mogg's thirteen children
who obtained a college education. After graduating from Knox College, Ellen taught for
approximately seven years in public and private schools in Hamilton, Augusta, and Rushville,
Ellen Browning Scripps also taught many of her siblings and took a special interest in the
education of E.W., her youngest half-sibling. According to J.C. Harper, "very early in his
life his half-sister Ellen assumed a peculiarly close and intimate oversight of E.W., more
like a mother. She had faith in him. She believed that he was a genius in many ways. She saw
to his education, awakened his interest in books..." In E.W.'s biography of Ellen, he
recalls "my childhood memory of Ellen is mainly made up of a neatly dressed, almost
finickily cleanly young woman with a book in her hand. She was either teaching me spelling,
the primmer [sic], or reading to me stories, or talking to me explaining to me things that
were read about or things around us. I remember her reading to the family circle around the
hearth, night after night, for endless time."
Ellen left Illinois in 1866 to be a proofreader at her brother James's newspaper office in
Detroit. After two years in Detroit, she returned to Rushville to care for her ailing father
until his death in 1873. While in Rushville, she also continued teaching. She lived frugally
her entire working life and saved as much money as possible in order to help support family
members. In 1873 she traveled back to Detroit where she joined her brother James who was
establishing the "Detroit News." She invested her savings in the project and resumed her job
as a proofreader.
In addition to proofreading, Ellen also prepared a column entitled Miscellany for the
Detroit "Evening News." Miscellany consisted of short feature stories that she compiled each
evening after a full day of proofreading. The column proved especially useful on days when
there was little other news to report. E.W. developed Ellen's idea of a daily feature column
into the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) Service, Inc. which supplied daily features
to many newspapers. Today the NEA, Inc., a Scripps-Howard company, provides hundreds of
electronic and print publishers with highly acclaimed political commentary and a selection
of graphics and illustrations through their daily service.
In 1881, Ellen took a leave of absence from the paper and traveled abroad with E.W. During
her absence, Miscellany was replaced by correspondence she wrote from foreign lands. Due to
the publication of her travel letters, Ellen Browning Scripps is sometimes referred to as
one of journalism's first foreign correspondents.
In 1878, Ellen became a partner with E.W. in founding the Cleveland Press. In later years
she invested in most of his publishing enterprises including the Cincinnati Post and other
newspapers of the growing Scripps League. She moved to Southern California with E.W. and his
family in 1890, settling on a ranch at Miramar. In 1897 she retired from the newspaper
business and built her first home in La Jolla.
As the Scripps League of papers grew, so did Ellen Browning Scripps's earnings. In 1900,
she also received a considerable legacy from her brother, George H. Scripps. She was able to
accumulate much wealth due in part to having never married and to her modest lifestyle. As
she stated in a newspaper article regarding her house fire of 1915, "one of the papers spoke
of my thousands of dollars of jewelry being lost in the fire. All the jewelry that I ever
possessed would not sell for $20." She viewed her fortune as "a trust for the benefit of
humanity" and not for her own indulgence.
E.W. said of his sister's wealth, "As I review the whole of Ellen's business career, it had
been from start to finish motivated by a desire, on her part, to serve others. And yet with
all this, she has prospered in a material way, and to such an extent, that there are
probably not a thousand other people, men or women, in this country, who with all their
striving, all their ambition, and selfish aims, have succeeded in accumulating a larger
Long before Ellen Browning Scripps accumulated her wealth, she regularly contributed time
and what money she could to charities. As E.W. recalled, "all of my childhood memories of
Ellen were of seeing her actively employed in some service - almost invariably entirely
unselfish services. As I now make a rapid memory sweep o'er her whole life, it seems to me
that she has persistently continued in this same course."
For the most part, Ellen Browning Scripps distributed her wealth in order to create
opportunities for many people rather than to individuals for their personal use. Her
philanthropies include the establishment of Scripps College; the establishment of Scripps
Institution of Oceanography with her brother E.W.; the establishment of Scripps Memorial
Hospital; the establishment of Scripps Clinic (which was the second such facility in the
United States); the establishment of Torrey Pines State Park; the establishment of the
Bishop's School and James-by-the-Sea Church with her sister Virginia; and the establishment
of the first public playground in the United States which she deeded to the city of San
Diego. She also contributed to Pomona College, Knox College, Cleveland College, the San
Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Zoo, various public libraries, the Young Women's
Christian Association (YWCA), the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), churches of
various denominations, the La Jolla Children's Pool, and the San Diego Woman's Club. She was
also known as an early supporter and leader of the woman suffrage movement.
In August 1932, Ellen Browning Scripps died of lung congestion that was attributed to
advanced age. In accordance with her wishes, there was no public funeral, only private
cremation services. Her ashes were scattered on the Pacific Ocean near her La Jolla home and
according to her obituary, "she wished no other monument than the scores of humanitarian and
educational works which her generosity created."
||Born in London, England, on October 18.
||Family moved from London and settled in Rushville, Illinois.
||Graduated from high school.
||Attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.
||Graduated from Knox College with honors with degree in mathematics.
||Taught school in Hamilton, Augusta, and Rushville, Illinois.
||Received her first grade teaching certificate.
||Proofreader at her brother James's newspaper office in Detroit.
||Returned to Rushville to care for her ailing father.
||Departed Rushville after the death of her father to join brothers James and E.W. at
the Detroit News. She invested her savings in this venture and worked as a proofreader.
She also compiled a column entitled "Miscellany."
||Cleveland Press established by E.W. and family.
||Traveled to Algiers. She wrote weekly letters home that were published in the
||Traveled to England and Spain. She wrote weekly letters home that were published in
the Detroit News.
||Traveled to Egypt, Palestine, Jerusalem, and Beirut.
||Traveled to France.
||Traveled to Italy, Amsterdam, England, and Spain.
||Moved to California accompanied by E.W. and his family.
||Built her first home in La Jolla.
||Fire at La Jolla residence. A new residence was constructed, named South Moulton
Villa after the location of her childhood residence in London.
||Received honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Knox College, Galesburg,
||Received honorary Doctor of Laws from Pomona College, Claremont,
||Scripps College established in Claremont, California.
||La Jolla park renamed "Ellen Scripps Park."
||Died in La Jolla, California, on August 3.
Scope and Content Summary
The Ellen Browning Scripps Collection contains correspondence, financial material,
newspaper business documents, travel materials, diaries, and materials documenting Ellen
Browning Scripps's many philanthropic activities. Her philanthropies include Scripps
College, Scripps Clinic and Hospital, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and many other
local and national projects, organizations, and institutions. The collection covers the
years 1840 to 2000 with the bulk of the material ranging from 1880 to 1936. This collection
also contains materials of J.C. Harper, E.W. Scripps, and other family members, business
acquaintances, and friends who had close relationships to Ellen Browning Scripps.
Documents authored by Ellen Browning Scripps may be found in Series 2. Correspondence,
Series 4. Financial Material, Series 7. Speeches and Writings, Series 8. Diaries, and Series
9. Travel Material. Much of the other material in this collection is authored by Ellen
Browning Scripps's family members and business acquaintances, especially J.C. Harper who
served as her business advisor and friend for several years in the later part of her life.
For assistance in determining Scripps family relationships, Series 1. Biographical Material
includes a folder entitled Genealogical Materials, which contains Scripps family trees.
With the exception of Series 11. Photographic Material, Series 12. Ephemera, and a few
photographic prints scattered throughout other series, this collection consists largely of
textual records. Textual record types primarily include correspondence, newspaper clippings,
reports, notes, financial statements, diaries, and other bound volumes.
The largest series in the collection consists of Ellen Browning Scripps's estate material.
Other large series include Ellen Browning Scripps's financial material and a series
containing J. C. Harper's files.
In processing this collection, documents were typically retained in the file folder in
which they were found. Some folder titles were modified in order to provide a more thorough
description of folder contents. On some documents, folder titles were written at the top of
the page by Ellen Browning Scripps and others. In many cases the folder titles on the
documents do not match the original folder title. However, when the content of the document
was consistent with the other material in the folder, the item was retained in its original
folder regardless of the title written on the top of the document. In a few cases documents
were moved to the proper folder if they had at some point obviously been filed incorrectly.
The collection is organized into fifteen series:
- Series 1. Biographical Material, 1841-1973. 1 cubic ft.
- Series 2. Correspondence, 1840-1947. 5.5 cubic ft.
- Series 3. Newspaper Business Material, 1878-1967. 4.5 cubic ft.
- Series 4. Financial Material, 1873-1981. 10 cubic ft.
- Series 5. Projects and Organizations Funded by Ellen Browning Scripps, 1875-2000.
6.5 cubic ft.
- Series 6. Estate Material, 1852-1978. 15 cubic ft.
- Series 7. Speeches and Writings, 1892-1927. .5 cubic ft.
- Series 8. Diaries, 1871-1929. 3 cubic ft.
- Series 9. Travel Material, 1881-1923. 1.5 cubic ft.
- Series 10. Topical Files, 1847-1969. .5 cubic ft.
- Series 11. Photographic Material, 1865-1935. 2.5 cubic ft.
- Series 12. Ephemera, 1851-1933. 1.5 cubic ft.
- Series 13. Other Scripps Family and Acquaintances, 1844-1967. 4 cubic ft.
- Series 14. J. C. Harper, 1904-1966. 11 cubic ft.
- Series 15. Oversize Material. 3 cubic ft.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Scripps, Ellen Browning, 1836-1932--Archives.
Harper, J. C. (Jacob Chandler),
Scripps, E. W. (Edward Willis),
Scripps Institution of
Genres and Forms of Materials