Collection ID: MS 655

Collection context


Denton, Frances B., 1871-1948
Correspondence and personal memorabilia of Frances B. Denton, personal secretary to Col. E. M. House from 1885 to 1938.
0.5 Linear Feet


Rules or conventions:
translation missing: en.enumerations.resource_finding_aid_description_rules.Finding aid created in accordance with Manuscripts and Archives Processing Manual
Scope and Content:

For over fifty years (1885-1938) Frances B. Denton acted as Colonel E. M. House's personal secretary and ever-present confidante. "Miss Fannie" was the daughter of the Superintendant of the State Insane Asylum in Austin, Texas. Her father had been a close personal friend of Colonel House, while her mother was a friend (and distant relative) of the Hunter sisters - one of whom, Loulie, became Colonel House's wife, and the other, Annie, Sidney Mezes's wife.

Between 1912 and 1938 Miss Denton accompanied Colonel House on every one of his extended private or official trips - to and from Austin, New York, Washington, Magnolia, London, Paris, and the south of France; she typed all of his voluminous correspondence and organized his files; she supervised his social schedule and official appointments and arranged his daily routine; finally, she not only transcribed the famous "Diary" in toto, but was one of only four people (Charles Seymour, Gordon Auchincloss and Sir William Wiseman being the others) who were privileged to discuss and "dissect" in depth its contents with Colonel House. Indeed it would be no exaggeration to say that Miss Denton was closer to House, day in and day out, than any other person in his life not excluding his wife and children. This fact was recognized fully by Colonel House's entourage; by President Wilson (who had immediately granted Miss Denton full security clearance, thus enabling her to accompany Colonel House on all of his secret wartime missions to Europe and later on to the Paris Peace Conference); and by Charles Seymour, who repeatedly appealed to her for assistance and advice while preparing his four-volume edition of The Intimate Papers of Colonel House.

Colonel House, in turn, trusted Miss Denton absolutely: he depended on her not only because of her honesty and personal loyalty to him, but also because of her intelligence, sound judgment and "instinct" about other people and things. Quite early on in his career Colonel House appointed Miss Denton his literary executrix. Later he named her a trustee (with complete authority to manage investments) of his children's trust funds. Later yet he dedicated his "diary" to her. Miss Denton was habitually left in charge of the various House family residences - in terms of everyday management, repairs, redecoration and the like. She also held power of attorney from Colonel House and helped him manage his own finances.

Thus, for the historian, Francis B. Denton is in many ways as important to an understanding of Colonel House as the Colonel himself. Unfortunately, Miss Denton proved to be all too self-effacing; and her sense of privacy and confidentiality was so highly developed that the small group of private papers which were incorporated in the original "House Collection" are, as a result, disappointing in the extreme.

Miss Denton's correspondence with Charles Seymour, and most of her correspondence with Colonel House, have been transferred to the "General Correspondence" series of the Charles Seymour Papers and The Papers of Colonel E. M. House respectively. The balance of the material is contained in one box and is divided into two series - "General Correspondence" and "Personal and Memorabilia". The correspondence includes some letters from Colonel House, given by Frances Denton Miller in 1978. The latter section includes a number of items from Marion Weeks (Miss Denton's favorite niece) given to the "House Collection" in 1956 and 1969.


Arranged in two series: I. General Correspondence. II. Personal and Memorabilia.


Sterling Memorial Library
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