Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Jean Stapleton Papers

Collection ID:
Stapleton, Jean, 1923-2013
1906-2014, undated
Physical Description:
10 Cubic feet
35 boxes, 4 map-folders
Collection documents the personal life and professional career of American theatre and film actor Jean Stapleton.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of papers documenting Stapleton's long career in film, on stage, and on screen. Contents include correspondence from fans and from VIPs; awards and honorary degrees; scrapbooks and photograph albums; papers relating to her career, such as publicity photographs, scripts, sheet music, audiovisual materials; subject files Stapleton kept on topics relating to her roles; papers relating to Stapleton's mother, Marie Stapleton, an opera singer; articles and clippings, and a 16 mm film.
The collection documents Stapleton's long stage, film, and television career, as well as her philanthropic activities. These materials consist primarily of photographs and photograph albums, scripts, sheet music and scores, costume and set designs, programs and posters, awards and honorary degrees, and subject files Stapleton kept on topics relating to her roles.
The collection is arranged into four series. Series one, Production Materials, contains a substantial amount of materials relating to her acting career and the many roles she played on the stage, in film and on television. Series two consists of materials relating to regional theatres. Series three includes Stapleton's personal papers. Series four contain materials relating to the singing career of Marie Stapleton Murray who was the mother of Jean Stapleton.

Collection arranged into four series.
Series 1, Production Materials, 1939-2007, undated
Series 2, Regional Theatre, 1941-1989, undated
Series 3, Personal Papers, 1930-2014, undated
Subseries 3.1, Correspondence, 1950-2000, undated
Subseries 3.2, Activism and Awards, 1930-2010, undated
Subseries 3.3, Personal Memorabilia and Photographs, 1952-2014, undated
Subseries 3.4, Publications, 1971-2001
Series 4, Marie Stapleton Murray, 1906-1914, undated

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Jean Stapleton was born on January 19, 1923 in Manhattan, New York, New York, as Jean Murray. Her father was a billboard advertising salesman. Her mother was an opera singer, whose maiden name, Stapleton, she took as her stage name. Stapleton trained as an actor at the American Actors Company and the American Theatre Wing. She was a singer as well as a character actor and in 1949 found success as part of the cast of the national touring company of "Harvey." She would go on to act off-Broadway, on-Broadway, in film, and on television throughout her half-a-century career. Notable roles include Sister in "Damn Yankees," Sue in "Bells are Ringing," and Mrs. Strakosh in "Funny Girl." Her most famous role, however, was in Norman Lear's groundbreaking sitcom "All in the Family" where Stapleton portrayed the "dingbat," big-hearted wife, Edith Bunker. Playing opposite Carroll O'Connor's, Archie Bunker, Stapleton was lauded for her masterful portrayal. She won three Emmys and two Golden Globe awards. "All in the Family" ran from 1971 to 1984 and after the show ended Stapleton continued working on numerous projects. In 1989, she acted in Harold Printer's "The Birthday Party" and "Mountain Language," Lee Hoiby's "Bon App├ętit" in 1991, and Horton Foote's "The Carpetbagger's Children" in 2002. She also appeared as guest characters in many television series.
In 1957 Stapleton married William Putch, operator of the Totem Pole Playhouse in Pennsylvania. They were married until his death in 1983. Stapleton never remarried. Jean Stapleton died May 31, 2013 of natural causes and is survived by two children, Pamela and John, and grandchildren.

Vanessa Broussard-Simmons and Emily Woessner
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the Archives Center by Pamela Putch in 2017.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Alexandra Asal, intern, 2017; Eva Buchanan-Cates, intern, 2017; Katie DeFonzo, intern, 2017; Stephanie Haeg, intern, 2017; Emily Woessner, intern, 2017; and Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., Archives Specialist, 2017; supervised by Vanessa Broussard-Simmons, 2017.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Preferred Citation
Jean Stapleton Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Related Materials
Materials at Other Organizations
Carnegie Mellon University Archives
The papers of Jean Stapleton's husband, William Putch, mainly his thirty years of work at the Totem Pole Playhouse, were acquired in July 2017.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Television Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Theater Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Actors Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Actresses Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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