The Rockefeller Archive Center
“If we assist the highest forms of education – in whatever field – we secure the widest influence in enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge.”
—John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Rockefeller Family Archives


Size: 45 cubic feet

Contents: Personal and family correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia as well as the records generated by her philanthropic activities. They provide information on her ancestors; education, relationships with family members, friends, and associates; travels; and other social concerns and benevolences.

Arrangement: Arranged in five series:
  1. Hooker and Ferry Families Files, 1945; 1884-1992
  2. Rockefeller Family Files, 1932-1991
  3. Subject Files, 1933-1994
  4. Museum of Modern Art Files, 1951-1992
  5. Political Files, 1961-1992

Photo collection: Yes

Biography: Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller (1909-1992) married John D. Rockefeller 3rd in 1932. Her life-long involvement in New York City's charitable and civic activities included her lengthy affiliation with the Museum of Modern Art, for which she served as founding chairman of its Junior Council, and two terms as president. She was a trustee of the Brearly School, Vassar College and The Juilliard School. She was a member of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society, the English-Speaking Union, the American Federation of Arts, the Riverside Church, and the River Club, as well as numerous other leading cultural institutions. She shared many of her husband's philanthropic interests and deep interest in Asia and Asian art. She was a member of the Asia Society, which JDR 3rd founded. Blanchette and JDR 3rd devoted a great deal of time to art collecting. They gradually assembled world-class collections of Asian and American art which were donated to the Asia Society and to San Francisco's DeYoung Museum.

Series 1, Hooker and Ferry Families Files, 1745; 1884-1992, 5 cu. ft.

This series contains personal family correspondence, wills and estate settlement papers, photographs, albums, and biographical and genealogical information regarding Blanchette Rockefeller's parents, siblings, grandparents, and ancestors. Mrs. Rockefeller, a descendant of Massachusetts Colony pastor Thomas Hooker, was the daughter of Elon H. Hooker, a civil engineer and founder of the Hooker Electro-Chemical Company. Elon Hooker was active in Republican politics, a friend of and adviser to Theodore Roosevelt, and a candidate for the Republican nomination for the governorship of New York in 1920. He was also chairman of the Committee on Internal Trade and Improvements of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York. This series contains speeches and articles by Hooker as well as ephemera from his gubernatorial campaign. Material on the history of the electrochemical company will also be found here (box 8).

Blanchette's mother, Blanche Ferry, was the daughter of the founder of the Detroit-based seed company, D. M. Ferry & Co., a predecessor of the Ferry-Morse Seed Co. (Information on the seed companies, including an 1896 brochure entitled "Extra Early Blanche Ferry Sweet Pea," can be found in box 1 of this series.) Blanche Ferry's wedding to Elon Hooker in 1901 is documented here as well as her role as the mother of four daughters: Barbara, Adelaide, Helen, and Blanchette. Of special interest in these files are the letters written by and about Blanchette during her childhood (box 4).

Additionally, this series provides ample evidence of the deep affection Mrs. Rockefeller had for her sisters and their families. She tended to the needs of various family members, including those of her never married oldest sister, Barbara, who suffered from mental illness. Mrs. Rockefeller's sister Adelaide married the best-selling novelist John P. Marquand. Her sister Helen, an artist and poet, was first married to Ernest O'Malley, a prominent figure in the Irish Republican movement who began his connection with the cause at the age of 18 during the Easter Week uprising of 1916. Throughout her life Mrs. Rockefeller corresponded with and remained close and attentive to her sisters, nieces, and nephews.

Series 2, Rockefeller Family Files, 1932-1991, 0.3 cu. ft.

This series is composed mostly of letters sent to Mrs. Rockefeller by members of the Rockefeller family. The letters provide evidence of the warm relationships between her and the various family members. Of special interest are the letters between Mrs. Rockefeller and her parents-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who enthusiastically welcomed Blanchette into their family. Also of note in this series are the letters, postcards, and telegrams sent to Mrs. Rockefeller by her husband during his travels

Series 3, Subject Files, 1933-1994, 16 cu. ft.

Mrs. Rockefeller's personal papers as well as the files from the organizations for which she labored were maintained in one alphabetical subject sequence. Of a personal nature are records relating to Mrs. Rockefeller's art collection, debut, education, engagement, household maintenance, financial management, travels, and wedding. Her personal correspondence, which was maintained alphabetically, will also be found in this series (boxes 42 and 43). Of special note is a scrapbook containing photographs, invitations, brochures, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera and memorabilia documenting Mrs. Rockefeller's life prior to her engagement. Also of interest are the files relating to her engagement (box 27) and wedding (boxes 52 through 54) to JDR 3rd. A letter and a drawing from Violet Oakley, a popular illustrator, muralist and social activist, are part of the wedding files. Oakley, a friend of the Hooker family and a leading proponent of the League of Nations, presented a pen-and-ink drawing to the couple upon the occasion of their marriage.

Also of a personal nature is the correspondence between Blanchette and John D. Rockefeller 3rd and members of the Rowntree family in England (boxes 45 and 46). Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller agreed in 1940 to take Benjamin and David, two of the young sons of Peter and Bessie Rowntree, into their home until it was deemed safe for the boys to return to war-ravaged England. For four years the boys lived with the Rockefeller family. The letters offer insights into life on both sides of the Atlantic during World War II.

The balance of the papers in this series reflects Mrs. Rockefeller's social concerns and philanthropic endeavors. Shortly after her marriage in 1932, Mrs. Rockefeller began her involvement in charitable and civic activities when she joined the Central Council of the Community Service Society (see box 25). Throughout her marriage (and particularly after her children were grown), Mrs. Rockefeller served on committees and as a board member for a number of organizations as well as on a variety of governmental commissions and panels. Though numerous, Mrs. Rockefeller's involvement with these organizations and institutions was never casual. This series documents the dedication of Mrs. Rockefeller and the scope of her contributions (of both time and money) to a variety of organizations and agencies, including the Asia Society, Japan Society, Lincoln Center, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Series 4, Museum of Modern Art Files, 1951-1992, 9 cu. ft.

Mrs. Rockefeller's significant involvement with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) began in 1949 when her brother-in-law, Nelson A. Rockefeller, asked her to assist with the formation of a Junior Council which he hoped would attract young, talented committee and board members to the museum. Mrs. Rockefeller served as the first chair of the Junior Council. After World War II she helped form the International Council whose members were involved in the planning and financing of international exhibitions. In 1953 she was named a trustee of MoMA and she served continuously from that year until her retirement in 1987. During that time Mrs. Rockefeller twice served as president (1959-1962, 1972-1985) and was elected chairman of the board in 1985. During her second tenure as president, MoMA successfully undertook a fundraising campaign, substantially increased exhibit and curatorial space, and added significantly to its collection of modern and contemporary art. These files are revelatory of Mrs. Rockefeller's very active role in many aspects of the museum's operation, including fundraising. Her involvement is evident in the hand-written notes generated by her to committee chairs and to donors and potential donors in her capacity as a "lay administrator." Documented here is the major fundraising event for the museum's 50th anniversary as well as files relating to the controversial issue of selling the air rights of the museum to an outside developer. An oral history interview done for the Archives of American Art in 1970, in which Mrs. Rockefeller discusses her association with the MoMA, can be found in the Subject Series (box 15).

Series 5, Political Files, 1961-1992, 2 cu. ft.

This series documents Mrs. Rockefeller's interest and involvement in politics through her contributions to various political causes and candidates both Democratic and Republican. She was an active fundraiser in a number of campaigns, especially those of her son, John D. Rockefeller IV, and her son-in-law, Mark Dayton.

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