The Helen Buchanan papers contain 5 linear feet of incoming correspondence, financial records, photographs, printed items, ephemera, and writings pertaining to the life of Helen Buchanan (later Jones) in the early 20th century. Much of the correspondence is from her friend Juliana Conover, who discussed women's issues and her life in Princeton, New Jersey, during World War I, and from Buchanan's suitor and eventual husband, Walter McKnown Jones, who wrote about medical treatments he experienced and life on his coffee plantation in Puerto Rico.
The Correspondence series comprises the bulk of the collection and contains incoming letters and postcards addressed to Buchanan between 1906 and 1919, while she lived at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia; Washington, D. C.; Rome, Italy; and Hacienda Limon (near Villalba, Puerto Rico).
Helen's friend Juliana Conover wrote 258 letters advising her much younger friend on love and courtship, providing updates on her life in Princeton, New Jersey, and commenting on current events. In one early letter, she shared her horror at the recent Titanic tragedy (April 16, 1912). Much of Conover's correspondence concerns Helen's courtship with and engagement to Walter McKnown Jones; she often reported on his health, and she supported the relationship despite misgivings on the part of Helen's father. Conover dispensed candid advice on a variety of topics, including intimacy and birth control (April 12, 1916). Along with sending personal updates and news of friends in Princeton, she sometimes mentioned the war and the families whose sons served in the military (May 14, 1917). After the war, she worked with the American Library Association's Library War Service at Camp Dix, New Jersey.
Walter McKnown Jones, Helen's friend, fiancé, and (later) husband, wrote approximately 200 letters to her between 1914 and 1919, largely concerning their courtship and engagement. Early in their acquaintance, he spent considerable time attending to his ill health and undergoing medical treatments. After recovering in the United States, he returned to his coffee plantation in Puerto Rico, where he described his work and efforts to sell coffee; these included trips to New York City and other destinations throughout the late 1910s. Many of his later communications with Helen are telegrams reporting his current location and attempting to make plans to meet his wife.
The Family Correspondence subseries holds letters from many different writers, including several regular correspondents. James A. Buchanan, Helen's father, wrote 45 letters between 1906 and 1919, often regarding her financial situation and family news. He described his European travels, which included witnessing a review of German military troops in Berlin (September 2, 1908) and visiting a military cemetery in Brest, France, where war casualties and influenza epidemic victims were buried (March 4, 1919). John and Francis Buchanan, Helen's brothers, shared stories of their academic and athletic experiences. John wrote about Yale's stringent entry requirements and his preparation for entrance exams (August 14, 1911). Other family correspondence includes letters from aunts, cousins, and extended family members, who told Helen about their lives in various New York cities and in Ilchester, Maryland.
Much of the Friends Correspondence subseries consists of letters by Etta Dunham de Viti de Marco and her daughter Etta, with whom Helen lived while studying in Rome, Italy. The elder Etta frequently discussed her work with Italy's Montessori movement, and her daughter provided Helen with updates on her life at school in Ascot, England. Etta Dunham di Viti de Marco shared her opinions of the war and expressed her desire for U.S. intervention (July 4, 1915). Nora Davis Farrar, the wife of Frederick Percival Farrar, an English chaplain to King George V, wrote 44 letters between 1908 and 1914, describing her life in Pennsylvania and British Columbia. A variety of other correspondents related news of their lives in various European countries and in the United States. Several postcards depict black-and-white views of "Il Cerro" in Italy.
The Financial Records series (140 items) consists of bank receipts, notifications of charitable donations, and additional receipts for clothing, books, and household items, dated from 1908-1918.
The Photographs and Negatives series includes approximately 50 individual portraits of Helen Buchanan's friends, family members, homes, and properties. One photograph album contains 375 pictures taken between 1928 and 1935, depicting scenes from family vacations in Canada and people, dogs, and horses. Many photographs show men and women in equestrian competitions, and some later images depict Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia.
A "Theatre Record" chronicles Helen's theatrical excursions in Washington, D.C., between December 25, 1907, and December 25, 1908. She recorded her opinions of productions and players. Programs are pasted and laid into the volume.
The Printed Items and Ephemera series consists of calling cards, picture postcards, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and other items. Ephemera includes pamphlets and printed letters related to the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Drama League of America; postcards and programs related to the Societa Romana della Caccia alla Volpe; and other materials. Twenty-nine picture postcards from Italy and Puerto Rico are present.
The collection contains approximately 15 Writings and Fragments. These are poems, a manuscript speech on the play Candida, an inventory of articles owned by Helen, and other items.