Verley Archer Collection

Identifier: MSS.0254

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The Verley Archer Collection consists of materials relating to the Vanderbilt Family Reunion held in conjunction with the Centennial Celebration of Vanderbilt University, March 16-17, 1973. Ms. Archer conducted extensive research into the genealogy of the Vanderbilt family and located descendants of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt living in 1973.

Included in the Verley Archer Collection are research notes and materials, completed questionnaires from family members, correspondence, publicity materials, and published books, all relating to the Family Reunion and Centennial Celebration.

The 21 boxes in this collection cover approximately 8.76 linear feet. The collection is arranged in 3 series: Subject Files (Series 1); Vanderbilt Centennial (series 2); and Verley Archer’s Research Materials (Series 3).

The Subject Files, Series 1, are the most extensive part of this collection. They consist of letters, completed questionnaires, and biographical information on most of the over 500 members of the Vanderbilt family living in 1973, as well as some earlier family members. These are arranged alphabetically by last name. Married women descendants are cross-referenced by their maiden names.

Series 2 consists of the form letter mailings sent to his Vanderbilt relatives by William H. Vanderbilt, III and their responses. Also included are publicity articles about the Vanderbilt Family Reunion and Vanderbilt University Centennial. There are lists of descendants attending the Reunion and of gifts to Vanderbilt University from the descendants. Materials related to the project administration are included as well as the printed programs commemorating the Centennial festivities. There are draft copies of the genealogical charts and the genealogical book compiled by Ms Archer. There is also a copy of her book, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt, and Their Descendants, published by Vanderbilt University in 1973 and materials relating to its publication.

Ms. Archer’s research comprises Series 3. It includes photocopies of articles about the Vanderbilt family, ranging from their arrival in America in 1650 up through their activities in the early 1970’s. There are also books and newspaper articles about contemporary Vanderbilts, especially concerning their publications or publications in which they are mentioned, foundations with which they are associated, and the William K. Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, Long, Island, New York.

This collection is of special interest to those researching the Vanderbilt family and its connection with Vanderbilt University. Additionally, to quote Ms. Archer, “This has really been a study in sociology because this is such a vital, vigorous family with wide-ranging interests”


  • 1960’s-1980’s

Language of Materials


Biographical Sketch

Verley Archer was born in Springfield, Tennessee, in 1917. After graduating from high school in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1937, she took a typing course and worked at a variety of jobs. At the beginning of World War II, she was recruited for clerical work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, but because of her intelligence and organizational skills, she was taught Chinese in six weeks by Colonel Wang, a Chinese officer assigned to Wright-Patterson, and thereafter she taught technical English to Chinese Air Force trainees sent to the United States.

After the war, Ms. Archer took a journalism course at the University of Dayton and for the next several years she worked as a fund-raiser and writer for trade journals in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, and New York. In 1958, she returned to Tennessee and was hired by Vanderbilt University, first working in the Economic Development Office, and two years later, transferring to the Office of Alumni and Development.

Because of her fund-raising activities for this office, Ms. Archer became interested in the Vanderbilt family. By 1968, with the support of Chancellor Alexander Heard, she had embarked upon her genealogical researches which culminated in the publication in 1973 by Vanderbilt University of her Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt, and Their Descendants. While she was involved in the writing of this book and in preparations for the Vanderbilt Centennial, Ms. Archer was also enrolled at Peabody College, graduating in 1974 with a B.S. degree.

She continued to work in the Alumni and Development Office at Vanderbilt until failing health forced her to retire in 1979. Even then, she continued to work from home for Vanderbilt University as a consultant on genealogy of the Vanderbilt family. Ms. Archer died December 20, 1982.


8.76 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives
Finding Aid for the Verley Archer Collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States


About this Site

This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

Each finding aid contains a link to request materials from the collections. Collections can also be requested by emailing the repository directly through the library website. Each repository has its own location, hours, and contact information. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository’s reading room. In many cases, the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.