Elizabeth Wrigley

1915-1997 

Elizabeth Wrigley in 1960, Director of the Francis Bacon Library for over 50 years

photo courtesy of Alan Jutzi of The Huntington Library, CA.

 

From the Claremont Courier May 17, 1997

"She knew what she had," says a friend and former associate of Elizabeth Springer Wrigley, "And what she didn't have, she knew where you could find it, anywhere in the world."

Mrs. Wrigley, director for 5 decades of the Francis Bacon Library, located until a year and a half ago on East Seventh Street on the campus of the Claremont Colleges, died April 26, 1997 following a two year period of failing health. Mrs. Wrigley was 81 years of age. She had made her home in Temple City for many years.

Mrs. Wrigley's association with the library devoted to the question of "Who wrote Shakespeare?" was preceded and later accompanied by her involvement with the Francis Bacon Foundation from whence the library evolved.

The woman who would become characterized as "the Francis Bacon Foundation Library" was born on October 4, 1915 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For a period of time during her childhood, she lived in India under the rule of the Raj. She attended the University of Pittsburgh where she received a bachelor of arts degree in Elizabethan literature in 1935. The following year she earned a bachelor of science degree in library science at The Carnegie Institute of Technology. She was an analyst for the US Steel Corporation in Pittsburgh from 1941 to 1943.

Shortly after coming to California in 1944 when her husband, Oliver Wrigley, an engineer for US Steel, was transferred here, Mrs. Wrigley was invited to tea at the Hollywood home of Walter Conrad Arensberg, a noted art and rare book collector.

"He had established the Francis Bacon Foundation in 1938 and needed someone to run the library. And here I still am," Mrs. Wrigley reported some 45 years later.

She began her long career as a research assistant with the foundation in 1944; the next year she was named as an executive and member of the board. The library at that time was located in a wing added to the Arnesherg home. In 1954, the library was moved to the Pashgian Building in Pasadena and was opened to the general public.

By 1959, Mrs. Wrigley was president of the foundation and the library, then numbering some 5000 volumes dealing with fields of interest of the English philosopher and statesman, came to Claremont and to its home on Seventh Street in a brick building constructed to house the valuable collection.

From 1960 when the building was dedicated, over the next 35 years, Mrs. Wrigley continued to preside over the library. Under her stewardship it grew from its original 3500 titles to 14,000 volumes dealing with law, politics, affairs of state, philosophy, literature, cryptography, science, natural magic, witchcraft, alchemy and Rosicrucian teachings-all interests of the multifaceted Bacon.

In addition lo adding volumes to the library, Mrs. Wrigley was known for the foundation sponsored literary events and Shakespearean Authorship Roundtables that were held on a regular basis. She, an acquaintance reports, was a catalyst in bringing people such as artist Beatrice Wood, historians Paul Kristeller, Peter Urbach, French Fogle and John Niven and mathematician Elmer Tolsted, along with many others, to Claremont and together.

"She was very much interested in keeping that discussion (of who wrote Shakespeare) alive," says Margarel Coats who was her assistant for a time. "Of course she was interested in everything that Bacon did. She was a remarkable person who had her own strong ideas about the library-and knew her direction."

In 1995, with Mrs. Wrigley's health failing, the board of directors of The Francis Bacon Foundation voted to donate the Bacon Library holding to the Huntington Library in San Marino following considerable discussion with the Claremont Colleges. The moving process was completed in April, 1996 and the collection now housed as "The Francis Bacon Foundation-Arensberg Collection".

Julie Zurek was a librarian with Mrs. Wrigley in the late 1970s. "She had a very generous spirit," Ms. Zurek recalls, "and her depth of knowledge of the Elizabethan era-to say it was considerable would be an understatement. Scholars from all over the world would come there---sometimes for a week, sometimes for a year."

John Niven, professor emeritus of history at Claremont Graduate school, and a member of the Francis Bacon Foundation board of directors, says of,Mrs. Wrigley, "She was a wonderful person of course, and a very fine librarian and curator of English Renaissance rare books. She did expand the library to include American history and other areas and to establish a good library on witchcraft. She was forceful, but a very nice person."

Charles "Chick" Goldsmid of Claremont Books and Prints was involved in the sale of duplicate materials when the collection was moved to the Huntington, and knew of Mrs. Wrigley's work. "She made many major additions to the collection," Mr. Goldsmid recalls, "and she attracted and nurtured a group of people world wide who studied Bacon in the 17th century. The Bacon (Library) was a very special place. It had a local coterie and was a very special place for a lot of people."

Described by many in terms of forcefulness and knowing what she wanted, Claremont Attorney Robert Stafford observes of Mrs. Wrigley, "She was a lady who had a style all her own."

Mrs. Wrigley was cremated with her ashes scattered in the foothills shadowed by Mt. Baldy, California. Mrs. Wrigley's husband, Oliver, died in 1976.

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