Southern Methodist University

Caroline A. Penney papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Penney, Caroline A. (Caroline Autenrieth), 1896-1992.
Title: Caroline A. Penney Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1905-1992
Abstract: Caroline Autenrieth Penney (1896-1992), third wife of James Cash Penney, was an active philanthropist in the arts, especially opera and fashion. The collection documents Mrs. Penney’s entire life, but focuses on the years that she was a widow. Materials include correspondence, biographical materials, clippings, photographs, greeting cards, and personal materials.
Accession No: A2004.0017
Extent: 39 boxes (24 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Caroline Autenrieth Penney was born in 1896 in Eldred, New York, but also lived part of her life in Phoenix, Arizona. She was a philanthropist and the third wife of the legendary merchandiser James Cash Penney.

In the 1920s, Caroline met Mr. Penney and worked as his secretary for a short period. As a talented voice student, she traveled to France to study voice in 1925. She married Mr. Penney in 1926 in Paris, France. It was her first marriage and the twice-widowed Mr. Penney's third marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Penney had two daughters, Mary Frances (Wagley) and Carol Marie (Guyer).

The Penneys' life was not always financially secure. During the Depression, the couple was forced to sell their Miami house and closed sections of their Westchester house to save heating costs, and Mrs. Penney canned fruits and vegetables grown on their farm in Westchester.

During their 45-year marriage, Mrs. Penney actively supported her husband's business activities. She often accompanied him in his travels and appearances as he built JCPenney into one of the world's largest retail chains. After his death in 1971, she served as president of the James C. Penney Foundation for eight years.

Mrs. Penney was a patron of the arts, was active in the Metropolitan Opera and its guild, was on the boards of the Parsons School of Design and American Mothers Inc., and was a member of the Young Women's Christian Association World Service Council.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Penney was close to her sister Olga A. Chase. She was survived by her two daughters, nine grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, two step-granddaughters, and three step-great-grandchildren.


Caroline A. Penney obituary in The New York Times, March 19, 1992

Penney and Allied Family Genealogical and Biographical Study

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The records include correspondence, biographical materials, clippings, photographs, greeting cards, and personal materials. About one-third of the collection is correspondence, clippings, brochures and other pamphlets on the various philanthropies that Mrs. Penney supported. About one-third of the collection is greeting cards received by Mrs. Penney. Half of those are cards sent by family and Mr. Penney on various holidays and birthdays. The greeting cards from the early days of their marriage are quite charming. Half of the greeting cards are Christmas cards from the late 1980s and were sent by friends in the New York social scene and associates from the J.C. Penney Company.

The letters sent between Mr. and Mrs. Penney are still with the Penney families.


Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 7 series:
Series 1: Biography and Family
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Clippings and Scrapbooks
Series 4: Greeting Cards
Series 5: Personal Materials
Series 6: Photographs
Series 7: Audio Cassette Tapes


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Penney, Caroline A. (Caroline Autenrieth), 1896-1992.
Penney, J. C. (James Cash), 1875-1971.
Penney family.
Philanthropists --New York (State)

Related Material

J.C. Penney Company records (A2004.0007)

J. C. Penney papers (A2004.0006)

Carol Penney Guyer letters

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Caroline A. Penney papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Acquisition Information

Gift, J.C. Penney Co., Penney family, Wagley family, and Guyer family, 2004.

Although family materials, these papers were held by the JCPenney Company and organized by Company employees over a 30-year period. This collection is the gift of the Penney, Guyer, and Wagley families and J.C. Penney Co.

The collection was donated to the DeGolyer Library in 2004.

Processing Information

This material has been processed and is ready for researchers.

Processed by

Cristine Jackson and Joan Gosnell.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2006

Detailed Description of the Collection


Series 1:
Biography and Family, 1920s-1990s
8 boxes (4 linear feet)

Materials include genealogical materials about both the Penney and Autenrieth families, Mrs. Penney’s correspondence with family members, and documents from Mrs. Penney's travels. The travel materials reflect international travels in the 1920s, 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s.
1 Mrs. Caroline A. Penney: biography, genealogy, family – Olga Chase, Herman Autenreith, marriage to Mr. Penney, speeches.
2 Oral history interview with Olga Chase, sister-in-law of J.C. Penney.
3 Caroline A. Penney death.
4 Caroline A. Penney travel early 1920’s, 1929 world cruise on the Franconia, 1938 South American cruise, 1963 Pacific cruise.
5 Caroline A. Penney travels France 1973.
6 Caroline A. Penney travels, restaurants, recipes, wine.
7 Mary Frances Wagley, Carol Marie Guyer – biographical, family correspondence.
8 Mary Frances Wagley, Carol Marie Guyer – correspondence with JCPenney Company.


Series 2:
Correspondence, 1949-1992
11 boxes (5.5 linear feet)

This series documents Mrs. Penney’s philanthropic activities, mostly after Mr. Penney’s death. The bulk of the series is grouped by each organization's name. The documents give a clear picture of how these organizations communicated with donors. Boxes 13 and 14 have correspondence between Mrs. Penney and President and Mamie Eisenhower. Mrs. Eisenhower and Mrs. Penney worked on the American Mothers Committee together.
9 Caroline A. Penney correspondence, invitations 1949-1978.
10 Caroline A. Penney correspondence, 1977-1982.
11 Caroline A. Penney correspondence, 1983-1989.
12 Caroline A. Penney correspondence, 1989-1990.
13 Caroline A. Penney correspondence, 1990-1992, undated correspondence, correspondence with prominent people, correspondence with Eisenhower, correspondence with JCPenney Company.
14 Caroline A. Penney organizations: American Mothers Committee, Day of Prayer at the UN, English Speakers Union, Episcopal Church, Foreign Policy Association, 4-H.
15 Caroline A. Penney organizations: 4-H, H.C.S.C., J.C. Penney Memorial Library, J.C. Penney Professor of Management at the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Layman’s Club, Junior Achievement.
16 Caroline A. Penney organizations: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Opera Club, Navy League, New York City Opera, Parson’s School of Design, Penney Retirement Community, Republican Party, Rusk institute of Rehabilitave Medicine.
17 Caroline A. Penney organizations: St. James Church, St. Paul’s school, School of the Ozarks, University of Missouri, Winston Churchill Memorial Library, YMCA, YWCA.
18 Caroline A. Penney invitations received by Caroline A. Penney, 1989-1990.
19 Caroline A. Penney invitations received by Caroline A. Penney, 1991-1992.


Series 3:
Clippings and Scrapbooks
4 boxes (2 linear feet)

Mrs. Penney kept clippings and made scrapbooks throughout her life with Mr. Penney. In addition, scrapbooks were given to her by JCPenney associates and other people. Some of this material is in poor condition.
20 Caroline A. Penney newspaper clippings.
21 Caroline A. Penney scrapbook on Mrs. Penney’s racehorse "Willie Wonderful."
22 Caroline A. Penney address books, memory books.
23 Caroline A. Penney miscellaneous: pressed flowers, calling cards, sales receipts, membership cards, letterhead, passports.


Series 4:
Greeting Cards, 1940s-1992
6 boxes (6 linear feet)

Most interesting in these boxes are the greeting cards that Mr. Penney gave to Mrs. Penney which date from the 1940s to the late 1960s. Mrs. Penney was a doting grandmother. She was called "Mimi" by her grandchildren and her daughters as well. Her Christmas cards from the late 1980s reflect her friends in New York society.
24 Caroline A. Penney’s Christmas card mailing list (undated)
25 Christmas cards received by Caroline A. Penney (undated)
26 Greeting cards received by Caroline A. Penney for Anniversary, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other misc. greeting cards
27 Christmas cards received by Caroline A. Penney (1990-1992)
28 Birthday cards received by Caroline A. Penney (including cards from Mr. Penney)
29 Christmas cards received by Caroline A. Penney (1987-1989)


Series 5:
Personal Items, 1926-1992
3 boxes (3 linear feet)

30 Caroline A. Penney personal items from her desk (Oversize)
31 Caroline A. Penney wedding dress and other clothing items (Oversize)
32 Caroline A. Penney oversized personal documents (Oversize)


Series 6:
Photographs, 1905-1990s
6 boxes (3 linear feet)

The photographs date from 1895 to the 1990s and are arranged by subject. Many (especially those of Mr. Penney, Mr. and Mrs. Penney together, Penney family and JCPenney associates and executives) are duplicates of photographs found in Mr. Penney’s papers (A2004.0006) and the JCPenney corporate records (A2004.0007). Some unique materials are those of Mrs. Penney as a young child, photographs of homes and furniture—as well as photographs of her travels after Mr. Penney had died.
33 Caroline A. Penney and Caroline A. Penney with Other people
34 Caroline A. Penney with James C. Penney
35 Penney family, JCPenney executives, Greens Farms, Unknown people
36 Miscellaneous Places, travel, houses, dogs, cars, and furniture
37 Small framed photographs
38 Black and white travel albums and postcards


Series 7:
Audio Cassette Tapes, 1940-1976
14 Audio Cassette Tapes (.5 linear feet)

Two Recordings of Mrs. Penney. Other tapes are of Mr. Penney events or interviews or JCPenney music events, or conventions.
CAP Letters, 2/28/1976
CAP at Lebhar-Friedman’s 50th Anniversary Retailing Awards, 6/11/1975. CAP accepts General Merchandise Store Industry Award to Mr. Penney
Penney Proud
Opening Day at the Golden Rule
Portrait of a Man
A Birthday Garland for Mr. Penney (85th birthday)
Mr. Penney interview with Barry Farber
Acceptance of the Friend of 4H Award, June 1970, Missouri
Record from 1962 JCPenney Convention
Record from 1966 JCPenney Convention
Acceptance of Honorary Membership Business Education Club, NE Missouri State, 4/16/1970
Memorial Service, Penney Farms, Florida
Robert S. Oelman, Chairman of NCR, Jan. 15, 1970 to JCP event