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Collection Phillips/Mathée Collection

About this Collection

The Phillips/Mathée Collection spans the years 1913-2014, but only one item is dated later than 1972. The collection is a companion to the Warren G. Harding-Carrie Fulton Phillips Correspondence, also held by the Manuscript Division. The papers center on Isabelle Phillips Mathée, daughter of Carrie Fulton Phillips, the paramour of Warren G. Harding, and Isabelle's husband, William Helmuth Mathée. Included are photographs of Isabelle and her mother, Carrie, letters from President Harding to William Helmuth Mathée, and correspondence, legal papers, and news clippings concerning the discovery in 1964 of Harding's correspondence with Carrie Phillips and the subsequent legal proceedings. The final folder contains a statement from the four grandsons of Isabelle and William Mathée conveying their thoughts about these papers and the Warren G. Harding-Carrie Fulton Phillips Correspondence.

These four grandsons --William Helmuth Mathée III, James Phillips Mathée, Ames Ross Mathée, and Ross Wolcott Mathée—donated these papers to coincide with the 2014 opening of the Warren G. Harding-Carrie Fulton Phillips Correspondence, a collection that had been closed for fifty years. The grandsons felt that the papers formerly in their possession demonstrated their grandmother's lack of knowledge about the affair between Harding and Phillips, illustrated the continued friendship between the Harding and Phillips families during Harding's presidency, and documented the difficulties endured by their grandparents during the initial public revelations and the subsequent legal action concerning the Harding-Phillips correspondence.

Isabelle Phillips Mathée (1897-1968) was the daughter of James Phillips and Carrie Fulton Phillips. Her parents were friends with Warren G. Harding and his wife Florence Kling Harding. In 1905, Warren and Carrie began a fifteen-year affair that ended in 1920 shortly before Harding became president. Isabelle was born in Marion, Ohio, educated in Germany from 1911 to1914, and subsequently attended a New York State boarding school during the First World War. On September 27, 1919, she married William Helmuth Mathée (1893-1976), who had been born Helmuth Wilhelm Mathée in Aachen, Germany. William departed Germany on July 29, 1914, three days before that country's entry into the war, and arrived in the United States to study agriculture at Cornell University. After studying at Cornell, he was a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1915-1916. In 1916 he became a farm superintendent in Florence, Wisconsin, where he worked during the war, followed by a banking position at Ladenburg Thalmann of New York in 1918. After his marriage to Isabelle, they resided with the Phillipses in Marion, Ohio. Their son was born in Ohio in 1920, and William became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1921. The Mathées moved to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1922, where William held the position of commercial attaché and vice consul for several years. In 1927, he began a lengthy career with Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, followed by management positions at other companies in New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The Mathées opened an antique store in 1960 in Genoa City, Wisconsin. When the Warren G. Harding-Carrie Fulton Phillips correspondence became known to the public in 1964, the Mathées were drawn into newspaper stories and lengthy legal proceedings to determine rights, ownership, and disposition of the papers. After Isabelle passed away in 1968, it fell to William Mathée and their heirs to complete the legal work.