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Elisabeth F. Gay and Joseph Gay Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25169

Scope and Content Note

This collection holds material pertaining to the lives, families, and professions of Elisabeth and Joseph Gay. It contains correspondence, notes, photographs, publications, manuscripts, scrapbooks and a few objects.

A strength of this collection lies in the material it provides on Austria in the 1930s. Documents include Elisabeth Gay's memoirs and her autobiographical writings, both of which are located in Series I. Such items will also be found in the personal documents in Series II. The correspondence in Series III and Series IV, both between Elisabeth and Joseph and between them and their family members, also tell of Austria during this time. In addition, the restitution files in Series V provide some information on life in Austria, including copies of photographs. Other photographs of Austria will be found in Series IV.

Another interesting feature of the Elisabeth and Joseph Gay collection is the information it holds on South America, and especially Colombia of the 1930s through the 1960s. Material pertaining to Colombia will be found largely in the personal correspondence of Series III as well as in Joseph Gay's business papers and correspondence, located in Subseries 2 of Series 2.

Personal documents are located in several areas of this collection. Personal documents of Elisabeth and Joseph Gay will be found in Series I and II, respectively. Personal documents of other family members are in Series IV: Family Members and photocopies of these types of documents will be found in Series V: Restitution.

Correspondence will also be found in more than one place in this collection. Elisabeth Gay's correspondence with the various universities she attended are located in Subseries 2 of Series I, while Joseph Gay's professional and business correspondence is in Subseries 2 of Series II. Personal correspondence of Elisabeth and Joseph Gay comprises Series III of this collection. Finally, correspondence belonging to other family members is in Series IV: Family Members.


  • 1849-2003
  • Majority of material found within 1935-1975


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, German, and Spanish, with some French, Polish, Portuguese, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Elisabeth Feitler was born in Vienna, Austria, on December 16, 1916, the only child of Paul Feitler and Loni Feitler née Rosenbaum. Paul Feitler was the honorary consul of Colombia in Austria. Elisabeth grew up in the Stubenviertel in Austria's first district (Bezirk), and the family moved to Schwarzenbergplatz in the mid-1930s. She studied acting at the Staatsakademie für darstellende Kunst in Vienna from 1933-1936. The Feitlers fled to Switzerland in May 1938 using funds saved by Loni Feitler. While in Switzerland Elisabeth's mother Loni became ill and the family remained in Switzerland until they emigrated to New York in 1939.

On June 23, 1908 Joseph Gleicher was born in Vienna, the son of Jacob and Gisella née Schönfelt. He had three older sisters: Gusti, Annie, and Rosl. Gleicher studied international law and economics at the universities of Vienna, Brussels, and Paris. While studying he was employed by several companies and by the early 1930s he was working as a secretary for Paul Feitler, the Colombian Consul in Austria. Later he was promoted to Vice Consul and eventually went to work in Colombia, where he founded his own company, FOMAG, together with Fritz Friedmann. While working for Paul Feitler he became friendly with the Consul's family members, and often corresponded with Elisabeth while working in Colombia.

After the Feitlers had moved to New York, Joseph Gleicher began visiting them, and on June 26, 1940 he married Elisabeth. He started working for an import and export firm, but had to leave because he was called up for military service. From January 1943 until November 1944 he served in the U.S. Army, working with the Office of Strategic Services. When he became a U.S. citizen in April 1943, Joseph Gleicher changed his family name to Gay. After being honorably discharged from the service because of an injury, Joseph Gay established his own import firm, J. Gay Associates. He also became involved in the importation of English wool, textiles, and other commodities to several South American countries. He spent large amounts of time in South America on business trips. In 1959 the family moved to Venezuela, where Joseph Gay helped found the department store VAM. While living there, Elisabeth Gay acted and directed at the American Theater Institute, where she also became a member of the Theater's board. From 1963 until 1967 the family lived in Madrid, Spain, where Joseph Gay wrote a feasibility study to found a French department store there. Elisabeth taught for the Spanish Youth League, including organizing games for underprivileged children.

Joseph and Elisabeth Gay's first child, Cathy, was born while Joseph was serving in the army. They would later have two more children, James (later Paul Mareth) in 1945 and Jill in 1951.

By the 1970s Joseph Gay was in semi-retirement and worked as an unpaid treasurer and board member for the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, a non-profit agency dedicated to brain-damaged children. It was during the 1970s that Elisabeth Gay decided to return to school, and in 1974 she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College, followed by a Master's degree in Fine Arts in 1977 from the same institution.

During the 1980s Joseph Gay worked as an international economic consultant for Wright Investors' Service in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he helped to establish business connections between various European countries and the United States. Elisabeth Gay pursued her Ph.D. in educational theater, and received the degree in 1986 from New York University after writing a dissertation on drama therapy.

Joseph Gay died in 1994; Elisabeth Gay died in 2003.


8 Linear Feet


This collection describes the private and professional lives of Elisabeth Gay and her husband, the businessman Joseph Gay, who came to the United States from Austria in 1939. Topics present in the documents found here include Austria of the 1930s, America during World War II, the economies of several South American countries, and restitution for the Gays' Austrian property. Documents include extensive correspondence, publications, notes and manuscripts, reports, scrapbooks, and photocopies.


This collection contains nine series, arranged in the following manner:

  1. Series I: Elisabeth F. Gay, 1916-2000
  2. Subseries 1: Personal, 1916-2000
  3. Subseries 2: Professional and Educational Papers, 1920-1992
  4. A) Staats-Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst
  5. B) Sarah Lawrence College
  6. C) New York University
  7. D) Other Institutions
  8. Subseries 3: Writings, undated, 1959, 1989
  9. Series II: Joseph Gay, 1928-1944
  10. Subseries 1: Personal, 1928-1944
  11. Subseries 2: Professional, 1933-1989
  12. A) Colombian Vice Consul
  13. B) Arnhold Export and Import Corporation
  14. C) U.S. Army
  15. D) J. Gay Associates
  16. E) Business Ventures
  17. a) Colombia
  18. b) Ecuador
  19. c) Venezuela
  20. F) Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential
  21. G) Wright Investors' Service
  22. Series III: Personal Correspondence, 1931-2002
  23. Subseries 1: Between Elisabeth and Joseph Gay, 1936-1985
  24. A) Elisabeth to Joseph
  25. B) Joseph to Elisabeth
  26. Subseries 2: Between Elisabeth and Joseph Gay and Family Members, 1931-1985
  27. A) Between Elisabeth and Joseph Gay and the Feitlers
  28. a) Elisabeth to her Parents
  29. b) Parents to Elisabeth
  30. c) Joseph Gay to the Feitlers
  31. d) Feitlers to Joseph Gay
  32. e) Between Feitlers and both Joseph and Elisabeth Gay
  33. B) Between the Gays and the Gleichers
  34. C) Between Gays and their Children
  35. D) Between the Gays and other Family Members
  36. a) Elisabeth Gay's Relatives
  37. b) Joseph Gay's Relatives
  38. Subseries 3: General Correspondence, 1933-1966, 2000-2002
  39. A) Elisabeth Gay
  40. B) Joseph Gay
  41. Series IV: Family Papers, 1849-1981
  42. Subseries 1: Paul and Loni Feitler, 1913-1976
  43. A) Loni Feitler
  44. a) Personal
  45. b) Correspondence
  46. i) Family
  47. ii) General
  48. c) Financial
  49. i) General
  50. ii) Hawega Aktionsgesellschaft Account
  51. B) Paul Feitler
  52. a) Personal
  53. b) Correspondence
  54. Subseries 2: Other Family Members, 1849-1942, 1969-1981
  55. Subseries 3: Family History, 1984
  56. Series V: Restitution, 1917-2003
  57. Series VI: Photographs, 1905-1975
  58. Series VII: Scrapbooks, 1927-1950
  59. Series VIII: Objects, undated, 1936-1937
  60. Series IX: Books, 1913, 1972


The collection is available on eleven reels of film (MF 773):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/35
  2. Reel 2: 2/1 - 3/16
  3. Reel 3: 3/17 - 3/40
  4. Reel 4: 3/41 - 4/35
  5. Reel 5: 4/36 - 5/8
  6. Reel 6: 5/9 - 5/26
  7. Reel 7: 5/27 - 5/43
  8. Reel 8: 6/1 - 6/22
  9. Reel 9: 6/22 - 6/77
  10. Reel 10: 7/1 - 7/37
  11. Reel 11: 7/38 - 8/17

Separated Material

A 1-inch (25 mm) analog video tape reel was removed to the LBI A/V Collection. It contains an unmixed, edited master copy of a feature by Paul Mareth, “Drama therapy”, 40:10.

Processing Information

This collection was found entirely unprocessed, with many loose papers in the boxes and few folders. Since there was no discernable original order, similar materials were grouped together to form series and basic preservation work was conducted.

Guide to the Papers of Elisabeth F. Gay (1916-2003) and Joseph Gay (1908-1994) Family Collection 1849-2003 AR 25169 / MF 773
Processed by Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from GayFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-04-28 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States