Ralph Munroe Family collection - 1916-1971

Identity elements

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Name and location of repository

Level of description



Ralph Munroe Family collection - 1916-1971


  • 1916-1971 (Creation)


10.00 Cubic feet

Name of creator

Biographical history

After spending several winters in in the Miami area, Ralph Munroe took up permanent residence in the settlement that would become Coconut Grove in 1884. A renowed designer of sailboats, an nventor and photographer, he also made a living salvaging shipwrecks on the Florida reefs for the Coastal Wrecking Company.

Munroe was one of the founders of Coconut Grove and helped organize the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club. Installed as club's first commodore, he was thereafter affectionately known as "The Commodore". A widower, he married Jessie Wirth in 1895, and with their children, Wirth and Patty, lived at The Barnacle which he had built in 1891. The family occupied the house until 1968 when it was sold at a nominal price to the Sate of Florida for use as a historic site and museum.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Correspondence, school reports, Miami High School yearbooks, the Adirondack-Florida School Christmas letters, club membership directories, photographs, newspaper clippings, Eleventh Judical Circuit grand jury report and other ephemera mostly pertaining to the interests and pursuits of Ralph Munroe and his son, Wirth. Of interest are two letters from an Associate at the American Museum of Natural History asking Ralph to provide data on the capture of a Whale Shark in off the Florida Keys.

Tea Chest correspondence, invoices and guest book. The Tea Chest was a Coconut Grove tea room and gift shop. Material reflects a wide variety of items for the shop, many handcrafted, and includes letters from the United Society of Shakers, Cowan Pottery, and enterprises run by women across the country, as well as invoices from Miami area businesses.

Ralph M. Munroe photographs, 1883-1915: Views reflect Munroe's nautical and family interests.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

The collection is open for research.

Physical access

Glass negative originals not available due to fragility.
As a preservation measure, researchers must view the reference set of printed reproductions.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Permission from HistoryMiami staff is required prior to reproduction of drawings and photographs in a publication. Please contact archives staff for more information.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Gift of Patty Munroe Catlow, 1985

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Photographic prints accession number: 2012-228

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Related archival materials

HistoryMiami Museum's objects collections contain one of Munroe's cameras, as well as other Munroe family memorabilia.
Please reach out to objects@historymiami.org for inquiries.

Related descriptions

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General note

Other Information




General note

For further biographical information and reproductions of about 200 of the images, see The Forgotten Frontier, by Arva Moore Parks (Miami: Banyan Books, 1977).

See also Munroe's autobiography, The Commodore's Story (Miami: Historical Association of Southern Florida, 1985), originally published 1930.

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Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 HistoryMiami Archives & Research Center. All rights reserved.

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