Southern Methodist University

Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon papers and photographs

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Sassoon, Victor Elias (1881-1961)
Title: Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon papers and photographs
Dates: 1927-1961
Abstract: This collection consists of diaries, correspondence and photograph albums by Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. (1881-1961). Sir Victor was a wealthy Englishman who made substantial real estate investments in Shanghai, China in the 1920s and 1930s. He built hotels, office buildings and residences. He loved photography, horse racing, Chinese ivories and international friendships and travel. An accomplished photographer, he made many images of friends, local and foreign landscapes and created numerous photograph albums. He also illustrated his diaries with his own photographs.
Accession No: Ag2011.0005; Ag2011.0005x
Extent: 14 boxes (35 diaries, 15 albums)/ 17 linear feet
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

[Sir Victor Sassoon with three women], ca. 1937-1939

[Sir Victor Sassoon with three women], ca. 1937-1939

Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. was born December 30, 1881 in Naples, Italy while his family was en route to India. He was raised in England where he attended Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge University. He was from a Baghdadi Jewish family who had made their fortune in the cotton industry in India and still had substantial holdings there. Sir Victor served in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I. He survived a plane crash in 1916 and sustained leg injuries that plagued him the rest of his life. When his father died in 1924, Victor Sassoon inherited his title and became 3rd Baronet of Bombay. He moved to India, where he managed his family’s textile mills and served in the Indian Legislative Assembly.

In the 1920s and 1930s, he transferred much of his wealth from India to Shanghai, China and contributed to a real estate boom there by investing millions of dollars in the local economy. Sir Victor frequently traveled world-wide for business and pleasure and divided his time between the Poona, India Sassoon house, "Eves," and Shanghai. All Sir Victor’s houses were named "Eves," using his initials for the name. He acquired the Cathay Land Company and the Cathay Hotel Company and at least 50 other companies. Sassoon built the Cathay Hotel, now the Peace Hotel, in 1929, and other large hotels,office buildings and residences, many in the Bund district. At one time, he owned over 1,800 properties there. Sassoon endeavored to protect Western interests in the Orient and aid Jews in Shanghai.

Sir Victor loved photography,horse racing, Chinese ivories and international friendships and travel. He counted the aristocracy and such Hollywood stars as Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Basil Rathbone and Bette Davis among his acquaintances. An accomplished photographer, he made many images of friends, local and foreign landscapes and created numerous photograph albums. He also illustrated his diaries with his own photographs. Sassoon’s many thoroughbred horses won prestigious races in India and the U.K.

He lived in Shanghai until 1941, when due to China’s ongoing war with Japan, he was forced to leave. After the Communist Revolution of 1949, sold his business interests in China and relocated to Nassau, The Bahamas. In 1959, Sir Victor married Evelyn Barnes. He died in Nassau in 1961.

Lady Sassoon founded a charity in Sassoon’s honor to help Bahamian children with heart disease. She continued to provide support by hosting the black-tie Heart Ball every year on Valentine's Day weekend and the Sassoon Heart Foundation continues to this day.


Source: Thomas, Gould Hunter. An American in China: 1936-39, a memoir, (accessed 25 January 2012).

"Continental society…."Life, August 29, 1938, 23.

Cover of Horse and Hound, June 14, 1958 with a picture of Sir Victor and his winning horse at the Epsom Derby.

"A Curry Named for Eve."Sports Illustrated, October 24, 1960, 74-75.

Jackson, Stanley. The Sassoons. London: Heinemann, 1968.

"The Shanghai Boom," p.31-40, 99-102, 104, 106, 109-112; and "Appendix I: Men of Shanghai," p.115-116; and "Appendix II: The Yanks in Shanghai," p. 118, 120; and "Appendix III: Extract from a Taipan’s Budget," p. 120, Fortune, vol. XI, no. 1, January, 1935.

"Sir Victor Sassoon Forsakes India for China,"Sunday Times, Perth, WA, Sunday, July 19, 1931.

"’twas St. Paddy’s Day."Sports Illustrated, June 13, 1960, 34-35.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. collection consists of 35 diaries, one box of manuscripts, and 15 photograph albums. It is organized into two series: 1) diaries and manuscripts and 2) photograph albums.

The diaries, dating from 1927 to 1961, document Sir Victor’s social life, travel and many contacts. He illustrated the diaries with his own snapshots and made brief annotations for the images. Names of friends and acquaintances are often noted under the snapshots as well as negative numbers also found under prints in the photograph albums.The diaries include factual notations about what Sir Victor did, when, where and with whom. The correspondence includes letters from Sir Victor to his sister-in-law, Princess Guilia Ottoboni that are illustrated with Sassoon’s photographs. Various friends and such notables as the Aga Kahn are mentioned.

The photograph albums contain pictures of local scenes in Shanghai, Sir Victor’s house, "Eves" (both the house in Poona, India and the house in Shanghai were named "Eves") soft-focus portraits of his many acquaintances including Hollywood stars and travel around the world. Portraits are not identified; however, most have negative numbers written under the images that could be linked to the numbers and names under snapshots in the diaries. The albums are stored in oversize boxes.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into two series:
Series 1: Diaries and Correspondence
Series 2: Photograph Albums


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.
Sassoon, Elias Victor, 1881-1961.
Photograph albums.

Related Materials

Digitized items can be accessed online at

Stanley Marcus papers, A1993.1869

Sir Robert Gailes papers, A1980.0216

Hardinge Bridge construction, India, Ag1991.0812x

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. papers and photographs, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Acquisition Information

Gift, Evelyn Barnes Cox and R.E. Barnes, 2011.

Processing Information

The Sassoon diaries were organized chronologically by date beginning in 1927 to 1961. Because some of the snapshots had come unglued from the pages, each diary was put in a separate three-sided folder. Correspondence was arranged by date. The photograph albums were grouped by year with two or three albums per box.

Processed by

Anne E. Peterson and Irina Bogdanova, 2011.

Finding aid written by

Anne E. Peterson assisted by Irina Bogdanova, 2012.

Encoded by

Ada Negraru, 2012.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Sir Victor Sassoon Diaries
35 Diaries and Manuscripts

Series 1 consists of 35 of Sir Victor Sassoon’s diaries (including approximately 12,400 snapshots) stored in separate folders and arranged chronologically by year and one box of correspondence and autobiographical materials and a few postcards.
Box Folder
1 1 Diary 1927
2 Diary 1928
3 Diary 1929
4 Diary 1930
5 Diary 1931
6 Diary 1932
7 Diary 1933
Box Folder
2 1 Diary 1934
2 Diary 1935
3 Diary 1936
4 Diary 1937
5 Diary 1938
6 Diary 1939
Box Folder
3 1 Diary 1940
2 Diary 1941
3 Diary 1942
4 Diary 1943
5 Diary 1944
6 Diary 1945
Box Folder
4 1 Diary 1946
2 Diary 1947
3 Diary 1948
4 Diary 1949
5 Diary 1950
6 Diary 1951
7 Diary 1952
Box Folder
5 1 Diary 1953
2 Diary 1954
3 Diary 1955
4 Diary 1956
5 Diary 1957
Box Folder
6 1 Diary 1958
2 Diary 1959
3 Diary 1960
4 Diary 1961
5 One dollar note in acrylic paperweight, Bahamas Government Currency Note Act, 1965, Sassoon House/Sassoon Group, Nassau
Box Folder
7 1 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1931-1961, and a memorial address delivered in Mumbai after Sir Victor’s death
2 Typed Sassoon speeches and autobiographical materials including a piece on his World War I experiences, his race horses, and India, ca. 1920s-1953
3 Real photographic postcards of the Poona, India Sassoon house and gardens, "Eves," a photographic copy of a painting of Sir Victor and a copy of the cover of Horse and Hound, June 14, 1958 with a picture of Sir Victor and his winning horse at the Epsom Derby

Series 2: Sir Victor Sassoon Photograph Albums
14 Photograph Albums

Series 2 consists of 14 photograph albums (including approximately 988 photographic prints) made by Sir Victor Sassoon stored in oversize boxes. Topics range from landscapes and cityscapes to portraits and travel.
1 1 Album, ca. late 1920s.
Poona, India, Sassoon Estate, "Eves," (named using Sassoon’s four initials) stables, landscapes, ca. late 1920s
2 2 Albums, Portraits, 1933
Portraits, 1933 (see diary, March 1933)
Portraits, 1933 (see diary, March 1933)
3 2 Albums, Miscellaneous, 1933-1934
Landscapes, some views of Sassoon’s English style Shanghai Garden, "Eves," Junks, Cityscapes, China, India, Mount Fuji, Japan, Hearst Castle, "San Simeon," California, 1933 (see diary, July, 1933)
Portraits, Floyd Gibbons, journalist, Night Club, 1934 (see diary, January, 1934)
4 3 Albums, Miscellaneous, 1936-1957
China, horse racing, Cathay Hotel, Shanghai, junks, and others, 1936-1937 View digitized items
China, Denmark, India, horse races in Bombay, and others, 1937-1957
China, Junks, Sassoon House, “Eves” and Garden, Hungao Road, Shanghai, ca. 1937 View digitized items
5 3 Albums, Miscellaneous, 1937-1939
Landscapes, China, Sassoon House, "Eves" and Garden, Hungao Road, Shanghai, sailboats, 1937 View digitized items
Portraits, Lucas Twins, Les Girls, and others, 1936-1939 View digitized items
China, sailing, landscapes, Shanghai harbor, dead soldier, destruction during the Second Sino-Japanese War and invasion, 1937-1939 View digitized items
6 2 Albums, Travel, 1938
The Americas by Air, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong, Hawaii, D.C., Indianapolis, New York, Hollywood, "Algiers" movie set, "Blockade" movie set, 1938. Included are: Paulette Goddard, Hedy Lamarr, Reginald Gardiner
Hong Kong to New York, Manila, Midway Island, Hawaii, Honolulu, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Mexico, 1938
7 2 Albums, Parties, 1940-1957
Rathbone Party, Hollywood, February 4th, 1940. Basil Rathbone party, included are: Charlie Chaplin, Reginald Gardiner, Charles Boyer, Lili Damita, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Arthur Rubenstein, Miriam Hopkins, Erich Remarque, Eddie Sutherland, Ilona Massey, Janet Gaynor, Basil Rathbone, David O. Selznick, Marlene Dietrich, Fritz Lang, Countess di Frasso, Leopold Stokowski, Errol Flynn, Louis Bromfield, Kay Francis, Harry Crocker, Paulette Goddard, Frank Morgan, Barbara Stanwyck.
Album, Christmas and New Year’s banquet table settings and menus at the home of Princess Guilia Ottoboni (married to Hector Sassoon, Sir Victor’s brother), "L’Olivette," Monte Carlo, 1954-1957