Skip to main content

Sonia P. Seherr-Thoss papers


Identifier: 2006-34-0

Scope and Contents

The papers of Sonia P. Seherr-Thoss (1919-2006), writer, photographer, dairy farmer, philanthropist, and long-time Litchfield, Conn., resident. The majority of the papers document the foreign travels she made with her husband Hans Christoph Seherr-Thoss (1912-1992) and family members and friends to Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, India, China, Japan, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, the Galapagos Islands, and other places. The papers also relate to her involvement in local organizations, such as the Litchfield Historical Society; her philanthropic activities in the region; and Butternut Brook Jerseys, the dairy farm she ran with her husband. There is limited documentation relating to her books: Design and Color in Islamic Architecture: Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, which includes photographs taken by Hans, Human to Be and Other Essays, And the River Runs Red, Black and White and Red, and Ideas and Adventures. Among the papers are more than 10,000 photographic images that fully record her travels, her life and residences in Litchfield and Arizona, and her family and friends. Some of the trips are chronicled by diaries and notebooks. The collection also includes detailed architectural plans and drawings made by Hans for the construction of their houses in Litchfield and Arizona.


  • Creation: 1920-2006


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Sonia Phipps Farrell Seherr-Thoss was the granddaughter of Henry Phipps, a partner of steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie and the daughter of Henry Carnegie Phipps and Gladys Livingston Mills Phipps. Sonia, who went by the nickname Sunny, grew up in Roslyn, Long Island, New York; New York City; and Palm Beach, Fla. She married Hans Seherr-Thoss, nicknamed Boysie, in Palm Beach, Fla. in 1948. Both had children from previous marriages. Seherr-Thoss was born in Dobrau, Germany, and later became a United States citizen, serving in the United States Army during World War II. In 1948, the Seherr-Thosses purchased property in Litchfield, Conn. They established Butternut Brook Jerseys, a dairy farm, in 1956, which they ran until 1966. They also had residences in New York City, Borrego, CA, and Wickenburg, AZ. Even before her marriage, Sunny Seherr-Thoss traveled extensively and continued to do so until late in her life with her husband and family and friends to such places as Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, India, China, Japan, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and the Galapagos Islands. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Seherr-Thosses outfitted a custom-built Dodge camper truck they called the Desert Cruiser and shipped it to foreign countries to allow them to access remote locations at their own pace. In 1968, the Smithsonian Institution Press published Design and Color in Islamic Architecture: Afganistan, Iran, Turkey. Written by  Mrs. Seherr-Thoss, the photographs were taken by Mr. Seherr-Thoss. Following his death, she wrote four more books. Sonia Seherr-Thoss's boards and foundations included Connecticut Junior Republic, Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust, Litchfield Community Center, Litchfield High School Scholarship Association, Litchfield Historical Society, Oliver Wolcott Library, Phipps Houses, the Seherr-Thoss Charitable Trust, the Seherr-Thoss Foundation, Visiting Nurse Association of Litchfield and White Memorial Foundation and Conservation. Her awards included Distinguished Friend and Education Award, Litchfield Sports Booster Club, Paul Harris Fellow Award, White Memorial Foundation Conservation Award, and Wisdom Award.


48.3 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Wendy Victor

Method of Acquisition


Accruals and Acquisitions

2014-47-0 gift of Bruce Farrell. 5 photograph albums, 3 prints of property; photograph of  house; 2 framed property plans.

Archival Collections

Seherr-Thoss papers regarding the Litchfield Historical Society 00-1997-31-0.

Hans C. and Sonia P. Seherr-Thoss Photographs of Islamic Architecture. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.

Related Publications

Seherr-Thoss, Sonia P. Design and Color in Islamic Architecture: Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Instution Press) 1968. Seherr-Thoss, Sonia P. Human to Be and Other Essays. (Santa Barbara, CA : Fithian Press) 1995. Seherr-Thoss, Sonia P. And the Rivers Run Red. (Santa Barbara, CA: Fithian Press) 1998. Seherr-Thoss, Sonia P. Black and Red and White: Essays. (Santa Barbara, CA: Fithian Press) 2002. Seherr-Thoss, Sonia P. Ideas and Adventures, 1200 to 1700. (Austin, TX: Synergy Books) 2007.

Separated Materials

Butternut Brook Farm map housed in Curatorial Center 1st floor, art rack 9, side B.

Processing Information

This collection was processed with support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Sonia P. Seherr-Thoss papers
Leith Johnson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Litchfield Historical Society Repository

7 South Street
P.O. Box 385
Litchfield CT 06759
860-567-3565 (Fax)