|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
Table of Contents
Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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Series I: Correspondence, 1907-1983
Series II: Works, 1945-1982
Series VI: Photographs and Art
Series VIII: Printed Material and Photocopies of Playscripts
At a Glance
This collection is arranged into 10 series.
Scope and Content
Correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, set designs, programs, playbills, and other printed materials and audio recordings. Much of this material came to Columbia in 1994, when the Libraries purchased the contents of Williams' Key West home. The manuscripts include: "Battle of Angels"; "A Streetcar Named Desire"; "The Glass Menagerie"; "Summer and Smoke"; "Now and at the Hour of Our Death"; "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"; "Portrait of a Girl in Glass"; "Hard Candy"; "Orpheus Descending"; "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone"; "You Touched Me"; "Desire and the Black Masseur"; "The Kingdom of Earth"; "The Rose Tattoo"; "The Eclipse of the Sun"; "A Balcony in Ferrara"; "Camino Real"; "The Gnadiges Fraulein"; "A Kind of Love"; "Broken Glass in the Morning"; "Suddenly Last Summer"; and "Tent Worms."
Journals include three notebooks kept from 1941-42, 1944-45, and 1946-47, and a typrscript, with ms. corrections, of "Mes Cahiers Noirs," an unpublished diary ca. 1979.
Typewritten manuscript dating from the early 1940s of two unpublished sonnets; the mimeographed script of the David Frost interview, 21 Jan. 1970; letters to, by, or from: Herbert Machiz, Josephine Healy, Paul Bigelow, Audrey Wood (Williams' agent), Cheryl Crawford, David Diamond, James Laughlin, Glenway Wescott, Charles Feldman, Rose Williams, Edwina Williams, Edwin Dakin, Dakin Williams, and Carson McCullers; the manuscript of 9 poems, one of which "Poem for Paul" does not appear to have been published; set designs by Boris Aronson and Jo Mielziner; portrait of Williams by Leon Kroll; portrait of Rose Williams by Florence Van Steeg; portrait of Edwina Williams by Simon Branders.
Scripts for Two Character Play; This Is; Vieux Carré; A Lovely Sunday For Creve Coeur; A House Not Meant To Stand; Now The Cats With Jewelled Claws; The Youthfully Departed; A Cavalier For Milady; The Red Devil Battery Sign. Also, Tennessee Williams' "Grand": a teleplay by Trace Johnson.
Among the programs is one from The Rose Tattoo's first performance with signatures by Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach and others, and a Starless Air program, signed by Williams, Donald Windham, and Margaret Phillips
There is an extensive manuscript of his "Memoirs" (over 600 pages).
Director's archive for Tigertail.
There is one box of books by and about Williams with annotations by Jay Leo Colt.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
Most of this collection is located on-site. Series X.2, Unannotated Library, is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Permission to make any type of reproduction--photocopies, photographs, scans, digital--of Williams' play scripts must be obtained in writing from his estate. Please contact: George Borchardt, Inc. 136 East 57th St., NY, NY 10022. 212-753-5785.
Readers must use microfilm of materials specified above.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Tennesse Williams Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Alternate Form Available
Manuscripts of "Battle of Angels" "The Fugitive Kind" and "Orpheus descending" are on: microfilm.
Ownership and Custodial History
Gift of the Friends of the Columbia Libraries, 1970.
Gift of Mr & Mrs Robert L. Wilbur, 1982.
Gift of the estate of Jay Leo Colt, 1991.
Beginning in the 1970s, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library collected Tennessee Williams materials through purchase. By 1990, the library had acquired a substantial collection of scripts, production material, photographs and correspondence. The largest part of the present collection was purchased from the Tennessee Williams estate in 1994 and consists primarily of material found in the Key West house. Shortly thereafter, a small collection of family letters dating from Williams' early life was purchased from his brother Dakin through Sotheby's.
Most of the material is dated from 1942 to 1982 though there are mementos, such as photographs of Williams' family, which date earlier. The manuscripts by Williams are primarily from the 1960s to 1982. There are six series: Correspondence; Works; Personal; Works by Other Authors; Photographs; and Audiotapes. The archive contains notes, diaries, drafts, re-writes, scripts, typescripts, programs, flyers, ads, clippings, art work, tapes, notebooks, awards, photographs and realia. Since the material was received in no discernable order, an arrangement has been imposed to facilitate access. It is organized either alphabetically or chronologically as described in the series notes. The provenance of the purchase is noted in brackets following the material to which it belongs. If there is no acquisition number, the material is from the Key West estate purchase. The Dakin Williams purchase is identified by its own subseries.
Papers Various Gifts and purchase
05/26/1991 M-91-05-26 Annotated books Estate of Jay Leo Colt Gift
05/21/1991 M-91-05-21 Papers 487 (Brander Matthews) 7/1/91 Purchase
01/22/1996 M-96-1-11 14 TW letters to Lobdell 2293B Purchase
12/17/2012 2012.2013.M085 Purchase.
7/29/2016 2016.2017.M017 Purchase.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers Entered in AMC 12/05/1990.
Annotated books Processed HR 05/19/1992.
Papers Processed HR 05/19/1992.
14 TW letters to Lobdell Cataloged HR 02/05/1996.
Library listing added to finding aid 2019-04-10 kws
Rose Williams drawings formerly in box 33, folders 1-3, were moved to box 68, folder 1.
2010-04-05 Finding Aid edited and augmented by Patrick Lawlor
2019-04-08 Library encoded and added to finding aid kws
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Thomas Lanier Williams was born on March 26, 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi. His father, Cornelius, a salesman who was largely absent had a bad relationship with Tennessee, the second of his three children. Consequently, Tennessee was raised predominantly by his mother, Edwina, and maternal grandparents.
His often strained and disturbed family life became the fodder for many of his plays.
After moving to New Orleans in his late 20s, and adopting the name Tennessee, Williams began to write prolifically. His major break came when he won a writing contest and landed an agent, Audrey Wood.
Between 1945 to 1947 two plays by Williams establish his place as a major American playwright: The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. The latter won him a Drama Critics' Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize in 1955 for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Williams went on to produce such critical and popular hits as Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and The Night of the Iguana (1961). The many works that followed were not understood by the critics of his day and are only now beginning to find and audience. In addition to his two Pulitzers, Williams was nominated four times for the Tony Award for Best Play. He won the Tony only once for The Rose Tattoo (1951).
Sometime before 1975 Williams produced a frank memoir in which he openly wrote of his homosexuality, alcoholism/drug addiction, and mental illness. This was published in a very modified form as Memoirs (1975).
Williams died in New York City on February 25, 1983. His plays continue to be produced and enjoyed, a testament to his status as one of the greatest of American playwrights.