Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Tennessee Williams papers, 1920-1983

Summary Information


A large and important collection of the correspondence, memoirs, and plays of Tennessee Williams. The collection is especially strong in the later works.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1354
Bib ID 4079626 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983
Title Tennessee Williams papers, 1920-1983
Physical Description 160 linear feet (84 manuscript boxes, 2 custom boxes (69A and 72A), 1 mapcase (13-4G-13), 119 record storage cartons (library))
Language(s) English .
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.



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 corrections, of "Mes Cahiers Noirs," an unpublished diary ca. 1979.

Typewritten manuscript dating from the early 1940s of two unpublished sonnets; the mimeographed script of the David Frost interview, 21 Jan. 1970; letters to, by, or from: Herbert Machiz, Josephine Healy, Paul Bigelow, Audrey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.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1907-1983

    The Correspondence series is divided into: Cataloged Correspondence; Dakin Williams Files; Letters from Agents and Publishers; and General Correspondence. The first two subseries are listed item by item. The series consists of letters from friends, family, and colleagues that often deal with Williams' writings and productions.

  • Series II: Works, 1945-1982

    The Works series is divided into the subseries: Plays and screenplays; Stories and poetry; Other works and related material; Works based on the writings of Tennessee Williams; Biography; Awards, Honors and Celebrations; and Works about Tennessee Williams. The files contain annotated manuscripts, draft pages, scripts, proofs, notes, flyers, programs, certificates and clippings, dating primarily from the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Series III: Personal

    1941-1983. 2.5 linear ft. This series contains notebooks, address books, date books, messages, financial papers, medical records, post cards, memorabilia, ads, and clippings.

  • Series IV: Documents

  • Series V: Works by Others

    1934-1982. 5 linear ft. This material has been arranged alphabetically by author. It includes manuscripts from friends, from aspiring writers, and those sent by agents. There is a collection of material by and about the writer and friend Carson McCullers, several manuscripts by Williams' companion Robert Carroll, short stories by Williams' brother Dakin, and the poetry of Williams' friend Marion Black Vaccaro.

  • Series VI: Photographs and Art

    This series contains snapshots as well as professional and news photographs of Tennessee Williams, his family, and friends. In particular, there are many pictures of Williams' longtime companion, Frank Merlo, and of his close friend, Maria Britneva St. Just. There are also photographs of productions and of celebratory events, as well as works by professional photographers and stills from 1950s MGM productions.

    Subseries Vi.4 contain artwork.

  • Series VII: Audio-visual

  • Series VIII: Printed Material and Photocopies of Playscripts

  • Series IX: Memorabilia and Realia

  • Series X: Library

    Williams' personal library was acquired with the contents of his Key West house. Contents are listed below. For a list of missing or discarded items, please contact the repository.

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.

Preferred Citation

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 rbml@columbia.edu 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.

Purchase 2012.2013.M085.

Purchase 2016.2017.M017.

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

Processing Information

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.

Revision Description

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.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Articles Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Audiotapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Autographs (manuscripts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Awards Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Certificates Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fiction (general genre) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Interviews Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lithographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oil paintings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Passports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Phonograph records Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Playbills Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poems Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Posters Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Programs (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Receipts (financial records) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reviews (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Set design Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sound recordings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American drama -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Aronson, Boris, 1900-1980 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Authors, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bigelow, Paul, -1961 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Catalogs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Crawford, Cheryl, 1902-1986 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Diamond, David, 1915-2005 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dramatists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dramatists, American -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kroll, Leon, 1884-1974 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Laughlin, James, 1914-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lobdell, David Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mielziner, Jo, 1901-1976 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Portraits Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scrapbooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Short stories, American -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stapleton, Maureen Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wallach, Eli, 1915-2014 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Windham, Donald Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

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.