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   Tennessee Williams Papers, 1920-1983

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Tennessee Williams Papers, Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

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

Bib ID:4079626 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983
Title:Tennessee Williams Papers, 1920-1983
Physical description:160 linear ft. (in 83 manuscript boxes, one Mapcase 13-4G-13, and 119 record storage cartons).
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection has no restrictions on access. This collection is located on-site. Series X.2, Unannotated Library, is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.  More information »



This collection is arranged into 10 series:

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 corrections, of "Mes Cahiers Noirs," an unpublished diary ca. 1979.

Typewritten manuscript dating from the early 1940s of two unpublished sonnets; the mimeographed script of the David Frost interview, 21 Jan. 1970; letters to, by, or from: Herbert Machiz, Josephine Healy, Paul Bigelow, Audrey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 CarreĢ ; 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. 4 linear ft. 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.

Subseries I.1: Cataloged Correspondence, 1920-1982

The letters are from friends, relatives, actors, directors, writers, and colleagues. They are arranged alphabetically by sender.

Subseries I.2: Daken Williams Files

1907-1959. In Box 1 of General Correspondence. A collection of correspondence to and from Williams and family purchased by Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library through an auction house. There are several letters from Williams' parents, from his Dakin grandparents, and a few from or about his sister Rose. The letters shed light on Williams early years including his MGM period and his trip to Mexico.

Subseries I.3: Letters from Agents & Publishers

Collection of letters from Williams succession of agents--Audrey Wood, Bill Barnes, Mitch Douglas and ICM--and his publishers. The letters are in chronological order.

Subseries I.4: General Correspondence, 1951-1983

Correspondents include Hermione Baddeley, Keith Baxter, Paul Bigelow. Robert Carroll, Walter E. Dakin, Henry Faulkner, Margaret Leighton, Anne Meacham, Frank Merlo, Jose Quintero, Jane Smith, Vassilis Vogilis, Edwina and Dakin Williams. Fan mail is also included.

Series II: Works, 1945-1982 11 linear ft.

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.

Subseries II.1: Plays and Screenplays, 1937-1982

This subseries contains script pages, scripts, notes, programs, clippings, reviews and essays. It is arranged alphabetically by title. See also production photographs in the Photography series.

Subseries II.2: Stories & Poetry

This subseries begins with an alphabetical listing of prose works, followed by poetry, articles, sketches and interviews. There are annotated pages, manuscripts, proofs, publications, book jackets, a videocassette, sketches, sketchpads and clippings.

Subseries II.3: Other Works & Related Material

Subseries II.4: Works Based on the Writings of Tennessee Williams

Subseries II.5: Journals, Memoirs, and Biography

Subseries II.6: Awards & Honors

Subseries II.7: Works About Tennessee Williams

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.

Subseries VI.1: Personal & Professional

Subseries VI.2: Production Photographs

Subseries VI.3: Film Stills

Subseries VI.4: Art

Series VIII: Printed Material and Photocopies of Playscripts

Miscellaneous Printed Items (Posters, Pressbooks, Ads, Broadsides, etc.)

Subseries VIII.2: Books

Subseries VIII.3: 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.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions on access.

 This collection is located on-site. Series X.2, Unannotated Library, is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; 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 manuscripts must be obtained in writing from his estate. Please contact: George Borchardt, Inc. 136 East 57th St., NY, NY 10022. 212-753-5785.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Tennessee Williams Papers, Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers Entered in AMC 12/05/1990

Annotated books Processed 05/19/1992 HR

Papers Processed 05/19/1992 HR

14 TW letters to Lobdell Cataloged 02/05/1996 HR

4 cartons processed by Patrick Lawlor

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion June 26, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-04-05 Legacy finding aid created from Pro Cite. Finding Aid edited and augmented by Patrick Lawlor
    2019-04-08 Library encoded and added to finding aid kws

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Audio tapes.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (literary).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Oil paintings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Phonograph records.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Set design drawings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sound recordings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
American drama--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Aronson, Boris, 1900-1980.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Authors, American.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Bigelow, Paul, d. 1961.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Crawford, Cheryl, 1902-1986.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Diamond, David, 1915-2005.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Dramatists, American--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kazan, Elia.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kroll, Leon, 1884-1974.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Laughlin, James, 1914-1997.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lobdell, David.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Merlo, Frank, 1922-1963.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Mielziner, Jo, 1901-1976.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Short stories, American--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Stapleton, Maureen.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wallach, Eli, 1915-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Windham, Donald.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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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.

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