|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in 3 series: Series I. Correspondence, 1917-1981; Series II. People, 1920-1966; Series III. Writings, 1917-1932.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of correspondence to and from Bodenheim and his wife Minna, a few files on individuals, and manuscripts and typescripts of Bodenheim's poetry, novels, plays, essays, and talks. Correspondence to Bodenheim is mostly from publishers with a few items from friends. Some personal correspondence from friends to Minna Bodenheim is also included. The vast majority of the correspondence is from from Maxwell Bodenheim to Minna Bodenheim, and runs from the 1920s to the mid 1930s.
Most of the collection is made up of the manuscript and typescript drafts of Bodenheim's novels, poems, and plays. Covering the period between 1917 and the mid 1930s, the drafts contain material that Bodenheim would go on to publish both as novels and books of poetry, as well as various essays and talks that would be published in journals over the course of Bodenheim's life. The manuscripts for Georgie MayM (1928), Crazy Man (1924), and Sixty Seconds (1929) are included, as well as some of the material from Bodenheim's first published book of poetry, Minna and Myself (1918).
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located on-site.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Maxwell Bodenheim Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed 11/--/2011 Charles Macquarie, Pratt Institute 2012.
Findign aid written 11/--/2011 Charles Macquarie, Pratt Institute 2012.
Poems (12) added by PTL, 12/16/2015 (Accn.#2015.2016.M089).
2012-02-09 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Maxwell Bodenheim was born Maxwell Bodenheimer in May of 1892 in Hermanville, Mississippi. At the age of nine he moved with his family to Chicago. In 1908 Bodenheim was expelled from high school and joined the army. Following an attempted desertion he was caught and jailed at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas where he served the rest of his tour of duty. After completing his service he spent time traveling around the Southwestern United States.
In 1912 Bodenheim moved back to Chicago and worked to establish himself in the literary scene there, developing a friendship with novelist and screenwriter Ben Hecht. The two would continue to collaborate and quarrel through the end of Bodenheim's life. It was also in Chicago that he met critic and editor Harriet Monroe, and published poems in her journal Poetry, as well as in The Little Review.
Bodenheim moved to New York in 1916 and settled in Greenwich Village. He established a friendship with poet Alfred Kreymborg with whom he had been in ongoing correspondence, and continued to publish poetry. Between 1916 and 1918 his poems appeared in journals the New Republic, the Seven Arts, the Pagan, and the Egoist, and he edited the magazine the Others. As an Others editor he became friend with poets William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore, who contributed frequently to the writing and editing of the magazine. Minna and Myself, his first book of poems, was published in 1918 and he married Minna Schein, for whom the book is titled, in November of that year. In 1920 she gave birth to their only son Solbert.
Throughout the 1920s Bodenheim continued to write and publish prolifically, finishing six books of poetry and eight novels by 1930. His 1925 novel Replenishing Jessica brought obscenity charges against himself and publisher Horace Liveright, however both were easily acquitted. The trial brought a brief surge in Bodenheim's popularity and book sales, but he was dismayed by the damage to his reputation and wrote to friends that he felt "neglected" and "isolated." Though he remained married to Minna he had become notorious after a 1928 string of highly publicized suicides by former and current girlfriends, all apparently spurred by his rejection, and by the end of the decade Bodenheim had firmly established himself as a resident and colorful, if poorly-behaved and sometimes recalcitrant, Greenwich Village bohemian.
By the 1930s Bodenheim was becoming increasingly destitute but he continued to write and publish through the first half of the decade, and by 1934 he had put out another seven novels and one more book of poetry. A 1932 stint in Hollywood however, left him sick and and his financial condition unimproved and in 1935 he marched with a small group on city hall to protest the dwindling writer's relief funds on which he depended to live. Bodenheim was divorced by Minna in 1938, and married his second wife Grace Finan shortly after in 1939. Finan was quickly bedridden with cancer and Bodenheim--when he was able--nursed her until her death in 1950.
Throughout most of his second marriage Bodenheim was a regular in Village bars and streets, where he would sell poems for money to buy drinks. He lived mostly on the streets when he was not otherwise bouncing from room to room. In 1951 Bodenheim married his third wife, Ruth Fagan who was almost 30 years his younger, and the two of them slept on benches and panhandled for a living. Finally on the night of February 6 1954, Bodenheim and Fagan accepted an invitation to spend the night at the apartment of Harold Weinberg, who they had known for about a year. In an argument over the sexual relationship between Ruth and Weinberg, Weinberg shot Bodenheim in the chest, killing him, and stabbed Ruth to death with a hunting knife.