Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Maxwell Bodenheim papers, 1917-1981, bulk 1917-1938

Summary Information


Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954) was a poet and novelist who was pervasive throughout the bohemian scenes in Chicago and New York's Greenwich Village in the first half of the 20th century. The collection consists of a broad scope of materials produced by Bodenheim from 1917 to the mid 1930s, including correspondence (mostly with his wife Minna), drafts of talks and writings, and records of business dealings with publishers and legal issues surrounding his divorce and an obscenity suit against him.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1590
Bib ID 9025181 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Bodenheim, Maxwell, 1893-1954
Title Maxwell Bodenheim papers, 1917-1981, bulk 1917-1938
Physical Description 2 linear feet (5 document boxes)
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.

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in 3 series.


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).

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1917-1981

    This series contains correspondence that was exchanged between Bodenheim and his wife Minna, letters sent to Bodenheim from friends, colleagues, and publishers, and letters sent to Minna Bodenheim from individuals other than Maxwell Bodenheim The material is arranged chronologically by year. The series also includes correspondence about Bodenheim's divorce and the suit brought against him for Replenishing Jessica, along with royalty statements and contracts from publishers.

  • Series II: People, 1920-1966

    This series consists of two folders containing materials on Bodenheim's son Solbert and on Louis Grudin, respectively. Some materials relating to Solbert's childhood are included. Included in the Grudin folder are several letters from Bodenheim as well as an outline for the Seven Sneers Manifesto which Bodenheim proposed to Grudin, drafts of several poems sent by Bodenheim, and Grudin's eulogy for Bodenheim, which was never read.

  • Series III: Writings, 1917-1932

    This series is arranged into seven subdivisions by type of material--essays, novels, plays, poems, reports, shorts stories, and talks. These subdivisions are arranged alphabetically, and except for the poetry file which is arranged chronologically, the folders and materials within them are arranged alphabetically by title. The essays file contains critical essays, published and unpublished, written between the mid 1920s and 1930s. The novels file contains typescripts and manuscripts of published and unpublished novels from 1924 to 1932, including Georgie May, Crazy Man, Six A.M., and Sixty Seconds. The plays file includes manuscripts and typescripts of various plays by Bodenheim, all of which are unpublished. The poems file contains manuscripts and typescripts of poem drafts and translations written between 1917 and the 1930s. Included are poems for Minna and Myself and poems from the unpublished collection Tenderly. The reports subseries contains drafts of undated reports by Bodenheim on Fyodor Dostoevsky and Karl Wasserman. The short stories file is made up of manuscripts and typescripts of 3 undated short stories--"Alarm Clock", "Paris Negro", and "The Silver Locket." The talks file contains Bodenheim's text for several undated talks and discussions.

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.

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.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Maxwell Bodenheim 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.


Glenn Howowitz Purchase, 9/20/2011 2011-2012-M036

Lorne Bair rare Books Purchase, 9/20/2011 2016-2017-M133

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

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).

Revision Description

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.

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:"
Bodenheim, Maxwell, 1893-1954 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Modernism (Literature) -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Putnam, Samuel, 1892-1950 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

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.