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University of Texas at Austin

Sinclair Lewis Family:

An Inventory of Their Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator Sinclair Lewis Family
Title Sinclair Lewis Family Papers
Dates: 1909-1962
Extent: 14 boxes (5.83 linear feet), 1 galley folder
Abstract: This collection contains works and correspondence by and about American novelist Sinclair Lewis, his first wife Grace Hegger Lewis, and their son Wells. Of note is a heavily revised typescript of Main Street, typescripts of two biographies written by Grace Lewis, Half a Loaf and With Love from Gracie, personal memorabilia, and correspondence between the family members.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02480
Language: English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases, 1960-1962 (R1039-R1040)
Processed by Chelsea S. Jones, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. His mother died shortly after he turned six, leaving his father to raise him and his two older brothers. A local doctor, the boy's father valued hard work above all other virtues and frequently chided Sinclair, who had decided at an early age that he wanted to be a writer, for "mooning around."
Lewis entered Yale in 1903 and wrote for several school publications. He studied hard, but also sought adventure, spending one summer vacation sailing to Liverpool on a cattle boat. Graduating from Yale in 1908, Lewis took a job with an Iowa newspaper but after ten weeks moved to New York. A few months later he drifted west to San Francisco and a year later drifted back to New York, via Washington D.C. Once he discovered that he could support himself by writing short stories, he had time to hone his writing skills and work on his novels as well as travel. Between 1915 and 1930 he visited 40 states in America as well as Canada, Mexico, fourteen countries in Europe and three in South America.
He met Grace Hegger in 1912, in New York, and married her two years later. Their son, Wells, was born in 1917. Strained by Lewis's inability to settle down, as well as his increasing fame, the marriage ended in 1928. Grace wrote about her life with Lewis in her 1931 novel Half a Loaf and her 1951 autobiography With Love from Gracie.
Lewis quickly re-married, this time to the journalist Dorothy Thompson. Their son, Michael, was born in 1930. Afflicted by the same difficulties as his marriage to Grace, Lewis's second marriage ended in 1942. He divided the rest of the 1940s between Duluth, Minnesota, and a second home in Massachusetts. 1950 found him traveling in Europe. He died in January 1951, while visiting Italy, after suffering heart trouble.


Dictionary of Literary Biography -- Volume 102: American Novelists, 1910-1945. James J. Martine, Ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981).

Scope and Contents

Correspondence makes up the bulk of the Sinclair Lewis Family Papers, 1909-1962, and typescripts of novels and biographies round out the collection. The papers are organized into four series with materials arranged alphabetically and chronologically where possible: Series I. Sinclair Lewis, 1909-1960 (3.5 boxes); Series II. Grace Hegger Lewis, 1914-1968 (6.5 boxes); Series III. Wells Lewis, 1921-1944 (2 boxes); and Series IV. Works and Correspondence by other Authors, 1925-1962 (2 boxes). With the exception of letters written by Grace and Wells Lewis, the correspondence and all of the literary works in this collection are listed in the Index of Correspondence and Index of Works by other Authors found at the end of this finding aid. This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Sinclair Lewis Series is organized into three subseries: Subseries A. Works, 1920-1960 (2 boxes); Subseries B. Outgoing Correspondence, 1909-1949 (1 box); and Subseries C. Incoming Correspondence, 1920-1944 (.5 box). The Works subseries is made up of three major publications, two lesser known plays, and a few individual short stories and poems by Lewis. Of particular note is a typescript draft of Main Street (1920) which contains extensive editing, deletions and insertions by the author. A typescript of Arrowsmith (1925) provides almost as many examples of Lewis's editorial methods.
The Outgoing Correspondence Subseries contains the drafts and final copy of the 1926 letter Lewis wrote to the Pulitzer Prize Committee refusing the award as well as letters to his first wife Grace Hegger Lewis, their son Wells Lewis, and the lawyers who handled their divorce, Ernst, Fox & Caine. The Incoming Correspondence Subseries holds letters Lewis received from his wife and lawyers as well as other, largely personal, letters from friends and associates.
The Grace Hegger Lewis Series is divided into three subseries: Subseries A. Works, 1951, nd (2.5 boxes); Subseries B. Outgoing Correspondence, 1920-1960 (2.5 boxes); and Subseries C. Incoming Correspondence, 1914-1968 (1.5 boxes). The Works Subseries includes multiple typescript versions of two biographical works about Sinclair Lewis, Half a Loaf (1931) and With Love from Gracie (1955). Each draft is moderately to heavily edited. Also present in this section is a memory book created by Grace Lewis containing letters, poems, and sketches given to her by Sinclair Lewis early in their relationship.
The Outgoing and Incoming Correspondence Subseries include an in-depth collection of letters Grace wrote to her son Wells, as well as to her mother and Stella Wood, in addition to letters she received from Dorothy Thompson, Sinclair Lewis's second wife, and others. Additionally, there are a number of letters from friends and acquaintances congratulating her on the publication of each of her books.
The Wells Lewis Series is organized in three subseries: Subseries A. Works, 1924-1939 (1 box); Subseries B. Outgoing Correspondence, 1921-1944 (.5 box); and Subseries C. Incoming Correspondence, 1934-1944 (.5 box). The Works Subseries contains papers he wrote while attending Harvard and Phillips Academy in addition to a few short stories and poems. The Outgoing and Incoming Correspondence Subseries are composed mostly of correspondence to his mother and grandmother and letters from Dorothy Thompson, a few friends, and others.
The small Works and Correspondence by other Authors Series is divided into two sections: Works and Correspondence. The Works section contains two biographical works about Sinclair Lewis, A Man from Main Street and Sinclair Lewis; An American Life, as well as a typescript of the Elmer Gantry screen play. The Correspondence section contains a few letters written by friends and associates of the Lewis family, generally concerning one or other of the Lewises.

Related Material

Other materials associated with Sinclair Lewis may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Alfred A. Knopf Inc.
  • Contempo
  • Costain, Thomas Bertram
  • Fitzgibbon, Constantine
  • Hergesheimer, Joseph
  • Hughes, Glenn Arthur
  • Jonathan Cape
  • Lewishon, Ludwig
  • Mackenzie, Compton
  • Morley Christopher Darlington
  • PEN
  • Scott, Evelyn
  • Walpole, Hugh, Sir

Separated Material

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are about 250 photographs of Lewis, his family, and friends, some of which are found in seven photo albums, located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection, as well as 37 Vertical Files for Sinclair Lewis and two for Grace Lewis containing newspaper clippings with biographical information and literary criticism in addition to published articles by both Sinclair and Grace. Also present are a few personal items belonging to the Lewis family, including a small lacquer bowl and military medals awarded to Wells Lewis as well as a small collection of books from Sinclair Lewis's personal library.

Index Terms


Lewis, Grace Hegger.
Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951.
Lewis, Wells.
Thompson, Dorothy, 1893-1961.
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937.
Wood, Stella Louise, 1865-1949.


Ernst, Fox & Caine.


Domestic fiction.


United States--Social life and customs--20th century.

Document Types

Galley proofs.

Sinclair Lewis Collection--Folder List