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University of Texas at Austin

Tennessee Williams:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983
Title Tennessee Williams Collection
Dates: 1880-1993 (bulk 1930s-1970s)
Extent: 76 boxes, 4 galley folders, 2 oversize boxes, 3 card files (31.5 linear feet)
Abstract These materials document the family, life, and work of the American playwright, born Thomas Lanier Williams. The collection contains numerous manuscript drafts, including those for his best known plays The Glass Menagerie (1944) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). Also included are large amounts of newspaper clippings, correspondence, and photographs.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-04535
Languages English, Finnish, and Czech.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases and gifts, 1963-1995
Provenance The Tennessee Williams collection was built from four major acquisitions in the 1960s with smaller amounts of material added over the years. The nucleus of the collection began with Williams' own papers, acquired by the Ransom Center from 1962 to 1969. These materials included over 1,000 separately titled works, numerous clippings, and several boxes of correspondence. In 1964, the Center expanded the collection with the purchase of the correspondence between Williams and his agent, Audrey Wood. In 1965, the Center acquired a large number of manuscripts, including William's first full-length play, Candles to the Sun, from Williams' official bibliographer, Andreas Brown. Brown's materials also included a complete run of Williams' publications, and Brown's own correspondence, notes and drafts from his work on Williams' bibliography. The Williams family papers were also acquired in 1965 from Williams' mother, Edwina Dakin Williams. These materials included original manuscripts and works of art by Williams, over 700 letters, scrapbooks, personal memorabilia, and 650 photographs.
Processed by Stephen Mielke, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Tennessee Williams (born Thomas Lanier Williams, III, on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi) established himself as one of America's greatest dramatists during the 1940s and 1950s. He first gained commercial and critical success with the 1945 Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, and, in 1947, achieved even greater success with his Pulitzer Prize winning play A Streetcar Named Desire.
Williams spent his early life in Mississippi and Tennessee living with his mother, sister, and maternal grandparents. His father, usually away on business as a traveling salesman, moved the family to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1918 after taking a management position with a shoe company. Williams spent the next twenty years developing his writing skills while living at home and at various times attending three different universities.
After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1938, Williams began writing under the name "Tennessee" and struggled to make a living. Moving from New Orleans to New York to California, and taking numerous trips to other locations, he began a pattern of restlessness that he maintained throughout his life. In 1939, Williams gained the services of a literary agent, Audrey Wood, who helped him focus his poetic skills and ability to write dialogue into full theatrical works.
Following his success with The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams continued turning out plays as well as developing film adaptations of his work. He was a prolific writer, constantly creating or revising scenes, and once stating,"No play of mine is ever finished, even after production." His acclaim continued through the 1950s and 1960s with works like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Summer and Smoke, and Night of the Iguana, but he also wrote a number of poorly received plays, and many people were shocked by his themes of sex, violence, and mental illness. His struggles with alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, and depression affected the quality of his later work.
By the 1970s, Williams was an icon of the American Theatre. His earlier plays were well established as theatrical classics and many enjoyed great success in revival. Although his later work was often maligned, he continued to turn out plays until his death on February 25, 1983 in New York City.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

Typescript, composite and holograph manuscripts, correspondence, bibliographies, clippings, scrapbooks, academic papers, business records, galley proofs, photographs, and artworks document Tennessee Williams' life, work, family, and friends from 1880 to 1993. The Collection is organized into four series: I. Works, 1925-1982, undated (53 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 2 galley folders), II. Correspondence, 1880-1980, undated (10 boxes), III. Williams Family, 1892-1969, undated (4 boxes, 2 galley folders, 8 scrapbooks), and IV. Works by Others, 1940-1993, undated (9 boxes, 3 card files).
The Works Series constitutes over two-thirds of the Williams Collection, followed by the Correspondence, Works by Others, and Family Series in order of volume. While the dates of the collection span from 1880 to 1993, the bulk range from the mid 1930s to the mid 1970s. The earliest item is a letter to Williams' grandmother, Rosina Otte Dakin, and virtually all material dated prior to 1930 relates to Williams' family. Materials dated after Williams' death in 1983 are largely biographical or concern productions of his works.
The vast majority of the collection is in English, with five Finnish translations of plays and one Czech translation. A small amount of Latin and Greek material is located in Williams' college papers, and individual Spanish, French, Italian and German language items are present in the Correspondence Series.
The accessions mentioned in the provenance note are incorporated into the four series of the Williams Collection with the following exceptions: clippings, theatrical programs, printed awards, certificates and two disbound scrapbooks are located in the Ransom Center Vertical Files; published volumes have been separated and are cataloged as part of the Ransom Center book collection; photographs, except for a small number attached to works or correspondence, are located in the Ransom Center Photography Department; and additional Williams materials are located in the Art Department and other manuscript collections at the Ransom Center.
Later acquisitions of letters, manuscripts, theatrical production materials, and works about Williams have been worked into the existing organization. All materials maintain their original arrangement, if any existed, within their placement in each Series. All notes, indexing, and previous cataloging information have been retained with each item, as has information indicating the purchase or gift registration numbers of any material other than the four initial acquisitions.
The papers are generally in good condition, although some brittle or torn leaves have been placed in clear protective sleeves.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Works, 1925-1982, undated (53 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 2 galley folders)
Series I. contains numerous drafts and copies of Williams' literary works including theatrical and radio plays, television and motion picture scripts, short stories, poetry, anthologies, reviews, journalistic essays, personal journals, notes, and academic assignments. The majority of the works are in the form of typed manuscripts, most being composite versions with numerous revisions. Many include autograph emendations by Williams and others, such as his agent, Audrey Wood, director Elia Kazan, or actors who used the scripts. Also present are loose pages of unidentified dialogue, galley proofs for nine works, and a limited amount of newspaper clippings, photographs, and correspondence. The bulk of the works date from the late 1930s to the mid 1970s.
Works are arranged alphabetically by title, or by first line for untitled poems, regardless of genre. The title "Eulogy for Laurette Taylor" was assigned by a previous cataloger and is retained. Under each title, materials maintain their original arrangement, be it chronological, reverse chronological, or alphabetical, depending on their source. Select materials are grouped together under the subject headings "College papers,""Journals,""Notebooks,""Reviews,""Title pages," and "Unidentified works." These headings are located alphabetically among the titles, except for "Unidentified works," which is located at the end of the series. When known, titles for works contained within the subject headings are supplied.
Many works have multiple titles or developed from earlier works with different titles. When known, these works are supplied in the folder list with "or" notations and a listing of the related titles. In most instances, early versions and/or variant titles of a single work are filed together under the best known title, i.e., materials for The Gentleman Caller and Portrait of a Girl in Glass are located with materials for The Glass Menagerie.
To complicate matters, Williams would sometimes use the same title for unrelated works. For example, The Fugitive Kind, one of Williams' early plays, is also used as the name for the movie based on his play Battle of Angels ( Battle of Angels was also the basis for the later play Orpheus Descending). In this particular case, material related to the movie The Fugitive Kind is listed separately after material for the play The Fugitive Kind , and a notation is made about the movie's origin. In another example, "These Scattered Idioms " listed as a part of the compilation Where I Live is not the same work as These Scattered Idioms listed under its own title.
In many instances one title in the folder list represents different genres of the same work, e.g., "Interval" is both a short story and a play. Due to this and other difficulties in using conventional rules for indicating titles with italics or quotation marks, quotation marks are used for all titles in the container list and the index of works, regardless of the genre, completeness, or publication status. The conventional rules are followed in the remaining portions of the finding aid.
When a title represents a collections of poems or short stories, the title of each work in the collection is also listed. Drafts of the works can be located under their individual titles, the collection title, or both, depending on their original arrangement. Similarly, several theatrical plays are located under joint titles if the bulk of the manuscripts present are from the joint versions. Specifically, Something Unspoken and Suddenly Last Summer are located together under the title Garden District. Also, The Mutilated and The Latter Days of the Celebrated Soubrette (also titled The Gnädiges Fräulein) are located under Slapstick Tragedy . An unrelated poem titled "The Mutilated" is filed under its own title.
The volume of material under each title varies greatly. Some works contain multiple copies and versions of manuscripts, others have little more than a title page. Many of the poems are single drafts on single sheets. The works that are most represented, with several boxes of material each, include Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, and Summer and Smoke.
All works by Williams present in the collection are indexed at the end of the finding aid.
Series II. Correspondence, 1880-1980, undated (10 boxes)
The Correspondence Series contains letters, telegrams, postcards, and Christmas cards organized into three subseries: A. Outgoing, B. Incoming, and C. Third-party. Outgoing correspondence is in alphabetical order by recipient. Incoming and Third-party is alphabetical by author. All correspondence, including that found in other parts of the collection, is indexed by author, except for outgoing mail from Tennessee Williams, which is indexed by recipient.
Most of the correspondence is typed. Photo and carbon copies are found in large numbers, with carbons comprising all of the incoming correspondence from William's agents, Liebling-Wood. Liebling-Wood correspondence is present in greater amounts than any other in the series and is found in each of the subseries. Related correspondence is also filed separately under Audrey Wood and Bill Liebling. Topics include the development and production of his works and personal messages to friends and family. Many letters include both personal and professional information.
Some correspondence includes works by Williams--mostly short poems or materials related to theatrical productions. These are indicated in the Correspondence Series folder list, and include references to and from related materials in the Works Series.
Series III. Williams Family, 1892-1969, undated (4 boxes, 2 galley folders, 8 scrapbooks)
The majority of the materials in the Family Series were created or collected by Williams' mother, Edwina. The series is organized into three subseries: A. Works, B. Correspondence and C. Scrapbooks, with Works comprising the largest volume of materials.
The bulk of the Works Subseries consists of drafts and proofs of Edwina Williams' book Remember Me to Tom, written with Lucy Freeman. Other works include two short essays by Edwina Williams, typing exercises by Williams' sister, Rose, and an undated map drawn by his brother, Dakin. Several notebooks contain entries by Rose Williams and other family members regarding travel and expenses, and one folder contains genealogical information on the Dakin family.
Post cards, typed letters, and handwritten letters of Williams' father, Cornelius, mother, sister, brother, and aunt Ella Williams, are found in Subseries B, with the majority belonging to Edwina Williams. The correspondence is arranged under each name as incoming by author or outgoing by recipient, then by date. Authors are listed in the Index of Correspondents.
The letters are largely between the family members listed above. Communications between these family members and Tennessee Williams are located in Series II. Correspondence.
Subseries C. contains eight scrapbooks created by Edwina Williams. Books one through five contain clippings and correspondence, dating from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s, documenting Tennessee Williams' theatrical and literary activities. Scrapbooks six through eight date from 1900 to 1907, and contain letters, mementos and writings relating to Edwina Williams' social activities. These scrapbooks were acquired with the Williams Family materials in 1965. Two other scrapbooks were received with the original 1962 acquisition of Williams' materials and are located with the Williams Vertical Files materials. They contain clippings about Tennessee Williams, his works, and his family from the mid 1930s to the mid 1950s.
Series IV. Works by Others, 1940-1993, undated (9 boxes, 3 card files)
Series IV consists largely of biographical and scholarly monographs and short drafts about Tennessee Williams, along with a smaller number of poems and works of fiction. The works are in alphabetical order by author, with unidentified materials filed at the end.
The bulk of the series consists of materials created or collected by Andreas Brown during the 1960s while working on a comprehensive bibliography of Williams' works. Brown maintained extensive correspondence files with literary dealers, fellow Williams researchers, friends, family, and colleagues of Williams, as well as Williams himself. The correspondence is indexed by author and is included in the Index of Correspondents. In addition to the correspondence are Brown's notes for and drafts of the bibliography, and two short articles he wrote about Williams.
Richard F. Leavitt's book The World of Tennessee Williams is represented by several galley proofs, black and white photographs, and correspondence with Williams and others. Included with the correspondence are several pages of handwritten and typed answers Williams wrote in response to questions Leavitt asked about his life, work, and friends. Other materials included in the series are a composite draft of Gilbert Maxwell's book Tennessee Williams and Friends, and the transcript for a 1993 Williams documentary (film and video tape from the documentary is located in the Ransom Center Film Department). Of special note is Max Marlin's musical score for the 1947 production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and a mimeo copy of Carson McCullers' The Dual Angel signed "from Carson and Reeves".

Index Terms


Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984.
Barnes, Margaret Fawcett, 1896-1980.
Bentley, Eric, 1916-2020.
Bigelow, Paul.
Bowles, Paul.
Brown, Andreas.
Brownlow, Isabel Williams.
Campbell, Sandy.
Conkle, E. P. (Ellsworth Prouty).
Conroy, Jack, 1899-1990.
Crawford, Cheryl, 1902-1986.
Cronyn, Hume.
Dakin, Rosina Otte.
Dakin, Walter Edwin.
De Rochemont, Louis, 1899-1978.
Dowling, Eddie.
Evans, Oliver Wendell, 1915- .
Freeman, Lucy.
Glavin, William M.
Hazan, Joseph.
Holland, Willard.
Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986.
Jones, Margo.
Kazan, Elia.
Kazan, Molly Thatcher.
Langner, Lawrence, 1890-1962.
Laughlin, James.
Liebling, William.
MacGregor, Robert.
Magnani, Anna.
Maxwell, Gilbert.
Mayorga, Margaret (Margaret Gardner).
McClintic, Guthrie, 1893-1961.
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
Merlo, Frank.
Olivier, Laurence, 1907-1989.
Porter, Katherine Anne, 1890-1980.
Rodriguez Y Gonzalez, Pancho.
Saher, Lilla van.
Selznick, Irene Mayer, 1907-1990.
Sykes, Buffie Johnson.
Vaccaro, Marion Black.
Wallach, Eli, 1915-2014.
Williams, Cornelius Coffin.
Williams, Dakin.
Williams, Edwina Dakin.
Williams, Rose Isabel.
Willits, Malcolm.
Windham, Don.
Wood, Audrey, 1905-1985.
York, Michael, 1939- .


Warner Bros. Pictures.


American drama--20th century.
Dramatists, American--20th century.
Williams family.

Document Types

Christmas cards.
First drafts.
Galley proofs.
Legal instruments.
Video recordings.

Folder List