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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 1880-1993 (bulk 1930s-1970s)
Dates: 1880-1993
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.
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, 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

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, n.d. (53 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 2 galley folders), II. Correspondence, 1880-1980, n.d. (10 boxes), III. Williams Family, 1892-1969, n.d. (4 boxes, 2 galley folders, 8 scrapbooks), and IV. Works by Others, 1940-1993, n.d. (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

Index Terms


Atkinson, Brooks, 1894- .
Barnes, Margaret Fawcett, 1896-1980.
Bentley, Eric, 1916- .
Bigelow, Paul.
Bowles, Paul.
Brown, Andreas.
Brownlow, Isabel Williams.
Campbell, Sandy.
Conkle, E.P. (Ellsworth Prouty).
Conroy, Jack, 1899- .
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- .
Jones, Margo.
Kazan, Elia.
Kazan, Molly Thatcher.
Langner, Lawrence, 1890- .
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- .
Porter, Katherine Anne, 1890-1980.
Rodriguez Y Gonzalez, Pancho.
Saher, Lilla van.
Selznick, Irene Mayer, 1907- .
Sykes, Buffie Johnson.
Vaccaro, Marion Black.
Wallach, Eli, 1915- .
Williams, Cornelius Coffin.
Williams, Dakin.
Williams, Edwina Dakin.
Williams, Rose Isabel.
Willits, Malcolm.
Windham, Don.
Wood, Audrey, 1905- .
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