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University of Texas at Austin

Norman Mailer:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Mailer, Norman
Title: Norman Mailer Papers
Dates: 1919-2005
Extent: 957 document boxes, 44 oversize boxes, 47 galley files (gf), 14 note card boxes, 1 oversize file drawer (osf) (420 linear feet)
Abstract: Handwritten and typed manuscripts, galley proofs, screenplays, correspondence, research materials and notes, legal, business, and financial records, photographs, audio and video recordings, books, magazines, clippings, scrapbooks, electronic records, drawings, and awards document the life, work, and family of Norman Mailer from the early 1900s to 2005.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-2643
Language: English
Access: Open for research with the exception of some restricted materials. Current financial records and records of active telephone numbers and email addresses for Mailer's children and his wife Norris Church Mailer remain closed. Social Security numbers, medical records, and educational records for all living individuals are also restricted. When possible, documents containing restricted information have been replaced with redacted photocopies.

Administrative Information

Provenance Early in his career, Mailer typed his own works and handled his correspondence with the help of his sister, Barbara. After the publication of The Deer Park in 1955, he began to rely on hired typists and secretaries to assist with his growing output of works and letters. Among the women who worked for Mailer over the years, Anne Barry, Madeline Belkin, Suzanne Nye, Sandra Charlebois Smith, Carolyn Mason, and Molly Cook particularly influenced the organization and arrangement of his records. The genesis of the Mailer archive was in 1968 when Mailer's mother, Fanny Schneider Mailer, and his friend and biographer, Dr. Robert Lucid, transferred papers from Mrs. Mailer's Brooklyn apartment and the basement of his residence at 142 Columbia Heights to the Day & Meyer, Murray & Young records storage facility in New York. Lucid organized and maintained the records, retrieving additional papers from Mailer's Brooklyn office and Provincetown home, and adding new materials in subsequent years as they were retired by Mailer. Beginning with The Executioner's Song in 1978, Judith McNally served as interviewer, editor, researcher, organizer, correspondence secretary, and general assistant for Mailer. As Mailer's typist, McNally created and maintained all of the electronic records found in the archive. By the late 1980s, manuscript drafts, transcripts of interviews, and correspondence were all generated by McNally using word processing software on her home computer. Also in 1978, Dr. J. Michael Lennon began assisting Dr. Lucid with the growing archive. In addition to retrieving new material created by Mailer, Lennon incorporated business files from Mailer's literary agent Scott Meredith and legal files from Mailer's cousin and long-time legal representative Charles "Cy" Rembar. Once placed in the archive, the papers did not remain dormant. Mailer, on occasion, retrieved materials for further use, and Dr. Lennon and Dr. Lucid made extensive use of the papers for their own work. Dr. Lucid identified the contents of many files dating from the 1940s and 1950s, writing notes and descriptions on the folders. Photocopies of these original folders remain with the materials to preserve Dr. Lucid's information. Additional biographical notes and drafts by Lucid are located in Series V. Works by Others, as are large amounts of Dr. Lennon's Mailer-related notes and manuscripts. Lennon transferred the records to Diversified Information Technologies in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, in 1994, and with the assistance of his wife, Donna, served as Mailer's chief archivist until the materials arrived at the Ransom Center in 2005. Mailer sent additional materials to the Ransom Center in the subsequent years, and further materials are expected. Judith McNally was in the process of transferring her Mailer-related computer disks and files to the Ransom Center at the time of her sudden death in May 2006. With no will or living relatives, all materials in McNally's possession were seized by the Kings County Surrogate Court in Brooklyn, New York. After several months, McNally's three laptop computers and numerous computer disks were released to the Ransom Center.
Acquisition: Purchase, 2005 (R15380); see the Provenance Note for additional information
Processed by: Monique Daviau, Jennifer Hecker, Katy Hill, Stephen Mielke, Gabriela Redwine, Joan Sibley, Apryl Sullivan, 2005-2007

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

Biographical Sketch

Norman Kingsley Mailer was born January 31, 1923, in Long Branch, New Jersey. His father, Isaac Barnett "Barney" Mailer, worked as an accountant. His mother, Fanny "Fan" Schneider, ran several small businesses. For the majority of his youth, the Mailer family, including his younger sister Barbara, lived in middle class neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1939, at age sixteen, Mailer entered Harvard University. He majored in engineering sciences, but also pursued a passion for writing. He worked on the Harvard Advocate and studied under English faculty members Robert Gorham Davis, Robert Hillyer, and Theodore Morrison. Mailer's short story "The Greatest Thing in the World" won the 1941 Story magazine college contest and brought him to the attention of several editors and publishers.
Mailer was graduated from Harvard in 1943. In early 1944, he married his college girlfriend, Beatrice "Bea" Silverman, and was drafted into the Army. After basic and advanced training, he was assigned to the 112th Cavalry Regiment in the Philippines, performing various duties, including reconnaissance patrols. After the Japanese surrender, Mailer served as a cook in occupied Japan until his discharge in May 1946.
Mailer's army experience formed the basis for his 1948 novel The Naked and the Dead. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and The Gutenberg Award, the book brought Mailer great literary fame and financial success.
By the early 1950s Mailer had separated from Bea and was living with his soon-to-be second wife Adele Morales in Manhattan. His second novel Barbary Shore (1951) received overwhelmingly bad reviews. Although a third novel, The Deer Park (1955), was greeted more favorably, Mailer increasingly sought to write outside the novel format. In the early 1950s he began writing for magazines such as Dissent, Esquire, and Partisan Review and in 1955 helped co-found the Village Voice. Through these and other periodicals, Mailer commented on race, feminism, sexuality, politics, literature, art, culture, and society. In 1959 he published a collection of these essays, with additional fiction and commentary, titled Advertisements for Myself, recapturing his earlier critical acclaim.
In the midst of his renewed celebrity and a planned New York mayoral run, Mailer's personal life deteriorated, reaching its nadir in a notorious 1960 penknife assault on Adele during a night of drunken brawling. Despite severe injury, Adele refused to press charges. Mailer received court probation and public condemnation, and his second marriage ended.
In the early 1960s, Mailer worked to stabilize his life and further build his literary reputation. A short marriage to Lady Jeanne Campbell in 1962 was followed by marriage to Beverly Bentley. He published a volume of poetry, Deaths for the Ladies (and Other Disasters) (1962), and a fourth novel, An American Dream (1965). But throughout the 1960s and 1970s he received the greatest recognition for his work in nonfiction and "New Journalism." He explored topics such as politics, space exploration, feminism, race relations and boxing in a variety of works, including The Presidential Papers (1963), Cannibals and Christians (1966), Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968), Of a Fire on the Moon (1971), The Prisoner of Sex (1971), St. George and the Godfather (1972), and The Fight (1975). He received the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his narrative of a 1967 Vietnam war protest in The Armies of the Night (1968) and another Pulitzer for his account of Gary Gilmore's execution in The Executioner's Song (1979).
In the late 1960s, Mailer made three experimental films: Wild 90, Beyond the Law, and Maidstone. In 1982, he wrote the television adaptation of The Executioner's Song and later wrote and directed a major studio production of his 1984 novel Tough Guys Don't Dance. He performed minor roles in several films and television programs and wrote the television screenplays for American Tragedy and Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story.
In addition to numerous and varied pursuits, including a 1969 Democratic primary bid for New York mayor and a two-year term as President of the American Center of P.E.N. in the mid-1980s, Mailer continued to produce best-selling fiction such as Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), Ancient Evenings (1983), Tough Guys Don't Dance (1984), Harlot's Ghost (1991), and The Castle in the Forest (2007). Other pieces included full-length biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, and Lee Harvey Oswald as well as shorter works for magazines and journals.
In 1980, following his divorce from Beverly Bentley and a short marriage to Carol Stevens, Mailer married Norris Church (formerly Barbara Davis). They remained married until his death on November 10, 2007, in New York.


Lennon, J. Michael and Donna Pedro Lennon. Norman Mailer: Works and Days. Shavertown, PA: Sligo Press, 2000.
Rollyson, Carl. The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography. New York: Paragon House, 1991.
Whalen-Bridge, John. "Norman Mailer."Dictionary of Literary Biography Online, (accessed 10 October 2006).

Scope and Contents

Handwritten and typed manuscripts, galley proofs, screenplays, correspondence, research materials and notes, legal, business, and financial records, photographs, audio and video recordings, books, magazines, clippings, scrapbooks, electronic records, drawings, and awards document the life, work, and family of Norman Mailer from the early 1900s to 2005. The bulk of the papers arrived at the Ransom Center in rough chronological order; in general, this order has been maintained within the following six series: I. Literary and Other Activities, 1939-2005; II. Correspondence, 1939-2005; III. Legal and Financial, 1944-1998; IV. Family and Personal, 1919-2001; V. Works by Others, 1946-2005; and VI. Serial Publications, 1941-2005. Most of the papers are in English, with small amounts of correspondence and clippings in French, Spanish, German, and Yiddish or Hebrew, plus several French language videos.
Series I. makes up more than half of the collection and contains extensive and thorough records of Mailer's literary activities, dating from his entry into Harvard in 1939 through 2005, as well as Mailer's numerous social, political, and film-making activities. The bulk of the series consists of handwritten and typed drafts of Mailer's books, plays, screenplays, poems, speeches, and journal contributions, both published and unpublished. Numerous heavily revised drafts are present for his major publications, including The Naked and the Dead (1948), Barbary Shore (1951), The Deer Park (1955), An American Dream (1965), The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, The Novel as History (1968), Of a Fire on the Moon (1971), The Executioner's Song (1979), Ancient Evenings (1983), Harlot's Ghost (1991), and Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (1995). Extensive research materials, particularly for his later works, are also found in this series; correspondence and photographs are present to a lesser extent.
Mailer's archive encompasses a wide range of topics reflecting the depth of his engagement in the issues and events of his lifetime: his controversial commentary on race, culture, and sexuality in The White Negro (1957); his portrayal of women in An American Dream (1965) and his later writing on birth control and the role of women in American society; his commentaries on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the Vietnam War and the 1967 March on the Pentagon, and Democratic and Republican political conventions from the 1960s to the 1990s; his coverage of the 1974 heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire (The Fight, 1975); his analysis of personas and events from the 1960s that continue to loom large in the American cultural imagination, including Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy assassination, and Project Apollo; his contributions to the cultural debates on capital punishment and prisoners' rights in The Executioner's Song (1979) and support of prisoner and writer Jack Henry Abbott; and his explorations of government, espionage, race, and criminal justice in the CIA themed novel Harlot's Ghost (1991), and television docudramas on O. J. Simpson's murder trial and FBI agent turned spy Robert Hanssen.
Series II. Correspondence, 1939-2005, contains incoming and outgoing letters between Mailer and his family, friends, fans, fellow writers, politicians, activists, actors and directors, scholars, business associates, and numerous other individuals and institutions, documenting over sixty years of Mailer's life and impact on American literature and culture. Included are letters from James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., Truman Capote, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, Allen Ginsberg, Lillian Hellman, Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Henry Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, George Plimpton, William Styron, Gore Vidal, and Kurt Vonnegut among numerous others.
The extensive legal and business records contained in Series III. Legal and Financial complement Mailer's works and correspondence. These records include contracts, investment and real estate documents, tax records, and household bills and receipts that illuminate Mailer's business endeavors, lifestyle, work habits, and day-to-day activities. These records are subdivided into two subseries reflecting their origins from Mailer's attorney and Mailer's agent: A. Charles "Cy" Rembar and B. Scott Meredith Literary Agency.
Series IV. Family and Personal is the smallest of the six series. It is arranged into two subseries: A. Family and B. Personal. The bulk of the material originated with or was collected by Mailer's parents. Included is correspondence from their courtship, records from later international travels, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and family photos. Also in the series are letters between Mailer's parents and extended family, and letters from Mailer to his parents.
Of particular note are Mailer's childhood writings and memorabilia. Other materials include letters, writing, and personal records from Mailer's first wife, Bea, family narratives written by his mother, and stories written by his sister Barbara Wasserman. Also present are Mailer's address and appointment books, passports, and gambling records, all dating from his adulthood.
The bulk of the photographs found in Mailer's papers are also located in Series IV. and include professional and informal images of Mailer, research photographs for his works, his book jacket portraits, photodocumentation of his activities, and Mailer family photographs. Of note are images from early 1960s portrait sessions with Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon, and original prints of the Bruce Davidson photographs that accompanied Mailer's 1960 Esquire piece "Brooklyn Minority Report: 'She Thought the Russians Was Coming.'"
Series V. Works by Other People contains published and unpublished works from Mailer's family, friends, other well-known writers, aspiring authors, and students. Included are works by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, J. Michael Lennon, Robert Lucid, Norris Church Mailer, Norman Podhoretz, Diana Trilling, and Dotson Rader.
Series VI. consists of serial publications containing interviews of or pieces by Mailer. Arranged alphabetically, they represent a small and incomplete portion of the total number of articles published by Mailer.
There are no film prints or copies of Mailer's late-1960s experimental films Beyond the Law, Wild 90 , and Maidstone in the archive, but the movies are documented through business and financial records from Mailer's short-lived film company, Supreme Mix. Publicity materials, review clippings, and extensive production photos and movie stills complement the business records. The Mailer-directed, major studio adaptation of his book Tough Guys Don't Dance is well documented with correspondence, production materials, audition video tapes, and audience surveys.
Books, audio-visual materials, electronic records, and personal effects have been transferred to other departments within the Ransom Center. See the Transferred Materials description for further details.

Series Descriptions

Related Material

The following collections at the Ransom Center contain additional Mailer-related material and are described in the Ransom Center card catalog:
  • El Corno Emplumado
  • Dobie, James Frank
  • Genesis West
  • Harper's
  • Malanga, Gerard
  • Purdy, James
The following Ransom Center collections also contain Mailer-related materials and are described in archival inventories in the Ransom Center reading room or online at
  • Abeles, Joseph
  • Adams, Alice
  • Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  • Chester, Alfred
  • Czermanski, Zdzislaw
  • DeLillo, Don
  • Fiske, Thomas. Collection of Norman Mailer.
  • Hardwick, Elizabeth
  • Hellman, Lillian
  • Jones, James
  • Kenner, Hugh
  • Lennon, J. Michael. Collection of Norman Mailer Correspondence.
  • Loomis, Hillary Mills. Collection of Norman Mailer.
  • Lowell, Robert
  • Lubell-Naiman, Adeline. Collection of Norman Mailer.
  • Malamud, Bernard
  • Matthiessen, Peter
  • Playboy Enterprises. Norman Mailer Files.
  • Singer, Isaac B.
  • Weidman, Jerome
Other institutions with Mailer research materials include:
  • Duke University, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. William Styron Papers.
  • The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Special Collections. Francis Irby Gwaltney Papers.
  • The University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library. Norman Mailer Papers, 1957-1972.
  • Wilkes University, Farley Library. Norman Mailer's Pulitzer Prizes and other awards.
  • Yale University, Beinecke Library. Final typescript of The Naked and the Dead.

Transferred Materials

1231 books arrived at the Ransom Center with the Mailer Papers. Included were multiple copies of Mailer's works, foreign editions, anthologies, and books used by Mailer for research on specific topics. These do not comprise Mailer's entire personal library, the bulk of which he retained. These volumes have been removed from the archive and cataloged separately with the Center's Library.
130 VHS, Betamax, and U-Matic video tapes representing Mailer television appearances, documentaries, research material, and production material from the film Tough Guys Don't Dance have been transferred to the Ransom Center's Moving Image Collection. Also transferred were two 8mm commercial films on George Foreman, one 8mm home movie, and three 16mm home movies.
1297 quarter-inch audio cassette tapes, 97 quarter-inch audio tape reels, 7 audio tape microcassettes, and 4 CD-Rs have been transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recordings Collection. The bulk of the recordings are Mailer's dictation of correspondence and manuscripts. Also present are numerous interview tapes created by Mailer and collaborator Lawrence Schiller for the books The Executioner's Song (1979) and Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (1995), and the television movie Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story (2002). Transcriptions of many of these tapes are found within files for the particular works located in Series I. Reel-to-reel recordings of television and radio programs dating from the 1950s through the 1960s include interviews with Mailer and news reports of his 1969 New York mayoral campaign. Use of audio and video materials may require production of listening and viewing copies.
359 computer disks, 47 electronic files, 40 CDs, 6 mini data cartridges, 3 laptop computers, and 1 Ampex magnetic tape spool have been transferred to the Ransom Center's Electronic Records Collection. The bulk of the electronic content was created by Mailer's assistant, Judith McNally, and consists of correspondence and literary drafts.
The following items have been removed from the archive and housed with the Ransom Center's Personal Effects Collection:
  • Two red and black Boys High School felt pennants and one red and black Boys High School felt patch
  • Platen from the typewriter used to type The Naked and the Dead
  • "I Support Vietnam Veterans Against the War" button pin
  • 13 "Fifth Estate | Counter-Spies Are Watching Big Brother" button pins
  • Hotel key
  • Ceremonial key to the City of Miami Beach
  • Framed check for $1.00 from Cannon Films
  • "Passing through the Netherworld" boxed Senet board game
  • One Paper Mate ink pen
  • Two olive drab boot laces
  • Two decks of handmade baseball game cards
  • Dog chain collar with tags
  • Red and white cardboard box with hinged lid
  • Kewpie doll party invitations box
  • Wallet file containing voodoo/magic materials and booklets
  • Two World War I South African military uniform insignia

Index Terms


Abbott, Jack Henry, 1944-
Gilmore, Gary
Gwaltney, Francis Irby, 1921-1981
Jones, James, 1921-1977
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Knox, Mickey
Malaquais, Jean, 1908-
Miller, Henry, 1891-1980
Monroe, Marilyn, 1926-1962
Oswald, Lee Harvey
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973
Plimpton, George
Schiller, Lawrence
Styron, William, 1925-2006
Torres, José, 1936-
Vidal, Gore, 1925-


American Center of P.E.N.


American literature -- 20th century
Boxing -- History
Capital punishment -- United States
Feminism -- United States
Homosexuality -- United States
Literature, Modern -- 20th century
Nonfiction novel
Popular culture -- United States
Presidential candidates -- United States
Prisoners -- United States
Project Apollo (U.S.)
Race relations -- United States
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Protest movements
War in literature
World War, 1939-1945


Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
New York (N.Y.)
Provincetown (Mass.)

Document Types

Christmas cards
Film stills
Galley proofs
Legal documents
Magnetic disks
Sound recordings
Video recordings

Norman Mailer Papers--Container List