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University of Texas at Austin

Maxwell Anderson:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Anderson, Maxwell, 1888-1959
Title: Maxwell Anderson Papers
Dates: 1859-1984 (bulk 1922-1959), undated
Extent: 54 document boxes, 2 oversize boxes (osb) (23.52 linear feet), 3 oversize folders (osf)
Abstract: The papers of American playwright, poet, lyricist, and screenwriter Maxwell Anderson contain manuscripts for his plays, poems and lyrics, and other works written for radio, television, and film. The manuscripts are augmented by correspondence mostly to and from colleagues and business partners; family, friends, and neighbors; and amateur drama groups, educators, and students. Additional papers comprise financial and legal documents as well as career-related and personal papers, plus works by others and correspondence between others.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00089
Language: English and Spanish
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation: Maxwell Anderson Papers (Manuscript Collection MS-00089). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchases and gifts, 1962-2017 (R677, R3387, R4591, R4957, R5117, R5889, R6548, R6625, Gift 1976, Gift 1909, R12951, G11357, 17-05-016-P).
Processed by: Joan Sibley, 2023. Note: This finding aid replicates and replaces information previously available only in a card catalog. Please see the explanatory note at the end of this finding aid for information regarding the arrangement of the manuscripts as well as the abbreviations commonly used in descriptions.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

The papers of American playwright, poet, lyricist, and screenwriter Maxwell Anderson contain manuscripts for his plays, poems and lyrics, and other works written for radio, television, and film. The manuscripts are augmented by correspondence mostly to and from colleagues and business partners; family, friends, and neighbors; and amateur drama groups, educators, and students. Additional papers comprise financial and legal documents as well as career-related and personal papers, plus works by others and correspondence between others.
The Anderson papers were acquired by the Ransom Center between 1962 and 1976 and originally described in a card catalog, organized into four series: I. Works; II. Letters (outgoing correspondence); III. Recipient (incoming correspondence); and IV. Miscellaneous (third-party works and correspondence). This finding aid replicates and replaces the former card catalog descriptions and now also includes descriptions of a small group of previously restricted correspondence, as well as four additional acquisitions received between 1984 and 2017.
Series I. Works, 1900; 1922-1958 (19 boxes)
Manuscripts for works by Maxwell Anderson document his output of plays; poems and lyrics; scripts for film, radio, and television; essays and speeches; and a few diaries. Both published and unpublished works are present. Anderson frequently wrote the first drafts of his plays by hand in ledger books; other manuscripts exist as handwritten or typed drafts, many with revisions, and often in multiple drafts. Many manuscripts are undated; dates cited in the following Container List were often added from the bibliography compiled by Laurence G. Avery or other reference sources. The earliest item is a poem, "The Chipmunk," written in 1900 when Anderson was about 12 years old. Anderson’s only novel, Morning, Noon, and Night, is present and was published under the pseudonym John Nairne Michaelson.
Most of Anderson’s best-known plays are represented in the papers: The Bad Seed, Both Your Houses (awarded Pulitzer Prize, 1933), High Tor (awarded New York Drama Critics Circle Award, 1937), Joan of Lorraine, Key Largo, Knickerbocker Holiday, Lost in the Stars, his three Tudor history plays (Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of Scotland, and Anne of the Thousand Days), Valley Forge, and Winterset (awarded New York Drama Critics Circle Award, 1936).
In addition to Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots as subjects in the plays noted above, Anderson wrote plays on a wide variety of themes, settings, and historical figures and topics: among them are American imperialism (Night over Taos); a satire of the Herbert Hoover administration (Both Your Houses); Jesus Christ (Journey to Jerusalem); Joan of Arc (Joan of Lorraine); materialism and conservation (High Tor); a satire of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal set in Dutch New Amsterdam (Knickerbocker Holiday); Sacco and Vanzetti (Gods of the Lightning; Winterset); South Africa and racial injustice (Lost in the Stars); George Washington and the American Revolution (Valley Forge); and World War II and its aftermath (Candle in the Wind; The Eve of St. Mark; Storm Operation; Truckline Cafe).
Anderson based some of his plays on writings by Brendan Gill, William March, Alan Paton, and Jim Tully, and he also collaborated with several other writers on plays or screenplays, among them Harold Hickerson, Angus MacPhail, Rouben Mamoulian, Douglas Moore, Andrew Solt, Laurence Stallings, and most notably with the composer Kurt Weill.
While Anderson’s best-known collaborations with Kurt Weill were the musical plays Knickerbocker Holiday and Lost in the Stars, among their other efforts in the papers are a cantata, The Ballad of the Magna Carta, and a radio play This is War!: Your Navy, along with unfinished work on musical plays based on Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain ("Huck and Jim") and Eneas Africanus by Harry Stillwell Edwards ("Ulysses Africanus"). "September Song," written by Anderson and Weill for Knickerbocker Holiday and originally performed by Walter Huston, became a popular standard covered by numerous recording artists over the years.
In addition to works for the stage, Anderson also wrote for radio and television, and was a successful screenwriter known for his work on All Quiet on the Western Front and Death Takes a Holiday. Represented in the papers are the film version of his play Joan of Arc and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man. Also present are Anderson’s contributions to the screenplays for Ben-Hur and Vertigo (see "Darkling, I Listen"). Many of Anderson’s plays were subsequently adapted by other writers into motion pictures and television productions.
For a complete list of all Anderson manuscript titles present in these papers, see the Index of Works.
Series II. Letters (Outgoing Correspondence), 1915-1959 (2 boxes) and
Series III. Recipient (Incoming Correspondence), 1924-1959 (14 boxes)
Correspondence by and to Anderson over his lengthy career displays his interactions with a large network of people and organizations: other playwrights and writers; producers and directors; actors and actresses; choreographers; composers; costume, lighting, and set designers; stage managers; agents; critics; publishers and publications; and studio executives and screenwriters.
Among a variety of notable correspondents are Enid Bagnold, S. N. Behrman, Ingrid Bergman, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Katherine Cornell, Agnes DeMille, Helen Hayes, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Howard, Walter Huston, Lotte Lenya, Joshua Logan, Guthrie McClintic, Burgess Meredith, Jo Mielziner, Paul Muni, Clifford Odets, Alan Paton, Elmer Rice, Robert E. Sherwood, John Steinbeck, and Kurt Weill.
Anderson’s stage productions with the Group Theatre and the Theatre Guild brought him into contact and correspondence with Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, Theresa Helburn, Lawrence Langner, Armina Marshall, and Sanford Meisner. In addition to Anderson’s partner playwrights already mentioned (Behrman, Howard, Rice, and Sherwood), he also corresponded with William Fields, Victor Samrock, and John F. Wharton at The Playwrights’ Company.
The papers also contain correspondence from several diverse figures, some of whom may be of interest in the areas of African Studies; African-American Studies, LGBTQ Studies; and Women’s Studies. Among these are: Barbara Deming (LGBTQ author, activist); Todd Duncan (Black baritone opera singer, actor); Eleanor Flexner (women’s historian and author); Loften Mitchell (Black author, novelist, screenwriter); Alan Paton (South African author, anti-apartheid activist); Frank Provo (LGBTQ radio actor and writer); Eslanda Goode Robeson (Black anthropologist, civil rights activist, wife and business manager of Paul Robeson); Eva Palmer Sikelianos (LGBTQ actress, director, composer, weaver associated with Delphic Festivals); and Nick Stewart (Black actor, writer, theatre founder).
Other correspondents are family, friends, and neighbors; Anderson’s former professors and fellow students (especially from the University of Nebraska and Stanford University); other educators and students with queries or requests; amateur drama groups; fans and well-wishers; and others sending invitations, speaking requests, and appeals for charitable or other support.
Although the family correspondence contains relatively few letters from Anderson’s parents, there is a good deal of correspondence to and from his wives: Margaret Haskett Anderson (1887-1931), Gertrude Maynard ("Mab") Anderson (1901-1953), and Gilda Romano Hazard Anderson (stage name Gilda Oakleaf, 1913-2002). Other family correspondents are Anderson’s seven siblings, as well as Anderson’s four children (Quentin, Alan, Terence, and Hesper), plus aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws.
Anderson’s long residence on South Mountain Road in New City, Rockland County, New York brought other correspondence from those close to home. Besides Burgess Meredith, Lotte Lenya, and Kurt Weill who also lived in this small artists’ colony, other neighbor correspondents were Milton Caniff, Carroll French, Buckner Hollingsworth, John Howard Lawson, Mary Mowbray-Clarke, Amy Murray, Rollo Peters, Henry Varnum Poor, Ruth Reeves, and Hugo Robus, frequently with additional letters from their spouses or other family members.
See the Index of Letters and the Index of Recipients for a complete list of Anderson’s correspondents.
Series IV. Miscellaneous, 1859-1965 (bulk 1922-1959) (19 boxes)
This series contains personal and career-related papers for Anderson, in addition to works by others and correspondence between others. Dominant are Anderson’s financial records (accounts, bank records, royalty statements, etc.) along with personal records such as address books, agreements, passports, and wills.
Several other files in this series relate to Anderson’s career and business interests, most notably for The Playwrights’ Company, with contracts, memoranda, meeting minutes, and other papers, 1938-1960. Other organizations represented are the American Academy of Arts and Letters; American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA); American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP); Authors’ League of America; Brandt & Brandt literary agency; and the Dramatists Play Service. Alfred C. Sturt, who acted as a secretary/assistant to Maxwell Anderson in the 1930s, was also frequently involved with Anderson’s business correspondence.
A number of other Anderson family members’ works and correspondence are also present in this series. Anderson’s second wife, generally known as "Mab," is especially well-represented. In addition to her own works and personal papers, quite of bit of incoming correspondence is addressed to her, both personal correspondence from friends and family as well as business letters she handled on behalf of her husband.
See the Index of Miscellaneous for descriptions reproduced from the card catalog for the papers in this series.
Series V. Additional Acquisitions, 1918-1984 (2 boxes)
Most of this series is made up of previously restricted letters written by Anderson to his second wife "Mab"(1952-1953) and to his third wife Gilda (1952-1956). Also present are some early letters from "Mab" to Anderson (1928-1931). All of this correspondence was under seal until the death of Gilda in 2002.
Additional acquisitions made between 1984 and 2017 make up the rest of this series. Among these are scripts for The Golden Six, Richard and Anne, and White Desert, along with a recommendation letter for Anderson written by a Whittier College dean in 1918.
Cataloging note
Most incoming correspondence to Maxwell Anderson was originally cataloged in the Miscellaneous series. When cataloging procedures changed and a new Recipient category was created, later accessions of incoming correspondence to Maxwell Anderson (3 boxes) were cataloged in a Recipient series. During current recataloging of the Anderson papers, the incoming letters to Maxwell Anderson in the Miscellaneous were moved and integrated into the existing Recipient series. Several improvements were also made to the original card catalog data:
  • Identities were established for some previously unidentified creators;
  • Remaining unidentified correspondents are no longer filed alphabetically under first name, initials, etc., instead now all are at beginning of Index or Recipients listing;
  • Life dates, fuller name forms, and variant names were added or updated for many creators; women’s names include both their own names (if available) and their husband’s name (if signed that way);
  • Letterhead names were added if potentially useful in identifying creators;
  • Names of individual correspondents writing on behalf of corporate bodies were added parenthetically after the corporate name;
  • The abbreviation "aka" (also known as) has been used in this finding aid for variant titles of works as well as for persons known by multiple names.

Related Material

See additional Maxwell Anderson materials in the following Ransom Center collections:
Additional Maxwell Anderson materials at other repositories:

Separated Material

Books: Search the University of Texas Libraries Catalog for Books & Media at Advanced Search by Search filter (Provenance ) and Search term (Anderson, Maxwell) to locate 160 records for books from Anderson’s library, all either inscribed to Anderson or working copies with his annotations.
Photographs: See the finding aid for the Maxwell Anderson Literary File Photography Collection for a description of 1,492 items (674 photographs and safety negatives, 818 nitrate negatives, 2 drawings).
Vertical File: Five boxes of clippings, programs, and other printed ephemera withdrawn from Anderson’s books and papers document his plays and other writings as well as his career and personal life, along with 20 scrapbooks for his plays. A folder-level list is accessible in the Vertical File database available onsite at the Ransom Center.


Anderson, Hesper. South Mountain Road: A Daughter's Journey of Discovery. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Avery, Laurence G. A Catalogue of the Maxwell Anderson Collection at The University of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968.
Avery, Laurence G. Dramatist in America: Letters of Maxwell Anderson, 1912-1958. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977.
Avery, Laurence G. Maxwell Anderson: An Analytic Catalogue. Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, 1966.
Horn, Barbara Lee. "Maxwell Anderson. " Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, Second series, edited by Christopher J. Wheatley. Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 228. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000.
Horn, Barbara Lee. Maxwell Anderson: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Maxwell Anderson Foundation. "Biography" [of James Maxwell Anderson]. Maxwell Anderson Foundation (website), accessed April 19, 2022.
Shivers, Alfred S. The Life of Maxwell Anderson. New York: Stein and Day, 1983.
Shivers, Alfred S. Maxwell Anderson. Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1976.

HRC Guide Headings


African Studies
African-American Studies
American Literature
Film and Television
LGBTQ Studies
Musical Theatre

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