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Carl Van Vechten Letters to Saul Mauriber

Call Number: YCAL MSS 1144

Scope and Contents

The Carl Van Vechten Letters to Saul Mauriber date from April 1943 to December 1965, and include typed and manuscript notes, letters, greeting cards, postcards, and telegrams documenting their relationship over twenty years. Mauriber lived in Brooklyn with his mother, Sadie Mauriber, and as he had no telephone for many years, he and Van Vechten communicated by mail on a frequent basis. In his letters Van Vechten noted appointments with sitters for photographic portraits with which Mauriber was to assist; described his social activities and news of mutual friends; and commented on Mauriber’s work, travel, and family issues. Van Vechten expressed his love for Mauriber often, and his messages included plans to meet him alone or to attend dinners or performances with Van Vechten’s wife, Fania Marinoff, and friends. Enclosures include third-party letters from mutual friends and others; newspaper clippings regarding the arts, celebrities, fashion and other subjects; advertisements for performances and exhibitions; ticket stubs (which Mauriber collected); performance programs; postcards (many of which were photographic postcards by Van Vechten); and miscellaneous objects. The collection also includes postcards, greeting cards, and letters from Marinoff to Mauriber (in which she described her travels, thanked him for a gift, or sent birthday or holiday greetings), and greeting cards from the Van Vechten’s to Saul’s mother.


  • 1943 - 1965


Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Boxes 16-17: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Carl Van Vechten Letters to Saul Mauriber is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Beverly Hill on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2018.


Arranged chronologically.


6.9 Linear Feet (17 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Carl Van Vechten Letters to Saul Mauriber date from April 1943 to December 1965, and include typed and manuscript notes, letters, greeting cards, postcards, and telegrams documenting their relationship over twenty years.

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964)

Carl Van Vechten was a writer, photographer, collector, and patron of the arts. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 17, 1880, Van Vechten developed an early interest in literature and the fine and performing arts. He attended the University of Chicago, and wrote for several Chicago newspapers before moving to New York City in 1906. Over the next five decades he established himself as a journalist, critic, novelist, photographer, and cultural icon. He wrote music, dance, and theater reviews in New York and Paris for The New York Times and The New York Press, and for magazines and journals including Trend, Vanity Fair, Crisis, New Republic, and Esquire. He authored numerous books including, Music After the Great War (1915), The Tiger in the House (1920), Peter Whiffle: His Life and Works (1922), The Blind-Bow Boy (1923), The Tattooed Countess (1924), Firecrackers (1925), Nigger Heaven (1926), Spider Boy (1928), Parties (1930), and Sacred and Profane Memories (1932), most of which were published by Alfred A. Knopf.

His 1907 marriage to Ann Snyder, a friend since his youth in Cedar Rapids, ended in divorce in 1912. On October 21, 1914 he married Fania Marinoff, an actress who had immigrated to the United States as a child from Russia. They were married for fifty years. A family inheritance received in 1927 provided Van Vechten with the means to support himself and Fania, and freed him to pursue his interests without financial constraints. During the 1920s, Van Vechten was introduced to members of the artistic and cultural movement that would become known as the Harlem Renaissance. He enjoyed frequenting the clubs, restaurants, and salons of Harlem, and he began to develop friendships among members of the Black community. His 1926 novel, Nigger Heaven, was inspired by his visits to Harlem and its residents.

Beginning in the early 1930s Van Vechten devoted much of his time to photography. In his home studio he produced hundreds of photographic portraits of his friends and acquaintances, as well as other world figures whom he photographed by invitation and by recommendations from mutual friends. He and Fania developed a large multicultural network of friends and acquaintances in New York, throughout the United States, and abroad. The Van Vechten apartment became a meeting place for established and developing writers, visual and performing artists, publishers, educators, social activists, and others. Throughout his life Van Vechten developed close friendships with women as well as intimate relationships with men.

As a collector, Van Vechten acquired important collections of books and manuscripts, particularly those relating to African-American arts and literature. In 1941, he established the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at Yale University, in honor of the writer and close friend who had died in 1938. In 1947, Van Vechten established the Anna Marble-Pollock Collection of Books about Cats at Yale. He also gave to Yale additional individual books and manuscripts, as well as a large group of his personal papers. He established and/or donated material to collections at other institutions including Fisk University, Howard University, the University of New Mexico, and the New York Public Library (including personal papers dating from 1833 to 1965). Carl Van Vechten died in New York City on December 22, 1964.

Saul Mauriber (1915-2003)

Saul Mauriber was born in New York City, and lived most of his life in Brooklyn. He worked as a clerk in retail establishments including Bergdorf Goodman department store. Mauriber also studied fashion, and for a time designed and made clothing for friends and acquaintances. Later in life he was a real estate investor. He met Carl Van Vechten in November of 1942, when both were volunteers at the American Theatre Wing’s Stage Door Canteen for servicemen during World War II. At a gathering and photo session of Canteen volunteers at Van Vechten’s home, Mauriber demonstrated an interest and ability in assisting Van Vechten with the photography. Shortly thereafter, he became Van Vechten’s photographic assistant in his home studio, setting up lighting equipment and assisting with the printing and organizing of photographs. Their friendship grew into an intimate relationship which continued for twenty years. After Van Vechten’s death Mauriber assisted with the organization of Van Vechten’s photographs and the donation of them to various cultural and educational institutions.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

Envelopes not associated with letters were interfiled with chronologically-arranged letters. Postmark dates were assigned to letters (and appear in square brackets) when not dated by Van Vechten. Letters that were received sealed (or resealed) at the time of acquisition were opened by the library May, 2018, and noted as such on paper enclosure.
Guide to the Carl Van Vechten Letters to Saul Mauriber
In Progress
by Susan Brady
June 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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Access Information

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