Joseph Longstreth papers relating to Caryl Chessman
Correspondence, writings, newspaper clippings, and other papers on publishing and legal matters relating to convicted kidnapper and death-row inmate Caryl Chessman, collected by editor Joseph Longstreth of Critics Associated, 1953-1990. Includes approximately 2,100 autograph and typescript letters, some signed, 1953-1990. Present are: 400 letters between Chessman and Longstreth discussing finances, publishing matters, and legal proceedings, 1953-1958; correspondence between Longstreth and Chessman's attorney Rosalie Asher, discussing Chessman's life, literary output, finances, mental state, and legal proceedings, 1956-1990; and letters to domestic and foreign publishers, including contracts, royalty statements, legal documents, and marketing and promotional material, 1958-1961. There are also letters addressed to Longstreth from Chessman supporters, 1957-1962. Other papers in the collection include Chessman's typescript appeal to the State Supreme Court of California, undated; 2 short stories, an essay, and an afterword written by Longstreth, undated; and materials pertaining to Chessman's royalties, undated. Collection also includes approximately 750 autograph and typescript pages of unpublished novels and short stories written by Chessman, circa 1948-1960. Accompanied by newspaper clippings about Chessman, 1958-1960, and 2 videocassette tapes: The death penalty (A&E, 1996) and a collection of newscasts about the Chessman case made by Longstreth, undated.
- Majority of material found within 1953-1960
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research
Conditions Governing Use
The Joseph Longstreth Papers Relating to Caryl Chessman 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
From the estate of Joseph Longstreth, through Alan Bisbort. Purchased from Lorne Bair Rare Books on the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana, 2015.
Organized into five series: I. Correspondence, 1953-1985. II. Newspaper clippings, 1954-1960, undated. III. Other papers, 1953-2015, undated. IV. Writings, 1957-1966, undated. V. Audiovisual materials, 1996, undated.
1.88 Linear Feet (9 boxes)
Language of Materials
Correspondence, writings, newspaper clippings, and other papers on publishing and legal matters relating to convicted kidnapper and death-row inmate Caryl Chessman, collected by editor Joseph Longstreth of Critics Associated, 1953-1990.
Joseph Longstreth (1920-2003)
Joseph Longstreth (1920-2003) founded the literary agency Critics Associated. In 1953, he became the editor for Caryl Chessman, convicted robber, kidnapper, and rapist; he later became Chessman's literary executor.
Caryl Chessman (1921-1960)
Caryl Chessman (1921-1960) of Saint Joseph, Michigan, was sentenced to death in California for a series of crimes committed in the Los Angeles area in 1948 January. Charged as the “Red Light Bandit”, he was convicted under the “Little Lindbergh law”, which defined kidnapping as a capital offense under certain circumstances. While spending 12 years on death row, fighting his conviction, Chessman wrote 4 memoirs: Cell 2455 death row (1954), Kid was a killer (1960), The face of justice (1957), and Trial by ordeal (1955).
From the estate of Joseph Longstreth, through Caryl Chessman's biographer, Alan Bisbort, author of When you read this, they will have killed me: the life and redemption of Caryl Chessman, whose execution shook America (De Capo Press, 2007).
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.
The Joseph Longstreth Papers Relating to Caryl Chessman have been arranged into series, retaining folder titles present at time of acquisition. Several original folders have been seperated into multiple folders for preservation purposes. Original folders with annotations were retained in the collection. Supplied folder titles are bracketed.
- Authors and publishers -- United States
- California State Prison at San Quentin
- Capital punishment -- California
- Crime -- California
- Criminals -- California
- Critics Associated
- Death row inmates -- California
- Editors -- United States -- 20th century
- Incarceration -- California
- Prisoners' writings, American -- California
- Guide to the Joseph Longstreth Papers Relating to Caryl Chessman
- Sarah Lerner
- July 2019
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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