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Owen Johnson papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 11

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, campaign materials, writings, drawings, photographs, personal and professional papers, and printed material relating to or by American author Owen Johnson. Writings include drafts, typescripts, corrected galleys, and notes for Johnson's works, including Stover at Yale, Making Money (1914), Virtuous Wives (1917), and Skippy Bedelle (1922). In addition, the collection contains prose drafts of some plays and French translations of materials, including The Comet, along with short stories and essays by Johnson. Personal and professional papers primarily consist of correspondence, including letters from Johnson's youngest daughter, Patricia Johnson, legal and financial documents, drawings, and photographs. Photographs include childhood images of Johnson and images of gatherings with friends and family at Yale and Johnson's home. Printed material includes clippings, magazines, and books by Johnson and other authors, including Johnson's The Salamander and Cobina Wright's I Never Grew Up.


  • 1889-1967 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1883 - 1987


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 22: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Owen Johnson Papers are 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

The Owen Johnson Papers were donated to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library by Johnson's youngest daughter, Mrs. Patricia Johnson Deely, in 1981 and 1984, and his granddaughter, Catherine B. Deely, in 2011, 2016, 2018, and 2019.


13.55 Linear Feet (29 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers contain drafts of novels, plays, and short stories, plus a variety of personal papers, including financial records, photographs, and papers on the Committee on Allied Tribute to France.


Owen Johnson, American novelist and short-story writer, was born in New York City on August 27, 1878. He attended the Lawrenceville School where he founded and edited The Lawrenceville Literary Magazine. At Yale, from which he graduated in 1901, he chaired the Yale Literary Magazine for the Class of 1900. He is best remembered for juvenile stories about his student days at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and a best-selling novel, Stover at Yale (1911), in which he criticized many aspects of college life including the senior societies at Yale. His other novels include Arrows of the Almighty (1901), In the Name of Liberty (1905), Max Fargus (1905), The Salamander (1913), and The Woman Gives (1915). Several of the Lawrenceville novels, such as The Eternal Boy (1909), The Humming Bird (1910), The Varmint (1910), and The Tennessee Shad (1911), were also published serially in magazines, like McClure's. Johnson also wrote plays and several of his novels were turned into films, including Children of Divorce (1927) and the Lawrenceville stories as The Happy Years in 1945 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Most of his early writing was done in Paris, where he lived after his first marriage in 1901. During World War I, he served as war correspondent for the New York Times and Collier's and wrote The Spirit of France (1915), a nonfiction book about the heroism of the French people. This was followed by The Wasted Generation (1921), a novel about an American who enlists in the French Foreign Legion at the outbreak of the war.

From 1923 to 1948, he resided in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and continued to write novels about marriage and divorce, including Blue Blood (1923) and Sacrifice (1929), and stories for The Saturday Evening Post. He wrote little after his last novel, The Coming of the Amazons, was published in 1931. In 1936 and 1938 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress as the Democratic nominee from the First District of Massachusetts. He died at the age of sixty-three on January 27, 1952 at his home in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, where he lived for the last five years of his life.

His first wife, Mary Galt Stockly, daughter of a Cleveland financier, died in 1910. She was followed by Esther Ellen Cobb, of San Francisco, whom Johnson divorced in 1917; Cecile Denise de la Garde of Chignens, France, who died on May 9, 1918; Catherine Sayre Burton of New York, who died in 1923, two years after their marriage in 1921; and Gertrude Bovee Le Boutillier, a widow, who married Johnson in 1926. He had three children by his first wife, Robert Underwood Johnson, Olivia Johnson Paschkoff, and Katherine Johnson Bunnell; Owen Denis de la Garde by his third wife; and Patricia Johnson Deely by his fourth wife.

Guide to the Owen Johnson Papers
by Karen V. Peltier, Annalise Hennessey
June 1987. Revised: April 2023
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
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(203) 432-2977


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New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

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