Mabel Dodge Luhan papers
Scope and Contents
The Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers consist of letters, manuscripts, photographs and personal papers documenting the life and work of Mabel Dodge Luhan. The collection spans the years 1859-1961, with the bulk of the material dating from 1913-51.
The collection is housed in 112 boxes and organized into six series: Correspondence, Writings, Photographs, Scrapbooks, Personal Papers, and Subject Files. Boxes 103-112 contain Oversize, Restricted, Restricted Fragile, and Restricted Fragile Oversize material.
Series I, Correspondence , is organized into two subseries: General Correspondence and Third Party Correspondence.
General Correspondence, housed in boxes 1-39, consists predominantly of incoming correspondence from friends, family, and others for the period 1913-51. In November 1912, Mabel Dodge Luhan left Florence and her second husband, Edwin Sherrill Dodge, to settle in New York. Donald Gallup (1963) and others have noted the accidental destruction of papers left at the Villa Curonia in Florence following this move. There is correspondence with her mother, Sara Cook Ganson Montague, dating from 1905, and a small amount of correspondence dating from 1911-12, but the sparsity of correspondence in the papers predating 1913 is probably explained by this event.
In Florence (1905-12), Mabel Dodge Luhan formed relationships with literary expatriates Gertrude and Leo Stein. In New York (1912-17), through her salon and forays into local events, such as the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art (Armory Show) and Paterson Strike, she was in contact with an increasing number of writers, artists, and radicals, as well as members of local arts, womens, and municipal organizations. In New Mexico (1917-62), where she spent the better part of her adult life, she came to know local artists and writers, members of the Native American Indian community and, among others, D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda.
There is correspondence dating to Luhan's residence in Florence with Eleanor Duse, Muriel Draper, Janet Scudder, and Jo Davidson, as well as Jacques-Emile Blanche and Mary Foote, both of whom painted portraits of Luhan, Blanche in 1911 and Foote in 1915--Foote's painting is part of the Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection (YCAL MSS 197) at the Beinecke Library. Arguably one of the more intriguing groups of correspondence dating from Luhan's residence in New York consists of that with members of the radical labor community. These include Alexander ("Sasha") Berkman, Max Eastman, Emma Goldman, John Reed, Lincoln Steffens, and Frank Tannenbaum. Additional noteworthy correspondents dating from this period include her third husband, Maurice Sterne, Smith Ely Jelliffe and Abraham Arden Brill, early psychoanalysts with whom Luhan maintainted long-term relationships, Arthur Brisbane, John Collier, Elizabeth Duncan, Robert Edmond Jones, Hutchins Hapgood and Neith Boyce, Marsden Hartley, Stephen Haweis, Mina Loy, Walter Lippmann, Alfred Stieglitz, and Carl Van Vechten. There are also many form letters from various organizations dating from this period.
Mabel Dodge Luhan probably did as much as any individual during the 1920-40s to popularize Taos and the Southwest. She played host to many people during this period, perhaps most notably D. H. and Frieda Lawrence, and some of these friends and acquaintances are well represented in the correspondence, including Dorothy Brett, Mary Austin, Rebecca Salsbury James, Georgia O'Keeffe, Willa Cather, and Una Jeffers. Luhan also came to know many regional artists. There are plates, for example, for no less than 50 different artists in her book Taos and Its Artists (1947). Plates represent long-time Taos area residents, artists who relocated to the area, and artists who spent time there and depicted the Southwest in their work. Among the artists not already mentioned, who are also represented in the correspondence, are Andrew Dasburg, Nikolai Feshin, Gisella Lacher, Charles du Tant, John Young-Hunter, and Cady Wells. Other noteworthy regional correspondents include Millicent Rogers, Frank Waters, Alice Corbin Henderson, and Walter Willard ("Spud") Johnson, who worked for Luhan and drafted a few amusing poems about her.
Luhan's interests in metaphysical and spiritual questions are documented in correspondence ranging from 1914-53 with Aleister Crowley, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Will Levington Comfort, S. G. Pandit, a disciple of Krishnamurti, and Georges Ivanonitch Gurdjieff and members of his circle, specifically Jean Toomer, A. R. Orage, and Fritz Peters. There is a fascinating cluster of correspondence with Hopkins, one of the early members of the popular metaphysical "New Thought" movement, and several other women, including Clara Sidney Taylor, Mary Young-Hunter, and Lotus Dudley, concerning Luhan's spiritual well-being in 1919. The correspondence with Clara Sidney Taylor, who started and ran the Madison Gallery in New York for several years, dates from 1918-20 and includes a "June 8" letter from Luhan in which she defends herself and Mrs. Hopkins as "the best instrument and most potent of us all."
Two groups of "subject files" in the General Correspondence have been preserved from preliminary processing of the papers on the assumption that the materials were originally organized by Luhan. Mabel Dodge Luhan contributed to the establishment of the Elizabeth Duncan School on Croton-on-Hudson, New York, in 1914-15, and there are several folders under the heading "Elizabeth Duncan School" containing correspondence and documents. Correspondents include John Collier, Max Merz, and Eve Young-Hunter. A second group of files, also consisting of several folders, is listed under the heading "Native American Indian material." This group, formerly listed as "Indian material," includes correspondence and documents related chiefly to the Pueblo community in New Mexico.
There are also letters from Luhan to others scattered throughout General Correspondence. In most cases only the odd letter is present. The one major exception is the correspondence with Dr. Smith Ely Jelliffe, a practicing psychoanalyst with whom Luhan underwent analysis while living in New York. The correspondence, which dates from 1914-39, includes 44 pieces of mostly undated original correspondence from Luhan to Jelliffe. Several letters mention work and books and appear to have accompanied drafts or volumes. Letters also discuss friends, experiences, and health, often in psychoanalytic terms. Diaries dating from 1916, which may have been part of Luhan's analysis with Jelliffe, along with notes on the analysis, can be found in the Personal Papers series in the Diaries and Medical Records subseries respectively.
All letters from Luhan to others in the subseries are identified in folder notes. Enclosures, such as third party letters, writings, drawings, photographs, and clippings, are also identified in folder notes. Letters addressed to both Mabel and Tony Luhan are also included in the main run, as are a small number of letters from Henriette Harris, who served as a secretary to Luhan in Taos.
Donald Gallup (1963) also explained the absence of letters from John Reed and D. H. Lawrence. Luhan and Maurice Sterne destroyed Reed's letters by fire, and Luhan gave her Lawrence correspondence to Dr. A. A. Brill to cover the costs of a friend's analysis.
Third Party Correspondence, housed in boxes 40-42, consists of all loose third party correspondence. The bulk of these third party letters probably came to Luhan as enclosures and, over time, were separated from the original letters. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by recipient. The largest group of third party correspondence consists of letters to Tony Luhan.
There are two groups of correspondence in the Luhan Papers not integrated with the rest of the correspondence files. First, there are seven bound volumes of transcribed correspondence, part of Luhan's multi-volume autobiographical work Intimate Memories, located in the Writings series. The bulk of the correspondence in these volumes, described in greater detail in the Writings section below, duplicates original correspondence in the General Correspondence subseries. Second, there is original and transcribed correspondence in scrapbooks devoted to publications in the Scrapbooks series. This material is described in greater detail in the Scrapbooks section below. Most correspondence in the scrapbooks consists of fan mail, but there are letters from named correspondents in the main run. "See" and "See also" references are provided from General Correspondence to correspondence in the bound volumes and scrapbooks.
Series II, Writings , is organized into 12 subseries: Articles and Essays, Autobiographical Writings, Film Scripts and Scenarios, Novels, Open Letters, Poetry, Reviews, Short Stories, Speeches, Theatrical Scenarios, Other Writings, and Writings of Others. The first eleven subseries are arranged alphabetically by title. The Writings of Others subseries is arranged first by author and then by title.
Articles and Essays, housed in boxes 43-44, brings together drafts and printed versions of short articles written for newspapers. Articles deal with art generally, the work of particular artists and friends, including Georgia O'Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence, Dorothy Brett, and Robert Edmond Jones, Taos, Native American Indians, and subjects of general interest. The bulk of the articles appear to date from 1917, when Luhan started writing as a syndicated columnist, to the late 1940s. In addition to the loose articles in the Writings series, there are many brief newspaper articles pasted down in the scrapbooks. The articles in the scrapbooks have not been cross-referenced from the Writings series. They are listed chronologically in scrapbook folder notes.
Autobiographical Writings, housed in boxes 45-57, contains drafts for Lorenzo in Taos, three of the four volumes of Luhan's Intimate Memories, including seven bound volumes of transcribed correspondence, and numerous unpublished manuscripts. The longer essays include: "Doctors: Fifty Years of Experience"; "The Doomed," which deals with Millicent Rogers; "Mexico in 1930"; "Notes on Awareness," which is addressed to Krisnamurti; "Psychoanalysis with Dr. Brill"; and "Una and Robin," which deals with friends Una and Robinson Jeffers.
Luhan made considerable use of correspondence in Intimate Memories, especially in Movers and Shakers, and it would appear, given the dates of the copies (1911-28) and the early drafts of the first three volumes of Intimate Memories, that she or an assistant transcribed correspondence specifically for that project. One bound volume, "Miscel[l]aneous Letters 1914," is signed and dated, "Taos, New Mexico, 1930." The remaining six volumes are titled, on the spine, and numbered, along with the bound drafts of the writings, as parts of "Intimate Memories." The bulk of the correspondence in these volumes duplicates original correspondence in General Correspondence. However, there are several pieces of original correspondence pasted in, a few groups of transcribed letters from individuals for whom original correspondence is not present in the collection, and scattered copies of letters from individuals also represented in General Correspondence. In these three cases, "See" or "See also" references are provided in General Correspondence where appropriate. The letters in the volumes are loosely organized by date and/or correspondent. The volumes are arranged alphabetically by title.
The remaining ten subseries devoted to Luhan's writings are housed in boxes 58-60. Although these subseries are small, compared to the Articles and Autobiographical Writings subseries, they represent the range of forms Luhan worked in during her lifetime, and they contain a considerable amount of unpublished material, including two novels. Boxes 60-64 contain the Writings of Others.
Series III, Photographs , housed in boxes 64-81, is organized into twelve subseries. The first three subseries, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Studio and Artists' Portraits of Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Mabel Dodge Luhan in Artwork, housed in boxes 64-66, include portraits and snapshots of Luhan ranging from the 1880s to 1950. The Studio and Artists' Portraits subseries includes photographs by James Edward Abbe, Russell Lynes, Carl Van Vechten, and Edward Weston. Studio and artists' photographs in other subseries are identified in folder notes. There are portraits by Weston and Alfred Stieglitz, and photographs by landscape and regional artists such as Ansel Adams, Ernest Knee, and Laura Gilpin.
The next five subseries, Tony Luhan, Family, Friends and Others, Native American Indians, and Mounted Photographs, contain photographs of other people. There are many photographs of Luhan's son John Evans, and his family, in the Family subseries, and the Friends and Others subseries, housed in boxes 70-74, includes photographs of many correspondents represented in General Correspondence. One of the larger groups of photographs, Mounted Photographs, contains photographs of Native American Indians and New Mexico.
The last three subseries of prints, Places, Artwork, and Other, are housed in boxes 77-81. Of special note are the fourteen folders of photographs of Luhan's property ("Los Gallos") in New Mexico.
In addition to the photographic prints, there are approximately 500 cut film nitrate negatives. A survey of the negatives suggests that they correspond to the prints in Series III. The negatives are restricted. For further information, see the appropriate curator.
Series IV, Scrapbooks , housed in boxes 82-98, is arranged alphabetically by title.
There are 17 scrapbooks containing clippings and letters on Luhan's books and on subjects of interest to her. The scrapbooks range in date from 1912-49, with most material dating either from 1913-14 or from the 1930s. It would appear from the dates and condition of the scrapbooks that Luhan compiled many of the scrapbooks on subjects of interest to her while living in New York City and the scrapbooks on writings as they appeared. Most clippings are in English, with some French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Polish.
The scrapbooks devoted to books, evident from the scrapbook titles and folder headings, include both clippings and letters. Typically clippings and letters are pasted down, with clippings at the beginning and letters, inverted, at the back. Loose or detached scrapbook clippings and letters are either laid in with accompanying pages, when possible, or in chronological order at the front of the volume. Most clippings were either annotated with periodical title and date or obtained via a clipping service, in which case the periodical title and date are noted. Clippings include brief mentions, publicity, and reviews. The bulk of the correspondence in these volumes appears to be unsolicited fan mail, but there are letters from known correspondents, and a small number relate to book production. There is both original and transcribed correspondence. "See" and "See also" references are provided from established headings in General Correspondence where appropriate.
The scrapbooks on subjects of interest to Luhan, described below in greater detail, consist chiefly of clippings. There are also articles by Luhan and by friends, including Hutchins Hapgood, Carl Van Vechten, and John Collier, among others. Articles by Luhan that do not duplicate articles in the Writings series are identified in the box listing as folder notes.
The first volume, "Armory Show," consists of clippings related to the well-known 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art at the 69th Regiment Armory in NYC, and to modern art more generally. Clippings date from 1913-14.
The three scrapbooks related to D. H. Lawrence contain clippings and letters dating from 1930-33, 1933-36, and 1937-39 respectively. Clippings include brief mentions and reviews of Luhan's Lorenzo in Taos, the French edition, Ma Vie Avec D.-H. Lawrence au Nouveau-Mexique, and other publications on Lawrence dating from the period.
"Many Inventions! 1914" deals primarily with Frank Tannenbaum and the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), Luhan's salon and a March 1914 gathering with "Big Bill" Haywood and other I.W.W. leaders, and John Reed and his reports on the Colorado miner's strike and the revolutionary movement in Mexico.
"Misc. Vol. I" includes clippings on modern art and Gertrude Stein dating from 1913-14, clippings of general interest dating from the 1930s, and 27 brief newspaper articles by Luhan. Most of these articles are undated and are not to be found in the Writings series. They are listed as found in the scrapbook in a folder note. The following volume, "Misc. Vol. II," includes mostly brief mentions and articles of general interest, many on Gertrude Stein and Leopold Stokowski, dating from 1936-39.
The "Paterson Strike" volume consistly largely of clippings on the 1913 Paterson strike and pageant, the Armory Show, and articles by Hutchins Hapgood. Thousands of Paterson silk weavers and dyers went on strike in 1913 and, in an effort to gain public support for the strikers, Luhan, John Reed, and others helped organize a pageant at Madison Square Garden, where the mill workers staged a reproduction of the strike.
"Taos (etc)" contains additional clippings on the Armory Show and modern art, dating around 1913, and later material of largely general interest, most dating from the 1930s. There are also four brief open letters by Luhan to different papers dating from 1936. "Taos Vol. II" follows "Taos (etc)" with material, dating from 1938-39, of general interest on Luhan, friends, and the Taos and New Mexico communities.
The final, untitled scrapbook, dating from roughly 1914-28, contains both clippings and writings. There are clippings on Luhan, various friends, and Native American Indians, including 33 brief newspaper articles by Luhan. Most articles in this volume duplicate articles found in "Misc. Vol. 1," however there are a few articles unique to each volume. In addition to the clippings, there are several typescript manuscripts.
Series V, Personal Papers , housed in boxes 99-101, is organized into ten subseries: Artwork, Clippings, Diaries, Financial and Legal Records, Invitations and Announcements, John Evans Papers, Medical Records, Postcards, Printed Ephemera, and Other. The Artwork subseries includes drawings by D. H. Lawrence and Maurice Sterne, and paintings by Marsden Hartley, Stephen Haweis, Gisella Lacher, and Max Weber. The Clippings subseries brings together all loose clippings that deal with or at least mention Luhan. Clippings date from 1912-59 and include common subgroups for Brief Mentions, General Interest articles, and Literary References. The Diaries and Medical Records appear to contain documents of Luhan's analysis with Dr. Smith Ely Jelliffe.
Series VI, Subject Files , housed in box 102, is organized into two subseries: People and Topics. The files consist chiefly of clippings on friends and family.
Oversize material, housed in boxes 103-107, includes items from Series I-III and Series V-VI. Restricted Papers , Restricted Fragile Papers , and Restricted Fragile Oversize are housed in boxes 108, 109-110, and 111-112 respectively.
- 1859 - 1961
- Majority of material found within 1913 - 1951
Language of Materials
Chiefly in English; some materials in French, Spanish, Italian, German and Polish.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Box 109-112: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Conditions Governing Use
The Mabel Dodge Luhan 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 Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers were acquired through gifts from Mabel Dodge Luhan between 1951-61.
69.24 Linear Feet ((113 boxes) + 2 art, 2 folders )
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
The Luhan papers consist of correspondence, writings, photographs, scrapbooks and personal papers documenting the life and work of Mabel Dodge Luhan.
Series I, Correspondence, consists chiefly of incoming letters from family, friends, fans and publishers. Luhan's activities and relationships in New York and New Mexico, with artists, writers, labor leaders and Native American Indians, are well documented. Correspondents include John Evans, John Collier, Gertrude and Leo Stein, Hutchins Hapgood, Neith Boyce, Maurice Sterne, Alfred Stieglitz, Carl Van Vechten, Robert Edmond Jones, D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, Dorothy Brett and Georgia O'Keeffe. The one significant group of outgoing letters is to psychoanalyst Smith Ely Jelliffe.
Series II, Writings, contains a variety of writings: articles, essays, short stories, novels, poetry, reviews, book-length autobiographical and non-fictional work, and writings of others. There are drafts of Lorenzo in Taos, three of the four published volumes of Intimate Memories, and several unpublished autobiographical writings.
Series III, Photographs, consists of portraits and snapshots of people and places, including Mabel Dodge and Tony Luhan, family, friends, Native American Indians, and Luhan's homes in Florence and Taos. There are photographs by James Edward Abbe, Ansel Adams, Laura Gilpin, Ernest Knee, Edward Weston and others.
Series IV, Scrapbooks, consists of seventeen scrapbooks containing clippings and letters devoted to Luhan's published books and to subjects of interest to her. Clippings on subjects deal with modern art and literature, the 1913 Armory Show, Luhan's salon, labor issues, D.H. Lawrence, Native American Indians and Taos. Clippings include articles by Luhan and friends.
Series V, Personal Papers, is organized into ten subseries: Artwork, Clippings, Diaries, Financial and Legal Records, Invitations and Announcements, John Evans Papers, Medical Records, Postcards, Printed Ephemera and Other. The Artwork subseries includes work by D.H. Lawrence, Maurice Sterne and Marsden Hartley. Series VI, Subject Files, consists chiefly of clippings on friends and family.
MABEL DODGE LUHAN (1879-1962)
Mabel Dodge Luhan was a major cultural figure in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. She is best known as a patron of the arts and writer, author of a multi-volume autobiographical work and books on D. H. Lawrence, Taos, and Taos area artists. There is considerable scholarship on Luhan, and there are book-length biographical studies by Emily Hahn (1977), Winifred Frazer (1984), and Lois Palken Rudnick (1984). Summary information is available in the standard print and online biographical resources.
The following chronology provides dates for key events and publications:
1879 February 26, born in Buffalo, New York to Charles F. Ganson and Sara McKay Cook
?-95 attends St. Margaret's Episcopal School for Girls in Buffalo
1895-96 attends Miss Graham's School in New York City
1896-97 attends Chevy Chase School in Washington D.C.
1900 marries Karl Kellog Evans
1902 birth of son John Ganson Evans; death of Charles F. Ganson
1903 death of Karl Kellog Evans
1904 travels to Paris; meets and marries Edwin Sherrill Dodge
1905 moves to Villa Curonia, Florence
1911 meets Gertrude and Leo Stein
1912 Gertrude Stein writes "The Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia"; moves to New York City
1913-14 presides over salon; contributes to the International Exhibition of Modern Art and Paterson Strike Pageant
1915 contributes to the formation of the Elizabeth Duncan School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York
1916 undergoes therapy with Smith Ely Jelliffe, Emma Curtis Hopkins and Abraham Arden Brill; formally divorced from Edwin Sherrill Dodge
1917 writes for newspapers; marries Maurice Sterne; moves to Taos, New Mexico
1918 meets Antonio Lujan; acquires property ("Los Gallos") in Taos
1922 contributes to campaign against Bursum Bill; formally divorced from Maurice Sterne; hosts D. H. and Frieda Lawrence
1923 marries Antonio Lujan
1924 publication of "Ballad of a Bad Girl"
1925-26 corresponds with members of Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff's circle and invites Gurdjieff to relocate to New Mexico
1926 hosts Paul Strand and Rebecca Salsbury James
1929 hosts Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Ansel Adams; performance of Witter Bynner's Cake by Santa Fe Players
1932 publication of Lorenzo in Taos
1933 publication of Background, first volume of Intimate Memories
1935 publication of European Experiences, second volume of Intimate Memories
1935 publication of Winter in Taos
1936 publication of Movers and Shakers, third volume of Intimate Memories; donates property ("La Posta") to Taos for new county hospital
1937 publication of Edge of Taos Desert, forth volume of Intimate Memories
1947 publication of Taos and its Artists
1951 donates personal papers to Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
1962 August 13, dies in Taos, New Mexico
The Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers contain material acquired through gifts from Mabel Dodge Luhan that was formerly classed as Za Luhan and Za L968. The Luhan Papers were first described by Donald Gallup, former curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature, in The Yale University Library Gazette 37, 3 (January 1963).
Box 108 was formerly restricted until 2020. In 2021, the restriction was lifted and the material listed in Series I. Correspondence. That material was formerly described as being in Folder 2470; this folder number is no longer in use in the collection.
- Abbe, James Edward, 1883-1973
- Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984
- American literature -- 20th century
- Armory Show (1913 New York, N.Y.)
- Art, Modern -- 20th Century
- Authors, American -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Autobiographies (documents)
- Boyce, Neith, 1872-1951
- Cabinet photographs
- Collier family
- Collier, John, 1884-1968
- Evans, John, 1902-
- Florence (Italy)
- Gilpin, Laura
- Hapgood, Hutchins, 1869-1944
- Hartley, Marsden, 1877-1943
- Indians of North America -- New Mexico
- Jelliffe, Smith Ely, 1866-1945
- Jones, Robert Edmond, 1887-1954
- Knee, Ernest, 1907-1982
- Labor -- United States
- Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930
- Lawrence, Frieda, 1879-1956
- Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962
- New York (N.Y.)
- O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986
- Photographic prints
- Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946
- Stein, Leo, 1872-1947
- Sterne, Maurice, 1878-1957
- Studio portraits
- Taos (N.M.)
- Tintypes (prints)
- Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964
- Weston, Edward, 1886-1958
- Guide to the Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers
- by Michael L. Forstrom
- 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
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