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Croswell Bowen papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 2

Scope and Contents

The Croswell Bowen Papers span the dates 1880-1966, and document some of the professional activities of Croswell Bowen. The collection consists of three series. Series I, Correspondence , is housed in Box 1 and contains alphabetically arranged correspondence. Letters from unidentified writers have been placed at the end of the series. The correspondence is entirely business-related, with the exception of a small group of letters Bowen received in 1928 concerning an undergraduate research project in which he asked literary figures to compare Harvard men and Yale men. Respondents include James Rowland Angell, Henry Emerson Fosdick, H. L. Mencken, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Upton Sinclair, Ida Tarbell, and William Lyon Phelps, who suggested that the Yale man is "more downright, straightforward, and a little more naive."

The remaining letters pertain to Bowen's career as a writer. Correspondents include Bowen's publishers Bobbs-Merrill, Hastings House, and Oxford University Press; magazines for which he freelanced, including Coronet, Hudson River Magazine, Mademoiselle, Pageant, and Reader's Digest; and prospective subjects of articles, including Felix Frankfurter, Sigurd Larmon, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Robert A. Stranahan. Bowen's research for his first book, The Hudson, is documented in his 1938 correspondence with Carl Carmer. Although Bowen is best-known for his biography of Eugene O'Neill, the collection contains no correspondence with any member of the O'Neill family, and only two letters by Alexander Renner provide biographical information on O'Neill. Several correspondents do mention The Curse of the Misbegotten, including Barbara Battelle, Guy Hamelin, and Sister Mary Madelena.

Series II, Writings , is located in Boxes 2-4 and is divided into two alphabetically arranged sections, Books and Shorter Works. The Books section includes reviews of The Elegant Oakey and They Went Wrong, as well as publicity and photographs for The Hudson: Great River of the Mountains. Incomplete notes, draft typescripts, and galleys of Bowen's biography of Eugene O'Neill, The Curse of the Misbegotten, are located in Box 2, folders 33-43.

Shorter Works is divided into Articles, Book Reviews, and Scrapbooks. The numerous articles by Bowen illustrate his interests as a journalist. They include interviews with and reports on political figures such as Adlai Stevenson III, John F. Kennedy, Trygve Lie, and Douglas MacArthur; a series of profiles of advertising executives published in Madison Avenue; and a variety of human-interest stories such as "The Shy Cop Who Saw Two Flying Saucers." Bowen also contributed popular history articles such as "The Great Red Scare of 1920" and a biographical sketch of Lafcadio Hearn, "Death Unites Oriental and Yankee Who Went Buddhist for Love."

Bowen was best-known, however, as a crime reporter, and his work in this area is well-represented in the collection. The series contains copies of many of his articles on these topics, including two "Annals of Crime" columns from the New Yorker, his reports on the Brinks robbery, and articles on juvenile delinquency, shoplifting, and embezzlements.

Several of these crime articles appeared in Pageant magazine, to which Bowen frequently contributed during the 1950s. His report for them on the hazards of radiation, "The New Invisible Death Around Us," won the Benjamin Franklin Magazine Citation Award in 1956. Articles also contains the manuscript of "Poet into Historian," an appreciation of Carl Carmer, and proofs and galleys of "The Greatest Tragedy of Eugene O'Neill."

Book Reviews by Bowen are located in Box 4, folders 114-21, and include his review of Birdman of Alcatraz by Thomas A. Gaddis and of two books by John Bartlow Martin. The Scrapbooks of clippings, located in Box 9, folders 192-93, contain numerous signed and unsigned newspaper articles, mostly from PM.

Box 5 holds Series III, Personal Papers , which are alphabetically arranged. The series includes a high-schools yearbook of Shane O'Neill's; a portrait of Bowen taken by Margaret Bourke-White; publicity for the 1938 radio show, "Information Please;" and drafts of three articles by Carl Carmer.

Series IV, Printed Material , includes single issues of magazines, a bound volume of PM's Picture News, seven folders of Madison Avenue issues from the years 1958-63, and a pamphlet on the "Motion Picture Industry in War-Time America: 1943-1944."

Oversize material is located in Boxes 7-10 and has been arranged in series order. Included are eleven folders of photographs for Great River of the Mountains , scrapbooks of clippings, and a portrait of Croswell Boswen.

Other papers concerning the professional activities of Croswell Bowen are located at Choate-Rosemary Hall.


  • 1880 - 1967
  • Majority of material found within 1928 - 1964


Physical Description

Other Storage Formats: oversize

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Croswell Bowen 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

Unspecified, please consult the appropriate curator.


7.5 Linear Feet (10 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 some professional correspondence, manuscripts, typescripts, and printed copies of many of Bowen's works, and subject files.

CROSWELL BOWEN (1905-1971)

Croswell Bowen was born in 1905 and was graduated from Yale in 1929. After traveling in Europe and studying at the Sorbonne, he returned to the United States and worked as a newspaper reporter and as a freelance magazine writer. His first book, Great River of the Mountains: the Hudson, was published in 1940. He joined the American Field Service as an official photographer in 1941, was wounded during the battle of Tobruk in 1942, and received the Africa Star and the British Empire Medal.

During the 1940s Bowen reported for PM, often on crime and juvenile delinquency. In 1948 he joined the staff of the New Yorker. His book on criminals and delinquents, They Went Wrong, was published in 1954, followed by his biography of A. Oakey Hall. Bowen's biography of Eugene O'Neill, The Curse of the Misbegotten, was written with the assistance of Shane O'Neill and published in 1959. In 1962 Bowen joined the staff of the trade magazine Madison Avenue, leaving in 1964 to become Director of Information at Compton Advertising.

Croswell Bowen married Marjorie Luce Hill, a Vassar graduate, in 1944. The couple had three daughters, Betsy, Lucey, and Molly Patricia, and one son, Peter, who died before his second birthday. The Bowens were divorced in 1966. Croswell Bowen died on July 15, 1971.

Guide to the Croswell Bowen Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
October 1990
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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