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Sinclair Lewis papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 268

Scope and Contents

The Sinclair Lewis Papers, which consist of manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and personal papers, document Lewis's literary output, creative process, and the role he played in the public and intellectual life of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Writings in the collection feature materials for twenty-four of Lewis's novels dating from 1909 to 1951, with the bulk dating from plans for Babbit (1921) to page proofs for The Godseeker (1949). Materials include background material and notes, character sketches and plans, drafts, galley and page proofs, scripts and screenplays for theatrical and cinematic adaptations, and printed publicity and reviews. In addition to the materials for novels, there are notes, drafts, scripts, and other materials relating to seven plays and a rich variety of shorter works, including book reviews, essays, poems, short stories, and speeches.

The correspondence in the Lewis papers features single letters or small groups of letters to and from American and English writers and literary scholars and critics of the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century. Noteworthy correspondents include Sherwood Anderson, Stephen Vincent Benét, Bernard Berenson, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Dean Howells, Jack London, Compton Mackenzie, Thomas Mann, W. Somerset Maugham, H. L. Mencken, Upton Sinclair, Chauncey Brewster Tinker, Rebecca West, Edith Wharton, and Thornton Wilder, among others. There is also correspondence with family, friends, publishers, and organizations.

Photographs include snapshots, studio and artists' portraits, and stage scenes from plays and theatrical adaptations of novels. Photographs date from family scenes in early childhood (1894) to a portrait in Florence, Italy (1950). Studio and artists' portraits of Lewis include photographs by Robert H. Davis, Trude Fleischmann, Eric Schaal, and Carl Van Vechten. There are also photographs of Grace MacKowan Cooke, Irving Fisher, Albert Payson Terhune, Dorothy Thompson, and members of the Lewis and Kermott families.

Personal Papers feature artwork, diaries, and notes and notebooks. The artwork in the collection includes original drawings, etchings and lithographs of Lewis by Richard Hood, James Thurber, and others. The diaries, written in English and in code, date chiefly from 1900 to 1907, and include notes relating to life in high school in Sauk Centre, Minnesota and at Oberlin College and Yale University. Copies of the early diaries include transcriptions of the English-language portions of the text and translations of the coded portions of the text. The twenty-nine folders of notes and notebooks, dating from 1907 to 1950, include research for unidentified writing projects and loose manuscript material.

The Lewis papers also contain materials by and relating to Lewis from Harry E. Maule, Philip Friedman, and the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. The Maule materials include correspondence, manuscripts, and other papers relating chiefly to the publication of Lewis's novels in the 1940s. The Friedman and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company materials consist of correspondence and financial and legal records respectively.


  • 1866 - 1964
  • Majority of material found within 1910 - 1950


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 89-91: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Existence and Location of Copies

Microfilm available through Access Services.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sinclair Lewis 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 Sinclair Lewis Papers were acquired through various gifts and purchases. The papers consist chiefly of gifts from Sinclair Lewis and the Lewis estate, including legal executors Ernst, Cane, Berner & Gitlin, dating from 1937 to 1967, with the bulk of the gifts dating from 1938 to 1952. Additional gifts and purchases of material by or relating to Sinclair Lewis from other sources were added to the papers between 1940 and 1985. These materials have been kept with the papers for research purposes and the provenance of larger gifts from Harry E. Maule, Philip Friedman, and the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company has been preserved.


The collection is organized into seven series: I. Writings, 1905-1963. II. Correspondence, 1866-1964. III. Photographs, 1888-1950. IV. Personal Papers, 1886-1950. V. Harry E. Maule Material, 1917-1963. VI. Philip Friedman Material, 1923-1953. VII. Morgan Guaranty Trust Company Material, 1917-1946.


49.92 Linear Feet (96 boxes + 7 broadside folders)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Sinclair Lewis Papers consist of manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and personal papers documenting the life and work of novelist and author Sinclair Lewis.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)

Sinclair Lewis was a major cultural figure in the United States in the first half of the 20th century and, though he is best known as a novelist and social critic, he also wrote plays, poetry, and short fiction. Lewis was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926 and, in 1930, he was the first American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. In addition to critical and bibliographic scholarship on Lewis, summary information is available in the standard print and online biographical resources.

Separated Materials

Records for printed materials cataloged separately may be found in Orbis. See the following call numbers: Za L588 +1, Za L588 +2, Za L588 +3, Za L588 +4, Za L588 +5, Za L588 +S1, Za L588 +S2, Za L588 +T1, and Za L588 +T2.

Works by Childe Hassam were transferred to the Yale University Art Gallery on permanent loan.

Processing Information

Manuscript material acquired from Sinclair Lewis and his estate is arranged in series I-IV. The provenance for material acquired from Harry E. Maule, Philip Friedman, and the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company has been respected in series V-VII. In earlier processing of the Lewis papers, photographs and printed materials (e.g. clippings, pamphlets, and periodicals) were removed from the collection and cataloged separately. During re-processing of the papers in 2007-2008, photographs were repatriated (see series III) and printed materials were left in the printed collection.

Former call number: Za Lewis.

Guide to the Sinclair Lewis Papers
by Michael L. Forstrom
December 5, 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.