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Hart Crane Collection

Call Number: YCAL MSS 37

Scope and Contents

The Hart Crane Collection consists of the bequests of four Crane scholars and a collection of miscellaneous Crane correspondence. Included in the collection are original and typescript copies of letters to and from Crane, correspondence about Crane and his family, copies of Crane's poetry and prose, articles about Crane, and material on Crane's involvement in the fields of art and advertising. The material in the collection spans the years 1910-72, with the bulk covering the period 1919-32.

The collection is divided into five series: I. John Baker Papers (Boxes 1-4), II. Philip Horton Papers (Boxes 5-7), III. Norman Holmes Pearson Material (Box 8), IV. Brom Weber Papers (Boxes 9-11), and V. Material from Other Sources (Box 12). Oversize material is housed in Box 13.

Series I, John Baker Papers , consists of correspondence, articles and monographs, notes, photographs, and printed material related primarily to Crane's career in advertising and his interest in art. The Baker papers are organized into three subseries: Correspondence, Writings, and Other Papers. The collection contains information on Elbert Hubbard and others in advertising who purportedly influenced Crane or were in some way associated with him.

Correspondence (Boxes 1-2), primarily from associates of Crane or leaders in the fields of advertising and art, includes Baker's explanations and elaborations on the content of most of the letters. Although most of these letters were written in response to Baker's specific questions on Crane's involvement with advertising or art, several contain enlightening reminiscences of Crane as person and poet. Correspondents include Margaret Anderson, William Slater Brown, Susan Jenkins Brown, Kenneth Burke, Malcolm Cowley, Claire Spencer Evans, Matthew Josephson, Louis Lozowick, Gorham Munson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Richard Rychtarik, and Isidor Schneider.

Malcolm Cowley comments on Crane's copywriting activities for Sweet's Catalogue Service, while G. W. Freeman goes into some detail in discussing Crane's work and associations and his personality and appearance at Corday and Gross Advertising Agency. To revealing information about Crane's work as a copywriter for NASP, Stanley Patno adds recollections about Crane's personality and social life. Isidor Schneider writes of the relationship between commercialism and creative writing, and of the possible effects of advertising on Crane's poetry.

The Writings subseries (Box 3) includes a copy of Baker's monograph "Hart Crane Tries Advertising," as well as several short pieces on Crane and art.

The Other Papers subseries (Box 4) includes a number of items relating to Crane's work in advertising and his interest in art. Included are copies of all known ads which Crane wrote or solicited for various firms, as well as ads which Baker identified as having possibly influenced Crane or having been reflected in his poetry. A number of items related to Elbert Hubbard are contained in the Papers, including a copy of Hubbard's tribute to Clarence Crane's Chocolate Studio.

Photographs in the collection (most with negatives) include several of Crane's birthplace in Garretsville, Ohio, and pictures of Waldo Frank (by Stieglitz), Elbert Hubbard, and Stanley Patno.

The printed material in this collection contains maps of Garretsville, Cleveland, and New York City, pinpointing Crane's various residences and work places; a Centennial Souvenir Program of Garretsville; and a copy of an exhibition catalog of the works of Crane's artist friend William Sommer.

Series II, Philip Horton Papers (Boxes 5-7), contains correspondence between Crane's first biographer, Philip Horton, and numerous people who knew Crane personally; original letters and copies of correspondence between Crane and various associates; miscellaneous correspondence related to Crane; and notes for Horton's biography. Included among the correspondents are Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, William Slater Brown, Malcolm Cowley, Bessie Meacham Crane (Crane's stepmother), Lorna Dietz, Peggy Baird Cowley Feyling, William Murrell Fisher, Waldo Frank, Matthew Josephson, Harriet Monroe, Gorham Munson, Eugene O'Neill, Katherine Anne Porter, Laura Riding, Harrison Smith, Claire Spencer, Allen Tate, Jean Toomer, Wilbur Underwood, Charmion von Wiegand, William Carlos Williams, Yvor Winters, and William Wright.

Most of the letters to Horton are reminiscences or evaluations of Crane and his work by friends or associates. They offer details about Crane's life from his childhood to his death and provided Horton with much of the material for his 1937 biography of Crane. They touch on all aspects of Crane's life: his personality and friendships, his family relationships and quarrels, influences on his life and poetry, and his various dissipations. Perhaps the most revealing letters about Crane's life are those from William Slater Brown and Bessie Meacham Crane.

The Hart Crane letters are mainly from Crane to numerous friends, with a few letters to Crane, especially from Peggy Baird Cowley. Spanning the years 1918 to 1932, the most extensive and revealing are Crane's letters to William and Susan Jenkins Brown, Malcolm Cowley, Peggy Baird Cowley, Waldo Frank, Gorham Munson, Richard and Charlotte Rychtarik, Wilbur Underwood, and William Wright.

Crane's many letters to Peggy Baird Cowley reveal his tempestuous relationship with her in Mexico in 1931-32 and his unsettled life there. (See especially his fanciful and jocular "Supplication to the Muses" letter to her of February 11, 1932.) His letters to Malcolm Cowley, Waldo Frank, and Gorham Munson deal more directly with literary matters--his own writing and that of others. A letter of April 12, 1932, to Lorna Dietz, less than two weeks before Crane's suicide, unexpectedly portrays a sense of general contentment with Mexico. "I do know . . . how emphatically I love it--population, customs, climate, landscape, and all." A letter to Crane from Charles E. Curtis, his mother's second husband, emphatically reveals Grace Crane's emotional instability.

Although many of these letters appear in Brom Weber's The Letters of Hart Crane, 1916-1932 and others are quoted in Horton's biography or other works about Crane, some of the letters were omitted in the major biographical writings. Most of the letters in the Horton collection are copies, but fifty-eight original letters and postcards may be found in Crane's correspondence to Wilbur Underwood and seven original letters and cards in his correspondence to Lorna Dietz. The correspondence of Zell Hart Deming (Crane's aunt), Allen and Carolyn Tate, and E. A. Stockwell also contains original letters to Crane. The copies of letters from Crane to Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry, contain comments and corrections in Monroe's hand.

The writings include a biographical "Brief on Crane" and "Influences on Hart Crane's Poetry," along with notes for Horton's biography. The notebooks include stories about Crane told to Horton by Matthew Josephson and Katherine Anne Porter, and conversations about Crane with Lorna Dietz, Peter Blume, Hans Zinsser, Walker Evans, and Grace Hart Crane. There are also writings by Crane's grandfather and great-uncle, Arthur E. Crane and Frederic J. Crane.

Series III, Norman Holmes Pearson Material (Box 8), contains twenty-two original letters (two are incomplete) from Crane to his father Clarence (1916-31), eight original letters to his step-mother Bessie Meacham Crane (1931-32), the office carbons of thirty-four letters to Crane from his father (1916-28), and a brief letter to Crane from Ezra Pound (1918). The letters to Clarence Crane chronicle Hart Crane's constantly shifting relationship with his father, while his letters to his stepmother reveal a real fondness for Clarence Crane's third wife.

Series IV, Brom Weber Papers (Boxes 9-11), contains copies of Hart Crane's correspondence between 1910 and 1932 that Weber collected for his edition of Crane's letters (1953). A number of letters included in Box 9 were not selected or were included only as excerpts. Many of the letters bear Weber's identification of names, places, etc., referred to in the correspondence. A second grouping of the letters (Box 10) constitutes Weber's final selection, with transcript copies of many of Crane's poems and prose writings. The extensive file of letters in the Weber collection provides a thorough documentation of Crane's writings and personal life.

Box 11 contains copies of contemporary reviews of White Buildings and The Bridge and copies of Crane's prose and poetry, many of the poems being early variants of the published forms. There is also a copy of Crane's injunction, taken from his address book, that "upon the occasion of my demise . . . my mortal remains shall be committed to the flames" (Folder 367).

Series V, Material from Other Sources (Box 12), is organized into two subseries for Correspondence and Writings. There are original letters from Crane to Anita Brenner, Malcolm Cowley, Peggy Baird Cowley, Matthew Josephson, and Charmion von Wiegand, and copies of poems by Samuel B. Greenberg.

An undated letter to Anita Brenner mentions Crane's "Mississippi poem" in "The River" section of The Bridge. Several of Crane's letters to Malcolm Cowley briefly discuss his own writings or Cowley's. One, dated "Easter '32," is added at the bottom of Crane's typescript copy of his poem "The Broken Tower," which he sent to Cowley for his criticism and to which he adds, "I'm getting too damned self-critical to write at all any more."

Most of Crane's letters and telegrams to Peggy Baird Cowley, with whom he lived in Mexico for much of the last year of his life, are personal in nature, stressing his love for her or discussing his frequently chaotic domestic arrangements. Several of these were omitted from Weber's collection. His letters to Charmion von Wiegand between 1919 and 1928 discuss, among other things, his readings and his poetry submissions to various magazines, his jobs with several advertising agencies, and his attempt in 1922 to have Sherwood Anderson translated and published abroad.

The Writings subseries includes the original typescript Crane made of poems in the Samuel Greenberg manuscript, which he viewed at the home of the artist William Murrell Fisher. Typescript and typescript carbon copies of additional poems from the Greenberg notebooks are also included. Horton's correspondence with Fisher, located in Series II, reveals much about the history of the original typescript.

The Oversize material in Box 13 contains copies of ads for which Crane ostensibly wrote copy and illustrations which Baker intended to use with his article "Crane and the Artists of Technology."

The Restricted Fragile Papers in Box 14 consist of originals for which preservation photocopies have been made.


  • 1910 - 1972


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 14: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator

Conditions Governing Use

The Hart Crane Collection 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

The collection represents four primary bequests and several smaller gifts and purchases: Brom Weber presented his copies of Crane correspondence and writings to Yale in l953; Philip Horton donated his Crane material in 1954; Norman Holmes Pearson presented his collection of Crane letters in 1954; and John Baker gave his Crane papers in 1967 and 1976. Malcolm Cowley had already given Yale seventeen of Crane's letters in 1949, and Matthew Josephson added another letter in 1960. James Laughlin turned over the Greenberg manuscripts in 1984. Yale also purchased letters from Crane to Anita Brenner, Peggy Baird Cowley, and Charmion von Wiegand.


6.25 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Hart Crane Collection consists of correspondence to, from, and about Crane, copies of Crane's poetry and prose, articles about Crane, and material on Crane's work in art and advertising.

HART CRANE (1899-1932)

At the time of his early death at thirty-two in 1932, Hart Crane was already recognized as a major American poet, though he had published only two volumes of poetry and a handful of poems in various magazines.

Born in the small town of Garretsville, Ohio, on July 21, 1899, the only child of Clarence A. and Grace Hart Crane, Harold Hart Crane experienced an unsettling childhood and adolescence that undoubtedly affected his adult personal life and poetical career. Though he was freed of economic want by his father's first success in the canning of syrup, then in the manufacturing of candy, Crane from an early age had to contend with the increasing marital unhappiness of his parents. Their constant bickerings eventually resulted in divorce in 1916, an event that his biographers agree left an ineradicable scar in the seventeen year old Crane's emotional makeup.

Partly because of his disrupted home life and partly out of an early desire to make a name for himself in the literary world, Crane left home at seventeen for New York City. Throughout his adult life he experienced professional disappointments, emotional crises, heavy drinking spells, and a series of short-lived jobs in advertising or sales, but Crane was not deterred from his ambition to become an acclaimed poet. Although he never completed high school and entered college only to take a single advertising course, he was extremely well read in American and European literature, both past and present. Moreover, he was fortunate to become associated at an early age with many prominent authors, critics, and artists, among them Sherwood Anderson, Gorham Munson, Malcolm Cowley, Allen Tate, Waldo Frank, Matthew Josephson, Samuel Loveman, Carl Schmitt, William Sommer, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Having already published a number of poems in various magazines by the time he was twenty-five, Crane experienced his first major success in 1926 with the publication of White Buildings, his first volume of verse. Allen Tate called it "the most distinguished poetry of the age," and Yvor Winters claimed that this volume placed Crane among the five or six greatest contemporary poets in English. Between the publication of White Buildings and his death in 1932, Crane published only some fifteen poems in magazines, his poetic efforts being channeled to a completion of his seven-year project, The Bridge. Reaction to this long poem in 1930 was mixed, but The Bridge has come to be generally regarded as one of the supreme poetic statements of twentieth-century American literature. As Crane himself termed his poem, The Bridge was "a synthesis of America and its structural identity," an attempt to amalgamate and objectify the diverse American experience into a cohesive statement.

In 1931 Crane, with a Guggenheim fellowship, went to live in Mexico to work on a poetic drama of Montezuma's life. Heavily into drink and experiencing alternating periods of elation and depression, he made little headway on the projected poem and feared a loss of creative inspiration. Sailing back to the United States to resolve financial problems in his father's estate, Crane ended his life on April 26, 1932, by leaping from the deck of the S. S. Orrizaba. The publication of Crane's personal letters, several major biographies, and numerous critical studies have revealed Hart Crane to be one of the most complex, accomplished, and troubled voices of modern American poetry.

Processing Information

In 2005 the Greenberg manuscripts were moved from folders 290-293 in Series II, Philip Horton Papers, to folders 372a-372b in Series V. Series V, previously Miscellaneous Crane Correspondence, was renamed Material from Other Sources.

Guide to the Hart Crane Collection
Under Revision
by William K. Finley
March 1989
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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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.