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Bangs family papers

 Collection
Call Number: YCAL MSS 47

Scope and Contents

The Bangs Family Papers consists of materials relating to the life and career of John Kendrick Bangs and his son, Francis Hyde Bangs. The collection covers the dates 1867 to 1964, with the bulk of the material spanning the period between 1890 and 1950. The Bangs Family Papers are divided into two discrete groups: the papers of John Kendrick Bangs and those of Francis Hyde Bangs. Part I: The John Kendrick Bangs Papers

The John Kendrick Bangs Papers (Boxes 1-20) consists of scrapbooks, diaries, manuscripts, letters, and personal papers relating primarily to Bangs's career as a writer, editor, and lecturer. The material is arranged in four series: I. Scrapbooks, II. Writings, III. Correspondence, and IV. Personal Papers.

Series I, Scrapbooks (Boxes 1-8), contains primarily clippings related to Bangs's writings, editorships, and lecture tours between the years 1881 and 1917. Many of these volumes, especially those for 1907 and 1909, also contain scattered diary entries for Bangs's daily activities. Some also contain financial statements and "status" entries for Bangs's contributions to newspapers and magazines: writings submitted, those rejected, and those accepted. Most clippings are undated. The earliest scrapbooks (1881-1884) contain clippings of Bangs's writings for the Columbia University Acta Columbiana, generally unsigned or under various pseudonyms, and editorials from other college literary publications concerning Acta Columbiana and its editor. Included in the scrapbook for 1883 are many of Bangs's early contributions to Life. Subsequent volumes contain reviews of Bangs's books and speeches, as well as drama programs, lecture advertisements, and other clippings on Bangs's life and activities (such as his running for mayor of Yonkers in 1894). Some volumes contain texts of Bangs's numerous speeches and short poems. Noteworthy among clippings on Bangs's speeches is a lengthy description of the Lotus Club dinner honoring Mark Twain in 1901, at which Bangs made a testimonial.

For 1901 Bangs kept a scrapbook of advertisements, reviews, programs, and cast lists for current popular plays (Box 4, folder 8). The same volume contains a number of clippings related to the Cuban occupation by U.S. troops, a subject which greatly interested Bangs and found expression in his book Uncle Sam, Trustee (1902). For the years 1906-1913 the scrapbooks are more in the nature of ledgers, with much attention given to the status of items submitted to newspapers and magazines and the payments received. (For example, the entries for August 22-28, 1908, list the papers syndicating "Jimmieboy's Tool-Chest" and record the income from this title.) At the end of the volume for 1906 is a checklist headed "Verses Written in 1906" with publication dates--evidence of Bangs's astonishing productivity at this time. Clippings for 1908 chronicle Bangs's involvement in Maine politics, stumping for William Howard Taft. Scattered throughout the volumes for these years are occasional short diary entries. There are no scrapbooks for the years 1885-86, 1903-05, or 1915.

Series II., Manuscripts (Boxes 9-17), is divided into Books and Shorter Works and contains mainly printed copies of many of Bangs's short stories, essays, and poems. There are, in addition, holograph manuscripts for his comic play Katharine, the short sketch "The Views and Reviews of the Idiot," and three of Bangs's full-length books: In Camp with a Tin Soldier (1892), The Inventions of the Idiot (1903), and Toppleton's Client (1893). Many holograph poems can be found in the notebook entitled "Quatrains" and the "Line-a-Day" notebooks for 1908 and 1914-18. The series also contains corrected typescripts of The Genial Idiot (1908) and Bangs's lecture "The Evolution of the Humorist" and separate scrapbooks of reviews and advertisements for Lady Teazle (1904) and Uncle Sam, Trustee (1902).

Series III., Correspondence (Box 18) is arranged alphabetically by surname. Included are letters from many literary and political figures, among them Henry Mills Alden, Irving Bachellor, Charles Dana Gibson, Warren G. Harding, William Dean Howells, Henry Cabot Lodge, Gilbert Parker, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root, Lillian Russell, Henry Van Dyke, Charles Dudley Warner, and General Leonard Wood.

Henry Mills Alden's offer to Bangs to join Harper & Brothers (at $50.00 a month for "two or three afternoons a week") is found in a letter of April 7, 1888. A lengthy letter from the president of the American Committee for Devastated France (July 24, 1918) gives details of this organization's work in World War I. A letter of March 27, 1898 from author Robert Grant speaks of the impending war with Spain, while a letter of April 5, 1905 discusses the issue of divorce and Grant's indebtedness to Balzac in his own fiction. While an editor at Harper, Bangs writes to a Miss Laughlin, "It is only as an editor that I object to sequels. As a writer I think them the greatest invention of any age & many a time when new ideas were scarce I have fallen back upon the old with Klondikian results" (folder 185).

A letter of May 16, 1902 from Senator Henry Cabot Lodge praises Bangs's book on Cuba, Uncle Sam, Trustee. A letter from former Secretary of War Elihu Root (April 2, 1919) expresses discontent with Woodrow Wilson's attitude towards the establishment of the League of Nations. Among several letters from Theodore Roosevelt is an admonishing telegram: "For heavens sake in your next issue correct statement that [William Jennings] Bryan and I joked together. Whole statement is absolutely false. . . . We simply touched hats as the trains passed" (October 20, 1900). This file also contains an official White House invitation to Bangs from Roosevelt.

An ironic letter comes from Edward S. Martin, the editor of Life, turning down several of Bangs's contributions, less than a year before naming him Associate Editor of the magazine. Martin advises Bangs not to select his subjects from history or books (February 23, 1883). A letter from British novelist Gilbert Parker discusses British-American relationships during the early years of World War I and opposing views of the war (October 6, 1916). The file for H. W. McVickar, the artist who illustrated Bangs's Mr. Bonaparte of Corsica, includes a sheet of McVickar's sketches. Five letters from actress Lillian Russell in 1905 discuss her roles in Bangs's plays Lady Teazle and the unproduced Taming of the Shrew.

Series IV, Personal Papers (Boxes 19-20), consists of a variety of material relating to Bangs's life and career. Included in this series are royalty statements and financial accounts with Harper & Brothers and other publishers; several diaries (1918-21), which contain his lecture schedules and miscellaneous business accounts; lecture reviews; biographical information; information on his work for the American Committee for Devastated France in World War I; publicity material for many of Bangs's publications; obituary notices; and a unique portrait of Bangs by fellow author and well-known illustrator Peter Newell - a profile of Bangs done in tempera on a large growth of fungus (apparently a tree mushroom). Part II. Francis Hyde Bangs Papers

The Francis Hyde Bangs Papers consists of scrapbooks, manuscripts, letters, photographs, and other material relating to the life and career of Francis Hyde Bangs. The collection is divided into five series: V. Scrapbooks, VI. Writings, VII. Correspondence, VIII. Personal Papers, and IX. Photographs. Oversize material has been placed at the end of the collection (Box 60).

Series V., Scrapbooks (Boxes 21-45), is arranged chronologically for the years 1913-1964. A typical scrapbook/diary contains brief diary entries, personal letters and cards to Bangs from family and friends, business letters, photographs, clippings, and miscellaneous printed material. Some volumes have a name index at the end. The scrapbooks for the years 1913-1915 focus on Bangs's undergraduate life at Yale and offer revealing glimpses of a student's view of college life at that time. Many of the entries are synopses, excerpts, or analyses of course-related readings. Bangs's diary entry for March 17, 1914 describes a meeting with William Butler Yeats. One of his friends at Yale was the poet Archibald MacLeish, and a copy of "Letters and Verses of Archibald MacLeish, 1914-1924" has been inserted in the volume for 1914. A number of diary entries record the activities and interests of Bangs, MacLeish, Dean Acheson, and other colleagues at Yale.

In addition to continuing the transcription of lengthy excerpts and analyses of Bangs's reading, the scrapbook for 1916 records a meeting with William Dean Howells on September 8 and contains Bangs's character sketch of Danford Barney on September 25. There are also several letters (October-November) from Witter "Hal" Bynner, an autographed picture of poet John Masefield in uniform (p. 72), and a number of contemporary photographs of St. Paul's School. The scrapbooks for 1917-1919 relate primarily to Bangs's military service in France in World War I. They contain official military documents and letters; photographs taken by Bangs in France; maps of French battlefields; copies of poems by MacLeish, E. T. Booth, and Carleton McCulloch; and several copies of Qu'est-Ce Que C'est, a newspaper brought out by American students, including Bangs, at the University of Toulouse. In addition, Bangs continues his lengthy excerpts from his reading and from personal letters, including several from MacLeish. Scattered throughout these volumes are letters from Bangs to his mother (with a few to his father and others) describing the routine of camp life, revealing the frustrations of war from an individual soldier's viewpoint, and, giving, when the censors allowed, his estimate of the war.

The scrapbooks for 1920-1923 also include excerpts from works by Bangs's favorite authors, and copies of poems and letters by MacLeish. Letters and clippings for January-February, 1922 refer to the death of John Kendrick Bangs. The 1922 volume also contains pictures of the senior Bangs and of "Greyrocks," the Bangs home in Ogunquit. In letters and clippings, the scrapbooks of the later 1920s and the 1930s document social life in New York and Ogunquit. Though Bangs himself was not wealthy, he knew many socialites of the day, as well as authors and artists; and the letters and clippings in these scrapbooks record their activities and interests. His correspondence with his first wife, Grace Allen Peabody, before, during, and after their marriage, often comments on the social scene of New York City, Buffalo, Ogunquit, and other places of residence. Among the other correspondents in these volumes are MacLeish, John Masefield. Brooke Henderson, F. O. Matthiessen, Lucius Beebe, George Brewer, and British actress Freida Inescourt. A series of letters from Yale classmate James McKeldin in 1925-1927 entertainingly describes his travels across Europe. Clippings for this period cover topics as diverse as Lindbergh's flight and the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Bangs's own letters and diary entries for this range of scrapbooks cover such topics as his teaching and readings, religion, politics, prohibition, and his affairs of the heart. The scrapbooks from around 1920 to 1950 are much given to correspondence from numerous women with whom Bangs had affairs of varying duration and intensity, usually with accompanying photographs and often explicit diary entries. Taken as a whole, the correspondence and diary entries provide an insight into male-female relationships and the rather liberal attitude toward sex prevalent among many of the wealthy elite, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. They give a detailed glimpse of the mores of this time and thus may be of interest to social historians.

Beginning in 1927, a number of letters to Bangs from writers, editors, and businessmen offer recollections of John Kendrick Bangs. Among the most interesting are several letters from Mark Twain's biographer and literary executor Albert Bigelow Paine, which reveal more about Twain than about Bangs. In a letter of February 23, 1933 (p.55), Paine defends himself against charges of suppressing Twain in his biography, and his letter of February 25, 1933 rants against "the pestiferous poops" that have tried to analyze Twain's character. A letter from Theodore Dreiser on January 9, 1933 discusses Dreiser's friendship with the senior Bangs and his own editorship of Broadway magazine. Others offering reminiscences include Elihu Root, William Lyon Phelps, Nicholas M. Butler, Rudyard Kipling, Finley Peter Dunne, Herbert Satterlee, and William A. Rogers.

An interesting item is Francis Hyde Bangs's marriage "contract" with Geraldine Hall, written in his scrapbook for April 15, 1931, which portrays marriage as a brief "plan of adventure. . . with definite finale emphasized at close of one or two years." (Bangs and Geraldine Hall were married in the fall of 1931 and divorced officially in 1936.) In December, 1931, Bangs made a wedding trip with Geraldine to Berlin and his diary entries between December 25, 1931 and January 13, 1932 describe its political and social scene. A letter from Bangs to his stepmother on December 21, 1931 describes the German post-war attitude as Bangs interpreted it, while another letter of December 25 discusses life in Berlin in some detail. The death of German opera star Johanna Gadski, killed in an accident while a passenger in Mrs. Bangs's car, is detailed in Bangs's entry for March 4, 1932 and in enclosed news clippings.

Entries for 1941 contain reviews of Bangs's biography of his father, as well as his complaints about his dismissal from the faculty of Avon Old School for "teaching atheism." A letter of June 10 to Bernhard Knollenberg of the Yale library discusses Bangs's gift of Archibald MacLeish letters to Yale and his annotations for many of these letters. Subsequent letters to family and friends and to Yale discuss this project. An August 14 letter from MacLeish comments on restrictions placed on the letters. The scrapbook for 1942 includes an exchange of letters with Herman Hagedorn on Bangs's recollections of young poet John Magee, whom he had taught at Avon. (See especially letters of February 6, March 20, May 20, and May 25.)

In 1949 and early 1950 Bangs served as personal secretary to Julia Ellsworth Ford, and many of his diary entries and letters in the scrapbooks for these years record her activities in the last years of her life. The scrapbook for 1952 contains a copy of Bangs's article, "Julia Ellsworth Ford: An Appreciation" (p. 59). Letters and diary entries at this time also include Bangs's observations on the wealthy socialites of Miami and Palm Beach. A letter to Harrison Smith of October 5, 1951 recalls several anecdotes about Sinclair Lewis' visit to Ogunquit in 1939.

After Bangs's marriage in 1952 to Dorothy Barney, the entries in the scrapbooks become increasingly more sparse. An exchange of letters between Bangs and American literature bibliographer Jacob Blanck in March and April, 1955 reveals much information on the publications of John Kendrick Bangs, as do letters of March 28 and April 18 to the H. W. Wilson Company. The scrapbooks from 1957 to Bangs's death in 1964 consist mainly of exchanges of letters with numerous friends, with occasional news clippings and travel pictures or brochures.

Series VI, Writings (Boxes 47-52) consists mainly of research material, notes, and drafts for John Kendrick Bangs, Humorist of the Nineties. The Shorter Works subseries includes a short reminiscence of turn-of-the-century Ogunquit; Bangs's unpublished "Notes Toward a Theory of Poetry"; a ledger of miscellaneous thoughts on literature, religion, philosophy, and love which Bangs apparently intended for a never-completed autobiography under the name "John Fust"; and a collection of his newspaper articles and editorials for the Wells-Ogunquit Compass for 1933-35.

Series VII, Correspondence (Box 53), contains both business and personal letters to and from Bangs between 1919 and 1963. The file for Lawrence Mason, a friend and one of Bangs's instructors at Yale, contains two letters to Mason from publisher Thomas B. Mosher on his press's publications and a series of lengthy letters from Mason to Bangs from 1917-19 discussing literature, philosophy, politics, the war, and other matters. The file also includes a letter to Mason from Archibald MacLeish on January 19, 1916, revealing his debt to Mason's instruction at Yale ("You lured us into a sky our dreams had tempted with half-fearful wings. . . .") and predicting his own literary future: "I do not now expect, as I once did, laurel and thorn. No doubt a rose in the dust is the highest & lowest of this earths offerings. But the star is the same and the impulse the same whether the road is a sheep path in the valley or a great leap upward of the sheer rock." MacLeish also comments on John Masefield and includes an untitled short poem.

Series VIII, Personal Papers (Boxes 53-55), consists of clippings, pamphlets and brochures, and various legal papers relating to Francis Hyde Bangs's life and career, arranged alphabetically by subject, author, or title. Included are biographical information, yearbook and literary publications from Bangs's years at St. Paul's School (1909-11), notes and research material used in teaching, a bust of Bangs by the sculptor Anna Glenny Dunbar, and legal papers relating to his divorce from Geraldine Hall Bangs and to the estate of his brother John Kendrick Bangs, Jr.

Series IX., Photographs (Boxes 57-59) is divided into "People" and "Places" and contains photographs of Bangs and his family and friends, photographs by Danford Barney and James McKeldin, and scenes of Ogunquit, Maine and the Bangs home there. There are five folders of pictures of Bangs himself, photos and caricatures of John Kendrick Bangs, and several early photos of other members of the Bangs family, including two tintypes and an interesting photograph transferred to porcelain.

Oversize material (Box 60) contains larger items from the photograph series.

Dates

  • 1881-1964

Physical Description

Total Boxes: 63

Physical Description

Other Storage Formats: Oversize

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Folder 230b: Restricted material. May not be seen without the permission of the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Bangs Family 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

Gift and Bequest of Francis Hyde Bangs, 1941-1964.

Extent

28.08 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.bangs

Overview

Scrapbooks, manuscripts, diaries. letters, and personal papers documenting the lives and careers of American humorist John Kendrick Bangs and his son, Francis Hyde Bangs.

JOHN KENDRICK BANGS (1862-1922)

John Kendrick Bangs, a popular American humorist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was born on May 27, 1862, in Yonkers, New York, the youngest of three sons of Francis N. and Frances Amelia Bulls Bangs. His father was a noted New York City lawyer and his paternal grandfather, Nathan Bangs, a prominent New England clergyman.

Attending Columbia University from 1880 to 1883, Bangs first gained literary exposure as editor of the Acta Columbiana, Columbia's literary magazine. Writing satire under a variety of outrageous pseudonyms, Bangs made the Acta Columbiana famous among college magazines for its sarcastic, often vituperative wit. While at Columbia, he also contributed short anonymous pieces to the humor magazines Life and Puck. After graduation in 1883, Bangs entered Columbia Law School but left in 1884 to become Associate Editor of Life under Edward S. Martin. In addition to his editorial chores, Bangs contributed many articles and poems to the magazine between 1884 and 1888. During his tenure with Life, Bangs published his first books. His first major work was the novel Roger Camerden: A Strange Story, published in 1887. His next work, New Waggings of Old Tales (1888), written with Frank D. Sherman and Oliver Herford, was a collection of burlesque stories and verse and set Bangs's path as a humorous writer.

In 1888 Bangs left Life to take charge of "The Editor's Drawer" at Harper's Magazine, joining such luminaries as William Dean Howells, G. W. Curtis, and Charles Dudley Warner. He simultaneously became editor of the humorous "Facetiae" section of Harper's Bazaar and shortly thereafter added to his duties the humor section of Harper's Young People. From 1889 to 1900 he held the title of Editor of the Departments of Humor for all three Harper's magazines and from 1899 to 1901 served as active editor of Harper's Weekly, attracting some of the top writers in the country as contributors. Bangs also served for a short time (January-June, 1889) as the first editor of Munsey's Magazine and became editor of the American edition of the Harper-owned Literature from January to November, 1899.

Among Bangs's prodigious output of humorous novels, short-story collections, and verse during the 1890s, A House Boat on the Styx (1896) and its sequel, The Pursuit of the House Boat, (1897) proved the most popular and propelled Bangs to the top of the best-seller lists and the rank of a leading American humorist. Having written a series of seriocomic reviews for The Chapbook in 1898, he became a serious book reviewer later that same year in his monthly column "Literary Notes" for Harper's Magazine.

Ending his official association with Harper & Brothers in 1901, Bangs undertook a short stint as editor of the New Metropolitan magazine in 1903. In 1904 he was appointed editor of Puck, perhaps the foremost American humor magazine of its day. During the first decade of the twentieth century, Bangs revived his earlier interest in drama, writing a series of articles and reviews first for Harper's Weekly and then for the Illustrated Sporting News and penning several dramas himself, including Lady Teazle, a comic opera variation of Sheridan's The School for Scandal, with Lillian Russell in the title role (1904). He also contributed heavily to various newspaper syndicates and in 1906 began his participation in the lecture circuit, which would absorb his major creative energies for the rest of his life.

After the death in 1903 of his first wife, Agnes Hyde Bangs (with whom he had three sons), Bangs married Mary Gray; and in 1907 the family moved from Yonkers to the seaside town of Ogunquit, Maine, where Bangs would live for the remaining fifteen years of his life. In Ogunquit, Bangs became one of the key figures in the artistic and cultural community, often entertaining major celebrities from the worlds of literature, art, and politics. During World War I, Bangs toured the country, making patriotic speeches for the Allied cause. In 1918 he joined the Department of Public Information of the American Red Cross and went to France to report first hand the American war effort. He and his wife were also representatives of the American Committee for Devastated France, whose efforts Bangs supported in numerous public speeches throughout the United States.

After the war Bangs continued his heavy lecture schedule. He published no further volumes after 1917, leaving his total output at some sixty titles, as well as numerous uncollected stories, sketches, and articles and an estimated 10,000 poems (according to his son Francis Hyde Bangs). Falling ill in late 1921 after an especially exhausting lecture tour, John Kendrick Bangs died on January 21, 1922 at age fifty-nine.

FRANCIS HYDE BANGS (1892-1964)

Francis Hyde Bangs, the son of John Kendrick and Agnes Hyde Bangs, was born in Yonkers, New York, on June 29, 1892. He was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire, where he was active in athletics and edited the school literary magazine. Entering Yale University in 1911, Bangs was attracted to the study of literature and graduated in 1915 with a B.A. in English. While at Yale he counted among his friends Dean Acheson and the poet Archibald MacLeish. Deciding on an academic career, Bangs attended graduate school at Columbia University and received an M.A. in English and Education in 1916. Appointed to the faculty at St. Paul's, Bangs taught English and coached the hockey team for the academic year 1916-1917.

In the summer of 1917, Bangs enlisted as a private in the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit under the American Expeditionary Force and subsequently served for twenty-three months of World War I in France, achieving the rank of First Lieutenant by the time of his discharge in 1919. While in France he served as Associate Commandant of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Toulouse for the American Student Detachment and received a certificate from the University for a special program of courses in French Culture.

In 1919-1920 Bangs took courses in English and Comparative Literature in the School of Philosophy at Columbia, but left without taking a degree. For the next five years he was a member of the English Department at Yale and coached the freshman and varsity hockey teams. From 1926 to 1930 he was on the English faculty of the University of Buffalo.

In 1926 Bangs married Grace Allen Peabody in the first of his three marriages. They separated amicably in 1929 and were divorced in 1931. In 1926 Bangs committed himself to writing a biography of his father, a project that would occupy much of his time for the next fifteen years. Resigning from the University of Buffalo in 1930 to devote full time to this biography and other scholarly pursuits, he joined the writers' and artists' colony at Ogunquit, Maine, where his family had maintained a home since 1907. In 1933 he became co-owner, with his brother Harold, of the York Press Company, the publisher of the weekly papers The Old York Transcript (York Village, Maine) and the Wells-Ogunquit Compass. Bangs served as editor of the Transcript and, between September, 1933 and September, 1935, contributed to both papers a series of editorials on local, state, and world affairs, as well as commentaries on literary topics, under the name of "John Fust."

In 1932 Bangs married Geraldine Hall, a prominent New York socialite and patron of the arts and opera. They separated soon after their marriage and were divorced officially in 1936. One daughter, Joan Hall Bangs, was born of this marriage. In 1935 Bangs sold his interest in the York Press Company to his brother and joined the boys' school at Avon Old Farms, Avon, Connecticut, as head of the English Department, a position which he held until 1941. In this year his biography of his father, John Kendrick Bangs, Humorist of the Nineties, was published by Alfred Knopf to good reviews.

In 1942 Bangs was appointed head of the English Department at The Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut. He left this position in 1949 to return to independent research and work on a never-to-be-published autobiography. For approximately two years he served as an unofficial secretary-bookkeeper to New York salon leader Julia Ellsworth Ford and divided his time between her homes in Rye, New York and Miami, Florida. In 1952, he married long-time friend Dorothy "Dottie" Barney, the widow of writer-artist-photographer Danford Barney. Living in Ogunquit, where Bangs spent much of his time hunting and fishing, they remained married until her death in 1961. Francis Hyde Bangs died in 1964 at age seventy-two.

In addition to his biography of his father, Bangs published a number of literary articles, among them articles for the Yale University Library Gazette on John Kendrick Bangs, Julia Ellsworth Ford, and Danford Barney. In 1941 he made a gift to Yale of his collection of letters from Archibald MacLeish, with his comments and annotations on the included poems.
Title
Guide to the Bangs Family Papers
Status
Under Revision
Author
by William K. Finley
Date
May 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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