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Kenneth Roberts papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 7

Scope and Contents

The Kenneth Roberts Papers contain research notes, handwritten and typescript manuscripts, galley proofs, page proofs, maps, book covers, dust jackets, publicity, book reviews, study outlines, correspondence, biographical sketches, obituaries, photographs, and bibliographical material documenting aspects of the life and career of the author of Northwest Passage. The material spans the years 1906 to 1957, with the bulk falling between 1937 and 1940.

The papers, housed in nine boxes, are divided into three series. The bulk of the material consists of typewritten manuscripts, galley proofs, and page proofs of Kenneth Roberts's works. In addition, there is correspondence with Frank Stone (Roberts's bibliographer), Clara Claasen (his editor), and various book dealers, as well as biographical information on Roberts and bibliographical material about his works, compiled by Frank Stone. Oversize material is placed at the end of the collection.

Series I, Writings, is divided into three sections, Books, Shorter Works, and Edited Works. Roberts was an exceedingly well organized and meticulous writer. His first four books were conceived and planned as a tetralogy known as "Chronicles of Arundel." These were Arundel, Rabble in Arms, The Lively Lady, and Captain Caution. They cover the periods of Benedict Arnold's march to and attack on Quebec, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. March to Quebec was compiled and annotated from journals of the members of Arnold's expedition while Roberts was conducting research for and writing the "Chronicles of Arundel." Roberts brought these various journals together, amplifying and clarifying them in his notes. In Northwest Passage, Roberts deals with the French and Indian War, taking as his central theme the career of Major Rogers. In Oliver Wiswell, Roberts again turns to the American Revolution with the loyalist Wiswell as hero. Good Maine Food, an eclectic cookbook of Maine origin, was compiled by Roberts's niece and personal secretary, Marjorie Mosser. It contains an introduction by Roberts in which he waxes eloquent about the joys of Maine cooking, recalling favorite dishes of his boyhood, prepared from recipes handed down over generations. Trending into Maine has the character of a humorous travelogue, describing the beauty and "superiority" of Maine. For Authors Only and It Must Be Your Tonsils also show the humorous side of an otherwise serious author. I Wanted to Write is autobiographical in nature, revealing Roberts's feelings towards his profession.

Books comprises nearly half of the entire collection. There are manuscripts for Northwest Passage and Trending into Maine;galley proofs for Good Maine Food, March to Quebec, Northwest Passage, Oliver Wiswell,and Trending into Maine;and page proofs for March to Quebec and Oliver Wiswell.Corrections and comments in Roberts's hand can be found on many of the manuscripts, galley proofs, and page proofs. For almost all of the fourteen books represented in this collection, there is publicity in the form of notices, promotional material, and advertisements plus lengthy book reviews and brief publication blurbs. In addition, several titles also include maps and dust jackets. The Beinecke Library owns first edition copies of most of Robert's works.

The second section, Shorter Works,consists of one short story and two essays. Roberts wrote numerous shorter works, but only these are represented in the collection. "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper," a supposedly unfinished and unpublished short story, appears from the typescript to have been written sometime during the 1930s or '40s. This short story bears striking resemblance to another story, presumably written by Roberts, entitled "Miss Ella Cinder...a Fairy-story for Students, Pikers, & Wee Folk...," which appeared in the April 1908 issue of The Widow, the student humor magazine at Cornell University. Roberts was editor-in-chief of the magazine at the time. "Far above Cayuga's Waters" was Roberts's contribution to Our Cornell, a collection of essays about his alma mater written by several well-known literary alumni. "Travels in Billboardia" is a representative example of Roberts describing the beauty and wonder of his native Maine.

The third section, Edited Works, consists of an incomplete run of The Widow for 1907-08.

Series II, Correspondence, primarily reflects the exchange of letters between Frank Stone and Kenneth Roberts during the years Stone was compiling his bibliography of Roberts's works, from 1936 to 1942. Although the Correspondence series is relatively small, it nevertheless provides considerable information on how this collection came into existence.

Frank Stone, who worked for Chemical Bank and Trust Company in New York City, devoted his spare time to book collecting and the compilation of bibliographies. He had just finished a bibliography of the works of T. S. Stribling when he started working on the Roberts bibliography. (See Box 7, folder 78) In his first letter to Roberts on June 9, 1937, Stone reveals his plan to list Roberts's works and asks for help in this endeavor. The correspondence over the next five years follows the evolution of a friendly relationship between author and bibliographer. Roberts proved most helpful to Stone's project and provided him with pages of detailed information regarding changes from edition to edition. The correspondence includes personal notes, Christmas cards, and receipts for packages of smoked eel, of which Roberts was extremely fond.

The series also contains letters from Clara Claasen, Roberts's editor at Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc. Claasen was a major contributor in the Stone-Roberts collaboration and in many ways acted as liaison between the two: she provided Stone with many of the galley proofs, page proofs, and pieces of ephemera contained in the collection. Inaddition, the series contains scattered correspondence to and from book dealers and bibliophiles seeking information on various Roberts editions.

Series III, Additional Papers, is divided into two sections. The first section, Biographical Material,contains several biographical sketches of Roberts. These are in the form of mimeographed sheets, articles from newspaper book review sections and literary publications, and two separate booklets, each containing several sketches, published by Doubleday, Doran and Company. This section also contains a copy of the November 25, 1940, issue of Timemagazine, which has Roberts's picture on the cover and contains a lengthy article about him. There is as well a file of obituaries and a folder of photographs. Most of these were taken by Clara Claasen while visiting the Roberts's new house in Kennebunkport in April 1939. There are also two separate shots, which appeared in trade journals, showing Kenneth Roberts autographing copies of Northwest Passage at Brentano's in New York City in 1937 with Stone and Claasen standing behind him in the background.

The second section, Bibliographical Material,contains the data Frank Stone compiled on the works of Kenneth Roberts. Stone gathered this data on three-page forms he devised for the project (See folder 117). There are files for fourteen of Roberts's works as well as four for works to which he contributed. A bibliographical checklist may be found in folder 97. The folder also includes a brief handwritten note by Stone discussing his bibliographic "philosophy."

Box 9 contains the Oversize material. Included are maps and publicity for three of Roberts's works, the original 1939 manuscript of "Far above Cayuga's Waters," and a copy of "900 Men Who Shook an Empire." This last essay was clipped from the August 17, 1956, issue of Collier's magazine. Dissatisfied with this version, Roberts wrote a longer version entitled Cowpens: The Great Morale-Builder,published as a small book after his death in 1957. Additional oversize material includes a 1906 issue of Cornell Deadly Sin,a parody newspaper issue, of which Roberts was editor-in-chief, three issues of The Saturday Evening Postwith articles by Roberts, galley and page proofs of two biographical booklets on Kenneth Roberts published by Doubleday, Doran and Company, and three 1940 newspaper advertisements, bearing the endorsement of Kenneth Roberts, John Erskine, Ida Tarbell, Booth Tarkington, and other prominent American writers. These advertisements expressed opposition to the election of Franklin Roosevelt to the presidency for a third term.


  • 1906-1957 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1937 - 1940


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Kenneth Roberts 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 Kenneth Roberts Papers were purchased from Frank Stone in August 1964 on the Walter McClintock Memorial Fund, the William Robertson Coe American Studies Fund, and the Library Associates Fund.


5 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Kenneth Roberts Papers contain research notes, handwritten and typescript manuscripts, galley proofs, page proofs, maps, book covers, dust jackets, publicity, book reviews, study outlines, correspondence, biographical sketches, obituaries, photographs, and bibliographical material documenting aspects of the life and career of the author of Northwest Passage.


Kenneth Lewis Roberts was born in Kennebunk, Maine, on December 8, 1885. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1908, and over the next two decades served as a reporter, special writer, humor columnist, editor, correspondent, and foreign correspondent for various nationally known newspapers and magazines. During the 1920s he wrote several works of non-fiction, and in 1928 left journalism to become a full-time author.

Roberts felt strongly about historical accuracy and conducted extensive research to provide background for his novels. The backdrop for most of his fiction was northeastern America during the periods of the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. His major works include Arundel, The Lively Lady, Rabble in Arms, Northwest Passage, Oliver Wiswell,and Lydia Bailey.Shortly before his death in 1957, Roberts received a special Pulitzer citation for his historical novels.

During World War I he served as a captain in the U.S. Army with the intelligence section of the Siberian Expeditionary Force. He was married to Anna Sieberling Mosser in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 14, 1911. Kenneth Roberts died childless in Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 21, 1957.

For further biographical information, see the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography,Vol. 48, pp. 82-83, as well as folders 87-96 of this collection.

Guide to the Kenneth Roberts Papers
Under Revision
by T. Michael Womack
April 1987
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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