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Alfred Betts Caldwell papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Alfred Betts Caldwell (1900-1980) was a writer specializing in mystery novels. He was born to Francis G. and Josephine B. Caldwell of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and attended West Philadelphia High School. He graduated from University of Pennsylvania in 1924, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the Wharton School. He was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, Beta Pi chapter for all four years at Penn and was known as "Biff". Following a brief stint at investment bank Dillon, Read & Co. ("the world's worst bond trader," he called himself), Caldwell spent the next several years working in the advertising industry as a salesman and copy editor. Caldwell's true passion, however, was writing. His first mystery novel, Coffee for None, was published in England by Elkin Matthews & Marrot, Ltd. in 1934. Additional mysteries published in the United States by Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc. followed: Turquoise Hazard in 1936, No Tears Shed in 1937, and Death Rattle in 1940.

In 1930, Caldwell married Canadian Muriel Gordon ("Gordie") Herkins and together they moved from Philadelphia to Bridgeton, New Jersey, where they would remain for the rest of their years. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Caldwell worked for the Ferracute Machine Company, a Bridgeton manufacturer which produced presses in support of munitions and airplane components. In the 1960s, Caldwell took correspondence courses from the Famous Writers School located in Westport, Connecticut. Caldwell was a member of the Sons of the Revolution and the Society of Cincinnatus. He died after an extended illness at the age of 79.

(Source: Internal; Alumni file of University Archives, University of Pennsylvania; The Record (yearbook), University of Pennsylvania, 1924.)

The Alfred Betts Caldwell papers are comprised primarily of the mystery novelist's writings. In addition to three of his four published mystery novels (Coffee for None, Turquoise Hazard and Death Rattle), there are typescripts for both Coffee for None and an unpublished novel called Dark Saying. There are also typescripts (many labeled variously "Desk Copy" or "File Copy") of about 67 poems, short stories, and scripts dating mostly from 1927 to 1936. Two of his mystery novels, Turquoise Hazard and No Tears Shed, were also published in the Supplement of the Philadelphia Record, in 1937 and 1938, respectively, and the published copies are included in the collection. There are also assignments and projects undertaken while completing a correspondence course with the Famous Writers School located in Westport, Connecticut, a folder of "unused material," a folder of "story ideas" (newspaper clippings), and another folder of assorted writings, clippings, and personal materials. There is also one folder on the copyright of Caldwell's mystery novels. Existing arrangement and folder titles have been maintained when supplied. Finally, the collection includes a scrapbook kept by Caldwell from 1917 until 1933. It includes newspaper and magazine clippings (the former on topics such as birth control and alcohol; the latter comprised heavily of women in bathing suits, but also cuddly zoo animals), comic strips, poetry, programs from operas and plays, and souvenir photographs from a 1923 trip to Europe. The scrapbook is inscribed with the following admonition from Caldwell: "This book is to run along the way I think. It combines my fancy and my thoughts. In it are my worst and best sides. It is my character. If you have not your mind open to its fullest extent, do not open this book, for you will not be able to seperate [sic] the rhyme from the reason. You will either be disgusted or take it all as a joke. Probably you had best not open it."

Gift of Mrs. John F. (Eleanor P.) Bacon, 1992.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
John F. Anderies
Finding Aid Date
2015 August 6
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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Famous Writers School: Assignments returned from school with evaluation, 1964-1965.
Box 1 Folder 1
Famous Writers School: Projects (first part of course), 1963-1964.
Box 1 Folder 2
Famous Writers School: Projects (second part of course), 1964-1965.
Box 1 Folder 3
Story ideas (newspaper clippings), 1964-1965.
Box 1 Folder 4
Unused material, 1931-1965.
Box 1 Folder 5
Assorted writings, clippings, and personal material, 1939-1978.
Box 1 Folder 6
Copyrights to Caldwell's works, 1933-1965.
Box 1 Folder 7
Typescripts of poetry, short stories, and scripts, 1927-1936, undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
Typescript of "One of Those Moments", undated.
Box 1 Folder 9
Typescript of Coffee for None, undated.
Box 1 Folder 10
Typescript of Dark Saying, undated.
Box 2 Folder 1
Coffee for None (London: Elkin Matthews & Marrot, Ltd.), 1934.
Box 2 Folder 2
Turquoise Hazard (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc.), 1936.
Box 2 Folder 2
Death Rattle (New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc.), 1940.
Box 2 Folder 3
"Turquoise Hazard" in Supplement of the Philadelphia Record (Sunday, January 10, 1937), 1937.
Drawer 49
"No Tears Shed" (2 copies) in Supplement of the Philadelphia Record (Sunday, February 6, 1938), 1938.
Drawer 49
Scrapbook, 1917-1933.
Box 3

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