Catherine Drinker Bowen drafts of John Adams and the American Revolution
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
Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973) was an American writer best known for her popular (and occasionally controversial) biographies of prominent American and English historical figures. Born to a prominent Quaker family in the suburbs of Philadelphia, she studied music at the Peabody Institute and the Juilliard School and earned her teacher's certificate from the Institute of Musical Art in New York before deciding to become a writer. Despite her lack of formal academic training in writing, Drinker Bowen was a formidable researcher, and although her books were intended for a popular audience their utilization of primary source material and wide bibliographic range distinguished them from other popular biographies of her time. Her narrative re-imaginings of historical occurrences, which some academics felt undermined her accuracy, made Drinker Bowen's work controversial at times. However, these controversies did nothing to limit the popularity of her books, which were frequent Book of the Month Club selections, and in 1958 she received the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Her books included Yankee from Olympus (1944), John Adams and the American Revolution (1950), The Lion and the Throne; the Life and Times of Sir Edward Coke (1957), Francis Bacon; the Temper of a Man (1963), and Miracle at Philadelphia (1966). She died in 1973 in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
This collection contains material related to Drinker Bowen's 1950 book John Adams and the American Revolution, originally titled Yankee John, which concerns the early life of John Adams, up to the declaration of American independence from Great Britain. The collection contains both an early draft of the book, completed between 1946 and 1947, and a later, more extensive draft completed between 1947 and 1949. Each draft represents a separate series within the collection, but as Drinker Bowen occasionally placed full pages from earlier drafts into the later one during her working process there are some cases where the delineation is not entirely firm. Each larger draft is organized by chapter, and each chapter is present in various versions; some are complete, while others represent only scattered pages with revisions. Some chapter numbers were changed during the revision process, and in such instances -- except where Drinker Bowen explicitly suggested otherwise with her own folder organization, in which case her note is included in the folder -- efforts have been made to place similar material together, regardless of the change in chapter headings. In general, the chronology of revision is unclear, and it would take careful comparison, both within the manuscript and with the completed book, to map the precise order. The collection also contains drafts of the book's prologue, source list, bibliography, notes and corrections, and a statement concerning Drinker Bowen's biographical methods.
Gift of Catherine Drinker Bowen, 1949.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Sam Allingham
- Finding Aid Date
- 2016 August 22
- 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.