W. A. Swanberg 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
William Andrew Swanberg, biographer and historian, was born 23 November 1907 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received a BA from the University of Minnesota in 1930 and later completed some post-graduate work at New York University. After working as a common laborer during the Depression, Swanberg was hired as an editor for Dell Publishing Company in New York, a position that he held from 1935 to 1944. From 1944-1945 he was a field reporter for the Office of War Information in Europe. In 1945 he began his free-lance career as a writer.
Swanberg's subjects have included: Morgan Dix, Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Elmhurst, James Fisk, William Randolph Hearst, Henry Luce, Joseph Pulitzer, Daniel E. Sickles, Willard D. Straight, Norman Thomas, Flora Payne Whitney, William C. Whitney, and the American Civil War. In 1973 Swanberg won the Pulitzer prize for biography for Luce and His Empire; in 1977 he received the National Book Award for biography for his Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist . A chronology of his works includes: 1956Sickles the Incredible 1957First Blood—The Story of Fort Sumter 1959Jim Fisk 1961Citizen Hearst 1965Dreiser 1967Pulitzer 1968The Rector and The Rogue 1972Luce and His Empire 1976Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist 1980Whitney Father, Whitney Heiress
Swanberg received the Christopher award in 1959, the Frank Luther Mott Research prize in 1962, and the Van Wyck Brooks award for non-fiction in 1968. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 1960. In addition, he is a fellow of the Society of American Historian s and a member of the Authors' League of America and International P.E.N.
W. A. Swanberg married Dorothy Upham Green in 1936 and is the father of two children.
In March of 1965, Robert E. Spiller of the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania gave the university library an unedited copy of the galleys of W. A. Swanberg's most recent publication, Dreiser (Spiller had been asked to review the book upon publication). Later this gift would be added to Swanberg's own donation to the library in December of 1984 of his working papers for the text. Together these two gifts comprise the W. A. Swanberg papers. The papers document the research, writing, editing, and reception of W. A. Swanberg's biography of one of the pioneers in American realism and naturalism, Theodore Dreiser. Swanberg and Spiller gave these papers to the library to augment its substantial holdings in American literary manuscripts, specifically as a companion to the Dreiser papers, which were already housed at Penn. It should be noted that the manuscripts, galleys, research notes, correspondence, and clipping and photographs (many of which may be viewed online) for Dreiser are the only major portion of W. A. Swanberg's writings that the University of Pennsylvania holds. The bulk of his papers is housed in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York, New York.
Care was taken in processing not to disrupt the order given the papers by Swanberg. Order follows a natural progression from correspondence to note taking through typescript and, finally, edited and unedited galleys. For purposes of proper storage, notecards, clippings, and photographs were moved to the end of the Papers. Swanberg had originally filed correspondence in reverse chronological order, which has been changed to a straight chronological order. The few copies of his own letters that Swanberg kept are interfiled with incoming correspondence, just as he had done. It should be noted, however, that Swanberg kept very few copies of his outgoing correspondence.
Gift of W. A. Swanberg, 1984.
Galleys for Dreiser: gift of Robert E. Spiller, 1965.
For a complete listing of correspondents, do the following title search in Franklin: W. A. Swanberg Papers.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Julie A. Reahard
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