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James Michener (Class of 1973) Papers

Notifications

Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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

James Michener, Class of 1973, attended Swarthmore College after serving in the U.S. Army in Asia twice during the Vietnam War. One of his letters was included in the book Letters from Vietnam (Random House, 2004) by Bill Adler. His experiences in the service drew him back to the region after graduation, where he has lived since 1987. This collection begins in 1988 when Michener was living in Hong Kong, writing to Kingdon Swayne, a retired diplomat whose principal postings were in Asia, who had been his teacher at Bucks County Community College.

In 1992 Lao Aviation hired Michener as editor of Dok Champa, an in-flight magazine for the airline. As a result, Michener moved into Villa Dara, his home in Vientiane, capital of Laos, where he established an advertising firm, Ophir. Via a diplomatic contact, he stumbled upon the fact that there exists a Vietnam Archive in Cuba that contains records of most if not all American prisoners of war who had been held in Hanoi.

It should be noted that Swayne convinced Michener to transfer to Swarthmore, Swayne's parents having been undergraduates there. Moreover, Michener's father and Swayne had been classmates at George School. In addition, Celia Price Patterson, whose mother was Michener's great aunt, had attended Swarthmore as had Barnard and Joseph, her brothers, Joseph having died there. So you can say Michener intentionally followed Quaker tradition.

Series 1 includes personal and business correspondence. The bulk of the correspondence is between Michener and Swayne, with some annotations by Swayne. Michener's correspondence concerning his POW/MIA search are filed in the John B. Haseman folder and the 1991-1992 folder of correspondence about Vietnam.

Series 2 contains Michener's writings and papers. This includes segments of short stories and memoirs found in his papers, as well as short biographies of individuals he encountered during his travels. Copies of Dok Champa, while not exclusively written by Michener, are included. Also in this series is a folder containing a collection of clippings, certificates, and letters compiled by Michener, together with his list of the contents.

Michener sent large packets of clippings to those with whom he corresponded. These clippings, along with those saved by Swayne that mention Michener, are in Series 3. Also included are three folders of slides 1995-1996 sent to Swayne by Michener.

The collection is divided into three series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Writings
  3. Miscellaneous

Donor: Kingdon Swayne, 2000.

Donor: James Michener, 2003, 2004.

The bulk of the papers were given by Kingdon Swayne, who had written a history of George School and corresponded with Michener 1988-1997. These were combined with some additional correspondence and related papers from James Michener in 2003 and 2004. The papers were sorted into three series.

The following materials, originally part of the collection, have been removed and recatalogued:

    Publisher
    Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
    Finding Aid Author
    FHL staff
    Finding Aid Date
    2017
    Sponsor
    Encoding made possible by a grant by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation to the Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries
    Access Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

    Use Restrictions

    Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-RUU/1.0/.

    Collection Inventory

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1988-1991.
    Box 1
    Scope and Contents

    Michener's correspondence with Kingdon Swayne provides an account of his daily life as well as an autobiographical look at his business life and writings.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1992-1993.
    Box 1
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1994.
    Box 1
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1995 1mo- 1995 5mo.
    Box 1
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1995 5mo- 1995 12mo.
    Box 1
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1996 1mo- 1996 3mo.
    Box 1
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1996 5mo- 1996 8mo.
    Box 1
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1996 8mo- 1996 10mo.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1996 11mo- 1996 12mo.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Kingdon Swayne, 1997.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Business Correspondence and notes, 1992- 1994 6mo.
    Box 2
    Scope and Contents

    Business correspondence includes initial plans for Dok Champa, Lao Aviation's in-flight magazine, and later for Michener's advertising firm.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Business Correspondence and notes, 1994 7mo- 1994 12mo.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Business Correspondence and notes, 1995-1996.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Business Correspondence and notes, 1997-.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1988-1991.
    Box 2
    Scope and Contents

    Includes correspondence not directly related to Michener's business transactions. Includes, but not limited to, correspondence with family, correspondence concerning upkeep of his home and property, etc.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1992-1993.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1994.
    Box 2
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1996.
    Box 3
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1997-.
    Box 3
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with John B. Haseman, 1996.
    Box 3
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Swarthmore College, 1996.
    Box 3
    Scope and Contents

    With Alumni Office

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence with Chris Fanjul, 1997.
    Box 3
    Scope and Contents

    Chris Fanjul, a Swarthmore College student in the late 1990s took time off school to live with Michener in his Vientiane mansion.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Search for Charlieu Viradej, 1990.
    Box 3
    Scope and Contents

    Before finding work in Laos, Michener owed Kingdon Swayne a large amount of money. Swayne offered Michener a commission to find Charlieu Viradej, a Thai prince who attended George School, Swayne's alma mater, to help clear his debt. The correspondence is a record of Michener's search.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Vietnam MIA/POW, 1991-1992.
    Box 3
    Scope and Contents

    These papers were included in the 1996 folder of the Michener collection along with Michener's correspondence with John B. Haseman. The topic is missing and unidentified soldiers from the Vietnam War.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Correspondence compiled for memoir, 1991-2004.
    Box 3
    Scope and Contents

    Includes letters from U.S. generals and others, collected for his proposed Southeast Asia correspondence memoir, White Elephant

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Clippings, with inventory, 1994.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Collection of clippings, certificates, and letters. This file has a contents list created by Michener.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Individuals, 1988-1997.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    A collection of short biographies written by Michener about individuals he has met. Include (in some cases) photocopies of pictures, clippings, and official documents.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Writings and Papers, 1991.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Michener's short stories, explorations into characters for his novel-in-progress about Vietnam, Bui-Doi, as well as other miscellaneous papers.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Writing and Papers, 1992-1994.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Writing and Papers, 1995-1996.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Miscellaneous Writing and Papers, 1997.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Dok Champa, 1993-1995.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Issues of Dok Champa, Lao Aviation's in-flight magazine which Michener edited. In color.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Dok Champa, 1996-1997.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Clippings, 1988-1990.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Clippings Michener sent to correspondents and clippings which mention Michener.

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Clippings, 1992-1993.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Clippings, 1994-1995.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Clippings, 1996.
    Box 4
    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Slides, 1995.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Miscellaneous slides

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Slides, 1995 11mo.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Slides from Michener's November 1995 road trip

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Slides, 1996.
    Box 4
    Scope and Contents

    Miscellaneous slides

    Physical Description

    1 folder

    Print, Suggest