• IdentificationMidwest MS Webster
  • TitleInventory of the Henry Kitchell Webster Papers, 1880-1932, bulk 1900-1932 Midwest.MS.Webster
  • PublisherThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • RepositoryThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • Physical Description5.8 linear feet (15 boxes)
  • Date
    • Bulk, 1900-1932
    • 1880-1932
  • Location1 35 2
  • AbstractCorrespondence and drafts and typescripts of works of Illinois novelist and short story writer, Henry Kitchell Webster, an Evanston native who had a highly successful literary career in the early decades of the twentieth century. Includes examples of the range of Webster’s published writings as well as extensive correspondence with literary agents and publishers, family, friends, fans, businesses and organizations. Also, miscellaneous documents and memorabilia, and one box of genealogical material relating to the Leonard family, relations of Webster’s wife, Mary Ward Orth.
  • OriginationWebster, Henry Kitchell, 1875-1932

Gift, Mary Orth Webster, 1946; Mrs. Roderick S. Webster, 1997; Roderick S. Webster, ca. 2004.

The Henry Kitchell Webster Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

The Henry Kitchell Webster Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Henry Kitchell Webster Papers, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Virginia Hay Smith, 2010.

Illinois author.

Henry Kitchell Webster was at one time one of the most popular authors of magazine serials in America, as well as a prolific novelist, whose writing ranged from serious social commentary to charming adventure, romance and mystery yarns.

Webster was born and spent his life in Evanston, Illinois. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1897, taught for a year, and then settled down to begin his literary career. He and his friend Samuel Merwin collaborated on several works such as Calumet “K” in 1901, using Chicago as inspiration. Webster then continued to write novels until 1929, and became instrumental in making books into best sellers. Two of his most popular and admired works were An American Family in 1918, and Mary Wollaston in 1920.

Webster became wildly successful as a highly paid writer of stories, and his steady flow of short fiction was in continual demand by such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Everybody’s and McClure’s. To satisfy a reading public eager for pleasant diversion, he set himself up as a one-man fiction factory, dictating his work to a stenographer at the rate of 20,000 words a week. There also was a great demand by a growing film industry for characters and plots, and as early as 1912 Webster worked on a screen scenario for a story, “Cinderella”, and in 1915, “The Green Cloak”.

Webster was a sociable man with many friends, a joiner of local clubs, and active in Chicago and Evanston affairs. In 1901 he married Mary Ward Orth and they had three sons: Henry Kitchell, Stokely, and Roderick Sheldon. He died in Evanston in 1932.

Correspondence, and drafts and/or typescripts of Webster’s works.

The outgoing letters are all typewritten copies, mostly those Webster dictated to his secretary. Lengthy correspondence includes letters to and from editors at his publisher, Bobbs-Merrill and Co. (primarily Hewitt Hanson Howland), and his long-time magazine agent, Paul R. Reynolds. In Webster’s carefully organized files of copies are letters to a variety of people – film companies, agents, magazine editors, actors, writers, clubs and organizations, fans, his family, and friends. Incoming letters reflect the same range of correspondents, and among many others, these include: screenwriter Frances Agnew, English actor A. Hylton Allen, the American Committee for Devastated France, Winthrop Ames, Gelett Burgess, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fanny Butcher, John Alden Carpenter, actress Patricia Collinge, Max Eastman, Edna Ferber, Henry B. Fuller, Hamlin Garland, Ring Lardner, Lloyd Lewis, Sinclair Lewis, Sam Merwin, Wallace Rice, Ellery Sedgwick, Mabel Taliaferro, and William Allen White. There is also correspondence from three early women literary agents, Alice Kauser, Elisabeth Marbury and Bess Meredyth.

The collection of Webster’s writings includes both early handwritten drafts, such as The Banker and the Bear, which was published in 1903, and later typewritten drafts like Joseph Greer and his Daughter, a successful novel of 1922. Also, there are short stories and plays, sketches, a few essays and speeches, fragments, and clippings of reviews. Miscellaneous material consists of tax, insurance and other financial statements, cards, brochures and published items, receipts, a passport and copy of an early will, biographical information, and several photographs. Also, items relating to several organizations such as The Cliff Dwellers in Chicago, Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., the North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, Illinois, the Steel Wings Company, the Webster Electric Company and other businesses. Also in the collection is a box of genealogical material kept by Webster’s wife, Mary Ward Orth Webster, relating to her relations, the Leonard family.

See: The Newberry Library Bulletin, No. 6, December 1946, for information on the acquisition of the Letters and Papers of Henry Kitchell Webster.

Papers are organized in the following series:

Title Box Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence,1912-1932 Boxes 1-3 Series 2: Incoming Correspondence,1911-1932 Boxes 4-9 Series 3: Works, 1900-1932 Boxes 10-13 Series 4: Miscellaneous, 1908-1932 Box 14 Series 5: Leonard Family Genealogical Notes, 1880-1932 Box 15

  • Names
    • Agnew, Frances, b. 1891
    • Allen, A. Hylton
    • American Committee for Devastated France.
    • Ames, Winthrop, 1870-1937
    • Authors’ League of America.
    • Bobbs-Merrill Company.
    • Burgess, Gelett, 1866-1951
    • Burroughs, Edgar Rice, 1875-1950
    • Butcher, Fanny, 1888-1987
    • Carpenter, John Alden, 1876-1951
    • Cliff Dwellers (Club).
    • Collinge, Patricia, 1894-1974
    • Eastman, Max, 1883-1969
    • Ferber, Edna, 1887-1968
    • Fuller, Henry Blake, 1857-1929
    • Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940
    • Hamilton College (Clinton, N.Y.).
    • Hard, William, 1878-1962
    • Howland, Hewitt H., (Hewitt Hanson), 1863-1944
    • Jewett, Rutger B.
    • Kauser, Alice, 1872-1945
    • Lardner, Ring, 1885-1933
    • Lewis, Lloyd, 1891-1949
    • Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951
    • Marbury, Elisabeth, 1856-1933
    • Meredyth, Bess
    • Merwin, Samuel, 1874-1936
    • North Shore Country Day School (Winnetka. Ill.).
    • Reynolds, Paul R.
    • Rice, Wallace, 1859-1939
    • Sedgwick, Ellery, 1872-1960
    • Steel Wings Company.
    • Taliaferro, Mabel, 1889-1979
    • Webster Electric Company.
    • Webster, Henry Kitchell, 1875-1932
    • Webster, Henry Kitchell, 1875-1932 -- Correspondence
    • Webster, Henry Kitchell, 1906-
    • Webster, Mary Ward Orth
    • Webster, Stokely
    • White, William Allen, 1868-1944
  • Subject
    • American literature -- Illinois -- Evanston
    • Authors, American -- Illinois -- Correspondence
    • Chicago
    • Genealogical correspondence -- United States
    • Hack writers
    • Literary agents -- United States -- Correspondence
    • Literature
    • Manuscripts, American -- Illinois
    • Novelists, American -- Illinois -- Correspondence
    • Publishers and publishing -- Correspondence
    • Screenwriters -- United States
    • Serialized fiction -- United States
    • Women in the book industries and trade
  • Geographic CoverageChicago (Ill.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century