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Paul Romaine papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Romaine

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, writings, notes, diaries, clippings, memorabilia, publishing agent files, and photographs of Paul Romaine.

Includes correspondence, mostly incoming, of Romaine with family members, friends, and acquaintances. Diaries, notebooks, and clippings for an autobiography are also included. Since Romaine acted as agent for writers hoping for publication, many of their manuscripts are included, as well as papers and clippings related to persons and topics that especially interested him as a bookseller—e.g., William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Frank Marshall Davis. There are also some documents and clippings relating to Romaine’s legal problems, such as his arrest for selling copies of the banned book, Fanny Hill, as well as programs and announcements for cultural and civic events. In addition there are photos and snapshots of Romaine himself, plus many showing him with his family and friends.


  • Creation: 1880-1986
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1937-1983



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Paul Romaine papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Some audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized. Researchers may access materials in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Paul Romaine 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 at

Biography of Paul Romaine

Chicago bookseller and bon vivant.

Paul Romaine was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 12, 1906, as Clarence Burton Bleamer. At age 15 he entered the dramatic school of the Wisconsin Players where he gained a lasting interest in the theater and theater personalities and, also, performed in a number of plays. During this time Romaine read widely (an enduring habit), wrote poetry, and began to collect jazz music.

Around 1925 Romaine moved to Chicago, Illinois, then traveled to New York City and to Europe, where he mingled with American expatriates in Paris. He also briefly visited Spain and Cuba, where he was arrested and imprisoned for a short time. On his release, he lived in New York City’s Greenwich Village for a time before returning to Milwaukee where he entered the book business and also acted in local dramatic productions. He was an active participant in Milwaukee’s Little Bohemia society.

The bookstore business prospered in the 1930s as Romaine became active in political groups such as the Friends of the Soviet Union, the John Reed Club, unemployment councils, Anti-Nazi demonstrations, and the League of American Writers. In 1937 Romaine left Milwaukee for Chicago, working in bookstores and following café society.

Throughout the 1940s through the 1970s, Romaine owned or worked in bookstores but managed to find time for tennis clubs in which he was an avid player and very social member. His bookstores were damaged by a bomb (in 1954, aimed at a neighboring business) and by fire (in 1975). Yet, he carried on, working in hotel concession shops and other bookstores to meet his financial needs. He continued throughout these years to write poetry and short stories, as well as articles and book reviews.

In the 1980s, poor health curbed Romaine’s very active social life. All his life he was an unabashed admirer and lover of women. In fact, his mother even wrote him to “stop wolfing around”. To all of his woman friends, Romaine seems to have been a good listener and confidante. He had four wives and two sons, one of whom was given away for adoption at age four, and two daughters, including one who lived only two weeks after birth and a second who may or may not have been his own. He had many friends and correspondents who enjoyed his hospitality. He was an astute literary and dramatic critic, a keen observer of world events, and a dedicated admirer of music and dance, especially jazz, which he collected for many years.

Throughout his life Romaine was interested in many social, political, and literary causes, and had many acquaintances among well-known persons—e.g., Ernest Hemingway, ee cummings, Marlene Dietrich, William Faulkner, and Alla Nazimova. Romaine was convinced that he had a story to tell about them and made many notes as guides to writing his autobiography. (He also made lists of women he met and loved.) But, he died in 1986 before carrying out his literary intentions.

The Romaine papers show us a man who always planned to write about his interesting acquaintances and the important events in which he was a witness or participant—for example, his arrest by civic authorities in 1965 for selling copies of a banned book. His papers evidence the life of a small bookseller, a man of intelligence, a participant in socially relevant political and civic activities, and a lover of books, women, liquor, parties, tennis, and music.


8.9 Linear Feet (20 boxes and 1 card box)


Correspondence and papers of Milwaukee and Chicago bookseller and bon vivant Paul Romaine. Also photographs, memorabilia, diaries, clippings, writings (of Romaine and others), plus items relating to theater, music, political events and persons who interested Romaine.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Family Correspondence, 1924-1985
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: General Correspondence, 1923-1986
Boxes 3-7
Series 3: Diaries and Notebooks, 1924-1983
Box 8
Series 4: Writings of Paul Romaine, 1923-1985
Boxes 9-10
Series 5: Writings by Others, 1923-1985
Boxes 11-13
Series 6: Legal Matters, 1954-1968
Box 14
Series 7: Subject Files, 1926?-1985
Boxes 15-16
Series 8: Biographical Information, 1916-1986
Box 17
Series 9: Audiovisual, 1880-1986
Boxes 18-20
Series 10: Bookstore Files, 1949-1986
Boxes 20-21

Collection Stack Location

1 31 6


Gift, Paul Romaine estate, 1986.

Processed by

Lenore Glanz, 2009.

Inventory of the Paul Romaine papers, 1880-1986, bulk 1937-1983
Lenore Glanz
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States