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William Morton Payne Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Payne

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, works, scrapbooks, and other personal materials of William Morton Payne.

This collection contains notable correspondence including letters kept by Payne from colleagues and readers of the Dial, correspondence with lifelong friend Paul Shorey, and letters from speakers appearing at the Twentieth Century Club. The works series contains published and unpublished essays, criticism, articles, editorials written for the Chicago Journal, some psychology writings, and a chemistry textbook. Additionally, the collection contains 30 scrapbooks filled with clippings of Payne’s work published in the Dial, and administrative materials from the Twentieth Century Club including minutes and account books. This collection also holds a wealth of personal documents including photographs, family papers, travel diaries and other travel memorabilia, high school and teaching memorabilia, and materials related to the various social clubs Payne belonged to.


  • Creation: approximately 1850-1920



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The William Morton Payne Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The William Morton Payne 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.

Biography of William Morton Payne

Literary critic, periodical editor, translator, and educator.

William Morton Payne was born in 1858 in Newburyport, Massachusetts to Emma M. and Henry Morton Payne. He attended public schools in Newburyport and Chicago, but did not go on to college and was self-educated after high school. He became assistant librarian of the Chicago Public Library in 1874, but left this position to teach in the Chicago public schools. He continued to work in the public schools throughout his other career incarnations, and also as a lecturer of English at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Kansas, and the University of Chicago. He was literary editor for the Chicago Morning News from 1884 to 1892 while also contributing writing to the Dial. He became associate editor of the Dial in 1892 and retained this position until 1914 when he sold his stock in the publication. As literary critic, he specialized in modern literature and poetry. He was a respected scholar of Scandinavian literature and translated the work of Norwegian poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Despite his lack of formal university education, he edited volumes such as American Literary Criticism and English in the American University. His lead writing for the Dial was collected in three volumes, Little Leaders, Editorial Echoes, and Various Views. He published one volume of poems in his lifetime, Richard Wagner, A Cycle of Sonnets.

Payne was also actively involved in several Chicago social clubs, including the Cliff Dwellers and the Chicago French Club, and was secretary-treasurer for the Twentieth Century Club for 26 years. He never married and passed away after a long illness on July 12, 1919.


10 Linear Feet (25 boxes)


Correspondence, works, scrapbooks, and other personal materials pertaining to William Morton Payne's life as a literary critic, periodical editor, translator, and educator.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1867-1918
Boxes 1-5
Series 2: Works, 1876-1918
Boxes 6-8
Series 3: The Dial Scrapbooks, 1884-1915
Boxes 9-16
Series 4: Personal, 1870-1920
Boxes 17-24
Series 5: Photographs, approximately 1850s-1910s
Box 25

Collection Stack Location

1 27 2

Other Finding Aids

Newberry Library Bulletin, 2nd Ser. No. 7 (October 1951), p. 193-212.


Gift of Herbert and Mary Hastings Bradley, 1951.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen, Kelly Kress, and Shannon Yule, 2007.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the William Morton Payne Papers, approximately 1850-1920
Lisa Janssen
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