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Howard Vincent O'Brien papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-O'Brien

Scope and Content of the Collection

The bulk of the collection is made up of works: typed manuscripts, published magazine articles, and scrapbooks of O'Brien's Chicago Daily News columns. Correspondence is primarily from professional colleagues such as Henry Justin Smith, Walter Strong, Colonel Frank Knox, and other magazine editors and publishers, although there is also one letter from the infamous gangster Al Capone. Personal materials include financial receipts, military documents, and publicity for O'Brien's novels.


  • Creation: 1894-1948



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Howard Vincent O'Brien papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Howard Vincent O'Brien 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 Howard Vincent O'Brien

Newspaper columnist, critic, and novelist.

Howard Vincent O'Brien was born on the North Side of Chicago in 1888 to William Vincent and Mary Ellen O'Brien. He received a BA from Yale University in 1910 and always displayed an interest in the arts. He began his writing career on the editorial staff of Printers Ink magazine, and later founded and edited a magazine titled Art, published with the backing of his grandfather's art gallery, M. O'Brien and Son. He also briefly ran his own firm called H. V. Advertising. During World War I he served as first lieutenant of artillery attached to intelligence. He wrote several novels in the 1910s and 1920s including An Abandoned Woman, Trodden Gold, and the anonymously penned memoir Wine, Women, and War.

He joined the staff of the Chicago Daily News as literary editor in 1928, where he oversaw the book pages, wrote book reviews, and wrote a regular literary column titled "Footnotes." His most well known column, "All Things Considered," had its origin in Europe where O'Brien was sent due to ill health in 1932. His original assignment was to send back sketches of literary figures, but found himself, "sick of egomaniac authors." He wrote instead about trivial things that amused him. Chicago Daily News publisher Col. Frank Knox liked the work so much that he suggested O'Brien become a full-time columnist. O'Brien continued to write "All Things Considered" for the rest of his life.

O'Brien married wife Louise in 1912. They had three children, sons Bayne and Donel, and daughter Jean. In his most famous column, "So Long, Son," O'Brien tells of seeing his son Donel off to World War II, where Donel was later killed in action. Howard Vincent O'Brien died September 30, 1947 after a long struggle with cancer.


7.5 Linear Feet (18 boxes)


Correspondence, manuscripts, clippings, publicity materials, and personal papers of newspaper columnist and novelist Howard Vincent O'Brien.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1894-1934
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Works, 1904-1947
Boxes 3-16
Series 3: Personal, 1914-1948
Boxes 17-18

Collection Stack Location

1 27 6, 1 45 2, Vault 49 4


Gift, Louise O'Brien, 1949.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen & 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 Howard Vincent O'Brien papers, 1894-1948
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