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Benjamin D. Hitz-Willa Cather Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Hitz-Cather

Scope and Content of the Collection

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence between Benjamin D. Hitz and librarians, booksellers, experts, and friends of Cather's, relating to Hitz's search for information about Willa Cather and for first editions of her work. Among the correspondents are Frederick B. Adams, Jacob Blanck, E.K. Brown, Flora Bullock, Philip C. Duschnes, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, William A. Jackson, Howard S. Mott, and Louise Pound. There is a small collection of incoming and outgoing Willa Cather correspondence, including twelve original Cather letters and some copies, plus a few miscellaneous letters relating to her. Because Cather was extremely protective of her privacy, these letters deal with various aspects of her writing and not with her personal life. In addition, Hitz collected a miscellany of notes for studies on her biography, bibliographies and criticism.


  • Creation: 1913-1949



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Benjamin D. Hitz-Willa Cather Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Benjamin D. Hitz-Willa Cather 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.

Biographies of Willa Cather and Benjamin D. Hitz

Benjamin D. Hitz was a lifelong resident of Indianapolis, where he died in 1949. A graduate of Indiana University, Mr. Hitz was devoted to the intellectual and charitable institutions of his state, and throughout his life he was an avid collector of books and manuscripts, particularly of explorations of the Middle West and the works of Mary Webb and Willa Cather. His collection of Cather first editions and Cather-related correspondence was sold to the Newberry Library after his death.

Although born in Virginia in 1873, Willa Cather was transplanted to Nebraska when she was nine. Her life on the pioneering frontier of the Great Plains made a lasting impression on her, shaping her talent and interests as she became familiar with the struggles for survival of the immigrant farm families she came to know. Her observations and the kinship she felt for the new Americans of Nebraska was later reflected in much of her fiction, notably in two of her best-known novels, O Pioneers (1913) and My Antonia (1918).

Cather graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1895 and began a career first as a teacher and then as a magazine editor, finally settling in New York City in 1906 as editor of McClure's Magazine. During these years she traveled a good deal, developing a special affection both for France and the American Southwest - the latter described lovingly in the novel Death Comes for the Archbishop - and in 1912 she decided to concentrate on supporting herself as a free-lance writer. What followed was a life dedicated to writing, one in which she published twelve novels and fifty-eight short stories that brought her much popularity and numerous honors and prizes.

Willa Cather, generally regarded as one of the twentieth century's major American writers, died in New York in 1947.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Chiefly correspondence of Benjamin D. Hitz with librarians, booksellers and experts, relating to his search for first editions of Willa Cather; together with notes for studies on her biography, bibliographies and criticism. Also, a small collection of incoming and outgoing Willa Cather correspondence, including twelve original Cather letters and a few copies, plus several relating to Cather.


The papers are organized by type of material: Benjamin D. Hitz correspondence, incoming and outgoing, alphabetically and then chronologically arranged; Willa Cather and Cather-related correspondence, incoming and outgoing, chronologically arranged; and Willa Cather miscellany consisting of notes on biographical and bibliographical studies.

Collection Stack Location

1 22 3


Purchased from Elizabeth Holliday Hitz, 1950

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2000.


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.

Benjamin D. Hitz-Willa Cather Papers, 1913-1949
Virginia H. Smith
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