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Jack Conroy papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Conroy

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, works, scrapbooks, subject files, magazines, journal submissions, photographs, and ephemera documenting the life and literary output of Jack Conroy.

The bulk of the collection is correspondence to Jack from friends, relatives, coworkers, colleagues, and admirers. Prominent and frequent correspondents include Nelson Algren, Sanora Babb, Arna Bontemps, Gwendolyn Brooks, Malcolm Cowley, Lawrence "Bud" Fallon, Lou Gilbert, Curt Johnson, H.H. Lewis, James Light, Frank Mead, H.L. Mencken, Charlie Miller, Emerson Price, John C. "Jack" Rogers, and W.W. "Wallie" Wharton. Conroy's works are primarily typescript, and include entire novels as well as assorted lecture notes, poems, and sketches for his proposed autobiography, which he never completed. There are also copies of reviews and articles published in various newspapers. His subject files include newsclippings of people he knew and/or admired, biographical information, and reviews and promotional material for his works. He collected a vast amount of "little magazines" which illuminate the radical ideas and philosophies from the 1930's to the 1950's. His scrapbooks are also newsclippings, kept together by subject.

Conroy kept some originals of submissions he received for publication, as well as short works by friends or colleagues. He started to compile press about himself and his books, as well as articles on various topics, into seven scrapbooks. The collection is rounded out with an assortment of photographs and ephemera, including Conroy's various membership cards and some audiocassette tapes of Conroy reading from The Disinherited. Family and personal papers include cards and letters to and from various family members of Conroy's, with some financial and miscellaneous other personal documents.


  • Creation: 1864-1991



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Jack Conroy papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Jack Conroy 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 Jack Conroy

John Wesley Conroy was born Dec. 5, 1898 to Irish immigrants in Monkey Nest, a coal mining camp in Missouri. From age 13 he labored in various train car factories, steel mills, and auto factories. Conroy drew upon these experiences to write his first novel, The Disinherited. Widely reviewed, The Disinherited propelled its impoverished author, then 34, into public attention both in the U.S. and abroad and firmly established his reputation as an authentic worker-writer of the proletarian literary movement.

While editor of literary "little magazines" such as The Rebel Poet, The Anvil, and The New Anvil, Conroy helped launch writers like Richard Wright, Erskine Caldwell, and Nelson Algren. In 1938 Conroy came to Chicago, on Algren's suggestions, to work on the Illinois Writer's Project. Along with recording folktales and industrial folklore, Conroy was assigned to the black history portion of the IWP, and collaborated with Arna Bontemps, producing the pioneering black studies works They Seek A City (1945) and Anyplace But Here (1965), both about African-American migration from the South to the North. Conroy and Bontemps also collaborated on several successful juvenile books based on folktales, including The Fast Sooner Hound (1942) and Slappy Hooper, The Wonderful Sign Painter (1946)

In 1965, Conroy moved from Chicago back to Moberly, Missouri, where he lived until his death in 1990. He continued to write into his 80's, publishing The Weed King and Other Stories in 1985. Over the course of his career, Conroy was also a teacher and lecturer, and a mentor to younger radical writers.


47.4 Linear Feet (100 boxes and 5 oversize boxes)


Works, correspondence, and papers of American novelist, folklorist, and editor Jack Conroy. Conroy's novel The Disinherited, published in 1933, is considered a classic in proletarian literature and depicted in gritty detail the realities of the Great Depression. Conroy also edited radical journals The Rebel Poet, The Anvil, and The New Anvil.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Incoming Correspondence, 1926-1990
Boxes 1-38
Series 2: Outgoing Correspondence, 1929-1990
Box 39
Series 3: Works, 1933-1986
Boxes 40-44
Series 4: Subject Files, 1933-1982
Boxes 45-52
Series 5: Personal Magazine Collection, 1864-1987, bulk, 1930-1950
Boxes 53-89
Series 6: Submissions, approximately 1930-1986
Boxes 90-91
Series 7: Photographs, approximately 1930-1984
Boxes 92-93
Series 8: Scrapbooks, approximately 1929-1950s
Boxes 94-95
Series 9: Ephemera, 1931-1991
Box 96
Series 10: Family and Personal Papers, 1924-1988
Boxes 97-99

Collection Stack Location

1 12 6-7, 1 13 6-7, 1 16 4


Gift, Jack Conroy, 1989.

Processed by

Diana Haskell, 1992; Martha Briggs, Alison Hinderliter, Pamela Olson, and Monica Petraglia, 2003.


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 Jack Conroy papers, 1864-1991
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-08-17: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States