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Mitchell Dawson papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Dawson

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection contains correspondence, literary works, research materials and personal papers of Chicago lawyer, poet and author Mitchell Dawson; and materials created by his family and his wife Rose Hahn Dawson's families.

Included are poems by Dawson himself as well as by several of his literary colleagues; correspondence to and from these colleagues including Maxwell Bodenheim, William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Alfred Kreymborg, Yvor Winters and Emanuel Carnevali; drafts and research for feature articles on the legal profession; and correspondence from his time in Military Intelligence during World War I. There is a small series of law office files and personal papers including publicity for his book The Magic Firecrackers.

Mitchell Dawson's parents George Ellis and Eva Manierre Dawson were prominent Chicago citizens. George Ellis Dawson was a successful lawyer, and Eva Manierre the daughter of one of Chicago's "Old Settlers," Edward Manierre. Correspondence, diaries, genealogical materials, scrapbooks and photographs from both the Dawson and Manierre families vividly reflect life in Illinois and the Midwest at the turn of the century.


  • Creation: 1810-1988



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Mitchell Dawson 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 Mitchell Dawson

Chicago lawyer, poet, and author.

Mitchell Dawson was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 13, 1890. He was the son of George Ellis Dawson, a prominent area lawyer, and Eva Manierre Dawson. The Dawson household was filled with music and creative endeavor. His parents met as members of a Beethoven society and his father George kept extensive diaries. His brother Manierre Dawson became an abstract painter of note.

Dawson graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1913. He eventually joined his father's successful law firm and continued to practice law until two years before his death in 1956.

Alongside his legal work, Dawson pursued a career in writing, in which he achieved varying levels of success. It was during a stint in the Army Intelligence Corps during World War I while living on the East Coast that Dawson made the acquaintance of such literary figures as William Carlos Williams and Alfred Kreymborg. He wrote poetry during his twenties and published in many of the important journals of the time including Poetry, The Little Review, and Alfred Kreymborg's Others. In addition, he coedited a short lived journal called TNT with Man Ray and Adolph Wolff. Back in Chicago he became involved in the Chicago Literary Renaissance and befriended many writers and publishers, including Maxwell Bodenheim, Harriet Monroe and Margaret Anderson.

Starting in the 1920s, Dawson began writing an amusing legal advice column called "Advice of Counsel" which appeared in the Chicago Daily News from 1926-1931. He continued to write feature articles on legal issues which were published in such journals as the Saturday Evening Post, Esquire and The New Yorker. This writing is characterized by a wry wit and a clear, simple style. He published only one book in his lifetime, The Magic Firecrackers, in 1949. This highly regarded children's novel grew out of the bedtime stories he told his son Gregory as a child.

Dawson married Rose Hahn in 1921. Rose's sister Emily "Mickey" Hahn became a successful writer during the 1930s due in some small part to Mitchell submitting a few of her letters to The New Yorker.

Mitchell and Rose had three children: Hilary (later Hilary Beckett Schlessiger), Jill (later Jill Metzger), and Gregory. Mitchell Dawson succumbed to Parkinson's Disease in 1956.


35 Linear Feet (68 boxes, 1 oversize box, and 17 rolled posters)


Works, correspondence, and papers of lawyer and poet Mitchell Dawson, and also papers, photographs and genealogical information of the Dawson, Manierre and Hahn families.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1922-1956
Boxes 1-3
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, 1919-1956
Boxes 4-7
Series 3: Works by Dawson, 1919-ca. 1956
Boxes 8-20
Series 4: Works by Literary Associates, ca. 1910-1967
Boxes 21-23
Series 5: Subject Files, ca. 1920-1956
Boxes 24-27
Series 6: Law Office Files, 1919-1954
Boxes 28-29
Series 7: Personal, 1919-1956
Boxes 30-32
Series 8: Family Papers, 1810-1988
Boxes 33-52
Series 9: Photographs, ca. 1850-ca.1980
Boxes 53-63
Series 10: Scrapbooks and Memorabilia, 1851-1951
Boxes 64-68, items 1-17

Collection Stack Location

1 14 2-3, 1 16 4-5


Gift of Hilary Beckett Schlessiger, Jill Metzger, and Gregory Dawson, 1988.

Processed by

Wendell Link, 2003; Lisa Janssen, 2005.


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 Mitchell Dawson papers, 1810-1988
Lisa Janssen
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