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Floyd Dell papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Dell

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection is almost evenly divided between correspondence to and works by Dell, with a small amount of outgoing correspondence, miscellaneous material, and photographs. In the works section there are numerous manuscript copies of his books, articles and poems, plus copies of published material. Miscellaneous materials include clippings and publicity about Dell and Dell's works, and personal items. Photographs are of Dell, his family, and friends. At the end of the collection is a series of additions to the collection purchased from the Society of Collectors, 2008, and include additional family and other correspondence, some works (memoirs and plays), and miscellaneous financial and family-related materials.


  • Creation: 1908-1969



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Floyd Dell 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 Floyd Dell

American poet, novelist, playwright, newspaperman, literary editor, and author of books and articles on politics, education, social mores and, in his later career, writer for the Works Progress Administration.

Born in 1887, Floyd Dell began his literary career as a newspaperman, first in Iowa as a reporter for the Davenport Daily Times and then in Chicago on various papers. In 1911 he became editor of and chief contributor to the Friday Literary Review, a supplement of the Chicago Evening Post, which became one of the best-known literary supplements in the country, and which led to friendships with Carl Sandburg, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Deciding to turn his talents to writing fiction, in 1914 Dell left Chicago for New York -- the goal of most young Middle Western writers at the time -- and settled into the Bohemian literary and artistic world of Greenwich Village. Here he became closely associated with such noted literary figures as Theodore Dreiser, Max Eastman and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and developed friendships with radical John Reed and writer Joseph Freeman.

In 1914 Dell became an editor of the publication Masses and subsequently of its successors the Liberator and the New Masses, for he had been a Socialist since boyhood. Dell's first marriage to Margery Currey ended in divorce in 1915, and in 1919 he married Berta-Marie Gage with whom he had two sons, Anthony and Christopher. In 1919, they moved to Croton-on-Hudson, where Dell finished his first novel, the autobiographical Moon-Calf, following it with a second, The Briary-Bush. Through the 1920s Dell continued to write novels, poetry, a study of Upton Sinclair and a number of books and articles based on the themes of sex, love, marriage, feminism, psychoanalysis and education of children. However, by the 1930s these themes, his interests in them, and his literary style seemed quaint and out of tune with the times, and increasingly Dell was no longer a force in American letters nor a participant in radical circles.

In 1935, his work having ceased selling, Dell accepted a job with the WPA, as an editor and ghostwriter. He retired from the WPA in 1947, and until his death in 1969 this "romantic rebel" concentrated his writing on copious correspondence.


11 Linear Feet (29 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Correspondence, works and miscellaneous material relating to Floyd Dell, novelist, poet, playwright, newspaperman, literary editor and social and political critic.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1908-1967
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, 1908-1967
Boxes 3-11
Series 3: Works, approximately 1903-1967
Boxes 12-26
Series 4: Biographical / Miscellaneous, 1903-1978
Box 27
Series 5: Photographs, approximately 1890-1952
Box 28
Series 6: Additions, 1925-1967
Box 29

Collection Stack Location

1 14 2-3, 1 16 5, Vault 49 4


Gift of Floyd Dell, 1950-1958; with subsequent donations from various sources.

Related Materials

Newberry Library Bulletin, 2nd Ser. No. 5 (December 1950), p. 146-157.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1951-1960; Virginia H. Smith, 2000, 2008 (additions); NEH Grant team, 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 Floyd Dell papers, 1908-1969
Virginia H. Smith and 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