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Sherwood Anderson papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Anderson

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, photographs, audiovisual material, royalty statements, personal financial records, artifacts, miscellaneous ephemera, autographed works, and literary manuscripts (many unpublished; also fragments, notes, and tentative sketches for short stories).


  • 1872-1992



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Sherwood Anderson papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum, and items in each folder will be counted before and after delivery to the patron (Priority I).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized. Researchers may access materials in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Sherwood Anderson papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. The Literary Executor for the Sherwood Anderson papers must be contacted in order to receive permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection. For further information, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson was born Sept. 13, 1876, in Camden, Ohio, the third child of seven born to a harnessmaker and his wife. The family moved often, settling in Clyde, Ohio in 1884. Sherwood didn't spend much time in school; he was nicknamed "Jobby" as a young boy due to the numbers of odd jobs he took on instead to help support his family. After his mother's early death in 1895 Anderson moved to Chicago for a couple of years, until he joined the army and was an infantryman in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. After his service he moved to Springfield, Ohio and enrolled in Wittenberg College for a year (1899-1900), where he met a friend who found him a job as an advertising copywriter and space salesman for Long-Critchfield Company in Chicago. In 1906 he moved with his first wife, Cornelia Lane Anderson, to Cleveland, Ohio, to set up a mail order house. A year later he established his own mail order paint business in Elyria, Ohio. It was there on Nov. 27, 1912 that Anderson suddenly left his office and wandered the countryside for four days, until he was found and hospitalized for exhaustion. Whether this incident was a nervous breakdown or a veiled attempt to leave his business and family to pursue a more artistic lifestyle is still under speculation. Whatever the reason, he soon left Ohio for good and moved back to Chicago to work again for the Long-Critchfield Company. This time, however, he was determined to also be a novelist, and joined the Chicago literary and journalist circles, which included Margaret Anderson of the Little Review, Harriet Monroe of Poetry Magazine, and writers Ben Hecht and Carl Sandburg. He began publishing short stories and poetry regularly in the aforementioned magazines, and his novel-writing career began in 1916 with the publication of Windy McPherson's Son. His real fame as a writer came in 1919, with the publication of his classic work, Winesburg, Ohio.

From the late 1910s through the mid 1920s, Anderson moved frequently, to New York City, Fairhope Alabama, New Orleans, Reno Nevada, and back to New Orleans. He met Gertrude Stein and James Joyce on his first trip to Paris in 1921, and remained friends with Stein for the rest of his life. In 1922 he befriended William Faulkner in New Orleans; Faulkner considered Anderson a mentor. In 1926 he bought a home near Marion, Virginia, which he named "Ripshin" (after a nearby creek of the same name) and, aside from travelling, lived there for the rest of his life. With money borrowed from his patron Burton Emmett, he bought two newspapers in Marion, the Marion Democrat and the Smyth County News. From this time forward he continued to write novels, short stories, autobiographical works, articles in his newspapers, and essays in other publications.

Anderson was married four times: To Cornelia Lane (1904-1916), with whom he had two sons and a daughter; to artist and music teacher Tennessee Mitchell (1916-1924); to Elizabeth Prall (1924-1932); and to Eleanor Copenhaver (1933-1941). Copenhaver, an executive with the YWCA, was interested in labor conditions in the South, and was inspiring to Anderson in terms of topics for his articles on social justice and the plight of the American workingman and African Americans. In early 1941, he embarked on the S.S. Santa Lucia with Eleanor, Thornton Wilder, and others on an unofficial good-will tour of South America. He became gravely ill at sea, was taken to a hospital in Colon, in the Panama Canal Zone, and died of peritonitis on March 8, 1941. The newspaper accounts reported one month later that before embarking on his trip, he apparently accidentally ingested a wooden toothpick, which pierced the abdominal wall and caused the fatal infection.


54.7 Linear Feet (121 boxes and 3 oversize boxes)


Correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, photographs, audiovisual material, royalty statements, personal financial records, artifacts, miscellaneous ephemera, autographed works, and literary manuscripts (many unpublished; also fragments, notes, and tentative sketches for short stories) of Chicago Literary Renaissance novelist and poet best known for his 1919 novel, Winesburg, Ohio.


Papers are organized in the following series
Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1915-1941
Boxes 1-14
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, 1913-1941
Boxes 15-32
Series 3: Eleanor Anderson Correspondence, 1941-1981
Boxes 33-35
Series 4: Family Correspondence, 1904-1968
Boxes 36-44
Series 5: Works, 1903-1992
Boxes 45-98
Series 6: Legal/Financial Files, 1920-1976
Boxes 99-102
Series 7: Publicity, 1893-1984
Boxes 103-105
Series 8: Development, 1941-1973; bulk 1947-1951
Boxes 106-107
Series 9: Photographs, Sound Recordings, and Moving Image Material, approximately 1876-1977
Boxes 108-112
Series 10: Scrapbooks, 1914-1935
Boxes 113-117
Series 11: Artifacts and Artwork, 1917-1938
Boxes 118-119
Series 12: Miscellaneous, 1872-1992, bulk 1920s-1968
Boxes 120-121

Collection Stack Location

1 2 4-7; 1 16 1


Gift, Mrs. Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, 1947, with subsequent donations and purchases.

Processed by

Martha Briggs, Alison Hinderliter, Pamela Olson, and Monica Petraglia, 2004


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 Sherwood Anderson papers, 1872-1992
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-07-28: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States