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Erskine Caldwell Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: SEHG
Date: Apr 1990

Biographical History

Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987) was an American author known for writing about the American South. Caldwell grew up in the South (Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina) and his novels -- the most famous of which are Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre -- deal with problems faced by Southerners in the mid-twentieth century including poverty and racism. His second wife was the noted photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Erskine Caldwell Papers comprise 16 boxes of correspondence-subject files, writings, financial materials, and memorabilia documenting the 7 year span of the author's professional and intense personal relationship with photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White. Acquired as part of the Margaret Bourke-White Papers, there are few materials in the collection either before 1936 or after 1942, the year the couple divorced.

Correspondence-subject files are arranged alphabetically in 7 archival boxes and include business and professional files as well as personal and biographical materials. Correspondence which is of the greatest depth and duration includes that of Margaret Bourke-White, parents Ira and Caroline Caldwell, former wife Helen Caldwell Cushman, publishers Duell, Sloan & Pearce, Inc., agent Maxim Lieber, Life, artist Alfred Morang, PM, attorney Julius Weiss, and Caldwell and Bourke-White secretaries Margaret Salter and Margaret Smith, both of whom presided over the couple's often long-distance correspondences.

Writings comprise articles about the Russian front, typescript manuscripts and/or production records of books, short stories, production records, scripts, including untitled radio scripts from Moscow; miscellaneous drafts, typescript manuscripts, and notes on trips; press wireless releases Caldwell sent from Moscow while covering the German invasion of Russia for Life and PM; and printed short stories. They are arranged by type in 2 archival boxes and are almost solely works by Caldwell. Box 8 contains articles about the Russian front; typescript manuscripts and/or production records of books (God's Little Acre, Southways, Tobacco Road); production records of You Have Seen Their Faces (in collaboration with Bourke-White); scripts, including untitled radio scripts from Moscow; and typescript manuscripts of short stories. Box 9 contains miscellaneous drafts, typescript manuscripts, and notes on trips as well as press wireless releases Caldwell sent from Moscow while covering the German invasion of Russia for Life and PM, and printed short stories.

Financial materials (Boxes 9-15) include 3 years of cancelled checks, various household receipts (from grocery, utility and landscaping bills to car information and poll tax receipts), 4 years of royalty statements from the London, New York, and road company productions of Tobacco Road, and stocks and bonds information.

Memorabilia comprises addresses, clippings, contracts, publicity flyers, recipes, Caldwell's wallet and contents, a 1939 will, and miscellaneous printed material. Box 16 contains mostly personal photos of Caldwell and Bourke-White at their home, with their pets, or traveling and working together, some or which were taken by Bourke-White. There are some publicity photos and a few pre-1936 pictures of Caldwell's first wife and children.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

See also the Margaret Bourke-White Papers.

Subject Headings


Bourke-White, Margaret, 1904-1971.
Caldwell, Erskine, 1903-1987.
Caldwell, Helen.
Caldwell, Ira Sylvester, 1870-1944.
Lieber, Maxim.
Morang, Alfred, 1901-1958.

Associated Titles

Life (New York, N.Y.)
New Masses.
PM (New York, N.Y.)


Authors, American.
Dramatists -- United States.
Journalists -- Family relationships.
Journalists -- United States.
Novelists, American.
Photographers -- United States.
Screenwriters -- United States.
Short stories, American -- 20th century.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Russia (Federation)
World War, 1939-1945 -- Journalists.


Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939.

Genres and Forms

Bank statements.
Bills of sale.
Check stubs.
Drafts (documents)
Manuscripts for publication.
Press releases.
Receipts (financial records)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Erskine Caldwell Papers,
Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library

Table of Contents

Correspondence - subject files