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Hermann Hagedorn Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: EL
Date: Jun 1978

Biographical History

Hermann Hagedorn, biographer of Theodore Roosevelt, poet, and novelist, was born in New York on 18 July 1882, the son of Hermann and Anna (Schwedler) Hagedorn. He prepared at the Hill School and took his bachelor's degree in 1907 at Harvard College. He married Dorothy Oakley in 1908. After traveling in Europe and studying at the University of Berlin and Columbia, he returned to Harvard in the spring of 1909 as an instructor in English and an assistant in comparative literature to Barrett Wendell. He taught there for two years. Novels, plays, and volumes of verse followed. He wrote lyrics for the Peterborough pageant and was affiliated with the artists' colony in Peterborough, N.H., as a director of the Edward MacDowell Association. With Porter Emerson Browne, Julian Street, and Charles Hanson Towne he founded the Vigilantes, an organization of American writers founded in 1916 to support American citizenship and preparedness for the war.

During the pre-convention campaign of 1916 he met Theodore Roosevelt, whose personality captivated him; the resulting friendship shaped the course of his career. The former president cooperated with him in the writing of The Boys' Life of Theodore Roosevelt, published in 1918. After Roosevelt's death the following year, Hermann Hagedorn became assistant secretary and later executive secretary of the Roosevelt Memorial Association, an affiliation he maintained for the rest of his life. From the association's offices in the Roosevelt birthplace site in New York City, he researched other books on the former president: Roosevelt in the Badlands, Roosevelt, Prophet of Unity, The Bugle that Woke America, and The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill. He also edited several selections of the president's writings, including the twenty-volume Works of Theodore Roosevelt. Leonard Wood, the military surgeon who was a Roosevelt confidant, and Edwin Arlington Robinson, the poet whose popularity Roosevelt encouraged, were subjects of his biographies. He was the director of the Theodore Roosevelt Centennial Commission from 1955 to 1959.

Other subjects of his biographical pen were William Boyce Thompson, the mining operator, Robert S. Brookings, merchant, philanthropist, and founder of the Brookings Institution, and Albert Schweitzer. A collection of biographical sketches, Americans: A Book of Lives, was published in 1946. His books for children, widely used in schools, include Book of Courage and We, the People. Two later works in verse are Combat at Midnight (1940) and The Bomb that Fell on America (1946); letters regarding the publication and public reception of the latter title make up a part of the correspondence in these papers. In The Hyphenated Family; An American Saga, he tells the story of his German-American family. During much of his adult life he lived in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he died on 27 July 1964.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Hermann Hagedorn Papers comprise Correspondence of scattered dates, Memorabilia, partial Research files on three subjects of his biographies, manuscripts of some 130 stories and other writings, and a small Biographical file. Although most dated items predate 1950, the span dates of the papers are 1904-1962. Most of the manuscripts carry no dates.

Correspondence--incoming letters and carbons of his replies chronologically arranged--dates from 1905 to 1962. There are 375 letters addressed to Hermann Hagedorn, 102 of his letters, and 33 letters addressed to other correspondents. The earliest letters are from friends and teachers during his undergraduate days at Harvard: George Pierce Baker, LeBaron Russell Briggs, Mark A. DeWolfe Howe, Bliss Perry, Lucien Price, and Barrett Wendell. Edwin Arlington Robinson is the subject of some correspondence from 1935 and 1936. Letters of March 1936 were generated by a memorandum on how best to allocate a half-million-dollar fund given to the American Institute of Arts and Letters; memoranda concerning the endowment fund are located with memorabilia in box 1.

The heaviest concentration of letters is from the 1940s. Albert Schweitzer is the subject of many letters from 1944 to 1946, when the author was preparing his biography. Correspondents include Julius Seelye Bixler, Alice Ehlers, Edith G. H. Lenel, Emmy Martin, Hubert W. Peet, and Everett Skillings, as well as Albert and Hélène Schweitzer themselves. There are carbons of Hermann Hagedorn's letters to Albert Schweitzer, but there are no original letters from Albert Schweitzer in these papers. Copies of Albert Schweitzer's letters to Hermann Hagedorn are located in the research files in boxes 2 and 3. Also in the same files are copies and extracts of Albert Schweitzer letters to other correspondents.

Other correspondents include Van Wyck Brooks, Jack London, Lewis Mumford, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Paul Tillich. A complete index of the correspondence is appended to this inventory. From 1946 there are letters, some of them addressed to the Pacific Coast Publishing Company, that relate to the publication and public reception of Hermann Hagedorn's book The Bomb that Fell on America. Some other correspondence appears elsewhere in these papers. In box 2 there is a small file of correspondence, 1944-1946, exchanged between Hermann Hagedorn and the Reference Department of the Library of Congress, on the subject of books about Albert Schweitzer; these letters are not indexed in the index of correspondents.

Memorabilia from 1907 to 1962 is arranged in boxes 1 and 2. There are clippings of articles by Hermann Hagedorn, including tear sheets of his contributions to The Outlook, clippings about him, photographs, promotional files (of readers' comments, blurb copy, and the like) on four of his books, published reviews of his books, and other items. One folder holds memoranda and other material relating to the use of an American Institute of Arts and Letters endowment fund.

Research files on three subjects of Hermann Hagedorn's biographies are arranged in boxes 2 and 3. Although not complete, these files do hold clippings, notes, and other material used by the author. Edwin Arlington Robinson is represented by clippings, Hagedorn's notes, and other items. Two small folders of printed material on Theodore Roosevelt are followdd by a more extensive file on Albert Schweitzer, part of the notes on which Hagedorn based his biography. There are folders with copies of 22 Albert Schweitzer letters (no originals), 1920-1945, copies of a letter from Hélène Schweitzer and excerpts from additional Albert Schweitzer letters, clippings about Albert Schweitzer, and notes. Typescript memoirs of Albert Schweitzer by Hubert W. Peet and Maude Royden are present, as is a translation from the Swedish of a memoir by Schweitzer himself in which he describes his visit to Uppsala in 1920. Four folders of photographs include 31 snapshots and other prints mailed by Schweitzer to Hagedorn in 1945; a caption list in Albert Schweitzer's handwriting is separately foldered. One of the photographs listed there, number 10, reproduced as the frontispiece of Prophet in the Wilderness, is not now located. Further details on holdings appear in the accompanying shelflist.

Manuscripts of Hermann Hagedorn's writings, 1904 to 1958 with many undated pieces, are arranged in boxes 3 and 4. The 130-odd manuscripts include approximately 30 stories and approximately 60 poems. There are no complete manuscripts of his books, but there is one chapter of Prophet in the Wilderness, apparently not part of the book as published. The earliest item is a 27-page dramatic poem in German, "Das mitternächtliche Königsreich," in a bound leather notebook. A section of miscellaneous manuscripts ends with several unidentified items. A detailed listing of the manuscripts is part of the shelflist.


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.

Subject Headings


Baker, George Pierce, 1866-1935.
Brooks, Van Wyck, 1886-1963.
Ehlers, Alice.
Hagedorn, Hermann, 1882-1964.
London, Jack, 1876-1916.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971.
Price, Lucien, 1883-1964.
Robinson, Edwin Arlington, 1869-1935.
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919.
Schweitzer, Albert, 1875-1965.


American literature -- 20th century.
Authors, American.
Biography, Authorship.
Poets, American.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Hermann Hagedorn Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Hermann Hagedorn, 1964.

Table of Contents

Biographical material



Research files


Index to correspondence


Index to correspondence

Abbreviations used: ALS = autograph (handwritten) letter, signed; TLS = typescript letter, signed.