A Guide to the Sherwood Anderson Collection, 1912-1938 Anderson, Sherwood, Collection Ms1973-002

A Guide to the Sherwood Anderson Collection, 1912-1938

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms1973-002


Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694
Email: specref@vt.edu
URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/

© 2008 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Joyce Nester and Amy Vilelle, Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Sherwood Anderson Collection, 1912-1938
Some items in this collection have been digitized and are available online .
Physical Characteristics
2 containers; 1.0 cu. ft.
Marian Anderson Spear, Ray White, Charles Modlin
Correspondence among author Sherwood Anderson and family members, most notably letters written by Anderson to his daughter Marian, as well as some of his professional correspondence. Also includes research material about Anderson gathered by Ray White and notecards--compiled by Dr. Charles Modlin--documenting the annotations in the books within Special Collections' Anderson book collection.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Most materials have no restrictions. Some photographs cannot be reproduced, as they are copies from collections at other institutions such as the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Sherwood Anderson Collection, Ms1973-002 - Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Acquisition Information

The Sherwood Anderson Collection was created through various donations and purchases in 1973, 1980, and 1997.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Sherwood Anderson Collection took place from October to December 2006.

Alternate Form Available

Some items in this collection have been digitized and are available online .

Biographical Information

Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) was born in the small town of Camden, Ohio to Irwin McClain Anderson (d.1919) and Emma Jane Smith (d.1895). While Anderson excelled as a student, he quit school at the age of 14 to help support his family, taking on a wide variety of jobs. After his mother’s death, he relocated to Chicago for the first time, working and taking a few night classes. He served briefly in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, but was sent there after combat had ended. A few months later, he returned to Clyde, then moved to Springfield, Ohio, in 1899, where he completed his senior year at Wittenburg Academy, a prep school. His graduation speech resulted in his being offered a job as an advertising solicitor and he moved to back to Chicago.

In 1903, work travels took him to Toledo, Ohio, where he met Cornelia Pratt Lane, his first wife. The couple married in 1904 and had three children: Robert Lane (1907-1951), John Sherwood (1908-1995) and Marion (Mimi) (1911-1996). In 1906, they relocated to Cleveland when Anderson became the president of the United Factories Company, a mail-order firm. The following year he departed the company, took his family to Elyria, Ohio, and started the Anderson Manufacturing Co., another mail-order business.

In 1912, Anderson suffered a nervous breakdown. He returned to Chicago yet again and began work writing advertising copy, as well as becoming part of the writer and artist scene of the city. In 1916, he divorced Cornelia Pratt and married Tennessee Mitchell, a sculptor. He also published his first novel, Windy McPherson’s Son, the first of three books in a deal with publisher John Lane. It was the beginning of his writing career. 1919 saw the publication of his short story collection, Winesburg, Ohio , one of his most well-known works. In 1924, he divorced Tennessee Mitchell and married Elizabeth Prall. They lived in New York and New Orleans, and traveled in Europe. With profits from his 1925 novel Dark Laughter, Anderson bought Ripshin Farm, later just Ripshin, of Troutdale, Virginia, as a summer home in 1926. He also acquired both local newspapers, the Smyth County News and the Marion Democrat . His son, Robert, helped with, and eventually took over management of the newspapers in 1929. Around the same time, Anderson began a tour of the south and its factory towns with Eleanor Copenhaver, which shaped several of his later non-fiction publications.

In 1932, Anderson divorced Elizabeth Prall and the following year, married Eleanor Copenhaver (1896-1985). Southwest Virginia was a powerful influence on his later stories and novels. His life in and around Marion and Troutdale was the focus of his writing for the newspapers, as well. At the same time, he was still writing novels and short stories for magazines. In 1941, Sherwood and Eleanor Anderson left for a trip to South America. During the trip, after ingesting a toothpick, Anderson developed peritonitis and was hospitalized in Panama, where he passed away on March 8, 1941. He is buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Marion, Virginia.

Over his lifetime, Anderson published 8 novels, 4 collections of short stories, 2 collections of poetry, 1 collection of plays, and 12 works of non-fiction. Following his death, publishers and scholars have produced memoirs, critical editions, and several volumes of his collected letters. During his life, he was influential on the careers of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and maintained extensive correspondence and friendships with authors, artists, publishers, and critics (though he later wrote that he had given up reading reviews).

Scope and Content

This collection contains materials relating to author Sherwood Anderson. The collection is notable for the personal letters written by Anderson to family members. The largest group of letters (about 78 of them) were written to his daughter, Marian Anderson ("Mimi") Spear, between 1912 and 1938. While discussing personal and family matters, Anderson often speaks of his difficulties, failures and successes in publishing, and his interactions with other notable authors of the period. Transcripts of the letters, probably made by Anderson scholar and retired Virginia Tech English Department faculty member Dr. Hilbert Campbell, are invaluable as Anderson's handwriting can be very difficult to read. Additional correspondence includes letters between Anderson and other family members. Other correspondence reflects Anderson as a writer and includes a typescript of a speech delivered by Anderson to striking workers at Danville, Virginia in 1931.

Supporting sets of documents include two researchers' work on Sherwood Anderson. Material donated by Anderson scholar Ray Lewis White, author of more than a dozen titles related to Anderson, includes photographs of Anderson and his family members, book covers from a project to gather covers (or reproductions of covers) not already in his collection, pages that were prepared for publication, and other materials used by White in his Anderson books. Notes made by Dr. Charles Modlin, a retired professor from the English Department at Virginia Tech and author of seven books about Anderson, are also included. The notes mostly concern the Anderson book collection in Virginia Tech's Special Collections and the books related to Anderson.


The collection is arranged in two series. Each series is further subdivided by subject.

Series I contains original personal and professional Sherwood Anderson documents as well as Anderson family materials. Included in the series are letters (both handwritten and typed) from Anderson to daughter Marian ("Mimi"), 1912-1938. These letters mostly relate to personal and family matters, though Anderson sometimes mentions interactions with other authors of the day, his travels, and the current state of his works in progress. (Notable is the affectionate tone of the letters.) Also included in this series are letters to Marian from other family members, as well as letters among other members of Anderson's family. Contained here among Anderson's professional correspondence are letters to John Road; correspondence with Lee Brian concerning Brian's effort to publish a short story; correspondence with Helen Candill regarding her request for an editorial for the Marion College Squib , December 1940; and an editorial titled "Chance Rules Us All," penned by Anderson on the verso of a letter. Also included is a typescript of a speech Anderson gave to striking cotton mill workers of Danville, Virginia in 1931.

Series II contains research materials about Anderson collected by two researchers. Included are research and publication materials used in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio , edited and annotated by Ray Lewis White (Ohio University Press, 1997). The materials consist mostly of undated reproductions of photographs of people and documents from the Newberry Library and other sources, and book dust jackets. (Included is a list of 39 microfilm reels and four reprinted theses and dissertations regarding Anderson's work that were transferred to the general library collection. Also in this series are a set of notes compiled by Charles Modlin on the annotations found in the Anderson book collection in Virginia Tech's Special Collections. The project was not completed and notes have been preserved in their original order within seven envelopes.

Related Material

Books by and about Sherwood Anderson stored in Special Collections and the general collection of Newman Library are cataloged and can be located using the library's catalog .

Microfilmed and bound theses and dissertations about Sherwood Anderson and his work that were collected by researcher Ray White are cataloged and can be located using the library's catalog .

A 1904 wedding dress that belonged to Sherwood Anderson's wife, Cornelia Platt Lane, is part of the Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection located in Virginia Tech's Wallace Hall.

Special Collections houses multiple manuscripts relating to Anderson, including:

Ms2011-004, Sherwood Anderson Photograph and Postcard, 1929, 1939. Finding aid available online .

Ms2015-020, Welford D. Taylor Collection on Sherwood Anderson, 1918-2006, n.d. Finding aid available online.

Ms2015-044, Sherwood Anderson Correspondence with Llewellyn Jones, 1916-1924, n.d. Finding aid available online . Digital images with transcripts available online.

Ms2017-005, James T. Farrell Letters to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, 1952. Finding aid available online .

Index Terms


  • Local/Regional History and Appalachian South
  • Persons:

  • Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941

Contents List

Some items in this collection have been digitized and are available online .

SERIES I: Sherwood Anderson and Anderson Family Correspondence
  • Family Correspondence
    • Letters to Daughter Marian ("Mimi") from Sherwood Anderson
      • Box-folder 1:1
        Postcard, 1912
      • Box-folder 1:2
        Letters, 1927
        [11 items]
      • Box-folder 1:3-8
        Letters, 1929-1934
      • Box-folder 1:9
        Letters, 1938
      • Box-folder 1:10
        Transcripts of letters
    • Letters to Marian from Family Members
      • Box-folder 1:11
        From Cornelia, John, and Robert Anderson, 1927, 1932, n.d.
    • Letters to and from Anderson Family Members
      • Box-folder 1:12
        To Cornelia Anderson from John Anderson, 1930
      • Box-folder 1:13
        To Russel Spear from John Anderson, 1932
      • Box-folder 1:13
        To Mary Anderson from Sherwood Anderson, n.d.
      • Box-folder 1:14
        To Sherwood Anderson from Robert Anderson, n.d.
  • Professional Correspondence
    • Box-folder 1:15
      Letter to John Road, n.d.
    • Box-folder 1:16
      Letters to and from Brian Lee, 1931
    • Box-folder 1:17
      Letters to and from Helen Candill, 1930
    • Box-folder 1:18
      Letter on The Royalton (New York) letterhead; salutation unintelligible, n.d.
    • Box-folder 1:19
      Typescript of speech delivered by Sherwood Anderson to striking cotton mill workers of Danville, Virginia, Jan 13 1931
SERIES II: Research Materials about Sherwood Anderson
  • Material from Ray White
    • Box-folder 2:1
      Photos and negatives of Anderson from boyhood through 1920s
    • Box-folder 2:2
      Photos of Anderson from 1930s and 1940s
    • Box-folder 2:3
      Photos of Eleanor Anderson
    • Box-folder 2:4
      Photos of Anderson's mother and father
    • Box-folder 2:5
      Photocopies from father's and mother's diaries, 1872
    • Box-folder 2:6
      Photo of Anderson's father and step-brother
    • Box-folder 2:7
      Photo of Anderson with siblings
    • Box-folder 2:8
      Photo of Anderson with his sons
    • Box-folder 2:9
      Photo of Anderson with the Copenhavers
    • Box-folder 2:10
      Photographic copy of Anderson article "Business Types" in Agricultural Advertising
    • Box-folder 2:11
      Photographic copy of "My Word to You," written by Anderson as an advertisement for his company, the United Factories Company
    • Box-folder 2:12
      Photos and tourist brochures for Clyde, Ohio; color photos of paintings by local artist Kenn Bower (commissioned by Robert Good) of the characters in Winesburg, Ohio
      [26 items]
    • Box-folder 2:13
      Photographic copies of manuscript pages for Winesburg, Ohio
    • Box-folder 2:14
      Photographic copies of maps of Clyde, Ohio and Winesburg, Ohio
    • Box-folder 2:15
      Photos of Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, maps of and buildings in Ohio towns, copies of Anderson's signature, and other items for use in the publication of White's book
    • Box-folder 2:16
      Photographic plates removed from a copy of Anderson's Hello Towns
    • Box-folder 2:17
      Photographic copy of a document written by Anderson in New York, July 26, [19]32
    • Box-folder 2:18
      Book dust jackets
      • Original dust jackets for Sherwood Anderson's Notebook, Perhaps Women, The Face of America, and Home Town
      • Photographic copies of dust jackets for Winesburg, Ohio and Marching Men
      • Photocopies of dust jackets for Puzzled America, The Triumph of the Egg, Mid-American Chants and Death In the Woods and Other Stories
    • Box-folder 2:19
      Correspondence about White's dust jacket project
    • Box-folder 2:20
      Photographs of interior and exterior of Anderson's home, "Ripshin, " includes a photographic copy of a painting of Ripshin by Karl Anderson
    • Box-folder 2:21
      Photo of a wood carving by Buck Fever
    • Box-folder 2:22
      Photo of Anderson's grave monument
    • Box-folder 2:23
      Photo identified as "Labor parade "
    • Box-folder 2:24
      Miscellaneous photographic negatives
    • Box-folder 2:25
      List of dissertations and theses on Anderson (most cataloged and available in Newman library general collection)
  • Material from Charles Modlin
    • Box-Folder 2:26-32
      Notes by Modlin on annotations within Special Collections' Anderson book collection