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Archival description
Claude Lewis Family Papers
98 · Collection · 1870-1996

The Claude Family Lewis Papers are mostly materials related to Claude Lewis and his family: first wife (and mother of his children) Mary, second wife Helen, and his surviving children - Freeman, Virginia, and Isabel. These materials include letters and other papers from his younger brother, Harry Sinclair Lewis, who, as an author, rose to worldwide fame.

When possible, people, especially those with a connection to the Lewis family, are identified to provide context to the materials.

Series 1: Correspondence

This series contains correspondence between members of the Claude Lewis family, others outside of Claude Lewis's family, and with those outside of the family. The letters are organized in sub-series by those who sent them.

Sub-Series 1: Claude and Mary Lewis

This subseries contains mostly letters that Claude wrote to his wife Mary and children Freeman, Virginia, and Isable. Significant are the letters that he wrote while vacationing in Alaska with wife Mary that chronicles their experiences.

Sub-Series 2: Edwin Lewis

This series contains a few letters written to Claude and Mary Lewis regarding life in Sauk Centre.

Sub-Series 3: Freeman Lewis

These letters were written by Freeman Lewis to his parents Claude and Mary from 1933 through 1940 about living in New York, his new family, including wife Judy Jennison Lewis, and the effects of the Great Depression.

Sub-Series 4: Grace Hegger Lewis

Written to various Lewis family members, mostly in the 1920s, Grace describes life living and traveling with her husband Sinclair Lewis. Especially noteworthy are the letters sent to Mary Lewis, often detailing the trials and tribualations of life in Europe.

Sub-Series 5: Helen Lewis

Written mostly after the death of Claude Lewis in 1957, this sub-series includes a single letter written by Michael Lewis.

Sub-Series 6: Judy Jennison Lewis

These letters were written by Freeman Lewis's new wife, Judy Jennison Lewis, to Mary Lewis, Freeman's mother. These describe life during the Great Depression in New York City.

Sub-Series 7: Sinclair Lewis

The letters are organized by receipent, then listed individually by date. The place from where the letters were written are also listed. Most of the letters here that he wrote went to members of the Claude Lewis family and his father.

In these letters, Sinclair discussed his recent travels and what he did during those travels, especially those to his father. Sinclair did inquire about Claude's family, often asking his older brother to travel with him. He also asked about the well-being of Freeman, Virginia, and Isabel - he offered advice about schooling (especially regarding Freeman), as well as career choices.

Sinclair did write of his work, including Mantrap, Dodsworth on Broadway as a play, Jayhawker, and It Can't Happen Here.

Sub-Series 8: Virginia Lewis

The letters in this sub-series were mostly written from the 1950s and on, though there are a few items dated before then. Many deal with the legacy of Sinclair Lewis especially about the records held by the Claude Lewis famliy. Especially noteworthy are the letters from Michael Lewis, as well as those from Marcella Powers.

Sub-Series 9: Dorothy Thompson

Only a small numbers of item in this sub-series, the correspondence is from Dorothy Thompson, Sinclair Lewis's second wife. Interesting items include a postcard with the likeness of Adolph Hitler, which was sent to Sinclair Lewis in the mid-1930s, as well as correspondence with Claude Lewis's second wife, Helen, regarding the decision to bury Sinclair Lewis's ashes in Sauk Centre after his 1951 death.

Sub-Series 10: Other Correspondence

This sub-series contains other correspondence received by the Lewis family.

Sub-Series 11: Acquistion of the Claude Lewis Family Papers

These records document the appraisal of value and the purchase of the bulk of the Claude Lewis Family to St. Cloud State by Freeman, Viriginia, and Isabel Lewis.

Series 2: Isabel Lewis Agrell subject files

These records contain mostly correspondence between Isabel Lewis and her family and other outsiders, almost exclusiverly dated after 1950. Notable correspondents include Ida and Charles Compton, Minnesota author John Koblas (who wrote several books about Sinclair Lewis), Lesley Lewis, and Marcella Powers.

Most notable are the letters from Lewis family members. Kay Cardew, grandmother of Lesley Lewis, wrote Isabel encouraging her to be in contact with Lesley, since her mother and father were deceased. Lesley Lewis wrote Isabel about her life and early career, while Jennifer Lewis Newsome reported on the health and, later, death of Michael Lewis. Marcella Powers, though not a Lewis family member, wrote of her life after her friendship with Sinclair Lewis ended. Mary Branham would write Isabel reporting on the death of Marcella, her close friend, in March 1985.

Isabel and her sister Virignia also organized a reception at St. Cloud State in August 1986 in which they gifted a 24 volume set of Sinclair Lewis works, edited by Japanese professor Hiroshige Yoshida. Included here are the correspondence regarding this reception, brochures from the event, the guestbook signed, and the audio recorded. The reception was held in the Lewis House (then known as the Alumni House), the former home of Claude Lewis and his family.

Series 3: Travel Journals and Related Material

This series contains materials related to the travels of Claude Lewis, who traveled with his first wife Mary and his second wife Helen, as well as his younger brother Sinclair. Material after 1957 were created by Helen when she traveled after the death of Claude.

Material here, organized by date of trip, are varied. These mostly contain typescript accounts that appeared in Claude's journal. There are some handwritten travel journals that were transcribed and are here also.

Most notable are the two trips that Claude took with his brother Sinclair - Saskatchewan in 1924 and Europe in 1949. The Saskatchewan trip contains a typescript of Claude's journal, which appeared twice in published form - Sinclair Lewis & Mantrap: The Saskatchewan Trip, edited by John Koblas and Dave Page in 1985, and Treaty Trip, which appeared in 1959. Sinclair used information from this trip for his 1926 book Mantrap. A photo album, which includes images of Sinclair, is included here, too.

After the death of his first wife Mary in 1949, Claude traveled to Europe with his brother Sinclair in 1949. A typescript of Claude's travel journal details life on the road with his famous younger brother. Claude would never see his brother alive again - Sinclair Lewis died in Rome in January 1951.

Series 4: Images

Material in this series are images of Claude Lewis and his extended family, including brother Sinclair and father Edwin, as well as early images of the sons of Sinclair, Wells and Michael. Images are organized by subject.

Photos are numerous for Claude Lewis and his family, including several formal portraits, though it does not include son Freeman.

Other notable images include Edwin and his second wife Isabel, Winnie Lewis, wife of Fred Lewis, Claude and Sinclair's oldest brother, and Sinclair's first wife Grace Hegger Lewis visiting Sauk Centre, MN. There are several images of Sinclair with Marcella Powers, including an autographed portrait of Sinclair that he gave Marcella in September 1939 and photos of them performing together in the play Shadow and Substance. There are images of Sinclair at his home in Duluth in the mid-1940s, as well as an image of Sinclair as a baby and portraits of him while attending Yale University.

People who were identified were included in the notes field for specific folders.

Series 5: Other Personal Papers

This series contains a wife variety of material related to the Claude Lewis family, as well as items from or related to Sinclair Lewis.

There are many items here, including account books calculating the cost of the higher education of Freeman, Virginia, and Isabel Lewis, a journal describing life at a lake cabin, wedding announcements, obituaries, and two semi-published works by Isabel Lewis Agrell and Mary Agrrell Stroeing about Sinclair Lewis and Viriginia Lewis.

Particularily significant is a typescript of a play, Angela is Twenty-Two, written by Sinclair Lewis and actress Fay Wray. Other significant items include the bill for the funeral of older brother Fred Lewis in 1946, program for Sinclair Lewis's memorial service in January 1951 in Sauk Centre, MN, shortly after his death, and a silk scarf given by Grace Hegger Lewis to Mary Lewis in the 1920s.

Agrell, Isabel Lewis
6 · Collection · 1933-1993

In 1933, Lewis collaborated with Lloyd Lewis to write a play revolving around the Civil War called The Jayhawker. Lloyd Lewis was a noted Civil War historian, writing biographies of General William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant. In the fall of 1934, the play, which in early drafts collected by Hubert Gibson was called “The Skedaddler” and “The Glory Hole,” was performed in Philadelphia, Washington, and New York.

The Hubert Irey Collection of Sinclair Lewis consists of many drafts of the Sinclair Lewis and Lloyd Lewis collaboration The Jayhawker, as well as correspondence and news clippings, almost all dated in 1933. Most notable are the drafts of The Jayhawker, showing the evolution of the play from an idea to a finished script.

There is a small but significant collection of material from Hubert Gibson himself, including letters, photographs, and news clippings, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s. Highlights of the material include Gibson’s remarks about his time working on The Jayhawker, as well as his letter of recommendation from Sinclair Lewis.

Series 1: The Jayhawker

Subseries 1: Drafts

Arranged in chronological order, the drafts tell the story about how The Jayhawker evolved from an idea to a play. Most of the material is typewritten with varying degrees of handwritten revisions in pencil or ink. These revisions were in English and in shorthand, either written by Sinclair or Lloyd Lewis, as well as Hubert Gibson.

Especially significant is the final draft of The Jayhawker, then titled “The Glory Hole,” hand inscribed to Hubert:

“For Gib, Who not only typed this, but acted all the parts during his obstetrical ministrations to us in our confinement. Lloyd Lewis Sept. 29, 1933 Sinclair Lewis”

Subseries 2: Miscellaneous

Included here are correspondence, news clippings, and artifacts. Most significant are the letters between Sinclair and Lloyd Lewis, April 1933 to September 1933. Written mostly to Sinclair, Lloyd Lewis discussed the details of the plot of the play, which he was calling “The Skedaddler.” Other details include possible producers of the play, as well as arrangements for a room at Chicago’s Sherry Hotel.

Also included in this subseries is an empty box of paper, paper which was used to write the drafts of The Jayhawker.

Series 2: Hubert Irey Gibson

Correspondence, photographs, and news clippings are included here. Most significant are the letters between Gibson and his daughter, Barbara. These letters, as well as a 1960 news clipping, provides insight into Gibson’s experience as Lewis’ temporary secretary.

Also included in this subseries is a color photocopy of a 1935 letter of recommendation written by Sinclair Lewis for Hubert Gibson.

Lewis, Harry Sinclair
Ida Compton Papers
32 · Collection · 1947-1985

The Ida Compton papers contain mostly letters written to Ida Kay Compton by Sinclair Lewis and others, dating from 1947 to 1985. Also included are clippings about Sinclair Lewis, including some written by and about Ida Kay Compton. In addition, the papers contain audio recordings of Lewis in the 1940s.

Sinclair Lewis wrote 18 letters and one telegram to Ida Kay Compton from 1947 to 1950. In these letters, Lewis mostly lived or was traveling in Europe. He described the people he was met and his home in Florence. Lewis also wrote about his new secretary, Alex Manson. The remainder of his letters discussed Ida's upcoming visit to Europe in the summer of 1950.

Other correspondence includes letters from Claude and Helen Lewis. Dated mostly around the death of Sinclair Lewis in 1951, these letters chronicle Ida's trip to Minnesota for the memorial service, as well as the disposition of Sinclair's personal property.

Letters written by Mark Schorer, who was writing a biography of Lewis, asked Ida for her memories of Lewis, while letters from Bennett Cerf and Harry Maule discussed an incident involving a confrontation with Sinclair Lewis over World So Wide, a book published in 1951.

Especially noteworthy are letters written by and to Barnaby Conrad, detailing Ida's friendship with Sinclair Lewis. Conrad briefly served as Lewis' secretary in 1947.

Other significant material are the newspaper clippings collected by Ida Kay Compton. Many dealt with the death of Sinclair Lewis, book reviews about publications of Lewis' life, as well as a few about Ida Compton herself, which dated in 1985.

The papers include audio recordings of Lewis from the 1940s and may be the only recordings Lewis' voice that survive. The large vinyl records have been reformatted onto a reel-to-reel tape and an audio cassette.

Compton, Ida L.
5 · Collection · 1942-1945

The 19 letters were written by Sinclair Lewis to Joan McQuary between 1942 and 1945. In the fall of 1942, McQuary met Lewis as a student in his creative writing class at the University of Minnesota. When the class finished in December, Lewis moved to New York City. During his time in Minneapolis, April to December 1942, Lewis nearly completed his novel Gideon Planish.

In these letters, Lewis discussed a wide variety of topics, giving a sense of his life while living in New York City. Lewis elaborated on his search for and described his new apartment at 300 Central Park West. Despite moving to New York City, Lewis longed for his University of Minnesota pupils and Minnesota, urging Joan to visit him in New York City, possibly working for him as a secretary. Lewis often mentioned spending the coming summer in Minnesota.

While in New York City, Lewis finished his novel, Gideon Planish. It was published that spring. Lewis was aware of the reviews he received for his book, noting to McQuary that the “furious attack” by literary critic Mumford Jones “is to be answered by yet more furious letters full of literary sniffing and thumbings of the philological nose…” He also mentioned on several occasions that he was sick of writing. After completing short stories for Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan in the spring of 1943, Lewis said the only writing he wanted to do was checks and luggage labels.

Lewis, Harry Sinclair
222 · Collection · 1915-1960

Color copies of letters written by Sinclair Lewis to his oldest brother Fred Lewis.

Lewis, Harry Sinclair
15 · Collection · 1939-1947

The 262 letters and 1 poem included in this collection were written by Sinclair Lewis to Marcella Powers between 1939 and 1947. Lewis met Powers in August 1939 when they were both acting in Eugene O’Neill’s play Ah Wilderness! at the Provincetown Theater in Cape Cod. Lewis and Powers began a relationship despite the 36 year age difference between them.

In these letters, Lewis discusses a wide variety of topics - his career, his writing, and his feelings for Powers. During the time of their relationship, Lewis traveled quite a bit throughout the United States giving lectures. He also spent time working in Los Angeles in the motion picture industry and lived in Excelsior and Duluth in Minnesota where he spent much time writing. Lewis also wrote about his social life, including the people that he met, the games of chess that he played, and the books that he read. Many of the letters are very long while others are quite short, with some including cartoons drawn by Lewis.

The letters end in September 1947, shortly after Powers marriage to Michael Amrine. Lewis tells Powers that she will no longer receive an allowance from him, but that if she were ever in need of help that he would be there for her. When Lewis passed away in 1951, Powers was listed in his will.

Lewis, Harry Sinclair
Sinclair Lewis Writings
99 · Collection · 1904-1966

This collection contains photocopies of articles, poetry, and other writings other than books by author Sinclair Lewis. The material was gathered by St. Cloud State University librarian Dwight Burlingame in the early 1970s.

Lewis, Harry Sinclair