DATES: 1933-1958 [bulk of material is undated]

SIZE: 14 volumes


ACQUISITION: The Maxwell Anderson Papers were deposited in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection. The acquisition records are unavailable.

ACCESS: Available for inspection under the rules and regulations of the Department of Special Collections.


James Maxwell Anderson was born December 15, 1888, in Atlantic, Pennsylvania, the second child of William Lincoln Anderson and Charlotte Perrimela (Stephenson) Anderson. His first three years were spent growing up on his maternal grandmother's farm in Atlantic. His family moved to Andover, Ohio, where his father worked as a railroad fireman and studied at night to become a minister. The family moved often, before coming to Jamestown, North Dakota in 1907.

Maxwell Anderson graduated from Jamestown High School in 1908, and began attending the University of North Dakota later that year. While at UND, he was involved with the Dacotah Annual, was an active member of Ad Altiora, a literary society, and served as the assistant director of the Sock and Buskin Dramatic Society. As a way of earning money, Anderson also waited on tables and worked at the night copy desk of the Grand Forks Herald. He graduated from UND with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature on June 14, 1911.

After graduation, Anderson took a position as principle of a high school in Minnewaukan, North Dakota, where he also taught English. His contract was terminated in 1913, following pro-pacifism comments he made to his students.

He enrolled at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in the fall of 1913. He obtained a Master of Arts degree in English Literature in 1914. He was a high school English teacher in San Francisco for three years, before becoming chair of the English Department at Whittier College near Los Angeles, in 1917. He was fired at the end of his first year, for public statements he made on behalf of a student seeking conscientious objector status.

He next found work for a short time with several newspapers in San Francisco, before moving to New York to join the editorial staff of the New Republic. While in New York City, he also worked for the New York Globe and the New York World. In 1921, he was a founding member of Measure, a magazine dedicated to verse.

Maxwell penned his first play, White Dessert, in 1923. The play lasted only twelve performances, but it won the attention of Laurence Stallings, a reviewer for the New York World. Stallings and Maxwell collaborated on What Price Glory? in 1924. This play was a giant success, earning both critical praise and box office success. What Price Glory? had a run of more than 430 performances, and enabled Anderson to retire from journalism and devote all of his energies to play writing.

His theatrical works included: The Buccaneer and First Flight (with Stallings) and Outside Looking In (1925); Saturday's Children (1927); Gods of the Lightning (with Harold Nickerson) and Gypsy (1928); Elizabeth the Queen (1930); Night Over Taos (1932); Mary of Scotland (1933); Valley Forge (1934); The Masque of Kings and The Wingless Victory (1936); Star- Wagon (1937); Knickerbocker Holiday (1938); Key Largo (1939); Journey to Jerusalem (1940); Candle in the Wind (1941); Eve of St. Mark (1942); Storm Operation (1944); Truckline Cafe (1945); Joan of Lorraine (1946); Anne of a Thousand Days (1947); Lost in the Stars (1949); Barefoot in Athens (1951); Bad Seed (1954); The Day the Money Stopped (with Brendan Gill) and The Golden Six (1958). Anderson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1933 for Both Your Houses. He won the First Annual New York Critics Circle Award for Winterset in 1935, and for High Tor in 1936.

Anderson also wrote several one-act plays, including: The Feast of Ortolans (1937); Second Overture (1938); The Miracle of the Danube (1941); Your Navy (1942); Letter to Jackie (1944). Several of these plays were written specifically for the radio. Besides his plays, Anderson also collaborated on numerous screenplays, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Washington Merry-Go-Round and Rain (1932), Death Takes a Holiday (1934) and So Red the Rose (1935). He published You Who Have Dreams, a book of poetry in 1925, as well as two collections of essays: The Essence of Tragedy and Other Footnotes and Papers (1939) and Off Broadway Essays About the Theatre (1947).

In 1946, Columbia University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Literature degree. In 1954, he was honored with the Gold Medal in Drama from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1958, on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the University of North Dakota, Anderson was conferred a Doctor of Humanities degree. Too ill to attend the ceremony, the degree was granted in absentia.

He married Margaret Haskett, a fellow classmate, on August 1, 1911 on the Haskett family farm in Bottineau, North Dakota. They had three sons, Quentin, Alan, and Terence. Margaret died on February 26, 1931. He married for a second time to Gertrude “Mab” Higger in October 1933. A daughter, Hesper, was born August 2, 1934. Gertrude died on March 21, 1953. He married again to Gilda Hazard on June 6, 1954.

Maxwell Anderson died in Stamford, Connecticut, on February 28, 1959, two days after suffering a stroke.


Shivers, Alfred. The Life of Maxwell Anderson. New York: Stein and Day, 1983.
The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. vol. 60: pp. 323-325.
Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Six: pp. 14-16


The Maxwell Anderson Papers consist of manuscripts, diaries and published books regarding Anderson’s plays. The 14 volumes in the collection were separated and placed in the fireproof file cabinet. The earliest volume probably dates from 1933 (Volumes 1 and 2), while the latest dates from 1958 (Volume 13). The majority of the collection, however, consists of undated manuscripts of Anderson’s plays.

Vol. 1:365 x 285 x l6mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of Mary of Scotland.

Vol. 2:246 x 155 x 10mm. Record book. Diary which records the typing of Mary of Scotland , June 8 - July 20, (1933?). Includes entries from January 6, 1934 and October 24-25, 1936. An alternate passage to Mary of Scotland is written on the last page.

Vol.3: Brendan Gill, The Day the Money Stopped (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1957). A book with notations and a signature on the front flyleaf by Maxwell Anderson. Notes for the play inside the back cover.

Vol.4: 275 x 210 x16mm. Record book with margins. 152 pages of written manuscript of The Day the Money Stopped.

Vol.5: 286 x 225 x 9mm. Reproduced typewritten manuscript of The Golden Six. Bound with a flexible synthetic fiber back.

Vol.6: 365 x 285 x 35mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of Adam, Lilith and Eve.

Vol.7: 365 x 285 x 35mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of The Star-Wagon. Beginning on page 101 is a short play entitled The Feast of Ortolans.

Vol. 8: 365 x 285 x16mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of Uithymiri, a play about Iceland.

Vol. 9: 365 x 285 x 16mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of Candle in the Wind.

Vol. 10: 365 x 285 x 16mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of Knickerbocker Holiday.

Vol. 11: 200 x 250 x 16mm. Record book. Handwritten manuscript of The Bad Seed.

Vol. 12: 218 x 158 x 34mm. Loose leaf notebook. Notes for Storm Operation.

Vol. 13: 6 loose leaf pages, (200mm x 300mm). Original manuscript of Love Letter to a University. Dated November 3, 1958.

Vol. 14: 225 x 153 x 20mm. Diary. January 1, 1948 - December 31, 1948. 7 pages of memoranda added at the back of the diary.

 Original donation  First addition: 1956-1983
 Second addition: 1923  Third addition: 1933-1983
 Fourth addition: 1937-1939  Fifth addition: 1958, undated

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