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Finding Aid for the Merle Armitage Collection 1919-1971
Press coll. Archives Armitage  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Merle Armitage Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1919-1971
    Collection number: Press coll. Archives Armitage
    Creator: Armitage, Merle 1893-1975
    Extent: 3 boxes (2.7 linear feet)
    Repository: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
    Los Angeles, California 90018
    Abstract: This collection contains correspondence, printed ephemera, articles, book designs, announcements, and other materials written by and about and designed by Merle Armitage. Most items relate to book design and the performing arts.
    Physical location: This collection is stored at the Southern Regional Library Facility. Please contact Clark Library staff at least 2 weeks in advance if you would like to view the materials in this collection.
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Clark Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Merle Armitage Collection, Press coll. Archives Armitage, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Acquisition Information

    The provenance for this collection is not clear, though items may have been collected by the Clark Library over time. Some items were donated by Merle Armitage and Ward Ritchie. If a donor is known, their name is listed in the note associated with the item.

    Processing History

    Processed by Jamie Henricks, November 2009


    Merle Armitage was born in 1893 on a farm outside Mason City, Iowa. He had many jobs over the years, but began his career as an engineer on the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railroad (later the Santa Fe Railroad, and now the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway). He later took a job as a graphic designer for the Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit.
    His next career was as a set designer for New York theaters, which later turned into a long stint in the theater promotion business. Armitage also managed various performers and their concert tours. In 1924, he co-founded the Los Angeles Grand Opera Association and was its business manager for eight seasons. He then managed the Los Angeles Philharmonic auditorium, from 1933 to 1939, where he oversaw production of various plays and operas.
    In addition to his theater work, Armitage was involved with writing and designing books, as well as serving as the art director for various magazines (including 'Quick' and 'Look'). Over one hundred books are attributed to him. He had a short career in the Army Air Forces, working in the Material Center, and was a regional chairman for the Public Works of Art project during the Depression. In 1951, he was the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
    Merle Armitage married four times and eventually retired to Yucca Valley, California, to a ranch he called Manzanita Ranch. He died March 15, 1975.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains correspondence, printed ephemera, newspaper clippings, magazine and journal articles, hand-drawn book designs, announcements, and other materials written by and about and designed by Merle Armitage. Most items relate to book design and the performing arts. Items are primarily paper and most date from the late 1920s to late 1950s.


    The collection was arranged previously by another individual; it was rearranged in November 2009. Series are organized chronologically.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Correspondence, 1950-1958
    • Series 2. Articles and Publications, 1932-1971
    • Series 3. Book and Ephemera Design, 1933-1957
    • Series 4. Speeches and Exhibits, 1929-1957
    • Series 5. Theater, Music, and Art, 1927-1947
    • Series 6. Miscellaneous, 1919-1962

    Related Material

    Merle Armitage papers, 1930-1974, MS 234, Main Library Special Collections, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
    Papers of Merle Armitage, 1932-1964, MsC 558, Special Collections Department, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.
    Merle Armitage Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California. (American art collected by Armitage)
    Merle Armitage Art Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Authors, American--20th century
    Book designers--United States--20th century
    Impresarios--United States--20th century
    Theater--Los Angeles--20th century

    Genres and Forms

    Ephemera--California--20th century
    Letters--California--20th century
    Periodicals--United States--20th century