Register of the Tram Combs Papers MSS 123

Finding aid prepared by Mandeville Special Collections Library
Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
858-534-2533
spcoll@ucsd.edu
Copyright 2005


Descriptive Summary

Title: Tram Combs Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 123
Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
Language of Material: English
Physical Description: 4.0 Linear feet (10 archives boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1946 - 1964
Abstract: Papers of Tram Combs, writer and bookseller. Combs lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1940s and was associated with many well-known writers. In 1951 he moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where he owned and operated a bookstore. Combs was active in Gay literary circles and contributed to early Gay periodicals such as the Mattachine Review and One. Materials in the collection date from the late 1940s through 1964 and include correspondence, writings, and photographs.
Creator: Combs, Tram, 1924-

Scope and Content of Collection

Dating from the late 1940s through 1964, the papers document the life, writings, and thought of Tram Combs. The collection includes Combs' personal revelations about his life as a writer and Gay person in the 1950s and early 60s. In addition, the papers provide unusual insights into Gay politics and literary infighting in the United States and the Virgin Islands.
Combs himself organized his own papers quite thoroughly. He often wrote notes explaining how the papers were originally created and how and why the materials were arranged as they were. The present collection is organized in six series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) NOTEBOOKS AND WORKING SHEETS, 3) TYPESCRIPTS OF VERSE, 4) AUTHOR'S COLLECTION OF SERIALS, 5) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, and 6) PHOTOGRAPHS.
SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
Although it comprises a relatively small portion of the collection, the CORRESPONDENCE is fascinating in that both sides of many exchanges are present. Combs kept carbon copies of even his most mundane letters. Many of these letters are lengthy, gossipy, and full of interesting personal, political and literary trivia. Major correspondents include Auerhahn Press, D. Clark, James Boyer May, the Mattachine Society (one of the first Gay liberation organizations), Robert I. Nesmith, Alan Priest, Gerd Stern and Knute Stiles. The correspondence with Clark is particularly revealing of Combs' personal life and feelings. Combs' letters to Gonzalo Segura include Combs' opinions of the activities of the Mattachine Society. The entire CORRESPONDENCE series is organized alphabetically by correspondent.
Although the collection contains references to Combs's extensive correspondence with William Carlos Williams, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Robert Duncan, Jonathan Williams and Kenneth Patchen, these letters are not included. It is likely that this correspondence was sold prior to UCSD's acquisition of the papers.
SERIES 2: NOTEBOOKS AND WORKING SHEETS
The second series, NOTEBOOKS AND WORKING SHEETS, contains jottings and drafts of poems in manuscript. The description - Working Sheets - was used by the poet himself, who used that title for all working drafts of his verse. The materials are arranged chronologically wherever possible. Undated working papers were placed in a separate folder.
SERIES 3: TYPESCRIPTS OF VERSE
The largest series, TYPESCRIPTS OF VERSE, is divided into three subseries: A) Published Books, B) Unpublished Books, and C) Miscellaneous Poems.
A) Published Books consists of typescript copies and revisions (some with annotations) of four of Combs' major works. These items are organized chronologically by book title. Materials from Saints Thomas' and Francis' cities songs o' Tram and Briefs: poems are not found in this collection.
B) The subseries Unpublished Books contains Combs' compilation of three large collections of poetry, along with lengthy Christmas cards containing verse. These works are arranged by title and date.
C) The final subseries in TYPESCRIPTS OF VERSE is Miscellaneous Poems. This includes a notebook of some of Combs's earliest poems, collected and arranged by the poet and entitled "Combs Poems: thru 1950." Also in this subseries is an extensive collection of miscellaneous typescripts of poems dating from 1951 to 1964 and arranged chronologically. Curiously, there are fewer typescripts for the years 1955 and 1956. This may be due to the fact that Combs was busy helping to found the Virgin Islands Museum during that time.
SERIES 4: AUTHOR'S COLLECTION OF SERIALS
AUTHOR'S COLLECTION OF SERIALS is the fourth series. Included are relatively obscure periodicals which contain published versions of Combs' writing, as well as reviews of Combs' work. These items are arranged alphabetically by serial title.
SERIES 5: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
WRITINGS OF OTHERS is composed of Combs' small collection of what appears to be his friends' and students' writings. It is arranged alphabetically by author.
SERIES 6: PHOTOGRAPHS
The final series, PHOTOGRAPHS, consists of both prints and negatives. Most of the images are snapshots of Combs' family and friends, along with many scenes from the Virgin Islands.

Biography

Elisha Trammel (Tram) Combs, Jr. was born 25 September 1924 in Riverview, Alabama, the son of Elisha Trammel, a cotton mill superintendent, and LaFaye Hunt Combs. Elisha Jr. was educated in Southern schools until 1936, when his family moved to San Francisco.
As a young man, Tram was primarily interested in botany, physics, and chemistry. While serving in the U.S. Army Air Force he attended University of Washington in 1943 and 1944. He received a certificate of professional competence in meteorology from University of Chicago in 1945. Combs left the air force in 1946 after serving as a meteorologist and becoming a second lieutenant. For the next two years he attended Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (studying electronics engineering) and the University of California, where he received an A.B. in physics in 1948.
From 1948-51 Combs worked as an oil chemist at the Tidewater-Associated Oil Company in Avon, California. Also during the late 1940's he began to write poetry under the guidance of Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Hart and Josephine Miles. Discovering his inclination towards writing and the arts, Combs abruptly changed careers in 1948, becoming the owner and manager of Island Studios, a photographic studio in the Bay Area.
In 1951 Combs moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. There, using his talents as a bibliophile, linguist, and poet, he managed and owned Tram Combs Books - a bookshop specializing in the literature and history of middle and southern Americas. Combs also involved himself in community, cultural and political activities in St. Thomas. He served as a founder and trustee of the Virgin Islands Art Museum (1955-56), helped to develop a Boy Scouts of America chapter, worked on building a local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and participated in disaster relief work. He was an active member of the Gay literary community, both in the Virgin Islands and the U.S., and he regularly submitted articles and suggestions to Gay periodicals such as Mattachine Review and One.
Combs earned the respect of noted contemporary poets such as Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos Williams -- both of whom wrote forewords to Combs' first book. However, Combs' writing never received public acclaim or commercial success. Some critics complained of his verse's sentimental tone, overabundance of private references, and modifying clauses. Others praised his verbal compression, his unusual typography, his detailed attention to nature and fellow human beings, and his honest, intense, but quiet voice. As William Carlos Williams wrote, "It is in the construction of a verse about an island sunset, that the reader will find what is hidden for him there; not what he thinks he will find but something surprising, amazingly simple and altogether delightful."

Preferred Citation

Tram Combs Papers, MSS 123. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

Acquisition Information

Not Available

OFF-SITE STORAGE

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE: ALLOW ONE WEEK FOR RETRIEVAL OF MATERIALS

Publication Rights

Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Auerhahn Press.
Mattachine Society.
American poetry--20th century
Gay liberation movement--United States
Photographic prints -- 20th Century.
Virgin Islands of the United States -- Photographs

 

CORRESPONDENCE

Box 1, Folder 1

Miscellaneous correspondence, A-Z

Box 1, Folder 2

Allen, Donald 1958 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 3

Allen, Luther 1957 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 4

American Academy for the International Morality, Inc. (A.I.M.) 1963

Box 1, Folder 5

Anderson, Forrest 1959 - 1960

Box 1, Folder 6

Auerhahn, Press 1960 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 7

Baldwin, James 1963

Box 1, Folder 8

Beye, Holly and David Ruff 1959 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 9

Blom, Frans 1955 - 1957

Box 1, Folder 10

Bryant, Byron 1955 - 1957

Box 1, Folder 11

Cabral, Olga ca. 1960

Box 1, Folder 12

Ching, Reverend D.S. 1956 - 1959

Box 1, Folder 13

Cholakis, Jo Ann 1956 - 1959

Box 1, Folder 14

Chumbly, Harold 1959 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 15

Clark, D. (Dolores Corinne) 1956 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 16

Combs, Elisha and LaFaye 1954 - 1958

Box 1, Folder 17

Combs, Larry H. and family 1957 - 1958

Box 1, Folder 18

Corretjer, Don Antonio 1955 - 1956

Box 1, Folder 19

Crowe, Donald 1959 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 20

Daniel, Albert E. 1953 - 1955

Box 1, Folder 21

DeJoel, Miriam (Koshland) 1951 - 1963

Box 1, Folder 22

Delattre, Henri 1959

Box 1, Folder 23

Der Kreis/The Circle 1957

General note

See also CORRESPONDENCE - Allen Luther
Box 1, Folder 24

Dettman, Preston (Winston Book Service) 1958 - 1963

Box 1, Folder 25

Dickson, Pratt (a.k.a. Manfred Wise) 1959

Box 1, Folder 26

Donovan, Laurence 1958 - 1959

Box 1, Folder 27

El Corno Emplumado 1962 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 28

Everson, Ron 1958 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 29

Fleischer, Justin 1953 - 1955

Box 1, Folder 30

Folkways Record (Moe Asch) 1953 - 1954

Box 1, Folder 31

Ford, Kenneth 1959 - 1964

Box 1, Folder 32

Genesis West 1963

Box 1, Folder 33

Gidlow, Elsa 1958 - 1959

Box 2, Folder 1

Harcourt, Brace and Company (Margaret Marshall) 1959

Box 2, Folder 2

Hart, Lawrence 1951 - 1963

Box 2, Folder 3

Hedley, Leslie Woolf 1959 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 4

Hodes, Ida 1958 - 1962

Box 2, Folder 5

Instituto de Cultura Puertoriquena (Ricardo Alegria, director) 1955 - 1958

Box 2, Folder 6

Jerome, Jud 1963 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 7

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 1957 - 1958

Box 2, Folder 8

Kwock, C.H

Box 2, Folder 9

Lee, Nanying and Kem 1955 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 10

Liberation (Bayard Rustin, ed.) 1951

Box 2, Folder 11

Library of Congress 1957 - 1959

Box 2, Folder 12

Mattachine Society, Inc. (Hal Call and Don Lucas, eds.) 1955 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 13

May, James Boyer 1958 - 1959

Box 2, Folder 14

McGahey, Jeanne 1959

Box 2, Folder 15

McHugh, Vincent 1961

Box 2, Folder 16

McKenna, Rollie 1961 - 1963

Box 2, Folder 17

McNail, Stanley 1962

Box 2, Folder 18

Montreal Review (ed. Allen Geller) 1963 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 19

Moreno, Ralph R. 1964

Box 2, Folder 20

Nachshen, Brian 1963 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 21

Nesmith, Robert I. 1953 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 22

New Gnu Press 1962

Box 2, Folder 23

Nichols, Clinton 1960

Box 2, Folder 24

Norman (full name unknown) 1959

Box 2, Folder 25

One, Inc. ( One Magazine) 1954 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 26

Ostroff, Anthony 1960

Box 2, Folder 27

Pagan, Bolivar 1955 - 1959

Box 2, Folder 28

Poetry Center (San Francisco State College) 1959 - 1965

Box 2, Folder 29

Pomeroy, Ralph 1964

Box 2, Folder 30

Priest, Alan 1961 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 31

Radhakrishnan, S. 1959

Box 2, Folder 32

Ramlov, Preben 1963 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 33

Redl, Harry and Anne 1959

Box 2, Folder 34

Renaissance (John Bryan, ed.) 1962 - 1963

Box 2, Folder 35

Roman Books, Inc. 1963 - 1964

Box 2, Folder 36

Russell, Peter 1952 - 1963

Box 2, Folder 37

San Francisco Review 1958 - 1959

Box 2, Folder 38

Segura, Gonzalo (Tony), Jr. 1957 - 1958

General note

See also CORRESPONDENCE - Mattachine Society
Box 2, Folder 39

Smith, Glanville 1959 - 1963

Box 3, Folder 1

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1956 - 1957

Box 3, Folder 2

Stern, Gerd 1957 - 1963

Box 3, Folder 3

Stiles, Knute 1951 - 1961

Box 3, Folder 4

Stolen Paper Review (Jeff Berner, ed.) 1963 - 1964

Box 3, Folder 5

Trinidad and Tabago Tourist Board 1957

Box 3, Folder 6

Tze-Chiang, Chao 1960 - 1962

Box 3, Folder 7

Van Dam Rubber Co., Inc. 1953 - 1954

Box 3, Folder 8

Wallrich, Larry 1963

Box 3, Folder 9

Webb, Jon (Loujon Press) 1964

Box 3, Folder 10

Weslayan University Press 1961 - 1964

Box 3, Folder 11

Wilkenson, Henry 1960

Box 3, Folder 12

Yde, Jeris (National Museum - Copenhagen) 1954 - 1957

Box 3, Folder 13

Unidentified correspondence

 

NOTEBOOK AND WORKING SHEETS

Box 3, Folder 14-15

Notebook of verse - Drafts of poems arranged and explicated by Combs 1946 - 1950

 

Working sheets

Box 3, Folder 16

1951 - 1958

Box 3, Folder 17

Undated

 

TYPESCRIPTS OF VERSE

 

Published Books

 

Pilgrim's Terrace (1957)

Box 3, Folder 18

Working papers - Carbon copy of typescript with explanatory note 1948 - 1950

Box 3, Folder 19

Author's early typescript version - Carbon copy 1956

Box 4, Folder 1

Author's early typescript version - Typescript with annotations 1957

Box 4, Folder 2

Author's proof pages 1957

General note

Typeset with annotations
Box 4, Folder 3-4

Book order form and advertising blurbs 1957

 

Ceremonies in Mind: Artists, Boys, Cats, Lovers, Judges, Priests (1959)

Box 4, Folder 5

Selected draft of "polished versions of poems" ca. 1958

Box 4, Folder 6

Early working version, including explanatory notes and annotations ca. 1958

Box 4, Folder 7

Author's early typescript version - Includes pencil drawings 1958

Box 4, Folder 8

Draft with editor's annotations, typeset 1959

Box 4, Folder 9

Extra signature pages, typeset ca. 1959

Box 4, Folder 10

Bond copy with cover 1959

Box 4, Folder 11-12

But Never Mind: Poems, Etc., 1946-1950 (1961) - Author's typescript versions 1959

General note

Carbon copy of typescript
 

St. Thomas/Poems (1965)

Box 4, Folder 13

Working papers from which final version prepared - Includes annotation, typescripts, carbon copies of typescripts ca. 1963

Box 4, Folder 14

Early version - Includes some instructions by author, two carbon copies of typescript undated

 

First re-edited version

Box 4, Folder 15-16

Carbon copies of typescript 1965

Box 5, Folder 1

Carbon copies of typescript 1965 - 1965

Box 5, Folder 2

Annoted version arranged by author, typescript and carbons 1965

Box 5, Oversize MC-044-07

Galley proof pages - Author's and printer's copies with annotation 1965

Box 5, Folder 3

Sketch for rami binding and sample cloths from R. Bruckman

 

Unpublished Poetry

Box 5, Folder 4

Poems of God - Author's typescript version with extra notes ca. 1955

Box 5, Folder 5-7

Journey-Man's Vision - Author's early version with typesetting instructions 1959 - 1959

General note

Three carbon copies of typescript
Box 5, Folder 8

Ink - Author's early typescript version ca. 1967

 

Christmas cards

Box 5, Folder 9

Includes selected poems - Hand-assembled 1955

Box 5, Folder 10

"This year's up - roar for the next" - Hand-assembled, includes photograph 1955

Box 5, Folder 11

"The Christmas Clutch" - Hand-assembled, includes photograph 1957

 

Miscellaneous Poems

Box 5, Folder 12

Combs Poems: thru 1950 - Drafts of poems with photographs "pertinent to the poems," typescripts, manuscripts 1945 - 1950

 

Miscellaneous typescripts

Box 5, Folder 13

1951

Box 6, Folder 1-9

1952 - 1958

Box 7, Folder 1-6

1958 - 1961

Box 8, Folder 1-5

1962 - 1964

 

AUTHOR'S COLLECTION OF SERIALS

Box 8, Folder 6

List of periodical publications by Combs - Chronological list complied by Combs ca. 1963

Box 8, Folder 7

Between Worlds, no 3. 1962 - Contains five poems by Combs

Box 9, Folder 1

Bim, vol. 8-9, nos. 30-33 - Contain selected verse by Combs 1960 - 1961

Box 9, Folder 2

Home Journal, no. 825, - Contains two poems for Mis' Wallace 1956

Box 9, Folder 3

Liberation, vol II, nos. 6 and 10 - First contains Combs' "Dinosaur" poem, and the second has the corrected version of it 1957 - 1958

Box 9, Folder 4

Mattachine Review - Contains supplemental insert with some of Combs' verse 1959

Box 9, Folder 5

One: Homosexual Viewpoint - Contains love poem, sort of 1959

Box 9, Folder 6

Poetry, vol. 96 no. 4 - Contains review of Ceremonies in Mind by R. Sward 1960

Box 9, Folder 7

San Francisco Review, vol. 1 no. 2. - Contains "Pieces" 1959

Box 9, Folder 8

Sparrow, no. 13 - Contains review of Comb's Ceremonies in Mind by J. Weil 1960

Box 9, Folder 9

Trace, no. 30 - Contains review written by Combs 1959

Box 9, Folder 10

Virgin Islands Carnival Brochure - Includes article by Combs 1959

 

WRITINGS OF OTHERS

Box 9, Folder 11

Barlow, R. H. Work submitted for Emily Chamberlain Cook Prize in Poetry 1942

Box 9, Folder 12

Hoffman, John. Journey to the End - Copied from copy owned by Gerd Stern ca. 1963

Box 9, Folder 13

Kostolefsky, Joesph. Home Again, Home Again

Box 9, Folder 14

Langston, Eve. The Puppy

Box 9, Folder 15

Molnav, Thomas. Leo Shestov - A Man Outraged by Reality

Box 9, Folder 16

Norris, Robert. Skulls and Sedan Chair

Box 10, Folder 1

Ryan, John Allen. Selected poems - Copied by Combs 1950 - 1958

Box 10, Folder 2

Toesca, Maurice. Esperanza - Translated by Francis Carmody

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

Box 10, Folder 3

Tram Combs

Box 10, Folder 4

Family members

Box 10, Folder 5

Tram Combs Books Shop

Box 10, Folder 6

Friends of Combs

Box 10, Folder 7

Miscellaneous - Snapshots

Box 10, Folder 8

Photographic postcards