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Zoë Akins Papers: Finding Aid
mssZA 1-7330  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Sources used to catalog the Akins Papers
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing: Subjects and Added Entries
  • Indexing Terms
  • List of Akins’ Works with Original and Alternate Titles

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Zoë Akins Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1878 - 1959
    Collection Number: mssZA 1-7330
    Creator: Akins, Zoë, 1886-1958.
    Extent: 7,354 pieces in 185 boxes + ephemera.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the personal and professional papers of American writer Zoë Akins (1886-1958). It includes correspondence with various literary, theatrical and motion picture figures of the first half of the twentieth century. There are also manuscripts of novels, plays, poems, short stories, outlines for plays, and articles. There is also correspondence related to her husband, Hugo Rumbold (d. 1932), and the Rumbold family.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
    For more information about the copyright ownership of unpublished materials in the Zoe Akins Papers, researchers are encouraged to contact the Huntington’s Curator of Literary Manuscripts.
    Previously, no copies could be made of any of the letters by Willa Cather; additionally the letters were not to be published from in any print or electronic medium. These restriction expired in 2011. For more information about securing publication permission for the letters of Willa Cather, please contact the Willa Cather Trust.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Zoë Akins Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    The bulk of the collection was acquired from Zoë Akins on March 20, 1952.
    The following material was acquired separately and added to the collection:
    • Orrick Johns, H.L. Mencken letters to Akins, and H.L. Mencken letter to Jobyna Howland, gift of Zoë Akins, July 28, 1952.
    • Zoë Akins Addenda acquired from the Zoë Akins Estate, May 12, 1961.
    • Zoë Akins manuscripts, “First Verse” and “Iseult, The Fair,” gift of Henry O’Neil.
    • Zoë Akins letter to Alexander Woollcott acquired from Walter R. Benjamin, January 10, 1978, (accession number 493).
    • Zoë Akins typewritten letters (carbon copies), gift of Occidental College Library, January 21, 1982, (accession number 926).
    • Zoë Akins diary, 1924, acquired from R.E. Evans, December 23, 1986, (accession number 1312).

    Processing/Project Information

    1. The cataloging of this collection was begun in 1952 by Gertrude Ruhnka and continued by Kay Peterson in the 1990s. In 2006, it was decided to completely recatalog the collection according to current standard authorized cataloging forms. The original Summary Report prepared by Gertrude Ruhnka, and used by subsequent catalogers, has been retained and is cataloged in Ephemera Box 181 (16).
    2. Zoë Akins’ autograph notes appear on manuscripts and letters throughout the collection. Unless substantive, it was decided not to index each instance separately. Additionally, autograph notes made by Gertrude Ruhnka, while going through the collection with Miss Akins, were not indexed, but, if the notes were substantive, noted on the folder.
    3. Zoë Akins appears to have been an indifferent speller, especially of proper names and titles of her own works. She frequently misspelled the names of friends, both in letters to them and when writing about them; this habit was also shared by her mother, Sarah Elizabeth Akins. Regardless of the Akins’ spelling, letters are cataloged and indexed using the authorized name both on the folder and in this Finding Aid.
    4. There are references to Zoë Akins throughout the collection; only substantive references and author/title references for her works have been subject indexed.
    5. A number of Akins’ books, plays, and screenplays were published and/or produced under more than one title; it was decided to catalog and index these works by the title used at the time by Akins. Please see Appendix I for a list of Akins’ alternate titles for her major works.

    Biographical Note

    Zoë Akins (1886-1958) was a dramatist, novelist, poet and screenwriter. Born in Humansville, Missouri, on 30 October, she was educated at home before attending Monticello Seminary in Godfrey, Illinois, and Hosmer Hall in St. Louis. While a teenager in St. Louis, Akins wrote poetry and criticism for William Marion Reedy’s Mirror; in 1905, she moved to New York to be an actress but eventually found writing to be her true talent. Her early plays include, “Iseult the Fair,” “Papa,” “The Magical City,” and the moderately successful “Déclassée,” with Ethel Barrymore.
    In 1928, Akins moved to California permanently to work as a screenwriter under contract to Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where she became a favorite writer of George Cukor. During this time she wrote the screenplays “Christopher Strong” and “Morning Glory” for Katharine Hepburn and “Camille” for Greta Garbo. During these years she continued to write for the stage and, in 1935, won the Pulitzer Prize for her dramatization of Edith Wharton’s story, “The Old Maid.” In addition to many screenplays and plays, Akins also authored two volumes of poetry, criticism, two novels, teleplays, magazine and newspaper articles.
    On March 12, 1932, Akins married Capt. Hugo Rumbold, an artist and set designer from a British diplomatic family, but, tragically, he died only eight months later on 18 November; she never remarried. Akins lived the remainder of her life in Southern California, where she died, after a brief illness, on October 29, 1958.

    Sources used to catalog the Akins Papers

    Barnes, Eric Wollencott. The Man Who Lived Twice: the Biography of Edward Sheldon (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956).
    Charyn, Jerome. Gangsters & Gold Diggers: Old New York, the Jazz Age, and the Birth of Broadway (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005).
    Contemporary Authors. Vol. 181, ed. Scott Peacock (Detroit: Gale Group, Inc., 2000), pp. 6- 9.
    Dictionary of Literary Biography. “American Screenwriters,” vol. 26, eds. R.E. Morsberger, S.O. Lesser and R. Clark (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1984), pp. 9-13.
    King, Ethel. Reflections of Reedy: A Biography of William Marion Reedy of Reedy’s Mirror (Brooklyn: Gerald J. Rickard, 1961).
    Kreizenbeck, Alan. Zoë Akins: Broadway Playwright. “Contributions in Drama and Theatre Studies,” number 107, (Westport: Praeger, 2004).
    Putzel, Max. The Man in the Mirror: William Marion Reedy and His Magazine (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1963

    Scope and Content

    The papers consist of the following series:
    1. Manuscripts (Boxes 1-60) are arranged alphabetically by author and title. The manuscripts cover a wide span of Akins’ literary career including some of her childhood writing and the episodes for television she was working on at the time of her death. Included in this series are: Akins’ articles, essays, interviews, short stories, plays, screenplays, poems and novels (both published and unpublished). This series also includes manuscripts by other authors, most notably by W.H. Auden, Carlo Beuf, Hildegarde Flanner, Patterson Greene, Orrick Johns, George O’Neil, Hugo Rumbold, and George Sterling.
    2. Correspondence (Boxes 61-165) is arranged alphabetically by author. This series includes personal letters and letters related to Akins’ writing; the personal letters cover almost all of Akins’ life, from her teenage years when she became engaged, briefly, to William Marion Reedy, till the end of her life. A large number of letters deal with the entertainment business, both Hollywood and Broadway, concerning the production of screenplays and plays.
    This series includes the personal and business correspondence of Hugo Rumbold and the Rumbold family. Akins retained many business letters of her late husband concerning his various projects. This series also includes a number of letters written or received by Rumbold family members dealing with their diplomatic work, including comments on historical events and meeting famous people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries all over the world.
    This series also includes letters from notable people in the literary, acting, and publishing fields in America and Europe, including: Aline Barnsdall, Ethel Barrymore, Carlo Beuf, Billie Burke, Willa Cather, George Cukor, Patterson Greene, Gerald Grove, William Harris, Carl Hovey, Jobyna Howland, Orrick Johns, George S. Kaufman, Alice Kauser, Sonya Levien, Anita Loos, Amy Lowell, W. Somerset Maugham, H.L. Mencken, Harry Moses, Kay Rasmus Nielsen, George O’Neil, Max Pfeffer, Rosamond Pinchot, Una Pope-Hennessey, William M. Reedy, Etheldred Rumbold, Horace Rumbold, Hugo Rumbold, David O. Selznick, Edward Sheldon, Sara Teasdale, Harriet Ware, Edith Wharton, and John Wheelock. The series also includes letters from various magazines, movie studios, production companies, and theatres, including: Charles Scribner’s Sons, Ladies’ Home Journal, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, R K O Pictures, Richard Madden Play Co., Samuel French, Inc., Shubert Theatres Corporation, and the Theatre Guild.
    3. Photographs (Boxes 166-168) are arranged alphabetically by subject. The first group consists of famous actors and actresses from Hollywood and Broadway, from 1905, through the 1950s; this series also includes some photographs from various productions of Akins’ screenplays and plays. The second group includes Akins and Rumbold family photographs.
    4. Drawings (Boxes 169-170) are arranged alphabetically by artist. This series includes drawings by Alfred Joseph Frueh, Norman Bel Geddes, Kay Rasmus Nielsen, and Hugo Rumbold. A number of these drawings are of stage sets for Akins’ plays, “The Human Element,” and “Papa.”
    5. Ephemera (Boxes 171-184, Oversize Box 185, Oversize folder) are arranged into various subseries. These include: Akins’ Personal & Family Material, Hugo Rumbold & Rumbold Family Material, Financial & Legal Material, Contracts, Agreements & Copyrights, Box Office Statements & Receipts, Printed Articles, Clippings, Scrapbooks, and the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Akins.
    Strengths of the collection:
    This collection has several strong points for the purpose of research. In some cases there are both manuscript and typewritten versions, as well as initial notes, for a screenplay, play, or novel, which enables the reader to trace the creative process of writing a work through several stages. There are also large groups of letters with various agents, producers, and publishers, dealing with the “nuts and bolts” side of producing a play or writing a novel. In some instances, despite Akins’ every effort over many years, she was unsuccessful in getting the play produced or the novel published. The collection also contains material dealing with the “Golden Age” of both Hollywood and Broadway; and the particular challenges faced by a woman screenwriter in Hollywood from the 1920s, through the 1940s.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library


    This collection is arranged in the following 5 series:
    • Manuscripts (Boxes 1-60)
    • Correspondence (Boxes 61-165)
    • Photographs (Boxes 166-168)
    • Drawings (Boxes 169-170)
    • Ephemera (Boxes 171-184, Oversize Box 185, Oversize folder)

    Indexing: Subjects and Added Entries

    A comprehensive indexing of subjects and contributors represented in the collection is available as a supplemental PDF.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Akins, Zoë, 1886-1958 -- Archives.
    Akins, Zoë, 1886-1958 -- Family.
    Rumbold, Hugo, -1932.
    Women dramatists, American -- 20th century -- Archives.
    Women novelists, American -- 20th century -- Archives.
    Women poets, American -- 20th century -- Archives.
    Women screenwriters -- United States -- Archives.


    Drawings United States 20th century.
    Ephemera United States 20th century.
    Family papers United States 20th century.
    Letters (correspondence) United States 20th century.
    Manuscripts United States 20th century.
    Personal papers United States 20th century.
    Photographs United States 20th century.
    Plays United States 20th century.
    Poems United States 20th century.
    Screenplays United States 20th century.

    Added Entries

    Barnsdall, Aline, 1882-1946.
    Barrymore, Ethel, 1879-1959.
    Beuf, Carlo, 1893-1981.
    Burke, Billie, 1885-1970.
    Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.
    Cerf, Bennett, 1898-1971.
    Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965.
    Cukor, George, 1899-1983.
    Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940.
    Fitzgerald, Zelda, 1900-1948.
    Greene, Patterson.
    Grove, Gerald, Sir, 1886-1962.
    Harris, William, 1884-1946.
    Hovey, Carl, 1875-
    Howland, Jobyna.
    Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968.
    Johns, Orrick, 1887-1946.
    Kaufman, George S. (George Simon), 1889-1961.
    Kauser, Alice, 1872-1945.
    Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930.
    Lawrence, Frieda, 1879-1956.
    Levien, Sonya, 1888?-1960.
    Loos, Anita, 1893-1981.
    Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925.
    Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962.
    Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965.
    Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956.
    Moses, Harry, 1873-1937.
    Nielsen, Kay Rasmus, 1886-1957.
    O'Neil, George, 1898-1940.
    Pfeffer, Max, 1884-
    Pinchot, Rosamond, 1904-1938.
    Pope-Hennessy, Una, 1876-1949.
    Reedy, William Marion, 1862-1920.
    Rumbold, Etheldred, Lady, 1879-1964.
    Rumbold, Horace, Sir, 1869-1941.
    Rumbold, Hugo, -1932.
    Selznick, David O., 1902-1965.
    Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950.
    Sheldon, Edward, 1886-1946.
    Sterling, George, 1869-1926.
    Teasdale, Sara, 1884-1933.
    Ware, Harriet.
    Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937.
    Wheelock, John Hall, 1886-1978.
    Woollcott, Alexander, 1887-1943.

    List of Akins’ Works with Original and Alternate Titles

    Note: This is not a complete list of Akins’ works.
    Original Title Alternate Title(s)
    "Anybody’s Woman” “The Better Wife” “The Better Wife”
    “Blind Mice” “Working Girls”
    “By the Water of Paradise” “Gray Gardens”
    “Careers” “South of Siam”
    “Carl and Anna” “A Woman of His Own” / “Desire Me”
    “Discretion” “False Front” / “Façade”
    “Forget-Me-Not” “Footloose”
    “The Furious Bride” “Prepared for Peace”
    Ghosts of Girls Forever Young
    “The Greeks Had a Word For It” “The Greeks Had a Word for Them” / “How to Marry a Millionaire”
    “Green Hat” “Outcast Lady”
    “Hazard” “Thou Desperate Pilot”
    “Hearken to the Evidence” “The Law’s Delay”
    “Iseult the Fair” “The Love Potion”
    “Kitty’s Claws” “Cake Upon the Waters”
    “Lady of the Camellias” “Camille”
    “The Last Kiss” “The Moon Flower”
    “Les Jours Heureux” “The Happy Days” / “Brook into River” “Louisiana, A Tale of the New World” “Their New World”
    “Louise Gallant” “Bitter Waters”
    “Mademoiselle Frou Frou” “The Toy Wife”
    “Middle West” “Away from Home”
    “Mr. Proctor’s Famous Wife” “His Famous Wife” / “Soft Answers Drive Me Mad”
    “Mrs. January & Mr. Ex” “Plans for Tomorrow” / “Tomorrow’s Plans”
    “No Pity Please” “The Wedding Present”
    “O Evening Star!” “The Evening Star”
    “Papa’s Jewels” “Papa”
    “Pile Au Face” “An Attic in Paris” / “First Love”
    “Portrait of Tiero” “Secret of Sienna”
    “The Promise to Caroline” “His Promise to Caroline”
    “Return Engagement” “Swallow’s Nest” / “Reprise” / “In Two Keys”
    “Rings and Chains” “Castle on the Sand”
    “Secrets” “No Regrets”
    “Sick for Home” “A Slave is Free”
    “The Texas Nightingale” “Greatness”
    “The Two Sisters” “The Sea-King’s Daughters”
    The White Doe “When Thy Heart Began to Beat”
    “Who Killed Cock Robin” “Cock Robin”