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Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Provenance/Source of Acquisition
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID
  • Preferred Citation
  • Custodial History
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Related Material

  • Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Title: Carey McWilliams papers
    Creator: McWilliams, Carey
    Identifier/Call Number: LSC.1319
    Physical Description: 40.0 linear feet (80 boxes and 11 oversize boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1894-1982
    Date (bulk): 1921-1980
    Abstract: Carey McWilliams (1905-1980) was a writer, lawyer, journalist, lecturer, activist, as well as Chief of the California Division of Immigration and Housing (1938-1942) and editor of The Nation (1955-1975). The collection contains personal diaries, scrapbooks, manuscripts, publicity materials, and assorted correspondence and research files related to McWilliams's life and career.
    Physical Location: Stored off-site. All requests to access special collections material must be made in advance using the request button located on this page.
    Language of Material: Materials are in English.

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research. All requests to access special collections materials must be made in advance using the request button located on this page.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical objects belong to UCLA Library Special Collections. All other rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mrs. Iris McWilliams, 1982 and 1995.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 9922214223606533 

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Carey McWilliams Papers (Collection 1319). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Custodial History

    The papers of Carey McWilliams do not survive as a whole in any one place. Both during his lifetime and after his death, parts of the papers were disposed of at various times by gift or sale. The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, has custody of many of the manuscripts for his books and the UCLA Department of Special Collections has several collections in addition to Collection 1319 which were originally part of the McWilliams papers, the largest of which is Collection 1243 comprising research materials on farm labor in California and the problems of the Mexican American. This material was donated to the Library in 1952 as part of the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation Collections. In addition, the major part of the following three groups of papers purchased by the Library in the 1950s, derived from McWilliams originally:
    • #278: Mary (Hunter) Austin collection. Correspondence, manuscripts, articles and clippings by and about Mary (Hunter) Austin. (ca. 150 pieces).
    • #277: Ambrose Bierce collection. Correspondence, pictures, clippings, notes, and other material by and about Bierce, assembled by McWilliams for his biography, Ambrose Bierce (New York, A.C. Boni, 1929). (ca. 500 items).
    • #276: George Serling collection. Correspondence, manuscripts, articles, clippings and ephemera by and about George Serling. (ca. 125 items).

    Processing History

    Collection 1319 was donated to the Library in 1982 and in 1995 by McWilliams' widow, Iris McWilliams. At the time of accessioning, the papers were given preliminary processing by Manuscripts Division staff based on lists compiled by the donor. Andrea Eitsert with assistance from Laurel McPhee rehoused, described, and arranged the collection into series levels to facilitate enhanced access to materials, and created a new finding aid, 2006.
    Collections are processed to a variety of levels depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived user interest and research value, availability of staff and resources, and competing priorities. Library Special Collections provides a standard level of preservation and access for all collections and, when time and resources permit, conducts more intensive processing. These materials have been arranged and described according to national and local standards and best practices.
    We are committed to providing ethical, inclusive, and anti-racist description of the materials we steward, and to remediating existing description of our materials that contains language that may be offensive or cause harm. We invite you to submit feedback about how our collections are described, and how they could be described more accurately, by filling out the form located on our website: Report Problematic Content and Description in UCLA's library collections and archives. 


    Carey McWilliams was born December 13, 1905 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He completed his Juris Doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1927. From 1927-1938, McWilliams was an attorney at the law firm Black, Hammack in Los Angeles. In 1938, he was appointed as chief of Division of Immigration and Housing of the State of California, a position he kept until 1942. During the period from 1945-1955, he began his long association with The Nation, becoming successively contributing editor, associate editor, and then editorial director. From 1955-1975, he was The Nation's editor. In addition to his editorial duties, McWilliams was a prolific lecturer and writer, speaking on many subjects and contributing articles and essays to numerous publications. After his retirement from The Nation, he continued to write a regular column for that publication. His monographs include Ambrose Bierce, a biography (1929); Louis Adamic and shadow America (1935); Factories in the field: the story of migratory farm labor in California (1939); Ill fares the land: migrants and migratory labor in the United States (1942); Brothers under the skin (1943); Prejudice: Japanese-Americans, symbol of racial intolerance (1944); Southern California country: an island on the land (1946); A mask for privilege: anti-Semitism in America (1948); North from Mexico: the Spanish-speaking people of the United States (1949); California: the great exception (1949); Witch hunt: the revival of heresy (1950); and his autobiography The education of Carey McWilliams (1979). In the late 1970s, McWilliams was briefly a Regents Lecturer at the University of California Riverside and then taught one quarter at the University of California Los Angeles in the History Department. He died of cancer at the age of 74 on June 27, 1980 in New York, New York.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of Carey McWilliams's bound volumes, manuscripts, publicity and criticism, printed materials, and assorted correspondence and research files related to his life, writings, publishing and lecture activities, and political causes. Files include personal diaries, scrapbooks, notebooks, handwritten and typed notes, press releases, leaflets, pamphlets, articles, clippings, professional and personal correspondence, and outlines and manuscript drafts. These files reflect McWilliams's varied professional interests, including racial minorities, migrant farm workers, civil liberties, the Cold War, McCarthyism, the press, American politics, literature, religious cults, and the West (notably California and Colorado). The manuscript series documents McWilliams's original work in different genres: addresses, articles, reviews, fiction, and monographs. The collection also contains materials related to McWilliams's tenure as the Chief of the California State Division of Immigration and Housing (DIH), and a copy of the file compiled on him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Bound volumes, 1921-1980 (24.5 boxes)
    2. Correspondence and research files, 1896-1982 (38 boxes)
    3. Division of Immigration and Housing, 1939-1964 (1 box)
    4. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1940-1980 (1 box)
    5. Lecture files, 1939-1980 (2 boxes)
    6. Manuscripts, 1896-1981 (18 boxes)
    7. The Nation, 1894-1980 (3 boxes)
    8. Printed materials, 1925-1980 (1 box)
    9. Publicity and criticism, 1929-1980 (1.5 boxes).

    Related Material

    1. Carey McWilliams papers, 1930-1940 (Collection 1243)  . Available at UCLA Library Special Collections.
    2. Carey McWilliams Correspondence (Collection 1356)  Available at UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
    3. Collection of material about Carey McWilliams, 1925-1948 (Collection 2023)  . Available at UCLA Library Special Collections.
    4. Collection of materials by and about George Sterling, ca. 1901-1935 (Collection 276)  . Available at UCLA Library Special Collections.
    5. Carey McWilliams collection of material about Ambrose Bierce, 1842-ca. 1914 (Collection 277)  . Available at UCLA Library Special Collections.
    6. Carey McWilliams collection of material about Mary Hunter Austin, 1868-1934 (Collection 278)  . Available at UCLA Library Special Collections.
    7. Carey McWilliams papers, 1921-1980 (Collection BANC MSS C-H 46)  . Available at Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.
    8. Carey McWilliams miscellaneous papers, 1941-1945  . Available at Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, CA.
    9. Honorable in all things oral history transcript: the memoirs of Carey McWilliams [oral history transcript] / Carey McWilliams, interviewee. UCLA Oral History Department interview, 1978. Available at UCLA Library Special Collections.
    10. Alice McGrath papers (Collection 1490)  Available at UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    United States -- Race relations.
    Migrant agricultural laborers -- California.
    Mexican American migrant agricultural laborers -- California.
    Authors, American -- 20th century -- Archives.
    McWilliams, Carey -- Archives