Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid for the Carey McWilliams Papers, 1894-1982 (bulk 1921-1980)
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (439.39 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Carey McWilliams Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1894-1982 (bulk 1921-1980)
    Collection number: 1319
    Creator: McWilliams, Carey, 1905-
    Extent: 80 boxes (40 linear ft.) 11 oversize boxes
    repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    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 at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary 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.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Advance notice required for access.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mrs. Iris McWilliams, 1982 and 1995.

    Preferred Citation

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

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 2221422 

    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. In 2006, Andrea Eitsert rehoused, described, and arranged the collection into series levels to facilitate enhanced access to materials, and created a new finding aid.

    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).


    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).

    Indexing Terms

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


    McWilliams, Carey, 1905- --Archives.
    Authors, American--20th century--Archival resources.
    Mexican American migrant agricultural laborers--California.
    Migrant agricultural laborers--California.
    United States--Race relations.

    Genres and Forms of Material


    Related Material