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Eshleman Family Papers
MSS 0177  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Eshleman family
    Title: Eshleman Family Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1890 - 1985
    Extent: 2.20 linear feet (5 archives boxes, 9 oversize folders)
    Abstract: Documents, covering the period 1890-1985, of the family of Clayton Eshleman, writer, editor and translator. Includes correspondence between Clayton and his parents and between Clayton and his first wife Barbara; an extensive collection of family photographs; the family's school, church and financial records; and scrapbooks from Clayton's childhood. The papers are arranged in seven series: 1) FAMILY RECORDS, 2) DIARIES AND NOTEBOOKS, 3) DRAWINGS, 4) SCRAPBOOKS, 5) PHOTOGRAPHS, 6) CORRESPONDENCE, AND 7) EPHEMERA.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0177
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    The scrapbooks in Box 3 (Folders 8, 10, and 12) are restricted because of their fragile condition. Researchers should use the photocopy scrapbooks provided in those folders.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Eshleman Family Papers, MSS 0177. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


    Clayton Eshleman, reknowned poet, translator, and editor, was born June 1, 1935, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of Gladys and Ira Eshleman. His childhood was spent in Indianapolis,and he attended the University of Indiana. After graduating from the university, he travelled to Mexico, Central and South America, and Japan.
    During his early years, Eshleman was a musician, boy scout, and football star. He first majored in Music at Indiana University but eventually changed his program to Philosophy, earning a degree in that field in 1958. In 1961 he received a Master of Arts for Teachers from Indiana University, married Barbara Novak, and had his first book of poetry, MEXICO AND NORTH, published. Eshleman spent the next three years in Japan, teaching and studying. In 1965 the Eshlemans moved to Lima, Peru, where their son Matthew was born in 1966. That same year, the family moved to New York City, and soon after, Eshleman separated from his wife and child.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection documents the family background and early years of Clayton Eshleman, American post-war writer, editor, and translator. The documents also shed light on the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s, a period in which Clayton Eshleman, like many young Americans at the time, rejected the values and lifestyles of the previous generation, crossed former boundaries, and, in doing so, helped to create a new American culture. This break would be essential to Eshleman's development as an artist, and exploring the rupture would be a constant theme part of his later work as a translator of international poets and editor of the influential journal SULFUR.
    The Eshleman Family Papers document to some degree Clayton Eshleman's development as a writer. Several facets of the process are reflected in the collection. The young Clayton Eshleman, seen in the SCRAPBOOKS (1940-57) compiled by his mother, is a boy scout, newspaper carrier, church member, and football and track star. College papers, included in the series FAMILY RECORDS - SCHOOL, show his developing interest in poetry. PHOTOGRAPHS and CORRESPONDENCE of the decade following his graduation from college show his marriage to home-state university sweetheart Barbara Novak and an expressed belief in "commitment" to family as well as to work. The collection contains one portrait of his second wife Caryl and another of his son Matthew as an adolescent, but the papers in effect end with the dissolution of his first marriage and his abandonment of the values of his childhood. Clayton's essay in CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS (included in the series FAMILY RECORDS - BIOGRAPHICAL) provides a written narrative to these documents and reveals the importance that Clayton gave to his early years.
    The Eshleman Family Papers are divided into seven series: 1) FAMILY RECORDS, 2) DIARIES AND NOTEBOOKS, 3) DRAWINGS, 4) SCRAPBOOKS, 5) PHOTOGRAPHS, 6) CORRESPONDENCE, and 7) EPHEMERA.
    The first series, FAMILY RECORDS, is divided into five subseries: 1A) Biographical, 1B) Financial, 1C) Medical, 1D) Church, and 1E) School. The Biographical subseries contains a family memoir of Clayton's grandfather Joseph Eshleman and Clayton's essay in the CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS AUTOBIOGRAPHY SERIES. The Financial subseries contains Clayton's father Ira's extensive records of family income and expenditures, organized by decade, as well as receipts from Clayton's childhood financial endeavors. The Medical Records contain Clayton's birth certificate and recent doctor's notes. The Church Records include Clayton's baptism record, degrees from Vacation Bible School, and the family's church membership. The School records include Ira Eshleman's 1914 application to Purdue University and Clayton's elementary report cards, high school and university diplomas, and college papers on literary subjects.
    The second series, DIARIES AND NOTEBOOKS, contains diaries kept by Clayton's mother Gladys during her pregnancy with Clayton; a few pages of notes by Clayton while in Houston, Texas, and Mexico; and his father's records from the slaughterhouse where he worked.
    In the third series, DRAWINGS, are cartoons made by Clayton as a child.
    The fourth series, SCRAPBOOKS, are three large memento books kept by Clayton's mother from his early childhood through high school. They include cards received and sent by Clayton, drawings, Boy Scout records, football and band notices, and photographs.
    Of special interest is fifth series; the extensive PHOTOGRAPHS series. The series documents the middle-class life of Clayton and his parents during the period 1920-1950, as well as the late-nineteenth century, rural, midwestern lives of his grandparents. Two tintypes are contained in the series.
    The sixth series, CORRESPONDENCE, is largely comprised of letters written during the early 1960s when Clayton was first away from Indiana for long periods of time. It also includes a 1918 employment letter to Clayton's father, a telegram from Clayton in Lima, Peru, to his parents announcing the birth of his son Matthew, and a telegram from Clayton in Florida to his mother reporting that he had been robbed "in a Cuban hotel" and asking her to wire money soon.
    Personal items such as a stained Mexican newspaper, a napkin from Clayton and Barbara's marriage, and Clayton's numerology chart, make up the seventh series, EPHEMERA.

    Indexing Terms

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


    Eshleman, Clayton -- Archives
    Eshelman family -- Archives
    American poetry -- 20th century
    Portrait photoprints -- 20th century.
    Diaries -- 20th century.
    Photographic prints -- 19th Century.
    Photographic prints -- 20th Century.


    Eshleman, Clayton, -- correspondent