Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection, 1892-1981
Special Collections M1063  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (201.26 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Chronological Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1892-1981
    Collection number: Special Collections M1063
    Creator: Edgar R. Dethlefsen, Caroline R. Finney, and Mary E. Rodgers
    Extent: ca. 5 linear ft., 111 volumes
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    The library does not have full title to the portion of the collection comprising Steinbeck's letters. This material cannot be cited without first obtaining permission at the address below. Copyright administered by: Mc Intosh and Otis, Inc. 475 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10017 Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


    Purchased from Edgar R. Dethlefsen, Caroline R. Finney, and Mary E. Rodgers, Apr. 30, 1999. Purchased with a lead gift of the Wells Fargo Foundation, San Francisco.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection, M1063, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    John Ernst Steinbeck was born in Salinas, CA, on February 27, 1902, to John Ernst and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, the third of four children. After being graduated from Salinas High School, he attended Stanford University intermittently between 1920 and 1925. After leaving Stanford, Steinbeck moved to New York City, where he worked as a construction laborer and wrote briefly for the Hearst-owned The American newspaper. In 1926, Steinbeck returned to California. He lived and worked during the late 1920s in the Lake Tahoe area, where he wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold, published by Robert M. McBride, New York, in 1929.
    The 1930s were a period of extraordinary productivity for John Steinbeck. He wrote eight novels during the decade, beginning in 1932 with The Pastures of Heaven (New York : Brewer, Warren & Putnam), through his first commercial and critical success with Tortilla Flat (New York: Covici-Friede, 1935), and concluding in 1939 with The Grapes of Wrath, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940.
    Like the 1930s, the 1940s were also a period of great productivity. Steinbeck wrote six books and wrote the screenplays for several earlier works, including the production of The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and Viva Zapata!
    Steinbeck continued to be productive throughout his life, producing 26 books and countless stories, dramatic adaptations, editorials and pieces of journalism. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on December 10, 1962. He died of a heart attack in New York City on December 20, 1968. He was 66 years old.

    Chronological Biography

    Derived extensively from Meyer, Michael J. THE HAYASHI STEINBECK BIBLIOGRAPHY, 1982-1996 (Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 1998)
    1902 Feb. 27 Born John Ernst Steinbeck, Salinas, CA, son of John Ernst and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck
    1919 Graduates Salinas High School, Salinas, CA
    1919 Oct. Begins attendance at Stanford University
    1925 Leaves Stanford without a degree
    1926 Moves to New York City where he works as a laborer on the construction of Madison Square Garden and writes as a reporter for the Hearst-owned New York American.
    1927-1928 Lives in Lake Tahoe as an estate caretaker. Writes first novel, Cup of Gold.
    1929 Cup of Gold published by Robert M. McBride, New York.
    1930 Marries Carol Henning. Moves to Pacific Grove, writes To a God Unknown.
    1932 Publishes The Pastures of Heaven (Brewer, Warren, and Putnam, New York).
    1933 To a God Unknown published by Robert O. Ballou, New York.
    1934 Feb. Olive Hamilton Steinbeck dies.
    1935 May John Ernst Steinbeck dies. Tortilla Flat published by Pascal Covici of Covici-Friede, New York.
    1936 Publishes In Dubious Battle (Covici-Friede, New York). Moves to Los Gatos, CA. Completes manuscript of Of Mice and Men.
    1937 Of Mice and Men published by Covici-Friede, New York. Selected as Book-of-the-Month Club Selection. Dramatic adaptation starring Wallace Ford and Broderick Crawford appears on Broadway for 207 performances. The Red Pony published in a limited-edition by Covici-Friede, New York.
    1938 Tortilla Flat on Broadway. Wins New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Of Mice and Men. The Long Valley published by Viking Press, New York. "Their Blood is Strong" is published by Simon J. Lubin Society of California, San Francisco.
    1939 Apr. Publishes The Grapes of Wrath (Viking Press, New York).
    1940 Wins Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. Writes script for The Forgotten Village.
    1941 Separates from Carol. Writes screenplay for The Red Pony. Moves to New York with Gwyn Conger. Publishes Sea of Cortez (Viking Press, New York).
    1942 The Moon is Down is published by Viking. Appointed Special Consultant to the Secretary of War. Writes Bombs Away : the story of a Bomber Team (Viking, New York). Moves from New York to Sherman Oaks, California.
    1943 Divorce from Carol finalized March 18. Marries Gwyn Conger on March 29. Becomes war correspondent for New York Herald Tribune. Travels to England, North Africa, Sicily. Film of The Moon is Down is released.
    1944 Nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Story for Lifeboat, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Finishes writing Cannery Row. Son Thom is born August 2.
    1945 Cannery Row published by Viking Press, New York. Completes "The Pearl." Nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Story for A Medal for Benny, directed by Irving Pichel. Moves back to New York.
    1946 Son John Steinbeck, IV born June 12. Receives King Haakon Liberty Cross in Norway for The Moon is Down.
    1947 The Wayward Bus published by Viking Press. Travels to France, Sweden, and Soviet Union. The Pearl published (Viking Press, New York).
    1948 A Russian Journal (Viking Press, New York) published. Divorces Gwyn. Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters.
    1949 The Red Pony, directed by Lewis Milestone, released.
    1950 Burning Bright opens on Broadway. Marries Elaine Scott on
    1951 The Log from the Sea of Cortez published.
    1952 Viva Zapata!, directed by Elia Kazan, released. Travels to Europe and North Africa writing for Colliers. East of Eden published (Viking Press, New York).
    1953 Academy Award nomination for Best Story and Best Screenplay for Viva Zapata!
    1954 Sweet Thursday published. Writes weekly articles for Le Figaro.
    1955 East of Eden, directed by Elia Kazan, released. Pipe Dream opens on Broadway.
    1957 The Short Reign of Pippin IV published (Viking Press, New York).
    1959 Once There Was a War published (Viking Press, New York).
    1961 The Winter of Our Discontent published (Viking Press, New York). Travels to Italy for extended stay.
    1962 Steinbeck wins Nobel Prize for Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception."
    1963 Travels to Central and Eastern Europe at the suggestion of President Kennedy.
    1965 Begins regular column for Newsday.
    1966-1967 Travels to Southeast Asia reporting on the Vietnam War for Newsday.
    1968 Dec. 20 John Steinbeck dies of cardio-respiratory failure at his home in New York City. He was 66. Survived by his third wife, Elaine Scott Steinbeck and his two sons, Thom Steinbeck and John Steinbeck IV. He is buried at the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas, California.

    Scope and Content

    The Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection, originally the Rodgers Collection of John Steinbeck, contains more that 770 letters, photographs, clippings, unpublished short pieces, and ephemera from John Steinbeck and the Steinbeck and Hamilton families, dating from the 1890s to the early 1980s. The bulk of the collection consists of John Steinbeck's letters to his family, beginning in the 1923 with his letters home from Stanford University. The letters from the globetrotting Steinbeck continue throughout his life, addressed primarily to his sister Esther Steinbeck Rodgers of Watsonville, California, until just before his death from a heart attack on December 20, 1968.
    The collection also contains a cache of letters from Steinbeck to Esther Rodgers's daughter Carolee, as well as letters from other members of the Steinbeck and Hamilton families, including letters from John Ernst Steinbeck to Esther, letters from Almira Ann Steinbeck (Steinbeck's paternal grandmother), letters from Elaine Steinbeck to Esther, letters from Steinbeck's godfather D.P. Trask, and Steinbeck's biographer Nelson Valjean. Together, these letters provide the researcher a rich portrait of Steinbeck's family, his early years and his adult life, which so influenced his writing.
    The photograph albums contain more than 200 pictures. They are an extraordinary collection of images of the Steinbeck and Hamilton families, providing a rare glimpse into the private life of John Steinbeck from his childhood until his death.
    Finally, the Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection consists of more than 100 copies of Steinbeck's books and works about Steinbeck, virtually all of which are first editions, signed by the author, or inscription copies to his sister Esther Rodgers
    The Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection is organized into 12 series following the organization of the papers by the Rodgers family and especially the careful work done by Ann Dethlefsen, Esther Rodgers' granddaughter. Very few changes have been made to the Dethlefsen organization except when necessitated for the sake of housing or when greater clarification of dates could be added. These twelve series are: