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Dayton M. Kohler Papers

Identifier: Ms-1971-002

Scope and Content

This collection contains the papers of Dayton M. Kohler, a professor of English at Virginia Tech (1929-1970) and an authority on modern American literature. The collection contains correspondence, drafts and galley proofs of literary essay-reviews for publications edited by Kohler, manuscript drafts for articles written by Kohler, and a collection of materials relating to various authors. Among the noted authors most prominently featured in the collection are Willa Cather, Conrad Richter, Carl Sandburg, James Still, and Jesse Stuart. Within the correspondence are single letters from a number of other noted authors, including Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Katherine Anne Porter.


  • 1889 - 1971


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form:

Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Dayton McCue Kohler, son of Edwin and Bertha Kohler, was born in Pennsylvania on September 24, 1906. The 1910 and 1920 censuses list the family living in Wormleysburg (Cumberland County), Pennsylvania. The younger Kohler graduated from Gettysburg College with a bachelor's degree in 1928 and obtained his master's degree at the University of Virginia in 1929. That same year, Kohler was hired by Virginia Tech as an instructor of English. By 1932, Kohler had been promoted to assistant professor. The 1946 university academic catalog lists him as an associate professor beginning in 1946, and professor in 1957. Kohler retired in 1970 and was named professor emeritus of English.

Kohler married Jean Stewart Ogden in 1937, and they had two children Peter and Stewart, before divorcing in 1956. At the time of his death, on February 1, 1972, he was a resident of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

External sources:

U.S. Federal Censuses, 1910-1950

"Dayton McCue Kohler" in the Virginia, U.S., Divorce Records, 1918-2014,,, accessed Feb. 27, 2024.

"Dayton Mccue Kohler" in the Virginia, U.S., Death Records, 1912-2014,,, accessed Feb. 27, 2024.

"Dayton M Kohler",,, accessed Feb. 27, 2024.


4.5 Cubic Feet (9 boxes)


This collection contains the papers of Dayton M. Kohler (1906-1972), a professor of English at Virginia Tech and an authority on modern American literature. Includes correspondence from noted authors, typescript drafts of essay-reviews for Masterplots, manuscripts of articles written by Kohler, and a collection of materials associated with various authors.


The collection is arranged in six series:

Series I. Correspondence, 1927-1972. This series contains letters to Kohler, the overwhelming majority being from various authors. Much of the correspondence is routine in nature, relating to literary essay-reviews. Among the letters, however, are a number from noted authors, including Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earl Hamner Jr., MacKinlay Kantor, Archibald MacLeish, Joyce Carol Oates, Katherine Anne Porter, Reynolds Price, Conrad Richter, Carl Sandburg (and his daughter, Helga Sandburg Golby), James Still, and Eudora Welty. (Still and Stuart seem to have been among Kohler's more frequent correspondents, each represented by substantial letters.) While many of the letters in this series are brief and businesslike, a few are more personal in nature. The letter from Porter, for example, offers a lengthy assessment of critical reviews of her Ship of Fools. Likewise, a pair of letters by Mildred Bennett, an authority on Willa Cather, provide personal insights on Cather and her family. Among the other correspondents in the series are artists Archer Lawrie and Dale Nichols. The series is arranged by correspondent name. Series II. Essays, [1931]-1952. This brief series contains a selection Kohler's manuscript drafts of articles on various literary subjects. Many of the drafts include notes on where and when the piece was eventually published. Included in the series is a draft of Kohler's introduction to the 1965 Harper & Row edition of Lord Jim. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series III, Essay-Review Drafts, 1967-1971. Included in this series are drafts (mostly typescripts) of essay-reviews submitted by various reviewers for literary publications edited by Kohler, mostly for the series Masterplots. The drafts include manuscript revisions. The series is arranged by title and date of publication, then alphabetically by title of work reviewed. (The essays for the 1968-1970 editions of Masterplots had been split by Kohler into two separate sets per year, each arranged alphabetically within the set. The order in which Kohler separated and arranged the sets has been maintained.)

Series IV. Galley Proofs, 1966-[1969]. This series contains galley proofs received from the publisher for two editions of Masterplots. The proofs include manuscript revisions. The series is arranged by publication title.

Series V. Authors, 1889-1967. Found in this series is a collection of materials relating to various authors. The series includes such items as ephemera, printed material, autographs, and photographs. Many authors are represented by nothing more than notices that accompanied books sent to Kohler as review copies. Among the more significant items in the series, however, are such materials as an advance preview of Donald Barthelme's Come Back, Doctor Caligari, radio-play scripts for "Moses" by Walter D. Edmonds and "Rifles for Washington" by Elsie Singmaster, printed and other publicity materials relating to Robert Frost, an envelope purportedly addressed by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a letter written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, photographs of Kohler with James Still at Morehead University Library, autographs of Archibald MacLeish and Thomas Nast, and printed material and autographed notes from Carl Sandburg. The largest set of materials in the series relates to Jesse Stuart and includes several pieces of printed material, many including personal notes from Stuart to Kohler. Also included is a photograph of Stuart by photographer Earl Palmer. The series is arranged alphabetically by name.

Series VI. Books and Publishing, 1955-1971. The materials in this small series relate to Kohler's general interest in literature and consist largely of printed materials. Included is a copy of Kohler's own booklet, Books and Reading and several issues of The Hollins Critic, published by Hollins University. The series also contains working lists of books reviewed in some editions of Masterplots. The series is arranged by item type.

Source of Acquisition

The Dayton M. Kohler Papers were donated to Special Collections in several separate accruals in 1971 and 1972.

Related Archival Materials

A keyword search on Dayton M. Kohler's name in the library's online catalog will provide the titles of works the library purchased from his personal book collection in 1971.

Separated Materials

The following books were removed from the collection and cataloged for the Rare Book Collection:

  • Strong, L. A. G. A Letter to W. B. Yeats. Hogarth Letters 6. London: Leonard & Virginia Woolf, 1932. (Call number PR5906 .A44 1932 Spec Small)
  • Woodbridge, Hensley C. Jesse Stuart: a Bibliography. Harrogate, TN: Lincoln Memorial University Press. (Call number PS3537.T92516 Z585 1960 Spec Large)
  • Woodbridge, Hensley C. Jesse Stuart: a Bibliography for May, 1960 - May, 1965. Rpt. from The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 63.4 (October 1965). (Call number PS3537.T92516 Z96 Spec Large)

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Dayton M. Kohler Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Dayton M. Kohler Papers commenced and was completed in July 2011.

Dayton M. Kohler Papers, 1889-1972
John M. Jackson, Archivist
2011 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US