Skip to main content

Sherwood Anderson Collection

Identifier: Ms-1973-002

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials relating to author Sherwood Anderson. The collection is notable for the personal letters written by Anderson to family members. The largest group of letters (about 78 of them) were written to his daughter, Marian Anderson ("Mimi") Spear, between 1912 and 1938. While discussing personal and family matters, Anderson often speaks of his difficulties, failures and successes in publishing, and his interactions with other notable authors of the period. Transcripts of the letters, probably made by Anderson scholar and retired Virginia Tech English Department faculty member Dr. Hilbert Campbell, are invaluable as Anderson's handwriting can be very difficult to read. Additional correspondence includes letters between Anderson and other family members. Other correspondence reflects Anderson as a writer and includes a typescript of a speech delivered by Anderson to striking workers at Danville, Virginia in 1931.

Supporting sets of documents include two researchers' work on Sherwood Anderson. Material donated by Anderson scholar Ray Lewis White, author of more than a dozen titles related to Anderson, includes photographs of Anderson and his family members, book covers from a project to gather covers (or reproductions of covers) not already in his collection, pages that were prepared for publication, and other materials used by White in his Anderson books. Notes made by Dr. Charles Modlin, a retired professor from the English Department at Virginia Tech and author of seven books about Anderson, are also included. The notes mostly concern the Anderson book collection in Virginia Tech's Special Collections and the books related to Anderson.


  • 1912 - 1938


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to 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

Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) was born in the small town of Camden, Ohio to Irwin McClain Anderson (d.1919) and Emma Jane Smith (d.1895). While Anderson excelled as a student, he quit school at the age of 14 to help support his family, taking on a wide variety of jobs. After his mother’s death, he relocated to Chicago for the first time, working and taking a few night classes. He served briefly in Cuba during he Spanish-American War, but was sent there after combat had ended. A few months later, he returned to Clyde, then moved to Springfield, Ohio, in 1899, where he completed his senior year at Wittenburg Academy, a prep school. His graduation speech resulted in his being offered a job as an advertising solicitor and he moved to back to Chicago.

In 1903, work travels took him to Toledo, Ohio, where he met Cornelia Pratt Lane, his first wife. The couple married in 1904 and had three children: Robert Lane (1907-1951), John Sherwood (1908-1995) and Marion (Mimi) (1911-1996). In 1906, they relocated to Cleveland when Anderson became the president of the United Factories Company, a mail-order firm. The following year he departed the company, took his family to Elyria, Ohio, and started the Anderson Manufacturing Co., another mail order business.

In 1912, Anderson suffered a nervous breakdown. He returned to Chicago yet again and began work writing advertising copy and becoming part of the writer and artist scene of the city. In 1916, he divorced Cornelia Pratt and married Tennessee Mitchell, a sculptor. He also published his first novel, Windy McPherson’s Son, the first of three books in a deal with publisher John Lane. It was beginning of his writing career. 1919 saw the publication of his short story collection, Winesburg, Ohio, one of his most well-know works. In 1924, he divorced Tennessee Mitchell and marred Elizabeth Prall. They lived in New York and New Orleans, and traveled in Europe, too. With profits from his novel 1925 Dark Laughter, Anderson bought Ripshin Farm, later just Ripshin, as a summer home, in 1926. He also acquired both local newspapers, the Smyth County News and the Marion Democrat. His son, Robert, helped with, and eventually took over management of the newspapers in 1929. Around the same time, Anderson began a tour of the south and its factory towns with Eleanor Copenhaver, which shaped several of his later non-fiction publications.

In 1932, Anderson divorced Elizabeth Prall and the following year, married Eleanor Copenhaver (1896-1985). Southwest Virginia was a powerful influence on his later stories and novels. His life in around Marion and Troutdale, Virginia, was the focus of his writing for the newspapers, as well. At the same time, he was still writing novels and short stories for magazines. In 1941, Sherwood and Eleanor Anderson left for a trip to South America. During the trip, after ingesting a toothpick, Anderson developed peritonitis and was hospitalized in Panama, where he passed away on March 8, 1941. He is buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Marion, Virginia.

Over his lifetime, Anderson published 8 novels, 4 collections of short stories, 2 collections of poetry, 1 collection of plays, and 12 works of non-fiction. Following his death, publishers and scholars have produced memoirs, critical editions, and several volumes of his collected letters. During his life, he was influential on the careers of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and maintained extensive correspondence and friendships with authors, artists, publishers, and critics (though he later wrote that he had given up reading reviews).


1 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)


This collection contains correspondence among author Sherwood Anderson and family members, most notably letters written by Anderson to his daughter Marian, as well as some of his professional correspondence. It also includes research material about Anderson gathered by Ray White and notecards--compiled by Dr. Charles Modlin--documenting the annotations in the books within Special Collections' Anderson book collection.


The collection is arranged in two series. Each series is further subdivided by subject.

Series I contains original personal and professional Sherwood Anderson documents as well as Anderson family materials. Included in the series are letters (both handwritten and typed) from Anderson to daughter Marian ("Mimi"), 1912-1938. These letters mostly relate to personal and family matters, though Anderson sometimes mentions interactions with other authors of the day, his travels, and the current state of his works in progress. (Notable is the affectionate tone of the letters.) Also included in this series are letters to Marian from other family members, as well as letters among other members of Anderson's family. Contained here among Anderson's professional correspondence are letters to John Road; correspondence with Lee Brian concerning Brian's effort to publish a short story; correspondence with Helen Candill regarding her request for an editorial for the Marion College Squib, December 1940; and an editorial titled "Chance Rules Us All," penned by Anderson on the verso of a letter. Also included is a typescript of a speech Anderson gave to striking cotton mill workers of Danville, Virginia in 1931.

Series II contains research materials about Anderson collected by two researchers. Included are research and publication materials used in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, edited and annotated by Ray Lewis White (Ohio University Press, 1997). The materials consist mostly of undated reproductions of photographs of people and documents from the Newberry Library and other sources, and book dust jackets. (Included is a list of 39 microfilm reels and four reprinted theses and dissertations regarding Anderson's work that were transferred to the general library collection. Also in this series are a set of notes compiled by Charles Modlin on the annotations found in the Anderson book collection in Virginia Tech's Special Collections. The project was not completed and notes have been preserved in their original order within seven envelopes.

Source of Acquisition

The Sherwood Anderson Collection was created through various donations and purchases in 1973, 1980, and 1997.

Alternate Form Available

Some items in this collection have been digitized and are available online.

Related Archival Material

Various materials related to the Sherwood Anderson Collection are available in other locations.

Books by and about Sherwood Anderson stored in Special Collections and the general collection of Newman Library are cataloged and can be located using the library's catalog.

Microfilmed and bound theses and dissertations about Sherwood Anderson and his work that were collected by researcher Ray White are cataloged and can be located using the library's catalog.

A 1904 wedding dress that belonged to Sherwood Anderson's wife, Cornelia Platt Lane, is part of the Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection located in Virginia Tech's Wallace Hall.

Special Collections houses multiple manuscripts relating to Anderson, including:

Ms2011-004, Sherwood Anderson Photograph and Postcard, 1929, 1939. Finding aid available online.

Ms2015-020, Welford D. Taylor Collection on Sherwood Anderson, 1918-2006, n.d. Finding aid available online.

Ms2015-044, Sherwood Anderson Correspondence with Llewellyn Jones, 1916-1924, n.d. Finding aid available online. Digital images with transcripts available online.

Ms2017-005, James T. Farrell Letters to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, 1952. Finding aid available online.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Sherwood Anderson Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Sherwood Anderson Collection took place from October to December 2006.

A Guide to the Sherwood Anderson Collection, 1912-1938
Amy Vilelle
2008 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English

Revision Statements

  • 2020-07-29: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags
  • 2024-02-27: Neera Naran updated dates and typos and added classification, subject, and agents.

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