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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Merle Armitage Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1932-1964
Creator: Armitage, Merle (1893-1975)
Extent: 2.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0558
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Set designer, impresario, co-founder and manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera Association, president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, art director of Look and Quick magazines, and book designer. Correspondence, typescripts of Accent on Life and George Gershwin: Man and Legend, and files on other projects.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs Box 4 and Oversized flat

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries by Merle Armitage from 1962-1966.

Preferred Citation: Merle Armitage Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Merle Armitage (1893-1975) was born near Mason City, Iowa, on his father's cattle ranch/farm. Self-educated, he began his varied career as a civil engineer for the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient railroad. He next worked as a designer of sets and costumes in the theatre world of New York City. From designing he moved on to become an impresario, managing the concert tours of many leading performers. His clients include such artists as: John McCormack, Mme. Schumann-Heink, Alice Nielson, Will Rogers, Martha Graham, and Igor Stravinsky. He co-founded the Los Angeles Grand Opera Association in 1924, and served as its general manager for eight seasons. From 1933 to 1939 he was manager of the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles. There he presented Leopold Stokowski in 1937, and George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess in 1938.
Armitage was, at one time, president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts and art director of Quick and Look Magazine. He was a book designer and author, with over one hundred books to his credit. Many of the books he wrote and/or designed were concerned with the artists, composers, and performers with whom he was associated.

The papers of Merle Armitage consist of 2.5 linear feet of manuscripts, dating from 1932 - 1964. Arranged alphabetically, the subject files include typescripts and galley proofs for such works as Accent on Life and George Gershwin: Man and Legend. There are also biographical materials, book and exhibition catalogs containing Armitage items, photographs, scrapbooks, and documents related to his military service. The correspondence folders date from 1933 to 1964 and include letters from Lucius Beebe and Gardner Cowles.

The University of Arizona at Tucson also has six linear feet of Armitage material, dating from 1947 to 1964. However, the largest gathering of his papers may be found at the Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.
The University of Arizona at Tucson also has six linear feet of Armitage material, dating from 1947 to 1964. However, the largest gathering of his papers may be found at the Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Accent on Life by Merle Armitage
  • Printer's Typescript (4 folders)
  • Miscellaneous pages of original manuscript retyped for clearer reading
  • American Institute of Graphic Arts (brochure)
  • Artwork by Merle Armitage
    Miscellaneous/unidentified. See also framed artwork in the vault.
  • Biographical material
  • "The Farm Crisis at the Turning Point"
  • "Into the Farm Future"
  • "Lyn's [Lyndon LaRouche] Last Hurrah"
  • "Perestroika University of California Style"
  • "The Rise of the Rural Ghetto"
  • "Rural Homelessness"
  • "Rural Industrial Homework"
  • Book catalogs containing Armitage items
  • 1932-1946
  • "Cracking Down on Gun Theft/Getting Tough with Gun Dealers"
  • "Free the Brady Bill"
  • Broken Heartland
  • Preface
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 6
  • Chapter 7
  • Box 2:
  • Book catalogs containing Armitage items (cont.)
  • 1947-1948
  • 1950-1951
  • 1956-1962
  • "Book Tradition" by Merle Armitage - 1955
  • "Cato's Statue"
  • "Charles L. Wagner and a Sense of Direction" by Merle Armitage
  • "Claude Debussey, Mary Garden and Me" by Merle Armitage, first draft - 12/20/1962
  • Clippings - 1953-1975
  • Correspondence
  • 1933 -- 1949. Including letters from: Elsa Maxwell, H.H. Giles, Louis Danz, Ansel Adams, Adolph Bolm, Rockwell Kent and Gardner Cowles.
  • 1950 -- 1959. Including Letters from: Fleur Cowles, Gardner Cowles, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Leopold Sokowski.
  • 1960 -- 1961. Including Letters from: Lorin Maazel, John F. Kennedy, Louis Danz, Lucius Beebe, Gardner Cowles and Witter Bynner.
  • 1962. Including Letters from: Brett Weston, Dorothy Parker, Rosario Mazzeo, Lucius Beebe, Gardner Cowles and Witter Bynner.
  • Box 3:
  • Correspondence (cont.)
  • 1963 -- 1964. Including Letters from: Witter Bynner, Leo Rosten, Rockwell Kent, Lloyd Wright, Lucius Beebe and Edith Head.
  • Undated. Including Letters from: Lucius Beebe, Fleur Cowles, Lorin Maazel, Edward L. O'Brien and Stanton Macdonald-Wright.
  • Divorce related correspondence - 1964-1965
  • Debussey
  • Exhibit Catalogs
    Designed by or to promote Armitage.
  • "Frank Lloyd Wright: An American Original." The Texas Quarterly. Spring 1962, pp. 85 -- 90.
  • "Galli Curci and the Road to Fame" by Merle Armitage.
  • George Gershwin: Man and Legend by Merle Armitage
  • Printer's Typescript
    Includes revisions and layouts of title page
  • Preliminaries
  • Galley proof
  • Revised galley proof
    Includes proof of endpaper design.
  • Index
  • Book Review
  • Book Review
  • "The Islandian World of Austin Wright" by Merle Armitage - 1957
  • Look Magazine materials - 1948-1951
  • Box 4:
  • Los Angeles Light Opera Association. Dummy of the 25th anniversary program designed by Armitage.
  • Magazine Show - 1950
  • Material relating to Armitage's military service - 1941-1949
  • The Merle Armitage Books in the William Andrews Clark Library
  • Miscellaneous published articles by or about Armitage - 1947-1962
  • National Cyclopedia of American Biography entry on Armitage, negative photostat
  • "On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe!" by Merle Armitage
  • Photographs
  • Programs - 1924-1940
    From Armitage's career as an impresario
  • Promotional materials
    For books written or designed by Armitage, and books about Armitage.
  • Saint Andrew's Priory at Valyermo, by Merle Armitage, mock- up
  • Saint Francis by Merle Armitage, manuscript and mock-up
  • Spanish Folk Songs of New Mexico - 1928
  • Spanish Folk Songs of the Southwest, forward by Merle Armitage
  • Manuscript
  • Mock up
  • Published copy
  • Stravinsky by Merle Armitage, cover design mock-up and photo
  • "The Ubiquitous Book, in Our Time" by Merle Armitage
  • ine and Food Society of Southern California (brochure) - 1958
  • "Wonderous Days of Youth" by Merle Armitage
  • Series 2: OVERSIZED FLAT
  • Saint Andrew's Priory at Valyermo, Mock-ups
  • Merle Armitage books
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbook

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Beebe, Lucius Morris, 1902-1966
Cowles, Gardner, 1861-1946

Corporate Names:
American Institute of Graphic Arts

Authors, American
Book design


Genre/Form of Materials:


English & American Literature
Writers Archive at Iowa
Prose Writers