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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Elswyth Thane Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1943-1963
Creator: Thane, Elswyth (1900-1984)
Extent: 3.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0707
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Playwright, biographer and novelist. Holograph notebooks containing first drafts of several historical novels, printer's copies, and correspondence are included. There are audiotapes of her research for Potomac Squire, a book about George Washington.

Alternate Extent Statement: Audio material in Box 2; reel-to-reel in Box 2.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: This collection was given to the University of Iowa Libraries by Elswyth Thane in 1961 to 1963.

Preferred Citation: Elswyth Thane 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

Born in Burlington, Iowa, on May 16, 1900, Elswyth Thane (nee Helen Ricker) spent most of her life on the East coast. She always wanted to write and had her first novel published in 1926. When she was a child, her family spent many summers in England and for many years her writing was dominated by an English scene. Thane specialized in biography and historical fiction. The Tudor Wench, her biography of Queen Elizabeth I, later became a play. She also authored a play titled, Young Mr. Disaeli.

When World War II broke out and she was no longer able to stay in England to do the extensive research required for her writing, her novels began drawing on American history. The first of her Williamsburg novels was published in 1943. She also wrote biographies of George and Martha Washington. Elswyth Thane (who was the widow of naturalist and explorer, William Beebe) died in 1984, at the age of eighty-four.

The papers of Elswyth Thane date from 1943 to 1963 and are comprised of three linear feet of literary manuscripts and research material. The first five books in her "Williamsburg" series are represented with holograph notebooks containing her first drafts. There are also printer's copies and correspondence for some of the novels. The writing of Potomac Squire, Thane's biography of George Washington, is documented with a holograph notebook of draft one, working typescripts, an author's index, and audiotapes of Thane reading letters at Mount Vernon.

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