Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Collins mss., ca. 1926-2001, consist of the correspondence, writings, photographs, albums and chess club records of John William (Jack) Collins, 1912-2001, an influential American teacher of chess.

Collins was born Sept. 23, 1912, in Newburgh, N.Y. His father, John Thomas Collins, a flutist and piccolo player, frequently played in John Philip Sousa's orchestra. His mother, Carolyn LaSears Collins, was a homemaker. Collins lived most of his life in New York City, becoming a chess master in the 1930s. He was a major figure in the early days of modern organized chess, serving as the first correspondence chess editor of Chess Review magazine (which later merged with Chess Life). This program laid the groundwork for the correspondence chess conducted by the United States Chess Federation. He was one of the few players who excelled nationally at both correspondence and over-the-board play, winning the U.S. correspondence championship and ranking as one of the top OTB players in the U.S. He remained an active tournament player through the 1960s, representing the United States in the first World Correspondence Chess Championship. A prolific author, he taught thousands of players through his books and articles, and was co-editor of the ninth edition of Modern Chess Openings.

Collins also taught many of America's great young chess players including: former world champion Bobby Fischer, grandmaster William Lombardy, New York Times chess columnist Robert Byrne, and International Master Raymond Weinstein. The United States Chess Federation recognized him as the top American chess teacher of the 20th century.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Writings and Accompanying Materials; II. Professional; III. Bobby Fischer; IV. Game Records; V. Publications; VI. Correspondence; VII. Personal; VIII. Clippings; IX. Memorabilia; X. Photographs; XI. Albums and Scrapbooks; XII. Audio-Visual; XIII. Realia.

Writings and Accompanying Materials include original drafts, typescripts, galley proofs, columns, and articles written by Collins, along with related correspondence, royalty statements, contracts, and publisher agreements. The Professional series includes game submissions, income statements, awards and honors, and other materials relating to Collins' activities as Correspondence Chess Editor, chess mentor and expert.

The Bobby Fischer series includes correspondence written by Bobby Fischer to Jack and Ethel Collins; the diaries of Ethel Collins, written during Fischer's 1972 World Chess Championship victory over Boris Spassky of the USSR; and an unsigned, undated, handwritten plea for Fischer to return to playing chess professionally. The Game Records series features more than 70 years of materials pertaining to chess matches, tournaments and championships.

Correspondents in the general Correspondence series include: Edmund Adam; Weever W. Adams; Lev Alburt; Emil J. Balthazar; Gigi Benson; Robert F. Brand; Schuyler Broughton; Robert Byrne; Irving Chernev; Church of the Larger Fellowship; E. Malcolm Cohen; John W. (Jack) Collins; Arthur Dake; Marna Olsen Davis; E. B. Edmondson; George F. Gant; Brian Harrow; Ann Humdy; Walter James; Steven Josefowicz; Hector Jurado; Kurt Landsberger; William Lombardy; Norman Monath; Jacqueline Matisse Monnier; Steven Moskowitz; Stan Olsen; Milton Pauley; Dick Rees; Charles A. Reinwald.

The Personal series includes Collins' genealogical information and family tree. Memorabilia includes tournament programs and bulletins. Photographs include photos of Jack Collins and Bobby Fischer. Albums and Scrapbooks include the "Collins Kids," the "Iceland Safari," and the Fischer-Spassky 1972 championship. Realia includes an autograph book from 1927, and autograph books from the 1980s and 1990s.

An inventory is available.

Acquired: 2004, 2007

Collection size: 10,000 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.