Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Deshon mss., 1917-1922, consist of the correspondence between Florence Deshon, 1896?-1922, actress, and Max Eastman, 1883-1969, author. They met at The Masses Ball on December 15, 1916. Letters were exchanged while Miss Deshon was on tour with a road company in the East and Eastman was on a lecture tour of the West in 1917. Audience response to Eastman's speeches was sometimes vehement so that at Fargo, North Dakota, there was a secretive escape which he described in a letter of August 29, 1917. The correspondence, much of it personal in nature, continued in the following years. In 1919 Miss Deshon was on tour with a road company of Among the Girls and in July went to Culver City, California, under contract to Goldwyn Studios. The next year the contract was broken, but in 1921 Miss Deshon was on the west coast again for more picture making and a return to the stage. In 1922 Miss Deshon was in New York where she took her life on February 4.

Among the plays and movies in which Miss Deshon acted were: Among the Girls, The Beloved Vagabond, Cup of Fury, Dangerous Days, A Day's Pleasure, Jaffrey, Gentlemen of Leisure, Loves of Letty, The Sunshine Girl, The Roof Tree, Twins of Suffering Creek. Her letters reflect the experiences of an aspiring young actress in the days of the silent movies and provide frequent comments on the movie industry.

At this time Max Eastman was editing The Liberator and made his home at Croton-on-the-Hudson where the neighborhood included many of his associates and friends to whom he mad reference in his letters.

Other correspondents include George Andreychine, Theodor Dreiser, Crystal Eastman, Tom Harrington, Marie (Jenney) Howe, Dudley Field Malone, Sally Senter (Whitney) Robinson, Marie Alamo Thomas, Gera Valf.

Among the figures of the day who received the attention of Florence Deshon and Max Eastman were: Gertrude Franklin (Horn) Atherton, Frank Bacon, Rex Ellingwood Beach, Louis Bryant, Charles Spencer Chaplin, Floyd Dell, Cecil Blount De Mille, Elsie Ferguson, Pauline Frederick, Samuel Goldwyn, David Wark Griffith, Frank Harris, Rupert Hughes, Max Linder, Anita Loos, Mae Marsh, Alla Nazimova, John Reed, Elmer L. Rice, Doris Stevens, Constance Talmadge, Norma Talmadge, Genevieve Taggard, Maurice Tourneur, Samuel Untermeyer, Eugene Walter, Charles Erskine Caldwell Wood, Arthur Henry Young.

Excerpts from a number of the letters are published in Eastman, Love and Revolution, Random House, New York, 1964. The negative of a film clip of Miss Deshon is enclosed with a letter of July 26, 1919, and a lock of her hair in an envelope of November 30, 1920. Miss Deshon's name is included in the biographical index of Who's Who in Music and Drama for 1914 (ML106 .U5 W6 1914).

Collection size: 409 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.