Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Dreiser mss., 1931, consist of manuscripts and realia of Theodore Dreiser, 1871-1945. Dreiser was born the twelfth of thirteen children in Terre Haute, IN and attended Indiana University in Bloomington briefly before dropping out in 1890. He married Sara White in 1898, and they separated in 1909 although never formally divorced. Dreiser became a renowned author of literary naturalism (other American writers in the movement included Jack London, Edith Wharton, Frank Norris, and Stephen Crane). His best known novels are Sister Carrie (although a commercial failure at the time in 1900), Jeannie Gerhardt (1911), and An American Tragedy (1925). Politically, Dreiser was involved in socialist causes and wrote a non-fiction book, Dreiser Looks at Russia (1928), based on his experiences visiting the Soviet Union. He did not officially join the American Communist Party until shortly before his death in 1945.

Dawn: An Autobiography of Early Youth, Dreiser's memoir of his difficult childhood and adolescence in Indiana, was written from 1912-1915 but ultimately suppressed by the author, who came to have misgivings about the blunt quality of the work, especially his own depiction of teen sexuality.

The collection includes the various stages of Dreiser's writing of Dawn: a holograph manuscript; a first rough draft; and a typescript. The three drafts are divided into eight green-cloth folding cases. Also in the collection is the Theodore Dreiser death mask.

An inventory and a finding aid are available.

Gift. Mrs. Theodore Dreiser, Los Angeles, California. 1946

Related manuscripts: Dreiser mss. III, Dreiser mss. IV

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.