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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 397

Tennessee Williams papers


Drafts of plays and other compositions, with smaller runs of correspondence, diaries, photographs, and other papers of American playwright Tennessee Williams.


  • 1932-1983

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Item (1458) boxes 44 and 45, are not housed at the Houghton Library but are shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


Copyright in the works of Tennessee Williams is held by the University of the South.


20 linear feet (45 boxes)

The bulk of this collection (9 linear feet, or almost half by volume) consists of drafts of TW's theatrical plays. These range from handwritten notes scrawled on scraps of paper, to loose pages typed on hotel stationery, to professionally typed clean copies, to TW's notes made during rehearsals. Most of his plays from the 1950s onward are represented, as well as a smaller proportion of his early works. Most notable for its omission is his 1944 The glass menagerie, while A streetcar named Desire (1947) is represented only by 9 loose sheets from various drafts. On the other hand, later works such as The milk train doesn't stop here any more, Out cry, and Red Devil Battery sign are very well documented.

The collection also includes good documentation of TW's work in other fields, including 2 linear feet of his scripts for film and television, and 3 linear feet of his fiction, poetry, and essays.

Also included are an eclectic but important group of his correspondence, mostly drafts of letters sent; transcripts of several interviews; biographical papers, including several diaries kept by Williams intermittently from 1942 to 1981; a few scattered financial papers; compositions by others which were retained by Williams; a small group of photographs; and 3 boxes of envelopes and other packing material which came from his estate.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Lanier Williams III (1911-1983), who published as Tennessee Williams, has often been called America's most prominent playwright. He was also a prolific author of essays, poetry, and short stories.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Compositions
  2. ___A. Theatrical plays
  3. ___B. Screenplays
  4. ___C. Television scripts
  5. ___D. Essays
  6. ___E. Novels
  7. ___F. Poetry
  8. ___G. Short stories
  9. II. Correspondence
  10. III. Interviews of Tennessee Williams
  11. IV. Biographical papers
  12. V. Business and financial papers
  13. VI. Compositions by others
  14. VII. Images
  15. VIII. Packing materials

Physical Location

b, Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2007MT-42r. Bequest of Tennessee Williams via the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Florida; received: 1988 May 24.

Related Materials

Other important collections of Tennessee Williams papers can be found at Columbia University (27 linear feet); the University of California, Los Angeles (1 linear foot); the University of Delaware (4.6 linear feet); and the University of Texas, Austin (31.5 linear feet).

Separated Materials

The suitcase in which some of these papers was delivered was cataloged separately as MS Thr 493.


This collection was consulted for: Tennessee Williams Notebooks, ed. Margaret Bradham Thornton (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006). Parker, Brian. A provisional stemma of drafts and revisions for Tennessee Williams' s "Sweet bird of youth" (1959). PBSA 103:3 (2009), 357-90.
  • Tennessee Williams Notebooks, ed. Margaret Bradham Thornton (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006).
  • Parker, Brian. A provisional stemma of drafts and revisions for Tennessee Williams' s "Sweet bird of youth" (1959). PBSA 103:3 (2009), 357-90.

General note

Two boxes [item (1458)] from this collection are shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler

This collection was partially processed on at least two other occasions between 1985 and 2006, including work by Doug Rand, who supplied "HTC" catalog numbers. It has been used frequently by researchers during that time, so wherever possible the previous box and folder numbers have been recorded, as well as the asset numbers from the original estate inventory.

Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983. Tennessee Williams papers, 1932-1983: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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