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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2604

Kenneth Raisbeck papers


Papers of American playwright Kenneth Raisbeck.


  • 1916-1938

Language of Materials

English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is 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.


.5 linear feet (1 box)

Papers include: letters from Raisbeck to his friend, Marjorie Crocker Fairbanks, and her husband Sydney Fairbanks, and child Austen Fairbanks; a few letters from Marjorie Fairbanks to Raisbeck; drafts of Raisbeck's plays: The lady of Spain. A play in four acts and Rock me, Julie! A play in three acts; extensive clippings concerning his death and the police investigation and scandal that ensued, and other materials.

Biographical / Historical

Kenneth Romaver-Ron Raisbeck (1899-1931) was born in Odell, Illinois, the youngest of nine children. He graduated from Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Illinois (Class of 1916) and Harvard College (Class of 1920, A.B. 1921). While at Harvard, Raisbeck was an assistant to (and later a good friend of) George Pierce Baker for his 47 Workshop play writing course and a close friend of American novelist Thomas Wolfe, whom he met in 1920. Raisbeck was said to be openly homosexual while at Harvard. In 1926, Raisbeck toured Paris with Wolfe and other friends, Marjorie Crocker Fairbanks (Mrs. Sydney Fairbanks) and Miss Helen Harding. At some point Wolfe and Raisbeck had an argument and continued their trips separately. Wolfe and Raisbeck never saw each other again.

Raisbeck became a playwright and screenwriter and lived in various locations in the United States. As a close friend of G. P. Baker, he spent time at Baker's summer home in New Hampshire. His plays consisted of Torches (1923), Rock Me, Julie which played for two weeks on Broadway in New York City (1931), and The lady of [in?] Spain which was never produced. Late in the 1920s he worked on screenplay scenarios in Hollywood and in 1931 he came East again. He was found dead in a Westport, Connecticut cemetery on September 30, 1931; the cause of death developed into a controversy but many said he was murdered by strangulation. The killer was never found.

Raisbeck was the model for the character Frank Starwick in Wolfe's second autobiographical novel, Of time and the river.

Marjorie Crocker Fairbanks was a close friend of Raisbeck, and for a time, the wife of Sydney Fairbanks. Sydney Van Kleek Fairbanks (1895-1985, Harvard (Class of 1917) A.B. 1920, JD 1925, AM 1933, PhD 1936) was the founder of the Harvard Poetry Society, a playwright, and author and former attaché to the Italian Ambassador. Austen Crocker Fairbanks was their child.

Biographical information taken from: Wolfe, Thomas, 1900-1938. The Starwick episodes; edited, with an introduction by Richard S. Kennedy. Akron, Ohio: Thomas Wolfe Society, 1989.


Organized into the following three series:

  1. I. Correspondence with Kenneth Raisbeck
  2. II. Compositions by Kenneth Raisbeck
  3. III. Other materials

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Donor unknown; received: circa 1949? Materials probably belonged to Marjorie C. Fairbanks. Note in papers indicates donor information in letter of January 19, 1949 from A. Priest, (probably Alan Reed Priest, Harvard A.B. 1920), but this letter has not been located as of April 2008.

2015M-94. Item (19a): Gift of Diane Walton; received: 2015 December 22.

Related Materials

See HOLLIS and OASIS for additional Thomas Wolfe materials and also Marjorie C. Fairbanks Correspondence and Notes on Thomas Wolfe (MS Am 1883.9) for additional papers concerning Mrs. Marjorie C. Fairbanks.

General note

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Raisbeck, Kenneth. Kenneth Raisbeck papers, 1916-1938: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

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

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