MacDowell Colony at Beinecke Library
The MacDowell Colony, one of America’s oldest and most important artists’ colonies, celebrates its centenary in 2007. Founded by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife Marian on their property in Peterborough, NH, the Colony provides emerging and established artists with time and space to develop their work. In this way, the Colony has played an important supporting role in the development of American literature and art in the 20th century. Many poets and writers whose papers are housed in the Yale Collection of American Literature can be counted among the hundreds of poets, writers, playwrights, composers, and artists who have lived and worked at the MacDowell Colony its first hundred years.
MacDowell Colony poets whose papers are part of the Yale Collection of American Literature include Alfred Corn, Robert Fitzgerald, Frances Frost, Marilyn Hacker, Marcia Nardi, Lola Ridge, Grace Schulman, Jean Star Untermeyer, and Marjorie Welish. Siblings (and poets) Laura, William Rose, and Stephen Vincent Benét each enjoyed residencies at the Colony. Their correspondence with Marian MacDowell, as well as with many friends in literary and artistic circles, is in the Benét Family Papers.
The Colony supports novelists, essayists, and playwrights as well as poets; MacDowell Colony writers whose papers are in the Beinecke Library collections include Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Josephine Herbst, Chard Powers Smith, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Gilbert Seldes. Playwright Thornton Wilder was a frequent visitor and he wrote some of his most important work at the Colony; Peterborough was, in fact, his inspiration for the town of Grover’s Corners, the setting of his play, Our Town. The Thornton Wilder Papers include manuscript drafts of Our Town and most of his other works, as well as playbills, scripts, and photographs from productions of his plays; images from the archive can be seen in the Beinecke’s Digital Library: Thornton Wilder Papers.
The papers of several composers who have stayed at the MacDowell Colony, including those of Virgil Thompson, Henry Gilbert, Hershey Kay, and Karl Weigl are housed at Yale’s Irving S. Gilmore Music Library.
The works of these and other MacDowel Colony residents can be located in Orbis, Yale’s library catalog.
Images: Elizabeth Sheply Sergeant with other artists and writers in residence, MacDowell Colony, 1950s; Elizabeth Sheply Sergeant at Mixter Studio, 1950s; Thornton Wilder at the MacDowell Colony with Marian MacDowell and others, 1952.