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Nelson Algren-Christine and Neal Rowland Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Algren Rowland

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence and a newspaper clipping. Correspondence includes references to personal nicknames such as Gigi (Lou Gilbert), Tocy (Anastasia Metropolis), JC and Helen (James Constantine and Helen Yannias). Peter may refer to Peter Goufain, but it is not verifiable.


  • Creation: 1940-1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940 - 1951



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Nelson Algren-Christine and Neal Rowland papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Nelson Algren-Christine and Neal Rowland papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Christine and Neal Rowland and Nelson Algren

Christine Metropolis Rowland was born in 1912 as the eldest of seven children. She met Nelson Algren at college in the 1930’s. Christine married Neal Rowland at Crown Point, Indiana. Nelson Algren wrote to both Christine and Neal throughout the 1940s and early 1950s.

Nelson Algren (originally Nelson Ahlgren Abraham) was born in 1909 in Detroit, MI. His family moved to Chicago when he was three years old. He grew up in the city and went on to study journalism at the University of Illinois. There, he met Christine Rowland (then Christine Metropolis), who became a long-term friend and confidante.

He published his first story, “So Help Me,” in 1933 to enthusiastic critical reception. This first two novels, Somebody in Boots (1935) and Never Come Morning (1942), soon followed. His literary career was interrupted by World War II, during which Algren served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Shortly after the war ended, Algren met the French feminist author Simone de Beauvoir. They began a long-distance affair that spanned 17 years.

Upon his return to Chicago, Algren rose to the height of his popularity with The Neon Wilderness (1947), which was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The Man with the Golden Arm (1949). The latter received the inaugural National Book Award for fiction. He followed these successes with A Walk on the Wild Side (1956), and in 1951 he published the long prose poem Chicago, City on the Make.

Limited by anti-communist sentiment and literary censorship, Algren turned away from novel writing in the mid-1950s. While he continued composing short stories and works of nonfiction, his writing career dipped into relative obscurity. Some of his later writings include a collection of travel essays titled Who Lost an American? (1963) and Notes from a Sea Diary: Hemingway All the Way (1965).

In 1974, Algren moved to the East Coast, spending time in Paterson, NJ before settling in Sag Harbor on Long Island. Before his death, his writings garnered a second wave of attention, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1981. He died of a heart attack three months later. The Devil’s Stocking, Algren’s final novel, was published posthumously in 1983.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


Nelson Algren was an American author and journalist known for his witty, humanistic depictions of postwar working-class urban life. He is most famous for his novel The Man with the Golden Arm (1949), which won the first National Book Award for fiction. Collection consists of correspondence from Algren to his friends Christine and Neal Rowland.


Materials arranged by subject and chronologically thereunder.

Collection Stack Location

1 41 6


Donated to the Newberry Library by the Estate of Christine (Metropolis) and Neal Rowland, 2019.

Separated Materials

The following 3 books came with the Algren Rowland Papers and were separated out to be cataloged individually. See the Newberry Library online catalog for call numbers.

  • Algren, Nelson.The Neon Wilderness: A Collection of Short Stories.New York; Doubleday and Co. Inc., 1947 (Inscription: For Tocy, with fond neon affection always, from Nelson)
  • Algren, Nelson. A Walk on the Wild SideNew York; Farrar Straus and Cudahy. 1956 (Inscription: For Tocy, after 10 years, fondly as ever for the next ten years, Nelson)
  • Davis, Clyde Brion. The Rebellion of Leo McGuire.New York; Farrar and Rinehart Inc., 1944 (Inscription: Private Nelson Algren, 36679611, 460th Med. Coll. Co., Camp Maxey, Texas).

Processed by

Grace Walsh and Emily Richardson, 2019.

Inventory of Nelson Algren-Christine and Neal Rowland papers, 1940-1989, bulk 1940-1951
Grace Walsh
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States