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Ralph Korngold papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Korngold

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, book manuscripts, photographs, and recordings, along with personal items and items of Korngold's wife Piri.

This collection consists mainly of materials relating to Korngold’s later life as a writer. It contains correspondence with publishers and others regarding his literary career; manuscripts of his short stories, novels, and biographies; and documents relating to his published works, including copyright forms, contracts, royalty statements, and book reviews.

The collection also includes articles written during his Socialist days for the Chicago Daily Socialist / Chicago Evening World and The Coming Nation that his wife Piri collected and transcribed after his death. The collection contains a biography about Korngold written by Piri, focusing specifically on their courtship and marriage through 1940 when they fled France. This work not only details the facts of Korngold's life, but provides an intimate portrait of his character and personality.

The collection also includes many photographs of Korngold, his wife Piri, family members, Socialist Party members, and other acquaintances, as well as several tape reels and a microfilm roll containing audio and/or visual versions of some of Korngold's works.


  • Creation: 1867-1994
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1909 - 1964



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ralph Korngold papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ralph Korngold 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 Ralph Korngold

Author and Socialist, born in Poland but raised in Chicago.

Ralph Korngold was born in Warsaw, Poland on Dec. 29, 1882 (although the Library of Congress authority file lists his birth year as 1886) to a Dutch diamond merchant, Nathan Korngold, and Polish mother, Celina Wrobleski Korngold. He was raised in Amsterdam, Holland with his two sisters, Regina and Sabina, and one brother. His father died from tuberculosis when Korngold was young. Korngold published his first stories when he was seventeen in De Telegraaf, the Amsterdam daily. At the age of nineteen, he received a literary prize for a story printed in De Twintigste Eeuw, a Dutch literary publication.

In 1903, Korngold emigrated to the United States as a correspondent for De Telegraaf. He later settled in Chicago to become the associate editor of the Chicago Daily Socialist. He joined the Socialist Party where he helped to write its platform in 1908; campaigned with Carl Sandburg for the election of Emil Seidel, the first Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, WI; and served as head of the Lecture and Lyceum Bureau of the Party. Ralph met his first wife, Janet Fenimore through the Socialist Party. They married in 1912 and had a son, Arnold Dresden (Bud) in 1913. Korngold resigned from the Party shortly after World War I broke out.

During the War, Korngold entered into several business ventures. He was a successful business executive and at one point served as president of a cutlery manufacturer. His business career allowed him to save enough capital to pursue his passion for writing. In 1924, at the age of 42, Ralph sailed with Janet and Bud for Europe with the plan to settle in the French Riviera where he could focus on his fiction writing career. Disillusioned with their European life, Janet returned to the United States with Bud two years later.

In 1930, the downturn of the economy forced Korngold to return to the United States, where he became a partner in a sales stimulation business in Chicago. Three years later, at the age of fifty, he returned to France to write again, this time devoting himself to historical biography. While in Paris, Korngold met Piri Helen Ozer, a Hungarian girl, whom he married in 1936 once his divorce with Janet was granted.

Korngold published his first major work in 1936, entitled Robespierre, the First Modern Dictator. He and Piri remained in France until 1940, when they were forced to flee due to World War II. They moved to the U. S., where Korngold resumed his business career until 1946 when he suffered a heart attack which exacerbated his already poor health. Several years later Korngold and his wife relocated from Chicago to Santa Barbara, CA. He continued his literary career until his death on Oct. 27, 1964, publishing seven notable works of historical biography between 1936 and 1959.


4 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 1 card file box, and 1 audiovisual materials box)


Correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and personal items relating to the life and work of Socialist journalist and historical biographer Ralph Korngold.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1920-1965
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Works, 1909-1964
Boxes 3-5
Series 3: Personal, 1867-1964
Boxes 6-7
Series 4: Piri Ozer Korngold Materials, 1964-1991
Box 8
Series 5: Photographs and Audiovisual Materials, 1870-1994
Box 9

Collection Stack Location

1 23 6


Gift of Piri Korngold, 1965-1998.

Processed by

Melissa Marten, 1995, Shannon Yule, 2007.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Ralph Korngold papers, 1867-1994, bulk 1909-1964
Shannon Yule
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