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Fanny Butcher papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Butcher

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, clippings, manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia relating to the life and work of Chicago literary critic and author, Fanny Butcher. The works series makes up the bulk of the collection. It contains clippings and manuscripts of articles, book reviews, and columns that Fanny wrote for the Chicago Tribune; drafts and proofs of her autobiography, Many Lives, One Love; various speeches and essays; and extensive files on authors and other literary subjects that Fanny kept for her work.

The collection contains a wealth of correspondence with authors and other literary figures, many of whom Fanny developed a personal relationship with, including Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, H. L. Mencken, and Arthur Meeker among others. Likewise, the collection contains many publicity portraits of authors and other literary figures sent to Fanny for use in her columns and reviews. Also included are personal and family photos. Many prominent figures are pictured including Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad, Carl Sandburg, and Gertrude Stein.

Butcher’s papers also contain many pieces of art, including many lithographs and engravings, and original works by Chicago Tribune cartoonists. Also included are personal materials including awards, financial documents, and memorabilia; and family papers that contain correspondence between Butcher and her husband and other Bokum family memorabilia.


  • Creation: 1830-1984
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1910 - 1984



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Fanny Butcher 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 at

Biography of Fanny Butcher

Chicago literary critic and author.

Fanny Butcher Bokum was born Frances Amanda Butcher in Fredonia, Kansas, on September 13, 1888. She was the daughter of Oliver Butcher, a commercial artist, and Hattie Butcher. When Butcher was a child, her father moved the family to Chicago so he could attend classes at the Art Institute, but later fell ill and the family fell into poverty. Just before her sixth birthday, Butcher received a copy of Black Beauty, which she considered her first adult book and the beginning of her passion for literature.

Butcher attended college at the Lewis Institute (AA) 1906-1908 and graduated from the University of Chicago (BA) in 1910. After graduation, she served as a high school principal in Rolling Prairie, IN for five months. For the next few years, Butcher performed publicity and secretarial work for the Little Theatre and wrote several pieces for Morrison’s Weekly.

In 1913 at an Illinois Women’s Press Association meeting, Mary Eleanor O’Donnell, women’s editor of the Chicago Tribune, offered Butcher a job writing a column, “How to Earn Money From Home,” thus beginning her fifty-year career at the Tribune. She wrote a little bit of everything for the paper, reporting on music, fashion, theatre, and society, before finally attaining her ideal position as Literary Editor in 1922. Butcher remained at the Tribune until her retirement in 1963, writing her influential book reviews and her weekly column "Literary Spotlight."

Butcher opened and managed a bookshop, Fanny Butcher Books, from 1919-1927. The shop was sold to Doubleday when it became impossible for Fanny to keep her position at the Tribune and run the bookshop.

Butcher maintained lifelong friendships with many prominent authors and other literary figures, including Sinclair Lewis, Edna Ferber, H. L. Mencken, and Willa Cather. She married Richard Drummond Bokum, a lawyer, in 1935.

Fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing, she wrote her autobiography, Many Lives, One Love, which was published in 1972. She died in 1987 at the age of ninety nine.


48.5 Linear Feet (44 boxes and 12 oversize boxes)


Correspondence, clippings, manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia relating to the life and work of Chicago literary critic and author, Fanny Butcher.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1897-1984
Boxes 1-8
Series 2: Works, 1906-1972
Boxes 9-34
Series 3: Personal, approximately 1840-1980s
Boxes 35-38
Series 4: Family Papers, 1830-1985
Box 39
Series 5: Artwork, 1897-1964
Box 40
Series 6: Photographs, approximately 1850s-1984
Boxes 41-44

Collection Stack Location

1 8 5-7, 1 16 3


Gift of Fanny Butcher, 1975, 1987.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen, Kelly Kress, 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 Fanny Butcher papers, 1830-1984, bulk 1910-1984
Shannon Yule, Kelly Kress, Lisa Janssen
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-08-02: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States