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Dorothy Dow Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Dow

Scope and Content of the Collection

Mainly correspondence and writings of Dorothy Dow, with some miscellaneous material.

Correspondence from Edgar Lee Masters, Harriet Monroe, other writers and friends, plus letters and sketches from artist John Warner Norton. Mainly, a large collection of Dow’s works, almost all of it in typescript, both bound and unbound, written and saved over a period of nearly sixty-five years. Includes her vast output of poems, some plays, short stories, a novel, an informal autobiography, several versions of a lengthy autobiographical poem (1966-1988), and parts of an early, episodic diary. Also, a study of Lord Byron, and other non-fiction works, such as “Edgar Lee Masters, an Introduction to Some Letters” (1950), and a bound volume titled The American Muse, an Informal Study of American Letters, 1890-1947. Miscellaneous material consists of photo portraits of Masters and Dow, scrapbooks and notebooks containing clippings, drafts, notes, reviews by and about Dow, and a catalog and description of her book collection. Also, a few items relating to Dow’s husband Dr. James E. Fitzgerald and a poet named John Urban Nicolson, which includes a small volume of his poetry, King of the Black Isles (1924), lightly annotated by Dow. Much of the unbound works are fragmented, disorganized and undated.


  • Creation: 1920-1993



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Dorothy Dow Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Dorothy Dow 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 Dorothy Dow, 1897-1989

Illinois poet, playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer.

Dorothy Minerva Dow was born in 1897 in Lockport, Illinois, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Gund Dow. She began writing poems as a child, and although she continued to write a great deal of poetry throughout her long life, she first found success as a writer of pulp fiction and newspaper articles and reviews.

Living in Chicago in the early 1920s, as a youthful poet Dow was encouraged by well-known poet Edgar Lee Masters and prominent artist John Warner Norton, two men among many who found her talented, intelligent and extremely attractive. In 1924, Dow published her first volume of verse entitled Black Babylon, followed by Will-o-the-Wisp in 1925. Both books received only mixed reviews, and Dow never achieved the great fame as a poet that she craved. Her friendship with Masters waned, and in 1925 she married a physician, James E. Fitzgerald.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the scope of Dow’s interests widened, and she wrote plays, novels, short stories, biographies and even a cookbook. The influence of Edgar Lee Masters still inspired her to continue to write poetry and they renewed communication until his death. Dow’s last published work was a novel in 1947. Her health continued to decline in her 60s, a time when she worked on a long biographical poem finally titled Flowers of Time. As she grew older, her many later poems reflect her anger and sadness at the loss of her youthful activities and beauty.

Sometime during the 1960s or 1970s, Dow had bound together typescripts of her most insightful and interesting writings: literary essays entitled titled The American Muse, An Informal Study of American Letters, 1890-1947. Dow’s husband died in 1969, and for the next twenty years she lived in various Chicago locations, continuing to write and also to amass a large and impressive book collection.

Dorothy Dow died in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1989 at the age of 91.


5 Linear Feet (11 boxes and 1 oversize folder)


Correspondence to Illinois poet and writer Dorothy Dow from poet Edgar Lee Masters, muralist John Warner Norton and other writers and friends, and a large collection of Dow’s works, which includes her vast output of poems, both published and mostly unpublished, some plays, short stories, a novel and several literary studies. Also, an informal autobiography and parts of an early episodic diary, a few photographs, scrapbooks and notebooks containing clippings, drafts and notes relating to her activities and writings, and fragments of memorabilia.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1920-1986
Box 1
Series 2: Works, 1924-1988
Boxes 1-6
Series 3: Subject Files, 1924-1993
Box 6

Collection Stack Location

1 14 4, 1 16 5


Gift, Dorothy Dow Fitzgerald, 1951; Peter Keig, 1990-1994.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1951; Virginia H. Smith, 2000, 2008; Alison Hinderliter, 2019.


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 Dorothy Dow Papers, 1920-1993
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 4/27/2019: Incorporated additions from J.J. Keig, 2019

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States