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Arthur Davison Ficke Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Ficke

Scope and Content of the Collection

Chiefly letters to Chalkley J. Hambleton, 1928-1956, together with a few poems, a photograph and other miscellany.

Chalkley J. Hambleton, a Harvard classmate and Chicagoan who was trustee of the Newberry Library, 1928-1956, preserved the letters and gave them to the Newberry Library in 1956. The bulk of the correspondence dates from 1904 to 1915, and includes descriptions of Ficke's youthful travels, experiences as a law student, literary comments and opinions, as well as reports of his social life and personal happenings. He discusses his Japanese print collecting and gives Hambleton advice on putting together his own collection.

There are also a few poems written into the letters, and four separate poems, plus a printed review, four small miscellaneous pieces of memorabilia, an obit newspaper clipping and a small photograph of the young Ficke. In his letters Ficke mentions his portraits being painted by Bror J.O. Nordfeldt, and there are two large photographs of those pictures in a portfolio.


  • Creation: 1904-1945



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Arthur D. Ficke Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Arthur D. Ficke 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 Arthur Davison Ficke

American lawyer and poet.

Arthur Davison Ficke was born in Davenport, Iowa in 1883. After graduating from Harvard and with a law degree from the University of Iowa, Ficke settled into a ten-year legal practice with his father, all the while writing and publishing poetry. He served in World War I, afterwards abandoned the law for literature, and for the rest of his life became solely a writer.

Ficke's poetry has not proved to be of any lasting significance, but he is best remembered for three things: a correspondence and brief love affair with Edna St. Vincent Millay; a prose work which evolved from his knowledgeable collecting of Japanese prints entitled Chats on Japanese Prints (1915); and a wildly successful literary hoax which he concocted with his friend the writer Witter Bynner.

In 1916, Ficke and Bynner, as a satire on modern poetic movements such as Imagism and Vorticism, invented a literary movement they called Spectrism complete with two fictitious poets to embody it named Emanuel Morgan and Anne Knish. Together they published Spectra, A Book of Poetic Experiments (1916), which was taken seriously for several years by an embarrassing large number of editors and poets.

Ficke's later work is largely forgotten. He married twice, to Evelyn B. Blunt, with whom he had a son, and Gladys Brown, a painter. He died in 1945.


0.3 Linear Feet (1 box and 1 portfolio)


Mostly correspondence to poet Arthur D. Ficke from Newberry Library trustee and lifelong friend Chalkley J. Hambleton, plus several letters written by Hambleton. Also, a few works of Ficke's and pieces of memorabilia, an obituary clipping, a photograph of Ficke and photos of two portraits of Ficke by Bror J.O. Nordfeldt.


The papers are organized by type of material: correspondence, works and miscellaneous.

Collection Stack Location

1 17 7


Gift of Chalkley J. Hambleton, 1950.

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2005.

Inventory of the Arthur Davison Ficke Papers 1904-1945
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 08/18/2011: 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