The Harvard Theatre Collection began acquiring works by Tennessee Williams (1911–1983) early in his career. The playwright himself gave several typescripts in 1963 and bequeathed a significant collection of manuscripts to Harvard upon his death. Over the years, the library has continued to add to these holdings. Recent additions include the papers of Maria St. Just, Williams’ confidante and literary executor. Houghton Library also holds the papers of Williams’ publisher New Directions, its founder James Laughlin, and writer Gore Vidal.
The collection contains working drafts for most of Williams’ plays from the 1950s onward: from The Rose Tattoo and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to his final production, In Masks Outrageous and Austere. There is less material for early plays like The Glass Menagerie, with the exception of a prompt book for the original production of A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). The collection also includes numerous drafts of screenplays, essays, short stories, and poetry; and a sizable collection of family photographs purchased from Williams’ younger brother Dakin.
This guide is intended to provide an overview of the library’s holdings rather than a comprehensive survey. Other material may be available that has not been listed. For fuller descriptions of each collection, follow the link from HOLLIS to the collection’s finding aid.
For photographs, programs, and other ephemera from specific productions, see our Guide for Researchers. For printed editions of works by and about Tennessee Williams, including acting editions, edited notebooks, letters, and memoirs, consult HOLLIS or contact us.
Tennessee Williams during commencement exercises at Harvard, 1982. Photograph by Rick Stafford. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library
Accessing the Collection
Access to collection materials is provided through the Houghton Library Reading Room. For more information, see accessing materials at Houghton Library.