October 29, 2022

Bess Streeter Aldrich, 1881-1954 [RG3263.AM]


RG3263.AM: Bess Streeter Aldrich, 1881-1954

Papers: 1892-1988, mostly 1925-1954
Elmwood, Cass County; and Lincoln, Lancaster County, Neb.: Author
Size: 22 boxes; ca. 12 cu.ft.


Bess Streeter Aldrich launched her professional career when she submitted her short story, “The Little House Next Door” to the Ladies Home Journal literary contest under the pen name Margaret Dean Stephens. It won the $175.00 prize in 1911. Elated by success, she continued to write “in little ten minute stretches between other important if less interesting tasks–on the ironing board and the kitchen sink, quite often baptizing the manuscript with good old sudsy water.”*

Mrs. Aldrich drew heavily upon the resources of the region surrounding her native city, Cedar Falls, Iowa; people and prairie provided a wealth of material for the plot and setting of her many novels and stories. She was keenly aware of early life on the prairie frontier, for her parents, James Wareham and Mary Wilson Streeter, were pioneers of northeastern Iowa. She gained her early education in the Cedar Falls primary and secondary schools, graduating in 1895. After earning a degree at the Iowa State Teachers College (Cedar Falls) in 1901, she taught primary grades for five years in Boone and Marshalltown, Iowa, as well as Salt Lake City, Utah.

A brief return to Iowa State Teachers College as assistant supervisor in the primary training school ended in September 1907, when she married Charles S. Aldrich, a banker and attorney from Tipton, Iowa. After the birth of their first child, Mary Eleanor in 1909, the Aldriches moved to Elmwood, Nebraska, where Mr. Aldrich was cashier of the American Exchange bank until his sudden death on May 3, 1925. Although Mrs. Aldrich made several extended trips to New York and California, Nebraska remained her home for the remainder of her life.**

In the late 1940s she left Elmwood and built a Williamsburg style house next door to her daughter, Mary (Mrs. Milton P. Beechner), in Lincoln, Nebraska. The street on which she built her home was renamed Aldrich Road after her death on August 3, 1954. Bess Streeter Aldrich was buried in Elmwood, Nebraska, the small town in which she had lived and done the bulk of her writing.

Among the many organizations to which Mrs. Aldrich devoted her time are: The Order of the Eastern Star, the Methodist Church, the Nebraska Writers Guild (of which she was president), the Nebraska State Press Association, the Omaha Woman’s Press Club, the Altrusa Club of Lincoln, and the honorary societies Chi Delta Phi, and Theta Sigma Pi.

Mrs. Aldrich was a frequent contributor of short stories to American Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, Woman’s Home Companion, Cosmopolitan and several other publications. She wrote under the pen name Margaret Dean Stephens until 1918; thereafter she always used her own name.

* quoted in the Omaha World Herald, December 11, 1927
** based on the autobiography by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Aldrich is the author of the following novels and short-story collections:

1924 Mother Mason
1925 The Rim Of The Prairie
1926 The Cutters
1928 A Lantern In Her Hand
1931 A White Bird Flying
1933 Miss Bishop***
1935 Spring Came On Forever
1936 The Man Who Caught the Weather
1939 Song Of Years
1941 The Drum Goes Dead
1942 The Lieutenant’s Lady
1949 Journey Into Christmas
1950 The Bess Streeter Aldrich Reader

***Miss Bishop was adapted for the film “Cheers for Miss Bishop” produced by Richard A. Rowland in 1940. The film premiered in Lincoln.


The Aldrich papers are arranged in eleven series: 1) general correspondence, 2) fan letters, 3) telegrams, 4) business correspondence, 5) legal and financial file, 6) manuscripts and notes, 7) early writings of Mary E. Aldrich, 8) printed matter, 9) newspapers and clippings, 10) scrapbooks, and 11) art and display. An Addendum to the collection in 1995 is organized into the same series where appropriate, and includes three new Series: 12) journals; 13) photographs; and 14) miscellaneous.

Approximately 700 items of general correspondence are divided into two file series: a) letters received, 1921-1956, and b) letters sent, 1931-1951. The Aldrich letters tend to be long–often three or four pages typewritten and single-spaced–as well as newsy. Many of the letters are carbon copies, for Mrs. Aldrich often sent the same letter to close friends and members of the family, writing or typing a short personal note to the individual. Such letters were usually addressed: “Dearest Children” or “Dear Folks” and the most common recipients were her four children: Mary, James, Charles, and Robert, as well as her “Aunt Tallie,” Mrs. John P. Cobb. Clippings enclosed with the letter often contained notes written by Mrs. Aldrich and may be found with the respective letter.

The remaining correspondence consists of approximately 75 telegrams; 150 fan letters spanning the years 1912 to 1952; and a file of business correspondence dated 1907-1954. This file is the most extensive of the correspondence series in volume as well as scope, for it contains almost sixteen hundred letters from agents, producers and publishers. The bulk of the correspondence is from the D. Appleton Company, Mrs. Aldrich’s main publisher.

Correspondents include: Mrs. Keene (Avery) Abbott, 1946; Jacques Chambrun, 1933-1948; Elizabeth Dickenson, 1944-1946; Frank C. Hanighen, 1933-1934; F.M. Holly, 1921-1937; T.A. Leadley, 1926-1930; Robert Leavitt, 1929-1946; Abbott C. Page, 1933-1942; Louise Pound, 1928; Elizabeth S. Roberts, 1942; Richard A. Rowland, 1939-1940, George F. Will, 1942; Blanche Cotton Williams, 1928-1935; John L. B. Williams, 1924-1949 and Luella M. Wright, 1940-1943.

A legal and financial file provides a comprehensive economic record of this Nebraska writer. Approximately 75 contracts, royalty statements and other records are chronologically arranged from 1913 to 1954. The file of manuscripts and notes, containing approximately 800 items, is arranged alphabetically by story. This series consists largely of typewritten manuscripts with varying quantities of hand-written notes and research data, ranging in years from the college story “Xantippe” (1899), to notes for the novel The Lieutenant’s Lady (1941-1942). The most extensive notes are preserved for four of her novels: A Lantern In Her Hand, The Lieutenant’s Lady, Song Of Years, and Spring Came On Forever.

Series 7 is a small file perhaps best described as memorabilia. It contains the early letters, verse, and short stories of Mary Eleanor Aldrich (1915-1928). Printed matter forms a significant portion of the Aldrich collection. Series 8 consists largely of magazines containing articles by or about Bess Streeter Aldrich. A small part of this series is made up of reference material used by Mrs. Aldrich. Of particular interest is a personal copy of Song Of Years, which contains photographs and notes by the author. The printed material is arranged chronologically by book or magazine. When necessary issues of the same publication are arranged chronologically within the alphabetical scheme.

The newspaper file contains complete newspapers as well as clippings dating from 1926 to 1951. Handwritten notes can be found on any number of the approximately 1,000 items in this series. Series 10 consists of scrapbooks [see addendum for three additional scrapbooks] containing newspaper clippings, book reviews, best-seller lists and memorabilia. An art and display series contains book jackets, illustrations, posters and display cards. Of particular interest are several drawings for the book jacket of A Lantern In Her Hand which show changes made in the progressive stages of development, as well as the finished product.

Although the Aldrich papers span the years 1892 until 1988, the bulk of the material falls chronologically into the shorter period 1925 to 1954, the most productive years of the author’s life. Many sources for her stories and novels are revealed in the correspondence and notes.


See the moving image [RG3263.MI] and photo [RG3263.PH] components for related materials. For various published materials by and about Bess Streeter Aldrich, see the NSHS Library Catalog and the Nebraska History Index. The Nebraska History Museum holds several items relating to Bess Streeter Aldrich. Not all items are on exhibit. Interested researchers should contact the Museum for more information and to schedule an appointment.


Series 1 – General Correspondence

Box 1

Letters received:

Box 2

Letters received [cont.]:
1949-1951; 1954; 1956

Letters sent:
1935 [2 folders]
1936 [2 folders]
1939 [2 folders]

Box 3

Letters sent [cont.]:
1940 [2 folders]
1951 [2 folders]

Series 2 – Fan Letters

1936 [Folder 1]

Box 4

1936 [Folder 2]
1937-1938, 1943

Series 3 – Telegrams

Telegrams, c.1925-1952 [2 folders]

Series 4 – Business Correspondence


Box 5


Box 6

1933 [2 folders]
1935 [folder 1]

Box 7

1935 [folder 2]

Box 8

1949 [2 folders]

Series 5 – Legal and Financial File

c. 1913-1954 [contracts, royalty statements, etc.]

Series 6 – Manuscripts and Notes

Box 9

Advanced short-story correspondence course
Letters, 1917-1921
Short-story: Through Hawthorne Hedge
Plot outlines, etc.
Autobiography; biographical data
The Case of Emmaline Smith
The Cat is on the Mat
Concerning the Best Man [c.1915]
The Drum Goes Dead [c.1941]
Grandpa Statler
The Great Wide World of Men
The Heart o’ The Giver
Hitching Post Mother
How Gretchen Won the Prize
How I Mixed Stores With Doughnuts
How to write a novel
I remember
Influence of the Bible on Law and Ethics
Journey into Christmas
A Lantern in Her Hand [c. 1928]
Partial manuscript,synopsis, and notes
“The Story Behind A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich,” Christian Herald, March 1952
Miscellaneous notes
The Lieutenant’s Lady [c.1941-1942]
Partial manuscript and notes
Letters, 1941-1942
Diary of Andrew Nahum Canfield, (1868) & Sarah Elizabeth Canfield, (1866-1869) [typescripts]
Copies of letters, 1867-1868
Miscellaneous notes

Box 10

The Light O’ Day
The Little House Next Door [c.1911]
The Madonna of the Purple Dots
Misdirected Zeal
Miss Bishop
Typescript and galley proofs, [c.1933] [2 folders]
Synopsis, Screen adaptation, “Cheers for Miss Bishop” by Stephen Vincent Benet, 1940, Apr. 17
Final script, September 26, 1940 [shooting script]
Mother Mason, screen adaptation by Josephine F. Campbell
Mr. Kurtz and Christmas
Mrs. Piper Makes A Call
Molly Porter, 1914
Nebraska History in Nebraska Novels
The Nightgown [humor]
Novels and Nebraska History
The Old Crowd, 1915

Box 11

The Rim of the Prairie drama [c.1926]
The Soap Kettle
Song Of Years [c. 1938, 2 folders], notes written in longhand on back of Miss Bishop carbon
Speeches, miscellaneous and undated
Spring Came On Forever [c.1935]

By the Wharf
The Children We Used to Be
Little Boy Blue in Many Lands
To My China Painting Teacher
To My Wash Lady
Miscellaneous [undated]

The Weakling [c.1925]
The Why of Waterloo
Working Backward
Xantippe, Oct. 1899
Miscellaneous manuscripts and notes [folder 1]

Box 12

Miscellaneous manuscripts and notes [folder 2]
Miscellaneous manuscripts and notes [folder 3]
Miscellaneous manuscripts and notes [folder 4]
Research data
Research data–Pioneers
Research data–Pioneers–Aldrich [c.1938]

Series 7 – Mary Eleanor Aldrich File

c.1915-1928. Early letters, verse and short stories of Mrs. Aldrich’s daughter, Mary Eleanor (Mrs. Milton P. Beechner)

Series 8 – Printed Matter

The Alumnus, Iowa State Teachers College
1932, October, July
1933, April
1951, May
The American Magazine
1920, May
1921, November
1922, January, February

Box 13

The American Magazine [cont.]
1922, April, May
1922, September, October
1922, December
1923, February, July
1923, August
1923, October, December

Box 14

The American Magazine [cont.]
1925, February
1927, June
“Bess Streeter Aldrich, Novelist” by Blanche Colton Williams [4 copies]
Biographical Materials
The Black Cat, November 1917
Century, July 1928
Christian Herald, December 1949
Christmas Book News, 1942
1932, March
1933, January
1933, January, July
1936, January
1938, January
“A Daughter of Pioneers: Bess Streeter Aldrich and Her Books” by Annie Russell Marble [5 copies]
1921, May
1922, December
1923, January
1929, June, October
1930, March, April
Nebraska Writer’s Guild Bulletin
1940, April
1941, October
1942, April, October
1943, April

Box 15

Nebraska Writer’s Guild Bulletin [cont.]
1944, April, October
1946, October
1950, April
The Normal Eye, June 1905
The Palimpsest
1938, December
1947, April
Pearson’s Magazine, 1922 November
Physical Culture, 1931 September
Prairie Schooner
1927, Fall
1941, Spring
1943, Fall
1946, Winter
Short Stories [some photocopies]
Short Stories [fragments]

Box 16

Song Of Years [personal copy of the novel, with photographs and author’s notes]
Correspondence excerpts
Radio program scripts
Story World and Photo Dramatist, 1924 April
A Stranger In a Strange Land, By Leonora Scholte, 1939
Think, 1944 August
Two Hundred Topics in Iowa History, 1932
Variety, 1941
Woman’s Day, 1939 April
The Writer, 1941 December
The Young Citizen
1902, December
1903, February, October, November
1904, February, May

Series 8 – Printed Matter [oversize items]

OB 044

Ladies Home Journal
1932, February, July
1933, June
1934, September
1935, January
The Ladies’ World, 1915, June
1918, May
1919, August
1926, November
Opportunity, 1938, August
Saturday Evening Post
1938, December 3, 10, 17, and 31
1939, January 7, 14, and 21
1948, December 25 [acc.1995.0116]
Woman’s Home Companion
1944, November
1950, May [acc.1995.0116]

Series 9 – Newspaper File

Boxes 17-20

c.1926-1951. Newspapers and clippings, from various publications, including:
Cedar Falls [Iowa] Daily Record
Des Moines [Iowa] Tribune
Kansas City Star
Lincoln State Journal
Parkersburg [Iowa] Eclipse
Pella [Iowa] Chronicle
Toronto Star [Canada]
Omaha World Herald

NOTE: The first three folders contain clippings folders as Mrs. Aldrich kept them. Folder 1 includes two items of correspondence.

Series 10 – Scrapbooks [Oversize]

Item 18, 1921-1932, Clippings and memorabilia
Item 19, 1925-1932, Clippings [some 1936]
Item 20, 1925-1939, Clippings, reviews
Item 21, 1928, Iowa State Teachers College
Item 22-23, 1933-1934, Clippings, photographs
Item 24, 1933-1941, Miss Bishop clippings, reviews
Item 25, 1935-1936, Spring Came On Forever, best-seller lists
Item 26, 1935-1939, Clippings
Item 27, 1938, Clippings
Item 28, 1941, Miss Bishop screenplay
Item 29, 1942, Clippings, best-seller lists
Item 30-34, 1932-1940, “Looking Back” clippings

Series 11 – Art and Display

Item 35, Book jackets, display cards, prints to illustrate novels; several stages in the development of a book jacket for A Lantern In Her Hand

Accession #1995.0116

Series 1 & 2 – Correspondence

Box 21

c. 1921-1988; and undated

Series 5 – Legal and Financial File

Literary [income] record, 1915-1955

Series 6 – Manuscripts and Notes

The Woman Who Was Forgotten
Resolute Writer
Home Stories of 2020
One Slender Moment [photocopy]
Meet the Author
The Outsider
Man of Conviction
I Made My Own Diagnosis
Can the Midwest Give Thanks?
The Qwill Club materials
Poem [by Rob Streeter]

Series 8 – Printed Matter

The Alumnus, U. of Northern Iowa, 1954
Bess Streeter Aldrich, Novelist
Cedar Falls Centennial Historical Souvenir and Official Program
Christian Herald
1947 December
1954 May
Mothers of Achievement in American History, 1776-1976
Pageant, 1955 June
Pulpit Preaching, 1951 March
This Day, 1949 September
25 Short Short Stories from Collier’s

Accession #1995.0116

Series 9 – Newspaper File

Box 22

c. 1933-1979, clippings

Series 10 – Scrapbooks [oversize]

1933, “Cheers for Miss Bishop” clippings
1954, Obituary clippings, memorial sermon
1973, Induction to Nebraska Hall of Fame [program, photos, clippings, etc.]
n.d., Clippings, mostly poetry [some loose]

Series 12 – Journals

Box 22

Diary and financial notebook, 1944-1948
Diary and financial notebook, 1949-1954
“A Mother’s Thoughts By the Way…” [Poetry notebook, 1892-1905, Mary W. Anderson Streeter; holograph]

Series 13 – Photographs

Box 22

Series 14 – Miscellaneous

Box 22

Book [sales?] chart, 1924-1938
Tributes and Awards
Lincoln Kiwannis Medal,1929
Landmark program & speech, 1966
Nebraska Hall of Fame, 1973
Cedar Falls Tribute, 1974

Subject headings:

Aldrich, Bess Streeter, 1881-1954
American literature — Nebraska
Authors, American — Nebraska
Great Plains — History — Fiction
Great Plains — Literature
Nebraska — Fiction
Short stories — Great Plains
Women novelists, American — 20th century

KFK 03-23-1995
Revised KFK 02-08-2001
Encoded TMM 03-19-2010

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