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





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

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Senator Wherry’s 1950 campaign to fire gay federal employees

Senator Wherry’s 1950 campaign to fire gay federal employees

NEBRASKAland DAYS in Lincoln and North Platte

NEBRASKAland DAYS in Lincoln and North Platte

Fire(s) in Benkelman, 1906

Fire(s) in Benkelman, 1906

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections
History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.
Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.