Monday, March 22, 2021

The Michigan Hemingway Collection Today

by Frank Boles

This blog is one of several we are posting in connection with the PBS documentary, Hemingway, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which will air April 5-7. Be sure to join us on March 31 at 6:30 p.m. for a special introduction to Hemingway when we join with WCMU-Television for an online event featuring Lynn Novick. To register for the March 31 event visit WCMU at .

This summary of the collection is an edited version of the text that was printed in the catalog for the exhibit, The Hemingway Collection in the Clarke, which was held in 2019.

Today, the Michigan Hemingway Collection consists of a wide variety of material.

It is concentrated most heavily on Hemingway’s personal and literary connections to Michigan, but also has a wide selection of first, international, and rare editions of his works, dozens of biographies and books about the locations in which he lived and about which he wrote, along with various movie and other forms of ephemera. The most significant items are those directly associated with Ernest and his immediate family. These Hemingway items, coupled with the Clarke’s holdings of northern Michigan materials associated with the years the Hemingways called it their summer home, make the Clarke Historical Library a one-of-a-kind Hemingway collection.

As to be expected, the collection is rich in books and articles written by Hemingway himself. He wrote 10 novels, 20 story collections, 9 works of nonfiction, and dozens of stories published in magazines such as Life, Esquire, Look, Ken, and Cosmopolitan. The collection has first-edition examples of almost all of these and they range from small privately printed Paris magazines with his earliest Michigan stories to posthumously published novels edited by others.

The jewel of the first editions is undoubtedly Three Stories and Ten Poems. Printed in a limited edition of 300 copies in Paris in 1923, it begins with the story “Up in Michigan.” Three Stories and Ten Poems was a prelude to a career writing important novels.

Hemingway’s most famous short story, “The Big Two Hearted River,” is particularly well-represented in the collection. In addition to a copy of This Quarter, the Paris-based magazine in which it was originally published in 1926, the library has extremely rare copies of fine art print editions. Published in very limited quantities, one version even includes an original watercolor fishing painting. Complementing the published versions of “The Big Two Hearted River” found in the collection is an original postcard Ernest sent his father from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when he was on the fishing trip that inspired the story.

Perhaps no other American writer has had so much written about him as Ernest Hemingway. The Clarke Historical Library has over 250 books and magazines articles chronicling his life, which range from full-length biographies to short feature articles in mainstream and pulp magazines. Especially interesting are the articles in 1950s emerging men’s magazines where his larger than life macho portrayals sold magazines to people hungry to hear of his alleged exploits. He also inspired books written about the locales where he lived and those about which he wrote. On the Clarke’s shelves can be found volumes associated with his life experiences in Oak Park, Michigan, Paris, Spain, Africa, Cuba, and Idaho.

A particularly interesting subset of the Hemingway Collection is the movie-related ephemera. His stories and books resulted in 17 film adaptations beginning with 1932’s A Farewell to Arms starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Over the decades, leading stars such as Ingrid Bergman, Spencer Tracy, Ava Gardner, and Humphrey Bogart all portrayed Hemingway created characters. To promote these films, the studios launched elaborate publicity campaigns that featured striking posters of various sizes and lobby cards to entice the public into theaters. Campaign manuals filled with clip art, text for advertisements, and marketing suggestions were sent to distributors and theaters urging them to focus as much on the fact that the film was associated with Hemingway as the A-list movie stars the film featured. Supplementing these manuals were publicity photos showing the stars in engaging scenes. The Clarke’s collection of these items is colorful and comprehensive.

The printed material and movie-related items constitute a strong Hemingway collection, but the personal papers associated with Ernest Hemingway himself and his immediate family found in the Clarke Historical Library are what make this collection a world-class one for those looking to better understand Hemingway’s formative experiences here in Michigan.

It is estimated that in his life (a time before tweets, instant messages, and emails) Hemingway composed over six thousand typed and handwritten letters. The Clarke Historical Library is home to six of them. All but one in the library relate to his Michigan experiences. The six-page, typed 1919 letter to his World War I supervisor, Jim Gamble, gushes with descriptions of Michigan summers. Another letter informs his family of securing a Petoskey boarding house room where he hoped to write, while an earlier letter updated his parents on the harvest at their northern Michigan farm. While these were not written to the famous people the established author would come to know, they never the less give intriguing insights into how his Michigan experiences influenced him.

The library is also the home of two examples of his unpublished, juvenile fiction, as well as an early example of his editing as a young author. One of the juvenile pieces is “The Sportsman’s Hash,” a fishing story written and illustrated when he was 10 years old, while the other is a longhand multi-page story set in Michigan lumber camps written when he was in high school. Both of these are examples of the hold Michigan had on the young man’s imagination.

More important than these juvenile pieces are four, heavily edited pages for a short story Hemingway was working on in Petoskey during the fall of 1919. Alternately known among scholars as “The Woppian Way” or “The Passing of Pickles McCarthy” these pages show some of the first attempts by the young Ernest Hemingway to write “serious” fiction for publication.

In addition to these Ernest Hemingway items, the library also has an extensive group of personal papers and photo scrapbooks from his sister, Marcelline Hemingway Sanford. The albums, created by Grace Hall Hemingway (Ernest and Marcelline’s mother), include many things, but particularly photos showing the family fishing, entertaining guests, swimming in the lake, and boating. These albums document the Hemingways first Michigan trip in 1898 through Marcelline and Ernest’s high school graduation in 1917. They are particularly interesting in that the images are annotated by Grace Hall Hemingway. This adds greater depth to the stories and personalities of those shown.

The Hemingway Family papers includes far more than those photo albums. In addition to them are early family correspondence and numerous items associated with the publication by Marcelline Hemingway Sanford of her memoir, At the Hemingways, in which she told her version her relationship with her brother. These papers, along with her photo scrapbooks, give fascinating insights into the Hemingway family and its most famous member, Ernest.

In addition to Hemingway Family papers, the Clarke Historical Library is fortunate to have other material that is directly associated with the Hemingway family. It houses photos and photo scrapbooks from his younger sister, Ursula, and a number of books given by and to Ernest’s siblings and parents. All these provide interesting insights into family dynamics and Ernest’s relationship with his immediate family.

While not a member of the immediate family, “Uncle George” Hemingway was a summer and eventually year-round resident at Lake Charlevoix. His family’s guest books and his diaries tell of family guests and visits and, along with Hemingway Family papers, allow us to learn about the family that raised and influenced Ernest.

With the hundreds, if not thousands, of items related to Ernest Hemingway in the Clarke’s Hemingway Collection, scholarly researchers or those simply curious about his life, particularly his Michigan-related experiences and writing, have no better place to visit that the Clarke Historical Library.