Skip to main content

Tennessee Williams collection

Identifier: MSS 0112

Scope and Content Note

The Tennessee Williams collection, spanning the dates 1939-2013, consists of an extensive collection of correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, printed material, and ephemera related to American playwright Tennessee Williams.

Approximately one-half of the 4.6 linear feet of material is comprised of manuscripts of plays, poems, essays, and other work written by Williams.

The other half of the collection is supportive material such as photographs of the writer and productions of his plays, programs and playbills from performances of his work, correspondence related to his playscripts, articles about Williams or his work, as well as theatrical and film ephemera.

The Tennessee Williams collection was formed from various acquisitions of Tennessee Williams’s manuscripts, including a large collection that originally belonged to Norman Unger. The University of Delaware Library acquired the Norman Unger collection in 1980, which, in addition to manuscripts, included an extensive number of books by Williams that have been cataloged for Special Collections. Other manuscripts and ephemera have been added to this collection since that time.

The playscripts, screenplays, and manuscripts of short stories, poems, and a novel provide examples of Williams's extensive and continual reworking of his writing. In some cases (e.g. The Rose Tattoo and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) manuscripts of both the playscript and the screenplay are present, allowing for comparisons between the stage and film versions. Several versions of playscripts are present for Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, The Rose Tattoo, Summer and Smoke, and Sweet Bird of Youth.

The collection also has manuscripts of several unpublished Tennessee Williams plays, including This Is (An Entertainment), Kirche, Kutchen und Kinder, and Will Mr. Merriwether Return From Memphis. Manuscripts for his plays Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (1980), Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws (undated), and Suitable Entrances to Springfield (undated) are also found in the collection.

Examples of short stories, novels, poetry, and essays written by Tennessee Williams are available in Series II and III of this collection.

The collection also includes personal and business correspondence from Tennessee Williams to Katherine Hepburn, Paul Bigelow, Norman Unger, Audrey Wood, and the producers of The Glass Menagerie (Jerry Wald and Charles Feldman). The letters to Katherine Hepburn (F39) document Williams's unsuccessful attempt to persuade her to play the role of Hannah Jelkes in The Night of the Iguana. The Glass Menagerie correspondence concerns revisions to the script for the Warner Brothers film (F19-20).

Series III. Miscellaneous Letters, Manuscripts, and Ephemera includes interviews, articles, books about Tennessee Williams, a copy of his will, a lithograph portrait of Williams, numerous photographs of the playwright and scenes from his plays, an extensive collection of programs and playbills from productions of his plays, posters advertising a variety of Williams's plays, various lobby cards, film campaign books, and other film and theatrical ephemera related to works by Williams. These materials supplement the manuscripts and provide an overall picture of Tennessee Williams and his work.


  • Creation: 1939-2013


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Access Information

This collection contains audiovisual media that has been reformatted. Please contact manuscripts staff for access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Tennessee Williams, born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, began his literary career at the age of 16 with the publication of his essay, "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?" in Smart Set (May 1927).

After graduating in 1929 from University City High School, St. Louis, Missouri, Williams enrolled at the University of Missouri. His first play, Beauty Is the Word was produced at the University in 1930 and won honorable mention in a campus contest.

Because of the difficulties of the Depression, Tennessee Williams was forced to take a job at the St. Louis Shoe Company in 1931 and by 1932 left the University. During the years that followed Williams continued to write and in 1935 he won first prize in the St. Louis Writers Guild contest for his story, "Stella for Star." Between 1935 and 1938, when he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa, over thirty of his poems and short stories were published and several of his plays produced. Some of these early plays included Cairo Shanghai, Bombay!, The Magic Grove, Candles to the Sun, and The Fugitive Kind.

In 1939 his story, "The Field of Blue Children," was the first published under his newly assumed name, Tennessee Williams. By 1939 Williams had also begun to travel extensively. His destinations included New York, New Orleans, Acapulco, Provincetown, Macon (Georgia), Key West (Florida), and Taos (New Mexico). During his travels Williams worked at odd jobs, including a period as a scriptwriter for Hollywood. He continued to write and had several of his plays produced.

In 1944 the production of his play, The Glass Menagerie, initiated a period of financial success and critical and popular acclaim for Williams. The Glass Menagerie ran for 561 performances in New York and won the Drama Critics' Circle Award. Followed by several plays of lesser success, in 1947 Williams again scored a hit with A Streetcar Named Desire, which had a run of 855 performances. A Streetcar Named Desire not only won a second Drama Critic's Circle Award for Williams, but a Pulitzer Prize as well.

In the following years Tennessee Williams continued to create numerous plays, including Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955, won a second Pulitzer Prize), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), Period of Adjustment (1960), The Night of the Iguana (1961), and Small Craft Warnings (1972).

Fifteen of Tennessee Williams's plays or stories were also adapted to film and became classics. Some of the better known films are The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Night of the Iguana.

In addition to his plays, Williams wrote short stories which were included in the collections One Arm (1948) and Hard Candy (1954); essays, some of which were collected in Where I Live (1978); novels, including The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950) and Moise and the World of Reason (1975); a collection of poems titled Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977); and his autobiographical Memoirs (1975).

Although Tennessee Williams died on February 25, 1983, his work continues to be widely performed and he is recognized as one of America's foremost playwrights of the twentieth century.

Gunn, Drewey Wayne. Tennessee Williams: a Bibliography. Second edition. Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1991. pp. ix-xviii.Johns, Sally. "Tennessee Williams," Twentieth-Century American Dramatists. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Part II, Volume 7. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981. pp. 320-350.


4.3 linear foot (5 boxes)

1 oversize box

12 oversize removal


The Tennessee Williams collection, spanning the dates 1939-2013, consists of an extensive collection of correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, printed material, and ephemera related to American playwright Tennessee Williams.


The collection is arranged into three series: Series I. Dramatic Work, Series II. Fiction, and Series III. Miscellaneous Correspondence, Manuscripts, and Ephemera.

Series I. Dramatic Work is arranged alphabetically into subseries by title of the play. Within each subseries the material is in chronological order.

Series II. Fiction is divided into three subseries: 1. Hard Candy, 2. Other Stories, and 3. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.

The miscellaneous material in Series III. is arranged in nine subseries: correspondence, manuscripts, miscellany, photographs, programs and playbills, posters, theatrical and film ephemera, articles and reviews, and binders and fasteners. The arrangement of the material in each of this subseries reflects the nature of material. Many of the subseries are arranged first alphabetically by the title of Williams's work and then in chronological order when more than one item is present for a particular title. The arrangement of each subseries is explained in the subseries note.

Unless otherwise noted, original binders and wrappers have been retained with each manuscript; however, some clips and other fasteners have been removed and housed in Box 5.

  1. I. Dramatic Work, 1947-1980
  2. II. Fiction, 1948-1973
  3. III. Miscellaneous Correspondence, Manuscripts, and Ephemera, 1939-2013


Purchase and gifts, 1960-2013.

Related Materials in this Repository

MSS 270 Ralph Delauney collection related to Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo

Materials Cataloged Separately

Much of the material housed in this collection was acquired in 1980 as part of the Norman Unger collection, which, in addition to manuscripts, included an extensive number of books by Williams. These books have been cataloged and can be found in our online public access catalog, DELCAT, if you search for the phrase, "Norman Unger collection."

Shelving Summary

  • Boxes 1-5: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  • Box 6: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)
  • F139: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)
  • F211A-B, F211D, F211F, F213B, F215B-C, F216B-C, F217A, F218A: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases

OCLC Number


Partially processed by Timothy Murray and revised by Anita A. Wellner, 1993-2013. Encoded by Lora J. Davis, May 2010.

Finding aid for Tennessee Williams collection
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 May 19
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA