Guide to the Benjamin Appel Papers
1928-1965

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Appel, Benjamin, 1907-
Title: Benjamin Appel papers
Dates: 1928-1965 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 8.75 linear feet (20 containers)
Collection Number: Ax 491
Summary: Benjamin Appel (1907-1977) was a writer whose "voice of the streets" reflected his New York City childhood and his military experience. His work has been compared to Dashiell Hammett and James Cain. The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, and research materials from his work, including the 1943 Dark Stain, which addressed racism.
Repository: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon, 97403-1299
(541) 346-3068
spcarref@uoregon.edu

Languages: Collection materials are in English. 
Sponsor: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical Note

Benjamin Appel was born in 1907 in New York City. His parents had emigrated from Poland and later settled in Hell's Kitchen, a famously rough neighborhood on New York's Westside. Appel spent his childhood and youth there and used it as the setting for many of his novels. His parents, he said, "attempted to shield me as best they could from the casual ordinary day-to-day terror of a poor neighborhood, with its crime, drunkenness, vice, corruption, suffering, ignorance." Appel attended the University of Pennsylvania, New York University and graduated from Lafayette College in 1929.

As a young man, Appel worked as a bank clerk, farmer, lumberjack and factory-hand. He was a housing inspector for New York City and some of his early manuscripts are written on the back of building service maintenance stationery. During World War II, he served in several capacities including aviation mechanic. Between 1943 and 1945, he was employed by the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense and the War Manpower Commission. He was a special assistant to the U.S. Commissioner for the Philippines from 1945-46 and was granted the rank of colonel (simulated) in Manila. His novel, Fortress in the Rice, emerged from his experiences in the Philippines and was made into the 1963 movie Cry of Battle starring Rita Moreno, Van Heflin and James MacArthur.

Appel's first published work was a collection of poetry, Mixed Vintage, which came out in 1929. During the 1930s he published widely in the "little" literary magazines. His first novel, Brain Guy, the story of small time con men, poverty, prostitution and murder was published in 1934. The New Yorker called it "a street-corner Macbeth of our day." Several further novels continued the themes introduced in Brain Guy especially Runaround, published in 1937 which dealt with politics, and The Power-House, from 1939, which told the story of corruption in the formation of a labor union for waiters in New York City. In 1943, Appel published The Dark Stain, an exploration into the ugliness and cruelty between black and white Americans and how the morass of racial prejudice devours even those of good intentions.

Appel's reviews in prestigious publications such as The Saturday Review of Literature, Books and The New York Times constantly refer to him as an authentic voice of the streets, a writer who is able to evoke the dark and repulsive truths of poverty, corruption and racism that infect the streets of urban America. The New York Times described The Power-House as "a brilliant book written with the cold, corroding passion of one who has been through the heat of human poverty and degradation, and had all the softness and sham burned away." Appel is most often compared to James Cain and Dashiell Hammett.

Appel married Sophie Marshak in 1936 and they had three daughters. The family moved to Roosevelt, New Jersey in 1947 and Appel lived there until his death in 1977. In 1956, Appel began publishing literature for juveniles with the introduction of We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush. This was followed by We Were There at the Battle for Bataan and We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma. Appel also wrote for the Why They Are The Way They Are series, including books about the Russians, the Chinese and the Japanese. Other titles in the juvenile genre include The Illustrated Book About South America, Including Mexico and Central America, 1960; With Many Voices: Europe Talks About America, 1963; Hitler From Power to Ruin, 1964; Ben-Gurion's Israel, 1965; Man and Magic, 1966 and The Fantastic Mirror: Science Fiction Across the Ages, 1969.

Content Description

The Benjamin Appel Papers contains nineteen boxes of handwritten drafts, manuscripts, galley and publishers' proofs of his most widely known novels including Fortress in the Rice, which was made into the movie "Cry of Battle." Also included are copies of short stories, fifteen of which were published in mainstream literary magazines, which are also part of the collection. His earlier work in the "little" literary magazines is also well represented, again with the magazines as part of the collection. This collection offers an opportunity to trace individual pieces of writing from their genesis to their published product. Benjamin Appel has carefully preserved the notes, source materials and multiple drafts of much of his work. This is especially true for the novel The Dark Stain, which includes an extensive collection of newspaper clippings dealing with race in America from both black newspapers as well as more mainstream white papers.

The collection is divided into the following series: Correspondence; Adult and Juvenile Novels; Articles and Short Stories; Newspaper writings; Literary Notebooks; Travel documents; Literary magazine stories in the periodicals in which they were published; Reviews of his work; Reviews he wrote of other writers' work; Photographs and Oversize materials.

The Correspondence Series is arranged chronologically and includes letters from elementary school children answering the questions: "What are five things you know about Russia?" and "What are five things you would like to know about Russia?" which pertain to the writing of the juvenile literature Why the Russians Are the Way They Are?"

The Monograph Series is catalogued alphabetically by title. Within this series a researcher can find notes, sources materials, manuscript drafts and completed manuscripts for eighteen of Benjamin Appel's published books.

The Short Stories Series is comprised of six complete short stories, several fragments and newspaper story writing.

The Notebook Series contains Appel's actual notebooks, which contain both literary and personal notes.

The Travel Documents Series are also actual documents and they chronicle Appel's journeys to England, Italy, Germany and the USSR.

The Literary Magazine Series is a fine collection of the "little" literary magazines of the 1930's and 40's in the U.S. in which Appel published extensively. Because the entire magazine is included there is the opportunity to review not only Appel's work but also that of many others.

The Photographs Series contains only two folders: one from the movie "Cry of Battle" and the other a newspaper portrait of Appel.

The Review Series chronicles many of the thoughtful reviews in important literary organs that Appel received over the several decades of his literary career.

The Miscellaneous Series The most important document in this series is the work Appel did on the literary relationship between his own editor, Elizabeth Nowell and the most famous author with whom she worked, Thomas Wolfe.

The Oversize Series contains galley and proofs of several of Appel's novel, many of them with further notes written on them. Copies of newspaper articles that Appel collected during the writing of The Dark Stain are housed in these folders. Copies of Collier's and Esquire are also housed in this series.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.

Restrictions on Use :  

Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Archival may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.

If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Preferred Citation :  

[Identification of item], Benjamin Appel Papers, Ax 491, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

Collection is organized into the following series:

Series I: Correspondence

Series II: Monographs

Series II, Subseries B: Short Stories

Series III: Diaries and Notebooks

Series IV: Travel Documents

Series V: Literary Magazines

Series VI: Photographs

Series VII: Reviews

Series VIII: Miscellaneous

Series IX: Oversize material

Acquisition Information :  

Gift of Benjamin Appel in 1968.

Processing Note :  

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.


Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I:  Correspondence
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
1 1 Outgoing, 1943-1966 (literary and non-literary)
1 1 Incoming 1938-1966
1 1 Undated cards
1 2 Letters from elementary schoolchildren answering and asking questions about Russia 1965

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Series II:  Monographs
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
1 3 Age of Dictators (Final manuscript, pp:Title -56)
1 4 Age of Dictators (Final manuscript, pp.57-100)
1 5 Age of Dictators (pp. 101-149)
1 6 Age of Dictators (pp. 150-175) and Bibliography
1 7 Ben Gurion's Israel (Forward-p. 39)
1 8 Ben Gurion's Israel (pp.40-77 and Afterword)
1 9 A Big Man, A Fast Man (Final revised draft; pp.1-13)
1 10 A Big Man, A Fast Man (pp. 13-32)
1 11 A Big Man, A Fast Man (pp. 34-85)
1 12 A Big Man, A Fast Man (Final manuscript, title page-p.175)
1 13 A Big Man, A Fast Man (pp. 75a-134)
1 14 Brain Guy (Author's proof, pp. 1-164)
1 15 Brain Guy (pp. 165-356)
2 1 Dark Stain, (Manuscript; pp.1-64)
2 2 Dark Stain pp. 65-94
2 3 Dark Stain, pp. 95-125
2 4 Dark Stain, pp. 126-177
2 5 Dark Stain, pp. 178-215
2 6 Dark Stain, pp. 217-267
2 7 Dark Stain, pp. 268-314
2 8 Dark Stain, pp. 315-352
2 9 Dark Stain, pp. 353-428
2 10 Dark Stain, pp. 429-501
2 11 Dark Stain, Alternative draft
2 12 Dark Stain Working notes
3 1 Featherbed (First draft)
3 2 Featherbed (First draft)
3 3 Featherbed
3 4 Featherbed
3 5 Featherbed
3 6 Featherbed
3 7 Featherbed
3 8 Featherbed
3 9 Featherbed
3 10 Featherbed (Third draft)
3 11 Featherbed
3 12 Featherbed
3 13 Featherbed
3 14 Fortress in the Rice (Final manuscript)
4 1 Fortress in the Rice (Final manuscript)
4 2 Fortress in the Rice
4 3 Fortress in the Rice
4 4 Fortress in the Rice
4 5 Fortress in the Rice
4 6 Fortress in the Rice
4 7 Fortress in the Rice
4 8 Fortress in the Rice
4 9 Fortress in the Rice
4 10 Fortress in the Rice
4 11 Funhouse (Revised draft)
4 12 Funhouse
4 13 Funhouse
4 14 Funhouse
4 15 Funhouse
4 16 Funhouse
4 17 Funhouse
4 18 Funhouse
5 1 Man and Magic (Printer's manuscript copy)
5 2 Man and Magic (First draft)
5 3 Murder in Tin (First draft)
5 4 Murder in Tin (First draft)
5 5 Murder in Tin (First draft)
5 6 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 7 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 8 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 9 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 10 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 11 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 12 Raw Edge (First draft)
5 13 Raw Edge (First draft)
6 1 Raw Edge (First draft)
6 2 Raw Edge (First draft)
6 3 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 4 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 5 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 6 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 7 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 8 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 9 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 10 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 11 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 12 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 13 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 14 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 15 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 16 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 17 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 18 Raw Edge (Final draft)
6 19 Raw Edge (Final draft)
7 1 Raw Edge (Final draft)
7 2 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 3 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 4 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 5 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 6 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 7 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 8 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 9 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 10 Raw Edge (Final typed manuscript)
7 11 Runaround (Manuscript)
7 12 Runaround (Manuscript)
7 13 Runaround (Manuscript)
7 14 Runaround (Manuscript)
7 15 Runaround (Manuscript)
7 16 Runaround (Manuscript)
8 1 Sweet Money Girl (Galley proofs)
8 2 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 3 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 4 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 5 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 6 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 7 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 8 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 9 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 10 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 11 A Time of Fortune (Revised draft)
8 12 A Time of Fortune (Final Manuscript)
8 13 A Time of Fortune (Final Manuscript)
8 14 A Time of Fortune (Final Manuscript)
8 15 A Time of Fortune (Final Manuscript)
8 16 A Time of Fortune (Final Manuscript)
9 1 A Time of Fortune (Final manuscript)
9 2 A Time of Fortune (Final manuscript)
9 3 A Time of Fortune (Final manuscript)
9 4 We Were There at the Battle of Bataan (First Draft)
9 5 We Were There With Cortes and Montezuma (Manuscript)
9 6 We Were There With Cortes and Montezuma
9 7 We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush (First draft)
9 8 Why the Chinese Are the Way They Are (Printer's copy)
9 9 Why the Chinese Are the Way They Are (Printer's copy)
9 10 Why the Chinese Are the Way They Are (Printer's copy)
9 11 Why the Russians Are the Way They Are (Manuscript)
9 12 Why the Russians Are the Way They Are (Manuscript)
9 13 Why the Russians Are the Way They Are (Manuscript)
10 1 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 2 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 3 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 4 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 5 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 6 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 7 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 8 With Many Voices (First draft)
10 9 With Many Voices (Second draft)
10 10 With Many Voices (Second draft)
10 11 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
10 12 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
10 13 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
10 14 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
10 15 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
10 16 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
10 17 With Many Voices (Second draft rewrite)
11 1 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 2 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 3 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 4 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 5 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 6 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 7 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 8 With Many Voices (Carbon manuscript)
11 9 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 10 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 11 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 12 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 13 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 14 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 15 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
11 16 With Many Voices (Final manuscript)
12 1 With Many Voices (Transcribed notes)
12 2 With Many Voices (Transcribed notes)
12 3 With Many Voices (Transcribed notes)
12 4 With Many Voices (First draft)
12 5 With Many Voices (First draft)
12 6 With Many Voices (First draft)
12 7 With Many Voices (First draft)
12 8 With Many Voices (Final draft)
12 9 With Many Voices (Final draft)
12 10 With Many Voices (Final draft)
12 11 With Many Voices (Final draft)
12 12 With Many Voices (Final draft)

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Series II.B:  Short Stories
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
13 1 Death of a Lake (Plate making negative print)
13 2 Easterners and the Middle West (Plate making negative print)
13 3 "Foghead" ( The Dilettante) (Plate making negative print)
13 4 The Great Brass Bed (Plate making negative print)
13 5 The Swab (Plate making negative print)
13 6 A Tale of Passion (Plate making negative print)
13 7 "The Great Man, A Story" ( Westminster Review) (Plate making negative print)
13 8 Short story fragments (Plate making negative print)
13 9 Short story fragments (Plate making negative print)
13 10 Short story fragments (Typed)
13 11 Newspaper writings

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Series III:  Notebooks
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
14 1 Notebooks (2)
14 2 Notebooks (2)
14 3 Notebooks (2)
14 4 Notebooks (2)
14 5 Notebooks (2)
14 6 Notebooks (2)
14 7 Notebooks (2)
14 8 Notebooks (2)
14 9 Notebooks (2)
14 10 Notebooks (2)
14 11 Notebook (1)
14 12 Notebook (1)
14 13 Notebooks (2) (USSR Leningrad)

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Series IV:  Travel Documents
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
15 1 Travel documents
15 2 Travel documents
15 3 Travel documents

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Series V:  Literary Magazines
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
15 4 Literary Magazines: Digest and Reviews (Feb. & July 1937)
15 5 Literary Magazines: First Stories (June 1928)
15 6 Literary Magazines: Frontier and Midland (Spring 1935)
15 7 Literary Magazines: Literary America (June 1935; December 1935)
15 8 Literary Magazines: Literary America (February 1936; March 1936)
15 9 Literary Magazines: Literary America (April 1936; May 1936)
15 10 Literary Magazines: Literary America (June 1936; July 1936)
15 11 Literary Magazines: North American Review (February 1935)
15 12 Literary Magazines: Pagany (Spring 1932)
15 13 Literary Magazines: Prairie Schooner (Summer 1931)
16 1 Literary Magazines: Story (March 1934)
16 2 Literary Magazines: Tomorrow (Feb. 1951-August 1951)
16 3 Literary Magazines: Westminster Magazine (Summer 1933)
16 4 Literary Magazines: Windsor Quarterly (Spring 1933)
16 5 Literary Magazines: Windsor Quarterly (Autumn 1934)
16 6 Literary Magazines: The Writer (February 1944)
16 7 Literary Magazines: Writer's Digest (July 1954)

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Series VI:  Photographs
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
16 8 Photograph of a scene from the movie Cry of Battle with Van Hefflin and James MacArthur
16 9 Photograph of Appel (newspaper clipping)

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Series VII:  Reviews
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
16 10 A Big Man, A Fast Man
16 11 Brain Guy
16 12 But Not Yet Slain
16 13 "The Club" reviewed by E. Gauvreau
16 14 The Dark Stain
16 15 Fortress in the Rice
16 16 Hell's Kitchen
16 17 The People Talk
16 18 The Power House
16 19 The Raw Edge
16 20 The Runaround
16 21 Sweet Money Girl
16 22 A Time of Fortune
16 23 We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush
16 24 Why the Chinese Are the Way They Are
16 25 Appel mentioned in reviews

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Series VIII:  Miscellaneous
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
16 26 Book covers, advertisements
16 27 Newspaper clippings (copies)
16 28 Newspaper clippings (copies)
16 29 Notes for stories
16 30 O'Henry nomination
16 31 Royalty statements
16 32 "Shomrin" newsletter (copy)
16 33 Thomas Wolfe and Elizabeth Nowell (biographical information)
16 34 Writer's School faculty

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Series IX:  Oversize
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
17 1 A Big Man, A Fast Man (Master proof)
17 2 Brain Guy (Author's proof)
17 3 Brain Guy (Author's proof)
17 4 Dark Stain (Original newspapers)
17 5 Fortress in the Rice (galley)
17 6 Plunder (Page proofs)
17 7 Why the Chinese Are the Way They Are ( Page proofs)
18 1 A Big Man, A Fast Man (Master proof)
18 2 Plunder (galley)
18 3 With Many Voices (Author's proof)
18 3 With Many Voices (Plate proof)
19 1 Why the Russians Are the Way They Are (Galley proofs)
19 2 Why the Russians Are the Way They Are (Corrected page proofs)
19 3 Dark Stain (Poster)
19 4 Brain Guy (Author's proofs)
19 5 Brain Guy (Author's proofs)
19 6 Collier's Feb. 8, 1941
19 7 Esquire May, 1934
19 8 Esquire March, 1937
20 1 The Lamp (Fall 1960)
20 2 The Magazine: A Literary Journal (April 1934)
20 3 The Midland (Novemeber/December 1931)
20 4 The Midland (May/June 1932)
20 5 Modern Monthly (October 1936)
20 6 Redbook (January 1935)
20 7 Redbook (February 1935)
20 8 Redbook (March 1935)
20 9 Saturday Review of Literature (October 19, 1940)
20 10 Saturday Review of Literature (1953)
20 11 Scrivner's (October 1936)
20 12 Stag (October 1953)

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Subjects

  • Personal Names :
  • Appel, Benjamin, 1907-
  • Corporate Names :
  • Grosset & Dunlap
  • Subject Terms :
  • Children's literature, American
    • Form or Genre Terms :
    • Manuscripts for publication

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