Guide to the Joseph Stanley Pennell Papers

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Pennell, Elizabeth HortonPennell, Joseph Stanley, 1908-1963
Title: Joseph Stanley Pennell papers
Dates: 1924-1961 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 6.0 linear feet (4 containers)
Collection Number: Ax 194
Summary: Joseph S. Pennell (1903-1963), novelist and short story writer, is most known for his book on the Civil War, The History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters, where he "depicted the lives of ordinary soldiers with gripping realism." The collection consists of correspondence, diaries, literary manuscript material, an autobiography, idea notebook, published newspaper pieces, photographs, and the personal correspondence, diary and manuscripts of Elizabeth (nee Horton) Pennell.
Repository: University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives.
Contact Information: UO Libraries--SPC, 1299
University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 541-346-3068
Fax: 541-346-3485
Languages: Collection materials are in English. 
Sponsor: Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Historical Note

Joseph S. Pennell (1903-1963), novelist and short story writer, was born in junction City, Kansas and educated at the University of Kansas and Oxford. He was a newspaper reporter and teacher.

His first novel, The History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters (1944) was a book "based on the author’s recollections from his own Kansas family as well as his reading of more than 1,000 Civil War books and the 128 volumes of the Official Records, Pennell depicted in Rome Hanks the lives of ordinary soldiers with gripping realism."

Pennell’s second novel, The History of Nora Beckham: A Museum of Home Life (1948), continued his family’s Kansas saga, focusing on the life of Pennell’s mother. A projected third volume, entitled The History of Thomas Wagnal, apparently further continued the family’s Kansas saga and exists in manuscript, and is part of the Pennel collection.

He married Elizabeth Horton in St. Louis in 1945. After she died from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1949, he married her sister, Virginia Horton, who survived him. He had no children.

In 1947, Pennell moved to Oregon and he published one more book, Darksome House, a collection of his poems, in 1959. He lived in Oregon for sixteen years until his death, at the age of 60, in 1963.

Source: Biography Reference Center website:

Content Description

The collection consists of correspondence, diaries, literary manuscript material, an autobiography, idea notebook, published newspaper pieces, photographs, and the personal correspondence, diary and manuscripts of Elizabeth Pennell, nee Horton.

Pennell's diary contains repeated references to the toil associated with creative work. It is written from 1932-1937 and has three later entries, 1946, 1948, and 1951.

Correspondence include sixty five letters from Pennell to Elizabeth Horton (Pennell), 1945, and 304 letters received. Major correspondents are: Jean Benedict (1941-1942, 18 letters) Luada Boswell (1941-1943, 40 letters) Martha Gellhorn (1931, 1936, 23 letters); Marian Ives (1945-1951, 20 letters); and the publisher of Rome Hanks Maxwell Perkins (1943-1946, 61 letters).

Book manuscripts include unpublished chapters of The History of Rome Hanks, the originals of Nora Beckham and The History of Thomas Wagnal. Also available are manuscripts of two other novels, a holograph science fiction novel titled Atmen, and an autobiography, not completed. Other manuscripts include thirty five short stories and essays.

There are also poetry manuscripts and a notebook of ideas. The notebook contains a wide range of potential subjects, character possibilities, scraps of description, dialogue, and pertinent historical information.

The papers of Elizabeth Pennell, nee Horton, include her diary, 1927-1928, when she was enjoying life in Paris and North Africa, letters to Claude Kent (1927-1928) and George Reese (1933-1934), and letters from Ramsay Brown (1933-1938). Her manuscripts include Bali notes and other Bali subjects, college themes, and other topics.

There is a file of Pennell family miscellany.

Graphic materials include a photograph album of Elizabeth Pennell's, and photographs by Joseph Judd Pennell of Junction City, Kansas and Fort Riley, 1897-1925.

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, University of Oregon Libraries. 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 material 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], Joseph Stanley Pennell papers, Ax 194, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

Material within this collection is minimally arranged. Any arrangement is either derived from the records' creators or custodians or from staff at the time of initial processing. It may be necessary to look in multiple places for the same types of materials.

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.

This collection received a basic level of processing including minimal organization and rehousing.

Description information is drawn in part from information supplied with the collection and initial surveys of the contents. Folder titles are based on those created by the creators or previous custodians. Titles have not all been verified against the contents of the folders. In some cases, staff supplied folder titles during initial processing.


  • Personal Names :
  • Pennell, Elizabeth Horton
  • Pennell, Joseph Stanley, 1908-1963
  • Subject Terms :
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Authors, American--Oregon
  • Historical fiction, American--Authorship
    • Form or Genre Terms :
    • Correspondence
    • Diaries
    • Manuscripts for publication

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