Modern American Culture Collections

Houghton Library’s American Culture Collections include the books and papers of some of America's most notable 19th- and 20th-century literary figures.
Louisa May Alcott. Warren's, Boston (Mass.), photographer.
Houghton Library

Author Collections

Houghton Library’s American Culture Collections include the papers of some of America's most notable 19th-century authors, including:

Handwritten letter
Frederick Douglass. Letter to Charles Sumner, April 29, 1865.
Houghton Library
  • the Alcott family
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Margaret Fuller
  • Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Herman Melville
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr. and Jr.)
  • the James family
  • William Dean Howells
  • James Russell Lowell
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward Howe
  • Edward Bellamy
  • Celia Thaxter

This collection also includes the 19th- and 20th-century archives of Boston publishers Houghton Mifflin Company and Little, Brown.

The library’s printed holdings of all of these authors is also virtually complete, and, for many, substantial portions of their personal libraries are also held. The Bibliography of American Literature (BAL), which provides records of the literary works for hundreds of American writers, was based at Houghton to take full advantage of this richness.

The list of 20th-century authors’ papers held at Houghton is also extensive. It includes:

Gore Vidal, wearing a collared shirt, looks expressionless at the camera
Gore Vidal in Rome, ca. 1968. Photographer unknown.
Houghton Library
  • Henry Adams
  • Witter Bynner
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson
  • Alexander Woollcott
  • Lafcadio Hearn
  • Thomas Wolfe
  • Robert Frost
  • John P. Marquand
  • John Dos Passos
  • John Cheever
  • John Updike
  • John Ashbery
  • E.E. Cummings
  • Amy Lowell
  • Gore Vidal

The library also holds the records of New Directions Publishing Corp., Golden Book Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Nation.


The Library's printed and manuscript holdings documenting American history are extensive, with particular strength in the American Civil War.

Online Exhibitions


Harvard's Lincoln

"Life is in the transitions": William James, 1842-1910

Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200


Accessing These Materials

Books and papers by these authors, as well as detailed guides to the publishers' archives, can be found in HOLLIS.