Scope and arrangement
The Robert Underwood Johnson papers, 1875 - 1937, contain personal papers and correspondence, correspondence relating to Johnson's work with The Century Magazine, and material relating to his activities with the American Copyright League. The bulk of the material dates from the 1880s thru 1921, from Johnson's tenure as associate editor of The Century Magazine through his appointment as American Ambassador to Italy.
American Copyright League material is mainly comprised of correspondence to and from the League's executive board and council members between 1880 and 1929, but predominantly from 1888, the year in which Johnson became secretary to the League, and 1891, the year in which the Copyright Act was passed. Other papers relating to the League include incomplete minutes and a selection of handbills, and this collection should not be considered a definitive record of the League's activities.
The Century Magazine letterpress copybooks contain outgoing letters from Johnson in his various professional capacities, as well as letters from other members of the editorial staff, particularly Richard Watson Gilder and Clarence Clough Buel. The correspondence is divided into three subseries: "War," which covers the production of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War; "Editorial," which relates to general administrative and editorial matters; and "Historical Series," which pertains to the production on the magazine's series on historical events in the decades after the Civil War.
Personal correspondence includes letters both written and received by Johnson, and encompasses many aspects of his public, private, and professional life, from mundane matters such as taxes and insurance issues, to letters regarding his work for the American Academy of Arts and Letters, activism for copyright law and nature conservation, and his poetry. There is an extensive quantity of letters from his colleagues at The Century Magazine, most notably Josiah Gilbert Holland, Richard Watson Gilder, and artist Timothy Cole. These letters illustrate his propensity for forming enduring friendships among his peers and colleagues, his relationships with Harrison S. Morris, Maurice Frances Egan, and Richard Watson Gilder being chief among them. Other notable correspondents include T. Commerford Martin and William M. Sloane. Although Johnson's friendship with Nikola Tesla has been well documented, there are no letters in the collection to or from Tesla. After 1917, the focus of letters both sent and received shifts toward politics and global issues, concurrent with Johnson's diplomatic appointment, and a significant portion of his correspondents are statesmen and military figures with whom he became acquainted during this period.
Although a well-known writer and poet in his time, the collection contains very little material related to his writings beyond an annotated draft of his memoirs, Remembered Yesterdays, which were published in 1923.
The Robert Underwood Johnson papers are arranged in three series:
- 1880-1929, undated6 boxes 2.5 linear feet
Comprised predominantly of correspondence generated by the executive board and council members of the American Copyright League between 1880-1929. Correspondence relates to the League's efforts to lobby Congress for the passage of the International Copyright Act. In addition to the correspondence, this series contains three folders of miscellaneous papers, which include reports from various entities on copyright-related issues, drafts of proposed legislation, speeches and published statements by League members and supporters. Also present in this series are minutes, and leaflets and pamphlets produced and circulated by the League publicizing their efforts.
- 1884-1894, 1903-191335 volumes
This series is comprised of letterpress copybooks containing outgoing letters from Robert Underwood Johnson, as well as letters written by other members of The Century's editorial staff, including Richard Watson Gilder and Clarence Clough Buel.
- 1875 - 1937, undated5 boxes 7 volumes
The personal papers series is comprised of four subseries: A. Correspondence, B. Writings, C. Photographs and ephemera, and D. Scrapbooks.