Scope and arrangement
The James Oppenheim papers primarily document his literary career, although personal information is intermittently scattered throughout the files. The collection spans his entire career from 1898 to 1932 and provides numerous examples of published and unpublished poetry, drama, short stories, articles as well as fragments of novels.
The papers consist of holograph and typescript manuscripts, many small notes or fragments, and correspondence. Additional scrapbooks of clippings, page proofs, drawings, a very few photographs and legal documents comprise most of the remainder of the collection.
The centerpiece of the papers is the series of Correspondence, which documents virtually all aspects of his career. Although early correspondence is sparse, sane records of his settlement and school work are available. The earliest letter of 1899 to Arthur Spingarn offers an extremely early example of a self-conscious creative process in a sketch for a play.
The 1916 to 1917 period of The Seven Arts is heavily represented with numerous letters. Of particular interest is his correspondence from Assistant Editor, Waldo Frank, and publisher, Annette Kittredge Rankine. Correspondence with numerous writers, critics, editors and agents continues thereafter until his death and reveals numerous contentious situations. His interest in psychoanalysis is reflected in his correspondence with Jung and numerous other doctors.
Although much of the correspondence with prominent figures consists of single letters from Oppenheim, they provide details of Oppenheim's editorial concerns. More substantial correspondence is available from such key figures such as: Sherwood Anderson, William Rose Benet, James Branch Cabell, Waldo Frank, Kahlil Gibran, Carl Gustav Jung-Alfred A. Knopf, Walter Lippman, Amy Lowell, H. L. Mencken, Arthur M. Reis, Arthur B. Spingarn, Joel E. Spingarn, Jean Starr Untermeyer an Louis Untermeyer.
Details of his personal life can be found in his correspondence with his younger sister, Doretta Klaber, as well as the fewer letters to his brother, Robert, and his mother. However, evidence of his radical political and social positions is lacking in the correspondence files.
The files of his Writings include his early social realist and, later, more psychoanalytic works. Particularly strong series of examples exist for his Poetry and Drama (unpublished), which end with many notes and fragments. His short stories are well represented and the New Series offers many autobiographical details. The series of his novels, however, is fragmentary and contains only a small portion of his five published novels. Numerous Articles reflect Oppenheim's critical judgment and observations on contemporary phenomena, such as film. Notes and Fragments for various genre are collected in a separate sub-series.
The Dream Diaries and the Psychological Notes and Articles offer insights into Oppenheim's use of Jungian dream analysis, his own self-analysis and traces of his own efforts as an analyst. A small file of Seven Arts Materials contains details of the journal's organization and goals. Further personal information is contained in the small Financial and Legal Papers and Ephemera series. Finally, Ink Drawings by Oppenheim and his companion, Gertrude Smith, close the collection.
A file of photographs taken in Pittsburgh by Lewis W. Hine has been removed. from the Oppenheim Papers and reboxed as a separate collection.
The James Oppenheim papers are arranged in nine series:
Literary, personal and business correspondence received and sent by James Oppenheim is arranged in a single sequence. A list of correspondents begins on page 12. Autograph as well as typed, signed letters and numerous carbon copies of Oppenheim's correspondence are included. Correspondence from 1916 to 1917 generally concerns the Seven Arts journal. A set of correspondence from July to August 1930 relating to Oppenheim's short-lived editorship of The Thinker has been filed under individual correspondents.
The writings of James Oppenheim are divided into five sub-series by genres and, where necessary, genres are sub-divided into sections. Each sub-series or section is arranged as listed below. Notes, fragments and partial manuscripts for each genre are collected at the end of each series. A sixth sub-series of Notes and Fragments contains various small, unrelated pieces in all genres from throughout Oppenheim's career in their original order.
Oppenheim's records of his dreams and his self-analysis are documented.
Partial diary, May-December 1920 and typescript July 1922 - April 1923
Typescripts and printed articles of Jung or his colleagues; assorted personal notes and notes on people analyzed by Oppenheim. A telegram from 1914 from L (Lucy Seckel, his first wife) reading "Use asbestos when playing with fire" is combined with his file of notes, a photograph, and newspaper clippings concerning Elizabeth Knopf, later Elizabeth Kay, a "divine" of her own Daily Temple.
A small filed of printed announcements, drafts for cover letters, fiscal and legal records and blank stationary.
A small file of Income Tax records, Oppenheim's will, publication agreements and royalty report. Gertrude Smith Drick is claimed as a dependent on New York State Tax forms and the September 23, 1923 contract for publication of The Sea is signed as witnessed by Gertrude S. Oppenheim.
A very small file with a photograph (Arthur Gleason?) passport, an 1899 prose self-portrait, pamphlets, notes on Oppenheim's family and others' poems to him
A very small collection of green ink drawings by Oppenheim of the same model (Gertrude Smith) Some are faded with holes in the corners for thumbtacks.
Black pen and ink drawings by Gertrude Smith.