Scope and arrangement
The Joseph Mitchell papers (1838-2011, bulk: 1930-1996) document his career as a journalist and writer, his professional and personal relationships (including those with his journalistic subjects), and his relationship with the city itself. The collection reflects Mitchell's interests in a range of overlapping subjects, many of which related to aspects of life in New York City. In addition to his writing and research projects, Mitchell was active in several organizations, recorded meticulous notes on nearly all aspects of his life, and collected artifacts.
The Joseph Mitchell papers are arranged in thirteen series:
The correspondence series is arranged by correspondent or by the person who was the topic of the correspondence. Mitchell filed correspondence about an individual under that person's name, even if there is no direct correspondence to or from the individual. The correspondents are friends, fellow writers, those with whom Mitchell associated through his organizations, and others.
The New Yorker-related material primarily consists of correspondence with individuals associated with the magazine. The most well-represented figures are Brendan Gill, Jason Epstein, Ralph Ellison, A.J. Liebling, Phoebe Pettingell, Lillian Ross, Saul Steinberg, and Hedda Sterne. A 1938 letter from Harold Ross in which Ross hires Mitchell is located in b. 85 f. 3. Additionally there is information about Mitchell's salary history and pay disputes with the magazine.
Mitchell's writings are documented through correspondence (including correspondence with his subjects), contracts, royalty statements, drafts, and research notes. Of particular interest are drafts and fragments of his unpublished autobiography; correspondence with Joe Gould, the eccentric, self-proclaimed New York City oral historian; and documents related to the local history of Staten Island neighborhood Sandy Ground and the Rossville African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (located in the Mr. Hunter's Grave files). Additional material related to the people and places profiled by Mitchell is located in the subject files series.
Mitchell's work with and membership in organizations is documented by his organizational files. The bulk of these records relate to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (from whom Mitchell received an award in 1965 and was elected as a member in 1970), the Century Association, the Gypsy Lore Society, the South Street Seaport Museum, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The subject files (1830s-1990s) reflect Mitchell's interests, unrealized projects, and relationships with his writing subjects. Mitchell had in his possession a significant amount of records created by others, specifically Ann Honeycutt, Jean Stafford, and Herbert I. Hall. Presumably Mitchell had these records because he intended to use them for various writing projects and research.
Mitchell wrote extensive notes to record his daily activities and conversations; describe the places and buildings he visited and the people he met in New York City and North Carolina; and log the travel expenses he incurred when traveling to North Carolina. Mitchell maintained his notes in two sections. One section of Mitchell's notes is arranged chronologically and the other is arranged by topic; there is some overlap in the content of both sections.
While Mitchell had focused interests in the Fulton Fish Market and the South Street Seaport, he also collected ephemera and other documents related to the city of New York. These items provide evidence of changes in the city's commercial, cultural, and physical landscape, and include restaurant menus, brochures, handouts, fliers, calendars, business cards, and sales tags used by seafood and produce businesses. These ephemeral items concern flea markets, bookstores, psychics and gypsies, and transportation.
Although Mitchell left North Carolina in 1929, he traveled to North Carolina several times a year, owned property there, and received several local awards and recognitions. This series contains correspondence, notes, and general information about the area's history.
Series IX: Personal documents Mitchell's family members, farming property he owned in North Carolina, his charitable donations, and his genealogical research. Scrapbooks, clippings about Mitchell, and other memorabilia are available.
The photographs in the collection primarily depict Mitchell, his family, his memorial service, Fulton Fish Market, and Sloppy Louie's restaurant. Included is an image of Al Hirschfeld drawing a caricature of Joseph Mitchell (b.33 f.14). Additional photos are located in the subject files.
Mitchell collected a variety of architectural remnants and other three dimensional objects such as bottles, signs, silver, hinges, door knobs, and mail slots. These artifacts are documented through photographs.
Posthumous material was grouped into its own section. There is one sound recording of his memorial service, reviews for later editions of his writings, and correspondence. Other items dating to the time after Mitchell's death were placed in other portions of the collection by his heirs.