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Ferdinand Reyher papers

 Collection 0037-LIT

Ferdinand Reyher (1891-1967) was a novelist, newspaper correspondent, screenwriter, and playwright active in and among many influential artistic, cultural, and social spheres of the twentieth century. The papers document Reyher's literary activities and personal life. The collection includes correspondence; manuscripts; Reyher's notes and research; clippings; legal and financial documents; and other personal material, including diaries, photographs, and drawings. Throughout his writing career, Ferdinand Reyher wrote short fiction and articles for many magazines. Reyher was active in Hollywood during the 1930s and early 1940s as a film doctor and screenwriter at several studios, including RKO, MGM, and Paramount. Ferdinand Reyher was among those who helped to extricate German playwright, poet, and dramatic theorist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and his family from Nazi Germany in 1941. Reyher and Brecht made attempts to collaborate on various works in the late 1930s to mid-1940s, and he actively promoted the translation and performance of Brecht's work in the United States. Reyher was an acquaintance of many well-known twentieth-century literary figures, prominent photographers, screenwriters and producers of Hollywood's golden era, and artists. Figures represented in the collection include Ford Maddox Ford, Wallace Stevens, Sinclair Lewis, John Huston , and Paul Henreid. Other notable correspondents include journalist George Seldes, publisher John Rodker, and Reyher's first wife, suffragette, political activist, and author, Rebecca Hourwich Reyher. Also represented in Reyher's papers is his second wife, Chinese writer and translator Eileen Chang (1920-1995).


  • 1868-1996
  • Majority of material found within circa 1917-1960

Language of Materials

The collection includes German-language material—family correspondence (most significantly Lina and Max Reyher) and correspondence with Brecht, as well as with German literary agents such as Ernst Rowahlt, Brecht's collaborator and translator Elisabeth Hauptmann, and Felix Bloch Erben. Some notes on Brecht's works that Reyher was translating, such as Fear and Misery of the Third Reich are in German. Other material in German includes newspaper clippings advertising the production of Reyher's Boxer in 1929 and 1930. There is one item in Czech in Series 4, a 1938 announcement of air raid guidelines.

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Access to the script of "Castle Israel" is prohibited until 2037, unless permission is obtained from Dr. Daniel Jackson, who controls the intellectual property rights residing in the work.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the special collections reading room staff.


26.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Papers of Ferdinand Reyher document the literary activities and personal life of German-American author Ferdinand Reyher, covering the years between 1868 and 1996. The bulk of the materials dates from 1917 to 1960. The collection includes correspondence; manuscripts; Reyher's notes and research; clippings; legal and financial documents; audio recordings; and other personal material, including diaries, photographs, and drawings.

Also included in the collection are materials that document the life and work of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher. In addition, the collection contains the correspondence of Ferdinand Reyher's parents and Faith Reyher Jackson's communications with individuals interested in her father. Most notable among these is James K. Lyon, the author of Bertolt Brecht's American Cicerone (1978), which examines Reyher's friendship and literary collaborations with Bertolt Brecht.


Ferdinand Reyher was born to German immigrants Maximillian (Max) and Caroline (Lina) Reyher on July 6, 1891, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Max Reyher (1862-1945) was an ophthalmologist and oculist in Philadelphia from around 1886 until 1917. Upon retirement to Belmar, New Jersey, in 1919, Max Reyher spent time as an amateur entomologist. During his later years, he took up painting. In They Taught Themselves (1945), Sidney Janis classified Max Reyher's paintings among the American "primitive" school. Max Reyher's Nirwana (1928) is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D. C.

Ferdinand Reyher graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia in 1909 and, in 1911, from the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy with a Collegiate Certificate. Reyher received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1912. He earned a master's degree in English from Harvard University in 1913. After completing his degrees, Reyher taught English for one year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then became a war correspondent in Europe from 1915 to 1916 for newspapers including the Boston Globe, the Boston Post, and the New York Evening Sun. After covering the war, Reyher moved back to the United States, settling in New York City, where he met and developed relationships with Wallace Stevens and other American literary figures. His newspaper career continued for approximately fifteen years, during which he contributed to Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York publications.

In 1917, Ferdinand Reyher married Rebecca Hourwich, the head of the Boston and New York offices of the National Women's Party. She was born in New York City in 1898 to Russian philosophical and political writer and lawyer Isaac Hourwich and Louise Joffe Hourwich. Isaac Hourwich was active in the Russian government until he fled the country around 1890 and settled in the United States. Rebecca Hourwich attended Columbia University and the University of Chicago, where she studied economics and sociology. A prominent political and women's rights activist and author, Rebecca Reyher made several trips to Africa, which resulted in two books on African life, including Zulu Woman (1948) and The Fon and His Hundred Wives (1952) as well as numerous shorter pieces. The Reyhers' marriage ended in divorce in 1934. Rebecca Hourwich Reyher died on January 10, 1987, in St. Inigoes, Maryland.

Ferdinand and Rebecca Hourwich Reyher's only child, Faith, was born in 1919; she graduated from Bennington College in 1939 with a major in dance. Faith Reyher married Gardner Cook in 1939, from whom she was later divorced. In 1948, she married Melvin Jackson, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Faith Reyher Jackson was the head mistress of the Academy of the Washington [D.C.] Ballet from 1963 to 1978. After retiring from this position, Faith Jackson published Pioneer of Tropical Landscape Architecture: William Lyman Phillips in Florida (1997) and Meadow, Fugue and Descant, a novel (2002).

A novelist, playwright, journalist, screenwriter, and poet, Ferdinand Reyher produced volumes of notes, research, and prose. He was interested in many topics, especially American folklore, and conceived many book projects, including a history of poker. Reyher's deep interest in photography also led to research on French photographer Eugéne Atget.

Reyher had shown promise as a dramatist early in his college career at the University of Pennsylvania. Reyher wrote several plays including Youth Will Dance (1912), which was performed in 1914 at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire; Mignonette (produced in 1923); and the unproduced "Castle Israel." Reyher's story "Quiet, Please!" was dramatized by Hans Kraly and and F. Hugh Herbert and performed in 1940. Reyher's Boxer was produced in Berlin during the 1929-1930 season. Unable to obtain information about Ferdinand Reyher, Berlin reviewers believed that Boxer had actually been written by Bertolt Brecht, under the pseudonym Ferdinand Reyher (James K. Lyon, Bertolt Brecht's American Cicerone [1978]: 6).

Ferdinand Reyher's fiction includes The Man, the Tiger, and the Snake (1921), published by Putnam, and I Heard Them Sing (1946), published by Little, Brown. I Heard Them Sing was subsequently adapted for the screen with the title Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952). Reyher also wrote a popular biography for children published by Lippincott entitled David Farragut, Boy Sailor (1953). Throughout his writing career, Ferdinand Reyher wrote short fiction and articles for many magazines including the Atlantic Monthly, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ladies' Home Journal.

Reyher was active in Hollywood for approximately twelve years, between 1931 and 1943, as a film doctor and screenwriter at several studios, including RKO, MGM, and Paramount. He is credited on fifteen films, including Don't Turn 'Em Loose (1936) with Betty Grable; Special Investigator (1936); Two in Revolt (1936); Outside These Walls (1939); Ride a Crooked Mile (1938); The Boy from Stalingrad (1943); Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952); and The World, The Flesh, and The Devil (1959) with Harry Belafonte.

Ferdinand Reyher was among those who helped to extricate German playwright, poet, and dramatic theorist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and his family from Nazi Germany in 1941. He also actively promoted the translation and performance of Brecht's work in the United States. Reyher and Brecht made attempts to collaborate on various works, including "The King's Bread" (based on Brecht's "Joe Fleischhacker") in 1941 and the American version of Brecht's Life of Galileo (1947) and Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches (1938) (Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, later The Private Life of the Master Race) in 1939.

Reyher was an acquaintance of various literary figures such as James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, and Ezra Pound and corresponded with Ford Maddox Ford, Wallace Stevens, and Sinclair Lewis. Reyher also intereacted and corresponded with many prominent photographers of the twentieth century, including Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Beaumont Newhall, and Todd Webb. Friends and correspondents from Reyher's Hollywood years include actor and director John Huston and his wife Dorothy; actor and producer Paul Henreid; screenwriters Frank "Spig" Wead and Dale Van Every; and director Leopold Jessner. Other notable correspondents include journalist George Seldes, publisher John Rodker, musician George Antheil, and artists Lee Hersch and William and Marguerite Zorach.

Reyher married Chinese writer and translator Eileen Chang (1920-1995) in August 1956, shortly after they met at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Best known in America for her novels The Rice Sprout Song (1955) and The Rouge of the North (1967), Chang remains a popular author in China and Taiwan.

Reyher died on October 24, 1967, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The collection is organized into seven series:

Series 1
Series 2
Writings of Ferdinand Reyher
Series 3
Writings by Others
Series 4
Personal, Financial and Legal
Series 5
Series 6
Series 7
Audio Recordings

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

In 1975 and 1980, the Libraries purchased letters of Wallace Stevens to Ferdinand Reyher. The largest portion of the Papers of Ferdinand Reyher was purchased by the University of Maryland Libraries from Mrs. Faith Reyher Jackson in 1982. Mrs. Jackson donated additional materials to the University of Maryland Libraries in 1987, 2008, and 2009.

Related Material

Related materials can be found in the Houghton Library at Harvard University; the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College; and at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


Lyon, James K. Bertolt Brecht's American Cicerone. Bonn, Germany: Bouvier, 1978.
Janis, Sidney. They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the Twentieth Century. Port Washington, N.Y., Kennikat Press, 1942.

Processing Information

When processing was undertaken in 1988, the portion of the papers of Ferdinand Reyher acquired in 1982 was jumbled with no evident original order. The papers were arranged into four series (correspondence, typescripts and notes, personal material, and clippings), housed in acid-free folders and boxes, and described. Newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper. One fragile article was encapsulated to prevent further deterioration.

In 2008-2009, the portion of the collection that previously had been processed received more in-depth attention; additional materials acquired both before and after 1982 were incorporated; separate series for photographs and manuscripts by other authors were created. The correspondence was thoroughly reprocessed incorporating materials from later acquisitions. The correspondence between Reyher and Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, which had not been fully processed in 1988, was arranged chronologically. Additional subseries were created to account for correspondence that was not written or received by Ferdinand Reyher: correspondence of Faith Reyher Jackson, of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, and of Caroline and Maximillian Reyher. Some correspondence, particularly that of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, was dated with the assistance of Faith Reyher Jackson.

Previously unprocessed notes were processed and identified when possible making use of Reyher's complex notation system. Such identifiable notes were arranged by subject or corresponding work in Series 2.1, Manuscripts of Ferdinand Reyher. Many of the notes could not be definitively identified. Reyher's code was complex, and no full "key" to the code has been located. A partial key is filed in Series 2.2, Box 19, Folder 5, "Bibliographies and Notes." It is unclear whether Reyher used the same coding for different projects; he rarely dated notes and did not code all of them. Given the large volume of Reyher's notes and their lack of organization, it is unlikely that all of his notes on any particular subject have been identified and brought together. Where possible, notes were arranged together if they could be clearly identified using Reyher's coding scheme or if they related to one of Reyher's works; some notes were marked with two sets of coding. Several groupings of notes or notebooks were sorted and arranged under general subjects. In some instances, notes on two or more subjects were recorded in one notebook and could not be separated and arranged by subject. In addition, some of the biographical or daily notations associated with literary or work notes were impossible to separate during arrangement. Notes whose subjects could not be definitively identified remain in the groupings created when the collection was processed in 1988 and are labeled "Unidentified."

Fragile material was housed in Mylar sleeves. Loose newspaper clippings from Series 2 and 5 were photocopied onto acid-free paper. Oversize materials were separated and housed appropriately.

The audio recordings contained in Series 7 resided on somewhat fragile reel-to-reel tapes and were migrated to compact disc in July 2009. The original tapes have been maintained.

Guide to the Ferdinand Reyher papers
Processed by Linda Zintz, Betty Persinger, May 1988.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742