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Arthur J. Gutman Collection of Menckeniana

 Collection 0055-LIT
Arthur J. Gutman, an expert on the life and work of H. L. Mencken , has spent virtually all of his life in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was born in 1911. From 1979 to1999, Gutman served as president of the Mencken Society, an organization founded to encourage the reading of and research into the writings of Henry L. Mencken. The Arthur J. Gutman collection contains books, serials, correspondence, manuscripts, newsletters, pamphlets, photographs, audio-visual materials, and a listing of clippings related to both H. L. Mencken and the Mencken Society. A large portion of the collection consists of first editions of H. L. Mencken's works as well as a number of the most significant secondary works on the writer. The collection contains a considerable amount of correspondence between Gutman and noted Mencken scholars, manuscripts of works on Mencken, and a nearly complete series of Mencken Society newsletters. It also includes a number of rare pieces of Mencken's writing that appeared in pamphlet form as well as original Mencken correspondence. The entire collection spans the period from 1882 to 2006 with the majority of the materials falling between 1979 and 1999.

Dates

  • 1882-2006
  • Majority of material found within 1979-1999

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Extent

7.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Arthur J. Gutman collection contains books, serials, correspondence, manuscripts, newsletters, pamphlets, photographs, audio-visual materials, and a listing of clippings related to both H. L. Mencken and the Mencken Society. A large portion of the collection consists of first editions of H. L. Mencken's works as well as a number of the most significant secondary works on the writer. The collection contains a considerable amount of correspondence between Gutman and noted Mencken scholars, manuscripts of works on Mencken, and a nearly complete series of Mencken Society newsletters. There are also a number of rare pieces of Mencken's writing that appeared in pamphlet form, as well as some original Mencken correspondence. The entire collection spans the period from 1882 to 2006, with the majority of the materials falling between 1979 and 1999.

Biography

Arthur J. Gutman was born in 1911. A native Baltimorean, he graduated from Baltimore City College High School in 1928 and subsequently attended the University of Baltimore. He served in the United States Air Force from 1942 to 1945, in the Air Force Reserve from 1947 to 1949, and as Chief Warrant Officer on the staff of the 29th Infantry Division from 1949 to 1955. At the time of his retirement, Gutman was the Vice President of the insurance firm, Warfield Dorsey Company, Inc.

From 1979 to 1999, Gutman held the position of president of the Mencken Society, an organization founded to encourage the reading of and research into the writings of Henry L. Mencken. Gutman averred that he was drawn to Mencken because "Mencken gives me joy," and, as president of the Mencken Society, he sought to share this joy with others, including collectors and scholars, who enjoyed at good laugh at the American scene. In his December 15, 1989, letter to the Accent Department of the Baltimore Evening Sun, Gutman explained how his passion for Mencken's writing was renewed during World War II.

One miserable rainy, cold day in January 1944, in Italy, an Air Force sergeant with a couple of leisure hours stopped in a Red Cross Club for a cup of coffee... The sergeant was a Baltimorean, one of those who loved his City. He was a third generation born Baltimorean, of German Jewish stock, from a dry goods family who had been badly hurt in the Depression. He had grown up believing there was only one set of newspapers worth reading, The Sun, The Evening Sun and The Sunday Sun. And in The Evening Sun, you looked for the Monday night articles by Mencken. You laughed with him, you groaned with him... The sergeant, waiting for his coffee to cool and his feet to dry, looked over the Armed Forces Library of paper backs. And lo and behold there was one with Mencken's name, called "Heathen Days." He leafed through it and then sat and read it, and it brought Baltimore back to him as the words flowed by. (From Gutman's letter to the editor, source and date unknown, in Series II, Box 5, Folder 1)

Upon his return to Baltimore Mr. Gutman began reading and collecting Mencken's work. Through a life-long engagement with the work of H.L. Mencken he established one of the finest collections of Menckeniana and maintained correspondence with many of the leading scholars and writers on Mencken's work.

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) has been described as the most influential critic in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning as a newspaper reporter in his native Baltimore, H.L. Mencken's interests quickly broadened to include political, social and literary commentary. As editor with George Jean Nathan of the influential Jazz Age magazines, Smart Set and American Mercury, Mencken promoted modernism in literature, championing the causes of Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain among others. In newspaper columns and books, H.L. Mencken lampooned many social conventions and political icons. His targets included bigotry, intellectual posturing and corruption by public servants. His writings often provoked a violent reaction in those offended by his views. However, rather than shrinking from controversy, Mencken enjoyed verbal combat with his opponents, referring to it as "stirring up the animals." With the advent of the Depression in the 1930's, the popularity of Mencken's social commentary waned and he became better know for his more scholarly work, The American Language , which was a celebration of the written and spoken word.

Arrangement

The collection is organized as eleven series:
  1. Series 1: Correspondence
  2. Series 2: Gutman Manuscripts
  3. Series 3: Manuscripts of Other Individuals
  4. Series 4: Serials
  5. Series 5: Printed Matter
  6. Series 6: Mencken Society
  7. Series 7: Photographs
  8. Series 8: H. L. Mencken Materials
  9. Series 9: Ephemera
  10. Series 10: Audio-Visual Materials
  11. Series 11: Clippings

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries received the collection as a gift from Arthur J. Gutman in December 2001. Additional materials donated by Gutman or located in copies of his books were incorporated into the collection between 2003 and 2009.

Related Material

In 2001 when Gutman donated the materials described in this finding aid, the University of Maryland Libraries also acquired Gutman's collection of Mencken books and historic serials. The catalog records for these items can be located by using the term "Arthur J. Gutman collection" to search the University of Maryland library catalog. H. L. Mencken left the majority of his letters, personal library, and manuscripts to the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, Maryland. The New York Public Library also has significant holdings of Mencken's correspondence among its collections.

Processing Information

When the collection arrived at the University of Maryland, the correspondence was arranged by author. Articles and clippings were also grouped together. During processing, the books and serials for which there were significant holdings were incorporated into the rare books holdings of Hornbake Library. The remaining materials were organized into eleven series. Series 11, Clippings, consists of a list generated from a database. The titles of articles, authors, publications, and dates of publication for the newspaper clippings were recorded in this database, after which the original clippings were discarded.

Staples and paperclips were removed and replaced with plastic paperclips. Fragile items were placed in Mylar sleeves. Photographs were separated from other materials and housed in archival sleeves. All materials were placed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes or oversize storage.
Title
Guide to the Arthur J. Gutman collection of Menckeniana
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Joanne Archer, July 2003.
Date
2003-07
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
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

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212