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H. L. Mencken collection

Identifier: MS-0476

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Scope and Contents

This is an artificial collection made up of printed ephemera, letters, and photographs that accompanied books by and about H. L. Mencken. This finding aid serves to integrate the materials in this collection with the books associated with them.


  • Creation: 1900-1996


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed at the George Peabody Library. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Special Collections department. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Louis Mencken(1880-1956)was born in Baltimore and lived his entire life in the city he preferred over all others. After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute in 1896, he was destined for the family cigar business, August Mencken & Bro. But Henry was drawn to journalism, and in 1899 got his first newspaper job at the Baltimore Herald. This was the beginning of a literary career that ranged from newspaper reporter, columnist, and editor to literary magazine editor of The Smart Set(1914-23)and The American Mercury(1924-33). Mencken also edited and wrote introductions for publisher Alfred A. Knopf's Free Lance series of books and translated Nietzsche. One of his most acclaimed works was The American Language, a philological study which was so readable it went through four editions and two supplements. Underlying Mencken's social and literary criticism was a mockingly skeptical view of American values that resonated with many in the 1920s, the height of Mencken's popularity. His reputation fell during the 1930s but rebounded in the 1940s with the success of his autobiographical trilogy: Happy Days (1940), Newspaper Days (1941), and Heathen Days (1943). In 1948 Mencken suffered a severe stroke that robbed him of his ability to read and write. He died in his sleep January 29, 1956.


0.24 Cubic Feet (1 legal half-size document box)

Language of Materials



This is an artificial collection made up of printed ephemera, letters, and photographs that accompanied books by and about H. L. Mencken.


The collection is arranged in ten series. Some series are made up of a particular format, while others reflect the entirety of a specific gift. The series are as follows:



Patterson Family Collection of H. L. Mencken

Newspaper Articles by H. L. Mencken

Articles about H. L. Mencken


Recordings of H. L. Mencken

Printed Ephemera

Robert Wilson Gift

Kenneth Longsdorf Gift

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection of manuscripts and printed ephemera by and about H. L. Mencken is a combination of four accessions.

Richard Frary donated the bulk of the items to the library in 2004 in honor of Mencken collector and JHU alumnus, Robert A. Wilson. This collection is named the Robert A. Wilson Collection of H. L. Mencken. This gift includes books by and about Mencken, letters written by Mencken and his brother August, pamphlets by and about Mencken, printed ephemera, and photographs. This collection is described in the printed guide The Robert A. Wilson Collection of H.L. Mencken (Baltimore: The Sheridan Libraries, 2006). The books have all been cataloged in the library's online catalog and are part of the George Peabody Library collection so given a Dewey decimal call number.

In 2004 and 2005, Robert Wilson donated some Mencken material directly to the library. This accession includes personal letters from Mencken, photographs, Mencken Day material and other printed ephemera.

In 2004 the library purchased a group of newspaper articles written by Mencken or about him. These articles had been collected by Perry Molstad.

In 1996, the estate of Kenneth Longsdorf donated a collection to the Eisenhower Library. Largely a collection of Mencken's books, the gift included a framed photographic portrait of Mencken by Aubrey Bodine, a Mencken Day poster, and some newspaper clippings and articles about Mencken. These items are included in this collection.

Related Materials

Letters by Mencken in Other Collections at Johns Hopkins

1. HLM to John C. French (17 letters 1933-1943) MS. 70 John French Papers

2. HLM to Isaiah Bowman December 5, 1946 MS. 58 Bowman Papers

3. HLM to Hermann Collitz March 23, 1935 MS. 14 Hermann Collitz Papers

4. HLM to A. D. Emmart October 13, 1932; January 20, April 1, March 13, December 24, 1933; June 7, 1935 MS. 68 A.D. Emmart Papers

5. HLM to Abraham Flexner and HLM to Elizabeth Gilman November 19, 1935 MS.235 Elizabeth Gilman Papers

6. HLM to H. S. Jennings (3 letters 1934) MS. 62 Herbert Spencer Jennings Papers

7. HLM to Dr. Kelly March 24, no year MS. 34 Miscellaneous Collection

8. HLM to Louis Kuethe November 11, 1944; February 27, 1947 MS. 26 J. Louis Kuethe Papers

9. HLM to William Kurrelmeyer January 31, February 6, March 4, 1940 MS. 2 William Kurrelmeyer Collection

10. HLM to Madeline Simpson November 14, no year MS. 9 Walter Benjamin Collection

11. HLM to Edwin L. Turnbull (3 letters 1916, 1917, 1925) MS. 103 Edwin Litchfield Turnbull Papers

12. HLM to Edward Lucas White (5 letters 1916, 1924, 1925, 1927) MS. 56 Edward Lucas White Papers

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Cynthia Requardt in May, 2007.



H. L. Mencken collection
Cynthia Requardt
May 14, 2007
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA