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Collection Overview

Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
H. L. Mencken Letters to David Warren Ryder
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1


Consists of 110 letters by influential magazine editor and critic H. L. Mencken to David Warren Ryder, a San Francisco area journalist, written mainly from Baltimore and New York between the years 1922 and 1947.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 110 letters (two are autograph letters, the rest typed) by Mencken to David Warren Ryder, a San Francisco area journalist, written mainly from Baltimore and New York between the years 1922 and 1947 (but nearly all from the 1920s & 1930s, and the majority of these from the 1920s). Ryder was a frequent contributor to The American Mercury, edited by Mencken from 1924 to 1934. (Ryder had previously written for The Smart Set,edited by Mencken and George Jean Nathan.) In the letters, Mencken critiques Ryder's submissions (there are many brief letters turning them down but usually for stated reasons), offers ideas for different articles, and generally exhibits the distinctive style that made him one of the most influential American magazine editors of the twentieth century. Aside from his remarks on Ryder's submissions, Mencken's letters are full of pithy, acerbic comments on a variety of subjects, including religion, politics (and the presidents Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt), Prohibition, California, censorship, hypocrisy, "modernism," international affairs, life in America, books he is working on, and John Steinbeck. Nearly all of the letters are single-spaced on letterheads of The Smart Set or The American Mercury, and on personal stationery. Included with the Mencken letters are carbon copies of two Ryder letters to Mencken, a 1924 typed letter from George Jean Nathan to Ryder, and four letters (1922-1955) from Mencken secretaries to Ryder.

Collection Creator Biography:

Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956

H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880-1956) was an American journalist, magazine editor, critic, satirist and essayist. He was born in Baltimore and lived there all his life, and was known as the "Sage of Baltimore." He started his writing career as a journalist at the Baltimore Morning Herald , from 1899 to 1905, and then moved to The Baltimore Sun , where he contributed full-time until he suffered a stroke in 1948. In 1908, he became a literary critic for the magazine The Smart Set , and in 1924, he and George Jean Nathan founded The American Mercury . Dent Smith was founder and editor of the Hoboken-based literary magazine ENCORE between 1942 and 1944.

Collection History


Purchased from Bart Auerbach in 2007 (AM 2008-60).


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

H. L. Mencken Letters to David Warren Ryder; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
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Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1