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Selected items from the American Twenties

By Harry Ransom Center

Letter from Grace Hall Hemingway to Ernest Hemingway, July 24, 1920, “handed to him on 27 July 1920.”

Hemingway (1899-1961) was 21 years old when his mother wrote him this letter (one page of her hand-written copy is shown) telling him that he was overdrawn in the bank account of his mother’s love. He had returned the year before from the war in Europe after having been wounded and decorated for valor by Italy. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.

A letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Blanche W. Knopf, received January 19, 1928.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave the Jazz Age its name. His fame was for many years based less on his work than his personality—the society playboy, the speakeasy alcoholic whose career had ended in “crack-up,” the brilliant young writer whose early literary success seemed to make his life something of a romantic idyll. In this letter to Blanche Knopf, the wife and publishing partner of Alfred A. Knopf, Fitzgerald, offering a taste of Roaring Twenties excess, conjugates the verb “to cocktail.”


A letter from Blanche W. Knopf to F. Scott Fitzgerald, July 28, 1928.

In her reply, Knopf greets Fitzgerald as “Dear Scotch.”


E. O. Goldbeck (U.S., 1892-1986) 3rd Annual Bathing Girl Revue, Galveston Texas, ca. May 14, 1922.

Modern gelatin silver print from original negative. Born in San Antonio, Goldbeck began his photographic career taking so-called “kidnapped” photographs, photographing passing subjects and then offering to sell the subjects copies of the image. Attracted to the panoramic group photograph because it offered a larger prospective market, he is best known for his work in this medium.

Drawings by Norman Bel Geddes.

This original Norman Bel Geddes drawing of a dancing couple became interior decoration for the New York City nightclub, Palais Royal Cabaret. ca. 1923. Courtesy of Bel Geddes Estate.

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