Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theater History & Dramatic Arts > 246. Tennessee Williams

246a.  Tennessee Williams (1911-1983).  Early draft of The Eclipse of May 29, 1919 [The Rose Tattoo]. Typed manuscript, annotated, ca. 1948. RBML, Tennessee Williams Papers

246b.  Black glasses owned by Tennessee Williams at the time of his death. RBML, Tennessee Williams Papers

Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911, the son of Cornelius C. Williams a shoe salesman and Edwina Dakin the daughter of an Episcopalian minister. Williams received a BA from the University of Iowa in 1938 and, supported by odd jobs, set out immediately to become a writer. He first gained fame with The Glass Menagerie in 1945. The play drew on his family experience, as would much of his subsequent writings--an absent father, an eccentric Southern belle mother, a shy troubled sister, all seen through the eyes of the sensitive artist brother.

The Glass Menagerie was followed by a succession of hits which securely established Williams' reputation as a major American playwright. He won the Pulitzer Prize for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. The Rose Tattoo, shown here in an early draft, received the Tony Award for best play in 1951. The Rare Book and Manuscript Library began collecting Tennessee Williams materials in the 1970s, and by 1990 had acquired a substantial collection of scripts, production material, photographs and correspondence. The largest part of the collection, including the pair of black glasses shown here, was purchased from the Tennessee Williams estate in 1994 and consists primarily of material found in his Key West house following his death.

(Manuscript) Gift of the Friends of the Columbia University Libraries, 1986 ; (Glasses) Purchased with the Tennessee Williams Estate, 1994

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