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Ellis Parker Butler Papers

Identifier: MsC0575

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Ellis Parker Butler are composed of 0.75 linear feet of manuscripts and date from 1913-1937. There are drafts of three poems by Butler, however the bulk of the collection is made up of correspondence. This correspondence is for the most part arranged alphabetically. The outgoing letters from Butler are alphabetical by recipient, while the incoming correspondence is arranged by sender. There are two folders of correspondence between Butler and William G. Chapman that are arranged chronologically. Ida Butler's correspondence is also included in these papers and is arranged in a similar manner. Some of the correspondents included in this collection are: Frank Bacon, Witter Bynner, William Chapman, Irvin Cobb, Raymond Davis, Robert Davis, Sewell Ford, Hamlin Garland, Robert Holliday, Burges Johnson, Joseph Lincoln, Orson Lowell, George McCutcheon, Thomas Masson, Leo Mielziner, Fulton Oursler, Leroy Scott, Ellery Sedgwick, Henry Shute, Julian Street, Arthur Train, Louis Vance, and Jesse Willliams.


  • Creation: 1913-1937


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Ellis Parker Butler (1869 -- 1937) was a native of Muscatine, Iowa. Dropping out of high school to help support the family he worked in a number of jobs including ones in a spice mill, an oatmeal mill, a china store, and a wholesale grocery. During this time he submitted material for publication, some of which were accepted. Moving to New York City in 1896, he began writing for trade magazines such as the Tailor's Review, the Wall Paper News, and The Decorative Furnisher.

In 1905, his humorous short story, "Pigs is Pigs" appeared in the American Magazine, and the following year it was published in book form. Its phenomenal success allowed Butler to give up editing trade papers and turn to full-time authorship. It would remain his most popular work.

He concentrated on writing, though he did work for ten years at the Flushing First National Bank, eventually becoming a Vice-President. A number of his books were set in his hometown. The boy's books of Swatty and Jibby Jones and his novel Dominie Dean all take place in Muscatine, Iowa. Many of his books were actually collections of his short stories that had appeared earlier in magazines. He focused on writing humor, though there are some serious novels in his ouevre. His output was large and some claim that he is the most-published writer of the pulp-fiction era, though he wrote for mainstream publications such as Century, National Magazine, Lippincott, American Magazine, McClure's, Cosmopolitan, Harper's, Puck, and Judge, rather than for the pulps.

Butler was active in the Authors' League of America; he was on the council and served as secretary and treasurer. He also belonged to the Authors' Club of London, and was a member of Salmagundi, the Players, and the Dutch Treat clubs of New York. He was married to Ida Zipser and they had four children.


0.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Author and businessman from Iowa , best known for his short story Pigs is Pigs. The papers consist of correspondence to and from Butler about his writing and the Author's League of America . His wife's correspondence is also included.

Source of Acquisition

These papers were gathered from a number of different sources over a number of years. Many of the letters came to the University of Iowa Libraries as a gift from Butler's family.

Related Materials

Please refer to External Documents to access "Lighting Out for the Territory Back East: Ellis Parker Butler, American Humorist". New York Times obituary, September 14, 1937 There is apparently an article called "The Men Who Make the Argosy" in the August 8, 1931 issue of Argosy, but that has not been substantiated.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)