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Elswyth Thane Papers

Identifier: MsC0707

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Elswyth Thane date from 1943 to 1963 and are comprised of three linear feet of literary manuscripts and research material. The first five books in her "Williamsburg" series are represented with holograph notebooks containing her first drafts. There are also printer's copies and correspondence for some of the novels. The writing of Potomac Squire, Thane's biography of George Washington, is documented with a holograph notebook of draft one, working typescripts, an author's index, and audiotapes of Thane reading letters at Mount Vernon.


  • Creation: 1943-1963


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Born in Burlington, Iowa, on May 16, 1900, Elswyth Thane (nee Helen Ricker) spent most of her life on the East coast. She always wanted to write and had her first novel published in 1926. When she was a child, her family spent many summers in England and for many years her writing was dominated by an English scene. Thane specialized in biography and historical fiction. The Tudor Wench, her biography of Queen Elizabeth I, later became a play. She also authored a play titled,Young Mr. Disaeli.

When World War II broke out and she was no longer able to stay in England to do the extensive research required for her writing, her novels began drawing on American history. The first of her "Williamsburg novels" was published in 1943. She also wrote biographies of George and Martha Washington. Elswyth Thane (who was the widow of naturalist and explorer, William Beebe) died in 1984, at the age of eighty-four.


1.68 Linear Feet (7 containers)

Language of Materials



Playwright, biographer and novelist. Holograph notebooks containing first drafts of several historical novels, printer's copies, and correspondence are included. There are audiotapes of her research for Potomac Squire, a book about George Washington.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was given to the University of Iowa Libraries by Elswyth Thane in 1961 to 1963.

Revised by Jenna Silver-Baustian-July 2024
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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)