Percy MacKaye Collection Edit


Mss. Coll. MacKaye


  • 1920-1953 (Creation)


  • 0.33 cubic feet (Whole)


  • Abstract

    The Percy MacKaye Collection includes correspondence of or about Percy MacKaye from 1920 to 1953; a typescript by MacKaye titled "Edison: The Planetary American," and a typescript address given by Miami University President Raymond Hughes to the National Association of State Universities about university fellowships in creative art. The collection also includes several items of printed material by or about Percy MacKaye and his wife, Marion Morse MacKaye. Photographs of Percy MacKaye complete the collection.

  • Language of Materials

    The records are in English

  • Biography of Percy Wallace MacKaye

    Percy Wallace MacKaye was born on March 16, 1875 in New York City. His father, Steele MacKaye, was a prominent dramatist and actor, while his mother, Mary Keith Medbery, wrote a popular dramatic adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. While attending Harvard University, MacKaye privately printed Johnny Crimson, a narrative poem about Harvard life, in 1895. At his 1897 commencement, MacKaye delivered an address titled "The Need of Imagination in the Drama of Today." MacKaye's early plays had romantic, hopeful themes. They were critically acclaimed for their writing, but either never reached the stage or had limited success there. Jeanne D'Arc was his first play to receive a professional production in 1907. MacKaye was the first writer to hold a residency at an American university. From 1920 to 1924, he lived and worked at Miami University, the first institution in the United States to offer a fellowship in creative art. While at Miami, MacKaye wrote "America Untamed" and "This Fine, Pretty World." MacKaye became a spokesman for this experimental appointment. In his essay, "University Fellowships in Creative Art" (The Forum, June 1921), MacKaye asked, "If it be worth while for a university to provide opportunity to study a living author's work, may it not be equally worth while to provide opportunity for the author to create it?" As a result, the University of Michigan invited poet Robert Frost to reside for one year at Ann Arbor and receive a stipend of $5,000. As with MacKaye, no teaching or formal duties were expected of Frost, but it was hoped that he would come into close contact with students. MacKaye also wrote narrative poetry to complement his plays. Dogtown Common (1921) and The Skippers of Nancy Gloucester (1924) are examples of his poetic work. His Tall Tales of the Kentucky Mountains (1926) reflects his regular trips into Kentucky to record and reflect on Appalachian life. MacKaye married Marion Homer Morse at Shirley Center, Massachusetts on October 8, 1898. Marion was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 24, 1872. She died suddenly while visiting friends at St. Germain-en-Laye, France on June 1, 1939. After his wife's death, MacKaye was not as prolific. Many of MacKaye's later poems were memorial verses for her. MacKaye died on August 31, 1956. The MacKayes had three children: Robert, Arvia, and Christy, also poets and artists.

  • Scope and Contents

    The collection begins with correspondence of or about Percy MacKaye from 1920 to 1953. These letters primarily record details of MacKaye's residency at Miami University. Writing to President Raymond Hughes on December 25, 1920, MacKaye reveals "how happy I find myself in this fellowship at Miami, which came to me at your invitation, and how pleased I am of your comradeship and counsel." Several items in the collection address Miami's pioneering fellowship in creative art. In copies of Raymond Hughes' 1920 address to the National Association of State Universities, Hughes suggests that universities establish fellowships in art that would be open to "creative artists of established reputation." Recognizing that the United States has reached the "Golden Age of her Prosperity," Hughes believes that it was the responsibility of colleges and universities to support and foster art in America. The collection includes letters to Raymond Hughes from the National Federation of Musical Clubs about Miami University's fellowship for creative art and the address mentioned above. "We can think of nothing finer that can be done to assist struggling authors and composers than this very same plan, knowing what quiet opportunity for contemplation, freedom from the necessity of working for a living and congenial surroundings can mean to a sensitive soul," writes Gertrude F. Seiberling, president of the National Federation of Music Clubs, on December 14, 1920. "We feel sure that the fellowship given by yourself and the trustees of Miami University to Mr. MacKaye will act as an inspiration to many other universities to emulate your example." A copy of a letter sent by University of Michigan President Burton to Chancellor Avery of the University of Nebraska concerns the possibility of establishing a fellowship in creative art at the University of Nebraska. Burton shares that his university has arranged for Robert Frost to come to Ann Arbor for the academic year under the plan as originally outlined by Miami University President Raymond Hughes. "I have a strong impression that American Universities should be real patrons of Art and Literature and relative fields," Burton wrote. "It is our thought that Mr. Frost will not assume a professorship nor be responsible for classes or any of the regular duties of one connected with the Staff. The chief point is to bring a man of creative genius to the campus and permit him to use the year as he sees fit, coming in contact with the Faculty and students in ways which will be normal and natural." In his cover letter to Hughes enclosing this letter, Burton writes, "By a little missionary work in connection with this enterprise, we shall be able, I believe, to render a real service both to American education and American art." In "University Fellowships in Creative Art," from the June 1921 issue of The Forum, MacKaye describes what it is like to hold such a fellowship. "Secluded in the quiet of a great grove, my studio is an admirable place of work, and has already afforded opportunity, during some months, for a kind of uninterrupted thought and creative experiment which the overcrowded hours of many former winters have precluded," MacKaye wrote. "But it has also provided occasion for a kind of informal interchange of ideas and friendship with both faculty and students, very stimulating and delightful in itself and conducive toward enlarged horizons for the social as well as the art meanings of my "fellowship" privileges." The collection includes products of MacKaye's fellowship at Miami, such as "Ourselves in the Hour of Opportunity," a poem of MacKaye's that he read at the 145th anniversary meeting of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at the University of Pennsylvania on December 5, 1921 and originally published in the December 17, 1921 issue of The Independent and The Weekly Review. In "The Theatre of Ten Thousand," an article from the April 1923 issue of Theatre Arts Magazine, MacKaye describes the spectatorium, a playhouse designed by his father, playwright and director Steele MacKaye. Correspondence also reveals details about the MacKayes and their interactions with others. For example, a letter from Indiana University asks President Hughes's "confidential opinion as to [MacKaye's] ability to hold and interest a large group of University students" in giving readings from his works at a university convocation. Letters from Marion MacKaye discuss housing arrangements for the family's return to Oxford after their stay in Pine Mountain, Kentucky. The collection includes a typescript copy of MacKaye's "Edison: The Planetary American," together with an announcement of a dramatic reading on the Miami University campus given by MacKaye from his play, "George Washington." A brochure describes the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky, which the MacKayes visited during the summer of 1921. Founded in 1913 as a boarding school and community social center, the school was founded by William Creech, Sr. As a result of his time in Pine Mountain, MacKaye wrote a cycle of five plays about Kentucky mountain life, beginning with "This Fine Pretty World." Printed material titled "The Kentucky Mountains in Plays, Tales, & Poems by Percy MacKaye" collects commentary on MacKaye's works by fifty writers and artists. Among those quoted are Hamlin Garland, Booth Tarkington, Ridgely Torrence and Ida Tarbell. "Mephisto's Musings," an article from the June 26, 1920 issue of Musical America, describes the arts fellowships occurring at Western College for Women and Miami University. "It is certainly significant and also interesting, that the State of Ohio, which has given us so many statesmen, inventors, great industrial leavers, should be the first to do something practical to encourage the creative ability in music and literature in this country, and which when it gets encouragement and opportunity will be found to be fully the equal, if not perhaps the superior, of anything the Old World has to-day." Advertising pamphlets included in the collection further describe MacKaye's work. "The Pilgrim and the Book" is described in an advertising pamphlet for "Mayflower Universal Bible Sunday." MacKaye wrote this service to be used in churches for commemorating the Pilgrim tercentenary about Thanksgiving. "The Mystery of Hamlet, King of Denmark, or What We Will" is a tetralogy with prelude and postlude by MacKaye. The pamphlet states that both Percy and Marion MacKaye worked on this work for more than 40 years. Henry W. Wells is quoted in the piece as saying, "As one who has written more than one book on Elizabethan playwrights and taught in this field for some twenty-five years at Columbia University, I wish to say that Mr. MacKaye's work appears to me one of the most brilliant flowers to spring in recent years from the deathless root of Elizabethan thought. I know of no performance on the stage, no poem, novel, critical work, or work of scholarship, springing directly or indirectly from this root with so much vitality for our own times." A pamphlet describing the University of Iowa's 1921-1922 season repertoire includes a performance of MacKaye's "Mater" on October 27, 1921. The pamphlet notes that MacKaye would be present as guest artists at this opening production, attending final rehearsals and giving a public reading from his latest works. MacKaye's "A Thousand Years Ago" was also performed by the class in dramatic production on April 10, 1922.Works by Marion MacKaye are also included in the collection. Printed material about Mrs. MacKaye's dramatization of Jane Austen's Emma, together with excerpts from her August 9, 1917 and June 14, 1924 journal entries titled "Facing Infinitude" and "The Goodly Company" respectively, can be found in the collection. A Christmas leaflet printed in 1939 for Mrs. MacKaye's friends includes not only the last words she wrote in her journal and a signed photographic portrait of her, but also words spoken by Albert Steffen, the Swiss poet/dramatist, at her service of remembrance on July 7, 1939. "The qualities of compassion and conscience are immensely spiritualized and intensified by such a personality as Marion MacKaye," Steffen said. "Wife and mate of the poet, she is herself poet. Her whole life-experience spoke forth from her clear, noble face, through its beautifully large lineaments, lines formed by great thoughts, by great destiny, and also by great sorrows - a face which, however, had something so beamingly gay, often so almost overflowing with courageous joy, expressing such true comradeship, that she fairly glowed as she stood beside him, with whom she had shared her whole life and her poetic faculty." News paper clippings reveal details about MacKaye's fellowship at Miami University. An August 7, 1920 Toledo Daily Blade article reports that MacKaye stipulated only one condition regarding his studio at Miami: that it must have an open fire, about which faculty members, students and friends may gather. During the summer, MacKaye was to work on plays and pageants in his studio. A photographic portrait of Percy MacKaye, together with photographs of MacKaye with Raymond Hughes and with John Cunningham, president of the National Sculptor's Society, and Bond Wheelwright, publisher, complete the collection.

  • Organization of the Collection

    Series I: CorrespondenceSub-Series I: Correspondence from Percy MacKayeSub-Series II: Correspondence to Percy MacKayeSub-Series III: Correspondence about Percy MacKayeSub-Series IV: Correspondence from Marion MacKaye Series II: Manuscripts Series III: Printed MaterialSub-Series I: Printed Material by Percy MacKayeSub-Series II: Printed Material Related to Percy MacKayeSub-Series III: Printed Material by or about Marion MacKayeSub-Series IV: Newspaper Articles Related to Percy MacKaye Series IV: Photographs

  • Processing Information

    Processed by Betsy Butler, February 2008

  • Restrictions on Access

    This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries.

  • Preferred Citation

    Percy MacKaye Collection in The Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries