Rittenhouse, Jessie Belle Collection of American Poetry
Scope and Contents
Papers created and collected by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse (1869 – 1948), a poetry anthologist and Poetry Consultant at Rollins College. The papers document Rittenhouse’s great contribution to the American and British poetic movement, ranging from her own personal contributions to poetry and her skill for finding and fostering the talent of others. Very well documented is the relationship between Rittenhouse and her mother, whose letters constitute a significant portion of the collection; conversely, the relationship between Rittenhouse and her husband, the American poet Clinton Scollard, is documented to a lesser extent, as their remaining correspondence is scarce. The papers consist of her personal correspondence with some of the most prominent poets of her time; her private correspondence with her family; her contributions to the Poetry Society of America, of which she was secretary for ten years; her correspondence regarding her anthologies and published material; collected manuscript poems; publications, press releases, and correspondence regarding her professorship at Rollins College; and clippings from periodicals which highlight her career.
- Created: 1886-1948
- Other: Date acquired: 12/12/1946
Conditions Governing Access
Open access except one box which contains archival correspondence.
Conditions Governing Use
The status of copyright on the materials of the Jessie Belle Rittenhouse collection is governed by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S.C.).
Biographical or Historical Information
Jessie Belle Rittenhouse (1869 – 1948) was born in Mt. Morris, New York. As a graduate of Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, New York, she briefly taught Latin and English first at a private school in Cairo, Illinois, then at the Ackley Institute for Girls in Grand Haven, Michigan, before becoming a journalist and book reviewer. She remained an active correspondent and reviewer for newspapers and press syndicates until 1900, when Columbia University offered her the position of lecturer on modern poetry for the extension courses. 1900 was also the year she undertook the task of editing a translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which was her first publication.
From 1905 to 1915, Rittenhouse was employed on the editorial staff of both the New York Times and the Bookman, which enabled her to correspond with many contemporary poets. Not only was such correspondence a vital part of her career, it was also reflective of her deep personal appreciation for poetry and those who create it. A poet herself, Rittenhouse began the compilation of The Younger American Poets, published in 1904. It was followed by the publications of The Little Book of Modern American Verse in 1913, The Little Book of American Poets in 1915, The Second Book of Modern Verse in 1919, The Little Book of Modern British Verse in 1924, and The Third Book of Modern Verse in 1927. Through these endeavors she became a colleague and friend to some of the most revered poets of the age, including Sara Teasdale, Edna St.Vincent Millay, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, and Vachel Lindsay. She also published four volumes of her own poetry: The Door of Dreams in 1918, The Lifted Cup in 1921, The Secret Bird in 1930, and The Moving Tide in 1939. Her autobiography, My House of Life, was published in 1934.
Although Rittenhouse’s poetic output was considerable and nationally appreciated, she is notable for her anthologies of modern poetry, which represented the first attempt to disseminate the work of her contemporaries. Rittenhouse undertook the difficult task of championing poetry in an era when it was believed that the art of poetry had ended with Tennyson. She is credited with being heavily involved in the founding of the Poetry Society of America in 1910, of which she was the sole female founder and which she served as secretary for a period of ten years. She continued the cycle of editing, writing, and lecturing all her life, contributing to the lives of countless individuals, many of whom were young people just starting to realize their poetic aspirations.
Rittenhouse married Clinton Scollard, himself a poet, in 1924, and the couple moved to Winter Park, Florida, that same year. Almost immediately after their arrival, Rittenhouse gathered together a small group of poetry aficionados who would become known as the Poetry Society of Florida. The group held monthly meetings and monetary prizes were distributed to encourage everyone, especially the younger members, to keep writing poems. Through the Society’s events, Rittenhouse and her husband were introduced to Hamilton Holt, who had lately become the president of Rollins College. Through Holt’s urging, both Rittenhouse and her husband became involved with the College. Starting in 1927, Rittenhouse taught courses on modern poetry at Rollins, and later accepted the position of Poetry Consultant, which she retained for the rest of her life. She received the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature in 1928 in appreciation of all she had done for the College.
The collection of about 1200 books of poetry and 1400 letters of literary correspondence was graciously bequeathed by Rittenhouse to the College she had served. She died on September 28, 1948, in Grosse Point Park, Michigan.
Note written by
4.00 Linear Feet
Four linear feet in seven boxes; 1174 monograph titles from her personal library collection. other_unmapped
4.00 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The materials in this collection illustrate the course of Jessie Rittenhouse’s career as an anthologist, lecturer, and poet. A significant portion of the collection is Rittenhouse’s correspondence with many poets of her era, including handwritten poems. Also well documented is her connection with Rollins College, particularly during the time she conducted her winter courses. The collection is divided into seven series: ADMINISTRATION, BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION, POETRY, FAMILY, ROLLINS, CLIPPINGS, and PHOTOGRAPHS. The ADMINISTRATION series contains archival correspondence, largely consisting of copyright inquiries and permission requests. Lists of her autographed letters and poetry collection are found in this series. A biography is included. The material in this series is restricted. The BIOGRAPHY series contains information regarding Rittenhouse’s life, including several summaries of her accomplishments and lists of her publications. Copies of the speeches for her recommendation and acceptance of the honorary Doctor of Literature degree are included. A tributary essay and correspondence upon her death are in this series as well. The POETRY series is by far the most extensive in the collection, and it is divided into five sub-series: General Correspondence with Poets, Published Material, Poems, Anthology Correspondence, and Societies and Organizations. The General Correspondence with Poets sub-series contains a large amount of letters – most handwritten, some typed – from both American and foreign poets to Rittenhouse, some of which are accompanied by photographs, copies of articles, and poems. The subject of the correspondence is, on the whole, general, as Rittenhouse was connected with many of the poets personally. The Published Material sub-series includes information regarding Rittenhouse’s published volumes, including her own works of poetry and her poetry anthologies. This sub-series also includes poetry essays and reviews by Rittenhouse in addition to information on third party publications. The Poems sub-series contains general manuscript poems, including some by Irving Bachellor. The sub-series also contains a collection of John Myers O’Hara’s manuscript poems. The Anthology Correspondence sub-series largely consists of letters from Rittenhouse requesting to use poems in her anthologies, and the replies from the respective poets. Letters concerning Rittenhouse’s own poetry and other published materials are also in this sub-series. The Societies and Organizations sub-series includes correspondence from the members of the Poetry Society of America, as well as materials used by Rittenhouse’s poetry societies. The FAMILY series includes genealogy information regarding the Rittenhouse family tree. The bulk of this collection consists of letters from Rittenhouse to her mother, which are arranged by year. Letters to and from other members of Rittenhouse’s family are in this series as well, including correspondence on the death of Rittenhouse’s mother and correspondence between Rittenhouse and her husband, Clinton Scollard. A family letter written neither by or for Rittenhouse is likewise included. The ROLLINS series contains correspondence between Rittenhouse and the then-president of the college, Hamilton Holt. Correspondence with A.J. Hanna and Edwin O. Grover, both administrators of the College, are likewise included. Press releases, publications, and book plates pertaining to the College are in this collection, along with correspondence regarding Rittenhouse’s courses. The brochure for the 1984 posthumous exhibit in honor of Rittenhouse is similarly included in the collection. The CLIPPINGS series contains copies of newspaper articles highlighting Rittenhouse’s long and successful career in poetry, including reviews of her published volumes and of her poetry lectures. The clippings cover the years between 1904 and 1949. The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains approximately fifty-six photographs, including several portrait shots of Rittenhouse. The majority of the series consists of portraits of poets in Rittenhouse’s acquaintance, including her husband, the poet Clinton Scollard. Portraits of the poet Vachel Lindsay and of the Lindsay family are also included. Many of the photographs are signed; five are oversized. Not considered a series but still a part of the Rittenhouse Collection is her personal library of 1174 books of poetry. Records are available online through the Olin Library catalog.
Source of Acquisition
Jessie B. Rittenhouse
Existence and Location of Originals
multi-part note content
- Jessie Belle Rittenhouse Collection of American Poetry, 1886-1948
- Kathleen Reich and Bethany Reynolds
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
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- Code for undetermined script
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