Beach, Rex Collection
Scope and Contents
The Rex Ellington Beach Collection highlights the many occupations, and interests of Rex Beach, particularly his career as a writer of various types of pieces, including short stories, radio plays, novels, articles, and plays. Beach’s strong connection with Rollins College, particularly during the time he served as the president of the Rollins Alumni Association, is the second main component of this collection. The collection also contains several pieces of writing authored by Beach, though most of the manuscripts of these works are typed, final copies rather than earlier drafts. This collection is divided into eight series: BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION, ROLLINS COLLEGE, WRITINGS, PUBLICATIONS, PLAY PRODUCTIONS, FILMS, and PHOTOGRAPHS.
- Created: 1890-1990
- Other: Majority of material found in 1920-1950
Conditions Governing Access
Open access except archival correspodence
Conditions Governing Use
Unpublished records are protected by copyright. Permission to publish or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.
Biographical or Historical Information
Rex Beach (1877-1949) was born in Atwood, Michigan on September 1, 1877. His family moved to the Tampa area in Florida in 1886, where Beach attended public school. In 1892, he enrolled in the preparatory school at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. In 1894, Beach enrolled as a freshman at Rollins and became involved in various organizations and athletics on campus throughout his college career. He served in various capacities at The Sandspur, the Rollins student newspaper, beginning as the Locals Editor, moving to Assistant Editor, and finally serving as the Financial Manager of the newspaper. Beach also served as the Director, and later Secretary and Treasurer, of the Athletic Association. He was also the Treasurer of the Demosthenic Society, and the President of the Tennis Club. In 1896, Beach published two short stories in The Sandspur; A Strange Experience on March 25, and The Convict’s Story on May 29. He never officially graduated from Rollins, though he later received an honorary Bachelor of Science degree at the inauguration of Rollins President Hamilton Holt in 1927. In 1897, Beach moved to Chicago to study law. However, Beach interrupted his studies that summer in order to prospect for gold in Alaska during what became known as the Klondike Rush.
Beach spent the next six years dividing his time between prospecting in Alaska and studying law and brick manufacturing in Chicago. He continued his involvement in athletics through his membership in the Chicago Athletic Association. After hearing of a gold strike in Nome, he returned to Alaska in 1901 to continue prospecting, and struck gold near Nome. Upon returning to Chicago, he turned his attention seriously to writing. He sold his first story, The Mule Boy and the Garrulous Mute, to McClure’s Magazine in 1903. His first best-seller, The Spoilers, was first serialized, and then published as a novel by Harper & Bros. in 1906. The novel was dramatized that same year by Beach, in collaboration with James McArthur. Beach continued to publish at a high rate throughout the rest of his life, often traveling to gather ideas for his works.
In 1907, Beach married Edith Greta Crater of Denver, Colorado, whom he had met in Nome. Greta, as she preferred to be called, was the sister of Allene Crater, who later married the renowned actor Fred Stone. Stone occasionally appears in Beach’s auto-biographical writings.
Although he did not officially graduate from Rollins, Beach was elected to the office of President of the Rollins Alumni Association (RAA) in February of 1927, a post which he held until 1940. He then served as the RAA’s Honorary President until 1946. While he was in office, Beach often discussed the business of the RAA with Alfred Hanna, who served for a time as the organization’s secretary.
Beach also maintained an avid interest in experimental farming, and owned land near Sebring, Florida devoted to celery and flower bulb husbandry. In 1937, he encouraged Rollins College to participate in nutritional studies on produce grown by Dr. Charles Northen of Orlando’s Colloidal Institute. He also invested in Easter lily bulb growing in Mexico, though he later transferred operations to Florida.
Near the end of his life, Beach and his wife settled permanently in Sebring. His health began to fail in 1944. His wife Greta died on April 15, 1947, the same year Beach developed throat cancer. After a long period of illness, Beach died in his Sebring home on December 7, 1949 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The ashes of Rex and Greta Beach were buried next to the Alumni House at Rollins College in 1951.
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Language of Materials
Papers created by and about Rex Ellingwood Beach (1877-1949), alumnus of Rollins College, Winter Park FL. Beach traveled to Alaska in 1897 to participate in the Klondike Gold Rush, before becoming a prolific writer of short fiction, novels, articles, plays, and radio plays. He was also involved in the production of films and plays based on his writings. He retained close ties to Rollins, serving as the president of the Rollins Alumni Association from 1927-1944. A significant portion of the correspondence in these papers documents Beach’s connection to Rollins through the Alumni Association and through friends who worked at the college, and his interest in experimental farming is evident in this correspondence as well. Also well represented are typed manuscripts of Beach’s writings, particularly his short stories and his auto-biographical Personal Exposures radio play series. To a lesser extent, this collection does contain some papers and photographs related to films based on Beach’s works, particularly The Spoilers and The Barrier. These papers do not contain a significant amount of information about Beach’s experiences in Alaska, nor do many edited manuscripts or drafts of his writings appear in the collection.
The BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION series contains a large amount of rich information about Rex Beach’s life, including short auto-biographical writings, biographies written by Beach’s colleagues, and biographies written by Rollins students and other researchers. The series also contains a small collection of newspaper clippings, mostly dating from the later portion of Beach’s life. The ROLLINS COLLEGE series largely contains correspondence that highlights the strong, lengthy relationship that Rex Beach maintained with Rollins College, particularly during his many years of service as the President of the Rollins Alumni Association (RAA). Also documented is Beach’s interest in experimental farming, which makes up a significant portion of his correspondence with RAA secretary Alfred J. Hanna. The series also contains papers related to Beach’s burial at Rollins, and documents the college’s correspondence with the Rex Beach Estate. Finally, the papers in this series document the transfer of Rex Beach’s property and papers to the college, though the series lacks in-depth information about the establishment of the Rex Beach House on campus. The ROLLINS COLLEGE series contains two sub-series: Rollins Alumni Association (RAA) and Estate. The RAA sub-series mostly consists of correspondence (1927-1941) between RAA President Beach and RAA Secretary Alfred J. Hanna, though the sub-series excludes other correspondence with Hanna about non-RAA related matters, such as Beach’s experimental farming activities. The RAA sub-series correspondence largely concerns the business of the Rollins Alumni Association and alumni affairs. The Estate sub-series contains legal documents and correspondence between representatives of Rollins and the Rex Beach estate, which mostly concerns Beach’s bequest of money and other items to the college. The WRITINGS series is most extensive series in this collection, and it contains largely typed and a few hand-written manuscripts and drafts of various Beach works. This series is divided into six sub-series: Articles, Novels, Plays, Personal Exposures, Short Stories, and Synopses, of which the latter three hold the richest and most extensive materials. The Articles sub-series contains galley copies and drafts of Beach’s articles about Alaska for Hampton’s Magazine, many of which contain marginalia and editing notes. The Novels sub-series is made up of hand-written drafts of chapters of Beach’s Woman in Ambush (originally entitled Dick Banning). The small Plays sub-series includes typed copies of three plays that Beach wrote or collaborated on, some of which were based on his novels and short stories. The Personal Exposures sub-series focuses solely on Beach’s series, Personal Exposures. Personal Exposures was a series of short, reportedly auto-biographical pieces upon which he based his book of the same name published by Harper Brothers (1941). The series was produced first as a radio play, and then was published serially in Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan Magazine. The Personal Exposures run does have gaps, but includes episodes 1-18, 24-25, 28, 39-42, 46-69, 74, 79-80, and unnumbered episodes. The sub-series is arranged in order by episode number. The manuscripts are typed individually, but a second copy of episodes 1-18 appear in a bound volume with an illustration of Rex Beach on the cover. The Short Stories sub-series contains typed drafts of several of Beach’s short stories, some of which have been annotated and edited. This sub-series is arranged alphabetically by title. Finally, the Synopses sub-series includes synopses of Beach’s novels and short stories, summarizing the works for use by publishers and filmmakers. Many of the short story synopses are grouped together in packets, but the sub-series is arranged alphabetically by the name of the first synopsis in each packet. Most of the synopses were written by Beach himself, though a few were written by his wife, Greta Beach. The PUBLICATIONS series contains published clippings and small pamphlets of fiction and non-fiction works written by Rex Beach. Many of these publications are short stories and articles printed in magazines such as Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan, and most of the short stories include illustrations. The non-fiction publications include articles about Alaska, as well as copies of Beach’s piece regarding Dr. Northen’s nutrition project. Longer publications by Beach are not represented in this series. Refer to the appendix to this finding aid to view a list of Rex Beach’s works in the Olin Library catalog. The PLAY PRODUCTIONS series contains programs from two different performances of The Spoilers, one from the early 20th century and another from the mid-1980s. This small series does not contain any further information regarding theater productions of Beach’s works. The FILMS series represents the treatment of Beach’s work for the film industry. Although the involvement of Beach himself in the movie industry is not particularly evident in these documents, this series highlights two movies based on Beach’s work: The Spoilers, and The Barrier. The series also contains a few other film treatments of Beach’s works, some of which were actually done by Beach himself. Photographs of the 1937 production of The Barrier are described in the PHOTOGRAPHS series. The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains approximately 150 photographs and a few film negatives, including several portrait and informal shots of Rex Beach throughout his life. Also included are 35 production stills of the 1937 film version of The Barrier. The series also contains one ZIP disc containing scans of selected photographs; however, the hardware to read the disc is not currently available at this facility, so the specific contents of the disc is unknown. Two oversized photographs also exist, one of which is signed to Fred and Allene Stone from Beach.
Existence and Location of Originals
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Part of the Rollins College Archives & Special Collections Repository
Rollins College Box 2768
1000 Holt Avenue
Winter Park 32789-4499 US