Katherine Anne Porter & Eugene Dove Pressly Papers, 1924-1962  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Porter, Katherine Anne; Pressly, Eugene Dove
Katherine Anne Porter & Eugene Dove Pressly Papers
1924-1962 (inclusive)
1 containers., (.25 linear feet of shelf space.), (275 items.)
Collection Number
Cage 635
Includes 28 letters to and from Katherine Anne Porter, 1934-1946. Also includes personal and professional correspondence, military and employment records, shorthand manuscripts and 2 one-page typescripts.
Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Katherine Anne Porter:

Katherine Anne Porter was born May 15, 1890, in Indian Creek, Texas, to Harrison Boone and Mary Alice Jones Porter. As a girl Porter received a traditional, albeit incomplete, formal education. In the course of her lifetime she became a voracious reader, and eventually traveled extensively in the United States and abroad. Porter's private life included a series of failed marriages, and was punctuated by affairs of a platonic and erotic nature. A consistent conflict in Porter's life revolved around the requirements of her art and the demands of daily life. It wasn't until later in her career that Porter established what were for her the ideal conditions for the production of literary work.

From an early age Porter envisioned herself as a writer. Much of her fiction is based on her own experiences, and many of her fictional characters are based on the people she knew. Although relatively modest in terms of volume, critics of Porter's work have consistently remarked on its uniformly high quality. Porter's literary art aims at what might be characterized as an "essentialist" rendering of life and character. In her fiction, Porter seeks to uncover the fundamental singularities of circumstance and personality which produce the texture and drama of lived experience.

With the appearance of María Concepción in the December 1922 issue of Century Magazine, Porter published the first story that is considered part of her canon. Her fiction from the 1920s was collected in a volume titled Flowering Judas, published in 1930 in a run of 600 copies. Her second collection of stories, Flowering Judas and Other Stories, appeared in 1935. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels, was published in 1939, and collected together three works that had originally appeared in the years 1936-1938. Porter became one of America's leading writers, perhaps best known for her novel Ship of Fools (1962). In 1966 she won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter. Katherine Anne Porter died in Silver Spring, Maryland, on September 18, 1980.

Eugene Pressly:

Eugene Dove Pressly was born in Clarendon, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 1904, to Elizabeth Dove and Ralph McDermott Pressly. (Elizabeth Pressly eventually remarried Karl Merchant). He was the oldest of three children, including brother Hearst Smith Pressly (b. 1907) and sister Suzanne (married name Collins, b. 1909). Eugene Pressly was Katherine Anne Porter's second or third husband (married March 18, 1933, divorced April 9, 1938). He never remarried after their divorce.

Pressly attended Dubois High School in Dubois, Pennsylvania, before going on to do undergraduate coursework in liberal arts studies at Denver University from 1924-1926. From 1928-1929 he attended the University of Mexico, where he studied Spanish in addition to Mexican literature and history. He received no advanced academic degrees. In the course of his career and extensive travels, Pressly eventually attained fluency in Spanish and French and a basic knowledge of German and Russian.

During the 1920s and early 1930s Pressly worked at a series of clerk-stenographer jobs throughout the United States and Mexico. From 1928-1931 he was employed in Mexico as a stenographer and translator for the Institute of Current World Affairs and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Pressly temporarily clerked at the American Embassy in Madrid from 1931-1932, where he also did social and economic research. From May 1932 through September 1936 he worked in the Foreign Service, clerking in Switzerland for the Department of State in postings at Basel (the Consulate) and Geneva (Prepatory and Monetary Conference) and also at Paris, France. In Paris he was employed as a confidential clerk-stenographer and translator in his capacity as a Treasury Department liaison.

After a brief stint as a Spanish-English stenographer for an oil concern in Venezuela, Pressly returned to the Foreign Service. From 1937-1941 he was again posted as a State Department employee, initially in Moscow during the height of the Stalinist terror, but leaving at the outbreak of German-Russian hostilities to clerk at the Nine-Powers Conference in Brussels, Belgium. He later returned to Moscow to work as a confidential translator-stenographer for the American Ambassador.

Pressly was inducted into the United States army in July 1942. Until his honorable discharge in October 1945, he was assigned foreign language duties with a mobile radio unit of psychological warfare. During this period he worked for the Office of Strategic Services in Oran, North Africa, and later with the liaison office of Seventh Army headquarters in southern France and the Rhineland. For his military services, Sergeant Pressly was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal.

From 1947-1948 Pressly worked in Japan on an obscure "employment agreement" entailing the American military occupation there. He also rejoined the Foreign Service, clerking in the Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico. There, he handled confidential files and worked in the "preparation of material having to do with the reporting of the political section of the Embassy." These were to be Pressly’s last important government positions.

Pressly's career in the 1950s and 1960s centered in and around Denver, Colorado. He continued to work as a clerk-stenographer in various civilian positions and eventually took employment as a hotel clerk in Denver. He became increasingly isolated from his family at this time, and his life took a further downturn after he suffered a severe beating in a robbery attempt in 1966. Eugene Dove Pressly died in Denver, Colorado, on May 31, 1979, a little over a year before the death of his former wife, Katherine Anne Porter.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Katherine Anne Porter-Eugene Dove Pressly Papers consist chiefly of correspondence, personal documents, and manuscripts. The organization has been imposed by the archivist. Series 1, Katherine Anne Porter Correspondence, is arranged chronologically, with brief annotations. This group is largely comprised of letters Porter sent to Pressly between 1934-1946. Series 2, Eugene Dove Pressly Papers, consists of subseries 2.1, Correspondence (bulking in the 1930s and 1940s), arranged alphabetically and then chronologically by decade, chiefly of personal and professional correspondence, and subseries 2.2, Personal Documents, consisting primarily of job applications and résumés, personal data records, employment and personnel records, miscellaneous personal papers, and military records. Subseries 2.2 also contains unidentified shorthand manuscripts and two one-page typescript drafts titled " The Story of an Uzbek Girl" and " Spoon and Shorts (a little Uzbek boy's letter)".

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The major collection of Katherine Anne Porter papers is held in the Archives and Manuscripts Department of the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries. Intellectual property rights regarding the Katherine Anne Porter series in this collection can be obtained through the WATCH file (Writers and Their Copyright Holders), produced by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. To get information, contact:

World Wide Web: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/index.html

Mail: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, P.O. Drawer 7219, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78713-7219

Phone: (512) 471-9119

Fax: 512.471.2899

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]. Cage 635, Katherine Anne Porter & Eugene Dove Pressly Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Documents and papers in this subseries have been left in their original order.

Custodial History

This collection of Katherine Anne Porter and Eugene Dove Pressly papers (MS 95-19) was donated to the Department of English at Washington State University in June 1994 by Gene Collins, Eugene Pressly's nephew.

Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred from the Washington State University English Department to Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections in June of 1995.

Related Materials

The major collection of Katherine Anne Porter papers is held in the Archives and Manuscripts Department of the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series 1: Katherine Anne Porter CorrespondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Elizabeth [Pressly] . Literary works, personal finances, temperament, family genealogy, travels, politics
2 June 1934
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Divorce proceedings, health.
11 January 1937
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Literary and personal matters.
10 December 1937
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Health, travel, holiday greetings.
27 December 1937
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Specifics of divorce decree.
17 January 1938
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Health, weather, query regarding response to divorce decree.
9 February 1938
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. "Promised Land", health, divorce waiver, observations of Pressly.
8 March 1938
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Finalization of divorce.
27 April 1938
1 1
Eugene Pressly to Katherine Anne Porter. Response to news of Porter's remarriage.
28 June 1938
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Disposition of Pressly's personal property.
14 June 1939
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Elizabeth [Pressly] . Regarding divorce between Pressly and herself.
14 August 1939
1 1
Eugene Pressly to Katherine Anne Porter. Disposition of Pressly's belongings.
26 October 1939
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Writing, Promised Land.
7 December 1939
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Elizabeth [Pressly] . Observations of Eugene Pressly, work on Ship of Fools.
27 April 1940
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly (telegram). Plans to meet.
18 December 1941
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly (cable). Seeks news.
23 June 1941
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Porter's house in Saratoga Springs, New York.
27 December 1941
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Regarding the publication of The Itching Parrot.
22 May 1942
1 1
Alice Ward Baker to Katherine Anne Porter. Porter's writing, queries about Eugene Pressly's health and status, Porter's and Pressly's time in Paris in 1940.
24 January 1943
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Homelife, mutual acquaintances, Porter's French translator Marcel Sibon.
3 February 1943
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Arrangement for meeting in Saratoga Spring, New York.
30 March 1943
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Plans for their visit.
4 April 1943
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Books, the Russian language, war-time circumstances, jokes about weight problems.
17 April 1943
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Dove Pressly. Stint in Hollywood working for MGM ($2000/week), sadness over death of President Franklin Roosevelt.
17 April 1945
1 1
Katherine Ann Porter to Eugene Pressly. Departure from MGM to Paramount, news that French translator is alive.
20 September 1945
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Perfume, Paul Cadmus's portrait of Porter.
27 September 1945
1 1
Eugene Pressly to Katherine Anne Porter. Current address and requests personal papers.
3 May 1946
1 1
Katherine Anne Porter to Eugene Pressly. Promise to send Pressly's papers.
15 May 1946

Series 2: Eugene Dove Pressly PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Subseries 2.1: Correspondence
Box Folder
1 2
Correspondence, A-E
1 3
Correspondence, F-J
1 4
Correspondence, K-O
1 5
Correspondence, P-T
1 6
Correspondence, U-Z
1 7
Correspondence, A-E
1 8
Correspondence, F-J
1 9
Correspondence, K-O
1 10
Correspondence, P-T
1 11
Correspondence, U-Z
1 12
Correspondence, A-E
1950-1954; undated
1 13
Correspondence, F-J
1 14
Correspondence, K-O
1 15
Correspondence, P-T
1 16
Correspondence, U-Z
Subseries 2.2: Personal Documents
Box Folder
1 17
Employment documents, military records, and miscellaneous personal papers
1932-1962; undated
1 18
Unidentified shorthand manuscripts
ca 1946-1947; ca 1962
1 19
Typescript drafts, The Story of an Uzbek Girl and Spoon and Shorts (a little Uzbek boy's letter)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Authors, American--20th century--Archives
  • Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence

Personal Names

  • Porter, Katherine Anne, 1890-1980--Correspondence
  • Pressly, Eugene Dove (1904-1979)--Archives (creator)