George Steiner papers  1846-1851
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (1.5 linear feet) contains incoming correspondence and other items related to Elsie F. Weil of Chicago, Illinois, and New York City, including many letters from Weil's close friend and fellow writer Gertrude Emerson. Other friends and family members wrote to Elsie about their daily and social lives in New York City, Chicago, and Boston. Additional materials include two of Elsie's diaries, articles written by Elsie F. Weil and Gertrude Emerson, and ephemera.

The bulk of the collection is comprised of Elsie F. Weil's incoming correspondence. The first group of items consists of letters that Elsie's father Jacob, brother Leo, and mother Pauline sent to her from 1897-1907. Jacob and Leo Weil offered advice, and Pauline Weil provided family news from Chicago while Elsie lived in Lafayette, Indiana, around 1904. In 1913, Elsie received letters about her career as a writer, often mentioning specific articles. Additional professional correspondence appears throughout the collection.

Gertrude Emerson began writing to Elsie Weil in January 1914, and remained Weil's primary correspondent through the early 1920s. Her early letters pertain to her life in Winnetka, Illinois, where she taught at the Girton School. Emerson encouraged Weil to pursue a career in writing, discussed her own work, and shared news of her family. In the spring of 1914, she described a trip to New York City. During their periods of separation, Emerson expressed her desire to reunite with Weil and proposed plans for their shared future. Her letters include passionate declarations of her love for Weil and her devotion to their friendship, and she often referred to her desire to hold Weil, offering a birthday kiss in her letter postmarked April 26, 1915. She also spoke of her wish to travel around the world, though her mother prohibited transatlantic travel in 1915 on account of the growing threat from German submarines ([May 7, 1915]).

Weil and Emerson traveled together to Korea, Japan, and China in 1915 and 1916, and the collection includes a series of typed letters that Weil addressed to an unspecified group in early 1916. She described their travels between locations, shared observations about local cultures, and reported on their daily activities. A newspaper article about their trip, printed in Japanese, is filed in with the correspondence (December 15, 1915, 3 copies). Weil later received letters and postcards from acquaintances in Asia, particularly in late 1916. Gino Merchiorri, a soldier, wrote two letters to Weil about his experiences in the United States Army during World War I.

Gertrude Emerson moved to New York City in late 1916 after being hired by Asia magazine, and often wrote to Weil, who remained in Chicago, about her life there. She commented on her social life and her friends, who included the writer Ernestine Evans and the naturalist William Beebe. In 1919, she traveled to British Guiana (present-day Guyana), stopping shortly, mid-voyage in the Virgin Islands and Barbados. Before her arrival in South America, she described her sea travel and the Caribbean cities and islands she visited. While in Guyana, Emerson described the scenery and everyday life, particularly with regard to Indian "coolie" workers and their culture. After her return to New York City that fall, she discussed her social life, Elsie's articles for Asia, and their shared New York apartment.

Emerson wrote another series of travel letters while visiting Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India in 1920 and Mexico in 1924. While in India, she met with Mohandas Gandhi and commented on Indian politics. Though she consistently voiced her love for Weil throughout her correspondence, other topics came to dominate her correspondence. By the mid-1920s, Emerson had fallen in love with a man named Kim, whom she considered marrying. Some of her later letters, including several undated items, are written on long sheets of thin, illustrated paper. Other illustrated items include a brief typed essay with a watercolor depiction of a Flemish portrait (enclosed with her letter of February 9, 1914) and a sketch of the view outside of her window in Winnetka (undated).

Elsie Weil received smaller groups of letters from other friends from the mid-1910s to mid-1920s, including Rose Wilder Lane, who described her life in Mansfield, Missouri, in the late summer and early fall of 1919. She shared her fondness for the scenery of the Ozarks, discussed her career as a writer, and told anecdotes about her experiences. She later wrote about travels in Europe and her life in Paris, France, where she briefly described international relations between the Allied powers just after World War I. She also commented on female involvement in political issues. Blix Leonard of Boston, Massachusetts, and Elmer Stanley Hader of New York City frequently illustrated their letters; some of their sketches and drawings are humorous and cartoonish. Weil also corresponded with Kenneth Durant and Ernestine Evans. Some of Weil's New York correspondents expressed their support for the Bolshevik Revolution in 1919.

The collection includes 3 diaries. The first, which has the title "My Trip Abroad" and "Elsie F. Weil" stamped in gold on its front cover, was intended for use during a trip abroad; Weil used it only to record the name of her ship, the SS Manchuria , and the date of her departure, September 19, 1922. The other two diaries contain brief entries respecting Weil's daily activities for 1920 and 1925, with some significant gaps between entries. These diaries often refer to Weil's social acquaintances, including Gertrude Emerson, "Rose," and others.

The collection's 6 photographic prints include 3 views of Gertrude Emerson on horseback and 1 of Emerson posing outdoors. The other pictures show an unidentified man posing outdoors in a suit and a Buddha statue in a Tokyo temple.

Additional items include magazine and newspaper articles by Gertrude Emerson, Elsie F. Weil, and Ernestine Evans, largely concerning travel to Asia; instructions related to creating flower arrangements; and unused bookplates belonging to Elsie F. Weil, bearing an Asian-style illustration of boats on water. Other visual materials include picture postcards from East Asian countries and a series of postcards from Wisconsin. The final items are a Christmas card and an advertisement once inserted in a newspaper.

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