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Frederick Newton Arvin papers, 1900 - 2001 (Bulk: 1924 - 1963)
2 boxes ( .6 linear ft.)
Collection number: 42

Abstract:
Faculty. Professor of English Language and Literature from 1922 - 1960. Arrested on charges of moral turpitude in 1959 by the City of Northampton, MA, he pled guilty to the charges and was retired from Smith College by the Board of Trustees in 1960.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives except where noted in the finding aid.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

(Frederick) Newton Arvin was born on August 9, 1900 in Valparaiso, Indiana. After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1921, he taught private school in Detroit before joining the faculty at Smith College as an Instructor of English in 1922.

Over the next decade, his career soared. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935 and was subsequently named a full professor at Smith College (1940). In 1939 he became a trustee at Yaddo, a writer's colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. While visiting in 1946 he met and began a two-year affair with Truman Capote. Capote's 1948 novel Other Voices, Other Rooms was dedicated to Arvin. Arvin went on to win the 1951 National Book Award in non-fiction for his book Herman Melville (1950).

As Margot Cleary wrote in Hampshire Life (1991), "Newton Arvin's life was a Jekyll and Hyde affair, a mixture of professional acclaim and personal scandal." Despite a brief marriage to Mary Jordan Garrison (Class of 1931), Arvin was living as a closeted gay man. The marriage ended in 1940 with both Garrison and Arvin suffering numerous breakdowns as a result.

During Labor Day weekend in 1960, police raided Arvin's home and confiscated thousands of pictures of male models that were considered pornographic. He was charged with possession and distribution of pornographic materials and though he initially pleaded innocence, he later accepted a finding of guilty. His arrest, and the confiscation of his journals, led to the arrests of several other men in the community including two colleagues at Smith College. The Board of Trustees voted to have Arvin 'retired' in 1960 to the vehement protest of prominent faculty, colleagues and alumnae. Arvin was admitted to Northampton State Hospital for suicidal depression and remained confined for the duration of the ordeal; diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her died March 21, 1963.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Newton Arvin papers contain biographic materials, clippings, correspondence, photographs, reports and other administrative documents covering Arvin's career as a faculty member at Smith College.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives except where noted in the finding aid.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Frederick Newton Arvin papers, Box #, Smith College Archives

History of the Collection

The Frederick Newton Arvin papers were created over a period of time from a variety of sources and donated to the College Archives.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: nyoung@smith.edu
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/archives
Language
English

Series Descriptions
(1951 - 1960)


Contains information about the life of Frederick Newton Arvin, materials pertaining to his arrest and information supplied for his obituary.

(1924 - 1958)


Contains articles published by Arvin on topics such as religion, criticism and literary judgement. A copy of Stacey Sklar's undergraduate thesis regarding Arvin's arrest and conviction is also available.

(1935 - 1984)


Contains materials regarding his Guggenheim Fellowship, his award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the University of Iowa Truman Capote Award.

(1957 - 1998)


Contains letters pertaining to Arvin's professional life.

(1957 - 1963)


[restricted pending request to College Archivist] Materials from the Office of the President regarding the Morals Case of 1960. Contains correspondence, reports, clippings, and legal records.

Contents List
Series I: Biographical Material



biographical information and obituaries
1951 - 1961

Box 1: folder 1
articles and photographs
1932 - 1960

Box 1: folder 2
Series II: Publications



publications
1924 - 1958

Box 1: folder 3
"The Ground of Literary Judgement"
1953

Box 1: folder 4
Series III: Awards



awards and prizes
1935 - 1984

Box 1: folder 5
acceptance speech, National Book Award
1951

Box 1: folder 6
Series IV: Correspondence



correspondence
1957

Box 1: folder 7
articles pertaining to his arrest
1960 - 1961

Box 1: folder 8
Stacey Sklar, B.A. thesis
1998

Box 1: folder 9
Series V: President's Files



Faculty File
various

Box 2: folder 10
Morals Case
April 1961

Box 2: folder 11
Pornography Case: General
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 12
Edward Spofford
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 13
Joel Dorius
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 14
Alumnae Letters
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 15
Faculty Letters
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 16
Public Letters
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 17
non-Smith faculty letters
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 18
parents letters
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 19
student letters
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 20
news clippings
1960 - 1961

Box 2: folder 21

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Arvin, Newton, 1900-1963.
  • Homosexuality and education -- Massachusetts
  • Smith College -- Faculty -- Biography
  • United States -- Social conditions -- 1960-1980


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