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American Literature Archival Collections in USC Special Collections: Poets Garden

Guide to the collections of American Literature held by USC Libraries Department of Special Collections

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Historical Background

Edwin Markham dedicated the Poets Garden, located in Ruth Le Prade's backyard at 1622 S. Spaulding Street, in April 1927 with the planting of a sycamore tree called the Song Tree in honor of Ruth Le Prade and a wisteria tree for Peace. Between 1927 and Le Prade's death in 1969, other trees were planted in honor of poets and literary figures, including a Gingko tree to honor the Chinese poet Moon Kwan, an oak tree for Chaucer and trees honoring William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling and Edwin Markham. There were also trees in the Poets Garden dedicated to Jesus, the Divine Mother (Mary) and Brotherhood. The slogan of the Garden was "Bread, Beauty and Brotherhood." Le Prade hosted events at Christmas and Markham's birthday every year in the garden, and many of the people represented in this collection were attendees of these events.

However, the Poets Garden was not just a physical garden. It also consisted of Ruth Le Prade's circle of acquaintances, friends and correspondents, most of whom were writers and/or poets. Le Prade kept much of her correspondence with "members" of the Poets Garden (there was, however, no official membership). In some cases, most notably Gordon Norris and Robert Whitaker, Le Prade received the papers and correspondence of her friends to add to her collection. Beginning in 1953, Le Prade began to donate most of her collection (both books and paper records) to the University of Southern California. She also gave a collection documenting Florence Hamilton's relationship with Edwin Markham to the Library of Congress in 1953.

Some of the authors and poets represented in the collection include:

  • Edwin Markham
  • Ruth Le Prade
  • Gordon Norris (Poet Laureate of California, 1953-1961)
  • Juanita Miller
  • Luther Standing Bear
  • John Milton Scott
  • Lucia Trent
  • Robert Whitaker

Collection Overview

The records of Poets Garden contain Ruth Le Prade's personal papers, those of her friends she considered part of the Poets Garden, a small section on Eugene Debs (who died before the Garden was established as such), and publications collected either by Le Prade or one of the Garden's other members. Le Prade’s personal papers include her correspondence with people not individually represented at the series level in the collection, financial records, typescript and manuscript drafts of her works (both prose and poetry, published and unpublished), her manuscript notes, scrapbooks, photographs and newspaper and periodical clippings. The records for the people named at the series level generally include their correspondence both to and from Ruth Le Prade. However, they may also include any combination of the following: typescript and manuscript drafts, correspondence with people other than Le Prade, correspondence to or from Le Prade about the series’s namesake, clippings by, about or collected by the series’s namesake, photographs, awards, plaques and scrapbooks.