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Harley Hammerman Collection on Eugene O’Neill

Identifier: MS-MS-ms160

The Harley Hammerman Collection of Eugene O’Neill consists of manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and other materials related to the life and work of playwright Eugene O’Neill. Along with first editions of the playwright’s works located in Rare Books (many inscribed), the collection features autograph and typed letters written by O’Neill to significant cultural figures, handwritten manuscripts and typescripts, photographs of O’Neill and his immediate family and friends, and rare handbills, posters, scripts, recordings, films, and promotional books related to productions of his plays.


  • 1879-2018


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


55.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (October 16, 1888 – November 27, 1953) was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in literature. O'Neill was born in a Broadway hotel room in Longacre Square (now Times Square), in the Barrett Hotel, to an Irish immigrant father and a mother of Irish descent. His father was an actor and his mother accompanied him on frequent tours with a theater company, so Eugene was sent to a Catholic boarding school, where he discovered a love of reading. He decided to devote himself full-time to writing plays after his experience in 1912–13 at a sanatorium where he was recovering from tuberculosis. O'Neill had previously written poetry and been employed by the New London Telegraph, as a reporter.

In the 1910's, O'Neill became a part of the Greenwich Village literary scene, including the Provincetown Players, which staged his early plays. His work was influenced by "radical" thinkers like Communist Labor Party founder John Reed. O'Neill brought to American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. His plays were among the first to include speeches in American vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair.

O'Neill's first published play, Beyond the Horizon, opened on Broadway in 1920 to great acclaim, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His first major hit was The Emperor Jones, which also ran on Broadway in 1920, and obliquely commented on the U.S. occupation of Haiti that was a topic of debate in that year's presidential election.  His best-known plays include Anna Christie (Pulitzer Prize 1922), Desire Under the Elms (1924), Strange Interlude (Pulitzer Prize 1928), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), and his only well-known comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, a wistful re-imagining of his youth. In 1936, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. After a ten-year hiatus, O'Neill's now-renowned play The Iceman Cometh was produced in 1946. The following year, A Moon for the Misbegotten failed to make an impression, but decades later gained recognition as being among his best works.

O'Neill suffered from many illnesses in his life, including alcoholism and depression, and Parkinsons-like tremors took away his ability to write the last 10 years of his life, leaving many scripts unfinished. He died (also in a hotel room) in Boston, Mass., in 1953. Both Iceman and Moon were heavily autobiographical in nature, as was Long Day's Journey Into Night, widely considered to be his finest, but published and produced posthumously. Although his written instructions had stipulated that it not be made public until 25 years after his death, it was published in 1956 and produced on stage to tremendous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. Other posthumously-published works include A Touch of the Poet (1958) and More Stately Mansions (1967).

Harley Hammerman (July 22, 1949 - ) was born in St. Louis, son of Irv and Selene Hammerman. He graduated from University City High School, where he met his wife, Marlene, in 1967. He obtained his undergraduate (A.B., 1971) and medical (M.D., 1975) degrees at Washington University in St. Louis. Hammerman completed his diagnostic radiology residency at Jewish Hospital and Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (1975-1979). While serving as staff radiologist at SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis in the 1980s, Hammerman conceived the idea to start his own company. In 1994, Metro Imaging was born. Sold to Mercy in 2018, Hammerman continues to serve as president.

Hammerman collected rocks, stamps, and coins as a boy, but by the time he was 17, his passion for collecting Eugene O’Neill began with the purchase of a first edition of Ah, Wilderness! at the St. Louis Book Fair. After 35 years of amassing the largest O’Neill archive in private hands, Hammerman launched In 2018, Hammerman sold his O’Neill collection to Washington University in St. Louis, creating the second-largest O’Neill collection at an institution.

Hammerman married Marlene in 1971. They have three children, Adam, Zachary and Abigail, and three grandsons, Calvino, Masa and Levi. Hammerman currently focuses his attention on his website, Lost Tables, documenting the culinary history of St. Louis.

Method of Acquisition

Accession number 23001. Gift of Harley Hammerman. Originally laid in The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill.  PS3529 N5 I3 1946

Accession number MSS2018-027. Purchase and gift of Harley Hammerman, December 7, 2018.

Separated Materials

Three hundred sixty-nine books and other publications have been cataloged separately. Click here to see these records.

Harley Hammerman Collection on Eugene O’Neill
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 26: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495