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John Corbin, Theater Papers

Identifier: MS-0011

Scope and Contents

The papers of John Corbin relate to his career as an author and drama critic. They consist of correspondence to and from Corbin, manuscripts and published articles by Corbin, research notes and subject files related to his writings, news clippings of book reviews, legal contracts and agreements, and several photographs. The correspondence in the collection includes personal letters between Corbin and family members as well as business correspondence with magazine editors and publishing companies. Also included in the correspondence are letters from Herbert Hoover, Abby (Mrs. John) Rockefeller, and federal court judge Learned Hand. The bulk of the collection consists of manuscript drafts of books and articles, most of which were never published. The majority of the writings are fictional works, with a few manuscripts relating to the life of William Shakespeare. The collection also includes several folders of research notes and other background materials compiled by Corbin. Most of the files relate to his research on the life of William Shakespeare, but one folder of information on the inscription of Mount Rushmore contains correspondence with Calvin Coolidge. The photographs in the collection include a number of John Corbin, several of his wife Amy, and one of Corbin and various dignitaries and members of high society at a meeting in Bar Harbor, Maine. The Corbin papers document the career of John Corbin and provide insights into early 20th Century dramatic criticism.


  • 1894-1956


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Chicago on 2 May 1870, John Corbin was the fifth child of Calvin Rich Corbin and Caroline Elizabeth Fairfield Corbin. At the age of 18, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and entered Harvard College in the fall of 1888. He graduated with a B.A. degree in English in 1892 and a M.A. in 1893. His graduate study focused on Shakespeare and dramatic literature. From 1893 to 1894, he worked as editor of Outing magazine. For one year, Corbin attended Baloil College at Oxford University where he turned his master's thesis into a publishable monograph. In the spring of 1895, Scribner's in New York published The Elizabethan Hamlet.

Corbin returned to the United States and served as an instructor at Harvard for the 1896-1897 school year. He then resigned from this position and went to work as an assistant editor of Harper's Magazine. He wrote his first dramatic criticism for Harper's Magazine and Harper's Weekly. During his time at Harper's, Corbin met Amy Foster. They married on 1 November 1899 and remained together for the next sixty years. In 1900 Corbin went to work for the Encyclopedia Britannica and began work on another book. Corbin focused on his experiences at Oxford, which appear in An American at Oxford, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1902. In addition to his work, Corbin also wrote a number of free-lance articles for The New York Times, Scribner's Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and The Forum.

From 1902 to 1904 Corbin worked as a drama critic for The New York Times. He left the position at The New York Times in December 1904 and went to work for The New York Sun. He remained at the Sun until the summer of 1907. Corbin worked on numerous free-lance articles for The Saturday Evening Post, which Houghton Mifflin republished in book form in 1908 with the title, Which College for the Boy?. On 20 July 1908 Corbin became Literary Director of the New Theatre, a repertory theater founded by W. K. Vanderbilt, J. P. Morgan, John J. Astor, and other members of New York's high society. He resigned as director in 1910, and the New Theatre closed one year later.

Corbin went back to free-lance writing, as well as to writing and producing plays, after leaving the New Theatre. He acted as secretary for the Drama Society in New York from 1913 to 1916. In 1917 Corbin returned to The New York Times as a drama critic and remained there until 1925. After leaving the Times he devoted the next four years to studying American History. His research led to the publication of a biography of George Washington, titled The Unknown Washington, in 1930. Corbin continued as a free-lance writer for the remainder of his life. During his career he authored a total of twelve books and over one hundred articles and reviews.

John and Amy Corbin moved into a convalescent home in Briarcliff Manor, New York, in the fall of 1957. Amy Corbin passed away in the spring of 1959. John Corbin died a few months later on 30 August 1959.


2.8 Linear Feet (6 boxes, 3 OS folders)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Clark, David M. John Corbin: Dramatic Critic. Lincoln, NE; University of Nebraska - Lincoln, 1976

Corbin, John. School Boy Life in England. An American View. New York; Harper and Brothers,  1898

____________.Husband: a Comedy in Three Acts. 1900

____________.An American at Oxford. Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1902

____________. College for the Boy? Leading Types in American Education.. Boston; Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1908

____________. The Return of the Middle Class. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,  1922

____________. Unknown Washington; Biographic Origins of the Republic. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930

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Repository Details

Part of the Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries Repository

Archives & Special Collections
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries
P.O. Box 884100
Lincoln NE 68588-4100 United States