Eshleman Family Papers, 1890 - 1985 (MSS 177)

Access: Three original scrapbooks are restricted because of their fragile condition. Researchers may use the photocopy scrapbooks provided in FB-004 as substitutes.

Extent: 3 Linear feet (5 archives boxes, 1 flat box)

Documents, covering the period 1890-1985, of the family of Clayton Eshleman, writer, editor and translator. Includes correspondence between Clayton and his parents and between Clayton and his first wife Barbara; an extensive collection of family photographs; the family's school, church and financial records; and scrapbooks from Clayton's childhood.

Clayton Eshleman, reknowned poet, translator, and editor, was born June 1, 1935, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of Gladys and Ira Eshleman. His childhood was spent in Indianapolis,and he attended the University of Indiana. After graduating from the university, he travelled to Mexico, Central and South America, and Japan.

During his early years, Eshleman was a musician, boy scout, and football star. He first majored in Music at Indiana University but eventually changed his program to Philosophy, earning a degree in that field in 1958. In 1961 he received a Master of Arts for Teachers from Indiana University, married Barbara Novak, and had his first book of poetry, MEXICO AND NORTH, published. Eshleman spent the next three years in Japan, teaching and studying. In 1965 the Eshlemans moved to Lima, Peru, where their son Matthew was born in 1966. That same year, the family moved to New York City, and soon after, Eshleman separated from his wife and child.

The collection documents the family background and early years of Clayton Eshleman, American post-war writer, editor, and translator. The documents also shed light on the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s, a period in which Clayton Eshleman, like many young Americans at the time, rejected the values and lifestyles of the previous generation, crossed former boundaries, and, in doing so, helped to create a new American culture. This break would be essential to Eshleman's development as an artist, and exploring the rupture would be a constant theme part of his later work as a translator of international poets and editor of the influential journal SULFUR.

The Eshleman Family Papers document to some degree Clayton Eshleman's development as a writer. Several facets of the process are reflected in the collection. The young Clayton Eshleman, seen in the SCRAPBOOKS (1940-57) compiled by his mother, is a boy scout, newspaper carrier, church member, and football and track star. College papers, included in the series FAMILY RECORDS - SCHOOL, show his developing interest in poetry. PHOTOGRAPHS and CORRESPONDENCE of the decade following his graduation from college show his marriage to home-state university sweetheart Barbara Novak and an expressed belief in "commitment" to family as well as to work. The collection contains one portrait of his second wife Caryl and another of his son Matthew as an adolescent, but the papers in effect end with the dissolution of his first marriage and his abandonment of the values of his childhood. Clayton's essay in CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS (included in the series FAMILY RECORDS - BIOGRAPHICAL) provides a written narrative to these documents and reveals the importance that Clayton gave to his early years.

The Eshleman Family Papers are divided into seven series: 1) FAMILY RECORDS, 2) DIARIES AND NOTEBOOKS, 3) DRAWINGS, 4) SCRAPBOOKS, 5) PHOTOGRAPHS, 6) CORRESPONDENCE, and 7) EPHEMERA.

Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) FAMILY RECORDS: Divided into five subseries: 1A) Biographical, 1B) Financial, 1C) Medical, 1D) Church, and 1E) School. The Biographical subseries contains a family memoir of Clayton's grandfather Joseph Eshleman and Clayton's essay in the CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS AUTOBIOGRAPHY SERIES. The Financial subseries contains Clayton's father Ira's extensive records of family income and expenditures, organized by decade, as well as receipts from Clayton's childhood financial endeavors. The Medical Records contain Clayton's birth certificate and recent doctor's notes. The Church Records include Clayton's baptism record, degrees from Vacation Bible School, and the family's church membership. The School records include Ira Eshleman's 1914 application to Purdue University and Clayton's elementary report cards, high school and university diplomas, and college papers on literary subjects.

Biographical Materials

Box 1 Folder 1
Short Sketch of the Life of Joseph Eshleman, Jr.
Box 1 Folder 2
Clayton Eshleman - "Indiana Avenue"

Autobiographical article

Oversize FB-004 Folder 4
Eshelman family reunion news item (1901) and family photographs, ca. 1900, and 1935

Church Materials

Box 1 Folder 4
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1944
Box 1 Folder 5
Gladys Eshleman, 1944
Box 1 Folder 6
Clayton Eshleman, 1935 - 1957

Financial Materials

Box 1 Folder 7
Joseph Eshleman, 1904 - 1926
Box 1 Folder 8
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1923 - 1945
Box 1 Folder 8
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1923 - 1945
Box 1 Folder 9
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1931 - 1938
Box 1 Folder 10
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1939 - 1948
Box 1 Folder 11
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1949 - 1958
Box 1 Folder 12
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1959 - 1969
Box 2 Folder 1
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1970
Box 2 Folder 2
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1941 - 1967
Box 2 Folder 3
Ira Clayton Eshleman -- Miscellaneous Receipts
Box 2 Folder 4
Clayton Eshleman, 1947

Medical Materials

Box 2 Folder 5
Clayton Eshleman, 1935 - 1984

School Materials

Box 2 Folder 6
Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1914
Box 2 Folder 7
Clayton Eshleman, 1939 - 1953
Box 2 Folder 8
Clayton Eshleman, 1945 - 1955
Box 2 Folder 9
Clayton Eshleman, 1951 - 1952
Box 2 Folder 10
Clayton Eshleman, 1953
Box 2 Folder 11
Clayton Eshleman, 1958


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) DIARIES AND NOTEBOOKS: Contains diaries kept by Clayton's mother Gladys during her pregnancy with Clayton; a few pages of notes by Clayton while in Houston, Texas, and Mexico; and his father's records from the slaughterhouse where he worked.

Box 3 Folder 1
Ira Clayon Eshleman, 1941 - 1964
Box 3 Folder 2
Gladys Eshleman, 1935, 1946
Box 3 Folder 3
Clayton Eshleman, 1940, 1947-1950
Box 3 Folder 4
Clayton Eshleman, 1959


Scope and Content of Series

Series 3) DRAWINGS: Contains cartoons made by Clayton as a child.

Box 3 Folder 5
Drawings by Eshleman


Scope and Content of Series

Series 4) SCRAPBOOKS: Include three large memento books kept by Clayton's mother from his early childhood through high school. They include cards received and sent by Clayton, drawings, Boy Scout records, football and band notices, and photographs.

Oversize FB-004 Folder 1
Scrapbook 1

Original restricted due to fragility of materials. This item is a user copy.

Oversize FB-004 Folder 2
Scrapbook 2

Original restricted due to fragility of materials. This item is a user copy.

Oversize FB-004 Folder 3
Scrapbook 3

Original restricted due to fragility of materials. This item is a user copy.


Scope and Content of Series

Series 5) PHOTOGRAPHS: Extensively documents the middle-class life of Clayton and his parents during the period 1920-1950, as well as the late-nineteenth century, rural, midwestern lives of his grandparents. One tintype is contained in the series (Box 4, folder 4); a second tintype is cross-referenced to the photograph archive in Box 1, folder 11.

Photo Albums

Box 3 Folder 6
Eshleman Family Photo Album, 1890 - 1910
Box 3 Folder 7-11
Eshleman Family Photo Album, 1915 - 1922
Oversize FB-004 Folder 5
Eshleman Family Photo Album, 1917 - 1923
Box 4 Folder 1
Eshleman Family Photo Album, 1917 - 1936
Box 4 Folder 2
Eshleman Family Photo Album, 1940 - 1949
Box 4 Folder 3
Eshleman Family Photo Album, 1940 - 1949

Eshleman Family Prints

Box 4 Folder 4-5
Eshleman Family, 1890 - 1910
Box 4 Folder 6-7
Eshleman Family, 1910 - 1930
Box 5 Folder 1
Eshleman Family, 1930 - 1950
Box 5 Folder 2-3
Eshleman Family, 1950 - 1970
Box 5 Folder 4
Eshleman Family, 1970 - 1985


Scope and Content of Series

Series 6) CORRESPONDENCE: Largely comprised of letters written during the early 1960s when Clayton was first away from Indiana for long periods of time. It also includes a 1918 employment letter to Clayton's father, a telegram from Clayton in Lima, Peru, to his parents announcing the birth of his son Matthew, and a telegram from Clayton in Florida to his mother reporting that he had been robbed "in a Cuban hotel" and asking her to wire money soon.

Box 5 Folder 7
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Eshleman to Glady and Ira Eshleman (Clayton's parents), 1940
Box 5 Folder 8
Employment Letter to Ira Clayton Eshleman (Clayton's father), 1918
Box 5 Folder 9
Ira Clayton Eshleman to Clayton Eshleman, 1955
Box 5 Folder 10
Gladys Eshleman to Clayton Eshleman


Box 5 Folder 11
Miscellaneous Cards to Gladys Eshleman
Box 5 Folder 12
Clayton Eshleman to Ira Clayton Eshleman, 1944
Box 5 Folder 13
Clayton Eshleman to Gladys Eshleman
Box 5 Folder 14
Clayton Eshleman to Gladys and Ira Clayton Eshleman
Box 5 Folder 15
Clayton Eshleman -- Miscellaneous
Box 5 Folder 16
Barbara Novak (Clayton's first wife) to Gladys Eshleman, 1961
Box 5 Folder 17
Barbara Novak to Clayton Eshleman, 1962
Box 5 Folder 18
Address Books -- Gladys Eshleman
Box 5 Folder 19
Address Books -- Clayton Eshleman
Box 5 Folder 20
Address Books -- Clayton Eshleman


Scope and Content of Series

Series 7) EPHEMERA: Includes personal items such as a stained Mexican newspaper, a napkin from Clayton and Barbara's marriage, and Clayton's numerology chart.

Box 5 Folder 21
Miscellaneous Ephemera
Box 5 Folder 22
Sheet music and miscellaneous materials