Columbus State University Archives

Carson McCullers' Collection

The Carson McCullers Timeline

This timeline shows signifcant points of McCullers' life. It was written by her friend Dr. Mary Mercer. It begins in 1936 with her marraige to Reeves McCullers, and it ends with her death in September of 1967.

Carson's Menu While Fying Across the Atlantic

This menu for Carson's dinner on her flight across the Atlantic. It contains a flower, a written message from McCullers to one of her closest friends, Mary Mercer, and a more legible translation by her assistant. This artifact is of importance because it shows how terrible McCullers' health was near the end of her life where she was having difficulty legibly writing and had to have an assistant to help. It also shows the great relationship that she and Mary Mercer had. McCullers took time to write the message, even though she was in poor health at the time, enclose a flower, and then send it by international mail just to let Mary Mercer know how she was doing.

Carson & Mary

These artifacts  are letters between Mary Mercer and Carson McCullers that show a more intimate side of their relationship. In the first letter, Carson wrote to her about her book and how she was doing, even sending a flower along with her letter to Mary from Nyack, N.Y.  On the same stationary, Carson writes a birthday card to Mary Mercer with a simple heart addressed to "dear mary" which shows how deep their relationship ran beyond just doctor and patient. A telegram written to Mary Mercer from Carson McCullers shows Carson's excitement for Mary to come home to her and expresses how happy she is as "your happy Carson." A poem was written along with the letter describing two people drawn together like a musician merges two strings in a single voice. The last artifact is a telegram that is addressed to Mary that simply states Carson's love and gratitude towards Mary.

Mercer to Fletcher

This letter was written by Dr. Mary Mercer to Jack Fletcher, an employee of United Press International, who she was told may have been able to help her obtain a copy of a very specific picture of Carson McCullers. It was written after McCullers’ death, and truly showed the extent of Mercer’s dedication to her. She sent several letters to four different people over the course of about a month and a half, just trying to get a copy of a picture of McCullers. In one of the other letters, she described it as the picture where McCullers was holding her hands above her head. Unfortunately, a copy of a photo fitting this description was not found in the folder in which this letter was found. Her sense of urgency and longing to own a copy of this picture indicates that she had an immense love for McCullers in some way. It seems that the nature of relationship was certainly much more than just one between a doctor and patient; one may even infer that it was much more than just a friendship as well.

Reeves to Carson

This letter was written by Reeves to Carson McCullers in 1953 when he was in Bachivillers. Reeves’s is Carson McCullers husband. They married the first time in September 1937 and got a divorce in 1941. She remarried him in 1945 and during 1953 she was in the process of getting a divorce from him. In this letter, it shows that Reeves cares about Carson a lot and he gave her a choice of getting a divorce or not. He stated in his letter that he is very close to her and he will never stop loving her if even they get a divorce. He was also very concerned about her health and didn’t want her to have any stress. Even though Reeves and Carson McCullers had a very difficult love life due to a fact that both were bisexual, they still love each other dearly.

Beyond the Borders

Carson Mccullers’ reach with her work went far beyond the borders of her own country. This is a letter from a man who read her book and connected with it personally which allowed him to get through an extreme hardship. It was found in a scrapbook a that a friend of Mccullers made in order to document her life. The letter was one of the few that she apparently held onto dearly.

McCullers' Therapy Sessions

Transcripts from therapy sessions that detail McCullers’ relationship with James Reeves.

McCullers' Medical History

In regards to the medical report, the main takeaways are her several surgeries in removing a tumor and her bouts with pneumonia. With her medical proceedings, one can reason that struggles that her characters go through, especially those that are medically-related, stem from McCullers’ own experiences.

McCullers' Will & Estate Account

Carson McCullers holds a prominent place in Columbus, Georgia’s history, and the extent of her legacy can be seen through her will and estate accounting completed by Floria V. Lasky. A small portion of her will and estate accounting are shown here. McCullers chose to will her possessions to her brother Lamar Smith, Jr., her dear friend Dr. Mary Mercer, her sister Rita, and a few other significant people in her life. McCullers’ deep devotion to the people around her is shown through her will. Within McCullers’ will, the estate accounting is included. The royalties from each copy sold of McCullers’ book are listed, and at the very end there is a Statement of Property Remaining on Hand which includes $71,754.41 (1967’s USD value) worth in “books, movie rights, and literary properties”; today, that amount is worth nearly seven times as much as it was in 1967. Her royalties and literary properties may seem like just a number, but in actuality these numbers speak to how successful she was as an author and how impressive she was as a human being.

Carson McCullers Home Enchants Young Tenant

This artifact follow the home McCullers had in Nyack and the woman who temporarily stayed with her, June Griesbach and her experience during her stay. 

This envelope was originally mailed by Carl van Vechten to Carson McCullers when she was living in Nyack, New York. Carl van Vechten was a writer and an artistic photographer. He photographed man famous individuals like Salvador Dalí, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Zora Neale Hurston, and Frida Kahlo. Though many of his photographs of Carson herself, and the other famous individuals that he previously had taken pictures of,  contain some measure of dramatic posing or purposeful arrangement of the background, the pictures taken of both Carson McCullers and Mary Mercer together seem rather candid and as if a fleeting moment of warm friendship had been captured for all time. There was great speculation about their relationship with one another, but what most certainly holds true is that they both deeply cared for one another.  

McCullers' Last Years

The relationship of Carson McCullers between partly her parents & Mary Mercer

The artifacts chosen include a newspaper article on the city in New York where Carson McCullers finished the remaining of her years. My second PDF above shows a letter from Carson to Mary Mercer. As I was searching through all the letters, this is one to be if not the last, one of the last written before her passing. The reason I've chosen to explore into Carson McCullers life in New York is because I find it very important that this is where she lived after losing her father, her mother had even moved to live with her. This is also where she was living when she met Mary Mercer which leads to the letter. Another reason for my choices is I have become very familiar with Carson's life in Columbus that this could likely benefit a lot on her life in New York!

Carson McCullers' Collection