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Rex Stout papers

Collection MS-1986-096: Rex Stout papers


  • Creation: 1907-1980, undated
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1939 - 1975

Scope and Contents

The Rex Stout papers document Stout’s family life, political activism, and writing career. This includes the writing, publication, and adaptation of his successful Nero Wolfe novels and short stories, as well as other fiction and nonfiction works in print and for radio. His membership and leadership in political and literary organizations such as the Authors' Guild and the Authors' League of America, the Baker Street Irregulars, Freedom House, the Screen Writers' Guild, the Society for the Prevention of World War III, the Writers' War Board, and the Writers Board for World Government is well documented. Also represented are materials about the planning and construction of his family’s Connecticut estate, High Meadow, and his hobbies, such as gardening and cooking.

Materials include artwork, booklets, carbon copies, certificates, contact prints, comic strips, correspondence, dust jackets, galley proofs, floorplans, ledgers, manuscripts, negatives, posters, radio scripts, transcripts, and typescripts.

Some of the topics covered in the collection include the Hollywood Blacklist, cooking, communism, gardening, global politics, mystery and detective fiction, unions, and World War II. Items of special interest include correspondence from the actress Marlene Dietrich, writers Upton Sinclair and Phlip José Farmer, and mathematician Norbert Wiener.


Language of Materials

Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with television scripts in Italian.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Rex Stout was an American author best known for his detective fiction. He was born December 1, 1886 in Noblesville, Indiana, the sixth of nine children. In 1887 his parents, John and Lucetta Stout, bought a forty-acre farm south of Topeka, Kansas, where Stout grew up. As a young man, Stout tried several trades, including bookkeeping (with a stint in the Navy as a bookkeeper on Theodore Roosevelt’s yacht), ushering at an opera house in Topeka, studying law, and working as a cigar store clerk. He also traveled around the United States and began to work seriously at writing.

Stout published serialized novels and short stories throughout the 1910s, mostly in All Story magazine, but took a break from writing in 1916 when he settled in New York City, married Fay Kennedy, and started a savings and loan business for students with his brother, called the Educational Thrift Service (ETS), which he left in 1929. He and Fay spend the next couple of years in Europe. He worked on the first of several "straight" novels he would produce, How Like a God (1929). He published several more novels in this vein. In 1931, he and Fay divorced. The next year he married Pola Weinbach Hoffman, a textile designer, and together they had two daughters, Barbara (1933) and Rebecca (1937).

In 1934, Stout wrote his first novel featuring the characters Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin, Fer-de-Lance. For the next four decades, he dedicated his career to writing the Nero Wolfe series. During that time, Stout wrote seventy-two Wolfe novels and novellas, which spawned several radio, television, and film adaptations, and built the dedicated fan base that would later become the Wolfe Pack. In 1969, he received the crime-fiction award, the Silver Dagger, from the Crime Writers' Association.

Stout was involved in the operation of many professional organizations, among them the Authors’ Guild and Authors’ League of America (both of which he served as president), the Dramatists Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the Screen Writers’ Guild, and the Radio Writers Guild. He was also a lead figure in several political groups. During World War II he was chairman of the Writers’ War Board. He helped to found the Fight for Freedom Committee and Freedom House and gave a series of radio broadcasts concerning Axis propaganda called "Our Secret Weapon." Following the war he continued his political activism by helping to found and serving as president of both the Society for the Prevention of World War III and the Writers Board for World Government.

Rex Stout died on October 27, 1975 at the age of 89 at his estate, High Meadow, in Connecticut.


Anderson, David R. Rex Stout. New York: F. Ungar, 1984.

Erickson, Scott W. "Stout, Rex.” In American National Biography Online, February 2000,

McAleer, John J. Rex Stout: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977.


33.25 Linear Feet (67 containers)


The Rex Stout papers concern the family life, writings, and political activism of detective novelist Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe series. The collection consists of artwork, booklets, carbon copies, certificates, contact prints, comic strips, correspondence, dust jackets, galley proofs, floorplans, ledgers, manuscripts, negatives, posters, radio scripts, transcripts, and typescripts.


The Rex Stout papers are arranged into four series: I. Literary Life; II. Personal Ephemera; III. Political Activism; and IV. Subject Files.

Series I is arranged into six subseries: A. Literary Ephemera; B. Literary Works; C. Professional Organizations; D. Publicity; E. Publishers; and F. Rights and Royalties. Subseries B is arranged into three sub-subseries: 1. Fiction; 2. Nonfiction; and 3. Poetry. Subseries D. is arranged into three sub-subseries: 1. Bibliographical and Biographical Notes; 2. Newspaper Clippings; and 3. Photographs.

Series III is arranged into five subseries: A. The Myth That Threatens the World Theatrical Production; B. Organizations; C. Radio Broadcast Transcripts; D. Works by Others; and E. Writings.

The series are arranged alphabetically, except for Series I. Literary Works subseries B. Fiction sub-subseries 2. Nonfiction, which is arranged chronologically.


Gift of Barbara Stout Selleck and Rebecca Stout Bradbury, 1980.

Related Materials

Ed Price collection of Rex Stout, MS.2018.057, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

John J. McAleer papers, BC.1995.016, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Judson C. Sapp papers and collection of Rex Stout, MS.1996.022, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

This collection included Rex Stout's personal library. These books have been transferred to the John J. Burns Library book collections, alongside the newsletters of the Society for the Prevention of World War III that were among Stout's papers. All of these materials can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Processing Information

The Rex Stout papers were first made available to researchers in 1992. In 2016, the collection was reprocessed to current archival standards. Original order has been maintained wherever possible.

Rex Stout papers
1907-1980 (bulk 1930-1975)
Annalisa Moretti
June 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States