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Collection Number: CW1

Collection Title: John Skally Terry Papers on Thomas Wolfe and Other Materials, 1917-1953

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.


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Size About 1200 items
Abstract John Skally Terry, born in Rockingham, N.C., in 1894, entered the University of North Carolina in 1914. As an undergraduate, he was active in student publications and became a friend of Thomas Wolfe. While living in New York in the early 1920s, Terry renewed his friendship with Wolfe, joining Wolfe as a member of the English faculty at New York University in 1925. After Wolfe's death in 1938, Terry became a close friend of Wolfe's mother, Julia E. Wolfe, and worked with her on Thomas Wolfe's Letters to His Mother (Scribner's, 1943). Selected by Maxwell Perkins and the Wolfe family to write a biography of Thomas Wolfe, Terry compiled a great deal of material about Wolfe. There was, however, no manuscript of the biography found among Terry's papers after his death in 1953. The collection chiefly contains material compiled by John Skally Terry during the years he was working on a biography of Thomas Wolfe. Original correspondence is primarily between Terry and Wolfe's friends, relatives, and acquaintances from whom Terry solicited anecdotes and reminiscences. There are a few postcards from Thomas Wolfe to Terry and one autograph letter written from London in 1935 from Wolfe to Terry. On a trip to the western United States in 1940, Terry interviewed doctors who had cared for Wolfe in 1938, and Terry reported on those interviews in letters to his sister. Also included are typed copies and photocopies of letters to and from Thomas Wolfe and of correspondence among other members of the Wolfe family; 15 typed responses by Maxwell Perkins to Terry's questions about Wolfe and his work; a few notes by Julia E. Wolfe and some notes about her; and transcripts of Terry's interviews with Julia E. Wolfe, which were recorded on a dictaphone machine (tapes not accessible). Terry founded the Thomas Wolfe Biography Club of New York University, and minutes of the Club's meetings are included here. Minutes mention Kathleen and Clayton Hoagland, Belinda Jelliffe, Melville Cane, John Hall Wheelock, Murdoch Dooher, and Madeleine Boyd, among others. Terry also had his New York University students search out and interview Wolfe's former students, and correspondence and interviews with these students are in the collection. There are also materials relating to Wolfe's student days at the University of North Carolina; scholarly works about Wolfe; note cards Terry kept for the Wolfe biography; clippings; and other items.
Creator Terry, John Skally, 1894-1953.
Language English
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Information For Users

Restrictions to Access
All users must first obtain permission from the curator of the North Carolina Collection. Researchers must also obtain prior written consent from the administrator of the estate of Thomas Wolfe.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Skally Terry Papers on Thomas Wolfe and Other Materials (#CW1), North Carolina Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
The collection was given to the University of North Carolina by John Terry's family in 1954. The deed of gift and correspondence relating to the transfer of papers are located in Librarian's Papers on Thomas Wolfe (CW4).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online catalogs.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

John Skally Terry was born in Rockingham, N.C., on 19 November 1894, the son of E. Burton and Jennie Skally Terry. He attended Rockingham schools and entered the University of North Carolina in 1914. As an undergraduate, he was active in student publications and became a friend of Thomas Wolfe. He was graduated from the University in 1918 and entered its two-year medical program. In 1920, he transferred back to the study of humanities, and, in 1921, he entered Columbia University. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia in 1922. While living in New York in the early 1920s, Terry renewed his friendship with Thomas Wolfe.

In 1925, Terry joined Wolfe as a member of the English faculty at New York University, a position Terry would hold for the rest of his career. Terry lived in Brooklyn Heights, and when Wolfe moved there in 1931, the two apparently became close friends. After Wolfe's death in 1938, Terry became a close friend of Wolfe's mother, Julia E. Wolfe, and worked with her on Thomas Wolfe's Letters to His Mother (Scribner's, 1943). Terry was selected by Maxwell Perkins and the Wolfe family to write a biography of Thomas Wolfe. Terry compiled a great deal of material about Wolfe, primarily typed and photocopied copies of his letters. There was, however, no manuscript of the biography found among Terry's papers after his death on 30 June 1953.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The John Skally Terry papers contain material compiled by Terry during the years he was working on a biography of Thomas Wolfe. Original correspondence is primarily between Terry and friends, relatives, and acquaintances of Thomas Wolfe from whom Terry solicited anecdotes and reminiscences in preparation for writing his biography of Wolfe. There are a few postcards from Wolfe to Terry and one autograph letter to Terry from Wolfe, written from London in 1935. There are letters to and from members of the Wolfe family and some letters from Terry to his sister, Josephine Terry, written when he was traveling the western United States in the summer of 1940. On that trip, Terry interviewed doctors who had cared for Wolfe in 1938 and reported on those interviews in letters to his sister.

There are typed and photocopied copies of letters to and from Thomas Wolfe. There are also typed and photocopied copies of correspondence of other members of the Wolfe family.

Other material compiled by Terry includes reminiscences and anecdotes written by other people. At Terry's request, Maxwell Perkins wrote 15 typed responses to questions about Wolfe and his work. Perkins also supplied Terry with typed copies of excerpts from Wolfe's letters to his former teacher, Margaret Roberts, and 67 pages of typed copies of reviews, excerpts from letters, and other references to Thomas Wolfe. There are a few notes by Julia E. Wolfe and some notes about her. There are also transcripts of John Terry's interviews with Julia E. Wolfe, which were recorded on a dictaphone machine. The original cylinders are no longer intelligible.

Terry founded the Thomas Wolfe Biography Club of New York University, and minutes of the meetings of the Club are included here. Friends and acquaintances of Thomas Wolfe whose appearances are recorded in the minutes include Kathleen and Clayton Hoagland, Belinda Jelliffe, Melville Cane, John Hall Wheelock, Murdoch Dooher, and Madeleine Boyd. Terry also used the students in his classes at New York University to search out and interview Wolfe's former students. Correspondence and interviews of these students are included here. There is also some material relating to Wolfe's student days at the University of North Carolina.

Terry also collected other reminiscences, personal anecdotes, and scholarly works about Wolfe. In addition, there are many unsorted note cards on which Terry kept notes for the Wolfe biography, clippings, and one box of material that does not relate to Thomas Wolfe.

The Terry family gift included John Terry's personal library of about 4,000 volumes. These volumes were accessioned into the general collection of the library of the University of North Carolina. There is an identifying bookplate in each book.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953.

About 1200 items.
Box 1

Correspondence, 1917-1931 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 1

Box 2

Correspondence, 1932-1935 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 2

Box 3

Correspondence, 1936-April 1937 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 3

Box 4

Correspondence, May 1937-March 1938 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 4

Box 5

Correspondence, April 1938-1940 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 5

Box 6

Correspondence, 1941-1946 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 6

Box 7

Correspondence, 1947-1953 #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 7

Box 8

Correspondence, undated: Arranged alphabetically #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 8

Box 9

Notes and financial records #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 9

Notes by Julia E. Wolfe and John Skally Terry about Thomas Wolfe for Terry's edition of Thomas Wolfe's Letters to his Mother, copies of Wolfe's checkbooks, and financial records.

Box 10

Transcriptions of Terry's recorded interviews with Julia E. Wolfe #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 10

Box 11

Maxwell Perkins #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 11

Perkins's reminiscences of Wolfe; excerpts of Wolfe's letters to Margaret Roberts; and copies of reviews, letters, and other references to Thomas Wolfe compiled by Perkins.

Box 12

Thomas Wolfe Biography Club minutes, interviews with Wolfe's former students, and notes about Wolfe's undergraduate days at the University of North Carolina #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 12

Box 13

Essays, articles, scholarly works, and reminiscences about Thomas Wolfe #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 13

Box 14

Legal documents, copies of Wolfe manuscripts, copies of Bernstein manuscripts #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 14

Box 15

Note cards #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 15

Box 16

Newspaper clippings #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 16

Box 17

Letters and other items not related to Thomas Wolfe #CW1, Series: "John Skally Terry Papers, 1917-1953." Box 17

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Processing Information

Processed by: Frances Weaver, A. Hope Shull, Nicholas Graham, 1998

Encoded by: Benjamin Bromley, January 2009

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