Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Jack Kerouac papers, 1945-1971. 

Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969.
Phys. Desc: 
.5 linear ft. (1 document box)
Call Number: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

Jack Kerouac, born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, was born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts to French Canadian parents. Kerouac spent much of his youth engaged in sports and other physical activities. His athletic prowess earned him a football scholarship to Columbia University where he matriculated in 1940, but he left Columbia in the Fall of 1941 after sustaining an injury that left him unable to play football. Upon leaving the University Kerouac joined the Merchant Marine and later the US Navy, but retained close ties to members of the Columbia community. He lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side with his girlfriend, later first wife, Barnard student Edie Parker and her friend Joan Vollmer. It was through Parker that Kerouac met Columbia students Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr and their friends William Burroughs and Herbert Huncke. This group of friends and writers which would later form the nucleus of the Beat Generation, was the inspiration for much of Kerouac's work. Kerouac married Edie Parker in 1944 and moved with her to her home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but their marriage lasted less than a year. Upon the annulment of the marriage, Kerouac returned to New York and his bohemian friends and began to write the novel which would become The Town and the City-- this novel, Kerouac's first, was published in 1950 to mild acclaim. Kerouac's next novel, One the Road proved to be much more commercially and critically successful. This novel, published in 1957 documents a trip Kerouac took across the US and Northern Mexico with Neal Cassady. This fictionalized account of Kerouac and his friends introduced the beats to America solidified the image of the beatnik with his interest in sexual freedom, jazz, and drug use in the popular imagination. Though Kerouac's goal had long been to be a writer, the success of On the Road never sat entirely well with its author. Kerouac continued to write his thinly veiled autobiographical novels chronicling his bohemian, literary circle of friends, but in his personal life he began to pull away from the public eye and distance himself from his Beat Generation associated. He moved to Northport, Long Island to care for his aging parents and growing more personally and politically conservative. Kerouac died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1969.

Scope and Contents

This is a collection of material related to Jack Kerouac pulled together from various sources and donors. It includes correspondence and ephemera as well as manuscripts of small poems and prose fragments and proofs of Desolation Angels and Tristessa.