The Stephen Crane Collection
Before Its Acquisition By Columbia: A Memoir
LILLIAN B. GILKES
(/" ]J ^HE strange disappearance from Cora Crane's Court Hotel
in Jacksonville of the papers, manuscripts, books from
the library at Brede Place which Stephen Crane's widow
brought over from England and kept together until her death,
and which later became Columbia University's great Stephen
Crane Collection, remains a mystery ringed with scandal and con¬
tinues to pose a challenge to Crane studies. Also, there is growing
evidence for the belief of some scholars that not all of the materials
Cora had in her possession are actually in the Collection.
^^'here are they? And who had the present collection before it
got to Columbia?
This paper, alas, provides no answers to the first of these ques¬
tions. As to the second, it will attempt to sketch what happened,
utilizing information pieced together from various sources over
a period of almost two decades, particularly from conversations
with the late Joseph Matron, Director of the Jacksonville Free
Public Library, and its Reference Librarian Audrey Broward who
introduced me to Henry W. Walters—one of the chief protagon¬
ists in this mystery drama.
The usual story is that the mass of books and papers was hidden
in "an old trunk" purchased for $500.00 by the Assistant Librarian
at Jacksonville, Carl Bohnenberger, and a local businessman,
Norman Mitchell Hill. This is what Hill, who handled the sale to
Columbia, told the late Roland Baughman, who journeyed to Cali¬
fornia to inspect the collection then stored at the Huntington Li¬
brary. It had been offered there, and rejected because the asking
price was considered exorbitant.
Hill's silent partner in the Columbia transaction ^vas Henry