Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi
on March 26, 1911, the son of Cornelius C. Williams a shoe salesman and Edwina
Dakin the daughter of an Episcopalian minister. Williams received a BA from the
University of Iowa in 1938 and, supported by odd jobs, set out immediately to
become a writer. He first gained fame with The Glass Menagerie in 1945.
The play drew on his family experience, as would much of his subsequent
writings--an absent father, an eccentric Southern belle mother, a shy troubled
sister, all seen through the eyes of the sensitive artist brother.
The Glass Menagerie was followed by a succession of hits which securely
established Williams' reputation as a major American playwright. He won the
Pulitzer Prize for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and Cat on a Hot
Tin Roof in 1955. The Rose Tattoo, shown here in an early draft,
received the Tony Award for best play in 1951. The Rare Book and Manuscript
Library began collecting Tennessee Williams materials in the 1970s, and by 1990
had acquired a substantial collection of scripts, production material,
photographs and correspondence. The largest part of the collection, including
the pair of black glasses shown here, was purchased from the Tennessee Williams
estate in 1994 and consists primarily of material found in his Key West house
following his death.