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[Official Business]

Harper’s Contributors at the Ransom Center

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The Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which possesses one of the most impressive literary archives in the United States, has an exhibition opening this week focused on an interesting set of signatures from Manhattan’s literary scene during the early 1920s:

“The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920–1925 uses an unusual artifact, Frank Shay’s bookshop door signed by over 240 writers, artists, actors, and publishers, to recreate the intersecting communities that made the Village an epicenter of American modernism.”

The Ransom Center pointed out to us the names of four Harper’s Magazine contributors who signed the door. Harry Hansen and Scudder Middleton only wrote a handful of Harper’s pieces between them, but the other two, Ben Ray Redman and Mary Heaton Vorse were frequent contributors. Subscribers can read their pieces by following the links above. For everyone, a taste of Scudder’s verse:

OVERHEAD

WHEN you and I are laid away
    In little boxes under grass,
What will the townsmen say of us
    When overhead they smile and pass?
 
“She was a lovely, quiet thing
    Who kept her house so neat and gay.
She was as much in love with life
    As she is satisfied to-day.”
 
“He was the brightest man we had;
    He kept us laughing till he died.
It seemed he only had to speak,
    And we would chuckle at his side.”
 
Then you and I will rap the boards
    And call in language of the dead—
But there’ll be nothing we can do
    To stop that chatter overhead.
 

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All of the Harper’s writers represented on the door, you’ll note, have superbly literary names — surpassed only, perhaps, by those of their fellow signatories Bosworth Crocker, Rutger Bleecker Jewett, and Egmont Arens. As for the most outlandish name on the door, “John Dos Passos,” we seriously doubt such a person existed.

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