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John and Phyllis Collier Papers

Identifier: LP000141

Scope and Content

The papers, together with the photographs, publications and memorabilia of John and Phyllis Collier, reflect most of the varied activities of their public and personal lives.

Important subjects are: American Labor Party, New York, 1919-1920 Anarchist, Socialist, IWW, Communist, Trotskyite, and various radical, intellectual and political activities E.P.I.C. (End Poverty in California) Ettor-Giovannitti defense in Great Britian (IWW strike in Lawrence, MASS., 1912) Charles Garland-Garland Farm, American Fund for Public Service (Garland Fund), 1920-1926 Helicon Home Colony (Upton Sinclair) 1906-1907 Tom Mooney Defense Sacco and Vanzetti Case Single-Tax and cooperative colonies at Fairhope, Alabama, Arden, Delaware and Coopersburg, Pennsylvania (April Farm) Split among radicals over pacifist attitudes toward World War I Workers Defense League

Among the important correspondents are: Collier and Upton Sinclair, 1907-1934 (Upton Sinclair papers are in the University of Indiana Library) Collier (John Darmstadt) and Floyd Dell, 1926-1939 Collier (John Darmstadt) and Victor F. Calverton (George Goetz), 1927-1936, (Victor F. Calverton papers are in the New York City Public Library) Collier and Roger Baldwin, 1925-1947

Correspondence with the following people appears in the Collier Collection: Abbott, Leonard D., 1913, anarchist, poet and personal friend Aldred, Guy A., 1914, English Syndicalist Alvord, Adeline M., 1936, literary agent for Hollywood studios Ameringer, Siegfriend, 1937, editorial staff, the American Guardian, Oklahoma City, Okla. Arens, Egmont, 1927, editor, New Masses Baldwin, Roger, 1925, (1928), 1935-1937, 1946-1947, personal friend Bell, Tom, 1935-1941, anarchist author, personal friend Berkman, Alexander, 1908, 1915 Boudin, Louis, 1927 Burke, J. Frank, 1940, manager, Station KFVD, Los Angeles Calverton, Victor F. (George Goetz), 1927, (1932), 1935-1936, personal friend Cannon, James P., 1929 Cantor, Harry, 1926, Education director (?), Worker's Party, Boston Chaplin, Ralph, 1935, editor, Industrial Worker Coleman, George W., 1915, Boston School of Social Science Collier, Barron G., 1923-1924, 1931-1932, cousin, advertising executive, New York City Cooper, Lindsey (Pinchon), 1911-1917, 1920 Coryell, John R., 1908 Cowley, Malcolm, 1932 Dana, Henry W., 1926 deCleyre, Voltairine, 1908, anarchist and poetess deFord, Miriam Allen, 1914-1957 Dell, Floyd, 1926-1927, 1935, 1937-1939 Dreiser, Theodore, 1939 Dunne, William F., 1927 Eastman, Max, 1927, 1938 Frankel, J. Allen, 1935, lawyer, Los Angeles Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley, 1921, 1926 Gallagher, Leo, 1937, lawyer, Los Angeles Gargill, S. Leon, doctor, Boston and New York City, personal Friend Garlin, Sender, 1927 (Gellert), Camilla, 1919 Ghent, William J., 1908, 1937 Graham, Marcus, 1935, editor, Man!, California anarchist newspaper Grout, Louis Adams (Floyd), 1916, director, Boston School of Social Science Hall, Charles Cuthbert (to W.A. Collier, Sr.), 1906, president, Union Theological Seminary Hays, Arthur Garfield, 1927 Hook, Sidney, 1935 Howard, Eric (Howard Schaeffle), 1937, personal friend Howatt, David (to Lindsey Cooper), 1912, sometime secretary to Upton Sinclair Lewis, Sinclair, 1937 Lyons, Eugene, (1936?), 1938 (to Phyllis Feningston) Mason, Leland, (1911 or 1912), editor, Boston Globe McKeller, Kenneth, 1913, U.S. Senator, Tennessee Meily, Clarence, 1938 Miller, Bert, 1926, district organizer, Worker's Party, Boston Miller, Fred R., 1932, editor, Left Writers, personal friend Moore, Fred H., 1922, lawyer, Boston Moore, T.E., 1928, editor, One Big Union Bulletin, Winnipeg, Manitoba Nearing, Scott, 1927 Oneal, James, 1927 Pittman, Lucile Moore (Leech), 1908-1913, 1918, 1930 Rosenberg, Alter, 1926, Young Workers League, Boston Russell, Dora, 1927-1928, British feminist Sanger, Margaret, 1916, 1921 Schactman, Max, 1929-1930, 1935 Schmalhausen, Samuel D., 1927 Schnittkind, Henry T., 1927, publisher, the Stratford Company, Boston 1935, editor, the Winchell-Thomas Company, Publishers, Boston Seldes, Gilbert, (1927 or 1928) Shepard, Odell, 1942, author of biography on Bronson Alcott Sifton, Paul P., 1925, 1927 Sinclair, Upton, 1918-1919, 1934 Spector, Herman, 1928, author Stiller, Allen, 1935 Thomas, Norman, 1937, 1939 Tobey, Berkeley G., 1913, business manager, the Masses Trask, Sherwood, 1921 Trotsky, Leon, 1927 (Letter from Collier only) Wicks, Harry M., 1927 Wolfe, Bertram D., 1927

ALSO: Babcock, Orville A., 1920, editor, the Labor News, Watertown, New York, active in the American Labor Party, State of New York Butler, Elizabeth, 1906-1909 Collier, John Thornton, 1927-1957 Crawford, Kate, 1910-1913 Fine, Nathan, 1920, active in the American Labor Party of Greater New York Garland, Charles, 1920-1921, founder of the Garland Fund Garrison, William Lloyd Goldman, Emma Hale, Edward Everett Kimbrough, Mary Craig, 1911-1913 Lawrence, Frieda, 1948 Lewis, Marx, 1922-1967 Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1949 McKeller, Kenneth, 1948, U.S. Senator, Tennessee Moon, Jennie, 1909-1912 Pierce, Faith, 1920, member of the American Labor Party of Greater New York Raoul, William, 1911 Sinclair, Meta, 1907-1929, 1947-1949 Untermeyer, Louis Updegraff, Edith, 1907
Part I: Series Description: Series 1: John Collier (William Armistead Collier, Jr.) Correspondence, notes, literary manuscripts (articles and poems), clippings, and miscellaneous materials relating to Collier's writings and to his various activities and endeavors. The materials have been arranged in a biographical-chronological fashion, beginning with his attendance at Union Theological Seminary, 1905-06, to the posthumous volume of his poetry, In the Wilderness (1948). The explanatory or descriptive notes which the donor, Phyllis Collier, attached to much of the material, have been placed in the pertinent folders.

Series 2: John Collier. The Searcha four-volume unpublished, unbound autobiography. The materials consist of correspondence, clippings, manuscripts of articles and poems, and excerpts from newspaper articles by Collier. Interspersed among these materials are Collier's narratives, including excerpts from his diaries and journals. Many of the items have explanatory notes by Phyllis Collier attached. Each of the volumes follows a particular theme and covers a specific period of time: Vol. I "Rebel and Heretic," 1881-1897. 265 pp. Vol. II "Mystic or Lunatic?," 1896-1913. 335 pp. Vol. Ill "Experimental Living," 1907-1937. 311 pp. Vol. IV "In the Radical Movement," 1905-1948. 341 pp.

Series 3: Phyllis Collier and Upton Sinclar Collier: Correspondence, notes, clippings, and miscellaneous printed materials relating to Mrs. Collier's jobs, activities, and interests. The materials contain information on the Garland Fund, the American Labor Party, and the Farmer-Labor Party. The arrangement is alphabetical by subject; chronological within each subject for the period 1917-1967.

Sinclair: Correspondence, leaflets, clippings, pamphlets, and manuscripts by or about Upton Sinclair. Included are items pertaining to the Charles Garland inheritance, Sinclair's gubernatorial campaigns, and Helicon Home Colony. The materials cover the period 1906-1938 and are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series 4: Pamphlets and Books

Series 5: Photographs and Memorabilia

Series 6: Correspondence: Letters to John Collier from John Thornton Collier, Lindsey Cooper, Kate Crawford, members of Collier's family, Miriam Allen deFord, Mary Craig Kimbrough, Jennie Moon, Lucile Pittman, Meta Sinclair, and others. Also included are copies of letters from Collier to the above correspondents and letters to Phyllis Collier. The correspondence covers the period 1891 to 1967 and is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent.

Series 7: Psychic Phenomena, 1896-1948 Letters, clippings, leaflets, pamphlets, and miscellaneous items relating to psychic phenomena, mediums, spiritualists, and psychical research.

Series 8: General and Miscellaneous Files, 1897-1963: Consisting of correspondence, notes, clippings, legal documents, and books on such subjects as the Collier family property in Memphis, Tenn. (1901-1963); John Collier's sanity trial (1908-1910); and the poetry of John Collier, Miriam Allen deFord, Michael Gold, Lucile Pittman Leech, and others.

Series 9: Notes and Journals More than 100 notebooks consisting of John Collier's Journals and reference and research notes which frequently include commentaries, critiques, and reflections on books, articles, or general topics. The notes cover such topics as agriculture, occultism, natural science, social organization, philosophy, Persia, religion, psychology, spiritualism, psychic phenomena, literature, mysticism, history, biology, socialism, music, and evolution. All of the notebooks are dated and most of them indicate the locale where the notes were made: New York, Boston, University of Tennessee, Germany, Hollywood, etc. They cover the period 1894-1947 and are arranged chronologically.

Series 10: Pamphlets and Books

Series 11: Oversize Materials, 1933-1938 Random issues of various California newspapers.
Part II: Series Description: Series 11: John Armistead Collier, 1887-1975 Subseries A: Biographies, 1874-1975: Biographies of John Armistead Collier, family and friends.

Subseries B: Correspondence, 1887-1945: Correspondence with family and friends. Also included are the Charles Garland letters, 1920-1922.

Subseries C: Personal Files, 1887-1947: Included are documents, employment information, material relating to John Collier's two confinements, and material relating to his political activity.

Subseries D: Literary Works, 1908-1970: Literary works by and referring to, John Collier, family and friends.

Series XII, Phyllis Feningston Collier, 1919-1973: Autobiography, correspondence, diaries, publised work and personal files of Phyllis Collier.


  • 1881 - 1975
  • Majority of material found within 1887 - 1948


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


William Armistead Collier, Jr., a writer and poet, changed his name to John Armistead Collier. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, January 25, 1874, and he died in Sierra Madre, California, September 29, 1947. A biographical sketch written by Phyllis Collier is appended, as well as a biographical sketch written by Collier himself in a letter to Henry W. Dana, February 26, 1926.

John Collier was early attracted to the seminary, but in 1898 was committed to an asylum, by his father, after an alleged attempt on the life of his teacher, Dr. Hale. In 1908, his father again attempted to have him committed on the grounds of insanity, in part because of his ideas on property, anarchism and socialism.

His education and employment were sporatic, and he worked and wrote under many pseudonyms; Nelson Collier, Armistead Nelson Collier, J. Kris Karpenter, and John Darm stadt. He was married three times; 1) 1909, to Lucille Pittman, by whom he had a son, John Thornton Collier, 2) 1911, to Kate Crawford, and 3) 1915, to Miriam Allen deFord. In 1921, without legal sanction, he formed a life-long bond with Phyllis Feningston. He also had a son, Francois Lafitte, by Francoise Lafitte in 1913.

His political and social thinking led him to Upton Sinclair's Helicon Hall (c.) 1907-1908, and to Eden (Single Tax Colony) in Fairhope, Alabama, in 1911. He was also a speaker for the IWW and, later in his life, research director for the American Society for Psychical Research.

Phyllis Feningston Collier was born May 18, 1896, in New York City, and died in Sierra Madre, California, September 19, 1981. In 1917, Phyllis became secretary to John Collier (not John Armistead Collier), organizer of the Cooper Union Institute and the New York Training School for Community Center Workers. In 1919, she joined the Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accounting Union, AFL, later becoming its organizer. In 1919, Phyllis Collier became secretary of the American Labor Party of New York State, and in 1920 was the Farm-Labor Party candidate for the New York legislature from Westchester County. Her other positions included: settlement worker under Lydia Burklin, director of Friendship House, in 1921; work on the Survey of Milk Consumption in Newark, New Jersey in 1929; and a social worker for the Bureau of Public Assistance for the County of Los, Angeles, from 1932 until her retirement in 1958. After her retirement, she organized the Costello Community Library with Mrs. Nicholas Steelink, a successful library for deprived children.

Additionally, Phyllis lived at April Farm Cooperative Colony, Coopersburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928. She also used many pseudonyms; Mrs. John Darmstadt, Marna Leigh and Joan Delmar.

Biography: Collier supplied the following biographical (informal) to H.W. Dana before going up to Boston on the Garland Farm business - February 26, 1926.

BIRTH AND PARENTAGE - Was not born into the INTELLIGENSIA - but was respectably begotten by his father, Col. W.A. Collier (See WHO'S WHO) of Memphis, Tenn., lineal descendant of the famous Nelson family of Virginia - and other F.F.V.'s.

QUALIFYING EXPERIENCE - Formerly engaged in promoting educational-altrustic organization (other than the Ku Klux) in the South, such as: Chairman Historical Committee, Dept. Commander, Sons of Confederate Veterans; Organizer of Movement for Establishment of Depts. of History, U.S.C.V., in the Southern States. Later, having been put out of Union Theological Seminary, on account of outbursts of unconscious revolutionary views on fundamental social and religious questions, became an active member of the U.S. Army of the Unemployed; delegate to the Hobo International Convention; and joined various idealistic and cultural groups - such as: Upton Sinclair's "Helicon Hall" Colony, Englewood, New Jersey; Francisco Ferrer Association, New York; Fairhope, Ala. Single Tax Colony; the "Spirit Fruit Society" near Chicago. Formerly member and speaker for the Syndicalist Movement in England; the Boston School of Social Science; San Diego, Cal. Open Forum; Los Angeles, Cal. IWW; Boston Branch of the Workers' Party of America (membership card destroyed a/c Facisti, in Naples, 1923). At present, a calass-conscious prisoner of Civilization and an inmate of New York--where further references, and a "character" will be cheerfully furnished by keepers, or by fellow-migratory-workers and shirkers. Documentary evidence and pleasant newspaper publicity submitted on demand.

(Signed and sworn to:) A. Nelson Collier

P.S.: Was once appointed to a Consular Position in Guatemala - but hastily abandoned diplomatic career, on account of the Earthquakes, and returned to the "U.S.A." on the same boat.


14.5 Linear Feet ((29 MB), 1 OS folder)


John Collier (1874-1947) was interested in various socialist, radical, liberal, and anarchist causes, and was a life-long student of philosophy, theology, mysticism, and psychic phenomena. His papers contain correspondence, notes, literary manuscripts, clippings, photographs, pamphlets, and memorabilia relating to his activities as a writer and social critic as well as biographies and personal papers relating to his family and his two early confinements.

Also covered are correspondence, clippings, notes, and miscellaneous printed materials concerning Mrs. Collier's activities as secretary of the American Labor Party in New York (1919-20) and social worker in Los Angeles (1932-58). Part II of her papers include personal files, including an autobiography.

Subjects include American Labor Party, Garland Farm and Garland Fund (1920-26).Helicon Home Colony (1906-07), IWW, Tom Mooney defense, Sacco and Vanzetti Case, Upton Sinclair's gubernatorial campaigns (1934, 1936), Single-Tax and co-operative colonies, the Workers Defense League, and psychic phenomena. Correspondents include Roger Baldwin, V.F. Calverton, Malcolm Cowley, Floyd Dell, Theodore Dreiser, Max Eastman, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Charles Garland, Emma Goldman, Sidney Hook, Frieda Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Scott Nearing, Margaret Sanger, Max Schactman, Upton Sinclair, Norman Thomas, and Louis Untermeyer.


Arranged in 10 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-3), Series 2 (Boxes 3-4), Series 3 (Box 5), Series 4 ( Box 6), Series 5 (Box 7), Series 6 (Boxes 8-12), Series 7 (Box 13), Series 8 (Box 14), Series 9 (Boxes 15-22), Series 10 (Box 23), and oversize material. Folders are arranged alphabetically or chronologically depending upon the series.


The papers of John and Phyllis Collier were deposited in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1965, by Phyllis Feningston Collier. Additional papers and subsequent dates were later added by Phyllis Collier, and Comprise Part II of this collection.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the John and Phyllis Collier Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

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