Wisconsin's Public Liberal Arts College

John W. Beecroft Papers


Special Collections

University of Wisconsin-Superior

JDH Library 218
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880

ph. 715-394-8359

Special Collections

John W. Beecroft Papers

 Biography

John W. Beecroft was born June 22, 1902 in Superior, WI. He died on Sept. 21, 1966. Beecroft graduated from the Wisconsin Normal school at Superior in 1921. He graduated Columbia U, 1924. Beecroft first worked for Crowell Publishing Co, writing reader's guides to Eliot's Five Foot Shelf of Books. In 1926 he traveled Europe to study architecture (primarily in Italy), returning to New York in 1928. He was hired at the Literary Guild (founded 1927), where he first began as editor of Wings, the monthly bulletin of the book club. He left the Guild briefly during the depression, working for Paramount Newsreel. Beecroft rejoined the Literary Guild in 1937 as Editor in Chief, a position he retained until his retirement in 1962. He selected such best sellers as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill a Mockingbird. Beecroft's first choice at the Literary Guild was Liam O'Flaherty's Famine.  

Beecroft was also editor of the Book League of America; the Doubleday Dollar Book Club; the Family Reading Club; and the Mystery Guild. Beecroft authored and edited a number of works, including: Mr Maugham Himself; Stories to Remember (with T.B. Costain); Kipling, A Selection of His Stories & Poems; The Gentleman from Indianapolis; A Treasury of Great Mysteries (with Howard Haycraft); Plain & Fancy Cats; Rocco Came In; and What? Another Cat! (illus. by Kurt Wiese); More Stories to Remember (with T.B. Costain); Best Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham; and The Modern Reader, which was reprinted in 1941 as The Modern Reader's Anthology.  

John Beecroft married Melinda Pollen Schmidt in 1940. He was a member of the University Club in New York. He served on the American Council of Books in Wartime with Virginia Kirkus, Amy Loveman, Donald Gordon, Francis Ludlow, Meridith Wood and WW Norton, and acted as American judge of the international committee, All-Nations Prize Novel Competition, 1938-1939. Mr. Beecroft returned to Superior to give the commencement address at Superior State Teachers College in 1947.

Description of the Collection

The collection of John W. Beecroft is broken into 5 series:

  • Series 1 - Books of the Literary Guild contains 850 books brought to publication by the Literary Guild.
  • Series 2 - Beecroft Personal Papers include school-boy writings by Beecroft, personal copies of the booklet, Wings, articles written by or about Beecroft, and materials pertaining to the International Novel-Writing Competition, and the Council on Books in Wartime, as well as numerous clippings and reviews pertaining to his own work and the work of others.
  • Series 3 - Beecroft Correspondence contains correspondence related to his professional career as Editor of the Literary Guild and other book clubs, beginning with undated letters and covering his professional career from 1927 to 1964. Includes material related to Beecroft's own books on cats, as well as 40 children's books published in the Soviet Union and acquired during his trip of 1930-31.
  • Series 4 - Miscellaneous Items from Beecroft's personal life, including family photographs
  • Series 5 - Oversize items of associated artwork and similar items. Separated from the main collection is a group of 30 large Russian posters acquired during his Soviet trip in 1930-31.  Translations of the 'titles' of the posters are available.

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