By Joanne Mendes
Primary Creator: Major, Charles (1856-1913)
Other Creators: Major, Alice Shaw
Extent: 51.25 Cubic feet. More info below.
1. Manuscripts, ca. 1888-1925 (13 cubic feet) The series documents the writings of Charles and Alice Major. Types of materials include: manuscripts, play scripts, magazine articles, galley proofs, advertising materials, book jackets, poetry, rough drafts, published materials, and club reports. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically by author.
2. Theater and Motion Pictures, circa 1899-1923 (2 cubic feet) The series documents the theatrical and film productions of Charles Major's works. Types of materials include: play bills, box office receipts, reviews, royalties, and motion picture ephemera. Notable actors include: Mary Pickford, Marion Davies, Julia Marlowe, and Bertha Galland. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically
3. Law, 1872-1893 (.50 cubic feet) The series documents the law and political career of Charles Major. Types of materials include: certificates, receipts, diaries, and date books. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically.
4. Correspondence, circa 1870s-1925 (8 cubic feet) The series documents the professional and personal lives of Charles and Alice Shaw Major. Types of materials include: correspondence, invitations, announcements, greeting cards, telegrams, clippings, royalty checks, publishing contracts, motion picture ephemera, household correspondence, and fan letters. Major sub-series are: Charles Major, Alice Shaw Major, and Charles and Alice Major. The Charles Major series includes: fan mail, correspondence with publishers, theater owners, actors, and agents; and book sellers. The Alice Shaw Major series includes; personal mail, invitations, sympathy letters, and correspondence with movie producers, publishers, theater owners, actors, and agents. The Charles and Alice Major series contains personal correspondence between Charles and Alice Shaw Major Notable correspondents include: Julia Marlowe, Booth Tarkington, George Ade, President Theodore Roosevelt, President William McKinley, William Dean Howells, Edith Wharton, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Purdue President Winthrop Stone, and Mary Pickford. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically and divided between Charles and Alice Major.
5. Clippings, circa 1882-1924 (7 cubic feet) The series documents the professional career of Charles Major and the personal life of Charles and Ann Shaw Major. Types of materials include: newspaper clippings, magazine clippings, and clipping scrapbooks compiled by the Majors. Topics include: Charles Major’s literary career, law career, tenure as a Indiana state representative, member of Purdue University’s Board of Trustees, theatrical and motion picture productions, Charles and Ann Major’s home, travels, Charles Major’s death, Ann Major’s years after the death of Charles, and clippings regarding Shaw and Major relatives. Other subjects include: Indiana Society of Chicago, Shelbyville, Indiana; Julia Marlowe, Booth Tarkington, James Whitcomb Riley, George Ade, Meredith Nicholson, Marion Davies, Bertha Galland, and Mary Pickford. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically by subject.
6. Household Accounts, circa 1874-1924 (1 cubic feet) The series documents the personal life of Charles and Alice Major. Materials include: receipts, ledgers, and banking records. Materials are arranged alphabetically.
7. Major and Shaw Families, circa 1847-1881 (.75 cubic feet) The series documents the lives and careers of Stephen Major, Daniel J. Shaw, Daniel J. Shaw Jr., and Eliza Shaw. Materials include receipts, letters, sermons, Sunday school lessons, and legal documents. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically.
8. Travel, circa 1899-1919 (1 cubic foot) The series documents the trips and vacations of Charles and Alice Shaw Major. Types of materials include: receipts, itineraries, printed ephemera, and guide books. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically.
9. Postcards, circa 1900s-1912 (3 cubic feet) The series documents the postcard collection Charles and Alice Major. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically.
10. Photographs, circa 1868-1920s (4 cubic feet) The series documents the life and activities of Charles and Alice Major. Notable people include: Mrs. Grover Cleveland, George Barr McCutcheon, Julia Marlowe, Marion Davies, Mary Pickford, and Bertha Galland. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically by type.
11. Artifacts, circa 1866-1923 (5 cubic feet) The series documents memorabilia from the lives of Charles and Alice Shaw Major. Types of materials include: printed ephemera, Charles Major souvenir type items, personal effects, portraits, magazines, and books. Materials in the series are arranged by type and size.
12. Miscellaneous, circa 1870s-1920s (1.5 cubic feet) The series documents the life and activities of Charles and Alice Major. Materials include: homework, calling cards, flyers, brochures, booklets, promotional materials, recipes, and stationary. Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically.
13. Oversized Materials, circa 1870-1906 (1 cubic foot) Addendum, circa 1892-1949 (3.5cubic feet) The series is broken into two subseries, Addendum and the Dorcas Campbell Papers. Addendum contains clippings and materials regarding Charles Major and his work collected by Purdue University librarian William M. Hepburn. The Dorcas Campbell Papers represents the materials and data regarding Charles and Alice Major collected by Dorcas Campbell in preparation for a proposed biography. Materials include Major memorabilia collected by Miss Campbell as a child and neighbor of Alice Major, correspondence with Major and Shaw relatives, interviews with surviving friends of the Majors, clippings, and articles. Files were left in their original order.
Date Acquired: 00/00/1927. More info below under Accruals.
Subjects: Ade, George, 1866-1944, Cleveland, Grover, 1837-1908, Indiana Society of Chicago, Lawyers, Stone, Winthrop Ellsworth, 1862-1921, Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946, Twain, Mark, 1835-1910, Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937, Women's Archives at Purdue University
Forms of Material: Artifacts (Object genre), Black-and-white photographs, Clippings (Information artifacts), Correspondence, Diaries, Historical fiction, Manuscripts (Documents), Playbills, Postcards, Scrapbooks, Screenplays
Charles Major was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 25, 1856 to Stephen and Phoebe (Gatskill) Major. Stephen Major, an attorney, moved the family to Shelbyville, Indiana in 1869. Charles Major completed his schooling in Shelbyville before attending the University of Michigan to study law in 1872. Major returned to Shelbyville in 1875 to work at his father’s law firm while studying for the bar. In 1877 he passed the bar exam and married Alice Shaw of Shelbyville. The newly married couple chose to stay in Shelbyville and Major set up his law practice. Major also served one term as in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1886-1887.
Charles Major had always been interested in history and historical fiction, being a keen admirer of Sir Walter Scott’s work. In his spare time he wrote his first novel When Knighthood Was in Flower and had it published by Bowen Merrill in 1898. It was very popular and sold quite well; remaining on the best sellers list for fourteen months. In 1899 the novel was dramatized by Paul Kester for the popular actress Julia Marlowe. A revised version of the play opened in New York in 1901 to positive reviews. Film versions were produced in 1908 and 1922, and in 1953 When Knighthood Was in Flower was the basis for Walt Disney's The Sword and the Rose.
Because of the success of this first novel, Major was able to cut back on law practice and the majority of his time was devoted to writing. The fame brought about by his first novel resulted in many opportunities for the Major family. In 1901 the couple was invited to the White House to meet President William McKinley and dined with Samuel Clemens "at the famous Delmonico's in New York City."
Major’s next novel was The Bears of Blue River. It tells the story of Little Balser Brent, a young child in Indiana and recounts his adventures in the early 1800s. This novel was distinguished by its “Hoosier” character. His third novel was Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, which was an historical romance. His other novels include: A Forest Hearth, 1903; Yolanda, Maid of Burgundy, 1905; Uncle Tom Andy Bill, 1908; A Gentle Knight of Old Brandenburg, 1909; The Little King, 1910; Sweet Alyssum, 1911; and The Touchstone of Fortune, 1912. Some reviewers criticized his writing as hokey, while others felt it was “fine, readable fiction.” However, all reviewers seemed to agree that Major’s historical research was impeccable.
Charles Major passed away from liver cancer on February 13, 1913.
Ade, George, 1866-1944
Cleveland, Grover, 1837-1908
Indiana Society of Chicago
Stone, Winthrop Ellsworth, 1862-1921
Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946
Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937
Women's Archives at Purdue University
Accruals: The Dorcas Campbell Collection of Charles Major Materials was donated to Purdue University by the estate of Dorcas Campbell in the fall of 1959. The papers were transferred to Purdue University in 1960 by the executor of Campbell’s estate, Carl F. Boester. The papers consist of materials collected by Campbell for a proposed biography on Charles Major. As a child growing up in Shelbyville, Miss Campbell had been a neighbor and acquaintance of Alice Shaw Major. Many of the items in this collection were gifts to Miss Campbell from Alice Shaw Major.
Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.
Acquisition Source: Major, Alice Shaw
Acquisition Method: Donation.
Purdue University Board of Trustees Records
George Ade Papers
William M. Hepburn Papers
Preferred Citation: Charles and Alice Shaw Major papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries