Studs Terkel papers

Descriptive Summary

Chicago History Museum
Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Louis "Studs" Terkel
Bib number
Studs Terkel papers
Predominant Dates
63 linear feet (144 boxes)
1 oversized folder
ca. 5 sound cassettes
1 folder of color photographs
Call number
Call number
MSS Oversize T
Call number
0MM 101
Call number
2000.0171 PCLF


For listening purposes, it is necessary to use a copy, not the original (and to have a listening copy made if one is not available).

Advance appointment required to view material from cold storage.

Material from accession 2016.0031.1 is unprocessed. Contact for access to unprocessed portions. Staff will typically respond to your inquiry within two weeks. However, due to the high volume of inquiries and depending upon the nature of your request additional time may be required to respond. Please note that not all material will be available for researcher access due to condition, location, staff availability, confidentiality and/or other factors. Scheduling an appointment to view available material may require several additional weeks.

Terms governing use

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Provenance statement

Materials were a gift of Louis "Studs" Terkel (accession number: 2000.0171) and Mell Zellman (accession number: 2016.0031.1.

Please cite this collection as

Studs Terkel papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Collection Summary

Correspondence, playbills, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other materials concerning the work, career, and interests of author and oral historian Louis "Studs" Terkel. The collection contains interview transcripts and manuscripts for a number of Terkel's books including “Division Street” (1967), “Hard Times” (1970), “Working” (1974), “American Dreams” (1983), the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Good War” (1984) and “Race” (1992).

Biographical/historical note

Louis "Studs" Terkel was an author, historian, actor, broadcaster, and activist. In 1939, at the age of 27, he received a law degree from the University of Chicago, but never practiced law. By the early 1940s, he joined the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project. Terkel, from 1950 to 1952, worked in television on his own program Studs Place. Later he transitioned permanently to radio, where his award winning Studs Terkel Program ran on Chicago station WFMT from 1952 to 1997. In 1966 with the oral history compilation “Division Street: America”, Terkel began a long succession of conducting and publishing oral histories. In 1985, his collection of oral histories about World War II, “The Good War,” won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Terkel died in 2008 at the age of 96.

Related material

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the "Studs Terkel office files from WFMT radio station" and "Sound recordings of the Studs Terkel program on WFMT radio station" (1998.0116). All of the surviving recordings of Terkel/WFMT programs are described in individual catalog records online. A commercially-released set of excerpts from the WFMT programs named: "Voices of our time : five decades of Studs Terkel interviews" also is available. Excerpts of some sound recordings are online at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive (

Indexed Terms

Organization and Arrangement of Collection

The collection is arranged in six series.

Series 1. Correspondence, 1944-2008 (Boxes 1-13, 108, 140, PCLF 2000.0171)

Correspondence consists mainly of fan mail, commenting on Terkel's radio program, books, and other writings. Some letters mention Terkel winning the Pulitzer Price for The Good War in 1985 (box 8). Terkel's assistant put aside a collection of records for Terkel to respond to. These materials include a small amount of color photographs.

Series 2. Transcripts, 1944-2008 (Boxes 14-66, 109-130, 134, 138-140)

Series 2 consists of interviews (both complete and edited versions) between Terkel and various individuals for radio, television, and books. These include transcripts relating to works such as “Division Street” (box 38, 140), “Hard Times” (boxes 60, 109-115), “Working” (boxes 116-130), “American Dreams” (boxes 30, 36, 56-60), “The Good War” (boxes 20-22, 40-48, 62-63, 134-136 and unpublished interviews in box 140), “The Great Divide” (boxes 138-139), “Race” (boxes 32, 40-46, 65) and “Coming of Age” (boxes 26-28, 34, 56-60). Also included are radio transcripts from the mid-1940s from programs such as the Atlas Prager Sports Reel and Wax Museum (boxes 14, 24, 65). Further, series 2 also includes some unpublished works including lengthy interviews with an unknown subject identified as Rose and another with journalist James Cameron (box 140).

Series 3. Manuscripts, 1944-2008 (Boxes 67-92, 104-108, 131-138, 140)

Series 3 contains working, and final drafts of plays, books, interviews and research materials for a variety of projects, including lists of names, contact information, notes from editors and publishers. Among the works contained in series 3 are: “Giants of Jazz” (box 81), “Division Street” (boxes 67-69, 140), “Hard Times” (boxes 69, 73, 77, 104-108 including the stage presentation in box 81), “Working” (box 131), “American Dreams” (boxes 69, 73-77, 83-89), “The Good War” (boxes 77-79, 132-134 and the stage adaption in box 87), The Great Divide (boxes 69, 137-138), Race (boxes 85-87), “The Spectator” (boxes 73-79), “Coming of Age” (box 75), Banty’s Laughter (box 71) and Peg’s House (box 75). Series 3 also contains radio scripts including Eulogy for 3 Non-adjusted Men, A Goat’s Tale and Born to Live (boxes 71, 81) and works relating to the television show Studs Place (box 71). In addition, there is an edited manuscript of Mike Royko’s biography on Richard J. Daley “Boss” in box 140.

Series 4. Miscellaneous, 1944-2008 (Boxes 93-97, 144, Oversize)

Series 4 contains collections of playbills, flyers, books, notes, press releases and photographs. The series reflects personal materials of Terkel relating to his interests and career.

Series 5. Clippings, 1944-2008 (Boxes 98-102, 108, 141, Oversize)

Series 5 includes clippings of magazines, newspapers, and other notifications about Terkel's books , radio show, public appearances, and career. Many of the clippings have been gathered and sent to Terkel by a professional company.

Series 6. Audiovisual Material, 1944-2008 (Box 103)

A collection of cassette tapes and accompanying letters sent to Terkel containing various materials.

Detailed list of contents of the collection

Series 1: Correspondence
Box 1-13, 108, 140
Folder Color photographs
Physical Location
2000.171 PCLF
Series 2: Transcripts
Box 14-66, 109-130, 134, 138-140
Series 3: Manuscripts
Box 67-92, 104-108, 131-138, 140
Series 4: Miscellaneous
Box 93-97, 144, oversize
Oversize-folder 1
Series 5: Clippings
Box 98-102, 108, 141
Oversize-folder 1
Series 6: Audiovisual Material
Box 103