Edwin Kennebeck was born on January 10, 1924 in Denver, Colorado. During World War II he served in the Eighth Air Force Corps. He was a radio operator on B-17s and made 35 bombing missions over Germany. After the war he attended Marquette University, obtaining a bachelors degree in Journalism (1949) and a masters in English Literature (1951). Kennebeck then moved to New York City and was employed as an editorial assistant on the Funk and Wagnalls New International Year Book. In May 1955, he joined Viking Press, where he worked as a copy editor until his retirement in 1983. In 1981, he received the Byline Award from Marquette Universitys College of Journalism. Edwin Kennebeck died on May 2, 1996 of cancer at age 72.
While at Viking Press, Edwin Kennebeck worked with writers such as Jack Kerouac, Patrick White, Iris Murdoch, Marianne Moore, Arthur Miller, John Steinbeck, Thomas Pynchon, and Saul Bellow. He also wrote numerous book reviews and articles for such publications as The Nation, Commonweal, as well as many unpublished plays, poems, and short stories.
During 1970, Edwin Kennebeck was one of the jurors in the trial of 13 Black Panthers charged with planning to bomb public places, including department stores, subways, and railroad tracks. His experiences as a juror, and the controversial nature of the case, prompted to him to write a book. Juror No. 4: The Trial of 13 Black Panthers as Seen From the Jury Box was published by W.W. Norton in 1973; it contains his thoughts on the trial and an explanation and justification of the verdict.
The Edwin Kennebeck Papers consist of correspondence, play manuscripts, short story manuscripts, poetry, photographs, drawings, a personal journal, an assortment of published works, clippings, academic essays, and notebooks.
John Anderson, a co-executor of Edwin Kennebeck’s will, presented the Kennebeck Papers to Marquette University’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The Papers were arranged and described by Case Unverzagt, Student Processor.
Series 1, General Correspondence and Personal Life, 1941-1996: This series contains Edwin Kennebeck’s incoming and some outgoing correspondence, including his letters from the early 1940s through mid 1990s. Most of the letters date from 1962-1988 and pertain largely to business between Kennebeck and editors and publishers regarding the possible publication of his novels, plays, poems, and short stories. In addition, there is correspondence with government officials, including Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy, John Lindsay, Edward Koch, and a letter from Dorothy Day. The series also includes Kennebeck’s diaries from 1943-1949 and 1990-1995, journal writings on various topics spanning from 1942-1987, some personal photographs, awards won by Kennebeck including the Byline Award, papers concerning his lawsuit against Viking Press, his military papers, multiple versions of a resume, the certificate of death, and some obituary clippings. The series is arranged by type of document and chronologically thereunder.
Series 2, Novel and Short Story Manuscripts, 1942-1986: The series is arranged by type of document (novel, titled short story, untitled short story) and chronologically thereunder. Box one contains some writings pertaining to World War II, and manuscripts of a few novels, namely, “Existence”, “Slush”, and “A Bracelet for Hardy". None of the novels were ever published. The last two boxes consist of short stories in various states of development and completion. Box two consists of very rough stories, while some of the later pieces are more polished and developed.
Series 3, Juror Number 4 Related Material, 1970-1973, 1993: It contains Kennebeck’s extensive Black Panther trial journal, copies of the trial’s transcripts (incomplete), a documentary on one of the defendants (Dhoruba Bin Wahad, formerly Richard Moore) which includes comments by Kennebeck, published articles written by Kennebeck in relation to the trial, published reviews of the book Juror Number 4, and the book itself. The published articles are mainly precursors to the book, appearing in journals as The Village Voice and The Nation. The arrangement is by type of document and chronological thereunder.
Series 4, Published Writings, 1942-1988: The articles are arranged chronologically throughout and contain primarily clippings of Kennebeck’s published work in the Marquette Tribune, the Marquette Journal, the Marquette Hilltop, Today magazine, and Commonweal. There are some poems and a short story published in Yeah magazine under the pseudonym Anthony Kaye. The series also includes one poem published in The New York Times, and an essay published in The Village Voice. The articles from the Marquette affiliated publications include editorials, poems, and short stories. Those published in Today and Commonweal include book reviews, interviews, play reviews, and a short story. The reviews include critiques of works by Samuel Beckett, Jean Anouilh, Walter Miller, and Walker Percy.
Series 5, Manuscript Essays, 1942-1974: The essays are arranged chronologically. The majority of the essays were unpublished, and some records are not complete. There are numerous untitled essays that are also undated. Some are literary ones written for undergraduate and graduate courses at Marquette University. One of the essays, “The Clock”, was later developed into a short story that was published in the Marquette Journal.
Series 6: “1945” Manuscript Drafts, 1991-1995 (7 folders), contains many versions and revisions of the manuscript for an unpublished play. The play is largely concerned with chronicling the events surrounding a radio operator’s bombing missions on a B-17. The drafts are largely unfinished and a polished, final manuscript is not included in the series.
Series 7: “Leap” Manuscript Drafts, 1989-1990 (7 folders), contains many versions and revisions of the manuscript for another unpublished play. The play revolves around the marriage of Jack and Laura, and the many complications involved in the process, such as illegitimate children, inheritance, and old loves reappearing. The drafts generally progress towards a more polished version of the play, but no definitively finished draft exists in the series.
Series 8, Play Manuscripts, 1942-1995, n.d.: Complete and incomplete play manuscripts arranged chronologically. They include both one-act and multiple-act plays.
Series 9: Original Poetry and Art Sketches, 1942-1972, contains poems, drawings, and sketches. This series is the smallest in the collection, consisting of a half-box worth of material, arranged by type of document and then chronologically.