Papers consist chiefly of Halper's correspondence, 1919-1984, and literary work, 1928-1982. Correspondence is divided into four sections. Family correspondence, 1909-1969, contains letters to Halper from his four brothers and sister, his first wife, Pauline, and son, Thomas, as well as a few letters exchanged among other family members. Incoming letters, 1928-1984, contain all other letters written to Halper, while outgoing letters, 1919-1983, contain those written by Halper to family members and others. Both the incoming and outgoing letters are arranged chronologically by decade and consist mainly of correspondence with editors and literary agents regarding Halper's work. Although there are very few letters to Halper from prominent literary figures of the 1930s, his own letters to editors, fellow writers and friends reveal his opinions about his work, other writers, the Communist Party and political and literary issues of the period. In addition, there are letters from readers of Halper's memoir, Good-Bye, Union Square, and from researchers which discuss the radicalism of the period. Bulk of the correspondence dates from the 1950s-1980s, documenting Halper's struggles to get his work published and his plays Top Man and Aunt Daisy produced.
There is a separate box of correspondence and other papers concerning the two anthologies he edited, This is Chicago (1952) and The Chicago Crime Book (1965-1967).
Halper's correspondents in the literary world include Benjamin Appel, Edward Aswell, Leonard Ehrlich, John Fante, Nelson Algren, Elliot Cohen, Marshall Best, Maxim Lieber, Elizabeth Nowell, and Joseph Epstein. In addition, there are single letters of encouragement or recommendation from Sherwood Anderson, H.L. Mencken, Marianne Moore, Lewis Mumford, and Paul Rosenfeld during the years 1928 to 1933.
The most extensive series in Halper's papers consists of his writings, both published and unpublished. It includes preliminary notes and outlines, drafts, manuscripts, typescripts, and published copies of his novels, short stories, essays, plays, and screenplays. Published copies consist primarily of magazines containing his shorter works, and press clippings. Included also is a copy of Post War (1942), his privately published volume of drawings.
The remainder of the collection consists of publishing records (contracts, royalty statements, releases, and copyright and permission records), personal financial and legal records, desk calendars, 1975-1981, art work by Halper and others, photographs, ephemera and memorabilia, press clippings and writings about Halper and his work. Latter includes a biography, a disseration, journal articles, book reviews, and other items clipped from magazines and newspapers.
Albert Halper (1904-1984), American author best known for his naturalistic short stories and novels, was born on Chicago's West Side, the fifth child of Jewish-Lithuanian immigrants. After graduating from high school, Halper worked at a variety of jobs in a mail order house, electrotype foundry, loose-leaf binder factory, wholesale beauty parlor supply house, and the post office. His career as a writer began in 1928, when Marianne Moore accepted an essay and a short story for publication in The Dial magazine. Thus encouraged, Halper moved to New York City. He first came to national attention in 1933 with the publication of Union Square, a novel about the lives of several residents of the neighborhood adjacent to New York's Union Square. The novel's theme of social protest and its focus on working class characters led critics to deem him a proletarian novelist, although the left-wing press chided him for not being sufficiently revolutionary and Halper himself rejected this classification.
The success of Union Square was followed by the publication of a volume of short stories, On the Shore (1934), and four novels, The Foundry (1934), The Chute (1937), Sons of the Fathers (1940), and The Little People (1942), based on his experience of Jewish family life and labor in Chicago. A collection of related short stories, The Golden Watch (1953), drew on the same background. Halper's memoir of the Thirties, Good-Bye, Union Square, was published in 1970. A biography, Albert Halper by John E. Hart, appeared in 1980.