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William J. Rapp papers

Identifier: Ax 604

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, plays, advertising and article manuscripts, Harlem Renaissance research, biographical material, publications, photographs, and a WWI era scrapbook of a YMCA camp in Greece.

Incoming correspondence is organized alphabetically by name or organization title, while outgoing correspondence is organized chronologically (1922-1942). There are also separate files for YMCA and military (WWI) correspondence.

Manuscripts are organized alphabetically by title and include plays, movies, book-length and serial, short story, articles, radio scripts and advertising campaigns by Rapp or in collaboration. Some titles include outlines, drafts, and revisions in formats such as holograph, mimeograph and hectographs.

McFadden magazine files include True Story magazine files containing inter-office correspondence, articles and tearsheets, and publications.

The tearsheet section, along with magazines and publications, contains magazine and newspaper articles by Rapp, and copies of True Story.

The Harlem Renaissance files include play fragments, research files, sketches and ink drawings.

Also available in the collection are reviews of Rapp's plays, biographical material, photographs of Greece, Turkey and the Near East, a scrapbook about Camp Perry, a YMCA camp in Greece during WWI, and issues of Rapp's high school annual magazine.


  • Creation: 1911-1942


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

William Jourdan Rapp (1895-1942) was born June 17, 1895 in NYC, the son of a cigar manufacturer and merchant. Rapp, with the entire Cornell Class of 1917, volunteered for Army service. Rapp served in France. Reapp remained in Europe until 1924, in public service positions, such as a YMCA camp in Greece, as director of a camp for homeless "wild" boys on the Black Sea in Turkey, and a year as lecturer at the University of Athens.

On returning to the US in 1925, Rapp became a free-lance feature writer for New York newspapers, especially the Times. That year his first play, Osman Pasha, was published. Though almost un-actable, the play sold very well. In the same period he published two books, When I Was a Boy in Turkey and Looking Down from Olympus.

Five of Rapp's plays were produced in New York: Whirlpool; Hilda Cassidy; Substitute for Murder; Holmses (sic) of Baker Street; and Harlem. Harlem was written in collaboration with Wallace Thurman, a guiding figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and featured in its cast the first wife of Adam Clayton Powell. With Thurman, Rapp also wrote Jeremiah the Magnificent, a play about Marcus Garvey, and Black Mecca, both unproduced. With another Harlem writer, Hughes Allison, Rapp wrote a fictionalized biography of jazz musician Cab Calloway. Another writer with whom Rapp frequently collaborated with was Lowell Brentano, whose papers are also housed at Special Collections at University of Oregon.

In 1926, Rapp became associated with McFadden Publications, first as co-editor of American Monthly, then as editor of True Story, a position he held for sixteen years. True Story was for many years the "greatest mass magazine in history, selling more copies for more money than any predecessor or competitor." In addition to editing, Rapp directed advertising promotion and is credited with the creation of "the first great emotional radio program, Mary and Bob." Rapp was connected with twenty-three radio programs as consultant, author, creator or producer. These included: Court of Human Relations; Big Sister; Aunt Jenny; Betty and Bob; Billy and Betty; Campbell Playhouse; and Central City. Rapp's wife Virginia was closely associated with Rapp in his radio and magazine productions.

Rapp was a long-time partner in the C.D. Morris organization, a group active in radio production, magazine, church promotion, and public relations. William Rapp died in 1942.


7 linear feet (5 containers) : 4 record storage boxes, 1 oversize flat box

Language of Materials



William Jourdan Rapp (1895-1942) was a free-lance writer, playwright, radio script writer, and producer. The collection contains correspondence, plays, advertising and article manuscripts, Harlem Renaissance research, biographical material, publications, photographs, and a WWI era scrapbook of a YMCA camp in Greece.


Collection is organized into the following series: Personal Papers, Correspondence, Manuscripts, Macfadden Publications.

Related Materials

The script for "Harlem," by William J. Rapp is located in the James Weldon Johnson collection at Yale.

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff, 1971.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the William J. Rapp Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by University of Oregon Libraries, Archivists' Toolkit Project Team and Tanya Parlet.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA