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William Hazlett Upson Papers

Identifier: mss-028

Scope and Content Note

The William Hazlett Upson Papers (1913-1967) relate to Upson’s personal and professional life. The collection contains articles, newsclippings, notes, photographs, plays, scripts, and miscellaneous material relating to Upson’s published and unpublished writings, lecture agent, W. Colston Leigh, his presidency of the Middlebury Maternal Health Council (an affiliated chapter of the American Birth Control League), and his life in Middlebury.

There are eight series in this collection. Series I, Personal Material (1919-1967), is the smallest and most incomplete series in the collection. It consists of autobiographical and biographical sketches, personal correspondence, photographs, and various pieces of personal memorabilia.

Series II, Social and Political Concerns (1927-1965): One of Upson’s most notable civic interests was in the birth control movement, and the bulk of this series represents that interest. There are pamphlets and correspondence from many of the national organizations involved in the movement (American Birth Control League, Birth Control Federation of America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America), information on birth control and contraceptives, correspondence and information on the founding of the Middlebury Maternal Health Council (1932-1936) and Upson’s Presidency of the Council, and correspondence on the founding of the Vermont Maternal League (1937-1965). There are also copies of the Birth Control Review, including the July, 1932 issue which features W. H. Upson’s article on birth control, “Small Town Stuff.” Upson was also involved in other social and political concerns and papers relating to these may be found in this series. These interests range from membership in “The Guild of Former Pipe Organ Pumpers” to printed material on Social Security, “Social Security is Still Wonderful” (1952), War Bonds, and correspondence with the Writers War Board (1942-1945).

W. H. Upson’s correspondence with his agents, lawyers, publishers, and others is located in Series III, Business Affiliates (1923-1966). Most of the correspondence is concerned with business opportunities, legal problems and/or questions, royalty statements, and story and article publication. There is also printed material and newsclippings scattered throughout the series. Information about the publication or production of Upson’s work can be found in each of the sub-series, especially under Carl Brandt (and editors), Upson’s principle agent. This series is arranged alphabetically by the name of the affiliate, and the correspondence within each affiliate’s file is chronologically arranged.

Series IV, Background Material (1898-1967) consists of correspondence, notes, printed matter, and photographs used as the background and outlines for Upson’s articles and stories. The bulk of this material focuses on the Caterpillar Tractor Company (there are several hundred tractor photos) and on various types of construction and machinery. Upson’s notes and outlines for some of this lectures and works can be found in the sub-series “Notebooks.”

Series V, Works, is the largest series in the collection, and consists of Upson’s manuscripts (both published and unpublished), plays, scripts, and transcripts are located in this series. The manuscripts are often both the rough and finished copy. The scores and scripts for Middlebury On Parade, the manuscripts, production notes, and publicity for the movies, “Bott’s Picture Treatment” and “Earthworm Tractors,” Upson’s radio scripts, and correspondence about and manuscripts for television productions can be found in this series. Upson’s works are arranged chronologically within categories that indicate the type of work; e.g. Manuscripts – Published or Movie. See Appendix I for an alphabetical listing of Upson’s published works. This appendix applies for both Series V and Series VII.

Series VI consists of public response to Upson’s works. The first sub-series is fan mail, and it is arranged chronologically. The second sub-series is press releases and reviews, which are clippings from various newspapers and journals. These are also arranged chronologically.

Most of the first publications of W.H. Upson’s stories and articles can be found in Series VII, Magazines: First Printings and Reprints. These begin with Upson’s first published story, “Scared,” in the November 10, 1923 issue of Collier’s, and include all of the Botts stories in the Saturday Evening Post as well as all foreign reprints of Upson’s stories and articles. Also in this series are some American reprints of Upson’s stories, including two stories in shorthand. The foreign reprints are arranged alphabetically, and the first reprints are arranged chronologically. For an alphabetical listing of Upson’s published works, see Appendix I.

Series VIII, Miscellaneous, is a carton of various toy Caterpillar Tractor models.

This collection is the gift of Mr. William Hazlett Upson, 1965.


  • 1913-1987



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

William Hazlett Upson (1891-1975) was born at Glen Ridge, New Jersey on September 6, 1891, the son of William Ford and Grace (Hazlett) Upson. In 1909 he graduated from the Glen Ridge High School, worked on a cattle ranch in California for a year, and entered Cornell in 1910. Upson graduated from Cornell's agricultural course in 1914 and worked on farms in New York State and Virginia until 1916, when he enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the D Battery of the 13th Field Artillery, 4th Division as a private. In 1918, Upson took part in the Marne-Aisne, St. Mihiel, and Argonne offensives and entered Germany as part of the Army of Occupation.

After his discharge in 1919, Upson was hired by the Holt Manufacturing Company (which later became the Caterpillar Tractor Company) of Dallas, Texas, as a service mechanic. He traveled often, making deliveries, putting on demonstrations, and doing repair work. It was during a period of convalescence in 1922 that Upson wrote his first short stories. In 1924 he left his job with the Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria, Illinois, and began his career as an author. As was the case with his army experiences, his short career with Holt and Caterpillar formed Upson’s life-long interest in tractors and served as the background material for many of this stories.

W.H. Upson’s first published story was “Scared” which appeared in the November 10, 1923 issue of Collier’s. The same year he married Marjory Alexander Wright, the daughter of Professor and Mrs. Charles Baker Wright of Middlebury, Vermont. The Upsons lived in Peoria, Illinois and Connecticut before settling in Middlebury, Vermont in 1928. By this time Upson had published over 30 stories and articles, most of them in the Saturday Evening Post. Between 1924 and 1967 Upson wrote more than 100 stories for the Post, many of which featured Upson’s most famous character, Alexander Botts, a tractor salesman for the Earthworm Tractor Company.

Botts first appeared in the Post’s April 16, 1927 issue. Alexander Botts was destined to become a fold hero to a generation of Americans over the next thirty years. He was described as “an indomitable (though sometimes deluded) fellow American well acquainted with the sweet uses of adversity and adept at the fine art of plucking victory from the jaws of defeat.” His experiences were typical of many people’s all over the country ; he was hired and fired, fell in love, argued about his taxes, joined the army in 1942 and crossed a picket line. William Hazlett Upson’s characters, like those of Normal Rockwell, who did over 250 cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post, were drawn from real life experiences. The celebrated the ups and downs of life with a mixture of honesty, perseverance. bumbling, and laughter. Rockwell, Upson, and the Saturday Evening Post itself, reached out to Americans through a fundamental genre tradition that was extremely popular in the first half of the 20th century.

Upson’s works reached his audience in many forms. Alexander Botts was featured in the comic strip “Alexander the Great” from 1936 to 1938 and Joe E. Brown starred as Botts in the 1936 Warner Brothers movie release “Earthworm Tractors.” Army Radio, Colombia Broadcasting, The Listening Post, and Wrigley Chewing Gum broadcast radio adaptations of Upson’s stories in the 1930’s and 40’s. His stories and articles appeared in the Post, Collier’s, Esquire, The Georgia Review, The Birth Control Review, and several stories were translated in half-a-dozen foreign languages. Upson wrote several plays, including Middlebury on Parade, which was produced at Middlebury College. Double-day, Farrar and Rinehart, Pocked Books, and other companies published U[son’s “self-help” book, How To Be Right Like Me. Upson also traveled around the country making lecture appearances and gathering background material for his stories.

His business affairs were co-ordinated by several agents. Carl Brandt, whose offices were in New York City, was his principal agent, arranging story publication, fees, royalty statements, contracts, and until his death in 1957; Brandt’s firm continued as Upson’s principal agent until 1959. W. Colston Leigh, also based in New York, functioned with itineraries, contracts, publicity, and newsclippings on his writings and lecture appearances.

W. H. Upson was actively involved in civic affairs, especially in the Middlebury area. He was instrumental in bringing the birth control movement to Vermont, and was the founder and president of the Middlebury Maternal Health Council (1932-1936), the first community clearing house for birth control information in the state. He attended many of the Breadloaf Summer Writer’s Conferences, occasionally taught creative writing at Middlebury College, and featured Middlebury in the 1946 Post article, “My Favorite Small Town: Middlebury, Vermont.” Upson served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in San Francisco in 1956. William Hazlett and Marjory Upson had 2 children, Polly and John. They had a home in Chipman Park, Middlebury, and owned “Earthworm Manor” in Ripton, Vermont. William Hazlett Upson died on February 6, 1975.


51.75 Linear feet

Language of Materials



William Hazlett Upson was an author. Collection includes correspondence, literary manuscripts, drafts, notes, lectures, outlines, articles, poems, plays, scripts, fan mail, tapes, photos, and miscellaneous material, relating to Upson’s published and unpublished writings on Army life in World War I, his fictional character, Alexander Botts, tractor salesman, and on Vermont, arrangements with his New York Agents, Brandt & Brandt, his lecture agents, W. Colston Leigh, inc., and his presidency of the Middlebury Maternal Health Clinic, affiliated with the Birth Control League.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Guide to the William Hazlett Upson Papers
Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Julie P. Cox and Kate Barsy
September, 1982
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)