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Walter John Coates Papers

Identifier: mss-968

Scope and Content

The collection consists of one carton and one box of papers related to Coates' several careers and the operation of the Driftwind Press. Included are many versions of Coates' own poems, some literary correspondence, photos and clippings, and a number of sermons and religious notebooks. More extensive sections of the collection contain sizeable amounts of Coates' editorial notes and papers for Driftwind and for the compilation of the Famous Vermont Poems series. The "Poets" folders in Container Two hold miscellaneous bits of printed ephemera and manuscript material relating to Vermont poets. The Doric A. Kneeland portion of this section (2-21 through 2-24) contains an appreciable amount of nineteenth century unpublished manuscript verse of this Vermont native. At the back of Container Two are several woodcuts used in Driftwind, Coates' notecards on the genealogy of several families and a partial card library of Coates' writings.

The Wilbur Collection also has a number of Driftwind Press imprints. Duplicates of these Wilbur copies and non-Vermont Driftwind imprints constitute a separate Driftwind Press collection. A card checklist of the Driftwind Press imprints, prepared by J. Kevin Graffagnino in 1979, accompanies the separate Driftwind collection. The Driftwind imprints offer an excellent look at the production of a small early 20th century Vermont press.

Note: There are a few other Coates manuscripts at UVM in the John Spargo, Arthur W. Hewitt and Walter Hard papers. The Vermont Historical Society has a Coates collection, in addition to his unfinished notes for Volume 2 of the Bibliography of Vermont Poetry.


  • 1900-1960

Language of Materials



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.


Universalist minister, storekeeper, poet, printer and bibliographer, Walter John Coates was born near Lowville, NY, on November 9, 1880. He served as a student preacher in Marchfield and East Calais, VT, while an undergraduate at St. Laurence University (class of 1904), and married Florence Gray of East Calais in 1902. Mrs. Coates died of tuberculosis four years later, and Walter spent some time following her death in the East Calais woods chopping lumber to regain his physical and mental health. In 1908 he married his first wife's cousin, Nettie Allen Gove, and purchased a printing office in East Calais. Giving up the ministry, Coates became town postmaster in 1909, holding that position and operating a general store until 1919. After three years as an insurance inspector, Coates moved to North Montpelier in 1922 and opened another general store. However, the store soon languished as Coates turned to another project, the establishment of a journal to stimulate a literary renaissance in Vermont.

Begun in 1926, Driftwind sought to publish contemporary poetry and prose from Vermont and other states, as well as to reprint Vermont literature from earlier periods. Coates edited and published Driftwind for fifteen years, also operating the Driftwind Press during this period. The press specialized in Vermont literature and small edition vanity books of poetry. He also served on a number of state boards and wrote or edited a number of anthologies of poems and essays: Mood Songs (1921); Vermont in Heart and Song (1926); Favorite Vermont Poems (5 vols., 1928-1934); Land of Allen and Other Verse (1928); Vermont Verse: An Anthology (1931); Sonnets of an Editor (1934); and Diaspason: Nuances in Verse (1937), among others. The Unviersity of Vermont awarded him an honorary Ll.D. in 1938 for his contributions to the state's literature and literary history.

He died of a heart attack on July 29, 1941, aged sixty. The Vermont Historical Society published his Bibliography of Vermont Poetry through the letter K the following year and acquired Coates' unfinished notes for the rest of the project. Driftwind and the Driftwind Press continued under the hands of Mrs. Coates and W. Paul Cook, a close family friend, until January of 1948, when (following Cook's death) Mrs. Coates closed down the printing operation. Arthur Murphy bought the rights to the magazine and moved it to Winchendon, MA, where he apparently edite it for a few years after 1948.


1. Carry Back Books, Franconia, NH, Catalogue No. 8 (Fall 1975). Large group of Coates books and manuscripts (many now in this collection).

2. Coates, Walter J., Bibliography of Vermont Poetry (Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1942), pp. 78-84.

3. Driftwind, 16, no. 5 (November 1941), memorial issue to Coates.


1 carton, 1 box


The Walter J. Coates/Driftwind Press papers consists of one carton and one box of papers relating to Coates' several careers and the operation of the press. Included in the collection are many versions of Coates's own poems, some literary correspondence, photos and clippings, as well as a number of sermons and religious notebooks.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Inventory of the Walter John Coates Papers, 1880-1941
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)