“In the fall of 1934, Gertrude Stein arrived in America to much buzz about “Gertrude Stein.” Her photo appeared on the cover of Time magazine following the blockbuster success of her accessible and witty The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). Journalists and a film crew waited at the dock to document Stein’s arrival. Her name appeared in lights in Times Square. Receptions were held in her honor. She enjoyed tea at the White House with Eleanor Roosevelt and dinner in Beverly Hills with Charlie Chaplin. She received the key to her hometown city of San Francisco. Fans and skeptics filled lecture halls across the United States to hear her Lectures in America. A two-month lecture tour turned into seven. Everywhere she went Gertrude Stein made headline news.”
One of Stein’s stops on her “Lectures in America” tour was Amherst College.
From the Amherst Student, January 7, 1935:
Stein gave her lecture on January 9, 1935, as reported in The Amherst Student for January 10, 1935:
Sharon Kirsch describes Stein’s tour of the United States as a public relations triumph — Stein achieved a tremendous degree of celebrity and name recognition even though the majority of those who attended her public lectures had likely never read any of her work. Stein herself later commented on that celebrity in Everybody’s Autobiography (1937):
“It was very nice being a celebrity a real celebrity who can decide who they want to meet and say so and they come or do not come as you want them. I never imagined that would happen to me to be a celebrity like that but it did and when it did I liked it.”
In addition to the coverage in The Amherst Student, we hold other traces of Stein’s visit in the Archives & Special Collections. We hold three letters and a postcard from Stein to Amherst President Stanley King; Stein and Alice B. Toklas both inscribed a copy of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (New York, 1933) for King upon their visit:
Since the arrival of Ted Baird’s diaries in the Archives, we now regularly consult them to see if he commented on campus events. Gertrude Stein’s visit, and the dinner at President King’s home afterward, are recorded in this brief entry from January 9, 1935:
Fortunately, Baird’s handwriting is more legible than Stein’s. Anyone interested in attempting to decipher the letters Stein sent to Stanley King is welcome to visit the Archives & Special Collections to see what other details from her visit can be recovered.