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Special Collections & University Archives

John Steinbeck: From Salinas to Stockholm

John Steinbeck: From Salinas to Stockholm marked the gift to Stanford of the Wells Fargo Steinbeck Collection. The exhibition opened on Steinbeck's birthday, February 27 in the Peterson Gallery of the Cecil H. Green Library. It featured previously unknown writings by California's only Nobel laureate in literature as well as many rare family photographs that cast new light on Steinbeck's life. The Wells Fargo Collection was presented to Stanford as part of Wells Fargo's celebration of California's sesquicentennial.

Steinbeck first came to international fame with In Dubious Battle (1936) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939), impassioned novels about strife and suffering in Depression-ridden California. He is also widely known and beloved for his sensitive evocations of the lives of society's misfits in the novellas Tortilla Flat(1935), Of Mice and Men (1937), and Cannery Row (1945). The major achievements of his later years are East of Eden (1952), an epic recreation of the Salinas Valley and his own family's role in its historical development, and The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), a scathing indictment of American spiritual poverty. Many of Steinbeck's literary works also became popular, often Oscar-winning motion pictures, featuring leading stars from Hedy Lamarr and Henry Fonda to James Dean and John Malkovich.

The exhibition traces Steinbeck's life from his childhood in Salinas and his student days at Stanford through his apprentice years in New York and at Lake Tahoe to his decades of popular success, which culminated with the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962. In addition to unpublished manuscripts and photographs, the exhibition displays Steinbeck's private letters to family and friends, personally inscribed copies of his books, and many scarce artifacts from his careers in Hollywood and as a journalist in Russia, in Italy during World War II, and in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

Among the rarities on display from the Wells Fargo Collection is a letter Steinbeck wrote his uncle just after publishing The Grapes of Wrath, in which he abandons the social focus of his famous Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and announces a radically new, scientific direction for his writing. The exhibition concludes with a typescript of Steinbeck's Nobel Prize acceptance speech that is inscribed to his oldest sister, Esther Steinbeck Rodgers, who originally assembled the Wells Fargo Collection.

The catalog John Steinbeck: From Salinas to Stockholm was published by the Stanford University Libraries in conjunction with this exhibit. The cost is $12 per copy plus tax and shipping. To order, please visit the Special Collections publications web site or contact Lisa Marie Hall at 650-725-1021 or via e-mail at speccollpubs@stanford.edu