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Collection Number: 04261

Collection Title: Don Wharton Papers, 1941-1945

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 140 items)
Abstract Don Wharton was a journalist who lived in New York City during World War II and wrote articles on the war primarily for such magazines as the "Reader's Digest," "Look," and the "Saturday Evening Post." The collection includes letters, 1941-1945, to and from Don Wharton, many related to Wharton's work as a journalist during World War II. Included are letters from editors, particularly at the "Reader's Digest" and "Look," about articles Wharton was writing for them, and letters to and from editors at other magazines proposing or rejecting ideas. There are also letters dealing with securing clearance for Wharton to write on certain topics, to interview various persons, and to visit sites like war material production factories or army bases. There are also a few memos-to-file that Wharton wrote about various activities and a small number of letters from Rex Stout and Paul Gallico about assignments that were available through the Writers' War Board. Also included are many letters from soldiers and civilians who had read Wharton's articles and wished to comment on them. An article that elicited especially stong reaction was a 1944 column on the fate of soldiers who deserted from the army. There are also family letters that document war-related activities of family members. Of particular interest are those relating to one of Wharton's brothers-in-law, who was missing in action in the Pacific. There are also two photographs: one from 1941 of Wharton at an army base, and the other of a group of unidentified soldiers.
Creator Wharton, Don, 1905-1998.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Don Wharton papers #4261, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Gift of Don Wharton of New York, N.Y., in 1981.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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The following was written by Don Wharton when he placed his World War II letters at the Manuscripts Department in 1981.

When the United States was brought into the war on December 7, 1941, I was living in New York, at 24 Gramercy Park, with my wife, the former Mary Louise Tilley, and our daughters, Margaret and Julia. My work was writing articles, on assignment, for mass magazines, chiefly the Reader's Digest, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post. Our apartment was on the 10th and 11th floors and my workroom, or office as it was called, was on the 11th. Here I worked all through the war, except during summers when from early June to mid-September we lived in a cottage by the sea at Sagaponack, a hundred miles from New York. There, too, I had a room set aside for my writing.

Into my workroom came a stream of letters from persons I had interviewed or worked with on magazine articles and from members of my family and my wife's family. Because many of the family letters are signed with a single name perhaps it would help to identify some of the letter writers. My mother, Mrs. Lacy Donnell Wharton, nee Lilian Ashley Benton, was living in Smithfield, N.C., where he was born in 1874 and where she would die in 1958--84 years in the same town, 79 years at the same street corner. She had four sons. The first was David Benton Wharton (Ben), who Pearl Harbor found in California; he was married to Grace Teeter. I was next, Lacy Donnell Wharton, Jr., whose by line was invariably Don Wharton. Then came James Gilmer Wharton (Jimmie), who was living in Nashville, Tenn., when the Army grabbed him; he was married to Myrtle Bledsoe. The youngest was Dr. Charles Watson Wharton (Wat), a physician in Smithfield where our father practiced medicine for a third of a century. Whatson was commissioned in the Navy. A half-brother, William Lacy Wharton, was living in Winston-Salem. He was married to Mary Haynes, and they had two sons who went to the Pacific: William Lacy Wharton, Jr., and Thomas Donnell Wharton.

My wife's family was even larger. Living in the South when the war came were six sisters and one brother: Mrs. Charles E. Fleming (Madeline); Mrs. E. Edward Wehman, Jr. (Helen); Mrs. Joseph Kershaw Shannon, Jr. (Amy); Mrs. William J. Sherrod (Marguerite); Emma Stone Tilley (Em); Christopher Elizabeth Tilley (Liz); and LUcius Tilley, whose daughter, Gladys, was married to John J. Barreto, whose death in the Pacific is revealed in the letters. Robert Lucius Tilley was her brother. Walter Marshall Bailey, in the Air Force, was the husband of Elizabeth Dean Fleming, the daughter of Mrs. Fleming.

I am writing this in the winter of 1981, nearly forty years after the first of these war letters came in. I do not remember why I started saving them, why I saved some and not others, or why I made (and saved) carbons of some of my own letters, but not others. It may have been a subconscious sense of history--I discovered recently folded away in an over-sized album a copy of the New York Times of December 8, 1941 and a copy of the same newspaper, May 8, 1945, its huge headline telling "THE WAR IN EUROPE IS ENDED!" These are the papers that were delivered at our apartment, my name in pencil across the front page, scrawled there hurredly by our newsdealer. Of course, I knew what I was doing when I saved them. In constrast, it was chance that determined the survivial of some of the letters and carbons.

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Letters, 1941-1945, to and from Don Wharton, many related to Wharton's work as a journalist during World War II. Included are letters from editors, particularly at the Reader's Digest and Look, about articles Wharton was writing for them, and letters to and from editors at other magazines proposing or rejecting ideas. There are also letters dealing with securing clearance for Wharton to write on certain topics, to interview various persons, and to visit sites like war materiel production factories or army bases. There are also a few memos to file that Wharton wrote about various activities and a small number of letters from Rex Stout and Paul Gallico about assignments that were available through the Writers' War Board. Also included are many letters from soldiers and civilians who had read Wharton's articles and wished to comment on them. An article that elicited especially strong reaction was a 1944 column on the fate of soldiers who deserted from the army. There are also family letters that document war-related activities of family members. Of particular interest are those relating to one of Wharton's brothers-in-law, who was missing in action in the Pacific. There are also two photographs: one from 1941 of Wharton at an army base, and the other of a group of unidentified soldiers.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: Roslyn Holdzkom, March 1992

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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