James Lardner Papers
Language of Materials
James Lardner (1914-1938) was a journalist who enlisted in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight against Franco's rebel forces in Spain. In March of 1938 Lardner traveled to Barcelona and after observing the war first hand, resolved to enlist in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. He was killed in action in September 1938. The collection consist chiefly of correspondence; most of it produced by Lardner during his time in Paris and Spain and addressed to his mother Ellis and his brother Ring.
James Lardner was born on May 18, 1914 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second of four sons born to Ringgold (Ring) Wilmer Lardner, journalist and humorist, and Ellis Abbott Lardner, a Smith College graduate from a prominent Michigan family. In 1919, the Lardner family moved East and James, with his brothers, was raised in the affluent enclaves of Greenwich, Connecticut and Great Neck, Long Island. The boys came of age in the rich literary milieu formed by the writers and journalists the senior Lardners counted among their friends, including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Heywood Broun, and H. L. Mencken.
Lardner attended Andover and Harvard and, following his education, was hired as reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. According to his brother, Ring Lardner, Jr., James' early journalism experiences were a "monotonous round of funerals, banquets, strikes, accidents and minor crimes …" After three years in New York City, Lardner transferred to the Herald Tribune'sParis bureau in 1938. While there he began writing articles on the participation of American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. In March 1938 Lardner traveled to Barcelona in the company of fellow journalists Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Sheean to observe the conflict first hand. After witnessing an aerial battle that destroyed a bridge on the Ebro River and the dire state of the Loyalist forces, Lardner resolved to join the International Brigades.
His initial attempt to enlist found him in a ragged battalion in Badalona far from the field of action. Eager to participate in the conflict he left Badalona, made his way to Mora-la-Nueva, and enlisted in the Third Company of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade early in May. In July he sustained shrapnel injuries during his first battle. After a month of hospitalization he was returned to active duty in the Sierra Pandols region near the Ebro. On September 23, 1938, on what was to be last day of fighting for the International Brigades, Lardner with two other men in his command were sent out to patrol a hill to the rear of his battalion. They encountered heavy enemy fire and Lardner did not return to camp. His death was confirmed several weeks later when a Nationalist correspondent reported that a body with foreign press credentials had been found in the location where Lardner was last seen. His body, which was discovered in fascist-controlled territory, was never recovered. According to Sheean, "Lardner, the last American to enlist, had been the last to be killed."
Lardner, Ring, Jr. The Lardners: My Family Remembered. (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1976.)Sheean, Vincent. Not Peace but a Sword.(New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1939.)
Arrangement: The first four folders contain Lardner's correspondence arranged chronologically. The remainder of the correspondence files are arranged alphabetically by author. The battle citation and clippings follow the correspondence.
Organized into one series including correspondence, a citation, and one file of clippings.
Scope and Content Note
The James Lardner Papers consist chiefly of correspondence; most of it produced by Lardner during his time in Paris and Spain and addressed to his mother Ellis and his brother Ring (call Bill by his family). His early letters describe his life in Paris, the political scene in France, his disenchantment with the Paris bureau of the Herald Tribuneand his plans to travel to Barcelona with Ernest Hemingway. His letters from Spain cover his military career in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, life in the camps and trenches, and his month-long hospitalization. Notable among these is a letter he sent to his mother in which he enumerates his reasons for joining the International Brigade (May 3, 1938). Of graphic interest is a postcard addressed to Ring that depicts a hospital hydrotherapy unit.
The collection also includes letters written to Ellis by Vincent Sheean informing her of James' whereabouts, health and welfare; condolence letters from Lardner's former Lincoln Brigade comrades John Murra and Elman Service; a telegram from Ernest Hemingway; and a letter from a Nationalist agent in the United States, Juan F. Cardenas, responding to Ellis request for information about her son.
Additional materials are clippings of articles about Lardner by Heywood Broun and Vincent Sheean; and an International Brigade citation made out to Lardner with a colorful battlefield graphic on the verso.
Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, email@example.com or 212-998-2630.
Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), were transferred to New York University in November 2000 by the ALBA Board of Governors. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-998-2630.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.
The James Lardner papers were donated to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in 1980 by his brother Ring Lardner, Jr. This collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of the ALBA collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University.