The Buttitta archive in the University of South Carolina’s Department of Rare Books & SpecialCollections (MSS 2005:1) spans the whole of Tony Buttitta’s career. More than forty archival boxes of typescripts, papers, and memorabilia document, not only the breadth of his literary interests and his connections with other writers, but also the substantial nature of his own work and achievements.
The bulk of the collection was received as gift in 2002-2004. In 2002, Mrs.Monica Hannasch Buttitta donated a significant group of books from their New York town house, and she placed selected typescripts on deposit with Thomas Cooper Library. In the fall of 2004, she decided to donate these and other papers, enlisting the help of Michael Cambre of the New York Public Library to ship the remainder of the archive. In 2006, through the TAP fund, the library was able to acquire from Mrs. Buttitta additional letters (and copies of letters) from George Gershwin, Langston Hughes, and others. A few significant items relating to the friendship between Mr. Buttitta and Fitzgerald (including inscribed or annotated books) came to the library with the Matthew J. & Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1994 and are individually traceable through the library’s on-line catalogue.
Tony Buttitta was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1907, the son of poorly-educated parents, recent immigrants from Sicily. He published his first plays and stories in the later 1920's as an undergraduate at Louisiana State Normal College and the University of Texas. Subsequently, at the University of North Carolina, he was one of the group of friends who founded the avant garde Intimate Bookshop and the literary magazine Contempo (1931-34). The magazine led to him meeting and corresponding with such writers as Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, George Bernard Shaw, and William Faulkner. In 1932 he edited a special Contempo issue devoted to Faulkner’s work, now much coveted by Faulkner collectors.
In 1935, when proprietor of an Asheville bookstore, Mr. Buttitta got to know F. Scott Fitzgerald. His memories of Fitzgerald and notes of conversation with him were published as After the Good Gay Times(1974). In the later 1930's, he worked with the Carolina Players and the Federal Theatre Project, a period recorded in his coauthored historyUncle Sam Presents (University of Pennysylvania Press, 1982). After war service in World War II, he made his career in public relations for various arts groups in California and elsewhere, but continued writing. The archive contains his literary typescripts, both novels and plays, as well as correspondence with Beverly Sills, Joseph Papp, Bryan Forbes, and others.
The Department welcomes researchers and research inquiries relating to the Tony Buttitta Literary Archive, which has been processed and is available for research use. In addition to copies of his published work, the more than twenty still-unpublished works at the core of the collection include a number of unpublished novels from the thirties and forties providing fresh perspectives on race relations and immigrant life in the pre-Civil Rights South and on army life during World War II.