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Wilbur Joseph Cash Papers

Finding Aid & Inventory

Wilbur Joseph Cash is best known as the author of The Mind of the South, an influential book about the American South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Biographical and Historical Note

Wilbur Joseph Cash (1900-1941) is best known for his book The Mind of the South, a personal and passionate analysis of the history and culture of the American South in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A native Southerner, Cash was born to working-class Baptist parents in Gaffney, South Carolina. Growing up in small towns in North and South Carolina, Cash experienced first hand the folk culture and social conventions of the early 20th century South, and as a child he accepted its values unquestioningly. But as a student at Wake Forest College, Cash was profoundly influenced by the liberal-minded (by Southern and Baptist standards) President William Louis Poteat and other faculty members. Cash began to look with critical detachment at the culture in which he had been raised.

After graduating from Wake Forest, Cash tried with varying degrees of success to make a living as a journalist and freelance writer. He eventually contributed articles to H.L. Mencken's American Mercury. One of these articles was entitled "The Mind of the South", and it attracted the attention of publisher Blanche Knopf, who gave Cash a contract to expand the essay to book length for publication.

Cash struggled over the manuscript of The Mind of the South for the next decade, supporting himself during the Depression years of the 1930's by writing editorials for the Charlotte (N.C.) News and other publications. When the 400+ page Mind of the South was finally published in 1941, it received enthusiastic reviews. Unfortunately, Cash's physical and mental health was deteriorating. He received a Guggenheim fellowship and traveled with his wife to Mexico to work on a novel. But while they were there, Cash became increasingly anxious and delusional, and finally hanged himself in his hotel room.

The Mind of the South proved to be a profound influence on the post-World War II generation of Southern historians. Painting a portrait of Southern culture with broad strokes, Cash extolled some of the traditional values of his upbringing, but devoted most of his book to a stinging criticism of the South's bigotry, violence, and anti-intellectualism. Cultural historians still argue over the issues raised by The Mind of the South.

Collection Overview

The Wilbur J. Cash Collection at Wake Forest University consists of some of Cash's writings, including Mind of the South in typescript, articles, review clippings, business and personal correspondence of W.J. Cash and his wife Mary, photographs, and ephemera.

The W.J. Cash papers include typewritten drafts of The Mind of the South, business and personal correspondence, and personal and family memorablilia.

Collection Inventory

  • Writings by W.J. Cash (1936-1940)
    • The Mind of the South
      • Final typescript for printer, with manuscript changes in red by WJC (completed 1940) box 1 folder 1
      • Carbon copy of partial typescript, final version without manuscript changes box 1 folder 2
      • Partial typescript (1936 January) box 1 folder 3
      • Partial typescript for submission to England (1936 August) box 1 folder 4
    • Typescript "Easter" , published in  Charlotte News  (1941 April 12) box 2 folder 1
    • Typescript "Preview to Understanding"  (1939) box 2 folder 2
    • Typescript Report from Mexico  (1941 June) box 2 folder 3
    • Tearsheet (2 copies) "Sea Fight"  (undated) box 2 folder 4
    • Newspaper clipping "Away in a Manger" , from the  Charlotte News  (1937 December 24) box 2 folder 5
  • Reviews of The Mind of the South
    • Review by John Shelby, Associated Press book editor. Clippings from 16 newspapers box 2 folder 6
    • Reviews and articles from various newspapers box 2 folder 7
  • Correspondence (1941-1965)
    • Correspondence regarding The Mind of the South
      • TLS Ellen Glasgow to WJC (1941 February 22) box 2 folder 8
      • TLS Alfred A. Knopf to WJC (1941 April 15) box 2 folder 9
      • TLS Alfred A. Knopf to WJC (1941 May 26) box 2 folder 10
      • TLS Margaret Mitchell Marsh to WJC (1941 April 16) box 2 folder 11
      • TLS Margaret Mitchell Marsh to WJC (1941 April 28) box 2 folder 12
      • Telegram from Senator Claude Pepper (R-Fla.) to WJC (1941 April 22) box 2 folder 12
      • TLS Andy Anderson, Associated Press, Jacksonville, Florida, to WJC (1941 February 6) box 2 folder 14
      • TLS Frank Daniel, the  Atlanta Journal, to WJC (1941 April 3) box 2 folder 15
      • TLS Sylvester Green, President of  Coker College, to WJC (1941 February 14) box 2 folder 16
      • TLS Sylvester Green to WJC (1941 March 25) box 2 folder 17
      • TLS R. P. Harris[?], Editorial Dept., Baltimore Evening Sun, to WJC (1941 March 12) box 2 folder 18
      • TLS W. C. Jackson, Dean of Administration, Women's College of the University of North Carolina (Greensboro), to WJC (1941 February 28) box 2 folder 19
      • TLS S. A. Nock, Vice-President, Kansas State College, to WJC (1941 February 24) box 2 folder 20
      • TLS Paula Snelling, Editor,  The North Georgia Review, to WJC (1940 January 10) box 2 folder 21
      • TLS Homer P. Rainey, President of University of Texas, to WJC (1941 April 24) box 2 folder 21a
      • ALS Mrs. George W. Harshman (Betsy) to WJC (1941 April 9) box 2 folder 22
      • Fan mail (1941) box 2 folder 23
        • Miriam P. Hart
        • D.M. McKeithan
        • Erwart Matthews
        • Morgan Clayton
      • TLS Alfred A. Knopf to John W. Cash (WJC's father) (1941 September 10) box 2 folder 24
    • Personal correspondence
      • TL "Wilbur" to  "Dad"  (1940 May 11) box 2 folder 25
      • TLS "Mary" [WJC's wife] to Mr. and Mrs. Cash [WJC's parents] (1941 January 21) box 2 folder 26
      • TLS "Mary" to Mr. and Mrs. Cash (1941 February 20) box 2 folder 27
      • TL "Wilbur" to  "Dad"  (1941 February) box 2 folder 28
      • TLS "Mary" to Mr. and Mrs. Cash (1941 April 29) box 2 folder 29
      • TL "Wilbur" to  "Dad"  (1940 May) box 2 folder 30
      • TL "Wilbur" to  "Dad"  (1941 May) box 2 folder 31
      • ANS (postal card) with Mexican postmark, "Mary" to Mr. and Mrs.  Charles Elkins [WJC's sister?] (1941 June) box 2 folder 32
      • TLS Josephus Daniels to John Cash [WJC's father], on the death of WJC (1941 July 3) box 2 folder 33
      • Telegram from Josephus Daniels to John Cash, regarding transport of WJC's remains from Mexico (1941 July 2) box 2 folder 33a
      • Telegram from Mary Cash to John Cash (1941 July 3) box 2 folder 34a
      • TLS Cameron Shipp to John Cash (1941 July 8) box 2 folder 34b
      • Sympathy cards, telegrams and letters; life insurance death certificate (undated) box 2 folder 34c
      • Telegram from Mary Cash to Mr. and Mrs. Cash (1941 July 2) box 2 folder 34
      • Telegram from Josephus Daniels to Mr. and Mrs. Cash (1941 July 2) box 2 folder 34e
      • ALS Lizzie Hamrick [WJC's maternal grandmother] to Mrs. John (Nannie) Cash [WJC's mother], after WJC's death (undated) box 2 folder 35
      • ALS Allan Cash [WJC's brother] to  "Dad and Mother"  (undated) box 2 folder 36
      • TLS Charles Elkins [WJC's nephew], probably to Jospeh L. Morrison (1965 November 28) box 2 folder 37
      • TLS Joseph L. Morrison to Mrs. Charles Elkins [WJC's sister] (1968 January 23) box 2 folder 38
      • TLS George P. Shaw, American Consulate General, Mexico, to WJC (1941 May 15) box 2 folder 39
      • TLS Rafael Jiminez Castro, Consul of Mexico, to WJC (1941 May 21) box 2 folder 40
      • TLS F. Meredith Dietz, Editor,  Southern Literary Messenger, to WJC (1941 March 5) box 2 folder 41
      • TLS Robert P. Falk, Southwestern College, Memphis, to WJC (1941 March 14) box 2 folder 42
      • TLS Margaret Hensey, Editorial Dept., Doubleday, Doran, and Co., to WJC (1941 June 19) box 2 folder 43
      • TLS WJC to Dr. Thurman Kitchin, President, Wake Forest College (1941 April 1) box 2 folder 44
      • TLS Helen McAfee, Managing Editor,  The Yale Review, to WJC (1941 December 24) box 2 folder 45
      • TLS Walter Spearman, Dept. of Journalism, UNC, to WJC (1941 April 8) box 2 folder 46
  • Awards and Tributes
    • Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Award for Creative Writing (1941) box 2 folder 47
      • TLS Henry Allen Moe, Secretary, to WJC notifying him of award (1941 March 12)
      • Memorandum and biographical sketch of WJC for fellows (undated)
      • Official notification of award, signed by H. A. Moe (1941 May 7)
    • Newspaper clipping entitled "Cash Speaks on South Monday at Graduation" , from  The Texan  (1941 June 1) box 2 folder 49
    • Typescript of Josephus Daniels's presentation of Mayflower Cup Award, given posthumously to WJC (1941) box 2 folder 50
    • Articles about death of WJC box 2 folder 51
      • From the Charlotte Observer  (1941 July 3)
      • From the Greensboro Daily News  (1941 July 6)
    • Articles written after WJC's death box 2 folder 52
      • Charlotte News  (1946 July 1)
      • Wilmington Post  (1947 January 4)
      • Raleigh News and Observer  (1958 August 17)
      • TLS Jay Jenkins to Joe Morrison (1965 August 11)
      • Shelby Daily Star  (1954 March 30)
  • Biographical Information and Ephemera
    • Cash family photographs box 2 folder 53
      • Funeral (4 photos)
      • Family group in front of house
      • Professional photo of child in coffin, labeled Elizabeth Cash
    • Biographical information on WJC's parents box 2 folder 54
      • "John Cash Recalls his Childhood" , from the  Cleveland Times [Shelby, N.C.] (1964 August 14)
      • "Author's Mother Dies at Home" , from the  Shelby Daily Star  (1959 August 14)
      • "The Affirmation of Higher Education of Women for the Good of Humanity: A Debate" , by John W. Cash, Shelby, N.C. (1895 June 10)
      • Manuscript entitled "A Civil War Story" , attributed to John W. Cash
    • Ephemeral materials box 2 folder 55
    • Scrapbook of newspaper clippings about WJC's life and work box 3 folder 1

Summary Information

Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Wilbur Joseph Cash Papers
Date [inclusive]
8 Linear Feet  1 banker box, 1 letter box, 3 oversized boxes, 3 binders

Administrative Information

Publication Information
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Revision Description
 Revised by Finley Turner 2019 September
Access Restrictions
This collection is open for use. 
Copyright Notice
Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question or their descendants, unless otherwise designated. Users of this collection are responsible for using the materials in conformance with U.S. copyright law. 
Preferred Citation
Wilbur Joseph Cash Papers, MS 595, Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA. 

The following materials were removed from the collection and added to the University Archives Artifact Collection, RG14: -Typewriter

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