Archives Diary: Processing the Papers of B.C. Professor John McAleer

Boston College English Professor and author John McAleer, 1923 - 2003

Boston College English Professor and author John McAleer, 1923 – 2003, photo from November 26, 2003 issue of the Boston College Chronicle.

In July 2010, I began processing the collection of former B.C. English Professor, John McAleer. Professor McAleer was a well-known, well-respected, and well-loved member of our English Department for forty-eight years in addition to being Rex Stout’s biographer (Stout’s papers are also owned by the Burns Library and can be used in the Burns Library Reading Room) and an expert on Theodore Dreiser. As a doctoral student in English here at Boston College, I have a special affinity for this collection.

Professor McAleer’s papers include fascinating items that range from the expected (vast correspondence) to the unusual (strands of hair from Rex Stout’s beard). Processing it has been both captivating and frustrating as I struggle to understand Professor McAleer’s meticulous organizational system (he was a man who loved all things alphabetical). As provenance is such an important part of what we do here at the Burns when we process collections, I am working to maintain Professor McAleer’s original order whenever possible. While this may mean that I don’t always understand what Professor McAleer was thinking, I am able to honor his research methodology and the ways in which he approached both his academic and authorial work.

American author and radio personality, Stout  was born in Noblesville, Indiana. He went to school in Kansas and later began to write detective stories. His characters, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodman, became famous. From 1940-1970, Stout was active in a number of literary and political organizations.

American author and radio personality, Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana in 1886. He went to school in Kansas and later began to write detective stories. His characters, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodman, became famous.  Stout was active in a number of literary and political organizations until his death in 1975.   The Rex Stout Papers are available for research in the Burns Library Reading Room.  Please contact us (burnsref@bc.edu/617-552-4861) if you are interested in looking at Stout’s Papers.

Most importantly, keeping track of and sticking to Professor McAleer’s order allows researchers a unique glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that went into authoring Rex Stout’s Edgar Award-winning biography. This “peek behind the curtain” gives visitors to Professor McAleer’s collection a multidimensional understanding of the relationship between author and subject, one which ultimately resulted in a meaningful and lasting friendship.

The acclaimed Edgar winning biography of the creator of America's largest detective, Nero Wolfe, by Professor John McAleer

The acclaimed Edgar Award-winning biography of the creator of America’s largest detective, Nero Wolfe, by Professor John McAleer

The processing of this collection is endlessly appealing and I look forward to a time in the near future when the processing will be complete so that researchers from both the Boston College community and beyond can enjoy Professor John J. McAleer’s papers.

  • Katie Daily-Bruckner, Graduate Research Assistant, Burns Library & Boston College Doctoral Candidate in the Department of English

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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One Response to Archives Diary: Processing the Papers of B.C. Professor John McAleer

  1. Robert Stanton says:

    Thanks for the great post, Katie! John McAleer was a good guy, and I remember him well. He was super nice to me when I was a stripling in the English Department, and he loved to talk about Stout, or any writer really. Sometimes the time wore on and he was a bit difficult to edge away from, but I always learned a lot. He and I shared a love for P.G. Wodehouse, who got into bad trouble during WWII because he had done some lighthearted radio broadcasts from a German prison camp. When John was a teenager, he sent Wodehouse a fan letter and mentioned his wartime troubles and the abuse he got from the press. Wodehouse sent a brief but funny reply, saying “yes – aren’t they stinkers!” and attaching a clipping with a paper clip. The young John was thrilled, and 50 years later, as he was showing me this letter, I remember him taking off the paper clip, holding it up, and saying, “Look! That’s Wodehouse’s paper clip!” We both gazed in wonder.

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