This Goodly Land

Carl Carmer (October 16, 1893–September 11, 1976)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Biographical Information

Carl Carmer was born and raised in rural upstate New York. He graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., with a baccalaureate degree in 1914 and obtained an MA at Harvard University in 1915. Carmer then taught English at Syracuse University and the University of Rochester and served as an artillery instructor at Fort Sill, Okla., during World War I. From 1921 to 1927, Carmer taught English at the University of Alabama. He began studying Alabama, traveling around the state and making notes on the folklore and the people, intending to write a scholarly paper about what he observed. In 1927, Carmer left the university and took a job as columnist and reporter for the New Orleans Item-Tribune. The following year, he became an assistant editor at Vanity Fair in New York. In 1929, Carmer became an assistant editor at Theatre Arts Monthly. In 1930, he published a book of poetry based on Alabama locales called Deep South.

In 1933, Carmer lost his editing job and decided to focus on a prose book he was writing about his experiences in Alabama. Residencies at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony helped support him during this period. Stars Fell on Alabama was published in 1934 and quickly became a bestseller. Similar books about New York State folklore followed, the first appearing in 1936. In 1937, Carmer told American folktales on a radio show called Your Neck o’ the Woods and published a collection of stories from that program, The Hurricane’s Children. In the late 1940s, Carmer began writing children’s books, many of which were illustrated by his wife Elizabeth. In addition to his writing, Carmer was editor for the Rivers of America and Regions of America series. He was involved with several professional organizations for writers and editors, served as a director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was one of the founders of the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference.

Interests and Themes

Carl Carmer’s books often highlight American history and folklore, with a special focus on his home state of New York. Two books, Deep South and Stars Fell on Alabama, are based on his experiences in Alabama.

For More Information

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Reference Articles

  • Beidler, Philip. "Yankee Interloper and Native Son: Carl Carmer and Clarence Cason: Unlikely Twins of Alabama Expose". Southern Cultures 9.1. (2003): 18-35.
  • Benet, William Rose. "Man from the Genesee: A Sketch of Carl Carmer". Saturday Review of Literature 6 Dec. 1941: 6-7, 36.
  • Van Gelder, Robert. "An Interview with Mr. Carl Carmer: The Folklorist and Novelist Discusses His Work Methods and Personal History in a Candid Talk". New York Times 11 Jan. 1942: BR2, 14.

Reference Book Chapters and Encyclopedia Entries

  • "Carmer, Carl (Lamson) 1893-1976"; Something About the Author. Vol. 37. Detroit: Gale Research Company, . 45-48.

Reference Book Prefaces

  • Flynt, J. Wayne. Introduction. Stars Fell on Alabama by Carl Carmer. University: University of Alabama Press, . xi-xviii.

Reference Web Sites

Location of Papers

  • New York State Historical Association

Photo courtesy of the New York State Historical Association.

Last updated on Dec 19, 2007.

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