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Rare Robert Frost Collection Finds Home At UW-Eau Claire

A young Robert Frost, ca 1913
A young Robert Frost, ca. 1913.

An extremely rare collection of books, correspondence and manuscripts written by poet Robert Frost have found a new home at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The works rival collections held by major universities on the East Coast.

The collection was compiled by the late Frederick Schmidt, a Wisconsin resident who had met Frost while studying at Dartmouth College. It contains 44 Frost books. Many of them are first or limited editions and were signed by Frost for Schmidt while he was in the army during World War II.

Schmidt’s wife, Joan Christopherson-Schmidt, said she’s had offers from private buyers to purchase the collection but didn’t sell.

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“I knew Fritz wanted the material to go where it would be studied and related to nature,” she said, “and I wasn’t sure that would happen if it went to an auction house and went to the highest bidder to put up on his shelf.”

By chance, she got in touch with Greg Kocken, UW-Eau Claire’s head of special collections and archives.

Christopherson-Schmidt said it’s fitting that the works are finding a home amidst the beauty of western Wisconsin, but it was still a tough decision to let the collection go.

“It was just as if Fritz and Frost were walking away for the last time,” she said.

Kochen said he was blown away when he first saw the Frost collection all laid out.

“And, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!’ And now that it’s here I keep thinking that this is still amazing,” Kochen said. “Now, we at the university have this opportunity to present this to all of the students and researchers who would come to take a look at this collection.”

Kochen said it should be available for review this week. The UW-Eau Claire Foundation purchased a portion of the collection but wouldn’t discuss the price.