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Karl West Flaster papers

Identifier: UASC-009

Scope and Contents

The collection includes contracts, royalty statements, musical scores, poems, correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other materials related to librettist and poet Karl West Flaster. The majority dates to his adult life, circa 1920-1965, but some materials date to after his death in 1965; these include materials compiled by his son, Karl Wonderly Flaster, after his death and Jeffrey W. Price's book about Flaster's work with Vittorio Giannini, published in 1994.


  • 1837-1994


Access to Materials

This collection is open and available to the public for research in the University Archives and Special Collections reading room. The materials are non-circulating.

Copyright Notice

The materials in this collection may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The materials are available for personal, educational, and scholarly use. It is the responsibility of the researcher to locate and obtain permission from the copyright owner or his or her heirs for any other use, such as reproduction and publication.

Biography of Karl West Flaster

Karl West Flaster was born Max West Flaster on February 8, 1905, in New York City. His mother, Ruth Reuck, was a Shakespearean actress and his father, Max Flaster, was a musician. His parents divorced when he was six years old, and his mother changed his name to Karl.

Karl grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and began writing poetry at an early age. To earn a living, he became a newspaper reporter and feature writer for the Atlantic City Press, Atlantic City Times, and Ventnor News. However, after the stock market crash in 1929 and because of his alcoholism, he was unable to hold a permanent job. During this period he held several temporary jobs, including driving a truck, making deliveries, and serving as a public school principal for a short time.

On March 4, 1932, Karl married Gladys Caroline Wonderly, a nurse at the Atlantic City Hospital. Their only son, Karl Wonderly Flaster, was born in 1934 and graduated from the University of Dayton in 1959.

In the early 1920s, Karl met Vittorio Giannini while waiting for a trolley. He noticed Giannini's violin case and initiated a conversation. Commenting that his aunt owned a Stradivarius, Flaster invited Giannini to his home to see the violin. A fruitful partnership developed between the two men, with Flaster as the librettist for Giannini's musical compositions. Together they collaborated on many songs, including "Tell Me, Oh Blue Blue Sky," "Heart Cry," and "Love."

Flaster and Giannini also collaborated on three operas. The first, Lucedia, was first preformed at the Munich Opera House with great success. The following year the opera was performed by the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City, with Dusclina Giannini, Vittorio's sister, as the lead. Their second opera, The Scarlett Letter, premiered at the Vienna Opera House in 1936. Several decades later, in 1961, their third and final opera, The Harvest, premiered in Chicago. This opera was part of the Ford Foundation program for the promotion of American opera.

Between 1940 and 1941, Flaster again worked for the newspaper. His feature column of verse was entitled "This 'n' That" and appeared in The Atlantic City Press-Union. Although work was easier to find in the 1940s, Flaster held a variety of jobs. Beginning in 1942, he worked with the New Jersey Coast Guard patrol and later, at the Army supply warehouse in Atlantic City. In 1949, he resumed "This 'n' That" in Grit and also worked at Fisher's Florist in Linwood, New Jersey, until his death. "This 'n' That" generated the only steady income that Flaster ever received from his writings.

In 1954, Flaster became a reformed alcoholic and lived the last ten years of his life without drinking. He died on January 28, 1965.


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Language of Materials



This collection contains the professional and personal papers of the librettist and poet, Karl West Flaster (1905-1965).


The Karl West Flaster papers are divided into six series.

Missing Title

  1. Series 1: Professional papers
  2. Series 2: Poetry and short stories
  3. Series 3: Correspondence
  4. Series 4: Newspaper clippings
  5. Series 5: Personal memorabilia
  6. Series 6: Oversize materials

Acquisition Information

The Karl West Flaster papers were donated to the University of Dayton Archives in 1990 by Flaster's son, Karl Wonderly Flaster. The literary copyrights were given to the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections. At the time of donation, the donor requested to be notified when the collection was accessed and stated that he would be available for interviews by researchers interested in his father's collection. However, Karl Wonderly Flaster passed away in 1999.

Related Materials

Vittorio Giannini, an American composer, partnered with Karl West Flaster on several musical projects. His estate is held in trust. All research material is located with and controlled by:

Joyce Adger, Vice President, Wachovia Bank and Trust, P.O. Box 3099, Winston-Salem, NC 27150-3099

Guide to the Karl West Flaster papers, 1837-1994
Melinda Michael
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Repository Details

Part of the University Libraries Repository

300 College Park Dr.
Dayton Ohio 45469-1360