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Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch


Walter Leuba (1902-1983) and Martha Leuba (nee Dryburgh) (1909-1988) collected books, wood block prints, other art, and signed letters by writers, artists, and other notable figures. They were married in 1938 and lived for much of their lives at 516 Jacksonia Street on Pittsburgh's North Side. Walter’s collecting activities began in the 1920’s, around the time that he met his first wife, Mildred Wallach (1908-1932).

Walter Leuba spent his early life in New York, Rhode Island, and Pittsburgh. After high school, Leuba attended Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), where he studied fine art, English, and history. Through Porter Garnett, founder of the Laboratory Press at C.I.T., Leuba developed his love of finely printed and illustrated books.

Leuba left C.I.T. in 1923 for financial reasons and moved to New York. While there, he wrote poetry under the name Paul Sandoz and published his first book of verse, Legend, in 1925. After a year in Europe, Leuba returned to Pittsburgh in 1926. He married Mildred Wallach in 1927. Their son, Julian Christopher Leuba, nicknamed “Beppo,” was born in 1929. In 1932, Leuba was laid off and the family lived on Mildred’s wages until her death in December 1932, following a brief and sudden illness. In early 1933, Leuba left his son in the care of his paternal aunts in California. When Leuba brought his son back to Pittsburgh two years later, a succession of friends, relatives, and a children’s home cared for Christopher until Leuba married Martha Dryburgh. In 1934, Leuba began working as a caseworker at the Allegheny County Board of Assistance. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. in social work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1947.

Leuba was a prolific writer of poetry and prose. He wrote frequent letters to the editors of the Times Literary Supplement and Pittsburgh newspapers, and contributed to literary journals and The Pittsburgh Point. In 1947, Macmillan published Leuba’s Poems out of a Hat. In 1967 his George Saintsbury was published in the Twayne Men of Letters series. His books of poetry No Other Mirror and Quips and Cranks, the prose-poem Crusade, and Two Essays on Bach were privately printed. Leuba also produced a number of books through collaborative efforts. In 1947, his correspondence with Ernest Nevin Dilworth about modern education was published by Macmillan as Smith Unbound and received considerable critical notice. Leuba and Dilworth collaborated again on Two Dialogues: Norman Douglas and George Santayana in 1974. With Robert McCullough, Leuba wrote and took photos for The Pennsylvania Main Line Canal (1973). In addition, Leuba contributed poems to a collection of Norton Peterson woodcuts and text to a George Nama portfolio, Monument Studies.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Leubas began donating books and prints from their collection to the University Library System (ULS) of the University of Pittsburgh. After Martha Leuba’s death in 1988, their remaining prints, books, and papers were transferred to the ULS Special Collections Department.

For a more detailed biography of Walter Leuba, please contact the ULS Special Collections Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Additional biographical material is collected in Series V, Personal Papers: Subseries 2, Biography and Genealogy.