Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Thayer Hobson:

An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Hobson, Thayer, 1897-1967
Title: Thayer Hobson Papers
Dates: 1913-1967 (bulk 1958-1967)
Extent: 18 boxes, 1 oversize folder (7.5 linear feet)
Abstract: Correspondence, financial and legal documents, manuscripts, sound recordings, printed materials, clippings, photographs, and notes document the professional career and private life of book publisher Thayer Hobson
RLIN Record ID: TXRC03-A19
Language: English
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Gifts, 1968, 1970, 1972

Processed by:

Maribeth Kobza Betton, Shanon Lawson, Mary Elizabeth McLain, Sarah Ziebell Mann, 1999; Richard Workman, 2003

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Francis Thayer Hobson, who stopped using his first name as an adult, was born in Denver, Colorado, on 4 September 1897. He had one brother, Henry Wise, who became a bishop in the Episcopal Church, and two sisters, Eleanor (later Mackenzie) and Katherine (unmarried). Hobson interrupted his studies at Yale University to join the French army during World War I. In 1917 he served as a machine gunner for the American Expeditionary Force until he was seriously wounded and returned home in 1918. After recuperating he returned to Yale, where he served as business manager for the Yale Daily News Board, working with fellow students Briton Haddon and Henry R. Luce. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1920 and worked briefly in a manufacturing company before taking positions as an English teacher at Westminster School and Yale College. From 1922 to 1924 he did postgraduate work at Yale. In 1925 he divorced his first wife, Janet Camp (who later published studies of the Rossetti family under the name Janet Camp Troxell), and married Priscilla Fansler, with whom he had one son, Timothy. He spent 1925-26 in Paris studying at the Sorbonne.

Hobson decided to enter the publishing business in 1926 after meeting his college friend Ed Knopf in Europe. He returned home and began working for the newly founded William Morrow and Company. In 1929, Hobson and Priscilla divorced; she would subsequently marry Alger Hiss. From 1930 to 1935 he was married to Laura Zametkin, and they jointly wrote two western novels published by Morrow under the pseudonym Peter Field; Laura Z. Hobson later became a well-known novelist on her own. Hobson himself continued to pursue his own creative writing aspirations for a while and published a small number of stories under various pseudonyms, but left off writing in the mid-1930s.

When William Morrow died in 1931, Hobson bought control of the company and became its president. He successfully led the company through the Depression and World War II into the more prosperous post-war period, publishing authors such as Enid Bagnold, James Gould Cozzens, H. L. Davis, Temple Fielding, Ernest K. Gann, James Hilton, Margaret Mead, Nicholas Monsarrat, Ruth Moore, Nevil Shute, and Morris L. West. The author with whom he is most closely associated, however, and Morrow's greatest success was mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner. In 1932, Gardner began his lifelong publishing association with Morrow by having two manuscripts rejected by the firm. In his rejection letter, Hobson suggested changes Gardner could make to combine the two stories into a single, better manuscript; the result was the first Perry Mason mystery, The Case of the Velvet Claws, published in 1933. Hobson and Gardner quickly developed a solid although sometimes contentious working relationship and a close friendship that continued for the rest of Hobson’s life. In 1938 Gardner began publishing a series of mysteries under the pseudonym "A. A. Fair," and for over a decade Hobson safeguarded Gardner’s secret identity. In the late 1930s, Hobson established Thayer Hobson and Company to manage the publication, promotion, and foreign rights of Gardner’s writings.

In 1958, Thayer Hobson resigned as president of Morrow, became chairman of the board, and went into semi-retirement in Tucson, Arizona. Hobson’s wife, Isabelle Lavis Garrabrants, whom he had married in 1935 and with whom he had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Thayer, died in 1960. The same year, Hobson married Elizabeth Tonkin( "Bettie") Davis, the widow of writer H. L. Davis, and they moved to Comfort, Texas, to breed Appaloosas and quarter horses at Deer Ledge Ranch. Despite his declining health in the 1960s, he continued to work closely with Morrow and Thayer Hobson and Company from Comfort. After a long struggle with respiratory illness that had originated in his war injuries, Thayer Hobson died on 19 October 1967.


"Hobson, (Francis) Thayer." Who Was Who in America. Vol. 4 of Who's Who in American History. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1968.


Correspondence, financial and legal documents, manuscripts, sound recordings, printed materials, clippings, photographs, and notes (1913-1967, bulk 1958-1967) document the professional career and private life of book publisher Thayer Hobson. The papers are arranged in four series: I. General Publishing, 1932-1967 (5 boxes); II. Erle Stanley Gardner, 1957-1967 (6 boxes); III. Nonpublishing, 1913-1967 (6 boxes); and IV. Elizabeth Tonkin Hobson, 1960-1967 (1 box).

The collection consists largely of Hobson's correspondence after he stepped down as president of William Morrow and Company and left New York in 1958, together with some older personal and financial files. The papers show his professional and personal relations with the staffs of Morrow and other businesses associated with Morrow's publishing endeavors; with authors published by Morrow; with his extremely wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the East, Arizona, and Texas; with others involved in the raising and racing of horses; and with his fellow Yale alumni. The publishing-related materials concern almost all aspects of the business, including acquisitions, editing, advertising, marketing, financial management, foreign publications, and copyright. Also included in the collection are manuscripts of a number of short stories that Hobson wrote in the 1930s.

Aside from Morrow author Erle Stanley Gardner--who is by far the most voluminous correspondent in these papers--significant correspondents include many employees of William Morrow and Company, among them officers Lawrence Hughes, John T. Lawrence, and Donald Stevenson; editors Helen B. King, Francis L. Phillips, and John C. Willey; and secretaries Henriette Gelber and Lorraine Rockett. There is also extensive correspondence from Pocket Books president Freeman Lewis and several of Erle Stanley Gardner’s assistants, particularly Jean Bethell (who became Gardner's second wife), Peggy Downs, Ruth( "Honey") Moore, Hedy Roripaugh, and Helene Seay. Among the personal correspondence are large numbers of letters exchanged with his friends Father Joseph Cleary, F. Peavey Heffelfinger, Ruth Moore, P. I. Prentice, and Raymond M. Weaver. Hobson was not always consistent in his filing, and closely related correspondence may be found in his business papers, in the Gardner files, and among his personal papers. An index of correspondents is included in this finding aid.


Letters from Hobson can also be found in the collections of Erle Stanley Gardner, H. L. Davis, and Ruth Moore at the Ransom Center.


The Sound Recordings Collection at the Center houses the Audograph dictation discs that Erle Stanley Gardner sometimes sent Hobson in lieu of typed letters.


People

Bethell, Jean.

Cleary, Joseph.

Cozzens, James Gould, 1903-1978.

Dodd, Mary B.

Downs, Peggy.

Fielding, Temple, 1913- .

Gann, Ernest Kellogg, 1910-1991.

Gardner, Erle Stanley, 1889-1970.

Gelber, Henriette.

Heffelfinger, F. Peavey.

Hobson, Elizabeth Tonkin.

Hughes, Lawrence.

King, Helen B.

Lawrence, John T.

Lewis, Freeman, 1908-1976.

Luce, Henry Robinson, 1898-1967.

Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978.

Monsarrat, Nicholas, 1910-1979.

Moore, Charles C.

Moore, Ruth.

Moore, Ruth Walter.

Phillips, Frances L.

Prentice, P. I.

Roberts, Warren, 1916- .

Rockett, Lorraine.

Roripaugh, Hedwig A.

Seay, Helene.

Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960.

Stevenson, Donald M.

Toepperwein, Herman, 1907- .

Weaver, Raymond M. (Raymond Melbourne), 1888-1948.

West, Morris L., 1916- .

Willey, John C.

Wing, Willis Kingsley, 1899-1985.

Organizations

Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst.

Pocket Books.

W. C. Heaton and Company.

Subjects

Davis, H. L. (Harold Lenoir), 1896-1960.

William Morrow and Company.

Thayer Hobson and Company.

Subjects

Appaloosa horse.

Detective and mystery stories.

Horse racing--United States.

Mason, Perry (Fictitious character)

Publishers and publishing.

Document Types

Appointment books.

Business records.

Financial records.

Medical records.

Sound recordings.

Wills.