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University of Texas at Austin

Fred Gipson:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Gipson, Fred, 1908-1973.
Title Fred Gipson Papers 1920-1973
Dates: 1920-1973
Extent 34 boxes (14 linear feet), 1 oversize folder
Abstract: The papers include manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, contracts, financial and legal documents, and photographs that documenting Gipson's life as one of the most prolific writers of the American Southwest.
Language English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Gift 1965, Purchase, 1973
Processed by Carla Ellard, Linda Peterson, Lisa Rush, and Tim Thompson, 1994; Revised, 1995 by David Hatfield Sparks

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Frederick Benjamin Gipson, journalist and author of western and children's literature, was born February 7, 1908, near Mason, Texas. As the son of cotton farmers, Gipson worked as a field laborer while attending Mason High School. After graduating in 1926, Gipson worked as a goat driver, mule skinner, and day laborer before enrolling as a journalism major at the University of Texas in 1933. That same year Gipson won a writing contest for which J. Frank Dobie, the Texas folklore writer, was a judge. Gipson's winning story, "Hard-Pressed Sam," was later published in the Southwest Review. He also wrote for the University's student paper, The Daily Texan. Gipson married Tommie Eloise Wynn in 1940 with whom he had two children; they were divorced in 1964. In 1967 Gipson was married to Angelina Torres.
Gipson's career as a newspaper reporter and columnist from 1937 to 1940 included work for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the Denver Post, the San Angelo Standard-Times, and the Paris, Texas News. In 1940 Gipson moved back to Mason, Texas, where he began writing a syndicated newspaper column, "Around Our Place," as well as fiction for pulp western publications. In 1943 Gipson sold his first story to Colliers magazine, followed by sales to other magazines such as Reader's Digest, Look, and Liberty. His first book, Fabulous Empire: Colonel Zack Miller's Story,was published in 1946. Other nonfiction works by Gipson include Big Bend, with J. Oscar Langford (1952), Cowhand: the Story of a Working Cowboy (1953), and The Cow Killers: With the Aftosa Commission in Mexico (1956).
Although he was successful as a writer of nonfiction, it was as a novelist that Gipson became best known. In 1945 Gipson met literary agent Maurice Crain, which led to a long-term association between the two Texans. Gipson's first best sellers, Hound-Dog Man (1949) and The Home Place (1950), were listed in the New York Times best seller list and were optioned for film rights by Twentieth Century-Fox. From 1953 to 1955 Gipson wrote for and served as associate editor of True West, a pulp magazine of nonfiction western stories founded by Joe A. Small. From the mid-1950s to early 1960s, Gipson published four more novels for young readers, Trail Driving Rooster (1955), Recollection Creek (1955), Old Yeller (1956), and Savage Sam (1962). Gipson wrote the screen adaptation of Old Yeller (1958) for Walt Disney Studios as well as the screen adaptations of Hound-Dog Man (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1959) and Savage Sam (Walt Disney Studios, 1963).
Gipson was the recipient of several literary awards including the William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1959 and the First Sequoyah Award, Oklahoma, 1959. In 1965 Gipson became president of the Texas Institute of Letters and was named a “Fellow” in 1970. Gipson died at his ranch in Mason County on August 17, 1973, and was, by special proclamation of the governor, buried in the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. Two of his novels for young readers, Little Arliss (1978) and Curley and the Wild Boar (1980), were published posthumously.

For further information, see also

Cox, Mike. Fred Gipson, Texas Storyteller. Austin: Shoal Creek Publishers, 1980.
Henderson, Sam H. Fred Gipson. Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1967.
Lich, Glen E. Fred Gipson at Work. College Station: Texas A & M Press, 1990.

Scope and Contents

The Fred Gipson Papers, 1920-1973 (34 boxes), include manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, contracts, financial and legal documents, and photographs that document his life as one of the most prolific writers of the American Southwest. The collection is arranged in five series: Works, 1942-1965 (11 boxes), Clippings and Printed Materials, 1935-1983 (3 boxes), Correspondence, 1920-1973 (17 boxes), Personal Papers, 1922-1972 (1.5 boxes), and Financial and Legal Documents, 1944-1973 (1.5 boxes).
The creative works consist of manuscripts (often including multiple annotated and corrected drafts) of short stories, novels, screenplays, speeches, and newspaper articles. While short story drafts and printed versions dominate the works series, also present are numerous story ideas or outlines, called “briefs” by Gipson. Gipson's most famous novel Old Yeller is not found in this collection, but several revised drafts of Savage Sam (both novel and screen adaptation) are present.
Correspondence with friends, literary agents, and publishers, and fan mail comprise one half of the collection. This correspondence reflects Gipson's literary achievements and the influence his books had on young readers, whose letters dominate the fan mail subseries. The correspondence series also illuminates the problems and struggles Gipson endured in his personal life and writing career. Significant correspondents include: Walter Brennan, Bernard Brister, Maurice Crain, Margaret Cousins, J. F. Dobie, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., John Henry Faulke, Lyndon B. Johnson, Tommy Kirk, Zack Miller, Fess Parker, Cactus Pryor, General Jesus Jaime Quiñones, J.A. Small, H. N. Swanson, Evan Thomas, Walter Prescott Webb, Annie Laurie Williams, and Chill Wills.
Additional series include printed material by and about Gipson and his works, personal papers, financial and legal documents. In the Personal Papers series are items such as address cards, school diplomas, birth certificates, maps, travel guides, and personal and publicity photographs. Other materials relating to Gipson's publishing and film writing career and general finances are found in the Financial and Legal Documents series.
The Gipson papers represent aspects of his work and life from his early childhood to his death in 1973. Beyond the study of Gipson and his writings during part of the most prolific times of his life, this collection also provides insight into the process of writing and publishing popular western and children's literature in the last half of the twentieth century.

Series Descriptions

Index Terms


Brennan, Walter, 1894-1974.
Brister, Bernard.
Crain, Maurice.
Cousins, Margaret, 1905- .
Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964.
Goldwyn, Samuel, 1926- .
Faulk, John Henry.
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.
Miller, Zack, b. 1878.
Parker, Fess.
Pryor, Cactus.
Quinones, Jesus Jaime, General.
Small, Joe Austell.
Swanson, H. N.
Thomas, Evan.
Webb, Walter Prescott, 1888-1963.
Williams, Annie Laurie.
Wills, Chill, 1902-1978.


Authors, American--West (U. S.)--20th century.

Document Types

First drafts.
Galley proofs.
Legal documents.

Fred Gipson Papers--Folder List