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University of Texas at Austin

Oliver La Farge:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator La Farge, Oliver, 1901-1963
Title Oliver La Farge Collection
Dates: 1886-1966 (bulk 1924-1966)
Extent: 29 boxes (12.08 linear feet), 10 galley folders, 1 oversize folder, and 1 oversize scrapbook
Abstract: Hand written and typescript drafts of short stories and articles comprise the bulk of the collection, along with a large body of correspondence and a small amount of financial and legal documentation. La Farge's writings reflect his interest in Native American culture and language.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02350
Language: English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases and gift, 1965-1986 (G2867, R6055, R2614)
Processed by Chelsea S. Dinsmore, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Born in New York City in 1901, Oliver La Farge attended Saint Bernard's Elementary School before being sent to Groton Academy in Lowell, Massachusetts. He entered Harvard in 1920 where his interest in writing earned him a place on the editorial board of the Harvard Advocate, in which several of his early short stories and poems were published. During his first year at Harvard La Farge took part in an archaeological expedition to northern Arizona where he studied Navajo ruins. He turned the experience into a short story when he returned to school, but he also took a strong interest in past cultures and majored in anthropology. He earned a Hemenway Fellowship which extended to graduate research in Guatemala with the Middle American Research Institute of Tulane University.
While writing the report of his research trip La Farge also began writing his first novel, Laughing Boy, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1929. The end of his research grant and the success of his book allowed La Farge to choose between writing and research. He chose writing.
Late in 1929 he married Wanden E. Mathews in New York City, where the couple lived until 1933 when they moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. They had two children before they moved. La Farge felt entirely at home in Santa Fe but Wanden was not happy in the West and in 1937 the couple divorced. Two years later La Farge was back in New York where he married Consuelo Otile Baca. The couple returned to New Mexico, where they remained for the rest of their lives. They had a son in 1951.
La Farge was a prolific writer, publishing 24 books and dozens of articles and short stories, but he also served in the U.S. Air Transport Command during World War II and became deeply involved in relations between American Indian tribes and the Federal Government. He died after a lung operation in Bataan Memorial Hospital in Albuquerque in August 1963. His wife, Consuelo, finished editing and saw published a final collection of his short stories, The Door in the Wall, in 1965.


Dictionary of Literary Biography -- Volume 9: American Novelists, 1910-1945. James J. Martine, Ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981).

Scope and Contents

Holograph and typescript works make up the majority of the Oliver La Farge Collection, 1886-1966 (bulk 1924-1966), supplemented by a great deal of personal and professional correspondence and a variety of works by other authors. The collection is organized into four series, arranged alphabetically by author and chronologically where possible: Series I. Works, 1924-1966 (16 boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1927-1965 (7.5 boxes); Series III. Financial, Legal, and Personal Papers, 1933-1960 (1 box); and Series IV. Third Party Works and Correspondence, 1886-1965 (2.5 boxes). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series contains a large number of La Farge's creative works. Multiple typescript and carbon drafts of books and short stories clearly demonstrate La Farge's editing style as well as his strong interest in the lives and culture of native American Indians. Some of the titles represented include The American Indian, As Long as the Grass Shall Grow, "Miss Euphemia's Nose," A Pictorial History of the American Indian, Santa Eulalia, "The Senior Assistant, " and "Trick or Treat." A volume of La Farge's short stories, The Door in the Wall was published posthumously by his wife, Consuelo. Also present are almost 1400 index cards used to create a Mayan vocabulary index, as well as several notebooks and articles on the Mayan language and Central American linguistics in general. Individual titles are listed in the Index of Works at the end of this guide.
The Correspondence Series is divided into Subseries A. Outgoing Correspondence, 1927-1963 (3.5 boxes), and Subseries B. Incoming Correspondence, 1927-1965 (4.5 boxes). Exchanges of letters can frequently be traced between the two subseries, and a fair amount of correspondence occurred between La Farge and the Artists' and Writers' Press; John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Letitia Evans Frank, associate on the Tucson Festival of Arts; Houghton Mifflin Co.; literary agents Elsie McKeogh and Marie Rodell; friend Linton Satterthwaite and others. Individual correspondents are listed in the Index of Correspondence at the end of this guide.
The Financial, Legal, and Personal Papers Series contains a variety of financial statements from publishers and agents, a collection of military related documentation, and research notes for scholarly and fictional works. Also present are a large collection of items relating to the Hopi Indian tribes and a passport.
The Third-Party Works and Correspondence Series is divided into two sections, Subseries A. Third-Party Works, 1888-1965 (1 box) and Subseries B. Third-Party Correspondence, 1886-1965 (1 box). The Third-Party Works Subseries is composed of articles, reviews, short stories, and other creative works by authors other than La Farge, including The Great Sioux Uprising by Chester Oehler and Northern Central America with a Trip to the Highland Anahuac: Travels and Studies of the Years, 1888-1895 (1897) by Carl Sapper. The individual titles in this subseries are indexed in the Index of Works by other Authors at the end of this guide. The Third-Party Correspondence Subseries contains a moderate amount of correspondence between friends and associates of La Farge and frequently concerning him or his work. Two early letters by La Farge's father are dated 1886. Individual correspondents are listed in the Index of Correspondence at the end of this guide.

Related Material

Other materials associated with Oliver La Farge may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Adams, James Donald
  • Downing, R.
  • Harper's
  • Johnson, Spud

Separated Material

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are almost 400 photographs of La Farge, his friends, and his family, as well as numerous snapshots from his travels in Central America and the Southwest, located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection. There is an oversize scrapbook containing newspaper clippings about his books and thirty-three Vertical Files containing newspaper clippings with biographical information and literary criticism in addition to published articles by La Farge. A wooden box that belonged to La Farge is located in the Personal Effects Collection.
Sound recordings were transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recording collection and are described individually in a list at the end of this finding aid and in a searchable database.

Index Terms


Frank, Letitia Evans.
Hayes, Dorsha.
McKeogh, Elsie.
Rodell, Marie.
Satterthwaite, Linton, 1897- .


Artists' and Writers' Press, Inc.
Houghton Mifflin and Company.
The New Yorker.


Anthropological linguistics.
Authors, American--20th century.
Indians of Central America--Guatemala.
West (U.S.)--Social life and customs--Fiction.

Document Types

Galley proofs.

Oliver La Farge Collection--Folder List