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University of Texas at Austin

Erle Stanley Gardner:

An Inventory of His Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Gardner, Erle Stanley, 1889-1970
Title: Erle Stanley Gardner Art Collection
Dates: 1920s-1960s
Extent: 322 items
Abstract: The Erle Stanley Gardner Art Collection contains over 300 drawings, paintings, prints, and camera-ready copies, the majority related to depictions of Gardner's characters and stories.
Call Number: Art Collection AR-00096
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Please note that a minimum of 24 hours notice is required to pull Art Collection materials to the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Some materials may be restricted from viewing. To make an appointment or to reserve Art Collection materials, please contact the Center's staff at Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Internal transfers, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1987, 2000, 2012
Ransom Center staff; Jill Morena, 2017

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Erle Stanley Gardner, detective novelist, screenwriter, and lawyer, is best known for his character Perry Mason, the protagonist of many novels and the attendant television series, which aired from 1957 to 1966. Gardner also co-founded the The Case Review Committee, or The Court of Last Resort, which reexamined convictions that may have resulted from poor legal representation or the misinterpretation of evidence. Gardner died in 1970 at his ranch in Temecula, California.

Scope and Contents

The archive and library of Erle Stanley Gardner was acquired by the Ransom Center in the 1970s, and includes books, papers, and memorabilia. The Art Collection contains over 300 drawings, paintings, prints, camera-ready copies, and overlays. Artists and story titles are noted in the item descriptions when known. Named artists in the collection include James Bingham, Frank Thorne, Mel Keefer, Charles Lofgren, Hal Keefer, Rafael de Soto, and Bill Hughes. The majority of the works in the collection were formerly displayed in a replica of Gardner's Temecula study at the University's Flawn Academic Center from 1972 to 2010.
The collection is divided into six series: I. Drawings and Caricatures, II. Paintings, III. Mechanicals (camera-ready copies), IV. Overlays, V., Promotional Materials, and VI. Other Works. Series I. Drawings includes self-titled sketches and caricatures of character types by Erle Stanley Gardner, as well as portraits of Gardner, Perry Mason, and illustrations of Gardner's stories by known and unknown artists. Many of the drawings were serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, and are heavily annotated. Series II. Paintings includes portraits of Gardner, works related to Perry Mason stories or other Gardner detective fiction, and landscapes of the American Southwest and Mexico. Most are works in oil on canvas or board. Items in Series III. Mechanicals (camera-ready copies) consist of comic strips of Perry Mason stories that were either serialized or published in book form. Each frame is glued to the board with its accompanying titles and dialogue, which would then be photographed for the reproduction and publication process. Also included in this series are heavily annotated camera-ready copies for Perry Mason book jackets. The imagery deals largely with the trope of the femme fatale. Series IV. Overlays are transparencies of different colors, laid over drawings, photographs, prints, or text. The overlays in the collection were used in conjunction with photomechanical prints for The Case of the Duplicate Daughter, which are also present in the collection (87.12.106-112). Posters advertising the publication of Perry Mason stories are present in Series V. Promotional Materials. Series VI. Other Works consists of photomechanical prints, screen prints, engravings, and mixed media works employed throughout the process of reproducing James Bingham's compositions for serial publication in the Saturday Evening Post. Drawings related to these stories can also be found in Series I. Drawings. Also included in Series VI. Other Works are one etching, a framed cameo, dust jackets, reproductions of drawings that appeared in the crime fiction magazine Black Mask, and a mailing label related to original drawings for The Case of the Innocent Thief by Mel Keefer, which may be the title for drawings 87.12.1-38.

Related Material

The Center holds additional materials by and related to Erle Stanley Gardner. Film and scripts related to the Perry Mason series can be found in the Film Collection. Photographs are present in the Erle Stanley Gardner Literary File Photography Collection (PH-02695). Manuscripts, correspondence, and personal belongings, including items kept and displayed in Gardner's ranch cabin in Temecula, can be found in the Erle Stanley Gardner Papers (MS-01530). Personal items that were not part of the cabin display are present in the Erle Stanley Gardner Exhibition at the Flawn Academic Center (PE-00522). Gardner's personal library is located in the Center's book collection.

Index Terms


Belarski, Rudolph, 1900-1983.
Bingham, James.
Gardner, Erle Stanley, 1889-1970.
Hughes, Bill.
Keefer, Hal.
Keefer, Mel.
Lofgren, Charles.
Perry Mason, Perry (Fictitious character).
Phillips, Barye, 1924-1969.
Soto, Rafael M. de, 1904-1992.
Thorne, Frank.


Detective and mystery stories, American.
Women--Portraits--20th century.


Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula).

Document Types

Mechanicals (camera-ready copy).
Photomechanical prints.
Promotional materials.

Container List