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University of Texas at Austin

J. Frank Dobie:

An Inventory of His Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964
Title: J. Frank Dobie Art Collection
Dates: 1690-1965
Extent: 569 works of art (555 objects in 14 boxes, 93 flat file folders, including 20 framed works and 39 sculptures)
Abstract: The J. Frank Dobie Art Collection comprises works by artists of the American West and Southwest, works by Dobie’s friends, readers, and students, and European works obtained by Dobie during his travels. The collection also has works by most of the artists who provided illustrations for Dobie’s books and magazine articles.
Call Number: Art Collection AR-00067
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Please note that a minimum of 24 hours notice is required to pull art 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 materials, please contact the Center's staff at

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases (R738, R1567, R1568, R1569, R1570), 1961-1963; gifts, 1964-1997
Processed by: Helen Young, 2014

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

James Frank Dobie, Texas writer, teacher, folklorist, and historian, was born September 26, 1888, in Live Oak County, Texas, to Richard J. and Ella (Byler) Dobie. He attended country schools during his early years and received a strong foundation in English literature and the Bible from his parents. He moved in with his grandparents for two years to finish high school in Alice. In 1906, he enrolled at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
After graduation in 1910, Dobie took a summer job at the San Antonio Express before starting a teaching job in Alpine, Texas. He returned to Georgetown in 1911 to teach at the Southwestern University preparatory school.
Dobie received a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1914 and began his teaching career at the University of Texas as an instructor of English. In 1916 he married his college sweetheart, Bertha McKee, who was to become his chief literary assistant as well as his occasional substitute teacher when he took off time to collect material for his books. In the same year he joined the Texas Folklore Society.
In 1917, Dobie joined the Field Artillery and was sent overseas the following year. After his discharge in 1919, he returned to his teaching job at the University but resigned in 1920 to take a job helping manage the ranch of Jim Dobie, his uncle, in Live Oak County. After a year living among cowboys and vaqueros and listening to their tales, Dobie returned again to the University in the fall of 1921. He began collecting and organizing folklore, and in 1922 he resuscitated the Texas Folklore Society, which had stopped operations during the war, and was elected Secretary-Editor for the Society.
As Dobie was not qualified for promotion at the University because he did not have a Ph.D., he relocated to Oklahoma A & M in 1923 to take the position of head of the English department. While in Oklahoma he started contributing articles to the Country Gentleman. Dobie returned again to the University of Texas after the administration responded to his supporters’ urging that he should be brought back and given a promotion. He continued writing articles on Texas history and culture for various periodicals. His first book, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, 1929, written with John Young, established him as a spokesman of Texas and southwestern culture. His next work, Coronado’s Children (with illustrations by Ben Carlton Mead), won the Literary Guild Award for 1931 and brought Dobie wider recognition as a literary figure. Works that soon followed included two works with illustrations by Tom Lea: Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver, 1939, and The Longhorns, 1941.
He spent part of World War II teaching American literature at Cambridge University, where he was given an honorary master of arts degree in 1944. Upon his return to Texas, Dobie found the University under the control of what he termed “fascist-minded regents” who had fired President Homer P. Rainey. Dobie openly criticized the regents and the legislature, and Governor Coke Stevenson recommended that he be fired. Dobie asked for an extension of his leave of absence, but an extension was denied. Dobie left the University.
After this separation Dobie was able to devote all of his time to writing. He completed The Ben Lilly Legend in 1950, with illustrations by Douglas K. McLean and cover design by Tom Lea. In 1960 he published I’ll Tell You a Tale, with illustrations by Ben Carlton Mead.
In 1939 Dobie began a syndicated newspaper column, “My Texas,” which appeared weekly until his death. Here he shared stories and gave his opinions on a variety of topics, often taking aim at politicians, educators, and what he considered to be inappropriate architecture.
President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Dobie the Medal of Freedom on September 14, 1964. Dobie died four days later in Austin.


Abernethy, Francis Edward. J. Frank Dobie. (Austin: Texas, Steck-Vaughn Co., 1967).

Scope and Contents

The J. Frank Dobie Art Collection comprises works by artists of the American West and Southwest, works by Dobie’s friends, readers, and students, and European works obtained by Dobie during his travels. The collection also has works by artists who provided illustrations for Dobie’s books and magazine articles. The works are mainly from Dobie’s personal collection; a few items related to Dobie’s interests and literary writings were contributed by other people.
Artists represented in the collection include:
Howard Norton Cook, Taos artist (71 drawings and 2 prints). Most of these are large portraits and animal studies drawn at La Mota Ranch and other nearby locations in La Salle County, Texas. There are also five works by Cook’s wife, Barbara Latham.
Maynard Dixon, painter of the American West (5 drawings and 1 watercolor painting).
Peter Hurd, Southwestern artist (1 caricature drawing of Dobie and 5 lithographs).
Tom Lea, Texas artist and writer (2 portraits of Dobie; 68 illustration sketches and final designs and 2 related items for Dobie’s Apache Gold & Yaqui Silver, 1939; cover design and an unused design for Dobie’s The Ben Lilly Legend, 1950; 50 illustration designs and preliminary studies and a handwritten folder for Dobie’s The Longhorns, 1940; a design for Dobie’s “The Deathless White Mustang” in The Western Horseman, 1949) and an assemblage created with Dobie for displaying Ben Lilly’s knife with Lea’s drawing of the knife.
Ben Carlton Mead, American West painter and illustrator (17 illustration designs for Dobie’s Coronado’s Children: Tales of Lost Mines and Buried Treasure of the Southwest, 1930; 19 drawings and 14 related photomechanical prints for Dobie’s I’ll Tell you a Tale, 1960; a design for Dobie’s “The Mad Mexican Millionaire” in Frontier Times, 1961; as well as seven drawings and one print).
Charles M. Russell, artist of the American western frontier (3 watercolor paintings, 9 drawings, 8 sculptures, 2 Christmas cards, and 3 handwritten letters, of which 2 are illustrated).
Other American artists include George C. “Bob” Bales, Harrison Begay, Thomas Hart Benton, Harold Dow Bugbee, Gutzon Borglum, Solon Hannibal Borglum, Paul Bransom, Enrique Castells-Capurro, Louis Cordova, Will Crawford, Dawson Dawson-Watson, De Grazia, Edward Willard Deming, Douglas Duer, W. Herbert Dunton, Philip John Evett, Kelly Fearing, Samuel Edward Gideon, Albert Lorey Groll, Harry Jackson, Will James, William Robinson Leigh, Merritt Mauzey, Florencio Molina Campos, Stockton Mulford, Sheridan Oman, R. H. Palenske, Alexander Phimister Proctor, Frederic Remington, Ignatz Sahula-Dycke, Porfirio Salinas, Ross Santee, Edward Muegge Schiwetz, C. Arnold Slade, Blanding Sloan, Antonio Sotomayor, James Swann, Zel Eugene Talbert, Theodore Van Soelen, James Robert Williams, Charles Banks Wilson, and Henry Ziegler.
European artists include Anton Flieher, Lucien Gautier, William H. Hopkins, Samuel Howitt, Ernest Alfred Sallis Benney, Karl Uchermann, and Eugene-Joseph Verboeckhoven.
Works are listed by the artist’s name. Descriptions may include a Dobie Art number that corresponds to item descriptions found in collection documentation from Dobie’s secretary, Willie Belle Coker.
Three works from the J. Frank Dobie Collection are listed with the William Rothenstein Art Collection: Rothenstein’s portrait of R. B. Cunninghame Graham and two portraits of W. H. Hudson.
The J. Frank Dobie Art Collection also has prints and reproductions in the Ransom Center Art Collection’s Japanese Print Collection. These include three color lithographs depicting scenes from the story of the Forty-seven Ronin, with Japanese text; a portfolio Japanese Color Prints: a Prize Collection of 8 Beautiful and Famous Japanese Woodblocks Reproduced from the Rare, Old Originals(New York, Penn Prints, 1950); eight plates from Ichitaro Kondo’s portfolio Ukiyo-e (Tokyo: Dentsu Advertising, 1950s), and a reproduction of Summer Grasses by Hōitsu Sakai.
The Art Collection also has Dobie’s collection of 474 loose photomechanical art prints and 3 albums of 282 photomechanical Charles Russell prints.
The collection received a donation of 68 drawings by Howard Norton Cook from a group of Dobie’s friends: Frank Gilliam, Warren Howell, Bertram Rota, Herbert West, and Jake Zeitlin. Additional works from donated by Bertha McKee Dobie’s nephew Edgar Kincaid, Tom Lea, Ben Carlton Mead, and Little, Brown and Company.

Related Material

J. Frank Dobie materials are also held in the Ransom Center’s Manuscripts Collection, Library, Photography Collection, Personal Effects Collection, and the Vertical File Collection.

Index Terms


Cook, Howard Norton, 1901-1980.
Dixon, Maynard, 1875-1946.
Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964.
Hurd, Peter, 1904-1984.


Cattle drives.
Native Americans.


New Mexico.

Document Types

Crayon drawings.

Item List