Fans of American western culture are celebrating the 162nd birthday of author Owen Wister on July 14th. In 1902 Wister published The Virginian: a horseman of the plains, which is considered the basis for the modern western novel and film genres.

The Virginian by Owen Wister (1902)

 

The Virginian is the story of an unnamed ranch hand in Wyoming called “The Virginian” who works his way up to foreman, courts a school teacher, wins a shootout against his enemy, and lives a long and happy life with his wife in the West. DeGolyer Library’s copy includes a letter from Owen Wister on the front pastedown presumably addressed to his publisher, and includes a postscript about  “Mr. Clemons.”

Owen Wister letter to Mr. Davidson, October 22, 1901

Owen Wister letter to Mr. Davidson, October 22, 1901

 

This iconic novel has been adapted for film, stage, and a television show that aired from 1962-1970. There have been five film adaptations of The Virginian, and below is the screenplay from the 1929 film starred Gary Cooper, Walter Huston, and Mary Brian.

 

The Virginian screenplay, 1929

 

 

 

Following the success of The Virginian, Wister continued to write novels, short stories, and a book about his friendship with Theodore Roosevelt. DeGolyer Library has over 80 editions and impressions of The Virginian, an indication of its enduring popularity, 1902-2002.

The Virginian, Armed Forces edition, 1945

The Virginian, Armed Forces edition, 1945

The Virginian, 1945 printing

The Virginian, 1945 printing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Virginian, 2002

The Virginian, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former SMU professor Darwin Payne wrote a biography of Owen Wister in 1985 that was published by the SMU Press. For more books and archival collections about the American West, please contact degolyer@smu.edu for assistance in DeGolyer Library.

Owen Wister, chronicler of the West, gentleman of the East by Darwin Payne (1985)

 

 

Sources:

Collection of western film scripts, MSS 76

Payne, Darwin. Owen Wister, chronicler of the West, gentleman of the East. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1985.

Wister, Owen. The Virginian: a horseman of the plains. New York: Macmillan, 1902.

Wister, Owen. The Virginian. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1945. 8th printing.

Wister, Owen. The Virginian. New York: Editions for the Armed Forces, 1945.

Wister, Owen. The Virginian: a horseman of the plains. Cody, Wyoming : McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, 2002. 100th anniversary edition.

AA-CUL(DeGolyer)