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Hamlin Garland: Hamlin Garland newsletter

Information about the noted American author and his papers, housed in USC Libraries Special Collections.


The Hamlin Garland Society newsletter was based at the University of Southern California.  While now inactive, the newsletter published all manner of Garlandiana, including reports on papers presented at the American Literature Association conferences, and items of interest from Garland's hometown, West Salem, Wisconsin. Information about the newsletter can be obtained by contacting Claude Zachary, University Archivist and Manuscripts Librarian, USC Libraries, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0189,

What follows are items from the last issues of the newsletter.

2006 Newsletter

2005 ALA Conference recalled

Three papers were offered at the Hamlin Garland Society panel at the American Literature Association in Boston on May 28, 2005.

In "The Passing of the Pioneer: Hamlin Garland's 'The Fireplace' and the Rise of the Small-Town Myth," Jeffrey C. Swenson (University of Iowa) noted that of the two versions of Main-Travelled Roads, the six-story version has been favored by critics such as Donald Pizer and Joseph McCullough. Swenson argued that the twelve-story version, often out of print, has been maligned for too long. Several stories in this version, among them "The Fireplace" and "Mrs. Ripley's Trip," significantly focus on the theme of the return to the small town.

Leslie Petty's "'Being a radical is like opening the door to the witches': Revolutionary Romance in Hamlin Garland's 'A Spoil of Office'" makes a case for Garland's early political work, arguing that Garland uses the conventions of heterosexual romance to write a "revolutionary romance." Following Caroline Levander's work on female speech and male listeners, Petty demonstrated that unlike the usual practice of listening to women's voices but not their words, Garldan's Bradley in A Spoil of Office listens seriously to the content of Ida's speeches; he has his consciousness raised and wishes to bring out serious social change.

Kurtis Meyer and Jon Morris's "Hamlin Garland, Iowa Nature Writer?" drew parallels between Garland and Thoreau. Like Thoreau, Garland found nature a source of renewal and liberation, and his compunctions about breaking the sod also show a "green" sensibility. Also like Thoreau, Garland was interested in accuracy and truthfulness, confirming even the seemingly unlikely image of seagulls on the prairie by stating, "I found them there."

Our thanks to Professor Donna Campbell (Washington State University), last year's moderator, for providing these notes.


Celebrating Garland Days in West Salem

The October 2004 issue of the West Salem (WI) Historical Society Newsletter offers a glimpse of the annual doings surrounding Hamlin Garland's birthday in his home town.  For 2004's "Garland Days," West Salem turned out for a village-wide rummage sale and a two-day silent auction. At the Garland Homestead, eighty persons signed in on Saturday (Sept. 11) with another 60 recorded on Sunday.  Many visited the display of antique cars in the Garland backyard, and a cake (with a picture of Garland on it) was served with ice cream there on Sunday.

Inspirational highlights of the Garland Days were the talk by Wisconsin author and Emeritus Professor at the University of Wisconsin Jerry Apps at the Homestead on Sunday afternoon, as well as presentations the previous day by the finalists in a successful poetry contest which had drawn nearly a hundred entries.


The Garlands Tonight!

Garland's 144th birthday was celebrated in fine style at the Dacotah Prairie Museum in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on September 20th, 2004.  Recalling Hamlin Garland's frequent appearances on stage with his daughter Mary Isabel in the early 1920s, two actors in period costume read from the author's writings in a program conceived and implemented by William "Gene" Aisenbrey, who directs the Garland Memorial Society in Aberdeen. Going back to handbills and other documentation of Garland's actual appearances in various Midwestern towns, the re-enactors, David and Virginia Newquist, read two poems and a short story by Garland and elaborated in the author's own words on his Indian lore and his homesteading experiences.

In their modern lives, David Newquist is a retired professor of American literature, and Mrs. Newquist is associated with the field office of outgoing Senator Tom Daschle.  Both have performed in other historical re-enactments in the area.  An earlier performance of the Garland program was given in May of this year.

Photo by W.E.Aisenbrey


American Literature Association 2004 Annual Conference

The American Literature Association held its annual conference from May 27-30 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel near the Embarcadero in San Francisco. As in recent years, there was a Garland panel offering three presentations: Mark Buechsel from Baylor University spoke about Garland's impressionist techniques, with particular reference to the story "A Branch Road"; John Ahouse from the University of Southern California reviewed the editing challenges of Garland's  The Fortunate Exiles, the author's unpublished late memoirs; and Keith Newlin from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington described the different versions of a short film with and about Hamlin Garland made as a documentary between 1936-38.


Garland Imagery in Iowa Display

On May 10, 2004, in Mitchell County, Iowa, where Garland spent his boyhood, Kurt Meyer presented a photographic essay and lecture, "The Power of Place" at St. Ansgar High School, "some six or seven miles from the Garland homestead," according to Meyer.  The photographs, by Jon Morris of St. Paul, MN, depict rural landscapes of the region, captured in such a way as to suggest the atmosphere of Garland's day. In Meyer's presentation, they are paired with quotations from Garland's writing and were first displayed at the American Literature Association annual conference a year ago in Massachusetts. Local press in Mitchell County gave full and informed publicity to the event.

Kurt Meyer writes that 16 of his photos are currently displayed at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) from November through mid-January.

A sampling of the Morris/Meyer work can be see on the Luther College website.


Author to Author: "They ought to make a movie"

In a rare clap on the shoulder between writers, Edward Alonzo Brininstool took the time in 1926 to write to Hamlin Garland in praise of the latter's story, "The Silent Eaters."  Brininstool (1870-1957) was a noted and prolific writer on Western subjects, whose specialty was the Custer Massacre in all of its particulars. Garland's long-short story had appeared in 1923 as the concluding section of his The Book of the American Indian.

On letterhead of the National Custer Memorial Association, Brininstool wrote as follows:

Los Angeles, Cal.
April 24, 1926

Dear Mr. Garland:

I have again been reading -- for I do not know how many times -- your wonderful story of "The Silent Eaters" in your book The American Indian.  I recall writing to you some time ago about it and asking if it was not possible to have this single story of the life of Sitting Bull made into a book by itself.

It is time the American people knew the real side of the Indian, and WHY and HOW he fought for his rights. I do not believe there is another story ever written which would so appeal to the reading public as this one of yours. And if the story could be worked out into a moving picture, just as you have related it -- why, it would be the biggest thing in films yet screened. Could this not be done?  Why don't you take up the matter with some of the big companies like the Universal, Fox or Lasky outfits?  Get some of them to read it. That story would melt the heart of anybody even though hard as flint. It would make the epic of the screen -- a story of the real Indian conditions which would get right down under everybody's skin -- a story of the real American.

There is one on the screen now called "The Vanishing American" from one of Zane Grey's books, somewhat on this line, but nothing to be compared to what could be brought out in your wonderful story. I think yours is the most pitiful, heart-rending and pathetic story I ever read anywhere. There is something about it for the white man to pause and reflect.

Are you going up to the Custer battlefield in June to the semi-centennial? If so, I hope to meet you there. I'd like to shake by the hand a man who can handle the English language as you can.

Once more -- do see if you can't get this story into a book by itself.

Sincerely, yours,
E.A. Brininstool

(from the Hamlin Garland Collection, The University of Southern California)


A Century-Old Message from Hamlin Garland

A metal chest, or "time capsule," sealed in 1901 on the campus of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, was recently opened after a hundred years.

Among the many letters, photographs, and other memorabilia from the first year of the Twentieth Century, was a nine-page conservation essay, "Mystery of the Mountains," by Hamlin Garland.

Thanks to Keith Newlin for calling this to our attention. You can learn about the Colorado Century Chest and its contents, and read the transcribed text (listed as Item 79) of Garland's essay here.


"What Hamlin Garland Can Tell Us about Outmigration"

 Lance Nixon, South Dakota State University Ag Information Editor, was the guest speaker at the 2003 Garland anniversary event on September 14 in Aberdeen, SD, held at the Dakotah-Prairie Museum.

Nixon holds a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from SDSU, a master of arts in English from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, and was a Fulbright scholar to Finland in 1993-94. He has worked for daily newspapers in North and South Dakota for fifteen years. While writing for the Aberdeen American News, he published several Garland-related articles.

W. E. Aisenbrey, facilitator of the Hamlin Garland Memorial Society, reports on the talk as follows:

Early on, Hamlin Garland was aware of "outmigration" as he himself joined this group in 1883, heading for Boston after an especially harsh winter in McPherson County. Circa 1930, South Dakota reached its peak in population, according to the speaker, when outgoing overtook incoming as far as migration was concerned. Lack of social amenities - opera, theater, large libraries - and harsh and lonely conditions on the prairie contributed to the reasons for outmigration. South Dakota is now recovering, but it is the urban areas that are realizing the gain; while the rural areas continue to wither away. School districts are consolidating to save their identities and maintain community education programs. In covering the rhymes and reasons for outmigration, the speaker quoted from four of Garland's books as well as from other Upper Midwest authors.

A discussion period preceded the cutting of the annual Garland birthday cake.

Mr. Aisenbrey also shares the following:

Earlier in 2003, the South Dakota Public Broadcasting (PBS) put together a four part series of South Dakota History.  In the first part of the series "Rails and Other Roads:  South Dakota's Transportation," Garland was paraphrased in a voice-over:  "An early South Dakota author said: 'I bought a ticket for Aberdeen, and entered the train crammed with movers who had found the 'prairie schooner' all too slow...  Free land was receding at railroad speed...'".  The writer paraphrased that particular paragraph found in Chapter XX, "The Land of the Dakotas", in _A Son of the Middle Border_.

I thought it quite a treat to see Garland being paraphrased in this present-day work.  I don't know who the writer of that segment was, but they got it right.

Articles from the 2006 Newsletter

His Artistic Daughter, by John Ahouse

Constance Garland (1907-1988) always felt she was Number Two Daughter. Not only in order of birth, four years after her sister Mary Isabel, but also in the affections of her father. Remarkably enough, this seems to have done little to hold her back. She and her sister remained close through their adolescence, marriages and divorce, even into their old age, and neither wavered in upholding their devotion to both parents.

Though their father’s possessiveness could be a trial, each in her own way -- Mary Isabel as a writer and Connie as an artist -- tried to make it up to him that he had not produced a son. For his part, Hamlin often made it clear that he wished Connie had pursued art as a career, but she chose to put marriage and motherhood ahead of applying her talents, with the notable exception of the hundreds of drawings she made for her father’s books.

Whatever her broader potential might have been, Constance by age 18 had developed a tidy skill at pen-and-ink drawings, especially as applied to the stories her father wrote. Her first illustrations were in the last two Middle Border books, continued through his ‘literary log-books’ and the final edition, in the author’s lifetime, of the expanded Main-Travelled Roads.

If there is a point to be made about Connie’s drawings, beyond their simple appeal, it is that a single generation sufficed to place a frame of nostalgia about the stories which had been “cutting-edge reality” in her father’s youth. This is precisely the effect of her work in Trailmakers of the Middle Border and the 1931 reissue of Main-Travelled Roads. Thanks to her skills, the stories convey an appropriate sense of “long ago.”

For a period of years, Connie also provided the senior Garlands with their own Christmas card designs, as seen in these two examples from the USC Collection:

In the 1930s, after her parents had moved to California not least to be closer to Connie’s children, their artistic daughter fulfilled a long-standing promise to design a bookplate for her father, with which he soon ‘papered’ all the books in his library.

In a letter to the USC University Librarian, written after her father’s death, Connie described her creation as follows:

The plate was supposed to indicate the various phases in Father’s life. In the upper left corner is New York; the lower left the cornstalk, signifying Iowa. In the center at the top are the plains of Dakota. The large central block represents the Rocky Mountain country. The center (bottom) is a coulee in Wisconsin, and the one at the upper right is my uncle Lorado Taft’s statue of Black Hawk which stands on the bluffs over the Illinois River, near the artists’ colony where Mother and Father met. And the yucca on the right is for California, at the ‘end of the trail.’ (Letter dated June 12, 1942, from the USC Hamlin Garland Collection)

Garland Remembers Mark Twain

The recent PBS documentary by Ken Burns served to remind us that the Age of Twain extended well past the turn of the 20th Century. For Hamlin Garland this meant his illustrious predecessor was still a dominant force in American writing during his own most productive years. Certain kinships between the two authors come to mind: the rural beginnings, a world discovered through avid reading, an early career boost by Howells, the heavily autobiographical content of their writings, the platform speaking, the later travels to England and the Continent.  On April 21, 1910, Garland wrote in his diary,  “Mark Twain is reported to be dying tonight. What a figure he has been for me ever since my fourteenth year.”

Shortly after Twain’s death, Garland spoke a short piece at the Cliff-Dweller’s Club in Chicago:

It seems to me highly appropriate that this Club, the representative literary and esthetic organization of the Middle West, should come together in honor of Mark Twain, for the reason that he was a western man by birth, by accent, and by name. He belongs to the Mississippi, and in speech, in manner of life, he remained essentially western to the last, notwithstanding his many years of European travel.  So long as boats ply upon the Father of Waters, the name of the author of Life on the Mississippi  willl be associated with the pilot house of every steamer; and even after we have taken to Flying Machines, beyond any doubt their pilots will also call the attention of their passengers to the stream far below them and say “There lies Mark Twain’s river, and that smudge on the bank is Hannibal, the home of his boyhood.”


The point I wish to make today is that Mark Twain is not all of Samuel Clemens. He was much more than humorous, he was a great fictionist and a rough-hewn stylist, uttering himself in his own large, direct, and forceful way.  No amount of Old World contact could destroy his quaint drawl, and not all his reading nor his acquired personal knowledge of other writers could conventionalize his method. He remained the mid-western American and literary democrat to the last.

Let me also say that he was a most distinctive and powerful orator. I was fortunate enough to hear his speech at the Lotos Club on the occasion of his return from “Following the Equator,” [1900] at which time he feelingly announced to us that he had paid off the debt with which the rascality of a partner had burdened him.  It was humorous, of course, but it was more than that, it was a brave and manly and exultant speech.

I heard him also at the dinner given on his 67th birthday [1902], and there again he made all other speakers seem tame. No other orator save [Robert G.] Ingersoll ever seemed to me so vital and so spontaneous. I have heard him on other occasions, and always there was that marvelous power of creating phrases, of making old words seem new.  As Howells says, he wrote like a primitive; so I say, he spoke like one who used words fresh from the mint with the dust of their formation still glittering upon them.  Every letter of his speech was vital with the breath of his personality. This was the secret of his amazing hold upon his audiences all over the world.

A Chinese View of Hamlin Garland, by Luo Xiaoyun

In his writings Hamlin Garland sticks to his unique style of telling the truth and shows sympathy for the people he cares. He influenced the early writings in American literature and also inspired the Chinese people when such works as Main-Traveled Roads were translated into Chinese.

After the Civil War there were great changes in the American society and the growth of communication and transportation linked the regions of the country and made people newly aware of differences in speech and custom. Especially the publishing cultural center moved from Boston to New York, which predicted that American culture came to its new stage of development. The magazines showed their great functions to the literary growth, for “American realism is largely a product of this high culture of letters… ” (Elliot 1988: 474) The conflict between a culturally mature East and a raw and expanding West led to the decline of romanticism and the rise of realism. At the time people were more educated and began to notice what was actually happening in the whole country. As a matter of fact, “America was already a nation of readers in 1800, and there is hardly an account of the life of that time in which literature fails to appear.” (Elliot 1988: 46) Now that the war was over and another golden period came for literary prosperity, realism rose timely as the mainstream in the literary world then. Some writers focused their attention on the local culture and events and their writings were full of local color and primarily aiming at the people of a geographical setting. Their efforts were entitled regionalism as a subline of realism and helped to bring the nation closer together. Among such writers Ham Garland was one of the most militant. In his early time he escaped from the poor sights of his homeland, but returned and got shocked by the poverty and suffering of the local farmers including his mother toiling on the bare land. He felt it his responsibility to tell the truth about the West. In China at first people only prefer his early writings which offer vivid pictures about the life just as in China around 1950s. However in his lifetime Garland’s artistic perspective turned from realism to its extreme—veritism (a word coined by himself) and withdrew to romanticism and his literary direction changed from hardship displaying to adventure pursuing, which could not be understood and forgiven by the Chinese people in the period from 1950s to 1970s. 


Cover design for the Chinese edition of Main-Travelled Roads
Courtesy of Dr. Luo


Realism is the theory of writing in which familiar aspects of contemporary life and everyday scenes are represented in a matter-of-fact manner. In such fiction characters from all social levels that are usually ignored in the romantic writings are closely examined. Realism offers an objective view of the human nature and experience and these writers often stick to the moral values and accepted social standards. Their work is more thoughtful than that of romanticists. Realist writers pay more attention to the current social events and base their literary creation on their own accurate observation of the world. Cunliffe says in his The Literature of the United States that realism required the author to write about “the environment one knew, with strict regard to its actual properties—speech, dress, scene, behavior”. (Cunliffe 1970: 180) For Hamlin Garland realism offers an adequate perspective to examine the society then. Though some writers were in an embarrassed situation and did not know with certainty who in particular might be addressed, Garland stood out and spoke for the poor farmers. In his writings he combined realism with regionalism, basing his work on his thoughtful travels between town and country. When he finished his self-education in Boston public libraries he returned to Middle West only to find his mother and other folks struggling in poverty. He was extremely touched and took his pen at once to pour out his anger to the evil side of life. His vivid descriptions of the bankrupt farms showed his anxieties about his ideal country that should have appeared different. His Mid-West writings were chiefly collected in Main-Travelled Roads (1891), Prairie Folks (1893), Wayside Courtships (1897) and his early novel Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly (1895), which made people begin to think about whether the “American Dream” was just an illusion. Garland stuck to his own aesthetic principles and believed that being true is more important than being colorful and picaresque. In his short story “Under the Lion’s Paw” from Main-Travelled Roads, he showed his sympathy to the poor farmers who were struggling for a survival and told the public the truth about the Middle West:

Haskins worked like a fiend, and his wife, like the heroic woman that she was, bore also uncomplainingly the most terrible burdens. They rose early and toiled without intermission till the darkness fell on the plain, then tumbled into bed, every bone and muscle aching with fatigue, to rise with the sun next morning to the same round of the same ferocity of labor. (Inge 1989: 545)

The farmer (Haskins) thought he could realize his dream through his hard labor, considering “himself a free man, and that he was working for his wife and babes” and “getting nearer and nearer to a home of his own, and pushing the wolf of want a little farther from his door”. (Inge 1989: 546) But at the end of the three years the landlord with the power of the law took all he gained. Haskins came to know that he was under the lion’s paw: “He felt a horrible numbness in his heart and limbs…there was no path out.” (Inge 1989: 548) At the end of the story Haskins could not bear any longer and rose to fight back. Here we may feel the anger of Garland toward the injustice in the Middle West, for his passionate personal involvement with the harsh conditions of his people’ lives gave him greater strength to put them to words. Such fight spirit inspired the writer’s literary creation and enabled him to get great success and he was finally regarded as the spokesman of the poor farmers who went to the West in hope of a good future. The descriptions, speeches and living manners in Garland’s farm fiction display the characteristics of that part of the country, which could not be found elsewhere. His local color fiction describes the exotic and picturesque, exactly presenting things as they are. His characters were often small independent farmers facing the powerful landowners and monopoly capitalists and their conditions were deteriorating due to the rapid Westward expansion and threatening industrialization. Until late in the nineteenth century most Americans lived on farms, but some independent farmers were still trying to fight “a losing battle against both the rich individual landowners and the growing money power backed by a property-oriented legal system”. (Rubinstein 1988: 222) Garland’s work focused on their struggles and proved instructive and appealing to readers with its sharp contrast between the unbearable harshness of life and overall beauty of the prairies. His protagonists often display the rare quality of silent heroism and great potential of fighting spirit against the bitter nature and the human evils. Contrary to the romantic views, he described the Mid-West not as “New Eden”, but as a land of poverty and hardship. In his essays of Crumbling Idols (1894) he upholds his own aesthetic ideas and tries to be truthful to reality. Though his stories rank high as regional fiction, Garland had no interest in other things; “it was genuineness that he valued”. (Bradley 1967: 924) He called his own realism “veritism” to indicate that “he stood somewhere between the realism of Howells and the naturalism of Zola”. (Cunliffe 1970: 197) When the famous writer Howells read Garland’s stories, he praised them highly, saying, “The stories are full of those gaunt, grim, sordid, pathetic, ferocious figures…whose blind groping for fairer conditions is so grotesque to newspapers and so menacing to the politicians”. (Rubinstein 1988: 224)   

However, when Garland gained some success, he turned away from such concerns to the romantic imaginations to meet the demands of the genteel public in the cities. His tone gradually changed, showing great admiration for his wealthy friends:

“Here again wealth was showing its kindly side. All my life I had heard much of the corruption of riches, the domination of millionaire and the criminal cruel use of gold but here…was another instance of the helpful use of money. It is only fair to say that, in my later years, I have often found wealth a justifying, civilizing agent.” (Rubinstein 1988: 225)

These conceptions led to his decline from his literary prime. To some extent we may say that he was also a victim of the industrialization then. And he was surpassed by other young writers, such as Frank Norris, Stephen Crane and Jack London. Hamlin Garland’s changes from his realistic views to romantic imagination could make the readers to sense the temptation and pressure from the rapid industrialization the intellectuals like him confronted. As the result, Garland’s veritism was temporary and his aesthetic ideas were a mixture of realism, regionalism and romanticism. But what is more important is that realism and regionalism in the period had tremendous influence on the later development of American literature, for Gertrude Stein’ indicated sixty years later “that with the Civil War America had begun creating the twentieth century”. (Elliot 1988: 482) 

Indeed when the new century came Garland and his realism kept their influence and even reached China, which was far away and tightly shut up from USA. It is worthwhile to note that in 1958, shortly after the national liberation some intellectuals found the situation under Garland’s pen just like that in China. So they quickly organized a group to translate Garland’s short stories and published them in large quantity to meet the requirements then. In 1958 Shanghai New Literature Publishing House published A Son of the Middle Border, which was translated by Yang Wan. And in 1959 People’s Literature Publishing House published Garland Short Stories, which was translated by Li Wenjun & Chang Jian. Almost 30 years later when the country was re-opened to the outside in 1980s the Chinese people remembered Garland and translated more stories of the author. In 1987 Foreign Literature Publishing House published Garland Short Stories Collection, which were translated by Hu Yunheng & Li Wenjun. And in 1993 Shanghai Translation Publishing House published Main-Travelled Roads, which was translated by Zhen Daming. In 2000 when the Chinese government called on the people to go and develop the west part of China, people took up Garland’s again and realized the hardship and corruption that was described by the author still existed. So the reception of Hamlin Garland in China offers a practical value even now in China. Therefore at present college teachers are teaching Garland’s in classrooms and the postgraduates are interested in his works again.


Works Cited:

Bradley, Sculley, ed. American Tradition in Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc, 1967.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. Beijing: Cultural Section, Embassy of USA, 1970.

Elliot, Emory, ed. Columbia Literary History of the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Inge, M. Thomas. A Nineteenth Century American Reader. Washington, D.C.: United States Information Agency, 1989.

Rubinstein, Annette T. American Literature: Root and Flower. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 1988.


Our thanks to Luo Xiaoyun, Ph.D Class of the Foreign Languages School, Nanjing University, Jiangsu, P. R. China  

"Chasing the Vein": The Garland Brothers in Mexico, by John Ahouse

“Every American, with a dollar to spare, at some time in his life takes a shot at a gold mine.”   (A Daughter of the Middle Border, p. 295)

If Hamlin Garland’s single shot at striking it rich in the Klondike was marked by self-defeating choices (set out too early for the route he chose, but much too late to stake a meaningful claim at the other end), gold fever was still in the air in 1903 when his younger brother journeyed into central Mexico to look into rubber plantations only to become involved in a mining operation instead. In due course, a nugget of gold from the area north of Zacatecas was passed around the Garland’s dinner table, and Hamlin experienced an instant vision of independent wealth that could liberate him from his more onerous writing chores.

Franklin Garland (1864-1945) was a jack-of-all-trades, an actor initially, with a touch of the ne’er-do-well, who would dearly have loved to pull off a success in the business world to compare with Hamlin’s achievements as an author. This adventure gives a glimpse of “Junior” at his best, corresponding assiduously and in a spirit of full and enthusiastic disclosure from his outpost on the mining property in Mexico, hoping to interest Hamlin in seriously backing their investment.

Draw a line on an ordinary map from San Luis Potosí to Torreón: roughly halfway between lies Camacho, where Franklin posted his progress reports and where he took his ore for assay.  Head twenty miles due east from Camacho, and a better map will show Pico de Teyra, at 10,000 feet by far the highest elevation in that part of Mexico.  Bleak, parched, and sparsely populated, the area around the Pico is one of the most remote in Mexico, reportedly a hundred miles even today from the nearest paved road.  The depot at Camacho, however, perches on the central rail line from Mexico City to El Paso. Whatever credibility the Mexican venture possessed must have come from this connection to the outside world.

Franklin’s mine with the optimistic name “El Porvenir” (“The Future”) was located more than half way up the north flank of Pico de Teyra and had been worked and reworked before. Indeed, the whole region had been exploited by the Spanish as early as the 17th century, bringing fame to Zacatecas as the center for silver trinketry. The property in question was already riddled with shallow mines abandoned at the depth of a few feet for lack of machinery. Engineers call these “dog holes,” Garland called it “gophering,”and they represent the most primitive sort of prospecting by “chasing the vein” in hopes of striking richer deposits of ore. The immediate area yielded a mixture of silver and lead, with some gold present. Where Franklin was concerned, it was the presence of Au in the mixture of Ag and Pb that snagged his interest. An intermediary named Ossolinsky, the local superintendent, played a part – possibly the major part – in interpreting conditions to Franklin in the best possible light. To make the project work, Ossolinsky seems to have been saying, the norteamericanos needed to acquire the adjacent claims as well; the larger investment would then justify importing machinery to do the job right. 


The bulletins to Hamlin Garland, rather lengthy letters in fact, begin with the new year of 1904. Franklin writes about the need to set up his own mill on-site, as well as buying out the adjoining claims of Messrs. Heim and Miller. On Jan. 31st he mentions sending Ossolinski to register their deed and pay taxes at Concepción del Oro. Getting the ore to the assay office is going to add to their costs, and on Feb. 14th he exclaims, “If only we had our own outfit!”   He goes on, “We will need a good wagon and about 5 mules.  This outfit could haul from two to three tons per trip and make a trip every two days, taking out ore and bringing in supplies.”  

With increasing confidence, Franklin writes to his brother on Feb. 26th, “Why not interest some man like Dr, [Frank] Seaman to the extent of a few thousand dollars to buy out Miller and Heim? They are getting more hard up every day and can be bought out now pretty cheap. I am keeping our operation here as dark as possible so that they won’t know when we do make a strike …” Franklin then puts it directly to his brother, “Why not hop on the train and take a run down here and see “our gold brick”?  You could so much better understand what you are getting for your money and you would enjoy the trip.”  Pressing another button:  “We are on the edge of the range here, about 7000 ft. elevation, and standing almost in our patio is a peak of some 11 or 12 thousand feet in height and as picturesque as Shasta but on a smaller scale. And to take a horse and ride 15 or 20 minutes you get up on the range where you have magnificent views and the air is like Colorado. It’s simply great. We took a ride today with Mr. Fernandez to look at one of his copper prospects over behind “Little Shasta” and the ride was just about rough enough to suit you.”

A week later, amid reports of assays that didn’t quite stack up (“It’s a disappointment. What we called our high grade only runs about $92.00 per ton, gross, instead of $400.00 as Ossolinsky confidently asserted it would.”), Franklin renews his urging, “If you can possibly get away, I think you should come down and look the thing over.  And bring [Irving] Bacheller or some other moneyed man with you.”

The news on March 14th remains muted: ”The vein has not improved of late but averages just about the same. It has good spots and bad spots. We are about due for a good spot now, and may strike the vein in [a] lower level any day.”  Meanwhile, though, “Senior” had clearly been won over to the idea of a visit since Franklin goes on to give specific travel details:  “From the time you leave the Pullman until you get back to it, it’s roughing it. We can take care of you, at least a party of 3 out here and feed you reasonably well, but advise bringing some blankets, which can be borrowed or bought at Camacho. It’s a prospector’s camp, and there are no luxuries here.  […] Telegraph me at least 3 days in advance of your coming so I can be prepared and be at Camacho to meet you. I am at the mine all the time, except when absolutely necessary for me to go out on business. Will try to have some venison for the party.”

No further letters of Franklin’s from Mexico survive in USC’s collection – perhaps no more were written -- but what happened next is told briefly in Daughter of the Middle Border and in slightly greater detail in Companions on the Trail.  Garland had rounded up two prosperous friends, a Chicago investor named Archer Brown and Irving Bacheller, the well-to-do novelist and publisher, whose friendship with Garland would endure long after the foray into Mexico.  The three arrive in Camacho on April 9th for what can only have been an arduous forty-eight hours, beginning with an eighteen-mile ride in the back of a donkey-cart, followed by two nights bedding down in Franklin’s cave.  In the impressionistic and unpunctuated way he assembled ideas, Garland writes in his notebook:

The cluster of dusky, gaily-attired figures – the wattled huts – the mocking bird singing in the hot desolation, the desert blooms – yellow and red on snake cactus – deep crimson on the pear –

The dust – the blazing sky – the streamless hills – the brown and naked peaks. –

-the starved and tragic goats, sheep – horses feeding on this stern forage –

-the mockingbird singing a slender, sweet melody amidst the desolate, streamless desert –

The men who carried the ore on their backs, up small notched ladders – their enormous strength – carry six hundred pounds – boys carry nearly one hundred pounds –

Brown and bare and desolate – no wood no water –

Beautiful, but sinister in its beauty – thorny, spiny, bitter plants –

- the poor crawling sheep – the mournful song the herder sang –

Everything save the birds and deer – the things natural to this desert – are lean     and lank and sorrowful – the mozo keeps his cheer on tortillas and frijoles.

In his diary he writes: “We found my brother’s camp to be in a cave or tunnel and his kitchen outside. All over the hills his peons were encamped like animals, without shelter of a roof or tent in many cases. We went to bed in the cave – a novel situation for us all.”


Arising sore and exhausted the next morning, the three visitors get down to the business of inspecting the mine. Garland reports laconically:  “[T]he cool judgment of Archer Brown held me in check: In a few words he disclosed our folly. ‘There is no water to work the ore, no roads to transport it to the smelter, and the cost of production is more than the ore will bring.’ My expectations fell to zero.  I told my brother to close the mine.”


Not one to squander an opportunity, however, Garland dusted off his suit and reboarded the train going south to Mexico City the next day in order to shake the hand of President Porfirio Díaz. The mine appears to have remained in his or Franklin’s name for additional years perhaps until the end of the porfiriato when most such claims would have been swept away by the Revolution.

The assistance of Jaime Fushille of El Paso, Texas, is gratefully acknowledged. Photos from the Hamlin Garland Collection, University of Southern California

Articles from prior issues

Garland's Book of the American Indian Republished

Long out of print, Hamlin Garland's collection of fifteen stories The Book of the American Indian became available again in April, 2002 in paperback format from Copley Publishing Group in Acton Massachusetts (ISBN 1-58390-022-5).

The Frederic Remington illustrations from the original 1923 edition have been retained, but the volume is augmented by Professor Keith Newlin's introduction, notes, and bibliography, as well as two essays by Garland bearing on the Native American condition as he experienced it.

Making Waves with the S.S. Hamlin Garland

Calling all WWII buffs!

Holly Folsom from Tennessee wrote to the Society via Keith Newlin last March attaching a photograph of the Liberty Ship "S.S. Hamlin Garland," on which her Merchant Marine father had sailed on a single occasion in 1946 out of Tacoma, Washington. The captain was William Gillespie.


Liberty Ships were built assembly-line-fashion from 1942 until the end of the war, numbering more than 2700 in all, and helping to build a floating bridge for supplies and materiel from America's East Coast to the European theater. The "Garland" was constructed in 1943 by Southeastern Ship Builders in Savannah, GA (hull no. 1054; launched July 6, 1943). It served primarily in the Atlantic, earning a battle star in April 1944 as part of Convoy UGS-37.

Most Liberty Ships survived their wartime missions only to be mothballed on both coasts and eventually scrapped. A few are still operable, e.g., in Baltimore, MD, and in San Pedro, CA. Some up-to-date pictures of the fully restored "John W. Brown" in Baltimore harbor can be seen at the Project Liberty Ship website.

Other sites bearing on this worthy subject are linked at the U.S. Merchant Marine and Liberty Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission websites.

Keith's comment: "I'll add it to the list of things named for Hamlin Garland, an elementary school, a university building, a city street, a wildflower preserve -- and now a ship!"

USC Garland Collection now On-Line

The American Literature Collection at the University of Southern California, which is home to the Garland papers, is pleased to announce that the Checklist of the Hamlin Garland Papers is now available in electronic format, thanks to the cooperation of the Online Archive of California.

John Ahouse has provided the following introduction.

By the terms of his bequest, a large part of Hamlin Garland's library came to the University of Southern California in 1939-40. The author died in March of 1940, and in November the University Library announced the acquisition by purchase of Garland's personal papers and correspondence. Although he had drawn quite close to USC during his final decade, receiving an honorary doctorate from the University in 1935, Garland long held out the idea of placing his papers with an institution in the East or Mid-West, geographically closer to the parts of the country he most closely identified with. He left final disposition of the archive to Mrs. Garland, however, who saw the merit of adding her husband's papers to the USC library's growing American Literature collection.

In the years immediately following, much Garland material was retrieved by USC which the author had loaned for exhibition. His first scholarly biographer, Eldon C. Hill at the the University of Miami (Ohio), also returned letters, books, and manuscripts which Hamlin Garland had placed at his disposal during the writing of Hill's dissertation. The Garland Collection moved out of cartons and file cabinets after 1950, when Professor Bruce E. McElderry (English) assumed the task of describing and analyzing the entire archive. Concurrently, Lloyd Arvidson of the library staff, with particular responsibility for the American Literature holdings, was preparing his Bibliography of the Published Writings of Hamlin Garland; and it became his next goal to draw up a detailed checklist of the Garland Collection, which the library published as a paper-bound octavo booklet in 1962. This checklist is now made available for the first time in electronic form.

Through the good offices of Professor Mark Rocha, now of Seton Hall University, an addendum to the Garland Collection was acquired in 1988, consisting for the most part of family memorabilia (photographs, scrapbooks, personal correspondence) belonging to Garland's two daughters.

Research Opportunties for Hamlin Garland Study, by Keith Newlin, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

During the Fall of 1999, I had the opportunity to visit of number of archives in Chicago, New York, Wisconsin, and Ohio in preparation for a new biography of Hamlin Garland.  While scholars have long availed themselves of the rich resources of the Newberry Library and the New York Public Library, few people, I suspect, are aware of the rich trove of Garland material that awaits them at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

In the Fall of 1995, the Walter Havighurst Department of Special Collections, in King Library, on the campus of Miami University, acquired the papers of Eldon Hill, one of the first scholars to devote critical attention to Garland and a professor at the institution since the late 1930s.  The collection is an important one, both because it contains materials not available elsewhere and because the nature of the collection in its breadth and depth makes it a large and significant archive.   Indeed, only three other libraries--the University of Southern California, the Henry E. Huntington Library, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters--contain more letters and manuscripts by Garland. 

Hamlin Garland and Eldon Hill, a Literary Acquaintanceship (see below)

The Hill Collection at Miami University (see below)

Contact Information: 
Martin Miller, Head 
Walter Havighurst Special Collections 
King Library 
Miami University 
Oxford, OH 45056 
(513) 529-3324

Hamlin Garland and Eldon Hill, a Literary Acquaintanceship

Eldon Hill became interested in Hamlin Garland when he was a 23-year-old graduate student at Ohio State University. He initiated a correspondence with Garland early in 1929, and Garland became the subject of his doctoral dissertation, the first on Garland, which he completed in 1940 as "A Biographical Study of Hamlin Garland from 1860 to 1895."

Hill was an erstwhile correspondent and over the years received over 168 letters from Garland. By May their correspondence had developed to the extent that Hill helped arrange Garland’s lecture at Madison, Wisconsin, on 3 May 1930, where Hill met Garland for the first time. "Oh, that I had had a photographic recording instrument which would have preserved every word and every inflection from that prophetic voice!" Hill wrote in his notebook. "A difference of almost half a century in our ages vanished the moment we began to talk, vanished (if I may adopt a phrase from him) ‘like the mist from the meadow at dawn.’ I felt a kinship to him that is based on ties as close as blood, the ties of similar interests and of kindred ideals.’

For the next decade, Hill would meet with Garland several times, spending the weekend with him at Grey Ledge, Garland’s Onteora retreat, in July 1931, and travelling to Garland’s Hollywood home in 1936 where he stayed with the Garlands while interviewing Garland for his dissertation.

Garland was flattered by Hill’s attention, which came at a time when Garland believed the public had lost interest in him. "It is a source of encouragement," Garland wrote to Hill on 11 February 1929, "to have one of the younger men, so genuinely interested in my work. I am grateful." By 1934 Garland was routinely addressing his letters to "My Dear Young Advocate," and replying carefully and often in detail to Hill’s many questions about phases in Garland’s career. But Garland cautioned Hill against relying too heavily upon him. "Dont send any of your manuscript to me," he wrote on 15 December 1934. "If I read it, I shall be accused of trying to revise it. I prefer to have you go ahead and say just what comes to your mind." Garland had also by then noticed Hill’s tendency toward hero-worship and his uncritical acceptance of everything he said. "Dont be afraid to run counter to my judgments," he warned him, "you must do so in order to have the proper balance in your paper. Give your honest reactions no matter how uncomplimentary they may seem to my readers."

While he was doing research for his dissertation, Hill assumed a teaching position at Miami University, and his teaching responsibilities slowed down his progress. Hill was also a methodical researcher, to the point of obsession. In the days before the photocopy machine, Hill spent hours transcribing Garland’s letters and long portions of his books. As part of his quest for Garland material, Hill began attending book and manuscript auctions and soon accumulated a respectable number of Garland items. He would also borrow boxes of Garland’s letters and manuscripts and meticulously transcribe portions of them. As a professional writer who was accustomed to cranking out books, at times Garland became exasperated with his young advocate’s delay in producing his biography, as he wrote him on 4 May 1938: "I find you began to plan for this work seven years ago. You have been collecting material for five years. I begin to wonder when you will stop collecting and go to writing." By this time other enterprising students had discovered that the aging writer was a suitable subject for academic study and began writing to Garland to probe his recollections of other writers and his assessment of his own place in literature. Hill, understandably, became worried that another writer would steal his thunder. "You can not complain if any one else now gets in ahead of you," Garland chided him. "I confess I am a bit in doubt of your ever getting to the point of publishing any part of it. . . . [A] number of theses are now being written about me and I can not refuse them material. I am getting old very fast and must soon step off into the Fourth Dimension" (3 June 1939).

Complicating matters was the fact that Hill began acting as Garland’s advance man in the East. Hill helped arrange Garland’s lecture dates at Midwestern universities, wrote letters to publicize a touring exhibit of Garland memorabilia, and gave a few lectures about Garland to various groups—all of which meant further delay for his biography. And when Garland was debating what to do with his 55 years’ accumulation of letters, manuscripts, and autographed books, Hill volunteered to help Garland inventory his material and catalogue it—an offer that Garland does not seem to have followed up.

When Garland died on 4 March 1940, he was still sending Hill boxes of material and writing letters filling in the gaps of his career. When he died, he left unmailed a final letter to Hill in which he explained the centrality of his life-long study of psychic phenomena to his work:

Dear Mr. Hill:

        When you reach a discussion of my psychic work, I want you to understand that I regard it a legitimate subject for literary treatment. It is not a religious subject with me nor a wholly scientific pursuit—it is an extension of my work as a writer. Put out of your mind all the religious prejudices which color so much of the psychic poetry, drama[,] fiction and history and write of my books on the subject as you would deal with a book by me on a new continent or a new school organization. For nearly fifty years it has been a part of my work as a writer and now it becomes even more important as an exploration into unexplored biology. As a man of eighty I now ask naturally without awe or sorrow "where do I go from here?"
        You are free to express your own feeling on this phase of my work but it is well for you to understand that I had no sense of abandoning my skill or sincerity of purpose when I took up this subject in "The Tyranny of the Dark" and "The Shadow World"—and in 1936, I entered upon a resume of my writings with intent to write as historian and fictionist not as a convert to a new religion or as an opponent. In truth it had become [one] of the most important subjects of my world. Even now at eighty I am neither awed nor rebellious—I am curious, just as I used to be when crossing a range into an unknown valley. Each year lessens my regret at leaving the third dimension behind for my friends and relatives are now mainly in the unknown valley—and my work is less and less valuable to the public.
        If you can honestly follow me into this final exploration of mine, do so—If not I shall not complain.

The Biography

After Hill completed his dissertation, he embarked upon a full-scale biography of Garland. In 1950 he placed an announcement of his intent in the New York Times and asked to hear from people who had known Garland. He received a good number of replies from such people as Fred Lewis Pattee, Carl Van Doren, William Ellery Leonard, Robert Morse Lovett, Oscar Cargill, and Gladys Hasty Carroll, as well as detailed memoirs from Garland’s brother Franklin and his wife Alice. Many of these letters, which are preserved in the Hill Collection, contain informative insights about Garland.

Hill was well-positioned to become Garland’s biographer. He had had free run of Garland’s enormous collection of letters and manuscripts; he had known Garland well for over ten years and had visited him a number of times in addition to receiving detailed responses to his inquiries. He had corresponded and visited with a number of people who had known Garland well during various phases of his career, and Garland’s family was eager to help.

It is therefore surprising and disappointing that, while Hill did complete the biography, he was unable to find a publisher for it, and the biography, together with boxes of earlier drafts and notes, languishes among Hill’s papers. Among the Hill papers are a number of letters from publishers to whom Hill sent the ms that offer a variety of reasons why they declined the book, ranging from paper shortages to Garland’s fading reputation to lack of potential market. But the reason for the lack of interest is not hard to fathom.

Hill was unable to overcome his devotion to Garland and see the writer objectively. The ms does not ever evaluate Garland critically—or even take note of his many weaknesses. Surprisingly, the ms also lacks documentation.  There are no notes or citations to the manuscripts and letters Hill consulted or to his interviews with Garland's acquaintances .  Earlier drafts are documented, so Hill apparently deleted the documentation from the final draft in an effort to appeal to a more general readership.  Unfortunately, the deletion of the documentation decreases the value of the ms for modern readers.

One also reads the ms with a keen sense of disappointment in Hill's failing to exploit his potential advantage as a biographer. After all, he knew Garland well for the last ten years of the writer's life and had uninhibited access to his manuscripts and letters, as well as assembling an impressive collection of his own. Given this intimate acquaintance, it’s surprising that so little of it enters into his manuscript. True, Hill does quote from letters written to Garland and from Garland’s notebooks (mostly in the early section—revealing the influence of his dissertation), but he rarely incorporates his conversations with Garland and with the people who knew him—and almost never his own first-hand observations. When he does record conversations, there’s little evaluation, analysis, or interpretation that would reveal the man behind the public persona.

Another surprise is the relative lack of presence of Garland’s family in this manuscript. Although Hill notes on several occasions that Garland was a devoted husband and father, he does not demonstrate the influence of his family upon his career that a biographer with a more critical cast of mind might.

So although Hill labored mightily to publish the ms, his contribution to Garland studies is likely to lie in the considerable material he gathered to compose it, which now reposes in King Library as ore waiting for other scholars to mine.

Contents of the Eldon Hill / Hamlin Garland Collection

The Hill collection was acquired during Fall 1995 and has not yet been catalogued. It fills some 8 cartons and is comprised of Hill's notes and drafts for his dissertation, "A Biographical Study of Hamlin Garland from 1860 to 1895" (Ohio State University, 1940), his notes and drafts for his unpublished biography, titled variously as Garland of the Middle Border and Hamlin Garland: The Writer as Citizen, which was completed in the 1950s. 

Of interest to scholars of Garland is the nature and extent of the materials Hill gathered for these two works. In addition to the letters Hill received from Garland in response to his queries, which are of interest in their own right, Garland made Hill gifts of many of his papers. Hill also labored to acquire copies of Garland's books and periodical publications, promotional and lecture pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera. Of especial interest are the letters Hill received from people who had known Garland in which they described their relationship or memories of Garland and offered Hill access to letters they had received.

Hill acquired several copies of various printings of most of Garlands books, and many are inscribed by their author. Other miscellany include a copy of the two-reel biographical film of Garland made in 1937 by Guy Haselton and dozens of photographs of Garland and his acquaintances. 

Significant clusters of letters:




142 Eldon Hill
90 John Finley [microfilm of the New York Public Library holdings of HG's letters to Finley, dated 1950]
50 John Bradley [a professor of geology at the University of Southern California. Whose books Parade of the Living (1930) and Patterns of Survival (1938) HG admired]
21 Carl Van Doren [transcribed by Hill; originals not located]
21 Albert Bigelow Paine 
20 Johnson Brigham [the editor of The Midland Monthly]
79 Miscellaneous
423 total  

Letters Acquired before 1995 [catalogued]:

26 Eldon Hill
14 Augustus Thomas
4 Miscellaneous
44 total

Garland Manuscripts:
[The notation "(Doheny)" means that a version of the ms--either typescript, holograph, or other version--exists in the Hamlin Garland papers, Doheny Library, University of Southern California.


"The River's Warning," typescript  (Doheny) Carton 1.a. 1923 folder
"England's Rediscovery of America," typescript   Carton 1.b. 1924 folder
holograph ms of Mystery of the Buried Crosses (pp. 17-24)    Carton 1.b. 1939 folder
"Speech at the Dinner," holograph ms    Carton 2.a. 
"Sanity in Fiction," typescript (Doheny) Carton 2.a.
"Will Newspaper English Become the English of Literature?" holograph ms    Carton 2.b. folder 1895 
Miller of Boscobel, typescript, here titled "The Business Lady"/"The Peace-Maker." (Chicago, June 17)  (Doheny) Carton 3.a
"Vernacular in Verse," typescript, with corrections  (Doheny) Carton 3.a. folder "undated materials"
[there are other misc. ms pages scattered among the papers]
[carton 3.a, folder "Mss of Garland addresses, mostly duplicates"]
Mark Twain--America. Holograph (Doheny)  
The Better Side of Red People. Holograph (Doheny)  
The Modern Novel. Holograph (Doheny)  
Notes for Drama League Address. Typed.  (Doheny)  
Literary Conditions in America. Holograph    
Untitled: "Well after nearly a quarter of a century..." Holograph    
Vernacular in Verse. Typed carbon.  (Doheny)  
The Women's Industrial Army. Typed.    
The Philosophy of Work. Holograph    
The Novel of Life. Typed.  (Doheny)  
Theodore Roosevelt as a Patron of Art. Typed.    
Address for Woman's Association of Commerce. Typed carbon.  (Doheny)  
Americanism in Art. typed carbon.  (Doheny)  
Equal Suffrage. Notes for address. Typed carbon.  (Doheny)  
[carton 3.a, folder "Garland Verse mss"]
The New Era (Doheny) 1889
Hugh McClintock   1889
Love on the Desert   1900
A Baby's Death-Mask (Doheny) 1898
Homeward Bound (Doheny) 1898
The Fog-Horn   1898
The Sexton Passes (Doheny) 1901
Mid-Way on the Trail   1893
The Wild Sun-Flower (Doheny) 1898
"As thus I lay dearest heart-broken with pain"   1889
A Boyish Ideal (Doheny) 1887