Overview

Title: Will James Papers
Creator(s): James, Will, 1892-1942
Collection Number: NC579
Dates (inclusive): 1921-1967
Physical Extent: 1.0 cubic feet (1 box)
Preferred Citation: Will James papers, NC 579. Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Reno.
Repository: University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department
Permanent Link: http://dewey.library.unr.edu/xtf/view?docId=ead/NC579-ead.xml

Biographical Note

Will James was born Joseph-Ernest Dufault on June 6, 1892, at St. Nazaire de Acton in Quebec, Canada. His parents, Jean and Josephine Dufault were French. The family moved to Montreal where James spent his childhood.

In 1907, at age fifteen, James left home for the Canadian west. After a scrape with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, James escaped to the American West. There he became a cowhand, changing his name to William Roderick James. Accused of rustling horses, he was convicted of grand larceny in Ely, Nevada, and was sentenced to the Nevada State Prison at Carson City for a year to fifteen months.

During his prison term, James began sketching and writing, the turning point in his life which led to his becoming one of the best known Western writers and artists. After his release, and until his death in 1942, he wrote and illustrated twenty books and numerous articles.

James married Alice Conradt of Reno, Nevada. They lived in Washoe Valley, Nevada, and Billings, Montana, where James died in 1942.

James kept his real identity secret until his death. Not even his wife was aware of it until a dispute arose over the estate. It forced James' brother, Auguste, to prove that Ernest Dufault and Will James were the same person.

Anthony Amaral found the well-guarded estate papers and published in Will James, The Gilt Edged Cowboy the true story of James' life with the help of James' widow, Alice James Ross.

Top

Scope and Content

The materials Amaral collected and used for James' biography, Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy (Los Angeles, Westernlore Press, 1967), comprise the bulk of the collection. Included are correspondence with many individuals who knew James, photocopies of legal documents relating to James, photocopies of James' correspondence, clippings, and notes. A copy of the published book is not included in the collection but is available in the Special Collections Department (call number: PS3519.A5298 Z56 1967).

In addition, the collection contains a typescript manuscript and galley proof of Amaral's book as well as a typescript manuscript of James' The Three Mustangeers, published in 1933, with the author's holograph corrections.

Other items in the collection are three original pencil sketches done by James, photos of James' art work and copies of his illustrations taken from printed materials. James family photographs and the John Newbery Medal presented to James for his book, Smoky: the Cow Horse, complete the collection.

Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Anthony Amaral and Alice James Ross in 1967.

Separated Materials

Photographs were removed from this collection and placed in the photo archives as UNRS-P2270.

Related Materials

An additional manuscript collection on Will James is by his wife, Alice Conradt James (Manuscript Collection 90-13). This collection consists of an incomplete manuscript autobiography of their early married life.

Additionally, three roles of positive microfilm from Charles Scribner’s son’s archive at Princeton University are available. No copying of these is permitted without prior permission from Princeton University.

Top

Arrangement

  • The collection is divided into the following series:
  • Series 1: Correspondence of Anthony Amaral
  • Series 2: Correspondence of Will James
  • Series 3: Legal Documents
  • Series 4: Manuscript of Anthony Amaral
  • Series 5: Galley Proof of Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy
  • Series 6: Manuscript of Will James
  • Series 7: Typescripts
  • Series 8: Art Work of Will James
  • Series 9: Photographs and Negatives
  • Series 10: Notes on Will James
  • Series 11: Printed Materials
  • Series 12: Clippings and Articles
  • Series 13: John Newbery Medal

Top

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog of the University Libraries, University of Nevada, Reno. Researchers wishing to find related materials are encouraged to use the following index terms:

People:

Subjects:



Top

Administrative Information

Collection processed by Carrie M. Townley, September 1978. Finding aid prepared by Carrie M. Townley, September 1978. Finding aid revised by Jacquelyn Sundstrand and Jessica Maddox, December 2010 . This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on July 26, 2016.

Top


Detailed Description of the Records

Series 1: Correspondence of Anthony Amaral, 1960-1967 (7 folders)

Series 1 contains the correspondence belonging to Anthony Amaral regarding Will James.

box
folder
Contents
1/S1
1
Correspondence, (Including Joe De Yong, Alice James Ross (wife of Will James), Victor Jory, and Ross Santee), 1960-61
1/S1
2
Correspondence, 1962
1/S1
3
Correspondence, 1963
1/S1
4
Correspondence (Includes Auguste Dufault (brother of Will James)), 1964
1/S1
5
Correspondence (Includes Auguste Dufault), 1965-66
1/S1
6
Correspondence, 1967
1/S1
7
Correspondence, Undated

Series 2: Correspondence of Will James, 1921-1937 (1 folder)

Series 2 contains only photocopies of James’ correspondence. The location of the originals is unknown.

box
folder
Contents
1/S2
1
Correspondence, (Photocopies), 1921-37

Series 3: Legal Documents, Undated (2 folders)

The legal documents in Series 3 contain James’ real birth certificate under his given name, and his prison record while in the Nevada State Prison.

box
folder
Contents
1/S3
1
Estate papers and will of William Roderick James and birth certificate of Joseph Ernest Dufault (Will James)
1/S3
2
Trial transcript and Nevada State Prison record of Will James

Series 4: Manuscript of Anthony Amaral, Undated (3 folders)

Series 4 contains Amaral’s typescript of Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy. The book was published in 1967.

box
folder
Contents
1/S4
1-3
Typescript manuscript of Anthony Amaral's Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy

Series 5: Galley Proof of Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy., Undated (1 folder)

This printer’s galley proof of Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy is by Anthony Amaral, is Series 5.

box
folder
Contents
1/S5
5
Galley proof of Will James, the Gilt Edged Cowboy

Series 6: Manuscript of Will James, Undated (3 folders)

Series 6 is James’ typed manuscript of his book, The Three Mustangeers. It includes handwritten annotations.

box
folder
Contents
1/S6
1-3
Typescript manuscript of Will James', The Three Mustangeers

Series 7: Typescripts, Undated (1 folder)

Additional information about James comes from information by L. B. Robinson and E. T. Springer, in Series 7.

box
folder
Contents
1/S7
7
Typescripts by L. B. Robinson and E. T. Springer about James

Series 8: Art Work of Will James, Undated (5 folders)

Series 8 includes many of James’ original pencil sketches, with some photographs of his other art work.

box
folder
Contents
1/S8
1
"The Turning Point", original pencil sketch by Will James
1/S8
2
"Miss Nevada", original pencil sketch by Will James
1/S8
3
"The Nevada Mustang", original pencil sketch by Will James
1/S8
4
Photos of Will James' art work
1/S8
5
Copies of Will James' work taken from printed material

Series 9: Photographs and Negatives, Undated (2 folders)

Series 9 includes both prints and negatives of Will James and his family.

box
folder
Contents
1/S9
1
Photographs of Will James and family
box
folder
Contents
1/S8
2
Negatives

Series 10: Notes on Will James, Undated (1 folder)

Anthony Amaral made a number of notes about James, which make up Series 10.

box
folder
Contents
1/S10
10
Notes on Will James used by Anthony Amaral in preparing his biography of James.

Series 11: Printed materials, Undated (1 folder)

Additional printed materials Amaral collected is included in Series 11.

box
folder
Contents
1/S11
11
Printed materials used by Anthony Amaral in preparing his biography of Will James.

Series 12: Clippings and Articles, Undated (1 folder)

A number of newspaper clippings and various articles on James were located by Amaral and are included in Series 12.

box
folder
Contents
1/S12
12
Clippings and articles used by Anthony Amaral in preparing his biography of Will James.