Archives On The Air 18: Owen Wister—Extinct Species of the West

Jul 11, 2018

Young novelist Owen Wister made his first trip to the West in the summer of 1885. He stayed at a ranch on Deer Creek located south of what is now Glenrock, Wyoming. Wister was from an upper-crust Philadelphia family. So, what did he think of Wyoming upon his arrival?

Here’s an excerpt from his diary dated July 10, 1885:

“Every man, woman, and cowboy is from the East – generally from New England, thank goodness. I feel more certainly than ever that it won’t be a century before the West is simply the true America with thought, type, and life of its own kind. We Atlantic coast people, all varnished with Europe, will vanish from the face of the earth.”

Wister went on to make 14 more trips West and kept detailed diaries of each trip.

Those diaries became the foundation for many of his works, including The Virginian in 1902. The Virginian paved the way for many more westerns by authors like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.

Visit UW’s American Heritage Center to see Owen Wister’s writing desk and diaries.