Texas Originals

Andy Adams

May 3, 1859–September 26, 1935

Born in Indiana in 1859, writer Andy Adams lived the cowboy life on the Texas plains. He later rendered those experiences in fiction to set Americans straight about life in the West.

Adams arrived in South Texas in 1881 and began rounding up livestock to send to Kansas. Through his work, he became fascinated with cowboys—their speech, culture, and work habits.

In the 1890s, Adams moved on to Colorado to pursue mining opportunities. While there, he attended a production of the play A Texas Steer and was offended by its wild-and-woolly portrayal of Texas cowboys. Cowboys were not yahoos in Adams's mind, but practical workingmen who relied more on their wit than their guns. He began writing stories to make his point.

In 1903, Adams published his first novel, The Log of a Cowboy, which recounts a trail drive from Brownsville to Montana. Adams's focus was not the wildness of the West, but its peaceful, pastoral nature—and the effect the land had on the men who worked it. J. Frank Dobie called it "the best book that can ever be written about cowboy life." More recently, Larry McMurtry drew upon Adams's novel when writing Lonesome Dove

Adams published six more books on ranching life and helped shape the genre of western fiction. He died in 1935.

For More about Andy Adams

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University hold the papers of Andy Adams's biographer, the literary scholar Wilson Hudson. The collection contains the research material and notes that Hudson used to write his Adams biography, including J. Frank Dobie's research materials on Adams, maps, genealogical material, clippings, microfilm, copies of letters, articles by Adams, photographs (prints and negatives), correspondence with relatives and friends of Adams, and manuscript copies of several of Adams's works.

Andy Adams wrote at a pivotal moment in the history of western fiction. The frontier theme in American letters dates back at least to James Fenimore Cooper, if not Cabeza de Vaca or Mary Rowlandson. In his novels, Adams more clearly built on the tradition of the cowboy memoirist initiated by his friend Charlie Siringo. Adams touched on themes present in works as diverse as Owen Wister's The Virginian and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The Western Writers of America is an organization founded in 1953 to promote and sustain this rich literary tradition.

Wister's 1902 novel The Virginian exemplifies the romantic view of cowboys and the West that Adams sought to correct. The University of Virginia has made a digital copy of The Virginian available online.

Selected Bibliography

Adams, Andy. Cattle Brands: A Collection of Western Camp-fire Stories. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1906.

Adams, Andy. The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1903.

Adams, Andy. The Outlet. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1905.

Adams, Andy. The Ranch on the Beaver: A Sequel to the Wells Brothers. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927.

Adams, Andy. Reed Anthony, Cowman: An Autobiography. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1907.

Adams, Andy. A Texas Matchmaker. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1904.

Adams, Andy. The Wells Brothers: The Young Cattle Kings. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911.

Dobie, J. Frank. "Andy Adams, Cowboy Chronicler." Southwest Review 11 (1926): 92–101.

Dobie, J. Frank. "Frank Dobie Recounts What He Knew of Andy Adams, Texas Cowboy Rider." The American-Statesman, October 6, 1935: 16. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Dobie, J. Frank. Andy Adams: Man and Chronicler. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1926. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Drummond, Lorena. "Andy Adams." University of Texas Free News Service, December 1931. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Frank, Seymour J. "Andy Adams: The Cowboys' Boswell." The Westerners Brand Book VI, no. 8 (1949): 57–64. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Greer, Hilton R. "Value of Andy Adams' Writing Increases With Passing of Years." Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1942. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Henry, Jean Shelley. "Adams, Andy." Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed December 15, 2013.

Hudson, Wilson. Andy Adams: His Life and Writings. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1964.

Hudson, Wilson. Andy Adams: Storyteller and Novelist of the Great Plains. Austin: Steck-Vaughn Company, 1967.

"'Log of a Cowboy' After 23 Years, Hailed as Best." The American-Statesman, January 1926. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Molen, Dayle H. “Andy Adams: Classic Novelist of the Trail.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 19 (1969): 24–35.

Payne, L. W. "Andy Adams." A Survey of Texas Literature. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1928. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Prentice, Dryden L. "Yarns of Cowboys and Negro Troops." The American-Statesman, December 9, 1956. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Schafer, A. L. "Andy Adams, Author." True West (December 1964): 20–21, 67–69. Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Watson, Carole M. "A Dedication to the Memory of Andy Adams: 1859–1935." Arizona and the West 19 (1977): 203–206.

Webb, W. P. "Talks on Texas Books: II. Trail Drivers of Texas." Interscholastic League (February 15, 1925). Andy Adams Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

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Portrait of Andy Adams. Courtesy of The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University.
Portrait of Andy Adams. Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library