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Mari Sandoz, 1896-1966

RG1274.AM:  Mari Sandoz, 1896-1966

Papers:  1933-1966
Gordon, Sheridan County and Lincoln, Lancaster County, Neb., and New York, N.Y.:  Author
Size:  2.0 cu.ft.


Mari Sandoz is the pen name of Mary Susette Sandoz, daughter of Jules Ami and Mary Elizabeth (Fehr) Sandoz. Mari was born at Sandoz Post Office, Running Water Precinct, Sheridan County, Nebraska, on May 11, 1896. She was educated in her home by her father, until the age of nine when she was sent to attend the public school district. Her inability to speak English somewhat limited her early education, but she learned the language and attended school irregularly until the age of sixteen. Her father, a Swiss immigrant, was not fond of the trappings of civilization, and worked his family like hired help. He was, however, known and respected in the Sandhills and Mari was influenced a great deal by her father's personality, his acquaintances who visited the homestead, and the country in which they lived. She knew trappers, traders, Indians and Indian fighters, and learned their stories and their backgrounds.

Upon reaching her sixteenth birthday, she had to quit school and help support the family. This she did by teaching in rural schools in Western Nebraska. During this time she was married for a short time, after which she entered the University of Nebraska in 1922 as a special adult student. Her first literary effort was entitled "The Peachstone Basket," an effort that won her honorable mention in the 1926 Harper Intercollegiate Short Story Contest. In the following years she worked as a reader in the English Department, proofreader and researcher at the Nebraska State Historical Society, and associate editor for School Executive Magazine. The campus magazine Prairie Schooner was regularly the recipient of her further literary efforts. It was not until the death of her father, who strongly opposed her writing career, that she began to publish under the name of Mari Sandoz.

Upon his death in 1928 she abandoned the name of Marie Macumber and began to work on a biography of her father. This book, Old Jules, was completed in 1933, but rejected by the publisher to whom she sent it. She briefly gave up writing, but before long had begun work on her second novel, Slogum House. Meanwhile she continued her work at the Historical Society, and re-wrote Old Jules. The book was re-submitted on several occasions, and each time was rejected until March, 1935, when it won the prize for non-fiction in the Atlantic Monthly contest. Publication also brought critical acclaim, and paved the way for future literary successes. Her second novel, Slogum House, was finished and published in 1937, and more than any other of her works, aroused great controversy due to its unusual presentation of pioneer life.

Much of her writing, including her biography of Crazy Horse (1942) and the epic Cheyenne Autumn (1953), reflect her close relationship with the Great Plains Indians and the confidence they had in her understanding and recounting their history. These books reveal her wealth of knowledge of and sympathy with the troubled evolution of the Indian civilization.

Mari Sandoz, in spite of failing health, spent her later years actively writing, lecturing, and visiting the land and people she wrote about. She died of cancer in New York in March 1966, and was returned for burial on the family farm near Gordon, Nebraska.


This collection (formerly MS0565) consists manuscript materials arranged in four Series: 1) Correspondence, 1934-1966; 2) Manuscripts; 3) Printed matter; and 4) Miscellany.

This material relates generally to biographical and historical sketches in Western Nebraska, and to factual and fictional stories about the West, and Indian tribes and individuals. The correspondence of Series 1 is of particular interest in this respect. Mari Sandoz exchanged letters with a number of persons, including other writers, and old settlers. Often these letters include biographical sketches of the writer, or relate a historical incident. Many relate to the writing and publication of Miss Sandoz's books, and to the sources that she used. Some of the letters are copies Miss Sandoz made of letters received, and many are copies of letters sent by Miss Sandoz. Correspondents include: Norman Atcheson, 1938; Jay Amos Barrett, 1935, 1936; A(ugustus) C(aesar) Booth, 1937; Donald F. Danker, 1965; John B. Ferguson, 1936; Virginia Faulkner, 1957, 1958, 1960; Leo R. Felhafer, 1960; William Francis Hooker, 1935, 1936; A.T. Hill, 1944; Ron Hull, 1961, 1963-1965; John Edward Johnson, 1935; V.(?) S. Knight, 1937; Marvin F. Kivett, 1950, 1953; B.J. Peterson, 1936; Lauraine Ganow Radtke, 1935; Mari Sandoz, 1934, 1937-1939, 1944, 1950, 1952-1965; Addison E. Sheldon, 1936; Mary E. Sandoz, 1936; Robert Schlater, 1959, 1960; Pearle Arnot Tangren, 1936; Minnie Hunter Wardwell, 1948; L.O. Williams, 1936.

Series 2 consists of manuscripts, some written by Mari Sandoz and some from other sources. Most of the Sandoz articles deal with Western themes. Those from other sources are biographical sketches of Mari Sandoz.

Series 3 consists of printed matter, mainly magazine articles and newspaper clippings. Several are articles written by Mari Sandoz. Clippings include book reviews, notices on Old Jules, Slogum House, and other books written by Miss Sandoz. One folder contains clippings about famous and little known Nebraskans, biographical sketches and general information.

Series 4 consists of a miscellany of biographical information, bibliography, notes from Old Jules' notebook, television scripts, information on a rifle belonging to Jules Sandoz, and several copies of Mari Sandoz's, "Check Sheet for the New Novelist's Examination of His Work."

The materials in this collection were gathered from a variety of sources, including some items from Miss Sandoz herself. Written permission from the writer or writer's agent is required for use of quotations from the letters of Virginia Faulkner-Mari Sandoz.

Note: The NSHS Library contains books by Mari Sandoz. Photographs are available in the photo component [RG1274.PH] and an audio recording of her gravesite service is available in the audio component [RG1274.AU] of the collection. Additional Sandoz correspondence can be found throughout various other manuscript collections.

The majority of Mari Sandoz's papers are located at the UNL Archives and Special Collections.   Additional Sandoz materials are held at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron, Nebraska.


Series 1 - Correspondence, 1934-1966

Box 1
  1. 1933-1935
  2. 1936-1937
  3. 1938-1940
  4. 1942-1944
  5. 1946
  6. 1947-1949
  7. 1950-1951
  8. 1952
  9. 1953
  10. 1954
  11. 1955
  12. 1956
  13. 1957
  14. 1958
  15. 1959
  16. 1960
  17. 1961
  18. 1962
  19. 1963
  20. 1964
  21. 1965
  22. Letters concerning Mari Sandoz, but not written to or by her:
    Jules Sandoz (copy), 1893; B. J. Peterson; L. O. Williams; James C. Olson; Mamie Meredith; Virginia Faulkner
  23. Jules A. Sandoz, 1919 & 1925.
  24. Undated

Series 2 - Manuscripts

Box 1
  1. Manuscripts by Mari Sandoz:
    "Anybody Can Write," 4 pp. typed
    "The Birdman," 4 pp. typed [2 copies]
    "Capt. Charles King as Portrayer of the West," 4 pp. typed
    "The Devil's Lane," 14 pp. typed
    "Far Looker," 2 pp. typed
    "I Wrote a Book," 3 pp. typed
    "The Look of the West--1854," 17 pp. typed [2 copies]
    "'Old Jules' Sandoz," 2 pp. typed
    "Prairie Dog Fades on Great Plains," 1 p. typed
    "The Sandhills of West Cherry," 16 pp. typed
    "The Smart Man," 15 pp. typed
    "The Vine," 11 pp. typed
  2. "Great Council. By Mari Sandoz," 24 pp. typed, with 6 pp. typed source information.
  3. "Ossie and the Sea Monster: A Novelette. By Mari Sandoz," 31 pp. typed.
  4. "The Beaver Men. By Mari Sandoz," ("CC of next to last draft"). Typescript. [boxed]
  5. Manuscripts by other writers:
    "Mari Sandoz, Daughter of Old Jules. A Study of Her Life and Literary Career," MA thesis by Felie Woodrow Clark, 1956, 64 pp. typed.
    "My Personal Recollections of Old Jules," B.J. Peterson, 3 pp. typed
    "Mari Sandoz Discusses Business Writing," interview by Donald Mac Campbell, 2 pp.
    "Mari Sandoz, North American Writer," Tomas Bledsoe, 3 pp. typed
  6. Unidentified manuscripts

Series 3 - Printed Matter

Box 2
  1. Articles and short stories by Mari Sandoz:
    "A New Introduction (by Mari Sandoz to The Cheyenne Indians, Their History and Ways of Life, by George Bird Ginnell)," Buffalo-Head Press, New York, 1962
    "The New Frontier Woman" Country Gentleman, September, 1936
    "Stay Home, Young Writer," The Quill, June 1937
    "The Girl in the Humbert," Saturday Evening Post, March 1939
    "Nebraska," Holiday
    "Anybody Can Write," The Writer, April 1944
    "Sandhill Sundays," Mid-Country, 1945
    "There Were Two Sitting Bulls," Blue Book Magazine, November, 1949
    "The Lost School Bus," Saturday Evening Post, May 1951
    "What the Sioux Taught Me," reprint in Readers Digest, April, 1955
    "Adventure of a Western Writer," The Westerners Brand Book, January, 1956
    "The Tyrant of the Plains," Saturday Evening Post, June 7, 1958
    "Dakota Country," American Heritage, June 1961
    "The Homestead in Perspective," Homestead Centennial Symposium. University of Nebraska, 1962
    "The Far Looker," special printing by the Buffalo-Head Press, New York, 1962 - two of 500 copies
    "How I Came to Write," Baltimore Bulletin of Education, May-June 1958
    "River Polax," The Atlantic, Sept., 1937
  2. Clippings; Articles about Mari Sandoz
  3. Publicity and comment on Old Jules
  4. Publicity and comment on Slogum House
  5. Book Reviews
  6. Clippings on Nebraskans
  7. Clippings about Jules Sandoz
  8. Clippings, personal life
  9. Miscellaneous Clippings

Series 4 - Miscellany

Box 2
  1. Biographical information
  2. Mari Sandoz memorial service
  3. "Notes from Old Jules' Notebook covering January, 1910-December, 1928", 232 pages of what appear to be excerpts from two Sheridan County newspapers - some sort of index to these papers
Box 3
  1. Bibliography
  2. A series of draft television scripts
  3. Affidavits and testimony regarding the authenticity of a rifle claimed to have belonged to Jules Sandoz
  4. "Check Sheet for the New Novelist's Examination of His Work", 10 copies.
  5. Nebraska Legislature materials:
    Resolution #54 adopted May 5, 1979: May 11 as Mari Sandoz Day
    Map showing important sites from Sandoz' books
    Mari Sandoz in Nebraska Hall of Fame program
  6. Mari Sandoz Heritage
  7. Miscellaneous
  8. Miscellaneous



Atcheson, Norman
Authors -- Nebraska
Barrett, Jay Amos
Booth, A.C. (Augustus Caesar)
Cheyenne Indians
Crazy Horse
Danker, Donald F.
Faulkner, Virginia L., -1980
Felhafer, Leo R.
Ferguson, John B.
Frontier and pioneer life
Hill, A.T.
Hooker, William Francis
Hull, Ron
Johnson, John Edward
Kivett, Marvin F.
Peterson, B.J.
Radtke, Lauraine Ganow
Sandoz, Jules Ami, 1857-
Sandoz, Mary E.
Schlater, Robert
Sheldon, Addison E.
Siouan Indians
Tangren, Pearle Arnot
Wardwell, Minnie Hunter
Williams, L.O.
Writers -- Nebraska


05-03-2007   Revised TMM/tmm


For additional information about this collection, please contact our Library Staff.

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