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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the James Norman Hall Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1934-1952
Creator: Hall, James Norman (1887-1951)
Extent: 1.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0619
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Manuscripts of some of Hall's poetry, plays, articles, and essays. Also drafts of his book, The Far Lands.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 2.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: Mr. Hall gave these papers to the University of Iowa Libraries in increments from 1948 through 1950, with an additional gift made by his wife in 1952.

Preferred Citation: James Norman Hall Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

A native of Colfax, Iowa, James Norman Hall (1887-1951) graduated from Grinnell College in 1908. He did some postgraduate work at the University of Chicago and was employed as a social worker for the Boston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. His 1914 bicycle trip through Great Britain was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. He joined the British Army and fought in the trenches of France as a machine gunner. Hall returned to the United States in 1915, where he wrote of these experiences in his first book, Kitchener's Mob. When Atlantic Monthly hired him to write about the Lafayette Flying Corps, Hall joined it instead. He flew many sorties and had his planes taken out by enemy fire more than once. In 1918, he transferred to an American unit. Shot down again, this time he was captured and spent the rest of the war as a German prisoner-of-war.
In 1919, James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff (who had first met as aviators in the flying corps) were commisioned to write a history of the Lafayette Escadrille. The Lafayette Flying Corps was the first of twelve books that they would co-author over the years. The two men moved to Tahiti in 1920. Their first collaboration there resulted in Faery Lands of the South Seas. However, their most successfull novel, Mutiny on the Bounty, was not written until 1932. Nordhoff eventually left Tahiti, but Hall remained there until his death.
Hall had been a published writer before his partnership with Nordhoff, and he continued to have his own works published. He was a frequent contributor of articles and poems to the Atlantic Monthly. One such article revealed a literary hoax perpetrated by Carroll Coleman and himself concerning Hall's Fern Gravel poems. Oh, Millersville!, which was originally attributed to a very young girl (Fern Gravel), had generated enormous critical acclaim and caused quite a stir in the literary world when the hoax was revealed. In all, James Norman Hall authored seventeen of his own books, numerous essays, short stories, and poems, in addition to twelve books he wrote with Charles Nordhoff. Although most people remember Hall as a writer of adventure stories, he always considered himself to be foremost a poet.

The papers of James Norman Hall date from 1934 to 1952, and consist of three boxes of literary manuscripts arranged alphabetically. His book The Far Lands is represented with various drafts of the foreward, preface and epilogue, and one draft of the entire book. Otherwise, the collection is entirely made up of drafts of his poetry, plays, essays, and articles. Separately acquired is a letter (MsL H177br) to Sharon Osborne Brown (1891- ), Tahiti, 2 Dec, 1942, thanking him for sending "Present Tense," which he enjoyed very much. TLS, 1p.

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