Skip to main content

Grey, Zane, 1872-1939

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1872-1939

Biographical History

Zane Grey (1872-1939) was one of the world's most prominent and prolific writers of Western novels.

Pearl Zane Gray was born January 31, 1872, in his ancestral home of Zanesville, Ohio. The fourth of five children born to Lewis M. Gray, a dentist, and Josephine Alice Zane, his was an active boyhood marked by attendance at local schools and participation in many boyhood activities of which fishing and baseball were his favorites.

After serving an apprenticeship with his father, he entered dental school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1892. Although he was acclaimed for his success as an outstanding shortstop on the school's baseball team, his academic performance was only average. He graduated in 1896, and while practicing dentistry in New York City continued to play baseball with the Athletic Club in East Orange, New Jersey.

In 1900 he met his future wife, editor, and life-long source of encouragement, Lina Elise Roth, known as Dolly. During their five year courtship Gray changed his name to Zane Grey (dropping his first name and changing the spelling of his last), gave up his dental practice, and began a career as an author. After receiving many rejections by publishers, on his own he published his first book, entitled Betty Zane (1903). He and Dolly were married the following year, making their first home in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.

Grey's attention was drawn west to the geographic area which would provide the setting for most of his major books when he met Charles Jesse ("Buffalo") Jones in 1906. An older hunter who had set out to preserve and breed buffalo which were in danger of extinction, Jones took Grey to the American Southwest for the purpose of having Grey write a book about his life. Upon returning to the East fired by his experiences, he expressed his sentiments in The Last of the Plainsmen, a book about Jones. In 1910 he published Heritage of the Desert and in 1912 Riders of the Purple Sage. These two books were his first major successes in literature and the ones by which he established his national reputation as an author. Riders of the Purple Sage was enormously successful and is his best known and probably his best loved work.

His greatest sustained success, wealth, and fame came after him, Dolly, and their three children (Romer, Betty, and Lore) moved to Altadena, California, in 1918. Included among his works published during this time were To the Last Man, Tappan's Burro, Forlorn River, The Shepherd of Guadaloupe, Robbers' Roost, and The Trail Driver. By 1930 he was hailed as the most sought after writer in America.

When he was not writing, Grey took lengthy trips to such places as New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti, where he set world records with his deep sea fishing catches (at one time he held ten world records) and where he had many of the experiences that later served as the basis for some of his writing. He enjoyed hunting and exploring as well, and these activities also found expression in his sports and adventure stories, written for both juvenile and adult readers.

Zane Grey died October 23, 1939, in Altadena, California. During his lifetime he sold nearly 20 million copies of his novels, and another 20 million have been sold posthumously. Before his death he published 40 western romances in addition to works for juveniles, and collections of short stories and books on his adventures as a hunter, explorer, and fisherman. Since his death another 23 of his books have been published. Desert Gold, The Rainbow Trail, The Border Legion, To The Last Man, The Shepherd of Guadaloupe, Robbers' Roost, The Trail Driver, Twin Sombreros, Ride the Man Down, Lost Pueblo, and Boulder Dam; and the novelettes Tappan's Burro, Don The Ranger, Canyon Walls From Missouri, and The Horse Thief.

Citation

Zane Grey: A Biography, 1970 (comprehensive list of book titles, sales statistics)

Wikipedia, website viewed June 14, 2011 (b. Jan. 31, 1872, Zanesville, Ohio; parents: Lewis M. Gray, Josephine Alice Zane Grey; father a dentist; 4th of 5 children; Grey loved fishing and baseball; attended dental school at University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia from 1892-1896; was shortstop on University baseball team; played baseball with athletic club of East Orange, New Jersey; met wife Dolly in 1900, courted 5 years before marrying; Grey's occupation orginially dentist, then author; rejected by publishers so self-published Betty Zane in 1903; lived in Lackawaxen, Penns. with wife; met Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones in 1906; travelled Jones to American Southwest; wrote Last of the Plainsmen about Jones; published Heritage of the Desert in 1910 and Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912; moved to Altadena, Calif. with family in 1918; from 1918-1930 wrote To the Last Man, Tappan's Burro, Forlorn River, The Shepherd of Guadaloupe, Robbers' Roost, and The Trail Driver, among others; took trips to New Zealand, Australia and Tahiti for deep-sea fishing; held ten deep-sea fishing records; Grey hunted and explored; his novels produced into movies; also wrote short stories and recounts of his own adventures; Grey's novels sold 20 million copies before his death and another 20 million copies after; published 40 western romances before death, another 23 published posthumously; married Lina "Dolly" Elise Roth Nov. 21, 1905, New York, N.Y.; children: Romer Zane, Betty, and Loren; d. Oct. 23, 1939, Atlandena, Calif.)

Found in 23 Collections and/or Records:

Betty Zane Grey Grosso photographs, approximately 1920-1980

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 6081 Series 10 Sub-Series 6
Scope and Contents Contains photographs of Betty Zane Grey Grosso with her first husband, Bob Carney, and consists predominantly of pictures of her as a teenager and with horses. It also contains photographs of her in the ground of the Altadena, California home, her daughter, Michele, and grandchild dating from 1920 to 1980.
Dates: approximately 1920-1980

Claire Wilhelm collection of Zane Grey photographs, approximately 1900-1956

 Series
Identifier: MSS 8277 Series 1
Scope and Contents This series contains 76 black and white photographs of Zane Grey and his family, Claire Wilhelm and various other women on expeditions with Zane Grey, and scenes from Zane Grey movies dating from approximately 1900 to 1956.
Dates: approximately 1900-1956

Claire Wilhelm collection on Grey family, approximately 1900-1956

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 8277 Series 1 Sub-Series 1
Scope and Contents This subseries contains photographs and postcards of Zane Grey, his siblings, Ellsworth, R. C. and Ida Grey, his wife, Lina Elise Grey, his children, Romer, Betty Zane and Loren Grey, and various other members of his family from approximately 1900 to 1956.
Dates: approximately 1900-1956

Claire Wilhelm collection on Zane Grey property, 1915-1921

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 8277 Series 1 Sub-Series 2
Scope and Contents This subseries contains photographs and postcards of the home in Zanesville, Ohio where Zane Grey was born, and the Lackawaxen River, Pennsylvania from 1915 to 1921.
Dates: 1915-1921

Claire Wilhelm photographs, approximately 1910-1950

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 8277 Series 1 Sub-Series 3
Scope and Contents This subseries contains photographs and postcards of Claire Wilhelm, Lillian Wilhelm Smith, Mildred Fergerson, Dorothy Ackerman, Mildred Smith, Elma Schwarz, Polly Hunter, and various others on fishing trips, camping trips and in other situations with Zane Grey from approximately 1910 to 1950.
Dates: approximately 1910-1950

Zane Grey papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 6081
Scope and Contents Papers document Grey's personal life, career as an author, and fishing expeditions as well as materials about his wife Lina "Dolly" Grey and son Romer. It consists of correspondence, photographs, ephemera, and other materials. It includes materials created by Zane Grey Inc., the company built to administer the professional affairs of Zane Grey including financial records, contracts, and other materials pertaining to his career. It also includes substantial correspondence with Grey's agent and...
Dates: approximately 1861-1995

Zane Grey papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 8316
Scope and Contents The Zane Grey papers consist of correspondence, legal records, financial records, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and other materials. The papers document Zane Grey's personal life, career as an author, and fishing expeditions as well as materials about his wife Lina "Dolly" Grey and children, Romer, Betty Zane, and Loren dating from approximately 1890 to 1990.
Dates: approximately 1890-1990

Photographs of Lillian Wilhelm Smith artwork, approximately 1925-1970

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 6081 Series 10 Sub-Series 7
Scope and Contents Contains photographs of Lillian Wilhelm Smith and her artwork, predominantly from after Zane Grey's death. It contains photographs of decorative designs and sketches of Native American motifs, the library walls of the Grey home that she decorated, and prints of paintings made by her dating from approximately 1925 to 1970.
Dates: approximately 1925-1970

Romer Grey photographs, approximately 1915-1980

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 6081 Series 10 Sub-Series 5
Scope and Contents Contains photograph documenting Romer Grey's family and life, mostly after the death of his father in 1939. It contains photographs of Romer Grey from when he was a child, with his wife, Octave "Bea" Grey, and with his son, Romer Grey III. It also documents his role in the Flying Sphynx Ranch, Zane Grey Trails, and his relationship with Margaret A. Ingram dating from approximately 1915 to 1980.
Dates: approximately 1915-1980

Claire Wilhelm collection on Zane Grey

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 8277
Scope and Contents Contains documentation of Wilhelm's interactions with Grey while accompanying him on various expeditions. The collection contains black and white photographs of Zane Grey and his family, Claire Wilhelm and various other women on trips with Zane Grey, Native Americans, and scenes from Zane Grey movies. It also contains ephemera collected by Claire Wilhelm including silhouettes of Zane and Lina Elise Grey, a Christmas card from Zane Grey to Wilhelm, and a Zane Grey book plate. Materials date from...
Dates: approximately 1900-1956