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EDMONDS, WALTER - 'Drums Along the Mohawk' Author 55-Year Correspondence
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EDMONDS, WALTER - 'Drums Along the Mohawk' Author 55-Year Correspondence

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“DRUMS has sold somewhere around 230,000 I believe, but it is now slowed way down. They have done a script of it for the movies and I suspect it will be out in the fall. Fonda, Claudette Colbert, and Edna May Oliver…”


EDMONDS, WALTER. (1903-1998). Author of Drums Along the Mohawk. An archive of correspondence spanning 55 years and including 44 typed and autograph letters and cards and a printed broadside of his poem “Bethlehem.” Variously signed. (“Walter D. Edmonds,” “W.D. Edmonds,” “Walter,” “Walter Edmonds”). 46pp. Cambridge, New York, Madison, and Concord, December 9, 1935 to December 19, 1990. To notable Civil War scholar, author and collector, ARNOLD F. GATES (1914-1993).


“I am delighted that you enjoyed DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. I hope the next will not be too long in coming.” November 27, 1936


I’m pleased and amused to be an Honorary Member of The Rough Riders Club. I’m pleased because it sounds like a good organization, and I’m amused when I think of what the members would think if they saw me being escorted by a horse… I have never been on horseback. I’m glad C[lifton]. Fadiman thinks I’m a ‘fine scholar,’ for I have a genuine admiration for him as a book reviewer – as who of sense hasn’t, even if he got his digs on my ‘Republicanism’. Hell, I am a Republican though I deplore the party nationally. But I don’t preach Republicanism. All I preach is that there is no sense in helping people that don’t help themselves… Such government assistance never has proved any good and never will, and it is of course inevitably true that in the end it is the loafers that get the money. Well, perhaps they deserve it and I am wrong…” February 1, 1937


I’m darned glad to see that DRUMS is picking up in Cleveland. It has been pretty generally second on a national basis; but it is gratifying to see it making headway in a particular city. The middle section of the US has never had much use for my books, in a buying sense, anyway, until this one.” April 17, 1937


“I may have misstated what I mean to say about the ‘middle section’ not liking my books. I meant that they had never sold well there until DRUMS went out. That has done and is doing so well that I am immeasurably gratified and I suppose the trouble with the others were that they were very local. So is DRUMS, but the Revolution is something that belongs to every one, whereas the Canal seems pretty York Statish.” May 18, 1937


“I agree with you that Horgan deserves recognition. I don’t know about having a picture in LOOK, though. From what I’ve seen of the covers of that sheet it would seem a dubious honor.” July 15, 1937


Lord, I don’t know what is the greatest contribution to American literature. I suppose I should put down Huckleberry Finn if I were asked to save my life by being definite. It is the greatest -- I should be inclined to say the only GREAT American novel. There has been nothing like it before or since.” January 21, 1938


I’m glad too that you enjoyed YOUNG AMES. I liked it when I had it done, though not so much as Mr BENEDICT and his lion; but it seems to have had a great response, far more than any story I have written. I cannot see quite why, but I am naturally delighted… Everybody is writing books but myself it seems. Mine goes slowly.” April 1, 1938


“Your note on the Northwest territory interested me. There were plenty such land deals. Some in New York, though the scale of them was not quite as impressive as I remember.” May 7, 1938


“DRUMS is a fine book, and so is MARCHING ON, but THE LONG HUNT I remember as a good deal the best of the three. It is a piece of the real American Goods. I never made much headway with ROLL RIVER, though my wife preferred it to all of them. However you rank the books though, James Boyd is one of the best, the few best, we have.”  July 31, 1938


“No, I have not written many stories dealing with children. There were two in Mostly Canallers, WATER NEVER HURT A MAN, and DINTY’S DEAD; yes and a third, BLACK WOLF. Then in the Boyd House stories that came out in the Post there was a boy who told the stories, and I suppose the two dog stories HONOR OF THE COUNTY, and KILLERS IN THE VALLEY, were more or less what you think of. Then in MOSTLY CANALLERS there is another story called BEWITCHED, which is about me and a cow, and is partly true…” March 5, 1939


“I am pushing hard to finish CHAD HANNAH by the end of July. It has just turned 500 pages and I still don’t know what it is going to be like. One thing I am sure of is that it will now [sic] be anything like the popular success that DRUMS was. DRUMS has sold somewhere around 230,000 I believe, but it is now slowed way down. They have done a script of it for the movies and I suspect it will be out in the fall. Fonda, Claudette Colbert, and Edna May Oliver and Arthur Shields, the Abbey Player, among others.” July 1, 1939


“DRUMS disappointed me in some ways and pleased me in others, but I still feel a sort of annoyance that they could not have approximated the appearance of the Mohawk, its greenness, and could not have avoided such obvious errors as taking the wrong church, when the right one still stands, and putting up poplar fences, and showing a field of corn about three times the size one man could have handled… I had nothing whatever to do with the picture. Of course I had had Edna May Oliver in mind when I was writing about Mrs McKlennar, and she magnificently realized that part.” December 23, 1939


“I have nothing in the fire now. I’m trying to teach myself to write again and find it very hard sledding.” March 18, 1954


“I’ve never read anything of Paul Horgan’s, but I have every intention of reading his GREAT RIVER. As for my own writing, Lord knows when it will get going again, but I have a feeling it will and only hope the moment is not too far away.” December 25, 1954


I doubt if my Civile [sic] War novel will ever be finished, though the start was all right.” October 17, 1955


Oddly enough I have at last got a book underway and though it goes slowly it goes fairly steadily – not fiction, more an informal history written round the French and Indian Wars… There seems to be a renewal of interest in my writing. A Doubleday volume containing ROME HAUL, ERIE WATER, and DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK designed for their dollar book club is also selling on the open market and has I believe gone well past 300,000, which has astonished me.” April 22, 1962


“I hope some day to tackle the second part of THE MUSKET AND THE CROSS but have been discouraged by the lack of critical appreciation and the small amount of readers it found.” December 14, 1973


Many thanks for your congratulations. It never occurred to me that such a simple and old fashioned story would win the Award, even after it became a nominee.” April 24, 1976


“Yes, it’s sad to see two writers as good as Catton & Bakeless go from us. For my taste Catton wrote better history than anyone since Parkman. Benny DeVoto was a close second.” December 21, 1978


“Yes, I met Henry Fonda when he was in the theatre company of the “Farmer Takes a Wife”, Marc Connelly’s play version of “Rome Haul” but we never had a real conversation – both of us were shy specimens. (Fonda also appeared in the movie version, as he did in “Drums Along the Mohawk” & “Chad Hannah.” He was always a good actor, & in “The Grapes of Wrath” & “Mr Roberts” (the play) he was superb.” August 23, 1982


Edmonds was a Mohawk Valley native who, in 1929, penned his first novel, Rome Haul, on which the 1934 play The Farmer Takes a Wife was based. It was made into a film the following year. In 1936, he published Drums Along the Mohawk,a fictional story set in the Mohawk Valley during the American Revolution. The novel was a bestseller for two years, out-sold only by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. AmericanActor Henry Fonda (1905-1982) starred in both the stage production of The Farmer Takes a Wife and the 1939 Hollywood production of Drums Along the Mohawk. Edmonds went on to write 34 books, including a number of juvenile novels. He was awarded the 1942 Newberry Medal for The Matchlock Gun, and, in 1976, his historical novel for children, Bert Breen’s Barn, won the National Book Award for Children’s Books. Our correspondence includes discussion of the public reception of his works, stage productions, his difficulties writing and development of specific work, historical topics of interest to the author, and works by other authors.


Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Paul Horgan (1903-1995) wrote about the American Southwest and whose titles include The Fault of Angels, A Lamp on the Plains, New Mexico’s Own Chronicle, andSongs After Lincoln, among others.


American novelist James Boyd’s (1888-1944) first book was Drums, considered by some the best book about the American Revolution and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. His subsequent books includedMarching On, Long Hunt, Bitter Creek, and Roll River.


Bruce Catton (1899-1978) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, founding editor of American Heritagemagazine andauthor of A Stillness at Appomattox.


JohnBakeless (1894-1978) was an American author and historian whose works include Spies of the Confederacy.


American author Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, editor and conservationist whose many works include Across the Wide Missouri andMark Twain’s America.


Gates, a well-respected amateur historian of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, devoted 50 years to researching those subjects, reviewing books for the Lincoln Herald and contributing to such works as the anthology Lincoln for the Ages. He was an avid letter writer and “friend and unofficial agent of many a noted author,” (“Autographica Curiosa: How Not to Impress Emily Post,” Autograph Magazine, Butts). His own books include Amberglow of Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge, Amberglow of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, Song of the Leaves: Quest of Johnny Appleseed and The Weaver.


In very good condition.



Item #19616

This autograph will be auctioned live on May 23, 2018. For more information and to place your bid click the "BID NOW!" button above.
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