University of Arizona

                                             Special Collections will be closed December 20, 2023 through January 1, 2024 in observance of the University Holiday break.

Walt Coburn Papers

Photograph of Walt Coburn Leaning on a Packard Roadster, 1927

Walter John Coburn was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana Territory, on October 23, 1889. His father, a pioneer cattleman, arrived in Montana Territory in 1863 and founded the Circle C Ranch, one of the largest outfits in the Northwest at the time. Walt gained his cowboy experience which served as material for his future fiction and non-fiction stories as a "$40 a month cowhand" on the Circle C.

From his first accepted story in 1922 until the demise of the pulp western serials in the 1950s, Coburn gained a reputation as "king of the pulp westerns." He published more than 1,000 stories and 40 books. At one point he was producing 600,000 published words a year, and he kept that pace up for two decades. His stories were particularly noted for their authenticity to the frontier and range experience.

Coburn first came to Arizona in 1916 and ranched with his brothers in Globe. He moved to Prescott in 1927, spent 35 years in Tucson and returned to Prescott for the last 10 years of his life. Coburn committed suicide at the age of 82 on 25 May 1971. His autobiography, Walt Coburn: Western Word Wrangler, was published posthumously in 1974.

This collection is organized into Works, Correspondence, Printed Materials and Photographs. The bulk of the collection consists of issues of the various pulp western serials in which Coburn's stories appeared and of his manuscript typescripts. Most of the magazines contain only tearsheets of his story, and the cover wrappers. The series is not a complete list of his stories, and it is not noted which stories are reprints with different titles. The nine scrapbooks contain articles and stories by Coburn mostly from True West, Frontier Times, and Old West spanning from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. These items mostly consist of non-fiction accounts of Coburn's cowboy past in Montana and Arizona. The manuscripts consist of original typescripts, drafts and correspondence dealing with Walt Coburn: Word Wrangler of the West, Pioneer Cattleman of Montana, and Stirrup High. Correspondence is chiefly with his friends, other writers, agents and publishers. The photographs include portraits of Coburn, of various friends and acquaintances, and of his home in Tucson.