Owen Wister (July 14, 1860 – July 21, 1938) was an American writer of western fiction.
Owen Wister was born on July 14, 1860, in Germantown
, a neighborhood within the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
. His father, Owen Jones Wister, was a wealthy physician, one of a long line of Wisters raised at the storied Belfield estate in Germantown. His mother, Sarah Butler Wister, was the daughter of actress Fanny Kemble
He briefly attended schools in Switzerland
, and later studied at St. Paul's School
in Concord, New Hampshire
and Harvard University
in Cambridge, Massachusetts
, where he was a classmate of Theodore Roosevelt
, an editor of the Harvard Lampoon
and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon
. Wister graduated from Harvard in 1882.
At first he aspired to a career in music, and spent two years studying at a Paris conservatory. Thereafter, he worked briefly in a bank in New York before studying law, having graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1888. Following this, he practiced with a Philadelphia firm, but was never truly interested in that career. He was interested in politics, however, and was a staunch Theodore Roosevelt backer. In the 1930s, he opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.
Wister had spent several summers out in the American West, making his first trip to Wyoming in 1885. Like his friend Teddy Roosevelt, Wister was fascinated with the culture, lore and terrain of the region. On an 1893 visit to Yellowstone
, Wister met the western artist Frederic Remington
; they remained lifelong friends. When he started writing, he naturally inclined towards fiction set on the western frontier. Wister's most famous work remains the 1902 novel The Virginian
, the loosely constructed story of a cowboy who is a natural aristocrat, set against a highly mythologized version of the Johnson County War
and taking the side of the large land owners. This is widely regarded as being the first cowboy
novel and was reprinted fourteen times in eight months. The book is dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1898, Wister married Mary Channing, his cousin. The couple had six children.
Wister's wife died during childbirth in 1913, as had Theodore Roosevelt's first wife died giving birth to Roosevelt's first daughter, Alice.
Wister died at his home in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. He is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Since 1978, University of Wyoming Student Publications has released the annual literary and arts magazine Owen Wister Review. The magazine was published bi-annually until 1996. It became an annual publication in the spring of 1997.
Just within the western boundary of the Grand Teton National Park, there is a 11,490-foot mountain named Mount Wister named for Owen Wister.
Near a home that he had built near La Mesa, California, but was never able to live in because of the death of his wife is a street called "Wister Drive." In the same neighborhood are found "Virginian Lane" and "Molly Woods Avenue.
Books and stories:
- Hank's Woman
- The Virginian
- Lady Baltimore
- Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship
- Old Yellowstone Days
- Lin MacLean
- Neighbors Henceforth
- The Pentecost of Calamity
Films Inspired by The Virginian:
Television Shows Inspired by The Virginian: