University of Texas Arlington

Benjamin Capps Papers:

A Guide

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Capps, Benjamin, 1922-2001.
Title: Benjamin Capps Papers
Dates: 1943-1977
Abstract: Benjamin Capps (1922-2001) was an award-winning author of western literature, born in Dundee, Texas. His works included western fiction, historical non-fiction, short stories, essays, and book reviews. Capps' major works explore a variety of topics set in the West. This collection contains personal and business correspondence, financial documents, literary works, photographs, newspaper clippings, brochures, periodicals, maps, biographical information, scrapbooks, notes, research materials, certificates, and artifacts. Included are essays, short stories, poems, English and journalism projects, and thesis completed during Capps' undergraduate and graduate days at the University of Texas; manuscript and typescript drafts of major published literary works, as well as galley proof sheets of some works; and manuscripts of unpublished novels and short stories. Correspondents include Roy (J.R.) Capps, Mody C. Boatright, C.L. Sonnichsen, and Malcolm Reiss, his agent, of Paul R. Reynolds & Son, New York.
Identification: AR309
Extent: 38 boxes (16.83 linear ft.)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library

Biographical Note

Benjamin Franklin Capps was born June 11, 1922, in Dundee, Texas, in the West Texas country he writes about. He grew up on a ranch near Archer City, Texas. After graduating from Archer City High School in May, 1938, at age fifteen, Capps left home to attend Texas Technological College in Lubbock. After a year of college he served a one year hitch in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Capps then worked as a surveyor for the U.S. Department of Engineering in the construction of airfields in Colorado and Texas, and as a truck driver in the building of Lake Texoma. In 1942 he married Marie Thompson, whom he met in Colorado, and entered the U.S. Army Air Force. During World War II he flew forty bombing missions as the navigator of a B-24 Liberator in the Pacific and attained the rank of first lieutenant.

Thanks to the GI Bill, Capps was able to attend The University of Texas at Austin after the war. He graduated in 1948 with a B.A. in English and a Phi Beta Kappa key, and in 1949 he received his M.A. in English. After graduation Capps taught English and Journalism for two years at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Teaching was time-consuming and did not allow him time to write and be with his family. In 1951, as a result, he left teaching and decided to take a job as a machinist. He moved to Grand Prairie, Texas, close to the hub of the electronics industry. During his years as a machinist and tool and die maker, he continued to write and publish short stories and articles in addition to accumulating a wealth of material on the Old West. With the help and support of his family, he left his mechanical trade in 1961 to become a full-time writer. In 1976 he returned briefly to teaching as the first writer-in-residence at UTA, where he taught a senior writing workshop and served as a consultant to the English Department. That year he co-edited, with Dr. Thomas Sutherland, the first book UTA published, Duncan Robinson: Texas Teacher and Humanist.

Capps first novel, Hanging at Comanche Wells, a Ballantine paperback, was published in 1962. It related the tale of a valiant deputy helping to keep peace in a town awaiting the execution of a convicted hired gun. The Trail to Ogallala was Capps first hardcover novel and established him as a major chronicler of the West. The story realistically dramatized a trail drive by focusing on moving a herd of cattle 1,500 miles to market. The novel received a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and the Levi Strauss Golden Saddleman Award for its outstanding contribution to western literature in 1964. It was selected by the National Association of Independent Schools as one of the ten best books that year for pre-college readers. It was also selected as one of thirty-one books placed in the White House Library that year by the American Booksellers Association. Another novel, Sam Chance, profiled a West Texas cattle baron and was awarded the Spur for 1965.

In 1969, The White Man's Road, the story of a Comanche half-breed trying to find his place in the world of western Oklahoma, won Capps his third Spur Award. It also won the Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center as the best western novel of the year. The True Memoirs of Charley Blankenship (1972) and Woman Chief (1980) were each one of three finalists for the Spur. True Memoirs is the light-hearted story of a runaway who "went west" as a boy and came back a man. Woman Chief is based on the story of a captive Gros Ventre girl who became a warrior chief in a band of the Crow tribe. The Warren Wagontrain Raid (subtitled: The Complete Account of an Historic Indian Attack and Its Aftermath) won the Wrangler award in 1974 for the best western book of non-fiction and was also a finalist for the Spur.

Other Capps books include: The Brothers of Uterica (1967), which portrayed a common but almost forgotten ingredient of Western settlement, the socialist colony, and A Woman of the People (1966), the story of a white girl and her sister captured by Comanche. The Heirs of Franklin Woodstock, published in 1989, is Capps first contemporary novel. It is set against West Texas ranch life and explores the relationship between grown children and aging parents. In addition to western novels, Capps is recognized as one of America's foremost authorities on the American Indian. He produced two works on the American Indian for Time-Life Books, The Indian and The Great Chiefs.

In addition to his major works, Capps is the author of numerous published short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews. He writes on many subjects and he does not consider himself only a western writer, even though his greatest successes were western novels. However, he is primarily interested in the past and its influence on us today. Much of his writing's appeal lies in his knowledge of the Old West's folklore. According to Capps, his writing's aim is to be authentic and "to probe the human nature and human motives" involved in his stories. His works are painstakingly researched for historical accuracy and generally explore lesser known facets of the American frontier.

Scope and Contents

The Capps Papers are comprised of thirty-eight boxes of correspondence, financial documents, literary works, printed materials, and artifacts produced or acquired by Capps from 1943 through 1977. Correspondence consists of personal, business, and subject correspondence as organized by Capps. Correspondents include his brother, Roy (J.R.) Capps, Mody C. Boatright, C. L. Sonnichsen, friends, associates, and fans. His business correspondence consists of letters with literary agents, editors, and publishers. The bulk of letters is between Capps and literary agent, Malcolm Reiss of Paul R. Reynolds & Son of New York, and dates from 1962 through 1975. Reiss was not only responsible for having most of Capps' work published, but through the years he became a trustworthy adviser and friend. Correspondence dealing with other literary pursuits and activities is organized by subject. These include letters to Leonard Sanders of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram concerning book reviews, to the editors of Fodor's Modern Guides for which he wrote descriptions of the Southwest, and files concerning a National Cowboy Hall of Fame film project. There are also research and publicity files, and correspondence with various literary groups in which Capps was active, especially the Western Writers of America.

The Capps Papers also include financial documents which are photocopies of contracts and royalty statements for his writings from 1962 through 1977. The bulk of the papers, however, are his literary works, both published and unpublished. Short stories, essays, poems, book reviews, and academic projects and papers are included along with note cards, notebooks containing drafts and ideas for stories, typescripts, galley proofs, printed materials, maps, and publicity scrapbooks associated with his works from 1946 through 1977. Trophies, awards, and certificates are also included.


Papers consist of 199 folders of materials arranged in 8 series.
Series I. Biographical Information, 1969-1976 (1 folder)
Series II. Correspondence (Personal), 1950-1977 (26 folders)
Series III. Correspondence (Miscellaneous), 1962-1977 (2 folders)
Series IV. Correspondence (Business), 1949-1977 (36 folders)
Series V. Correspondence (Subject), 1951-1977 (50 folders)
Series VI. Financial Documents, 1962-1977 (10 folders)
Series VII. Literary Works, 1946-1976 (24 boxes)
Series VIII. Miscellaneous Literary Works and Printed Items, 1951-1975 (50 folders)
Series IX. Artifacts, 1964-1975 (2 boxes)



Open for research.

Index Terms

These materials are indexed under the following headings in the catalog of The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Capps, Benjamin, 1922-2001--Archives.
Capps, Benjamin, 1922-2001--Manuscripts.
Capps, Benjamin, 1922-2001--Written works.
Sonnischsen, C. L. (Charles Leland), 1901-1991--Archives.
Boatright, Mody Coggin, 1896-1970--Archives.
Reiss, Malcolm, 1905-1975--Archives.
National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center--History--Sources.
Authors, American--Texas--Archives.
Authors, American--20th century--Archives.
American literature--20th century--Manuscripts.
Western stories--20th century--Manuscripts.
Alternate Titles
Historical Manuscripts Collection

Related Material

AR363: Benjamin Capps Papers, 1946-1993

Separated Material

Duplicate carbons and printed items were discarded.

Administrative Information


Purchase from Benjamin Capps,1977-1978.


Benjamin Capps Papers, AR309, Box Number, Folder Number, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.

Processing Information

Items were removed from scrapbook binders and were placed in acid-free folders. Newspaper clippings were photocopied on acid-free, buffered paper. All spirals were removed from the notebooks. Trophies and plaques were wrapped individually in protective bubble wrap.

Administrative Information

Grant Support

The retrospective updating and conversion of this finding aid was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Special Collections "Documenting Democracy: Access to Historical Records" project, 2014-2015.

Container List

Series I. Biographical Information (1 folder), 1969-1976

Box Folder
1 1 Clippings and articles, 1969-1976.

Series II. Correspondence, Personal (26 folders), 1950-1977

Letters to and from relatives, friends, and colleagues. Files also may include clippings, printed materials, and photos.
Box Folder
1 2 Alford Donnell (Don), 1954-1972.
3 Allen, Henry Wilson a.k.a. Will Henry, 1971-1975.
4 Auchiah, James, 1974.
5 Boatright, Dr. Mody C., 1949-1967.
6-8 Capps, Roy (J.R.), 1943-1973.
9 Etulain, Richard W., 1974.
10-11 Evans, Clarence, 1951-1974.
12 Gordon, Roxy, 1972-1973.
13 Johnson, Dorothy M., 1974-1977.
14 Landis, William E., 1971-1972.
15 Ledbetter, Barbara Neal, 1966-1970.
16 Richards, Joe, 1973.
17 Sanders, Leonard, 1972, 1977.
18 Sonnichsen, Charles Leland, 1969-1972.
19 Speck, Ernest, 1973.
20 Taylor, Joe Wayne, 1972-1976.
21-22 Wier, J.B., 1950-1964.
Box Folder
2 1-2 Wier, J.B., 1965-1972.
3 Worcester, Donald E., 1975-1976.
4 Yarborough, Ralph, 1974.

Series III. Correspondence, Miscellaneous (2 folders), 1962-1977

Box Folder
2 5-6 Correspondence (Miscellaneous), 1962-1977.
Unsolicited mail from strangers, fan mail, and crank mail.

Series IV. Correspondence, Business (36 folders), 1949-1977

Correspondence and attachments with agents, editors, and publishers regarding publishing, editing, and contracting of his works. Also includes ads and publicity material, as well as outlines and summaries of planned work.
Box Folder
2 7 Rejections, 1949-1961, undated
8-18 October 1961 - December 1965.
Box Folder
3 1-21 January 1966 - December 1975.
Box Folder
4 1-3 January 1976 - July 1977.
Includes typescript of "The Night the Real Santa Claus Came."

Series V. Correspondence, Subject (50 folders), 1951-1977

Material in addition to correspondence is noted.
Box Folder
4 4-7 Fodor's Modern Guides, 1965-1975
Typescripts, description of South Central and Southwestern U.S., and the Old West. (See also notebook in 32-3 for manuscript drafts)
8-11 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1965-1977
12 Guggenheim Foundation, 1969-1970
Letters, applications, brochures.
13 Hanging at Comanche Wells, 1962-1963
Clippings, printed material.
14-15 National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1970-1976
Programs, forms, magazine (Persimmon Hill), printed material.
Box Folder
5 1 National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Film Project, 1975
Script, brochure.
2 New York Times, 1964-1965
3 Publicity, photos, etc., 1964-1966
Biographical sketches of Capps and photos, synopsis of his works, typescript article, "Possibilities in `Western Fiction,'" book jackets, schedules.
4 Saturday Review, 1965
Reviews, typescripts.
5 Tahlequah Star-Citizen, 1951
6-7 Texas Institute of Letters, 1965-1974
Programs, clippings, critique, history.
8 Texas Writers Roundup, 1972-1973
Program, clippings.
9 The True Memories of Charley Blankenship, 1971
Photos, notes, review. (See also Literary Works)
10 The Warren Wagontrain Raid (Promotion), 1973-1975
Photo, printed material. (See also Literary Works)
11-13 The Warren Wagontrain Raid (Research), 1969-1974
Clippings, printed material.
Box Folder
6 1 The Warren Wagontrain Raid
2 Western Literature Association, 1966-1976
Reviews, printed material.
3-4 Western Writers of America, 1962-1967
Typescripts, lists, financial statement.
5-10 Western Writers of America (1967 Spur Awards Committee), 1967-1968
Lists, brochures, notes, rating and score sheets, rules, speech.
Box Folder
7 1-12 Western Writers of America, 1968-1975
Financial statements, membership lists, clippings, magazine, typescript of article, "The Western in Perspective," ratings, postcards, constitutions and by-laws, programs, forms, book club brochures.
Box Folder
8 1 Western Writers of America, 1968-1975
Ratings and review titles list.
2-3 The White Man's Road (Publicity), 1969-1970
Clippings, news release, notes, description, advertising flyer, Author Guild Bulletin. (See also Literary Works)

Series VI. Financial Documents (10 folders), 1962-1977

Box Folder
8 4-5 Remittance Statements (Paul R. Reynolds & Son), 1962-1977
6 The Brothers of Uterica, 1967-1975
Royalty statements, agreement. (See also Literary Works)
7 Hanging at Comanche Wells, 1962-1975
Royalty statements, agreements, contract. (See also Literary Works)
8 Sam Chance, 1964-1976
Royalty statements, agreements. (See also Literary Works)
9 The Trail to Ogallala, 1963-1974
Royalty statements, agreement. (See also Literary Works)
10 The True Memories of Charley Blankenship, 1971-1976
Royalty statements, contract.
11 The Warren Wagontrain Raid, 1971-1976
Royalty statements, aqreement.
12 The White Man's Road, 1969-1977
Royalty statements, agreements.
13 A Woman of the People, 1965-1974
Royalty statements, agreement. (See also Literary Works)

Series VII. Literary Works (24 boxes), 1946-1976

Box Folder
9 1-37 Works, 1946-1961
Article and photo, book proposal (40 Bombing Missions), book review, cartoon, dramas, essays, notes, miscellaneous writing ideas, unpublished novels (Ethel Mae Breaks the News and The Meanest Horses in the Country)
Box Folder
10 1-49 Works, 1946-1961
Includes poems, proposals for novels, and short stories (arranged alphabetically by title). See also Box 32 for notebooks of clippings from the Daily Texan by Capps 1945-1946.
Box Folder
11 1-11 Works, 1946-1961
Short stories
12 Speeches, 1966, approximately 1973
Typescripts, note cards.
13-16 Story Analyses, story examples for Journalism and English classes, 1947-1951.
17-24 Mesquite Country (A Novel), 1949-1962
Ms. drafts, clippings, correspondence re publication attempts, thesis (carbon).
Box Folder
12 1-17 Mesquite Country (A Novel)
Rewrite notes and various rewritten versions of thesis.
Box Folder
13 1-10 The Movers of Earth (unpublished), approximately 1953, 1956, 1961
Notes, outlines, correspondence, drafts.
11-18 Hanging at Comanche Wells (published 1962)
Planning outlines, typescript drafts.
19-25 Hell, Fire and Drinking Water (unpublished), 1963, 1975
Planning notes, typescript drafts, revision notes, correspondence.
Box Folder
14 1-13 Hell, Fire and Drinking Water
Typescript drafts of early and revised editions.
Box Folder
15 1-11 The Trail to Ogallala (published 1964)
Publicity, scrapbook, maps, drafts, typescript drafts, notes, printed material.
Box Folder
16 1-6 The Trail to Ogallala
Typescript drafts, galley proofs (master proof and author's proof). (See oversize box 35 for note cards on Texas subjects)
Box Folder
17 1-11 Sam Chance (published 1965)
Publicity scrapbook, outlines, typescript drafts, galley proofs, publisher's catalog.
Box Folder
18 1-10 A Woman of the People (published 1966)
Publicity scrapbook, book jacket, publisher's catalog, planning notes, photos, maps, manuscript drafts (notebooks), typescript drafts.
Box Folder
19 1-2 A Woman of the People
Galley proofs.
3-7 The Brothers of Uterica (published 1967)
Publicity scrapbook, publisher's brochures, manuscript drafts (notebooks).
Box Folder
20 1-13 The Brothers of Uterica
Planning notes, typescript drafts.
Box Folder
21 1-9 The Brothers of Uterica
Typescript drafts, galley proofs. (See also oversize box 36 for more galley sheets)
10-13 The White Man's Road (published 1969)
Correspondence with editor, publicity scrapbook, reviews in printed material, planning notes.
Box Folder
22 1-13 The White Man's Road
Notes, photos, typescript drafts.
Box Folder
23 1-9 The White Man's Road
Typescript drafts, reader's proofs, topographic maps.
10-11 The True Memories of Charley Blankenship (published 1972)
Publicity scrapbook, publisher's brochures.
Box Folder
24 1-16 The True Memories of Charley Blankenship
Planning outlines, manuscript drafts, typescript drafts.
Box Folder
25 1 The True Memories of Charley Blankenship
Typescript draft (miscellaneous pages).
2-17 The Indians (Time-Life Books), (published 1973)
Correspondence with editors, financial records, notes, bibliographies, outlines, guidelines, maps, printed material, manuscript drafts, typescript drafts, photocopies of research articles.
Box Folder
26 1-15 The Indians (Time-Life Books)
Photocopies of research articles.
Box Folder
27 1-2 The Indians (Time-Life Books)
Photocopies of research articles. (Oversize box 35 has publisher's proofs)
3-13 The Warren Wagontrain Raid (published 1974)
Publicity scrapbook, notes, photos, manuscript drafts, typescript drafts.
Box Folder
28 1-16 The Warren Wagontrain Raid
Typescript drafts, booklets, microfilm, photocopies of research articles, maps. (See oversize box 36 for note cards)
Box Folder
29 1-13 The Great Chiefs (Time-Life Books), (published 1975)
Notes, correspondence with editor, contract, financial records, outline, manuscript drafts, typescript drafts.
Box Folder
30 1-15 The Great Chiefs (Time-Life Books)
Photocopies of research articles, correspondence with editor, notes, Custer booklets, map, photo, list, publisher's proofs.
Box Folder
31 1-11 The Great Chiefs (Time-Life Books)
Photocopies of research articles, maps. (oversize box 35 has publisher's proofs).
Box Folder
32 1-3 Duncan Robinson, Texas Teacher and Humanist (published 1976)
Photo, notes, typescripts, clippings, manuscript draft (notebook also contains book reviews and "Law Comes to the Old West").

Series VIII. Miscellaneous Literary Works and Printed Items (50 folders), 1951-1975

Box Folder
32 4 Booklet
"Hunting Cousin Sally" by J. Frank Dobie, 1964. Autographed by Dobie.
5 Certificates, 1972-1973
Annual Texas Writers Roundup, Women in Communications, Inc., Austin, Texas.
6 Letter, printed item, 1951
The Northeastern (Northeastern State College, Tahlequah, Oklahoma). Memorial edition in honor of John Samuel Vaughan. Letter from Mrs. Vaughan.
7 Maps
Manuscript maps of Texas showing Indian Territory and various cattle trails.
8-10 Note cards
Subject is western history, also bibliography of western books with list of contents.
11-13 Notebook, 1945-1946
Clippings of "Stories from the Daily Texan," by Capps. Includes Rules Governing Newspaper Style.
14-16 Notebooks, approximately 1951-1962
Manuscript notes; first drafts, story ideas, research, etc.
17 Notebook, 1962-1963
Manuscript notes; Hanging at Comanche Wells rewrite, other notes and reviews.
Box Folder
33 1-9 Notebooks, 1962-1972
Contain notes on various topics such as: trips, book reviews, research, and essays, drafts of published novels, etc. Notebook "B" in folder four has an index to some of the notebooks.
Box Folder
34 1-9 Periodicals, 1946-1971
Contain short stories and essays by Joe Capps, Benjamin Capps, C. L. Sonnichsen, and a eulogy for Mody Boatright.
Box Folder
35 1-9 Oversize items, 1953-1975
Newspaper clippings, note cards (bibliography of Texas books plus notes), galley proofs for The Great Chiefs, and The Indians.
Box Folder
36 1-9 Oversize items, approximately 1967
Galley proofs for The Brothers of Uterica, and note cards probably for The Warren Wagontrain Raid.

Series IX. Artifacts (2 boxes), 1964-1975

37 Artifacts, 1964-1965, 1969
Western Writers of America, Spur Awards, Best Western Novels: The Trail to Ogallala, and Sam Chance; Best Western Historical Novel, The White Man's Road; National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, Western Heritage Award, Outstanding Western Novel, The White Man's Road. (8 pieces)
38 Artifacts, 1964, 1975
Levi Strauss Golden Saddleman Award, Best Western Novel, The Trail to Ogallala, and Western Heritage Wrangler Award, National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, Outstanding Western Nonfiction Book, The Warren Wagontrain Raid. (2 pieces)