James Norman Hall Papers 1906-1954

Identity elements

Reference code

US US-IaGG MS/MS 01.01

Name and location of repository

Level of description



James Norman Hall Papers 1906-1954



30 linear feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

April 22, 1887 Born in Colfax, Iowa

1904 Graduated from high school. Visited St. Louis Exposition

1904-06 Worked in clothing store in Colfax

1906-10 Student at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa

1908 Summer school at University of Chicago

1909 Summer in Scotland

1910 Graduated from Grinnell College

1910-14 Boston. Agent for Society for Prevention to Cruelty To Children. Friendship formed with Roy M. Cushman, George C. Greener, Laurence L. Winship.

May 1914 Bicycle trip through Great Britain

Aug. 18, 1914 London. Enlisted on British Expeditionary Force as Private in 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Lord Kitchener's Volunteer Army--the First Hundred Thousand)

Aug. 1914-May 1915 Army training in England. Became machine gunner.

May-Nov. 1915 Machine gunner in Normandy, France

Sept.-Oct.1915 Battle of Loos

Dec. 1, 1915 Discharged from British Expeditionary Force. Returned to U.S. Met Ellery Sedgwick, editor of Atlantic Monthly Jan.-Apr. 1916 Wrote Kitchener's Mob

Summer 1916 In London with Greener

Sept. 1916 Paris. Gathering information for articles on Lafayette Escadrille for Atlantic Monthly

Oct. 16, 1916 Paris. Enlisted in Lafayette Escadrille

Oct. 1916-June 1917 Aviation school at Buc, later at Avord.

June 14, 1917 Went to the front (near Soissans), in Squad 124

June 26, 1917 Wounded seriously in plane crash

June-Sept. 1917 American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly

Sept. 1917 Returned to action, rank of Sergeant

Sept. 1917 Crashed on Vosges mountain, broke nose

Feb. 7, 1918 Transferred to 94th (and later to 103rd) Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Air Service with rank of Captain

May 7, 1918 Shot down behind German lines near Pagny-sur-Moselle taken prisoner

May-July 15, 1918 In German hospital with broken ankle and nose J

uly 15-Nov. 16, 1918 In various prisons in Germany, the last being Schloss Trausnitz in Landshut, Bavaria

Nov.16, 1918 Allowed to "escape" from prison, train to Munich, Lindau, through Switzerland to Paris

Nov. 1918 Paris. Met Nordhoff. Both commissioned to write history of Lafayette Escadrille

Mar. 1919 Returned to U.S.

Summer 1919 Martha's Vineyard with Nordhoff. Wrote The Lafayette Flying Corps

Fall 1919 Lecture tour

Jan. 1920 Nordhoff and Hall sailed from California to Tahiti, arrived

Feb. 1920 1920-21 Voyages in South Seas on copra schooners. Nordhoff and Hall published Faery Lands of the South Seas

April 1922 Left Tahiti for U.S. and Iceland

Aug. 1922-Feb. 1923? Iceland Summer

1923 Returned to Tahiti

1925 Married Sarah Winchester

1926 Son, Conrad Hall, born

1929 Nordhoff and Hall began Mutiny on the Bounty

Aug. 1930 Nancy born in San Diego. Visits to U.S. about every two years, usually staying several months in Calif.

April 1947 Santa Barbara, Calif. Nancy's marriage to Nicholas Rutgers. Nordhoff's death.

June 1950 Grinnell College, 40th reunion, received honorary degree

July 6, 1951 Tahiti. Died of cardio-vascular ailment

Author of:

Kitchener's Mob: The Adventures of an American in Kitchener's Army. 1916

High Adventure: A Narrative of Air Fighting in France. 1918

The Lafayette Flying Corps (editor with Nordhoff). 1920

Faery Lands of the South Seas (with Nordhoff). 1921

On the Stream of Travel. 1926

Mid-Pacific. 1928

Falcons of France: A Tale of Youth and the Air (with Nordhoff). 1929

Flying with Chaucer. 1930

Mother Goose Land. 1930

Mutiny on the Bounty (with Nordhoff). 1932

Men Against the Sea (with Nordhoff). 1934

Pitcairn's Island (with Nordhoff). 1934

The Tale of a Shipwreck. 1934

The Hurricane (with Nordhoff). 1936

Dark River (with Nordhoff). 1938

The Friends. 1939

Oh, Millersville! (By Fern Gravel, pseud.). 1940

No More Gas (with Nordhoff). 1940

Doctor Dogbody's Leg. 1940

Botany Bay (with Nordhoff). 1941

Men Without Country (with Nordhoff). 1942

Under A Thatched Roof. 1942

Lost Island. 1944

The High Barbaree (with Nordhoff). 1945

A Word for His Sponsor: A Narrative Poem. 1949

The Far Lands. 1950

The Forgotten One and Other True Tales of the South Seas. 1952

Her Daddy's Best Ice Cream. 1952

My Island Home. 1952

Also numerous magazine pieces between 1914-52. Details of Hall's life are in his autobiography, My Island Home.

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Scope and content

The James Norman Hall papers at Grinnell College span the years 1906-54.  About half the collection is correspondence, clippings, photographs, and notebooks, the other half is manuscripts of his writings, including his autobiography, novels, short stories, essays, and poems, published and unpublished.  The 665 letters and post cards are arranged chronologically.  A small portion are from Hall's four years in Boston before World War I, nearly half are from World War I and post war years, and the rest from the last 25 years of his life.  Much of the correspondence is with his family and two Boston friends, George Courtright Greener (1911-53), Director of the North Bennet Street Industrial School, and Roy Cushman (1914-50), Probation Officer in Juvenile Court.  Other correspondence includes letters and cards from Hall to his former Grinnell professors, Charles Payne (1916-44) and George L. Pierce (1911-50), from his college roommate, Chester C. Davis (1910-19), newspaperman, head of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in the 1930's and president of the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, and a few letters from Ellery Sedgwick, editor of Atlantic Monthly.  The Atlantic Monthly-Hall-Nordhoff correspondence is on 14 rolls of microfilm, and the Sedgwick-Hall correspondence is on one roll in the Archives.  A few letters are exchanges between friends with comments about Hall.  Some letters are typed, some are carbons, most are handwritten.  A typed version of selected war letters is included.  The Archives does not have Robert Dean Frisbie's letters on which Hall's story "Frisbie of Danger Island" is based, nor correspondence with Nordhoff.

Most of the newspaper clippings are reports of Hall's war experiences and reviews of his books, a few are about Hall, Tahiti, and the South Seas.  Most photographs are from World War I and his Iceland trip, a few are of his family in Tahiti.

Twenty-eight small handwritten notebooks, some of which record Hall's travels and outlines of stories and poems, a diary of the 1909 Grinnell College Glee Club tour to the west coast, and Hall's Grandfather Young's small Civil War diary (1864) are also in the collection.  Two rolls of microfilm in the Archives contain war letters, pages of notebooks and other items selected from the Grinnell collection by Paul Briand Jr., who wrote a biography of Hall.

Over half of the collection consists of typescripts, some with revisions or several versions of sections, of nine of the twelve books Nordhoff and Hall co-authored (manuscripts of the first three, published before 1930, are not in the collection), of parts or all of seven of the seventeen books Hall published alone, of scripts of two of Hall's plays, of typescripts or holograph versions of 19 of the more than 80 published magazine pieces, and of about sixty unpublished poems, stories, and essays, most undated.  The Archives owns 28 books Hall wrote by himself or coauthored with Nordhoff, including foreign language editions of some titles.

The Hall papers at Grinnell College are a valuable resource for anyone studying his career as a writer, his travels, experiences, ideas, and the sources of some of his stories.  Hall's war correspondence is particularly enlightening for the World War I scholar interested in the human aspect of the war.

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Conditions governing access

Materials in the collection may be examined at the Grinnell College Special Collections and Archives in Burling Library.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Literary rights of the unpublished materials are held by Mr. Hall's heirs; photocopies of these writings may be made only with permission of the heirs.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The papers of James Norman Hall, 1887-1951, Grinnell graduate of 1910, writer of poetry, essays, short stories, and novels, were given to Grinnell College by his son, Conrad L., and daughter, Nancy Rutgers, in 1957.  The estates of two close Boston friends, Roy Cushman and George C. Greener, augmented the collection in 1963 with donations of letters and a few manuscripts and rejection slips, and several other friends gave their letters from Hall to the Archives.

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Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


The estates of Roy Cushman and George C. Greener augmented the collection in 1963 with donations of letters and a few manuscripts and rejection slips.  Several other friends have also given their letters from Hall to the Archives.

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Related archival materials

The Scarlet and Black makes reference to Hall in the following issues:

May 12, 1915-writes of soldier's life

Oct. 20, 1915-Hall writes of life with Allies

Nov. 17, 1915- More of above

Dec. 4, 1915-Honorable discharge

Jan. 12, 1916-Hall's own story of the war

Feb. 19, 1916-Lectures on the great war

Apr. 19, 1916-Articles sold

June 3, 1916-Articles sold, gains fame

Sept. 23, 1916-Gains fame, picture

Oct. 4, 1916-Poem on War

Nov. 25, 1916-Joins French Army

1925-44-see Iowa Room card catalog for index of articles; for articles after 1944 see index for each bound volume.

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