Vardis Fisher Papers, 1922-1970

Overview of the Collection

Fisher, Vardis
Vardis Fisher Papers
1922-1970 (inclusive)
4 containers., (2 linear feet of shelf space.), (1400 items.)
Collection Number
Cage 229
Correspondence, interviews, articles, scholarly works by and about Vardis Fisher; correspondence, notes and other papers about the Federal Writers Project; and other papers compiled and collected by R.W. Taber as part of his research on Fisher and the Writers' Project. Also, letters from Fisher and his wife, Opal Laurel Holmes Fisher, to Jasper and Inez Puckett McEwen. Other correspondents are Frederick Manfred and Alan Swallow.
Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman, WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Vardis Alvero Fisher

Vardis Alvero Fisher was born March 31, 1895, at Annis, Idaho, of Mormon parents. He received an A.B. degree in English at the University of Utah (1920). He followed this up with graduate work at the University of Chicago where he received an M.A. (1922) and Ph.D. (1925). He subsequently taught at the University of Utah, New York University, and the University of Montana. In 1928 his first novel was published, a forerunner of a long and productive writing career. By 1935 he had retired from teaching to continue his writing. Within a few years, as an impoverished author, he eagerly accepted the position as director of the Idaho Guide project, a part of the depression-based Works Progress Administration. Fisher's directorship produced the first state guide published. It was written almost entirely by Fisher as none of his relief workers were writers. Following his experiences with government relief projects Fisher returned to his own writing, moving to a ranch near Hagerman, Idaho. His writings include a twelve volume series The Testament of Man, the four volume Vridar Hunter tetrology, and a score of other works. He died at his home near Hagerman July 9, 1968, and was survived by his wife Opal.

Inez Puckett McEwen

Among Fisher's correspondents and acquaintances was another Idaho author and journalist, Inez Puckett McEwen. She was born in 1904 in Iowa though raised in the west. At the time of her correspondence with Fisher she was living on a ranch near Kimberly, Idaho, the scene o£ the autobiographical So This is Ranching (1948). She is now living and writing in California.

Ronald Warren Taber

Born in 1942, Ron Taber was a graduate student in the American Studies Program at Washington State University when he first approached Vardis Fisher in 1965 with the idea of basing his dissertation on Fisher's historical novels. Eventually changing his topic to a study of the Federal Writer's Project, Taber continued his contact with Fisher through correspondence and interviews, especially regarding Fisher's role in the project. The title of his dissertation, presented in 1969, was: The Federal Writer's Project in the Pacific Northwest: a case study. In addition Taber wrote Vardis Fisher and the Idaho Guide: Preserving Culture for the New Deal, which appeared in Pacific Northwest Quarterly, v. 59 (April 1968). While these studies were based in part on the material in the present collection, additional material was compiled by Taber in contemplation of a full-length biography of Fisher.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]. Cage 229, Vardis Fisher Papers . Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The papers are arranged in two main series: the papers of Inez Puckett McEwen and the papers of Ronald Warren Taber. The subject and main correspondent of both series is Vardis Fisher.

The McEwen material consists of letters received from Fisher and diary entries about Fisher.

The Taber material is more complicated, reflecting his concern with his dissertation research, of which Fisher was only a part, and his correspondence with Vardis Fisher. This correspondence eventually transcended the usual biographer and biographee relationship. Taber's material consists, then, of correspondence received from Vardis and Opal Fisher; correspondence about Fisher, western literature, and the Federal Writer's Project; notes and tapes of interviews; Taber's class papers; notes and photocopies of manuscript and archival collections; copies of Fisher's clippings and unpublished scholarly theses; as well as copies of other published and unpublished material about Fisher.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Vardis Fisher, Northwest author, were received from two separate sources. The first was from the papers of Idaho author Inez Puckett McEwen who was one of Fisher's correspondents. These were separated from the McEwen Collection in January, 1969, with the approval of Mrs. McEwen. The second part resulted from the efforts of Ronald W. Taber to utilize Fisher's efforts on the Idaho Guide as a major part of his dissertation. These papers were the gift of R. W. Taber to the Washington State University Library in February, 1974.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series 1: Inez Puckett McEwen PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1-2
Correspondence, between Vardis Fisher, Opal Fisher, Richard J. Pead and I. P. McEwen
203 items.
1 3
Fisher, Vardis. The miracle of electricity
1 4
Diary fragments, of Inez Puckett McEwen, concerning V. Fisher.
1 5
Photocopies of Fisher material in the McEwen Papers.

Series 2: Ronald Warren Taber PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Letters of Vardis and Opal Fisher to R. W. Taber.
Box Folder
1 6
53 items.
1 7
65 items.
Box Folder
1 8
Photocopies of the Fisher-Taber correspondence.
2 9
Correspondence, of Ronald Warren Taber, about Fisher, the American Guide Project, and western literature. Correspondents include: Caxton Printers, Alan Swallaw, Wallace Stegner, Leslie A. Fiedler, Frederick Manfred, Nard Jones, Archie Binns, Virginia McConnell, Kenneth Larson, the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Herbert N. Harris, and Awilda Shorter.
50 items.
2 10
Notes, clippings and other papers of Ronald Warren Taber about Fisher and the American Guide Project.
47 items.
2 11
Taber, Ronald Warren. Remembrance as technique: form and matter in autobiographical fiction.
May 31, 1967
2 11
[Taber, Ronald Warren]. Vardis Fisher: New directions for the historical novel.
2 11
Taber, Ronald Warren. John Winthrop and the managed economy: But it held not long.
January 23, 1968
2 12
Interview notes and transcripts, with Vardis Fisher, Richard Pead, Edward Langworthy, the Lawsons and others
16 items.
2 13
Notes on manuscript and archives collections concerning Vardis Fisher and the American Guide Project
92 3 x 5 cards, 164 4 x 6 cards, 36 5 x 8 cards
2 14
Fisher, Vardis. Vardis Fisher Says [newspaper column], clippings
125 items.
3 15
Phonotapes of interviews and panel discussions
3 15
Fisher, Vardis. Interview by R.W. Taber, Hagerman, Idaho
Phonotape. 2 reels (5 in.) 3 3/4 in. per sec.
April 12, 1967
3 15
Fisher, Opal Laurel Holmes. Interview by R.W. Taber
Phonotape. 1 reel (5 in.) 3 3/4 in. per sec.
August 13, 1968
3 15
Mead, Irene Fisher. Interview by R.W. Taber
Phonotape. 1 reel (5 in.) 3 3/4 in. per sec. Dual track recorded on both.
August 14, 1968
3 15
Discussion between Carl Hayden, Bob Gardner, John LeMagne, Jim Barlogi, Opal Fisher and Ron W. Taber
Phonotape. 2 reels (5 in.) 3 3/4 in. per sec.
August 13, 1968
3 15
Symposium on the Historical Novel, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
Phonotape. 3 reels (5 in.) 3 3/4 in. per sec.
Reel one contains: The Western Voice in American Literature with panelists Frederick Manfred, Archie Binns, Alan Swallow, Warren Clare, moderated by Charles Blackburn. Reels two and three contain: What is a Historical Novel? A discussion of the use of history for literary purposes. with panelists Vardis Fisher, C. L. Sonnichsen, Alan Swallow, Ron W. Taber and moderated by George Watkins.
November 11-12, 1966
3 16
Photocopies from the Robert E. Burke Papers, University of Washington
3 17.
Photocopies from the Mary Farquharson Papers, University of Washington
3 18
Photocopies from the Washington Writer's Project Records, Washington State Historical Society
4 19
Letters, of Vardis Fisher, to Mary and Robert Lawson.
4 20
Letters, of Vardis Fisher, to Herbert C. Roseman.
4 21
Fisher, Vardis. London low life and Daniel Defoe. Master's thesis, University of Chicago.
4 22
Fisher, Vardis. George Meredith's literary reputation: 1850-1885. Doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
4 23
Rein, David. Vardis Fisher: challenge to evasion. Preface by Vardis Fisher. Chicago, Normandie House.
4 24
Crandall, Allen. Fisher of the Antelope Hills. Manhattan, Ks., The Crandall Press.
4 25
Flora, Joseph Martin. Vardis Fisher's story of Vridar Hunter: a study in theory and revision. Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan
4 26
Publications by and about Fisher, his work and his critics. Including George Kellog's bibliography of Fisher (1961), the Vardis Fisher number of American Book Collector (1963) and Vardis Fisher: a critical summary (1939) a promotional pamphlet published by Caxton.
8 items.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Personal Names

  • Fisher, Vardis, 1895-1968 --Archives (creator)
  • Fisher, Opal Laurel Holmes
  • Manfred, Frederick Feikema, 1912-
  • McEwen, Inez Puckett
  • Swallow, Alan, 1915-1966
  • Taber, Ronald Warren, 1942-

Corporate Names

  • Federal Writers' Project (Idaho)


  • Authors, American -- 20th century--Correspondence