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Peter Bernard Kyne papers

Identifier: Ax 732

Scope and Contents note

The Peter B. Kyne Papers include 3,401 correspondence; manuscripts of 133 novels, serials and short stories; and 11 radio scripts and synopses for novels and films. Eight folders of material dealing with sales and publication of the author's works are also included. The collection dates from 1917-1957. However the vast majority of the correspondence dates from between 1935-1940. Outgoing letters come to an abrupt halt in May 1940 and are only sporadically resumed in 1946. Many of the manuscripts, especially the novel-length ones, were written after 1930. The Cappy Ricks stories are almost entirely unrepresented. Much of the correspondence is on literary and business matters. Included are extensive two-way correspondence with Kyne's agents during the late 1930's: Arthur M. Landau, William C. Lengel, Orsatti and Co., Verne Porter, and Spencer Littauer, editors of Collier's; Edwin Balmer of Redbook; Michael Gannon of Field Artillery Journal; and Charles Kilburn of Cavalry Journal. The letters to editors and agents provide information on publishing and movie conditions as well as Kyne's literary and personal situation. The Cappy Ricks radio rights controversy produced extensive correspondence with Ray Appleby (radio producer) and with two legal firms; Loeb and Loeb, and Overton, Lyman and Plumb. A large personal correspondence with Herbert Cooper Thompson is included. Kyne and Thompson had been friends since serving together in the Philippines. The Kyne collection contains part of a novel manuscript by Thompson and 48 of his letters to Kyne. The Thompson papers, containing several Kyne letters and manuscripts are also in the University of Oregon Libraries and compliment the Kyne colelction. Other major personal correspondents in the period covered include Owen B. Winters, Irene Holden, Evelyn Kane, Bert Dolan, A.D. Schindler, Chet Schwarzkopf, Roy W. Howard, Wallace Sheehan, and Eugene Overton.


  • 1917-1957


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Peter Bernard Kyne was born on October 12, 1880 in San Francisco, where he lived the greater part of his life. Many of his 25 novels and 1000 short stories and articles are set in San Francisco or northern California, and most draw heavily on his own varied experiences. Kyne left public school when he was 14 in order to work with his father's cattle business. He had no further formal education except six months study at a business college. At 16 he went to work as a clerk in a general merchandise store. When still under 18, he lied about his age and enlisted in Company L, 14th U.S. Infantry, which served in the Philippines from 1898-1899. The Spanish-American War and the following insurrection of General Emilio Aguinaldo provided background for many of Kyne's later stories. The next few years saw Kyne in several different jobs. In his own words (letter of April 23, 1940): "I got a job at $7 a week in a wholesale produce and provision house. I quit in 6 months to go to work for a wholesale lumber and shipping firm at $30 a month. I abandoned that job 6 years later to become a lumber broker. I abandoned that because I went broke; then helped organize a daily morning newspaper in Sas Francisco which flopped 4 months later but prior to that time I had written my first short story..." In 1910 Kyne married Helene Johnston. During World War I, he saw action as a captain in Battery A of the 144th field Artillery, known as the California Grizzlies. The war again provided material for future stories. Through the years, Kyne had periodic contact with Company L, the California Grizzlies and with individuals from his old units. He continued his strong interest in military affairs, as evidenced in his writing and correspondence. The first of Kyne's 25 novels appeared in 1913. Three years later he published Cappy Ricks, a novel about his best-known character, a tough skinned, soft-hearted shipping magnate. Much of the material for Cappy Ricks came from actual experiences of Kyne and his friends in the West Coast shipping industry. Cappy's adventures were the subject of two novels and about 50 short stories. In 1918 Kyne sold the dramatic rights for Cappy Ricks to Edward A. Rose, and a play based on the stories was produced by Oliver Morosco but proved unsuccessful. During the 1930's Kyne several times negotiated with advertisers to have Cappy Ricks produced on the radio, and several episodes were adapted for radio by Henri Sayre. In each case, however, the possible legal complications threatened by George Bentel (who had purchased Rose's dramatic rights), prevented Cappy from being produced for radio. Another of Kyne's most successful novels, The Valley of the Giants (1918), was based on personal experiences, this time in the California redwood lumber industry. Kyne himself credited his book with alerting the public to the threat of lumbering to California's redwoods. Valley, like many of Kyne's stories, was later made into a motion picture. In addition to war stories, sea stories, and shipping and lumbering materials, Kyne wrote many business romances, westerns, hunting stories, and horse racing stories. His own activities reflected these interests. Over the years he was involved in various investments, especially in mining. Hunting and fishing were among his main interests during the 1920's and 1930's. With a small group of San Francisco friends, he was part-owner of Shelldrake Club, a duck hunting property in northern California. Several friendships represented in this collection's correspondence revolved around common interests in hunting and fishing. In addition, for some years Kyne owned race horses and was president of the California Jockey Club. In the early 1930's Kyne's health failed. Combined with changes in public reading taste and financial difficulties in the publishing industry, this resulted in a period of literary and financial difficulties for Kyne. He tried to get a contract as a movie screenwriter, and for a short time in 1938 was employed by MGM, where he collaborated with Richard Maibaum. In 1940, Dude Woman, the last of his novels, appeared. During the 1940's and 1950's Kyne, still experiencing poor health, was involved in negotiations for sales of old stories to radio, television, movies, and for reprints of his works. Problems with George Bentel over the title to Cappy Ricks continued. Kyne's last two novels, including Summons to Elysium (mss. in this collection) were never published. Mrs Kyne died in 1956 and Peter Kyne died the following year on November 25 in San Francisco.


6 linear feet (9 containers)

Language of Materials



Peter Bernard Kyne (1880-1957) was a prominent author of novels and short stories. He served in the Spanish-American War and World War I, and resided in San Francisco most of his life. This collection includes thousands of personal and professional correspondence, and well over a hundred manuscript copies of novels and short stories. While this collection spans the years 1917 to 1957, the majority of the correspondence dates from 1935-1940.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. Correspondence, Subseries A. Outgoing, Subseries B. Incoming (Minor), Subseries C. Incoming (Major); Series II. Manuscripts; Series III. Manuscripts by Other Authors; Series IV. Miscellaneous; Series IV. Addenda: May 1974.

General Physical Description note

9 containers

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Peter Bernard Kyne Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections
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Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA