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American Heritage Center

The Virginian

Original cast of the stage version of

Photo: Original cast of state version of The Virginian, ca. 1904. Owen Wister Papers.

By 1901, Wister had gathered enough material to make The Virginian a novel. While vacationing in Charleston, South Carolina, he integrated his Virginian stories into a coherent work. Some of this work involved clipping the published articles and pasting them together into galley proofs. Additions and revisions to the text were made with handwritten notes.                  

The first edition of The Virginian was published in 1902. It was an immediate best seller, selling 300,000 copies in its first year of publication. The book made Wister a very wealthy man and continued to sell well after his death in 1938.

Mary Brian and Gary Cooper

Photo: Mary Brian and Gary Cooper in the first sound film version of The Virginian, 1929. American Heritage Center collections.

In 1904, Owen Wister and Kirk La Shell co-produced the original stage version of The Virginian, which had a successful ten-year run.  Four film versions of The Virginian have appeared since 1914.  A successful television version of The Virginian aired during the 1960s.

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