Hobson, John L. (John Lambert), 1897-1967

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Hobson, John L. (John Lambert), 1897-1967

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Hobson, John L. (John Lambert), 1897-1967

Hobson, Thayer, 1897-1967

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Hobson, Thayer, 1897-1967


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Biographical History

Francis Thayer Hobson, who stopped using his first name as an adult, was born in Denver, Colorado, on 4 September 1897. He had one brother, Henry Wise, who became a bishop in the Episcopal Church, and two sisters, Eleanor (later Mackenzie) and Katherine (unmarried). Hobson interrupted his studies at Yale University to join the French army during World War I. In 1917 he served as a machine gunner for the American Expeditionary Force until he was seriously wounded and returned home in 1918. After recuperating he returned to Yale, where he served as business manager for the Yale Daily News Board, working with fellow students Briton Haddon and Henry R. Luce. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1920 and worked briefly in a manufacturing company before taking positions as an English teacher at Westminster School and Yale College. From 1922 to 1924 he did postgraduate work at Yale. In 1925 he divorced his first wife, Janet Camp (who later published studies of the Rossetti family under the name Janet Camp Troxell), and married Priscilla Fansler, with whom he had one son, Timothy. He spent 1925-26 in Paris studying at the Sorbonne.

Hobson decided to enter the publishing business in 1926 after meeting his college friend Ed Knopf in Europe. He returned home and began working for the newly founded William Morrow and Company. In 1929, Hobson and Priscilla divorced; she would subsequently marry Alger Hiss. From 1930 to 1935 he was married to Laura Zametkin, and they jointly wrote two western novels published by Morrow under the pseudonym Peter Field; Laura Z. Hobson later became a well-known novelist on her own. Hobson himself continued to pursue his own creative writing aspirations for a while and published a small number of stories under various pseudonyms, but left off writing in the mid-1930s.

When William Morrow died in 1931, Hobson bought control of the company and became its president. He successfully led the company through the Depression and World War II into the more prosperous post-war period, publishing authors such as Enid Bagnold, James Gould Cozzens, H. L. Davis, Temple Fielding, Ernest K. Gann, James Hilton, Margaret Mead, Nicholas Monsarrat, Ruth Moore, Nevil Shute, and Morris L. West. The author with whom he is most closely associated, however, and Morrow's greatest success was mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner. In 1932, Gardner began his lifelong publishing association with Morrow by having two manuscripts rejected by the firm. In his rejection letter, Hobson suggested changes Gardner could make to combine the two stories into a single, better manuscript; the result was the first Perry Mason mystery, The Case of the Velvet Claws, published in 1933. Hobson and Gardner quickly developed a solid although sometimes contentious working relationship and a close friendship that continued for the rest of Hobson’s life. In 1938 Gardner began publishing a series of mysteries under the pseudonym A. A. Fair, and for over a decade Hobson safeguarded Gardner’s secret identity. In the late 1930s, Hobson established Thayer Hobson and Company to manage the publication, promotion, and foreign rights of Gardner’s writings.

In 1958, Thayer Hobson resigned as president of Morrow, became chairman of the board, and went into semi-retirement in Tucson, Arizona. Hobson’s wife, Isabelle Lavis Garrabrants, whom he had married in 1935 and with whom he had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Thayer, died in 1960. The same year, Hobson married Elizabeth Tonkin ( Bettie ) Davis, the widow of writer H. L. Davis, and they moved to Comfort, Texas, to breed Appaloosas and quarter horses at Deer Ledge Ranch. Despite his declining health in the 1960s, he continued to work closely with Morrow and Thayer Hobson and Company from Comfort. After a long struggle with respiratory illness that had originated in his war injuries, Thayer Hobson died on 19 October 1967.

From the guide to the Thayer Hobson Papers TXRC03-A19., 1913-1967 (bulk 1958-1967), (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)



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Publishers and publishing

Appaloosa horse

Davis, H. L. (Harold Lenoir), 1896-1960

Detective and mystery stories

Horse racing

Mason, Perry (Fictitious character)

Thayer Hobson and Company

William Morrow and Company




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