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

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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)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Thayer Hobson Papers TXRC03-A19., 1913-1967 (bulk 1958-1967) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bethell, Jean. person
associatedWith Cleary, Joseph. person
associatedWith Cozzens, James Gould, 1903-1978 person
associatedWith Dodd, Mary B. person
associatedWith Downs, Peggy. person
associatedWith Fielding, Temple, 1913- person
associatedWith Gann, Ernest Kellogg, 1910-1991 person
associatedWith Gardner, Erle Stanley, 1889-1970 person
associatedWith Gelber, Henriette. person
associatedWith Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst. corporateBody
associatedWith Heffelfinger, F. Peavey. person
associatedWith Hobson, Elizabeth Tonkin. person
associatedWith Hughes, Lawrence. person
associatedWith King, Helen B. person
associatedWith Lawrence, John T. person
associatedWith Lewis, Freeman, 1908-1976 person
associatedWith Luce, Henry Robinson, 1898-1967 person
associatedWith Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978 person
associatedWith Monsarrat, Nicholas, 1910-1979 person
associatedWith Moore, Charles C. person
associatedWith Moore, Ruth. person
associatedWith Moore, Ruth Walter. person
associatedWith Phillips, Frances L. person
associatedWith Pocket Books. corporateBody
associatedWith Prentice, P. I. person
associatedWith Roberts, Warren, 1916- person
associatedWith Rockett, Lorraine. person
associatedWith Roripaugh, Hedwig A. person
associatedWith Seay, Helene. person
associatedWith Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960 person
associatedWith Stevenson, Donald M. person
associatedWith Toepperwein, Herman, 1907- person
associatedWith W. C. Heaton and Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Weaver, Raymond M. (Raymond Melbourne), 1888-1948 person
associatedWith West, Morris L., 1916- person
associatedWith Willey, John C. person
associatedWith Wing, Willis Kingsley, 1899-1985 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
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


Birth 1897-08-17

Death 1967-07-04


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