Coburn, Walt, 1889-1971

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Author, prolific writer of pulp Western stories and novels. Served briefly in Pancho Villa's army; then worked as a cowboy and surveyor in Arizona before becoming a freelance writer.

From the description of Walt Coburn papers, 1922-1977. (University of Arizona). WorldCat record id: 30522236

Western American novelist.

From the description of Stirrup high, [1956]. (University of Arizona). WorldCat record id: 29547134

Walter J. "Walt" Coburn, the son of Robert and Mary Morrow Coburn, was born in October of 1889 in White Sulpher Springs, Montana. In 1905 the Coburn family moved to Great Falls and purchased the Circle C Ranch south of Malta. Walter attended school in Great Falls during the winter and worked on the ranch in the summers until graduating from high school in 1909, when he began working on the ranch permanently.

In 1916 the Coburn family sold the Circle C to the Matador Cattle Company of Texas and moved the Coburn Cattle Company to Arizona. The Coburn family moved to San Diego, California. During World War I Coburn enlisted in the Army Air Corps but, due to a plane crash during training, was unable to enter active service. Coburn published his first short story in Munsey Magazine in 1923. During the next four decades he wrote prolificly, specifically for pulp magazines specializing in western fiction. Coburn also published two novels, Stirrup High and Pioneer Cattlemen of Montana: The Story of the Circle C Ranch.

In 1927 Coburn married Mina "Pat" Coburn, a nurse he had met while hospitalized for injuries gained in the Army Air Corps. The Coburns moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1936, and to Groom Creek, Arizona, in 1962. Walter died on May 24, 1971, at his home in Groom Creek.

From the description of Walt Coburn papers, 1932-1969. (Montana Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 699809951

Walter John Coburn was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana Territory, on October 23, 1889. His father, a pioneer cattleman, arrived in Montana Territory in 1863 and founded the Circle C Ranch, one of the largest outfits in the Northwest at the time. Walt gained his cowboy experience which served as material for his future fiction and non-fiction stories as a "$40 a month cowhand" on the Circle C.

From his first accepted story in 1922 until the demise of the pulp western serials in the 1950s, Coburn gained a reputation as "king of the pulp westerns." He published more than 1,000 stories and 40 books. At one point he was producing 600,000 published words a year, and he kept that pace up for two decades. His stories were particularly noted for their authenticity to the frontier and range experience.

Coburn first came to Arizona in 1916 and ranched with his brothers in Globe. He moved to Prescott in 1927, spent 35 years in Tucson and returned to Prescott for the last 10 years of his life. Coburn committed suicide at the age of 82 on 25 May 1971. His autobiography, Walt Coburn: Western Word Wrangler, was published posthumously in 1974.

From the guide to the Walt Coburn papers, 1923-1977, (University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Coburn, Walt, 1889-1971. Walt Coburn papers, 1932-1969. Montana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Walt Coburn papers, 1923-1977 University of Arizona Libraries, Library Special Collections
creatorOf Coburn, Walt, 1889-1971. Stirrup high, [1956]. University of Arizona Libraries
referencedIn Frank B. Linderman Memorial Collection, 1885-2005 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Coburn, Walt, 1889-1971. Walt Coburn papers, 1922-1977. University of Arizona Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Dempsey, Jack, 1895-1983. person
associatedWith Hoxie, Jack, ca. 1885-1965. person
associatedWith Linderman, Frank Bird, 1869-1938 person
correspondedWith Santee, Ross, 1888-1965 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Montana--Phillips County
Circle C Ranch (Phillips County, Mont.)
Authors, American
Ranch life
Western stories


Birth 1889

Death 1971



Ark ID: w6rz6q5h

SNAC ID: 73364005