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Hall, James Norman



  • Existence: 1887-1951


A native of Colfax, Iowa, James Norman Hall (1887-1951) graduated from Grinnell College in 1908. He did some postgraduate work at the University of Chicago and was employed as a social worker for the Boston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. His 1914 bicycle trip through Great Britain was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. He joined the British Army and fought in the trenches of France as a machine gunner. Hall returned to the United States in 1915, where he wrote of these experiences in his first book, Kitchener's Mob. When Atlantic Monthly hired him to write about the Lafayette Flying Corps, Hall joined it instead. He flew many sorties and had his planes taken out by enemy fire more than once. In 1918, he transferred to an American unit. Shot down again, this time he was captured and spent the rest of the war as a German prisoner-of-war.   In 1919, James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff (who had first met as aviators in the flying corps) were commisioned to write a history of the Lafayette Escadrille. The Lafayette Flying Corps was the first of twelve books that they would co-author over the years. The two men moved to Tahiti in 1920. Their first collaboration there resulted in Faery Lands of the South Seas. However, their most successfull novel, Mutiny on the Bounty, was not written until 1932. Nordhoff eventually left Tahiti, but Hall remained there until his death.

  Hall had been a published writer before his partnership with Nordhoff, and he continued to have his own works published. He was a frequent contributor of articles and poems to the Atlantic Monthly. One such article revealed a literary hoax perpetrated by Carroll Coleman and himself concerning Hall's Fern Gravel poems. Oh, Millersville!, which was originally attributed to a very young girl (Fern Gravel), had generated enormous critical acclaim and caused quite a stir in the literary world when the hoax was revealed. In all, James Norman Hall authored seventeen of his own books, numerous essays, short stories, and poems, in addition to twelve books he wrote with Charles Nordhoff. Although most people remember Hall as a writer of adventure stories, he always considered himself to be foremost a poet.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

James Norman Hall Papers

Identifier: MsC0619

Manuscripts of some of Hall's poetry, plays, articles, and essays. Also drafts of his book, The Far Lands.

Dates: 1934-1952