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Collection of Owen Johnson Material

Identifier: DC026

Scope and Contents

The Collection of Owen Johnson Material includes miscellaneous documents pertaining to The Lawrenceville Stories and publisher Simon & Schuster, newspaper clippings and biographical material, numerous obituaries, and Johnson's handwritten manuscript for "The Founding of the Lit," which was published in the Lit in 1945. Also included are newspaper clippings, photographs, press releases, and correspondence pertaining to The Prodigious Hickey television production.


  • 1895 - 1988


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies and digital photographs may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Archivist. Researchers are responsible for determining any other copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

Owen McMahon Johnson was born on August 27, 1878. Johnson came to Lawrenceville in 1894 at 16 as a Fourth Former (a senior) from New York City. His father, Robert Underwood Johnson, was a poet and the editor of The Century Magazine. Johnson lived in Upper, joined the Philomathean Society, and was an editor of The Lawrence. He stayed one additional year at Lawrenceville, during which he founded the School’s literary magazine, The Lit. Many of his classmates at Lawrenceville would become characters in his stories: John Humperdink “Dink” Stover; Tough McCarty; Hungry Smeed, who ate 49 pancakes at Conover’s and thus secured free pancakes for the entire School; and Doc MacNooder.

After graduation from Yale in 1901, Johnson wrote three popular short stories which became known as The Lawrenceville Stories: “The Prodigious Hickey” (1908), “The Varmint” (1910) and “The Tennessee Shad” (1911). The Stories were the basis for a 1950 feature movie called The Happy Years, starring Dean Stockwell and Leo G. Carroll, and a 1987 PBS mini-series starring Edward Herrmann.

Johnson continued to write and went on to become a war correspondent for The New York Times and Colliers during World War I. He moved to Paris and then to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he spent most of his life. He married five times and had five children. Johnson died in 1952 at his summer home in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The original order of the material has been maintained.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Much the collection was gifted to the Stephan Archives. Some of the clippings were collected by the Archives.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives guidelines.

Related Materials

Student writings of Owen Johnson and additional material on the Lit can be found in The Lit Collection (DC0029). Additional material on The Happy Years film can be found in (The Happy Years Collection (DC059).


Information in the biographical note was gathered from material within the collection, particularly the obituaries.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Casey Babcock in October of 2012. The biographical note of Owen Johnson comes from the Lawrenceville Lexicon.

Collection of Owen Johnson Material: Finding Aid
Casey Babcock
February 12, 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives Repository

Box 6128
2500 Main St.
Lawrenceville 08648 U.S.A. US