A Guide to the Walter Lord Archive, 1957-1968
Walter Lord, popular historian and author, was born on October 8, 1917, the only son of John Walterhouse and Henrietta (Hoffman) Lord. Raised in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, Lord attended the Gilman School and later received a Bachelors degree in history from Princeton University in 1939. During his time at Princeton, Lord cultivated his interest in historical research and won the Joline American History prize for excellence in his major subject.
While attending Yale Law School, World War II broke out and Lord went to work for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency. At the close of the war in 1945, Lord returned to Yale to complete his law degree but decided against practicing law. From 1947 to 1950, Lord worked as an editor for the Research Institute of America, publishing newsletters on legal subjects for businessmen. He developed his writing skills during this period while writing books such as, Getting Military Work (1951) and How to Operate Under Wage and Salary Stabilization (1951). From 1953-56, Lord worked as a copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York City.
In 1954, while working for the advertising agency, Lord published The Fremantle Diary in which he edited and annotated the journal of Lt. Col. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, an Englishman who toured the southern part of the United States for three months during the Civil War. Lord’s next book, A Night to Remember (1955), was prompted by a life-long fascination with the 1912 sinking of the SS Titanic. This book was revolutionary in that it incorporated interviews with Titanic survivors and provided a minute-by-minute account of the events of that fateful night. The success and popularity of A Night to Remember persuaded Lord to quit his job at the advertising agency and become a fulltime writer.
Over the next three decades, Lord wrote a dozen more books covering a variety of subjects. He examined topics such as Arctic exploration (Peary to the Pole (1963)), World War II (Day of Infamy (1957), Incredible Victory (1967), Miracle of Dunkirk (1982)), the War of 1812 (The Dawn’s Early Light (1972)), the two-week siege of the Alamo (A Time to Stand (1961)) and a follow-up to A Night to Remember entitled The Night Lives On (1987). Beginning withA Night to Remember, Lord’s writing style was characterized by intensive research and exhaustive interviews. Combining historical research with journalistic methods, Lord culled minute details and anecdotes from interviews with participants and ancestors to create a "living history" or "historical narrative" of an event. He used these details to compel the reader to feel that they were present not just as a spectator.
In 1994, the Society of American Historians awarded Lord the Francis Parkman Prize in recognition of his lifetime dedication to American history. He died of Parkinson’s disease in his Manhattan apartment on May 19, 2002. Lord never married and left no immediate survivors.
Manuscript, notes, correspondence, newspaper clippings and research materials used by Walter Lord in writing A Time to Stand (1961). The majority of the documentation is located in the correspondence (1/2 ft.) and the A Time to Stand research notes (1/2 ft.) series, in which Lord’s organization has remained largely intact. Lord organized his correspondence alphabetically by the respondent’s last name and sometimes included a parenthetical note indicating the Alamo defender it regarded. The periodical requests and general correspondence sub-series provide insight into Lord’s research and writing process. These sub-series contain his letters to numerous periodicals, requesting ads to be placed for information regarding Alamo defenders and the responses he received from ancestors and interested individuals. Due to the breadth of correspondence with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, Maury Maverick, Jr., Charles Ramsdell, and Bertie Shelton separate sub-series exist for these individuals. The A Time to Stand research notes series maintains Lord’s grouping of documents into sub-series: Alamo Facts, Alamo Extracts, and Alamo Personalities. Mainly handwritten, this series contains Lord’s notes about various aspects, such as daily life and statistics, of the Battle of the Alamo.
Printed materials include Photostats, typescripts, magazine articles, journal reprints and brochures related to the Alamo. Lord diligently checked all of his sources. The source lists series note references that require verification as well as archives and newspapers that Lord wanted to visit. This series also includes pamphlets and newspaper articles listing possible sources of more information (books to read, lists of people to see while in Mexico, etc.).
The series entitled the Lucy Leigh Bowie papers contains Miss Bowie’s correspondence, personal memos and newspaper clippings regarding James Bowie and the Bowie knife. Benjamin D. Palmer, who received the material from Miss Bowie, provided these documents to Lord to use while writing A Time to Stand.
The A Time to Stand series contains illustration ideas, book publicity, an undated manuscript of A Time to Stand, and Lord’s handwritten outline for the book.
This collection is open for research use.
The donor retains copyright on the manuscript, A Time to Stand, by the creator. Written permission must be obtained from copyright holder in order to photocopy or publish from the collection.
Walter Lord Archive, 1957-1968, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers