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Oliver La Farge

Oliver Hazard Perry La Farge II (December 19, 1901 – August 2, 1963) was an American writer and anthropologist. During 1925 he explored early Olmec sites in Mexico, and later studied additional sites in Central America and the American Southwest. In addition to more than 15 scholarly works, mostly about Native Americans, he wrote several novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Laughing Boy (1929). In addition, La Farge's short stories were published in the magazines The New Yorker and Esquire. His more notable works, both fiction and non-fiction, emphasize Native American culture.

Early life and education

Oliver La Farge was born in New York City but grew up in Newport, Rhode Island. He was the son of Christopher Grant La Farge, a noted Beaux-Arts architect, and Florence Bayard Lockwood. His older brother was the novelist Christopher La Farge. La Farge and his paternal uncle, architect Oliver H. P. La Farge, were both named for a great-great-grandfather, Oliver Hazard Perry.

La Farge received both his Bachelor of Arts degree (1924) and his master's degree (1929) from Harvard University.


La Farge worked as a writer and an anthropologist. During 1925, he traveled with the Danish archeologist Frans Blom, who taught at Tulane University, to what is now known as the Olmec heartland. He (re)discovered San Martin Pajapan Monument 1 and, more importantly, the ruins of La Venta, one of the major Olmec centers.

La Farge devoted considerable study to Native American peoples and issues, especially after relocating to Santa Fe, New Mexico, during 1933. He became a champion for American Indian rights and was president of the Association on American Indian Affairs for several years..

During World War II, La Farge served with the U.S. Air Transport Command, ending service with the rank of major. He participated with the Battle for Greenland, commanded by Colonel Bernt Balchen. Balchen, together with Corey Ford and La Farge, wrote War Below Zero: The Battle for Greenland (1944) about the actions to defend Greenland.

Marriage and family

La Farge married heiress Wanden Matthews and had two children with her: a son, Oliver Albee La Farge (b. 1931), and a daughter, Povy. They relocated to Santa Fe during 1933, but Wanden disliked the area and they eventually divorced during 1937. Their son Oliver Albee became estranged from his father and changed his name to Peter La Farge. He relocated to New York City, where he became a folksinger in Greenwich Village, performing during the 1950s and 1960s.

La Farge married a second time, to Consuelo Otile Baca, with whom he had a son, John Pendaries "Pen" La Farge. La Farge's non-fiction book, Behind The Mountains (1956), is based on his memories of Consuelo's family, the Baca family of New Mexico who were ranchers in northern New Mexico. He wrote a regular column for the Santa Fe newspaper, The New Mexican. Some of his columns were collected and published as The Man With the Calabash Pipe (1966).

La Farge died in Santa Fe during 1963, at the age of 61.

Legacy and honors

  • Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Laughing Boy (1929).



  • Tribes and Temples (with Frans Blom) 1926-27
  • The Year Bearer's People (with Douglas Byers) 1931
  • Introduction to American Indian Art (with John Sloan) 1931
  • Long Pennant, 1933
  • An Alphabet for Writing the Navajo Language, 1940
  • The Changing Indian (editor) 1942
  • The Copper Pot, 1942
  • War Below Zero: The Battle for Greenland (Colonel Bernt Balchen, with Major Corey Ford), 1944
  • Santa Eulalia: The Religion of a Cuchumatan Indian Town (1947)
  • The Eagle in the Egg, 1949
  • Cochise of Arizona, 1953
  • The Mother Ditch, 1954
  • A Pictorial History of the American Indian (1956)
  • Behind the Mountains (1956)
  • Santa Fe: The Autobiography of a Southwestern Town (with Arthur N. Morgan) 1959
  • The Door in the Wall, 1965

Fiction and personal

  • Laughing Boy (1929), novel; it was adapted for the 1934 motion picture of the same name.
  • Sparks Fly Upward (1931), novel.
  • All the Young Men (1935), collection of short stories.
  • The Enemy Gods (1937), novel.
  • Raw Material (1945), a memoir.
  • A Pause in the Desert (1957), collection of short stories.
  • The Man With the Calabash Pipe (collected columns, edited by Winfield Townley Scott), 1966

External links

  • An Inventory of the Oliver La Farge Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas
  • Excerpts from Tribes and Temples at Mesoweb.
  • Oliver La Farge at Find a Grave
  • A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with Oliver La Farge is available at the Internet Archive

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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