Louis L’Amour born - HISTORY
Year
1908

Louis L’Amour born

Louis L’Amour, the prolific author of scores of bestselling western novels, is born in Jamestown, North Dakota.

An indifferent student, L’Amour dropped out of high school at age 15. Over the next two decades, he traveled around the world working in an amazing variety of jobs. At various times, he tried his hand at being a cowboy, seaman, longshoreman, prizefighter, miner, and fruit picker. During World War II, L’Amour served time in Europe as an officer in the tanks corps.

After returning from the war, L’Amour began writing short stories and novels. His spare, flinty style caught the eyes of several editors, and L’Amour began to make a living as a writer. His big break came when a novel he wrote at the age of 46 became the basis for the popular John Wayne movie Hondo. Although L’Amour had not set out to become a writer of Westerns, he began producing more of what readers and editors clearly wanted. He wrote several other screenplay/novels, including the epic 1962 movie, How the West Was Won. By the mid-1970s, he had written 62 books, most of them Westerns.

L’Amour’s best-loved novels feature three pioneering families: the Sacketts, the Chantrys, and the Talons. L’Amour produced convincing and moving historical novels that spanned centuries and celebrated the strength and spirit of the American West. Most of his books also feature rough-hewn but intelligent men. “When you open a rough, hard country,” L’Amour once said, “you don’t open it with a lot of pantywaists.” In the tradition of classic Westerns like Owen Wister’s The Virginian, women primarily serve as love interests in need of protection.

Using extensive historical research to ensure authenticity, L’Amour avoided many of the simplistic cliches and racist stereotypes of earlier Westerns. Although he occasionally cast Indians as villains, he also offered sympathetic portraits that reflected an understanding and sympathy for different cultures and history.

Although he had written 108 books by the time he died in 1988, L’Amour considered himself a serious author and blamed the lack of critical respect on the fact that his books were Westerns. Still, having sold more than 225 million copies of his novels, L’Amour was one of the most popular and influential western authors of the 20th century. In recognition of his vivid depictions of America’s past, Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal in 1983.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Naval hero killed in duel

U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, is mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Although once friends, Decatur sat on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy for five years in 1808 and ...read more

Arab League formed

Representatives from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen meet in Cairo to establish the Arab League, a regional organization of Arab states. Formed to foster economic growth in the region, resolve disputes between its members, and coordinate ...read more

Stamp Act imposed on American colonies

In an effort to raise funds to pay off debts and defend the vast new American territories won from the French in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the British government passes the Stamp Act on this day in 1765. The legislation levied a direct tax on all materials printed for ...read more

Westmoreland to depart South Vietnam

President Lyndon B. Johnson announces the appointment of Gen. William Westmoreland as Army Chief of Staff; Gen. Creighton Abrams replaced him as commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Westmoreland had first assumed command of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam in June 1964, ...read more

First Stanley Cup championship played

On this day in 1894, the first championship series for Lord Stanley’s Cup is played in Montreal, Canada. The Stanley Cup has since become one of the most cherished and recognized trophies in sport.The Stanley Cup was the creation of Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, lord of Preston ...read more

FDR legalizes sale of beer and wine

On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. This law levies a federal tax on all alcoholic beverages to raise revenue for the federal government and gives individual states the option to further regulate the sale and distribution of ...read more

Stephen Sondheim is born

Stephen Sondheim, one of the last giants of the American musical theater to work in a style not influenced by rock and roll, was born in New York City on March 22, 1930. Sondheim and the work he created helped revolutionize the Broadway musical in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.When ...read more

Teachers are indicted at the McMartin Preschool

Seven teachers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California are indicted by the Los Angeles County grand jury after hearing testimony from 18 children. Included among the charged are Peggy McMartin Buckey, the head of the school and her son Ray Buckey. Seven years and ...read more

The origins of the Hummer

On this day in 1983, the Pentagon awards a production contract worth more than $1 billion to AM General Corporation to develop 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). Nicknamed the Humvee and designed to transport troops and cargo, the wide, rugged vehicles ...read more

Braxton Bragg born

On this day in 1817, Confederate General Braxton Bragg is born in Warrenton, North Carolina. Bragg commanded the Army of Tennessee for 17 months, leading them to several defeats and losing most of the state of Tennessee to the Yankees.Bragg graduated from the U.S. Military ...read more