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8.  When a Man's a Man 

When a Man's a Man, by Harold Bell Wright, dust jacket When a Man's a Man, by Harold Bell Wright

First Edition

Book Supply Company, 8/1916, burgundy cloth cover, tan dust jacket with drawing by Wright.  (Obviously the drawing I borrowed for my own book cover.)

Total sales: 945,666

List of editions

Value Guide


Harold Bell Wright moved to Arizona and worked on a cattle ranch to learn the details of the business. The story is set in the wide Williamson Valley to the north of Prescott, Arizona. Wright dedicated this book to Mr. George Carter, of the Pot-Hook-S Ranch; Mr. J. H. Stephens; Mr. and Mrs. Joe Contreras; Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Steward, of the Cross-Triangle home-ranch; Mr. J. W. Cook; Mr. and Mrs. Herbert N. Cook, and "many other cattlemen and cowboys...." In that same Acknowledgement he mentions "the wild horse chase about Toohey," and "outlaw cattle in Granite Basin."

Kathy & Lawrence Lopez, residents of Williamson Valley, sent me this list of places or events mentioned in the book that can be identified and visited today, starting in Prescott (rhymes with biscuit) and traveling North: Prescott courthouse and Bucky O'Neill statue; Granite Mountain; Granite Basin; Mint Creek; Fair Oaks; Simmons (no longer there); Cedar Mesa; The rodeo (it still operates); and Skull Valley - west.

Today this is one of Wright's most readable books, one of three that clearly fit into the category of Westerns (along with A Son of His Father and The Mine With the Iron Door). It provides an intimate look at the life of a cowboy in the early 20th century, and includes plenty of horses, cattle, rustlers, and guns. By the time this story takes place, Indians had mostly disappeared and automobiles were common.

Wright continues his attack on eastern scholars and critics begun in The Eyes of the World, introducing Professor Parkhill, a famous professor of aesthetics from a university somewhere in the east. Until he learns the ways of the west, Parkhill, who clearly represents all of Wright's literary critics, is useless and comical on the western ranch:

"Professor Everard Charles Parkhill looked the part to which, from his birth, he had been assigned by his over-cultured parents. His slender body, with its narrow shoulders and sunken chest, frail as it was, seemed almost too heavy for his feeble legs. His thin face, bloodless and sallow, with a sparse, daintily trimmed beard and weak watery eyes, was characterized by a solemn and portentous gravity, as though, realizing fully the profound importance of his mission in life, he could permit no trivial thought to enter his bald, domelike head. One knew instinctively that in all the forty-five or fifty years of his little life no happiness or joy that had not been scientifically sterilized and certified had ever been permitted to stain his super-aesthetic soul.

As he came forward, he gazed at the long-limbed man on the big bay horse with a curious eagerness, as though he were considering a strange and interesting creature that could scarcely be held to belong to the human race.

"Professor Parkhill," said Phil coolly, "you were saying that you had never seen a genuine cowboy in his native haunt. Permit me to introduce a typical specimen, Mr. Honorable Patches. Patches, this is Professor Parkhill."

"Phil," murmured Kitty, "how can you?"

The Professor was gazing at Patches as though fascinated. And Patches, his weather-beaten face as grave as the face of a wooden Indian, stared back at the Professor with a blank, open-mouthed and wild-eyed expression of rustic wonder that convulsed Phil and made Kitty turn away to hide a smile.

"Howdy! Proud to meet up with you, mister," drawled the typical specimen of the genus cowboy. And then, as though suddenly remembering his manners, he leaped to the ground and strode awkwardly forward, one hand outstretched in greeting, the other holding fast to Stranger's bridle rein, while the horse danced and plunged about with reckless indifference to the polite intentions of his master.

The Professor backed fearfully away from the dangerous looking horse and the equally formidable-appearing cowboy." (p. 204ff)

While the story is about the conflict between cattle men and rustler, on a more important level the story is about the conflict between the values and culture of eastern cities (or at least a caricature of those values) and the values and culture of western ranchers and farmers.

The book includes none of the usual color illustrations, but many very nice drawing by Harold Bell Wright.

Related Inscription

Wright inscribed the following note in a copy of this title now owned by Robert Lewis:

"Dear Aunt Alice - I love this book and so will you.

 Harold - Aug 1919


All American first editions are by the Book Supply Company and look exactly like the illustrations at the top of this page. The first edition was also available in leather. Hodder and Stoughton published a British first edition. The book was reprinted many times by A.L. Burt, Grosset and Dunlop, Appleton, and International News. Most of the early reprints carry no indication that they are not first editions.

There are plenty of copies of this title available, though not as many as his top sellers that preceded it. The dust jackets are somewhat hard to find. 

Variations: There are three varieties of this book. We can make a few assumptions, but until we have more information we don't know which variable or combination of variables indicates a true first editions.

1. Brand printed inside front cover. Since BSC printed almost a million copies of this title, and many of the brand serial numbers are quite low (see below), it seems reasonable to assume that the copies with the brand are the original, first printing. But I do not know for sure. Some brand marks are found with very high serial numbers.

2. Price printed on the dust jacket. Beginning with book #5 (The Winning of Barbara Worth), BSC printed each book's price on the spine of the dust jacket. When Appleton took over as publisher with book #10, prices were no longer printed on the dust jackets. As far as I know, all BSC copies of When a Man's a Man had the price ($1.35) printed on the dust jacket spine, but some had one of Wright's drawings of a shrub printed over the price. Obviously, the bush came after the price, so I would not count a copy with a bush on the spine as a true first edition. But, the issue is not simple since my copy that displays the price on the dust jacket, does not have a brand. Still, the earliest copies may have had both a brand and the price on the spine.

3. Philadelphia Dispatch quote. On page two of all BSC copies of When a Man's a Man is a list of "Books by Harold Bell Wright." Above the list are two quotations from literary critics. In my copy that has a brand, the first quote fits on three lines. On all my other copies -- which do not have brands -- the last word, Dickens, is hyphenated, requiring a fourth line. Again, the earliest, true, first editions may have had the brand, the price and a three line quote.

But Pat Wilson, a visitor to this site, informs me that he has a copy of this title that is branded, has the serial number 472,725 (about half way through the total run) and has a four-line, hyphenated-Dickens quote. So it is possible that the true firsts had all three marks -- the brand, the three line quote and the price, the second version had the brand, the four line quote and the price, and the third version dropped the brand. But if you have read Tagg's biography of Wright you know that in order to distribute nearly a million copies of Wright's books on the publication date, The Book Supply Company often employed multiple printers and book binders working simultaneously. It is very likely that they didn't all use the same materials or follow the same procedures. Perhaps some of them from day one didn't have the equipment to print brands and serial numbers in the books.

Also pictured below is a 41-page promotional booklet for When A Man's a Man. This copy, owned by Dave Hadsell, is the only one I have encountered. The book measures 5" x 7 1/4". I have not included this book with the Biographical Pamphlets because it is not biographical.

Total sales: 945,666

Click on Pictures to Enlarge.

manbkltcov.jpg (61289 bytes)   manblktad.jpg (76262 bytes) manbklttitle.jpg (99149 bytes)
Cover of booklet & page near back Inside of cover & title page

Note for owners of Harold Bell Wright's Books and Collectibles:

Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1919.  United Kingdom first edition.

Review of Book by Dr. Joyce Kinkead  Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.  Used by Permission.

           Wright's next southwestern novel, When a Man's a Man (1916), focuses explicitly on the theme of the Southwest's beneficial effects on a man physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually.  Written while Wright was recuperating from tuberculosis in the seclusion of his Hole-in-the-Mountain Camp near Tucson, the novel realistically details the management of a range and its cowboys, and pictures the Arizona terrain where the story is set.  Continue >>>

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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-November, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 11/08/11