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18.  To My Sons 

To My Sons, by Harold Bell Wright, dust jacket

First Edition

Harper and Brothers, 1934, purplish-maroon cloth cover, "FIRST EDITION/I-I."  Gold letters on spine and front cover.  8 1/4" high.

Total sales: 1,798

List of editions

Value Guide


Harold Bell Wright's autobiography (and philosophy of life), at least those parts from the first thirty years of his life that he thought it important to tell. Provides a fascinating story of Wright's amazing journey to adulthood after the death of his mother. Abandoned by his alcoholic father, Wright was taken in by relatives before living in a series of homes where he worked for board and room. By his early teen years Wright was living under bridges and sleeping in haystacks. This book provides valuable insight into several of Wright's stories, especially the early ones.

Anyone interested in the life and work of Harold Bell Wright should have a copy of this book, even if it is a cheap print-on-demand reprint. Almost everything that anyone knows about Wright's early life is available in this book and nowhere else.


Collectors have no trouble identifying first editions of To My Sons because all copies are first editions, except the modern reprint by Yestermorrow and the still newer variety being offered currently on eBay. All first editions were published by Harper & Brothers, who printed only one edition. Buccaneer once announced a reprint, but never produced it, apparently because they did not get enough advance orders. The Catalog of Books in Print, 1938-1942, mentions a Canadian first edition by Musson, but I have never seen or heard of a copy and do not know if such an edition was ever printed. The 1990s reprints by Yestermorrow, as well as first editions, are usually available from Barbara Berry's Bookshop. When you get to this site, select "All Book Stores" to compare prices of all copies currently on the market.

This title is so very rare that it is, without a doubt, the "Holy Grail" for all serious Wright collectors, the book we dream about at night. Rumors have persisted for years that this book is so rare because Harold Bell Wright's sons (as in To My Sons) objected to the material being shared openly in the book, and traveled the country for years buying up every copy they could find. "This is nonsense," Wright's youngest son, Norman, frequently responded before his death in July, 2001. "I can't understand how such a silly rumor ever got started." There is nothing in the book that would embarrass the sons, and their busy schedules in the movie industry certainly didn't leave time to invest in such a silly venture. The book is rare because very few copies were printed, fewer were sold, and even fewer survived. In any case, the book is the rarest by far of any of Harold Bell Wright's books.

When I created this website in the 1990s I said.

Most collectors will never see a first edition, and if they are lucky enough to buy one, often keep it in a bank's safe deposit box. One "good" copy sold on eBay for $1200, and another with an original dust jacket sold there for $2100. These prices are less than half what you would pay a knowledgeable dealer who specializes in Wright's books. I once sold a really bad, smelly, rotten-looking, ex-library copy to a dealer for resale. The dealer paid me $850. I don't know how much he sold it for. The bottom line is this title is VERY hard to find.

But that was before eBay. In December, 2010, for example, there were three copies of To My Sons for sale simultaneously -- an apparently fine copy with a very good dust jacket that was not selling for $1400, a good ex-library copy with laser copy dj that was not selling for $500, and a very good copy without dust jacket that attracted bids from five people and sold for $341. Clearly these are the lowest prices for this title in at least 20 years. It will be interesting to see if the prices climb when the economy improves.

Notes for Owners of "Books and Collectibles" 

[My guidebook lists 4 editions and varieties, including the American first edition, the Canadian first edition (Musson), probably never printed, and the Yestermorrow reprint. The fourth edition by Buccaneer was never printed.

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

            Wright's autobiography, To My Sons (1934), is the final book which rests primarily on the theme of development of virtuous character. In covering the first thirty years of his life, Wright presents the lessons which life has taught him and which have influenced his moral and spiritual development. He insists that an individual must work to make his life significant, which he has done in rising from a poverty stricken background to become a successful writer. In the autobiography, he often preaches to his sons on how to develop good character. As a result, the book is very personal.

            In all of these books, Wright focuses on the development of virtuous character.  His message is subtle in some of the novels such as The Shepherd of the Hills but in Their Yesterdays, Wright is too blunt.  When he mixes theme with a good story, the result is an interesting novel which also carries his message to his audience.  Their Yesterdays fails because he deletes the story.  To Wright virtuous character is a force on which this country must depend for its own welfare.  The desirable American is, for Wright, well developed morally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.  Nature is influential on the development of character, and so the country provides an atmosphere conducive to a person's growth.  In the earlier novels, the Ozarks provided that quality.  Later, he turned to the West as Eden for the American people.

Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.  Used by Permission

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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-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11