Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

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Manly Wade Wellman papers (Ms.2007.029)

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146

Biographical note

Manly Wade Wellman (May 21, 1903-April 5, 1986) was a prolific American author of both fiction and nonfiction. He made his name in the 1930’s as a writer of fantasy and speculative fiction, eventually becoming a regular contributor to such classic pulp titles as Weird Tales, Astounding, and Startling Stories. He cited H. P. Lovecraft as an influence. As the pulp market died out in the 1940’s Wellman turned his talents to mystery and historical writing, and by the end of his life he had produced a large body of young adult and adult historical novels, biographies and works about Appalachian folklore and music. His biography of South Carolina Civil War General Wade Hampton—Giant in Gray—was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1956.

Wellman was born in Portuguese West Africa to an American doctor and a teacher, brother of writers Paul and Alice Wellman, and of plant pathologist Frederick L. Wellman. After college he married writer Frances Obrist (who wrote as Frances Garfield) and reported for several Wichita, Kansas newspapers. The Wellmans moved to New York City during the Great Depression, where Manly joined the New York Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project. For the most part, though, Wellman earned his living by freelance writing. His love of southern folklore, music and history eventually took him and his family to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he taught and wrote until his death in 1986.

Wellman’s popularity was apparent during his last illness when he and his wife received numerous letters of support and financial contributions from fellow writers and fans. During his lifetime he won the World Fantasy Award twice, the Best Story Award from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award.

His wife, Frances Obrist Wellman, died in May 2000.