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We’re kicking off a short series of posts based on your suggestions!  

For the next two or three weeks, our Wednesday posts are going to look at materials related to the Ozarks, thanks to a suggestion from theatrehistoricalsociety.  I should preface these posts by saying that the Ozarks and Missouri history are not two of our collection strengths.  The State Historical Society of Missouri and the Missouri State University Special Collections and Archives in Springfield have much, much more than we do if you’re interested in researching this area.  However, we do have a few materials that we thought you all might be interested in seeing.

For our first post, we’re featuring the book that springs to mind when many think of the Ozarks. Harold Bell Wright published The Shepherd of the Hills in 1907.  It’s a story of love, loss, madness and redemption set in the Ozarks around Branson, and it stems from Wright’s own experiences in the area.  This copy is from the collection of Frank Luther Mott, whose study of American best-sellers estimated that this was one of the first American novels to sell over 1 million copies.

What’s interesting about this unassuming little book is that it is responsible for making Branson, Missouri, into the tourist destination it is today. Because of the novel, a steady stream of tourists began arriving in southern Missouri in the early twentieth century.  The region responded by developing resorts, services, and tourist attractions throughout the Ozarks.  We’ll take a look at one of those operations - run by a self-proclaimed “typical hillbilly” - next week.

Wright, Harold Bell, 1872-1944. The shepherd of the hills / a novel by Harold Bell Wright ; with ill. by John H. Weddell.  Chicago : Book Supply Company, 1907. MU Ellis Special Collections F.L.Mott PZ3.W9324 S