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John Mayfield Collection Relating to David Lamson

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Mayfield, John S., 1904-1983.
Title: John Mayfield Collection Relating to David Lamson
Inclusive Dates: 1933-1959
Quantity: 3 folders (SC)
Abstract: Typewritten manuscript, "Oh, Once in my Saddle. . . " by David Lamson, a man accused of the murder of his wife, and correspondence relating to John Mayfield's acquisition thereof. Also includes two related pieces of printed material.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

David Lamson (1902-1975), was a writer best known for being tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. Though sent to Death Row for his conviction, Lamson was later retried due to challenges to the prosecution's case, which was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. Lamson's new trial resulted in a hung jury, and was followed by third and fourth trials, with the fourth again resulting in a hung jury. Due to their inability to convict Lamson, the State of California dropped their case in 1936 and Lamson was free for the remainder of his life.

Before the time of the murder, Lamson was employed by Stanford University Press, and his literary output grew thereafter. While imprisoned, Lamson wrote We Who Are about to Die (1935), about his and his fellow prisoners' experiences on Death Row. After being freed, he became a published writer of short fiction for the Saturday Evening Post, with the story "Oh, Once in my Saddle. . . " being the first, in 1938.

John S. Mayfield (1804-1983) was a collector of manuscripts who later became a curator of rare books at Syracuse University.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John Mayfield Collection Relating to David Lamson consists of correspondence, printed material, and writings.

Correspondence chiefly concerns John Mayfield's request of an original David Lamson manuscript from The Saturday Evening Post, 1938.

Printed Material consists of two items, being a clipping from Lamson's first murder trial, and a description of Lamson's book We Who Are about to Die.

Writings includes a typescript of Lamson's story, "Oh, Once in my Saddle. . ." published in The Saturday Evening Post, April 30, 1938.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence arranged chronologically by correspondent, other items in no particular order.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Lamson, David.
Mayfield, John S., 1904-1983.
Stout, Wesley Winans, 1890-

Corporate Bodies

Saturday evening post.


Authors, American.
Murder -- California.
Short stories.
Trials (Murder) -- California.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John Mayfield Collection Relating to David Lamson,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information


Finding Aid Information

Created by: DSA
Date: 31 May 2019
Revision history:

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SC 850 Lamson, David 1938-1959
Two items from Lamson. A letter to Stout giving permission to give the manuscript to Mayfield (1938), and a postcard to Mayfield agreeing to autograph a book (1959).
SC 850 Stout, Wesley Winans 1938
Two letters from Stout to Mayfield regarding the Lamson manuscript.
Printed Material
SC 850 Miscellaneous 1933-1959
Clipping from unknown newspaper showing Lamson and his attorney at Lamson's first murder trial; and description of first edition of Lamson's book We Who Are about to Die (1935), with brief biography of Lamson.
SC 850 Oh, once in my saddle 1938
Typescript of Lamson's story, autographed, with annotations. Also includes two envelope fragments.

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