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Will Oursler Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: 1967

Biographical History

Will Oursler (1913-1985) was an American author, lecturer and radio commentator. He was the son of noted novelist Fulton Oursler, and is best known for his novel N.Y. N.Y. (1954) and for his non-fiction Father Flanagan of Boys' Town (1949), which was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy.

Oursler was born July 12, 1913, in Baltimore, Maryland, but grew up and attended schools in New York City. At first Oursler wanted to become an artist, and to that end he attended the Art Students' League in New York City. However, he decided to complete college and graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1937. After graduation, Oursler worked on the staffs of various Boston newspapers and began writing mystery novels. His first book, The Trial of Vincent Doon, was published in 1941, followed by Folio on Florence White in 1942. He also wrote under the names Gale Gallagher and Nick Marino.

World War II interrupted Oursler's career as a novelist, and he spent three years in the Pacific as a war correspondent for Fawcett Publications. He returned to writing after the war, penning numerous mystery novels and contributing articles and short stories to such well-known magazines as Collier's and Reader's Digest. Oursler also wrote non-fiction, including Father Flanagan of Boys' Town (1949, co-written with his father), Narcotics: America's Peril (1952, with Laurence Dwight Smith), The Boy Scout Story (1955), The Road to Faith (1960), The Murderers (1961, with Harry Anslinger), and Marijuana: The Facts, The Truth (1970).

Over the course of his career Oursler wrote more than 45 books including 12 mystery novels. He was vice-president of the Mystery Writers of America, a founding commodore of the Overseas Yacht Club, and president of the Overseas Press Club from 1970 to 1972. His autobiography, Family Story, was published in 1963.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Will Oursler Papers consist of three separate accessions which have not been integrated. Biographical data is filed at the beginning of the collection.

Please note that box numbers are not unique, as each series in the original accession begins again with Box 1 and both later accessions also begin again with Box 1. Please specify accession, series, and box number when requesting material to ensure retrieval of the correct items.

Original accession

This is by far the largest of the three sets of material, and contains correspondence, subject files, manuscripts, and published material.

Correspondence includes letters written to and letters written by Oursler, as well as letters of others. Much of this material was originally filed by Oursler within folders of his other materials. Where there was some quantity of these letters, they were removed with their original location on them, and placed in alphabetical order by author or recipient (if Oursler himself was the author). Where there were only one or two letters and they pertained directly to the folder of manuscripts or other material in which they were originally located, they were allowed to remain there. Thus some letters may be found in series other than the correspondence series.

Subject files contains miscellaneous personal material of Oursler's and Dr. John Myers' as well as Oursler's research materials for articles and books which he either wrote or edited. The material is filed alphabetically by type. Research materials for articles and books are filed alphabetically by the title of the work. More general research follows and is filed alphabetically by subject.

Manuscripts consists of articles, books, plays, a poem, radio and television scripts and short stories. The manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by type. Within each type the materials are arranged alphabetically by title. In cases where several titles are apparent, the manuscript was filed under what appeared to be the final or published title, and other titles for the same work were noted on the folder. Oursler had originally filed much of this material in folders. Information on these original folders was either noted on the new folder or clipped and inserted in the new folder with the manuscript. Within each work, what seemed to be the final draft was filed first, followed by earlier drafts, revisions, outlines and notes. Manuscripts of others are filed at the end of the series.

Published material includes articles about and by Oursler, published books by him (foreign editions of his works) and others, magazines and newspapers, newspaper columns by Oursler, pamphlets and reports. The materials are arranged alphabetically by type.

1967 accession

The five boxes of the 1967 accession also contain correspondence, subject files, manuscripts, and published material. Correspondence includes some with radio personality John "Long John" Nebel. Subject files consists of reference material related to various of Oursler's writing projects. Manuscripts contains articles, books, pamphlets, plays, poetry, and short stories. Published material consists of articles and newspaper clippings.

1974 accession

The 1974 accession (added to the finding aid in 1978) contains correspondence and writings. Correspondence covers 1964-1974. Writings consists of articles, research material, outlines, drafts, typescripts, galleys, page proofs, and other formats. This material has received minimal processing.

Arrangement of the Collection

See Scope and Contents above. Note that the box numbers restart at Box 1 for each series in the original accession, and for each later accession; when requesting a box be sure to specify the accession and/or series to ensure retrieval of desired material.


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.

Subject Headings


Gallagher, Gale -- Archives.
Marino, Nick, 1913-1985 -- Archives.
Oursler, Will (William Charles), 1913-1985-- Archives.


Authors, American.
Journalists -- United States.
Novelists -- American.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Drafts (documents)
Galley proofs.
Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Will Oursler Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents

Correspondence (original accession)

Subject files (original accession)

Manuscripts (original accession)

Published material (original accession)

Correspondence (1967 accession)

Subject files (1967 accession)

Manuscripts (1967 accession)

Published material (1967 accession)

Correspondence (1974 accession)

Writings (1974 accession)