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Papers of Vardis Fisher and Opal Fisher, 1934-1996

MSS 159


These papers of Idaho author Vardis Fisher and his wife Opal Fisher were donated to Boise State University by Grant Fisher, son of Vardis Fisher, in 1996 and 1997.

Vardis Fisher, novelist, essayist, and short story writer, was born on March 31, 1895, in Annis, Idaho. He was raised in the Antelope Hills of eastern Idaho, graduated from Rigby High School, and received a bachelors degree from the University of Utah in 1920. He received a masters and doctorate from the University of Chicago. After teaching at the University of Utah and New York University, he returned to Idaho in 1931 to devote full time to writing. During the Depression Fisher served as the director of the Federal Writers Project in Idaho. Under his editorship, the project produced the acclaimed Idaho guide and other works. In 1940 Fisher married Opal Laurel Holmes, his third wife. They built a home in the Hagerman valley of southern Idaho and lived there until Vardis Fisher's death in 1968. A fuller biographical sketch of Vardis Fisher can be found in the finding aid to the Library's Clore collection  (MSS 2).

Opal Fisher was born in Laurens, Iowa, on October l4, 1913. Raised by her grandparents, she met Vardis Fisher in 1936 when she went to work for the Federal Writers Project in Boise. After Fisher's death in 1968 she moved back to Boise to devote her life to protecting Fisher's literary reputation and reprinting his novels under her own imprint, Opal Laurel Holmes (her maiden name). Vivacious and strong-willed, Mrs. Fisher was not loath to castigate publicly scholars whose interpretation of Fisher's life and work did not coincide with her own. Nor did she shrink from doing battle with publishers in her efforts to recover publication rights to her husband's works. In December 1972 she presided over the Boise premiere of the motion picture Jeremiah Johnson, a movie based in part on Fisher's novel Mountain Man. The premiere was attended by both director Sydney Pollack and its star, Robert Redford. Between 1972 and 1977, Mrs. Fisher reprinted several of Fisher's books but did not have much success in distributing them. Tim Woodward, author of a biography of Vardis Fisher, interviewed her several times in 1985, but she was little heard from publicly after that. Opal Fisher lived the last years of her life as a recluse in her home in the Boise Foothills. She died at home in 1994, surrounded by thousands of copies of Vardis Fisher's books.


Scope and Content Note

These papers are divided into four groups: papers of Vardis Fisher, papers of Opal Fisher, photos, and tapes, all donated by Grant Fisher, Vardis Fisher's oldest son.

Personal and family concerns dominate Vardis Fisher's papers; republishing his books and protecting his literary reputation are the main themes of Opal Fisher's. The collection also contains hundreds of newspaper columns by Fisher and many reviews of his works. Opal Fisher's papers date mainly after Vardis Fisher's death.

Grant Fisher donated the bulk of the collection to Boise State University in August 1996, after the settlement of Opal Fisher's estate. In March 1997, Grant Fisher presented another group of papers, the personal letters his father wrote to him over the years (see Box 5). A few files of papers (identified in the lists that follow) came from the Fishers' home in Hagerman. They were removed from the cabin sometime after Opal Fisher moved to Boise and were later returned (anonymously) to Grant Fisher, who presented them to BSU.

A box list is available online.  More detailed descriptions with folder listings of each group of papers follow:

The Special Collections Department holds other collections relating to Vardis Fisher. Consult an archivist for further information.

Inclusive dates of the collection: 1934-l996
Size of the collection: ca. 4 ft. (in 10 boxes)
Processed by: Alan Virta, 1996-1997

Special Collections • 1910 University Drive • Boise, ID 83725-1430 • Phone: 208-426-1204 • Email: Archives