Bernard DeVoto at his desk, circa 1954
Bernard DeVoto at his desk, ca. 1954

Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955),  American writer and historian

"I am a  literary department store "

Bernard DeVoto, historian, journalist, critic, novelist, social commentator, conservationist, and all-around professional writer, is one of the most distinguished literary personalities ever to emerge from his native state of Utah.  In his active career he taught English at Northwestern University and Harvard, edited the Saturday Review of Literature, and published twenty books, as well as some 800 articles, reviews, and miscellaneous pieces before his early death.   In 1943 his The Year of Decision: 1846 was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; in 1948 Across the Wide Missouri won the Pulitzer Prize in history; in 1952 The Course of Empire won the National Book Award in history.  These books, and DeVoto's popular abridged edition of The Journals of Lewis and Clark, published in 1953, are all still in print.

Books currently available

Bernard DeVoto at Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course, 1950's The Year of Decision: 1846 is published in a new printing by Truman Talley Books of St. Martin's Griffin, 2000.  It has a new Introduction by Stephen Ambrose, and a new Preface by Mark DeVoto.

Across the Wide Missouri and The Course of Empire (with Introduction by Wallace Stegner)  are Mariner Book editions published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, as is The Journals of Lewis and Clark, with a foreword by Stephen Ambrose.

Bernard DeVoto's Western Paradox,  his last book, remained unfinished at his death.  Unpublished and unseen for 46 years, the incomplete book was published at last in 2001, edited by Patricia Nelson Limerick and Douglas Brinkley, with an Introduction by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and an Afterword by Mark DeVoto.  This book also contains reprints of eleven of DeVoto's most important essays on conservation and the public lands, and is currently in print with the Yale University Press as part of the Western Americana series.

An excellent biography of Bernard DeVoto, The Uneasy Chair, by his close friend Wallace Stegner, was published in 1974; it has been reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press and is still in print.

More photographs of Bernard DeVoto

Bernard DeVoto with .38 police special, circa 1936 Bernard DeVoto with .38 police special, mid-1930's
Bernard DeVoto, formal view      Bernard DeVoto, a formal portrait
Bernard DeVoto in his study; other desk
Bernard DeVoto in his study, at his other desk
Bernard DeVoto with grass plant, probably 1954
Bernard DeVoto, summer 1954

The two photographs at the left were probably taken in Montana during the summer of 1954.

This website is maintained by Mark DeVoto, who can be reached at