Wittliff Collections acquires major Southwest research library, archive of historian Marc Simmons

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
January 8, 2015

Marc Simmons
Marc Simmons (photo by Cynthia Farah Haines)

The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University has acquired the extensive research library and archive of renowned southwestern historian Marc Simmons.

"Marc Simmons spent 60 years building one of the great private collections of the Southwest," said Wittliff Collections Director David Coleman. "This major new acquisition significantly strengthens the Wittliff’s position—as well as Texas State’s—as a leading research center of the region."

Simmons has written innumerable columns and articles, and he is the celebrated author of nearly 50 books. Simmons received his higher education at the University of Texas, University of New Mexico and University of Guanajuato (Mexico). He is a member of the Western Writers of America and the Writer’s Guild. He has received the Humanities Service Award from the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities, is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship to study Hispanic agriculture in New Mexico.

His most prestigious honor came in 1993, when King Juan Carlos of Spain knighted him for his groundbreaking work on Spanish colonial history.

"I was delighted when Texas State University and its Wittliff Collections arranged to accept my donation of 60 years of professional and personal papers dealing with Southwest history," Simmons said. "My elation grew when the university subsequently offered to acquire my 15,000-volume library on the same subject. The papers were supported by the books, and vice versa. The cooperation, spirit, and enthusiasm on the part of the library staff has been phenomenal. Although I’ll miss the books and papers, I remain satisfied that they have found the perfect home."

Simmons’ personal library, estimated at some 15,000 volumes, contains the definitive print collections on many vital southwestern topics: everything from Indian cultures and early Spanish settlers to women pioneers, artists and writers of the 20th century, and the Santa Fe Trail--about which he is recognized as a research authority. The collection contains many rare volumes, including some 400 Spanish-language books on Texas and the Southwest originally published in Mexico and Spain during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Wittliff purchased the Simmons library with support from the Still Water Foundation and many other generous benefactors. In addition, Simmons has donated hundreds of boxes of his personal archive to the Collections. These papers include the historian’s own manuscripts and research as well as many other significant items. Among the holdings is the largest Kit Carson research collection in private hands. There is also an important collection of 19th century photographs, including a rare image of Geronimo and a private tintype album of Gen. George Custer that includes locks of the general’s reddish-gold hair.

Other materials from Simmons document his major role in saving the Santa Fe Trail and his work as the founding president of the Santa Fe Trail Association. His papers also include voluminous files and correspondence with his many friends who are major southwestern authors, among them Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire), John Nichols (The Milagro Beanfield War), Tony Hillerman (Navajo mysteries), Elmer Kelton (The Time It Never Rained) and Jack Schaefer (Shane). The Simmons Archive also contains numerous original works of art by prominent southwestern artists such as José Cisneros.

"Marc Simmons has been a major chronicler and collector of life in the Southwest for more than a half century," said Coleman. "He has been a profound influence on other historians and he is a much beloved figure among readers. His library and archive are immense cultural treasures that we are very proud to have at Texas State. These rich materials will nourish students and scholars for generations to come."

Some of the titles by Marc Simmons are: New Mexico: An Interpretive History; Kit Carson and His Three Wives; Stalking Billy the Kid; Witchcraft in the Southwest; Following the Santa Fe Trail: A Guide for Modern Travelers; The Last Conquistador: Juan de Oñate and the Settling of the Far Southwest; Coronado's Land: Essays on Daily Life in Colonial New Mexico; New Mexico Mavericks; Southwestern Colonial Ironwork: The Spanish Blacksmithing Tradition from Texas to California; People of the Sun: Some Out-of-Fashion Southwesterners; Murder on the Santa Fe Trail; Albuquerque: A Narrative History; Hispanic Albuquerque, 1706-1846; The Old Trail to Santa Fe: Collected Essays; Charles F. Lummis; The Little Lion of the Southwest: A Life of Manuel Antonio Chaves; and numerous children’s books on southwestern history published by Sunstone Press.

The Wittliff Collections will open the Marc Simmons Library and Archive when cataloging and processing are complete. An online guide to Simmons’ previous archival donations can be found on the Wittliff’s website under Research at www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/research/a-z/simmons.html.

For more information, contact Steven L. Davis at (512) 245-9180 or via email at sdavis@txstate.edu.