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Guide to the Walker A. Tompkins Collection
SBHC Mss 19  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Separations
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Walker A. Tompkins Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1849-1989
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1931-1984)
    Collection Number: SBHC Mss 19
    Creator: Tompkins, Walker A.
    Extent: 30 linear feet (8 records containers, 17 document boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 1 map cabinet drawer, 110 open reel audio tapes, and 7 audio cassettes)
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Department of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, California 93106-9010
    Physical Location: Boxes 1-22, 27-29 (Del Sur), Boxes 23-26 (Del Sur Oversize), Map Cabinet 20/8, Audiotapes (Perf. Arts)
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions

    Financial Records restricted; see Head of Special Collections for further information.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Walker A. Tompkins Collection. SBHC Mss 19. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Donation by Barbara H. Tompkins, 1990-1991, and 2002, with additional material donated by Eric Hvolboll, 1991.


    Walker A. Tompkins was born on July 10, 1909 in Prosser, Yakima County, Washington. He was the son of Charle E. and Bertha Tompkins who had moved to Washington from Missouri. Tompkins grew up on a wheat farm in Walla Walla County before moving with his family to Turlock, California in 1920. He began his writing career in Turlock, at the age of fourteen, as a reporter for the Daily Journal. At the age of 21, he sold his first western novel to Street and Smith of New York, just before beginning college at Washington State. He also attended Modesto (California) Junior College.
    In 1931, Tompkins went to work at the (Portland) Sunday Oregonian. He also wrote fiction on the side for magazines, books, radio, and later, television. During the 1930s, he worked his way around the world, travelling to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Dutch East Indies. He wrote western pulp stories during these journeys and collected his fees for them on the fly. At the beginning of World War II, Tompkins was drafted into the Army where he served as a correspondent in Europe for three years. Following the war, he settled in Santa Barbara, California where he began concentrating on local history.
    Dubbed "Two-Gun Tompkins" early in his career for his prodigious output of pulp westerns, he wrote western fiction for 30 years before switching to history and biography. He was best known for his work in the latter field, especially his regional histories which focused on the Santa Barbara area. His many works include: Goleta: The Good Land (1966 ), Santa Barbara Past and Present(1975 ), It Happened in Old Santa Barbara (1976), Stagecoach Days in Santa Barbara County (1982 ),and Santa Barbara History Makers (1983). He referred to the last work as his "magnum opus." While working on his many projects, he also held a job as a reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press from 1957 to 1973, where he was the author of the column "Santa Barbara Yesterdays." He also did a radio show that aired for 20 years on a local station and was in constant demand as a speaker. Tompkins was greatly interested in the history of Santa Barbara's neighborhoods and sought to encourage his readers and listeners to appreciate the unique attributes of each. To this end, he published his twelve-pamphlet series, Santa Barbara's Neighborhoods (originally published between 1977 and 1980, later collected in one volume, 1989).
    Tompkins continued to write throughout his life, publishing a number of works, ranging from an institutional history to a series of boys' adventure novels, after his official retirement. Tompkins served on the board of directors for the Santa Barbara Historical Society and the Santa Barbara County Landmarks Advisory Committee. In 1975, he was honored by the California State Legislature for his contributions in the area of regional history. Walker A. Tompkins died in Santa Barbara, California on November 24, 1988.
    The information in this biography was drawn largely mainly from accounts of Walker A. Tompkins' life published in The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Santa Barbara Independent, and The Chinook Observer (Long Beach, Washington) in November and December 1988. For further biographical information, see Box 1 of the collection.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The bulk of the collection was donated by Barbara H. Tompkins, widow of Walker A. Tompkins, with the remainder donated by Eric Hvolboll. The collection consists mainly of Tompkins writings (local/regional history and historical fiction) and related research files, but also some historical manuscripts donated by others to Tompkins. Much of the subject matter relates to the Santa Barbara and Goleta areas. Included in the collection are manuscripts, monographs, serials, newspapers, clippings, b/w photographs and albums, b/w negatives, audiotapes, scrapbook, maps, and artifacts.


    The following materials from the Tompkins Collection have been moved to the UCSB Special Collections newspaper area:

    Santa Barbara area [some partial issues]

    • El Barbareno (Santa Barbara), May 1897
    • Carpinteria Herald, Oct. 13, 1960
    • Daily Independent (Santa Barbara), Sept. 17, 1897
    • Daily News and Independent (Santa Barbara), July 5, 1919
    • Goleta Gazette, Nov. 20, 1958; Apr. 2, 1959
    • Goleta Sun, Feb. 17, 1988; Mar. 23, 1988
    • The Independent (Santa Barbara), Jan. 28, 1908
    • Lompoc Record, Apr. 10, 1975
    • Montecito Ledger, June 11, 1958
    • Morning Press (Santa Barbara), July 10, 1899; July 7, 1907
    • Santa Barbara Daily News, May 8, 1922; May 20, 1922
    • Santa Barbara Herald, Dec. 29, 1893
    • Santa Barbara News Press, Jan. 2, 1952; Aug. 4, 1957; Dec. 7, 1964
    • Santa Barbara News Press (Old Spanish Days/Fiesta issues), Aug-. 8-12, 1973; Aug. 6-10, 1975; Aug. 4-8, 1976
    • Santa Barbara Post, Feb. 1964
    • Santa Barbara Press, Oct. 12, 1872
    • Santa Barbara Star, Aug. 5, 1954
    • Santa Barbara Weekly Press, Aug. 16, 1873
    • Weekly Herald (Santa Barbara), June 4, 1897


    • Sunday Chronicle (San Francisco), Feb. 27, 1887

    Related Materials

    A number of books, some by Tompkins and others about local, California, and western history were donated with the manuscript collection. These and other publications of local history interest may be searched on Pegasus, the UCSB Libraries online catalog. In addition, UCSB Special Collections has a number of other manuscript collections with a local history emphasis. Among these are:

    • Community Development and Conservation Collection (SBHC Mss 1).
    • Isla Vista Archives (SBHC Mss 41).
    • Lobero Theatre Collection (PA Mss 4).
    • Menzies (Jean Storke) Collection (SBHC Mss 34).
    • Ruhge (Justin) Collection (SBHC Mss 27).
    • Sollen (Robert ) Collection (SBHC Mss 33).
    • Storke (Charles II) Collection (SBHC Mss 38).