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Guide to the Idwal Jones Collection, 1920-1964
Mss 55  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Idwal Jones Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1920-1964
    Collection number: Mss 55
    Creator: Jones, Idwal
    Extent: 1 linear foot (2 boxes)
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    Purchase, 1965



    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

    [Identification of item], Idwal Jones Collection, Mss 55, Department of Special Collections, University Libraries, University of California, Santa Barbara.


    Idwal Jones was born on December 8, 1890 in Festiniog in northern Wales. His father was an engineer and geologist who in 1902 brought the family to the slate-quarrying region of Pennsylvania. He later became the Inspector of Mines for the State of New York. The younger Jones was not sent to school in Pennsylvania due to health concerns, but continued his education at home with tutors. He later studied mechanical engineering in New York and for a time worked as a mechanician for Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the famed electrical engineer whose theories regarding electrical current revolutionized the field. At other times in his life, Jones worked in slate quarries and factories and as a rancher and prospector in California.
    In 1915 Jones began his career in journalism, writing book reviews for the San Francisco Chronicle. His first full-time job as a writer was with the San Francisco Daily News where he served as a drama critic. His preparation for this assignment had been his work with a small theater company where, among other things, he constructed background scenery. He also worked for the San Francisco Examiner where he wrote feature stories and editorials and covered the 1926 gold rush in Weepah, Nevada. Jones traveled extensively in Europe and Central America and lived in Rome and Paris where he worked as a foreign correspondent. In 1930 he returned to New York where he worked as an editor and columnist for the New York American while serving at the same time as a book critic for Life magazine.
    In 1926 Jones published his first novel, The Splendid Shilling. Set in the days of the California Gold Rush, its central character's adventures take him from Wales to America. Like many of Jones' fictional works, its settings, locales and themes followed the varied experiences of the author's own life. China Boy and Other Stories (1936) first appeared in the American Mercury, edited by H. L. Mencken, who commented enthusiastically on Jones' work. A number of Jones' short stories have been reprinted in anthologies. Black Bayou (1941), set in the swamps of Louisiana, has an undercurrent rooted in the mysticism of Saint Teresa of Ávila and the struggle of the spirit in a world of turmoil. The Vineyard (1942 and reissued in 1997), is centered on the grape industry in northern California, and High Bonnet (1945) which humorously describes the world of a Parisian chef, demonstrate other areas of Jones' interest and expertise.
    An accomplished chef renowned for his cordon bleu cuisine and Epicurean knowledge, Jones was active in various food and wine societies. He maintained a lively correspondence with M. F. K. Fisher who first learned of Jones via one of his many magazine articles. She incorporated some of his suggestions regarding cookbooks and others things gastronomic into her own work. Jones' later works include Vermilion (1947), dealing with a California mercury mine, and Ark of Empire: San Francisco's Montgomery Block (1951), which portrayed post gold rush California through the microcosm of the famous edifice and the denizens whose lives intersected with it. These included Robert Louis Stevenson, Ambrose Bierce, and Jack London.
    Jones continued to write numerous articles on California geology, folklore and viticulture and maintained an active interest in these areas throughout his life. He also was active in societies devoted to Gypsy lore and Welsh culture and maintained his life-long interest in wine and gastronomy both as a connoisseur and a writer. Jones died at his home in Laguna Beach, California on November 14, 1964.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains the following series:
    • I. Writings
    • II. Correspondence
    • III. Ephemera
    • IV. Oversize

    Related Collections

    At UCSB

    • The manuscript materials are part of a larger collection, which formed Jones' library and which was purchased from him in 1965. The books have been cataloged separately and may be searched in Pegasus, the UCSB Library online catalog.
    • Title: Isaac Foot Collection
      (Mss. 33). 3 TLS to Jones, from H. L. Mencken, 1947, and 2 TL signed by Mencken's secretary, 1955.

    At other repositories

    • UCLA.
      Title: Idwal Jones Papers,
      1936-1950. 2 linear feet (4 boxes).
    • California Heritage Digital Image Finding Aids (Online Archive of California). California Faces: Selections from the Bancroft Library Portrait Collection. Four photographic images of Idwal Jones.