Thursday, May 26, 2016
ZANE GREY MUSEUM
Zane Grey Museum
As teenagers, we especially enjoyed reading Westerns and thought Zane Grey (1872-1939) was one of the best writers. Obviously, our generation agreed with us — his books outsold those of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald combined. So it was a treat for us to explore the Zane Grey Museum in Norwich, Ohio.
At Grey’s death, he was billed as the “greatest selling author of all time.”
However, his work has lacked as much staying power as some of his rivals, and we realize that today, few people younger than 50 have heard of him.
The museum is close to Zanesville, a town named after Zane’s great-grandfather Col. Ebenezer Zane, who established one of the first roads in the area, Zane’s Trace.
A series of exhibits follow Grey’s life with the addition of artifacts indicating a full life with many adventures and the development of a range of skills.
Grey’s father, a dentist, was an overbearing, often brutal parent who wanted his son also to become a dentist. When Grey wrote his first book at age 15, his father tore it up and beat him severely.
While in college, Grey became an outstanding baseball player and played semi-pro for some years. But dentistry bored him, and he spent his evenings writing.
Several exhibits give much credit to his wife, Dolly, for his success, as she edited his work and took care of the financial accounts. He recognized this by giving her half of the earnings.
One exhibit focuses on how difficult he could be to live with. He had fits of depression and anger outbursts that today probably would get him diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
He wrote in bursts, disappearing into his study and writing in longhand continuously. He would be away from the family for weeks on the road learning about Western life for background for his novels.
His many affairs posed an added problem for his wife. She treated them as a handicap over which he had no control.
When he was home, she often would travel while he took care of their three children.
His study has been replicated with a wax figure of Grey writing in his chair. His cowboy saddle and equipment fill another display, and next to it the deep-sea fishing equipment he designed. He enjoyed deep-sea fishing and wrote several books about it as well as many about baseball.
His books seemed made for the big screen, and 112 movies have been made from his works. A number of famous actors got their start in these movies, among them Gary Cooper, Buster Crabbe and William Powell.
The museum includes several movie posters featuring favorite actors from our childhood, among them, Alan Ladd and Roy Rogers. The ideal Grey hero probably was Randolph Scott, who starred in 20 of Grey’s movies.
For a time, Grey was actively involved as producer in the movies because it allowed him to live in California, where he could pursue deep-sea fishing.
Many of his books are on sale at the museum, as are copies of the Zane Grey Review, the official publication of Zane Grey’s West Society. The latter suggests there continues to be a collection of interested fans.
A wax figure of Zane Grey works on manuscript
Deep Sea fishing equipment designed by Zane Grey