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Charles J. Finger Papers

Identifier: MC 639

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The papers consist of correspondence, most of which pertains to Charles J. Finger, and some to his daughter, illustrator Helen Finger Leflar. Also included are Finger's diaries, notebooks, manuscripts, indexes, and other papers as well as materials by Helen Finger Leflar, Mrs. Charles J. Finger's guest book, clippings, photographs, film, and microfilm. The three indexes, prepared by Finger on index cards, comprise an index of his bibliography, and one each on music and literature.


  • 1893-1987


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

Due to their fragility, the original copies of the diaries in Series 2 are restricted. Microfilm is available for patron use. The original copy of the 8 mm film in Series 5 is also restricted. A copy on one-half inch VHS video tape is available for patron use.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

Charles J. Finger (c. 1867-1941) was an Anglo-American writer of travel and adventure. Born in Willesden, England, December 25, 1867 (?), he received a middle-class education at King's College, London, and Frankfurt, Germany. When his parents emigrated to the United States in 1887, Finger remained in England supporting himself by doing odd jobs, and became involved with the Fabian Society of socialists.

In 1890, he joined the crew of a ship for Valparaiso, Chile, but jumped ship at Punta Arenas, Straits of Magellan, in Chile. From 1890-1895, Finger worked at various jobs from sheepherder to tour guide for the Franco-Russian Ornithological Expedition to Tierra del Fuego in 1893. Mid-1896 found him in New York, where he stayed with his parents while looking for employment. Soon he was on a steamer to Galveston, Texas. There he found a job in San Angelo, Texas, herding sheep; he began writing newspaper articles and became a United States citizen.

In 1898, Finger established the San Angelo Music Conservatory and from 1898 to 1904 he taught lessons and arranged concerts and tours. At this time, he met Dr. Boyd Cornick, M.D., and his son Philip Cornick, with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. Finger participated in Dr. Cornick's intellectual circle, gaining notoriety as a free thinker and Fabian Socialist. During this period, he wrote articles for the San Angelo Standard, Houston Labor Journal, and the magazine Searchlight. In 1902, he married Eleanor (Nellie) Ferguson, daughter of a sheep rancher. In September, 1903, their son, Hubert Philip, was born and named in part for Finger's friend, Philip Cornick.

In 1904, the Finger family moved to Alamagordo, New Mexico, where Finger worked for the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad Co., working his way up to general foreman for the railroad. When the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Co. of Texas bought the Northeastern, the Alamagordo office closed and Finger was out of a job.

1905 saw Finger in Ripley, Ohio, as auditor of the Ohio River and Columbus Railway Co. He eventually became a director of the company. Following a merger, Finger went to Columbus, Ohio, as general manager of the consolidated Ohio Southeastern Railroad until 1914, when he returned with his growing family to Ripley, Ohio. During this time, he continued to read eclectically and to write. By 1916, the Finger children included Hubert Philip (b. 1903), Julia Louise (Kitty) (b. 1904), Charles Ferguson, (b. 1907), Helen Grace (b. 1913), and Herbert Eric (b. 1915).

In 1916, Finger's writings came to the attention of William Reedy, founder of the liberal St. Louis literary magazine, Reedy's Mirror. In 1919, Reedy published three of Finger's short stories and hired him to take over Reedy's Mirror while he was on vacation. Soon after, Reedy died, the magazine folded, and once more Finger was seeking employment.

In 1920, the Finger family settled in Fayetteville, Arkansas. At first, Finger was considered an outsider, but he was eventually accepted because of his interest in the folklore and adventure lore of the region, which he reflected in his writings. His country house, Gayeta Lodge, was named for the Spanish, "galleta," (biscuit), for Finger a symbol of hospitality dating from his Patagonian days, and the lodge became a gathering place for artists, writers, and other intellectuals.

From 1920-1935 Finger published almost single-handedly All's Well, or The Mirror Repolished, a literary journal which continued in the tradition of Reedy's Mirror. From 1933-1940, he was also managing editor for the Bellows-Reeve Company and edited "Answers," a monthly journal devoted to answering queries about children's literature from readers.

Finger wrote thirty-six books in the last twenty years of his life. Tales from Silver Lands in 1924 received the Newbery Medal, and Courageous Companions in 1929 won the Longmans Juvenile Fiction Award. He was primarily a young adult adventure story writer, and much of what he wrote reflected his own exploits in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia as well as the American southwest. In addition to adventure tales, Finger wrote twenty-nine volumes for the "Little Blue Books" series, edited and published by E. Haldeman-Julius in Girard, Kansas. These volumes discuss such diverse topics as the life of Barnum, Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, and Oscar Wilde.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, presented an honorary LL. D. to Charles J. Finger in 1932. In 1944, he was honored posthumously by the Maritime Commission by having the freighter Charles J. Finger named after him. He died on January 7, 1941 of influenza and a coronary at Gayeta Lodge in Fayetteville.


4 Linear Feet (11 Boxes)

Arrangement of the Papers

Material is arranged and described in six series

  1. Series 1. Correspondence. Boxes 1-3.
  2. Series 2. Diaries, Notebooks, Manuscripts, Indexes, and Other Papers. Boxes 4-6.
  3. Series 3. Clippings. Box 7.
  4. Series 4. Correspondence and Papers of Helen Finger Leflar and Others. Boxes 8-9.
  5. Series 4. Subseries 1. Correspondence.
  6. Series 4. Subseries 2. Papers.
  7. Series 5. Photographs and Film. Box 10.
  8. Series 6. Originals. Box 11.

Acquisition Information

The Charles J. Finger Papers were donated to the Special Collections Department by his daughter, Helen Finger Leflar of Fayetteville, Arkansas on June 5, 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Norma Ortiz-Karp; completed in September 1989.

Charles J. Finger Papers
Norma Ortiz-Karp
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States