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Winner of the Western Writers of America 2002 Spur Award for best biography

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American Character
The Curious Life of 
Charles Fletcher Lummis and 
the Rediscovery of the Southwest

     In 1884, he set out on a trek from Cincinnati to Los Angeles in a pair of knickerbockers and street shoes  to take a job as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He began to shed the prejudices born of his upbringing as a New England Yankee along the way, and developed a deep and abiding affection for the natural beauty and cultural diversity of the Southwest, where he remained until his death in 1928. 

     Charles Fletcher Lummis first gained a national following with widely reprinted, weekly letters that he wrote on his tramp across the continent. He went on to become one of the most flamboyant and influential personalities of his day as a book author, magazine editor, preserver of Spanish missions, advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt and a crusader for civil rights for minority groups. Lummis was especially passionate about the mistreatment of American Indians, with whom he lived for several years. He was one of the first white Americans to assail unjust policies towards the original settlers of the region he loved, and his decades of relentless advocacy on that issue ultimately turned the tide. 

      American Character, by Mark Thompson, tells Lummis's story.  Western Writers of America gave the book a Spur Award in 2002 for best biography of the year. Publisher's Weekly called it  a compulsively engaging and spirited biography of a man as colorful as he was influential.  Here are other reviews of the book. Click here to order copies. Or, explore the following links to learn more about a fascinating and remarkably prescient American character.


Photos of Lummis 
courtesy of the 
Southwest Museum
Los Angeles, Calif.


Overview of Lummis's Life

     >A Precocious Poet
     >His Tramp Across the Continent

     >Reporting for the L.A. Times
     >On the Trail of Geronimo
     >Pioneering Photojournalist
     >A Penitente Crucifixion
     >Lummis in the Pueblo of Isleta
     >Indian Rights Activist
     >Aficionado of Southwestern Cuisine

Travels With Charlie: Visits to Places
     Lummis Wrote About

Research Resources

Email author Mark Thompson







      "I was prepared for a poseur but found too much reality behind the pose to care whether it were there or not.   I found a man of real taste and power." Lummis was "strangely interesting and attractive" and he had "the real temperament of the artist and superabundant energy and natural ability, expressing itself in all sorts of strange ways." 

-David G. Hogarth, a distinguished British archaeologist and Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, 1907



Apostle of the Southwest 

       "Charles Lummis was one of the first ‘discoverers’ of the southwest. Many a person had traveled through Arizona and New Mexico before he did. A few had written of it glowingly. But Mr. Lummis combined the skill and instinct of a journalist with a deep love of the country."

-Obituary, New York Times, Nov. 1928

2000-2006 Mark Thompson