Fonds F0007 - W.O. Mitchell fonds

Identity area

Reference code



W.O. Mitchell fonds


  • 1888-2011 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

22.08 m of textual records and other material.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Canadian writer, teacher, playwright and performer, W. O. Mitchell was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, on March 13, 1914 and died in Calgary, February 25, 1998. Mitchell spent his childhood in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, but had to move to Florida when he was 12 to aid his recovery from tuberculosis. Returning to Canada in 1931, he studied at the University of Manitoba and the University of Alberta. In 1944, after teaching for 2 years, he settled in High River, Alta, where he remained until 1968 except for 3 years as fiction editor at Maclean’s (1948-51).

After 1968 he was writer-in-residence at the Banff Centre, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and Massey College, Toronto and at the University Windsor from 1978-87, after which he lived in Calgary until his death. Mitchell was the director of the Writing Division, Banff Centre from 1975-85 where he developed and taught a creative writing method, he termed the messy method.

In 1947 Mitchell achieved instant recognition with the publication of his classic Who Has Seen the Wind. Allan King directed the feature film based on the novel (1977) and an edition of the book illustrated by William Kurelek was republished in 1991. Mitchell's second novel was The Kite (1962) followed by The Vanishing Point (1973), How I Spent My Summer Holidays (1981), Since Daisy Creek (1984). In 1988 he published a novel of suspense, Ladybug, Ladybug..., followed by another novel, Roses Are Difficult Here, in 1990. He also published a mystery, For Art's Sake, in 1992.
Mitchell also wrote for the stage, radio and TV.

The popular Jake and the Kid (1961) originated in stories written for Maclean's. The series ran weekly on CBC Radio 1950-56 and made Mitchell a national celebrity. The series was televised in 1961. The early radio plays The Devil's Instrument (1949) and The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon (written 1951, published 1965) were later revised as full-length plays; the latter was staged in 1979 by Theatre Calgary as were The Kite (1981) and 2 plays written for the stage, Back to Beulah (which won the Chalmers Award, 1976) and For Those in Peril on the Sea (1982). These plays were published in Dramatic W.O. Mitchell (1982). An illustrated edition of The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon followed in 1993. Mitchell also wrote a musical, Wild Rose, in 1967. The audio book An Evening with W.O. Mitchell (1997) features the author reading from his own works in his inimitably dramatic style.

He received numerous awards and accolades for his work. In 1973 Mitchell became a Member of the Order of Canada. He was awarded several honorary degrees and received the Stephen Leacock Award for his book According to Jake and the Kid (1989). In 1992 he became an honorary Member of the Privy Council. After his death in 1998 the W.O. Mitchell Literary Prize was established for an individual who has produced a substantial body of work and who has acted as a mentor to new writers. Artifacts of W.O. Mitchell’s writing career are held and displayed by the Highwood Museum in High River, Alberta.

Archival history

Acquired between 1976 and 2016 by donations.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds includes material relating to the life and works of W. O. Mitchell as a writer, teacher, playwright and performer. Included are personal, general and business related correspondence; manuscripts of novels, short stories, stage plays, radio plays, television plays and film scripts; copies and drafts of articles in newspapers and magazines; audio-visual recordings of interviews with Mitchell and dramatizations of Mitchell’s works; promotional material such as posters; teaching records relating to his positions as writer-in-residence and lectures and presentations delivered to academic and primary schools; awards such as honorary degrees; personal records including scrapbooks; financial files including writing contracts and business records; photographs; and an electric typewriter used by Mitchell at his cabin on Mabel Lake, B.C.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


MsC 19, MsC 44, MsC 45, MsC 46, MsC 47, MsC 48, MsC 307, MsC 321, 625/98.1, 679/00.10, 920/13.19, 941/14.6, 2016.006

System of arrangement

In close proximity of Mitchell’s record keeping, inferred from his activities or by format.

Fonds consists of the following series:

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Published works
  • Audio-visual recordings
  • Promotion
  • Pubic speaking
  • Teaching materials
  • Business records
  • Awards, honours, tributes
  • Adaptations of W. O. Mitchell work by other authors
  • Works by other writers mentored by W. O. Mitchell
  • Objects
  • Personal records
  • Photographs.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Digital content of most sound and audio recordings can be accessed upon request.

Conditions governing reproduction

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Script of material

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Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For additional archival material relating to W.O. Mitchell see the Morris Surdin fonds (MsC 60) and Winnipeg School Division No. 1, Collection relating to W.O. Mitchell (Acc 625/98.1).

A recorded interview is available in the Turner Valley Oilfield Society oral history project

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Title based on contents of the fonds.

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Accession area