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Zane Pearl Grey

Pearl Zane Grey, the fourth in a family of five children, was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1872. He was the son of itinerant dentist, Lewis Gray and Alice Zane Gray, and he was the great grandson of the famous trailblazer, Ebenezer Zane.

Pearl, as he was known to friends and family, was an imaginative, active boy who loved the outdoors but didn’t like school. As a child he developed a love of hunting, camping, and, especially, baseball and fishing. His father discouraged each of these pursuits as time- wasters. Most of all, Lewis Gray scorned his son’s enjoyment of crafting exciting adventure stories.

As Pearl got older, he stopped using his first name and began calling himself by his middle name, Zane. He also changed the spelling of his last name from “Gray” to Grey to distance himself from a family scandal.

Determined to push his son into the profession of dentistry, Lewis was disappointed when the old-fashion preparation process turned from apprenticeship to the need for a college degree. But Zane was able to attend dental school at the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. A lackluster student, Zane managed to graduate and establish a dental practice in New York.

Often Zane and his brother R.C. traveled to Delaware to camp and fish. It was there that Zane met his future wife, Lina Elise Roth. Her friends called her Dolly, and soon they became Doc and Dolly to friends and to each other. The couple married in 1905.

Zane Grey Portrait

Restless and dissatisfied with dentistry, Zane yearned to write about the kind of adventures he’d dreamed of as a child. Dolly, always his champion, financed his first novel, Betty Zane (published in 1903). Betty was his great grandfather’s youngest sister and was, in family lore, hailed as the “Hero of Fort Henry” where the family lived during the final battles of the Revolutionary War.


The novel was financially unsuccessful but is now considered to be a classic. Readers at the time were enthralled by tales of the West and so was Zane. He paid to be taken on a Western safari and made notes about everything he saw and all that he learned. Soon he began selling stories about exciting characters including lovely women who populated the wild west. The most popular and most often reprinted of those novels is Riders of the Purple Sage. The novel has been made and remade three times into motion pictures.


With his literary success, movie studios came calling and offered him large amounts of money for the right to produce scripts from pieces of his stories. Zane’s partnership with films made him a wealthy man and, over time, his more than 80 books yielded 110 movies.


During their marriage, throughout many difficulties, Dolly remained his strongest supporter. A graduate of a teachers’ college, she proofread, and edited his material, typing it and smoothing out the rough spots before acting as his sales agent. It is safe to say that without Dolly the world would not have become as aware of Zane Grey. While Zane traveled the world fishing, Dolly remained at home caring for their three children.


On 0ctober 23,1939 Zane Grey died of a heart attack in Altadena, California where the couple made their final home together. Zane Grey’s legacy lives on embracing generation after generation of readers across the United States and around the world.

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