Robert Laxalt Papers

Identifier: 85-09

Scope and Contents

A detailed inventory was developed during 2007, in conjunction with mounting the "Sweet Promised Land Exhibit" in the Special Collections Department. That inventory follows this scope and content note.

The bulk of the Robert Laxalt papers consists of his manuscripts and notes for his unpublished stories and novels; manuscripts for many of his published short stories, novels, and full-length books; reviews of and news releases about those publications; and correspondence with his publishers and literary agent concerning his publications. Due to Robert Laxalt's involvement with his brother Paul's campaigns for Nevada Lt. Governor, governor, and U. S. Senator from Nevada, the collection includes material from those campaigns. [Note: the bulk of Paul Laxalt's Senatorial papers form a separate collection in the Special Collections Department - manuscript collection number 83-01.]

The collection also includes some biographical material for several other members of the Laxalt family, including Robert Laxalt's parents, Dominique and Theresa Laxalt, and his wife, Joyce Nielsen Laxalt, who was a cast member in several Reno Little Theater plays before and during her marriage.


  • 1936-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1985



Access to materials in Box 5 is restricted, the rest of the collection is open for research.

Literary and copyrights are owned by the Laxalt estate, and permission must be obtained to publish from his collection.

Biographical Note

Robert Laxalt was born on September 25, 1923, in Alturas, California, to Dominique and Theresa Laxalt, immigrants from the Basque provinces of the French Pyrenees. His father was a sheepherder, and his mother operated a boarding house after their move to Carson City, Nevada. Robert was the second of six children: Paul (the oldest), Peter, John, Sister Mary Robert of the Holy Family Order, and Marie Aurelie Bini.

Robert was educated in Carson City, graduating from Carson City High School in 1941. He attended Santa Clara University until entering the U. S. Consular Service during World War II (1943-1945). When the war ended, he became a student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He graduated with a B.A. in English, French, and philosophy in 1947. He married Joyce Nielsen in 1949. They had three children: Bruce, Monique, and Kristin. Laxalt worked as a newspaper reporter during college and after graduation. He started the Capital News Service, Nevada's first wire service, to cover Nevada politics. He was a staff correspondent for United Press, the Nevada correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and the Nevada political correspondent for the New York Times.

While working as a reporter, Laxalt began writing short stories and magazine articles, selling his first in 1948. He wrote over two hundred articles and short stories, including several for National Geographic Magazine. Laxalt was working on his first novel by 1952 and eventually published sixteen books, both novels and non-fiction. All of his books are based on Nevada, his Basque heritage, or the Basque country. His first published novel, A Man in the Wheatfield, was selected by the American Library Association's Notable Books Council for its "Notable books of 1964" list. His 1974 National Geographic Magazine article, "The Other Nevada," received a Best Western Short Subject Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, Inc. The novella, A Cup of Tea in Pamplona (1985), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Laxalt became the Director of News and Publications for the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1954. In 1960, he began to organize what would become the University of Nevada Press, serving as its first director from 1961-1983. He retired as director of the University of Nevada Press in 1983 but continued to teach in the Journalism Department. He was the second Writer in Residence at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 1988, Laxalt became the first person named to the Distinguished Nevada Author Chair at the university.

Robert Laxalt studied Basque culture in Spain and France as a Fulbright scholar, was instrumental in organizing the Western Basque Festival in the United States, and helped establish the Basque Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. He spearheaded a drive to raise funds for a National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder of the American West, located in Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno. In 1986, he was awarded the Tambor de Oro from the City of San Sebastian, Spain, for his contributions to the Basque people's culture and homeland.

Robert Laxalt died in Reno, Nevada, on March 23, 2001. In Laxalt's honor, the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City was dedicated as Nevada's first Literary Landmark on Nevada Day, October 31, 2003. The Literary Landmarks Register is a program of Friends of Libraries USA. The first annual Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer's Program was held at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno in February 2004.


31.604 Linear Feet (33 boxes)

Language of Materials



Manuscripts, reviews, correspondence, printed material, personal and family papers of Nevada author Robert Laxalt between 1936-1996;1950-1985.


Unarranged collection. Listing based on detailed inventory prepared for 2007 "Sweet Promised Land Exhibit" in the Special Collections Department.

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P1999-10


Guide to the Robert Laxalt Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)