Literary license — Arkansas: A Hemingway haunt

Hemingway’s 1932 Arkansas hunting license now part of archive

Hemingway’s hunting permit found

Ernest Hemingway’s Arkansas hunting license from 1932. Courtesy of Toby and Betty Bruce collection of Ernest Hemingway, 10077, Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University..
Ernest Hemingway’s Arkansas hunting license from 1932. Courtesy of Toby and Betty Bruce collection of Ernest Hemingway, 10077, Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University..

A 91-year-old Arkansas hunting license has turned up in the Special Collections Library at Penn State University.

The license was issued to Ernest Hemingway of Key West, Fla., on Oct. 26, 1932.

Bag limits were explained on the back. The famous writer could shoot 18 doves a day, 15 ducks or a dozen quail.

In December 1932, Hemingway hunted duck, quail, dove, plover and rabbit in Arkansas, said Sandra Spanier, a Penn State professor of English and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project.

He also bagged one jack snipe.

The Penn State library also has the 1932 Arkansas hunting license of Pauline Hemingway, who accompanied her husband on an Arkansas hunting trip on Dec. 9, 1932.

From 1927-40, Hemingway was married to the former Pauline Pfeiffer, whose parents lived in Piggott.

PHOTO GALLERY: Hemingway in Arkansas

The licenses are part of the Toby and Betty Bruce collection of Ernest Hemingway, which Penn State finished processing earlier this year. It consists of 17 linear feet of material in 18 boxes, according to the finding aid, which is available at https://aspace.libraries.psu.edu/repositories/3/resources/11174.

The Bruce collection is a trove of stuff that Hemingway left in a storeroom behind Sloppy Joe's Bar on Key West in 1939.

After Hemingway's death in 1961, his widow, Mary Welsh Hemingway, was called to retrieve all of it.

She took what she wanted and gave the rest to Toby Bruce, a Piggott native who had became Hemingway's right hand man, driver, carpenter, mechanic, friend and confidant. Bruce died in 1984.

For decades, the Hemingway cache was stored in plastic bins and ammo cans on Key West until Bruce family members sold the collection to Penn State in 2021.

The contents range from the head of "Ernie's old cloth stuffed doggie" that he made as a child to what appears to be his first short story, about a fictional trip to Ireland when he was 10 years old.

It's the most significant cache of Hemingway materials uncovered in 60 years, Robert K. Elder wrote for The New York Times.

Hemingway spent about six months total at the home of his Arkansas in-laws, estimates Ruth A. Hawkins, former executive director of Arkansas State University's Heritage Sites and the author of a book on Ernest and Pauline.

Hemingway wrote much of "A Farewell to Arms" in Piggott during the summer of 1928, said Robert W. Trogdon, a professor of English at Kent State University.

Hemingway did much of that writing in the Pfeiffer's barn, which is a key attraction of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center on the former Pfeiffer property. He wrote in what had been the hayloft.

Published in 1929, "A Farewell to Arms" sold 100,000 copies in its first year and made Hemingway a famous writer.

According to his Arkansas hunting license, Hemingway was 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds in 1932. The license was signed by Guy Armsler, who was secretary of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 1922 to 1935.

Hemingway's nonresident license cost $15. That would be about $336 today, adjusted for inflation.

Pauline Hemingway's hunting license indicates she was 35 years old, 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds. She had dark hair, medium complexion and brown eyes. Her license was issued on Nov. 30, 1932.

Because she claimed to be an Arkansas resident, Pauline's hunting license was considerably less expensive. It cost $1.10, which would equal about $25 adjusted for inflation.

On the back of her hunting license, the state encouraged Pauline Hemingway to "Kill predacious species of hawks and owls, also stray cats and crows."

Keith Stephens, a spokesman for Game and Fish, said many famous people have had Arkansas hunting licenses. The list includes former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; publisher Joseph Pulitzer; actors John Wayne, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Kevin Costner; and sports stars Ted Williams, Peyton Manning and Scottie Pippen.

Ernest Hemingway talked his editor, Max Perkins, into coming down from New York City to hunt ducks with him in Arkansas that December of 1932.

Hemingway wrote that he had reserved a houseboat that was anchored on the Arkansas River near the community of Watson in Desha County.

In a Dec. 7 letter to Perkins, Hemingway wrote, "We could talk over everything and have the finest duck shooting in the world. ... I have 2,300 shells so you can miss 1,845 ducks and still kill over your limit."

From Dec. 16-21, Perkins hunted with Hemingway in Arkansas. Much of the hunting apparently took place along the nearby White River.

Afterwards, Perkins wrote to a friend saying he "nearly froze to death" during that hunting trip to Arkansas.

  photo  Pauline Hemingway’s Arkansas hunting license from 1932. Courtesy of Toby and Betty Bruce collection of Ernest Hemingway, 10077, Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.