Nebraska Authors

Walter Shelley Phillips

AKA: W.S. Phillips, "El Comancho"

Born 1867-03-03 Fairbury, IL (USA)

Died 1940-09-01
Seattle, WA (USA)

Walter Shelley Phillips came to Beatrice, Nebraska by covered wagon with his parents in 1869. He did not enjoy school and his parents allowed him to wander far afield. In Nebraska, Phillips began to become acquainted with many Native American tribes, including the Otoes, Pawnees, Omahas, and Kansas, among others. While a child, he lived for weeks at a time with the family of an Otoe Chief in their traditional lodge, and accompanied the Otoe on buffalo hunts. Phillips absorbed a love for the great outdoors, and deep respect for Native Americans and their traditional wisdom. Early in his career he worked as a hunter for the Burlington railroad as it extended its tracks across Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Self-taught as a writer, journalist, and illustrator, he worked for many midwestern newspapers as a cartoonist and journalist and later, in the 1890s, for the Seattle Press, Seattle Telegraph, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He wrote hundreds of magazine articles, and for a time had a nationally syndicated newspaper series titled "Teepee Tales." In 1904 he founded the Pacific Sportsman Magazine, which eventually became Outdoor Life. Phillips is described as a well-known and welcome visitor to many native tribes as far west as California, and he recorded their folklore, especially in stories for children, in a number of books. His book The Old Timer's Tale (1929) is not an autobiography, but a broad romantic history of the Great Plains as it was in his youth, with a personal stories and observations included.

University of Washington Libraries Special Collections has W.S. Phillips collections under two rubrics: The W.S. Phillips photograph and illustration collection, circa 1890-1940 and the W.S. Phillips Papers, circa 1889-1990.

Places Lived

Beatrice, NE

Author Of

  • Fiction
  • Journalism
  • Nonfiction
  • Visual Work


Newspaper Journalists; Magazine Journalists; Folklore; Native Americans; Linguistics; History




Totem tales : Indian Stories Indian Told, Gathered in the Pacific Northwest. 1896.
Indian Fairy Tales : Folklore - Legends - Myths ; Totem Tales as told by the Indians. 1902.
The Chinook Book; A Descriptive Analysis of the Chinook Jargon in Plain Words, Giving Instructions for Pronunciation, Construction, Expression and Proper Speaking of Chinook with all the Various Shaded Meanings of the Words. 1913.
Indian Tales for Little Folks. 1919.
Totem Fortune Tellers: The Mystic Wisdom of the Old-Time Clan of Indian Medicine. 1923.
The Old-Timer's Tale. 1929.

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Walter Shelley Phillips

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)