Ruth Woodman, Creator of Death Valley Days Talks with Ida Blackburn in 1961

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In 1961 Ruth Cornwall Woodman, the creator of one of the first western radio dramas, Death Valley Days, was honored at the 1st annual Western Heritage Awards for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, in Oklahoma City. She was interviewed there by the locally famous Ida Blackburn for KOCO-TV. Mrs. Woodman spoke about Death Valley Days. Death Valley Days came to NBC Red’s airwaves on September 30th, 1930 as an anthology show, which told stories about pioneer life in the old west. The sponsor—the Pacific Coast Borax Company—demanded the series writer have firsthand knowledge of Death Valley. The only person employed by their agency of record McCann-Erickson with any interest in writing the show was Ruth Cornwall Woodman. The pioneer days were in her blood. Her father George Cornwall had been a miner and rancher near Gunnison, Colorado in the late 1880s when Wyatt Earp lived there. Beginning in 1930, Mrs. Woodman spent several months each year in California and Nevada collecting enough material for a season’s worth of plays. She interviewed old prospectors, visited ghost towns and museums, went through newspaper files, and tracked down leads with the help of a desert expert named Washington Cahill. She wrote each script six weeks in advance to give time to verify all accounts. Death Valley Days dramatized tales of the famous and the unknown. The result was radio’s first realistic western drama.

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