Clarence E. Mulford – The Creator of a Fictional Legend

Born on February 3, 1883 in Streator, Illinois, Clarence E. Mulford was able to trace his bloodline in America all the way back to the 17th century. Many of his family members were recognised for their contribution to the service, during the American Revolution. This is not the reason why his name is still remembered in many households today, however. Mulford’s claim to fame came as a result of his creating America’s greatest western hero, Hopalong Cassidy.

Clarence Mulford graduated college and first became employed by the ‘Municipal Journal and Engineer.’ He then began to write books and short stories, mostly about the Wild West. Much of the knowledge included in these books was from first-hand experience, as he travelled extensively throughout those areas. He meticulously recorded his observations in a file containing over 17,000 cards, pertaining to life in the west. This included knowledge about cattle driving, fur trapping and The Pony Express.

The Hopealong Cassidy novels inspired an immensely popular collection of films and, later, T.V. series. The main character’s personality was changed drastically in order to match what the film company wanted to portray. In the books Cassidy was an uncouth, dirty-mouthed, alcohol drinking thug. In the films, he was a charming, distinguished-looking gentleman, always played by William Boyd. In his criticisms about the Cassidy of the films, Mulford went as far as to say that if the character in the movies ever entered the books, the novels’ sidekicks would have shot him.

He refused to meet William Boyd for many years, but eventually came to terms with the fact that the changes were not an attempted insult to his writing. It is rumoured that when actor and author finally met they immediately liked each other.

On May 10, 1956, Clarence Mulford died in Portland, Maine, from complications that occurred after surgery. This was done to correct smoke damage to his lungs, which had taken place during a fire in 1947.