Biography and History

Philip Ashton Rollins was born on January 20, 1869, in Somersworth, New Hampshire. Rollins spent a good deal of time during his youth out West, where he developed a fascination with a culture and lifestyle that would last his entire life. He attended Princeton University and graduated in 1889. He and his wife, Beulah "Pack" Rollins, settled in New York City, where he practiced law. Despite their East Coast home, Mr. and Mrs. Rollins spent much of their time traveling through the western United States. Rollins died in 1950.

Throughout his life, Rollins was known as a gentleman scholar, as equally adept at providing a comprehensive look at the world of the cowboy as he was at telling an engaging story. His best known book, The Cowboy, An Unconventional History of Civilization on the Old-Time Cattle Range, was first published in 1922. It was an immediate success, and it has gone through countless editions and printings. The Cowboy has been praised as capturing the tools, trade, and life of American cowboys in a remarkably honest and accurate manner. Another book that brought Rollins fame was Jinglebob, published in 1928. Geared towards a younger audience, Jinglebob told the story of life on the ranch for one cowboy out west. In addition to these well-known works, Rollins edited and wrote several pieces and books that dealt with the Oregon Trail and the overland narratives of early western settlers, as well as other articles that dealt with cowboys and the American West.

Rollins was not only a lawyer and a scholar, he was also a benefactor of Princeton who remained closely tied to his alma mater throughout his life. From 1911 until 1913 he served as the president of the Princeton Club in New York City, and he gave a memorable address memorializing Isabella McCosh at the opening of the new McCosh infirmary. He was the chairman and co-founder of the Friends of the Princeton Library in 1930. In 1947, Rollins and his wife presented the Princeton Library with a valuable collection of Western Americana, consisting of a series of imprints and manuscripts that encompassed overland narratives, the western cattle trade and industry, and the Rocky Mountain West. This collection formed the basis for the Western Americana collection at Firestone Library, and it helped to attract the donations of many other Western Americana collectors, making it one of the finest collections of Western Americana in the country.

Source: From the finding aid for WC001