How We Acquired an Autographed Bonanza Photo Collection


Bonanza was our favorite television show in the early 1960s, and my sister and I decided to write a letter to the local TV station to ask for a photo of the Cartwrights–Ben, Hoss, Adam, and Little Joe. I don’t remember whether Kayo (age 10) or I (age 12) came up with the idea, but I do remember that I wrote the letter and requested in it that the price be about fifty cents, which was all we could afford. We were thrilled to receive the following letter on National Broadcasting Company letterhead stationery:

Dear Diane:
Your letter addressed to Station KSOO-TV has reached us here in New York because we are the company which puts the program on the air so that KSOO-TV can carry it for you to see.

NBC Audience Mail usually sends out a form saying that we do not send out photographs of stars of television shows, but your nice letter came to my desk first and since I have a friend out in Burbank, near Hollywood, California where the Bonanza Show is made, I thought we ought to make a special effort in your case.

I don’t know what it will say, or how soon it will come to you, but I’ve been told you will get a picture of Ben, Hoss, Adam and Joe Cartwright. I hope it will please you. Sorry that it took so long to get an answer back to you, and I hope you haven’t stopped liking the Cartwright family in the meantime.


(Miss) Elizabeth A. Fowler
NBC Station Relations

P.S. Don’t worry about the $.50. It’s our treat.

Then came the day a large envelope arrived in the mail. Instead of one photograph, five slid out. In addition to the group photo we’d expected, there were individual photos of each of the four stars. And all were autographed! I immediately wished I’d put Kayo’s name in the letter as well as my own. The autographs read:

“To Diane: Best Wishes, Lorne Greene.”
“To Diane–lots of luck! Dan Blocker.”
“To Diane–Best wishes, Pernell Roberts.”
“Hello Diane! from Mike Landon.”

I taped the photographs on our bedroom wall, and they hung there until we moved into our new house and I went off to college. For the next twenty years the photos stayed in their original envelope in a drawer. Then, during one of my visits home on leave from the Navy, I decided they should be displayed rather than hidden away. So I paid to have them professionally set in a large frame.

The Bonanza collection has been a conversation piece in all my homes since then, beginning with Guam. It traveled with me to Jacksonville, Florida, then to Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, and back to the D.C. area where it now hangs in my home office.

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