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Jackie Coogan Ranch records

Identifier: 0389

Scope and Content

The collection is comprised of materials related to the operation of the Jackie Coogan cattle ranch between 1924 and 1936. Included is correspondence; receipts and invoices related to ranch expenses; checks, bank statements, and deposit slips signed by ranch manager J.C. Fuquay and his wife, Genevieve; letters pertaining to the ranch's mortgage; and an official ranch ledger that was maintained between 1926 and 1930.


  • 1924 - 1936


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Historical note

John Leslie "Jackie" Coogan, the son of John and Lillian Dolliver Coogan, was born on October 26, 1914 in Los Angeles, California. Coogan's parents were both seasoned vaudevillians: his father was a dancer and actor, and his mother was a stage performer and former child star. At the age of four, Coogan made his first appearance on stage at a New York theater, where he earned accolades for his charisma and stage presence. By the age of five, he began touring with his parents and became a regular in their vaudeville circuit.

Coogan's rise to fame came in 1919, when silent film star, Charlie Chaplin first noticed Coogan performing on stage at a downtown Los Angeles theater. Chaplin gave the young actor a small part in A Day's Pleasure (1919), and later assigned him a leading role in The Kid (1921). Coogan's popularity surged soon thereafter, and by the mid-1920s he was one of Hollywood's highest-paid silent film stars. Among the best known of his films are Peck's Bad Boy (1921), Oliver Twist (1922), Daddy (1923), Long Live The King (1923),The Rag Man (1925), Tom Sawyer (1930), and Huckleberry Finn (1931).

In the mid-1920s, a cattle ranch was purchased on Coogan's behalf near Campo, California, approximately fifty miles east of San Diego, for $159,000. While Coogan's production company financed the ranch and received its profits, its day-to-day operations were overseen by J.C. Fuquay and his wife Genevieve, who served as the resident managers. The ranch functioned both as a source of extra revenue for Jackie Coogan Productions and also as a retreat for Coogan, his family, his collegues, and his friends.

Tragedy struck in May, 1935 when Coogan, his father, and three friends were returning to the ranch from a hunting expedition in Mexico. The vehicle that was transporting the men careened into a ditch after Coogan's father, who was the driver, attempted to avoid an oncoming car and lost control. The accident killed every passenger except for Coogan, who escaped with only minor injuries. Traumatized by the death of his father and several of his closest friends, Coogan subsequently relinquished his business ties with the Fuquays and sold his ranch for $40,000 - a small fraction of the initial purchase price.

Wishing to cash in on the money he had made as a child star in the 1920s, he asked his mother and stepfather to turn over his earnings, only to discover that almost all the money had been squandered away. In response, Coogan filed suit in 1938 against his mother and stepfather for the four million dollars that he had made. However, at the time, there was no law on the books that regulated the earnings of child actors, and ultimately Coogan was awarded only $126,000 of his initial claim. The public outcry that accompanied the verdict culminated in the passage of the California Child Actor's Bill, more commonly known as the Coogan Act, which safeguards the wages of child actors into adulthood.

Coogan enlisted in the United States Army in 1941 and was transferred to the United States Air Force after the United States entered World War II. He returned to acting after the war had ended, but was able to attain only minor roles in low-budget films and guest appearances on television shows. Between 1964 and 1966, he had his most famous television role in The Addams Family as Uncle Fester. He retired from acting altogether in the mid-1970s.

Coogan died of a heart attack on March 1, 1984 in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 69.


1 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



In the mid-1920s, Jackie Coogan Productions purchased a cattle ranch near Campo, California, approximately fifty miles east of San Diego, on behalf of child actor Jackie Coogan. The collection contains correspondence and financial documents related to the operations of the ranch between 1924 and 1936.


The collection was given to the University of Southern California by Howard Karno Books, Inc. on November 13, 2006.

Finding Aid of the Jackie Coogan Ranch records
Katie Richardson, Andrew Goodrich, and Sarah Schreiber
2011 July
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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The processing of this collection and the creation of this finding aid was funded by the generous support of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States