Vandale, Earl (1882–1952)

By: Mary Joe Carroll

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: February 2, 2019

Earl Vandale, oilman and Texana collector, was born on June 28, 1882, in Roane County, West Virginia, the son of John Andrew Adam and Olive A. (Crislip) Vandale. He attended public schools and the University of West Virginia, where he studied law in 1902–03. After teaching in rural schools from 1900 to 1908, he went into the oil and gas business, first in West Virginia, then in Ohio, in Oklahoma, and finally in Texas, where he was employed by the Magnolia Petroleum Company in 1922. By 1923 he was in the High Plains area of West Texas; from 1925 until his death he made his home in Amarillo. In business Vandale specialized as a buyer, and he sharpened what must have been a native talent into a fine art. Just as he was tremendously successful in his vocation of acquiring oil and gas lands and leases, he was also successful in his avocation of purchasing rare books and documents relating to Texas. His initial interest, primarily in West Texas, grew not only to be statewide but also to encompass events, persons, and places related to or associated with the state as a whole. Within little more than two decades, Vandale had one of the largest and most valuable collections of Texas books then in private hands. He was aided in this achievement by the purchase of the Karl H. P. N. Gammel collection, in addition to many other smaller collections from other estates. He submitted bids at auctions all over the nation and as far away as London, England; with his special buying ability, very often he was able to purchase from collectors who initially had no desire to sell. His pride and interest in books was not confined to acquisition, for he read his books as well and gave appraisals of their accuracy. Vandale retired from his position with Magnolia on January 1, 1947. In 1948 he sold his Texana collection to the University of Texas to become a part of the Barker Texas History Center. He immediately started a second, broader, collection, in which he included general Western Americana. He referred to this collection as his "Mountain Men and Bad Boy Books."

Vandale was married first to Grace A. Burke on December 23, 1911; they had one son. His wife died on May 19, 1920, and he was married again on March 21, 1925, to Vada Lee Davis. Vada Vandale had originally protested the expansion of the library from living room to guest room, to dining room, to halls. Soon, however, she too had book-collector's fever and shared both the work and the enthusiasm in acquiring the second collection. After her death in 1960 Vandale's son, John, gave the Western Americana collection to the University of Texas to be a unit in the undergraduate Academic Center. The collection is dedicated to the memory of Earl and Vada Vandale. Although the University of Texas was the major beneficiary of Vandale's abilities and generosities, he also made significant contributions to libraries throughout West Texas, and particularly to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon. Under the auspices of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, he established the Vandale historical writing contest. He was particularly enthusiastic about and a generous contributor to the Junior Historians of the Texas State Historical Association. Vandale was a member of the executive council of the Texas State Historical Association, which he served as president from 1949 to 1951. He died in Amarillo on November 9, 1952, and was buried there.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). J. Evetts Haley, Earl Vandale on the Trail of Texas Books (Canyon, Texas: Palo Duro Press, 1965).

  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Mary Joe Carroll, “Vandale, Earl,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 2, 2019