Kelli Tinervin

SMALL, JOE AUSTELL, SR. (1914–1994). Author and publisher of Western Americana, Joe Austell Small, Sr. was born in Chriesman, Burleson County, Texas, on March 18, 1914, to Joe Willis and Laura Lee Watson Hairston Small. He married Ada Elizabeth Berry and had three sons: Robert Earl, Joe Austell, Jr., and James "Jim" Edward.

Small was a prominent figure in the publication and writing of Western Americana magazines. His passion for magazines began in grade school where he became fascinated with them. He sold his first article to Reader's Digest in 1946. Shortly thereafter he began his pursuit into magazine publication and used his bedroom as his office. He purchased Western Sportsman magazine during World War II and assumed the role of editor and publisher of Sportsman Publishing Company. He sold this company in 1957, but the publication of Western Sportsman was suspended. The ownership of the company eventually reverted back to Small who never again published Western Sportsman.

Subsequently Small founded Western Publications, Incorporated, of Austin. He published magazines specializing in the frontier West. His most popular publication was True West, which he began issuing in 1953. True West featured stories that appealed to the popular culture, focusing on such subjects as the gunfighters and lawmen, and topics like vigilantism, Indian fights, and boom towns. It gained broad circulation due to the popularity of television Westerns in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Small's editorial policy was to publish historical non-fiction which he felt was more interesting than fiction. His goal was to publish an honest magazine about the West and to convey the historical facts of the period in an entertaining manner. In order to accomplish this goal he employed historical consultants to verify accuracy within the stories.

In addition to True West, Small also published the magazines Frontier Times which he purchased in 1955, Wanderlust, Old West, Relics, Gold!, Badman, and Horse Tales:True Stories of Great Horses, a publication devoted to the true stories of horses. Small frequently wrote lengthy editorials in the latter and signed them with his nickname Hosstail, derived from his middle name, Austell. Through his magazines he is credited with preserving much of western history in addition to giving many beginning writers a start. Western Publications, Incorporated, continued to publish western magazines until 1979 when Small sold the company due to declining health and a descending market. The magazines continued to be published in Austin until the early 1980s when the company was moved to Oklahoma.

Small was well known throughout Texas and was friends with other prominent western writers such as Fred Gipson, the author of Old Yeller, Walter Prescott Webb, and J. Frank Dobie. He died on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-nine following a lengthy illness and is buried in Austin Memorial Park.


Austin American-Statesman, March 10, 1994. Larry J. Walker, "Using Western Magazines for Research," Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, Inc., XVIII (1994).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Kelli Tinervin, "SMALL, JOE AUSTELL, SR.," accessed February 25, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 11, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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