Dayton Duncan is an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker.
He is the author of eleven books. Out West: A Journey Through Lewis & Clark's America chronicles his retracing of the Lewis and Clark trail; it was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection and finalist for the Western Writers of America's Spur Award. Grass Roots: One Year in the Life of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary is a unique look at presidential politics through the experiences of grass roots volunteers. Miles From Nowhere: In Search of the American Frontier examines the current conditions, history, and people of the most sparsely settled counties in the United States. Scenes of Visionary Enchantment is a collection of essays released in conjunction with the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, published in November 1997; Mark Twain, published in November 2001; Horatio's Drive, 2003; The National Parks: America's Best Idea, 2009; and The Dust Bowl, 2012, are companion books to documentary films he wrote and produced.
Two books for young readers were published in the fall of 1996: People of the West , named a Notable Children's Trade Book for 1996 by the National Council of Social Studies and the Children's Book Council, and The West: An Illustrated History for Children, which was selected by The New Yorker magazine for its "short list" of the 16 best children's books of 1996 and won a Western Heritage award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Articles of his have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, American Heritage magazine, The Old Farmer's Almanac, and many other publications.
Duncan has also been involved for many years with the work of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. He was a consultant on Burns' award-winning series for public television, The Civil War, Baseball and Jazz and consulting producer for The War. For The West, a 12-hour series about the history of the American West, broadcast in 1996, Duncan was the co-writer and consulting producer. It won the Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians.
He is the writer and producer of Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, a four-hour documentary broadcast in November 1997. The film attained the second-highest ratings (following The Civil War) in the history of PBS and won a Western Heritage award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, and a CINE Golden Eagle, as well as many other honors. He is the co-writer and producer of Mark Twain, a four-hour film biography of the great American humorist that was broadcast on PBS in 2001. He wrote and produced Horatio's Drive, about the first transcontinental automobile trip, which won the prestigious Christopher Award and a Telly Award. Most recently, he produced and wrote The National Parks: America's Best Idea, a six-episode, twelve-hour documentary that won two Emmys – one for best nonfiction series and one for best writing. His most recent film with Burns was The Dust Bowl, which he wrote and produced.
In politics, Duncan served as chief of staff to New Hampshire Gov. Hugh Gallen; deputy national press secretary for Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 1984; and national press secretary for Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential campaign. President Clinton appointed him chair of the American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt appointed him as a director of the National Park Foundation. Duncan now serves on the board of the Student Conservation Association and the Conservation Lands Foundation.
Born and raised in Indianola, Iowa, Duncan graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971 with a degree in German literature and was also a fellow at Harvard's Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy. He holds honorary doctorates from Franklin Pierce College, Keene State College, and Drake University. In April 2009 he was officially named an Honorary Park Ranger, a designation bestowed upon fewer than 50 people.
For the last forty years he has lived New Hampshire, where he makes his home in the small town of Walpole with his wife, Dianne, and their two children.