|Full Name||Adam Cartwright|
|Family|| Abel Stoddard† (grandfather) |
Ben Cartwright (father)
Laura Dayton (former fiance)
|Children||A. J. Cartwright|
|First Episode|| A Rose for Lotta (Bonanza)|
Pilot: Part 1 (Ponderosa)
|Last Episode|| Patchwork Man (Bonanza)|
|Portrayed by|| Pernell Roberts|
Adam Cartwright was born in 1830, the first son of Ben Cartwright and Elizabeth Stoddard in New England. He is good with a gun, mature and responsible, and generally looked upon for decision making during crisis by his two younger brothers Hoss and Little Joe in the absence of his father.
The firstborn son of Ben Cartwright and his first wife, Elizabeth Stoddard, in New England, Elizabeth died within hours of Adam's birth. Ben took his infant son and headed West to fulfill a promise he had made to his late wife. They traveled through Ohio, Illinois, (where Ben met and married his second wife, Inger Cartwright when Adam was five) Missouri, Nebraska, (where Hoss Cartwright was born and Inger died; Adam was most likely 6 at this point) California, and onto Nevada, where Ben began to build the Ponderosa for himself, Adam, and Hoss. Ben would meet and marry Marie Cartwright on a trip to New Orleans before he brought her back to his ranch to be a step-mother to his boys. Joseph Cartwright was born on the Ponderosa when Adam was between 13 and 15. Adam went back to Boston for college at the age of eighteen, where he studied engineering and architecture, which enabled him to help design and build the Ponderosa house. He was the only Cartwright son to have that kind of education.
Adam's age is estimated; he appeared to be in his early thirties. The dates on some of the episodes were inconsistent at times but if Adam was born in 1830 that would place him around 31 or 32 in the first season. Based on his rapport with his father and brothers and his experiences; he was clearly a full grown man with both business and life experiences; not just a young adult coming into his own. Adam is at least 6 years older than Hoss; Ben met Inger when Adam was 5. When Hoss was born; they'd been married for at least a year putting Adam around 6 years old. Hoss was clearly more than a few years older than Joe; it has been speculated that Hoss was in his late 20s which seems to fit with Adam's estimated age.
In "A Rose for Lotta" Ben told Adam, "He's a boy, not a MAN. Like YOU." Later, when Adam confronted Joe regarding carrying out his tasks; he handled him in an almost "fatherly" fashion by chastising him, grabbing his arm and stating "Stand still when I'm talking to you." After they fought, Joe went to Adam and said "I'm sorry I RAISED MY HAND TO YOU," a statement acknowledging his regard of Adam as an authority figure. Joe commonly referred to Adam as "Older Brother;" a title he did not assign to Hoss. In "A House Divided" Joe told Adam that as far back as he could remember; Adam was always able to stay up later and always helped Ben handle Ponderosa business cause he was "grown up". In "The Julia Bulette Story", Joe told Ben that he remembered hearing him and Adam discussing places that Ben and Marie couldn't go; it is unlikely that Ben would be having serious discussions with Adam if he was just a teenage boy. Adam always took a secondary parental role so it would seem that he was significantly older than Joe who he would refer to as "The Kid" or "Baby son". In "The Tin Badge", both Hoss and Adam teased Joe in a way that conveyed that they thought he was just a little kid trying to take on a man's responsibility. Hoss's joint teasing along with Adam doesn't seem likely if Hoss was close to being a peer of Joe's; although it was clear that Hoss and Joe had a special relationship. But both Adam and Hoss were protective of Joe and always looked at him as their baby brother. He was not viewed as their peer; a fact that Joe struggled with and rebelled against.
Adam left the Ponderosa to live on his own, though no one really knows where he went. Some say he became a sailor like his father and grandfather before him, while others say he went to Europe, because Joe once said he got a letter saying "Adam was having a nice, cold winter in Paris". He was mentioned in season 7 episode 3 The Brass Box. Ben tells Jose Ortega that while his son Adam is away he can use another hand.
Adam married an unknown woman and would later have a son named A.C.
Adam's spouse name is unknown; there was never a mention of his wife after he left the ponderosa to go to Australia, his son was A.J. however but his mother was never named