Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright
|Full Name:||Adam Stoddard Cartwright|
|Occupation:||Engineer, Architect, Rancher|
|Race/Ethnicity:||American / Caucasian|
|Family/Relatives:|| Abel Stoddard† (grandfather) |
Ben Cartwright (father)
Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright† (mother, deceased)
Inger Borgstrom Cartwright† (step mother, deceased)
Marie DeMarigny Cartwright† (step mother)
Hoss Cartwright (half brother)
Little Joe Cartwright (half brother)
Jamie Hunter Cartwright (adopted brother)
John Cartwright† (uncle)
Will Cartwright (cousin)
|Spouse||Wife, mentioned, but not seen on series|
|Romances/Domestic Partners:|| Laura Dayton (former fiancée) |
Ruth Halvorsen (former fiancée)
Sue Ellen Terry †
|Children:||Several, only mentioned on series|
|Appeared on:||Bonanza (TV Series)|
|First Episode:||"A Rose for Lotta" (Series pilot)|
|Last Episode:||"A Good Night's Rest" (Season 6)|
|Portrayed by:||Pernell Roberts|
Adam Cartwright was born in the year 1830 in New England to Ben and Elizabeth (Stoddard) Cartwright. He is good with a gun, warm, sensible, intelligent, mature and responsible. In Ben's absence, Adam is generally looked upon for important decision making by his two younger brothers, Hoss and Little Joe.
Adam is the eldest of the Cartwright sons and serves as the right hand of his father, Ben in managing the Ponderosa, the Cartwright family home and ranch. Adam is a secondary parental/authority figure and is several years older than his brothers in particular Little Joe. In "A Rose for Lotta", the series' pilot, Ben told Adam (regarding Little Joe), "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 demanding that Joe "Stand still when I'm talking to you!" After they fought, Joe extended an olive branch and said to Adam, "I'm sorry I raised my hand to you," a statement acknowledging his regard of Adam as an authority figure. Joe commonly refers to Adam as "Older Brother," a title he does not often 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 because 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. Ben seems to trust Adam completely and discuss serious matters with him. In "The Tin Badge", both Hoss and Adam teased Joe in a way that conveyed that they thought Joe was just a little kid trying to take on a man's responsibility. Both Adam and Hoss were protective of him 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 is an intelligent, open-minded and educated person who shares many interests like reading, singing and playing the guitar. He studied architecture and engineering and applied his knowledge and skills on the Ponderosa and other projects.
Due to his serious nature, Adam is referred to as the "spoilsport" of the Ponderosa. As with all of the Cartwrights, he uses his gun only when necessary; mainly in self defense. Adam occasionally expresses annoyance with the primitive ways of the West and has commented multiple times that he longs to be among civilized society and not "savages". He is progressive and an entrepreneur; always looking for an opportunity to improve himself and his surroundings. Perhaps this is what led him away from the Ponderosa in the years to come.
Although Adam has been involved in serious relationships; it is implied that he struggles with commitment. Because he is afraid to love people due to his rough childhood and because, through his young life, he would get to know people and then they would leave. He eventually stopped developing relationships to protect his heart. In Season 1's "The Sisters," (episode #14), Ben asked Adam how serious he was about Sue Ellen Terry, after engaging in a dual. Adam paused and thoughtfully replied, "I don't know." In "Bitter Water," (episode #29), Hoss teased Adam for dating Virginia Keith for three years and allowing another man to marry her.
In Season Five's "The Waiting Game" Adam pursued the young widow, Laura Dayton. He heavily involved himself in Laura and her daughter, Peggy's, personal affairs. He continued this pattern of behavior in Season 5's "The Cheating Game" (episode #19) without making his intentions clear.
Adam's hesitance in the Season 5 episode "The Pressure Game" (episode #32) caused much talk and speculation. Concerned, Ben approached Adam, frankly stating that Adam had a certain responsibility toward Laura and that, "When a man's been as single as long as you have, Adam, you can't blame him for being spooky about marriage." He urged Adam to bow out if he was not sure of his feelings for Laura. Later that evening, Adam proposed to Laura who firmly turned him down as she realized he was only doing so out of obligation. A few days later when Laura was hurt, Adam realized his feelings for Laura and proposed again to which she accepted.
However, on "Triangle," Adam neglected Laura during their engagement and allowed other business affairs to prevent him from attending his own engagement party. He was secretly building a house for Laura to surprise her on their wedding date. During this time, Will Cartwright (Ben's nephew, played by Guy Williams) and Laura grew closer and confessed their love to each other.
However, an accident caused Adam to be temporarily confined to a wheelchair temporarily, as Will and Laura decided to forego pursuing a life together. Adam overheard Will and Laura expressing their love. After confronting Will, he later told Laura that he felt he know all along that it would never "really" work out between them in marriage: "I love you, Laura, and I'll always love you. But not the way Will loves you, and not the way you love Will. Marry him." Adam gave her his blessing to marry his cousin and Laura and Will left together happily.
Adam's age is estimated to be around 30 years of age on the pilot episode "A Rose for Lotta", which was set in 1859. Adam is roughly 5 years older than Hoss (Ben met Inger, Hoss's mother when Adam was 4). Hoss' is estimated around 25-26 and Little Joe around 21 (see the episode of Joe's birthday when he turns 22). Adam is significantly older than Joe who he would refer to as "The Kid", "Baby" or "Baby son".
Adam was the firstborn son of Ben Cartwright and his first wife, Elizabeth Stoddard. Sadly, 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 and Illinois where Ben met and married his second wife, Inger Cartwright. Adam and Inger quickly bonded. Adam was 3 years old.
Ben, Inger and Adam continued their journey; leading a track through Missouri and Nebraska. Inger soon gave birth to Eric "Hoss" Cartwright making Adam a big brother. During an Indian attack, Adam witnessed Inger fall to her death. Adam was likely 5 - 6 at this time. Ben finally settled in Nevada, where Ben began to build the Ponderosa for himself and his two sons. On a trip to New Orleans, Ben met and wed his third wife Marie Cartwright. Soon thereafter, Joseph Cartwright was born. Adam was likely between 10 and 12 at this time.
At the age of eighteen (presumably) Adam left home for college; majoring in architecture and engineering. He is often credited with the design of the Ponderosa home. The location of the college Adam attended is unknown. On the episode "My Brother's Keeper" Adam confirmed that he went to school "back east" and in the episode "The way station" he tells the girl that he has been to New York. He is the only Cartwright son credited with a secular education.
Adam left the Ponderosa to live on his own, where he settled in Boston, though he traveled often to Europe. This is largely attributed to sporadic references to Adam during the years following his departure; most notably from Little Joe. Little Joe received a letter from his brother stating "Adam was having a nice, cold winter in Paris". Other references were more vague. In the Season 7 episode "The Brass Box" (episode #3) Ben tells Jose Ortega that he could use another hand while his son Adam was "away". Adam came back to stay in 1878 built a house, married and had children.