Several articles and letters in the Book Review have addressed dystopian literature and the Trump administration. To these titles I would add Theodore Dreiser’s Trilogy of Desire (“The Financier,” “The Titan” and “The Stoic”). These novels are based on the life of the robber baron Charles Yerkes.
The ruthless doings and outrageous behavior of the fictional Frank Cowperwood not only shed light on Trump but on the members of his billionaire cabinet as well. It’s a shame Dreiser’s works are largely unread today, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.
Note – the Word document below containing the article by Roger W. Smith on which this post is based has been updated as of March 16, 2017 with some new content based upon news accounts appearing in Chicago newspapers in February 1886.
Theodore Dreiser drew heavily on real life incidents in writing his first novel, Sister Carrie. The main persons behind the story were his sister Emma and her lover, Lorenzo A. Hopkins.
I have done some investigating attempting to dig out more facts about Emma, about Hopkins, and about their relationship and children. There is much confusion despite what scholars have already managed to uncover. Dreiser himself gave sketchy accounts in his autobiographical writings.
I was aware that Hopkins’s wife, before he became involved with Emma Dreiser, was named Margaret and that they had one child, a daughter named Maria, who around 18 years old when Hopkins stole money from his employer in Chicago and absconded with Emma.
There was a Margaret Lutz, a married woman who seemed to be right age as Hopkins’s wife, who was murdered in 1900 — 14 years after her husband absconded — by her brother-in-law and who was, at the time, living just down the street (on the same block) from where she and Hopkins were living. Could this be the same woman as Margaret Hopkins, who had remarried a man surnamed Lutz?
It turned out that it indeed was. The key to proving this was that I recently found records of Margaret Hopkins’s divorce from her first husband, Lorenzo Hopkins, and her marriage to Alfred Lutz around eight years before she was murdered.
Attached below as a downloadable Word document is a new article of mine about the case and its relationship to the portrayal of Hurstwood and his wife Julia in Sister Carrie.
Above is a downloadable Word document containing an article about Lorenzo A. Hopkins (1847-1897), who was the real life model for the character of George Hurstwood in Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie. The article includes newly discovered factual information about Hopkins, including his death, information about which has not hitherto been found. It is a significant matter to investigate since, in real life, Hopkins, the model for Hurstwood, was left by his lover Emma Wilhelmina Dreiser (Dreiser’s sister), leading to the decline and death of Hurstwood, which concludes the novel.
Also provided here (see below) are images of Lorenzo A. Hopkins’s gravestone and his death certificate.
— Roger W. Smith
“The Real Julia Hurstwood and the Lutz Murder Case”
Posted here below as a downloadable PDF document are excerpts from the autobiography of Harold James Dies (1914-2012). Mr. Dies was related, on his mother’s side, to Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, Helen (Patges) (Richardson) Dreiser. He was Trustee of the Dreiser Trust.
The full title of the autobiography is “The Kingdom of God and the World’s Final Generation: The Life Story of Harold James Dies” (2010).
Included in the autobiography is anecdotal material related to Theodore Dreiser and his second wife Helen, as well as some information about Dreiser’s niece Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1963) that is not available elsewhere. Topics of interest discussed in the autobiography, and included in the excerpts posted below, include:
Mr. Dies’s relationship with Dreiser’s second wife Helen, whom he knew from his early years, and biographical information about her
his meeting Dreiser and some anecdotal material about Dreiser
mention of his cousin congressman Martin Dies, chairman of the House un-American Activities Committee
his relationship with Gertrude Amelia Hopkins, Dreiser’s favorite niece and the daughter of Dreiser’s sister Emma (“Sister Carrie”)
negotiations over the production of Tobias Picker’s opera “An American Tragedy”
I wish to thank Joann Crouch, Mr. Dies’s niece, who told me about this unique book and made it available to me for photocopying.
This photograph of Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1973), Theodore Dreiser’s favorite niece, is, as far as I know, unique. It is the best photo of Gertrude that I have ever seen.
I am grateful to Mrs. Gloria N. Vevante, Gertrude’s niece, for giving me this photo.
Gertrude Amelia Hopkins was the daughter of Theodore Dreiser’s sister, Emma (Dreiser) Nelson (1863-1936). Emma (Dreiser) Nelson was the real life prototype of the lead character, Carrie Meeber, in Theodore Dreiser’s first novel, Sister Carrie.
email to a Dreiserian from Roger W. Smith, Janrary 15, 2017
Attached is a gorgeous photo of Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1973), who was TD’s favorite niece.
The photo was given to me by Mrs. Gloria Vevante.
Mrs. Vevante was born Gloria Nelson. She was Gertrude’s niece. Her (Mrs. Vevante’s) father was George Nelson.
George Kates Nelson (1892-1955) was the son of Emma and Hopkins. He took the name of his stepfather, John Nelson.
George was a hotel manager in Manhattan for most of his professional life. He married a woman, Gunda Ryerson, who had emigrated when young from Norway. For many years, his family lived in Manhattan.
George had nothing to do with TD and did not seem to have been intimate with his mother, Emma, as an adult. He was apparently somewhat of a wild kid who straightened out as he matured. He knew Paul Dresser and as an adolescent would spend time with him.
His first name, George, is possibly significant, since Hurstwood’s first name is George and he has a son named George, Jr.
Gertrude alternatively used the names Gertrude Hopkins and Gertrude Nelson when she was young. She aspired to be singer when young. She was close to Emma. She ended up working for Con Edison in Westchester County. She married a coworker, Emil Dorn, and became Gertrude Hopkins Dorn. But, she found out — much later (I believe it was after Dorn’s death) — that Mr. Dorn was already married (when he married Gertrude) to a wife who had been found mentally incompetent and was confined to a hospital. Gertrude went back to being Gertrude Hopkins.
Gertrude died in Westchester in 1973.
Her letters to TD are touching.
Harold J. Dies (1914-2012), a descendant of Dreiser’s aunt who was Trustee of the Dreiser Estate (he was a cousin of Dreiser’s second wife, Helen Patges Dreiser), knew Gertrude well and played a major role in administering her estate. It is clear that he was fond of her. Tedi Dreiser Goddard and her mother, Dr. Vera Dreiser, knew Gertrude but didn’t seem to give her the time of day or think that much of her. Helen knew Gertrude and liked her. And, at an early age, at least, Gertrude used to correspond with Jug.
Above are two photographs which, after some thought, I believe are of Theodore Dreiser. As far as I know, they are unique and have not been published or posted before.
One Dreiser scholar whom I have already consulted feels certain that it is not Theodore Dreiser who is shown here. The scholar replied as follows in an email to me:
Doesn’t look like him to me. For that age, the photo is too heavy set a person, among many other things. Check out all the photos at Penn in the Dreiser collection; nothing remotely like this.
These two photos were sent me by a descendant of Dreiser’s maternal grandmother. She has a lot of precious family photos, several of which seem to be unique, including photos of Theodore Dreiser; Helen (Richardson) Dreiser and her family; and Paul Dresser.
There were four photos purportedly of Theodore Dreiser which she sent me, along with the others of the Dreiser family and those of Helen Richardson’s ancestors and relatives. Of those four photos, two (not shown above) are definitely of Theodore Dreiser.
Given that the two above photos come from a family collection, one wonders: if it’s not Theodore Dreiser, who could it be? Some consideration should also be given to the fact that the owner of the photo has always understood that it was a photo of Theodore Dreiser.
— Roger W. Smith
Addendum: Regarding the “fact” that “Dreiser” doesn’t quite look like himself here, I can’t help thinking of a passport of photo of myself that was taken when I was age 25 and was making my first trip to Europe. The photographer who took my passport photo was offputting and overbearing. He insisted that I take off my glasses. In the photo, I hardly looked like myself, perhaps because I was uncomfortable. I showed the photo to a good friend of mine. He insisted it was not me. When I was traveling, I had trouble at border crossings with customs officials who thought it was someone else’s photo.
Addendum: For comparison purposes, I have posted below a collage of photos of Dreiser as a young man.