Monthly Archives: March 2016

death notice, Helen Dreiser, Los Angeles Times



death notice, Helen Dreiser, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1955


The entry for Helen Esther Dreiser, Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, is at the bottom of the left hand column.




Helen Dreiser death notice LA Times 9-27-1955 FINAL.jpg







Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, September 27, 1955, pg. 32

Edward M. Dreiser obituary



“Edward Dreiser Dead,” New York Times, January 31, 1958.


Edward M. Dreiser (1873-1958) was Theodore Dreiser’s younger brother.





Edward Dreiser obituary, NY Times 1-31-1958


New York Times, Friday, January 31, 1958


Esther Dickerson obituary


“Mrs. E. A. Dickerson Dies,” Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), August 27, 1916


Esther A. (Schnepp, or Schanab) Dickerson (1840-1916) was Theodore Dreiser’s aunt. She was the younger sister of Dreiser’s mother, Sarah (Schnepp, or Schanab) Dreiser. Samuel T. Dickerson was Esther’s second husband.

Esther Dickerson was also the maternal grandmother of Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, Helen (Patges) Dreiser. Esther’s daughter by her first marriage, Ida V. Parks, married George Patges. Their daughter Helen E. Patges married, secondly, Theodore Dreiser as his second wife.

The obituary notes that Mrs. Dickerson died at the residence of her daughter (by her second husband) Mrs. Carl M. Dies. The daughter, Myrtle Josie (Dickerson) Dies, was the mother of Harold James Dies (1914-2012), a relative of Theodore Dreiser’s second wife Helen (Patges) Dreiser. Harold Dies became Trustee of the Dreiser Trust.



— Roger W. Smith




Esther Dickerson obit, Sunday Oregonian (Portland) 8-27-1916, pg. 14


Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), August 27, 1916



genealogical reports, Dreiser ancestry



Descendants of Johann Paul Dreiser



descendants of Henry Schnepp


descendants of Theodore Dreiser



Descendants of Johann Paul Dreiser


Descendants of Henry Schnepp


Descendants of Theodore Dreiser




This post contains three reports (downloadable PDF files above) showing the genealogy of branches of the Dreiser and Schnepp (aka Schänäb) families.

The Schnepp or Schänäb family were ancestors of Theodore Dreiser’s mother, Sarah Maria (Schnepp) Dreiser, and of his second wife, Helen Esther (Patges Richardson) Dreiser.

These reports were generated using genealogy software. Each report shows the ancestor going back to a beginning point, so to speak, and then shows that ancestor’s descendants for a few generations down to the present (to the extent known).

The report entitled “Descendants of Theodore Dreiser” merely shows genealogical facts about the author and his spouses. There were no descendants.



— Roger W. Smith

   September 2019; updated May 2020

Lisel Mueller, “For a Thirteenth Birthday”



Lisel Mueller, ‘For a Thirteenth Birthday’



Lisel Mueller, “For a Thirteenth Birthday”

from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems by Lisel Mueller (Louisiana State University Press, 1996)

posted with permission of Louisiana State University Press

letters about Dreiser and the issue of anti-Semitism, The Nation, 1935



The Nation, May 15, 1935



These letters. published in The Nation of May 15, 1935 (see downloadable PDF file above) deal with the issue of anti-Semitism as it pertains to Theodore Dreiser.








Dreiser scholar Donald Pizer has written extensively about this issue. See:


Donald Pizer,  “Dreiser and the Jews,” Dreiser Studies, vol. 35, no. 1 (summer 2004)

Donald Pizer, American Naturalism and the Jews: Garland, Norris, Dreiser, Wharton, and Cather (University of Illinois Press, 2008)



— Roger W. Smith

Yvette Szekely Eastman obituary




“Yvette Eastman, 101, Photographer, Longtime Aquinnah Summer Resident”

by Phyllis Meras

Vineyard Gazette (Martha’s Vineyard, MA), Friday, January 24, 2014



Yvette Eastman, author, photographer, longtime Aquinnah seasonal resident and wife of the late author, magazine editor and social and political critic Max Eastman, died on Jan. 13 in New York city after a brief illness. She was 101.

From the time of her 1958 marriage to Mr. Eastman until two years ago, Mrs. Eastman would spend nearly half of each year at her East Pasture home overlooking Squibnocket Pond, with Menemsha Pond, Vineyard Sound, the Elizabeth Islands and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. She said she was certain she had the best view on the Island. To assure that the site she so loved would never be spoiled, she had over the years given much of the acreage she owned to the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. When not on the Island, Mrs. Eastman lived in New York city in an apartment just off Fifth avenue.

She was born Oct. 12, 1912 in Budapest, Hungary, a daughter of Artur Szkely and Marthe Meylan. At the time of her birth her father, an economist, was secretary of the Budapest chamber of commerce and industry and director of its inter-commerce bureau. He was also the author of several works on economics. During World War II, he became secretary of the treasury of Hungary. Her mother was from French Switzerland. In her 1995 memoir, Dearest Wilding, Yvette Eastman recounts her own storybook life.

She tells of her birth mother’s abandonment by her father during Yvette’s infancy; then of her father and stepmother’s divorce while Yvette was still a toddler. With her half sister, the late Suzanne Sekey, Yvette’s stepmother, Margaret Szkely, brought her to the United States. Her stepmother was briefly married to an American and the family lived in Brooklyn. But the marriage was extremely short-lived and mother and daughters moved to Manhattan where Margaret Szekely Monahan supported them by becoming a designer of fashionable ladies’ underwear, as well as writing about important American figures in the arts for publications in Budapest.

As a newspaper and magazine correspondent, Yvette’s stepmother interviewed such notables as the novelist Theodore Dreiser, author of the novels Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, among others. Yvette’s memoir recounts her seduction at the age of 17 by the then 50-plus year-old writer, their long-lasting love affair and his nurturing of her intellectual enthusiasms. Never really having known a father (though she and her half-sister did go to Budapest as teenagers to meet Artur Szekely), Dreiser was a father figure as well as lover. Her book’s title comes from his nickname for her, Wilding, and is filled with love letters she received from him. It was also through her stepmother that she met Max Eastman decades before they married. Through him Yvette would come to the Vineyard.

Although her principal interests were always in literature and art, after high school she attended business school, not knowing what might lie ahead. During Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, she worked as a social investigator in the Emergency Relief Bureau. Later she worked with the Department of Welfare in New York city. After her marriage she gave up the workplace. But writing had always been a major interest and she dreamed of doing serious writing of her own. During her association with Dreiser, she had translated a French dramatization of An American Tragedy into English for him. Still, it took decades — even after Max Eastman’s death in 1969 — before she settled down to do the personal writing she had always longed to do.

A devoted beachgoer, she had retained a lifetime right to ocean swimming at the Zack’s Cliffs property that had belonged to Max Eastman but had been sold to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. There she met Marta Sguibin, who would become one of her closest friends.

Marta was the governess for Caroline and John Kennedy and later a cook for Mrs. Onassis. Through her, Yvette met Mrs. Onassis. Hearing Yvette’s life story and learning that she had kept Dreiser’s letters, Mrs. Onassis, by then a book editor, urged Yvette to put the letters into a book and to recount her full life story.

At the McDowell Writers’ Colony, she did just that. Her depiction of New York intellectual life in the 1930s and 1940s was heralded by one book reviewer as “compelling, thought-provoking history.” The New York Times reviewer called it a memoir “as clear-eyed as anything penned by the celebrated American realist (Dreiser) she loved.”

Her memoir got under way at the writers’ colony; she later completed it, working in a cubicle at the Cosmopolitan Club in New York and on the Vineyard. Her discipline was to write every morning except Sunday. On that one day of the week, weather permitting, she indulged even into her 90s in the French game called boule on a specially-constructed court at East Pasture. Regulars who came to play included the late Don Page and the late Gilbert Harrison, neighbors Eva and Stephen Weinstein, house guests of her Canadian Aquinnah friends, Avrum and Dora Morrow, Max Eastman’s great nephew Charles Young, who became her caretaker after Max’s death, and many others. When Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s children were old enough to play, Yvette organized special children’s boule games for them and the Morrow grandchildren. They were always followed by ice cream and cake parties. (Ice cream was a favorite treat of Yvette’s.)

After her memoir, she began work on a book about Max, but never finished it. She also wrote occasional poetry and prose pieces for the Gazette. In afternoons, she would make her way down to the Squibnocket beach below her house for a swim and to watch the sailboats tacking by. Or she would head for Squibnocket Associates Beach or the Zack’s Cliffs beach with friends and a picnic basket. She liked being asked out to dinner or enjoyed having friends come to visit, from on and off-Island. Frequently it was relatives, such as her sister Sue and Cornelius Clark, whose father had been married to her stepmother, or her nieces Pascal Soriano and Florence Bachoven. Her sister’s friend and business partner the late Harold Leeds and the late Robert Giroux of the publishing firm, Farrar, Straus & Giroux were also regularly invited for weeklong stays. Guests brought their pets if they had them, for Yvette was a great lover of animals. Invariably there was a cat or two — Twiggy, Sebastian, Daisy or Sguby — sharing the East Pasture house or the New York apartment with her.

Although she never enjoyed cooking — remembering with horror trying to prepare chicken for Max soon after their marriage and adding allspice when a piquant seasoning was required — she enthusiastically gave annual giant summer cocktail parties. Wendy Weldon of Chilmark often did the catering.

As her stepmother had, Yvette delighted in the company of writers and artists and actors. Her close Island friends included the late Vineyard Gazette editor and publisher Henry Beetle Hough, the late New York Times movie critic Bolsey Crowther and his wife Florence, the late publisher Hiram Haydn and his wife, Mary, and the late Shakespearian actress and director Margaret Webster, another East Pasture neighbor. Her guests would not only enjoy the view and the company, but Yvette’s stunning black and white photographs of Max, of Vineyard sea and dunes and moors, her own drawings and the paintings by friends that decorated her small, simple home that never took precedence over its natural surroundings.

She enjoyed traveling, but did it infrequently, although she was diligent about going to Geneva, Switzerland, to see her birth mother in her later years. (They had finally met when Yvette was 19.) She also would go regularly to see her stepmother who remained in New York. With Max, she spent time in the Caribbean; for her 90th birthday, she went to Montreal and she also went to Italy and revisited central Europe.

Mostly she would go from New York to the Vineyard each June and remain until after Thanksgiving, or occasionally Christmas, so she could celebrate the holidays with her good friends Peggy and the late Nick Freydberg, or her East Pasture neighbors, the Weinsteins.

Stephen Weinstein recalled: “At one of the last Thanksgivings that she had with us, maybe six years ago, she suggested that we all say what we were thankful for. When it came to be her turn, she said in her irrepressible way, in her lovely lyrical voice, with a sparkle in her brown eyes, ‘I’m thankful for still being here.’ ”

At her 100th and 101st birthday parties, celebrated in New York, she enjoyed the company, the ice cream and cake and insisted on finishing two glasses of champagne. She read the New York Times each day and the New Yorker each week until just before her death.

“Yvette was cutting edge,” Stephen Weinstein said. “Her death marks the end of an era,”

She is survived by two nieces, Pascale Soriano of New York city and Florence Bachofen of Zollikon, Switzerland; a great nephew, Massimo Soriano of New York city and a great niece, Paloma Soriano of New York city; Nancy Clark, wife of her late step half-brother, Cornelius Clar, of Siler City, N.C.; Charles Young of Aquinnah and his sister, Rebecca Young of New York city, great nephew and great niece of Max Eastman; Richard Eastman of Shasta, Calif., great nephew of Max Eastman; Anne and Cordelia Fuller of New York city, great nieces of Max Eastman, and by her beloved cat, Sguby.

She was predeceased by her half sister Suzanne Sekey; her half-brother Thomas Szekely and her step half-brother Cornelius Clark.

A memorial service will be held this summer in Aquinnah.





Note: Yvette (Szekely) Eastman (1912-2014) was (as noted in her obituary) a lover of Theodore Dreiser. See:

Dearest Wilding: A Memoir, with Love Letters from Theodore Dreiser, by Yvette Eastman; edited by Thomas P. Riggio (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995)

T. R. Smith, memo to Dreiser re “An American Tragedy”




In An American Tragedy, Dreiser used lightly edited and reworded excerpts from seven letters written by Grace M. Brown (1886-1906), who was murdered by Chester Gillette on July 11, 1906 on Big Moose Lake in Herkimer County, NY.

The Gillette murder case provided the factual underpinnings of An American Tragedy. The letters of Grace Brown to Gillette created a sensation when they were read at Gillette’s trial.

Posted here is a note from T. R. Smith, an editor at Boni & Liveright, advising Dreiser to excise letters from the novel.

Wisely, Dreiser did not heed this advice.


— Roger W. Smith









T. R. Smith memo to Dreiser, imageedit.jpg






Dear Dreiser,

I have tried and I think succeeded in keeping the Macbethian intensity of this chapter by cutting outall superfluous, redundant, and interfering matter. For God’s sake, don’t change it unless you have too [sic]. Everything is left in that is needed.

The letters spoil it. It is too fine a climax to interfere with now.


T. R. Smith







from the Theodore Dreiser Papers, Kislak Center for Special, Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries









death certificate, Margaret Dresser



Margaret Dresser death certificate.jpg



State of California

Department of Health Services

Certificate of Death

Margaret Dresser

died August 7, 1961 at 7:25 p.m.



birthplace, Ohio

date of birth, February 2, 1867

age, 94 years

occupation, Housewife


Place of death, Camarillo State Hospital, Camarillo, Ventura Co., Calif.

length of time there, 8 years 9+ months

last usual residence, Hillhaven Sanatorium

cremation, August 9, 1961, Westwood Memorial Park Crem., Los Angeles

cause of death, Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

Associated with Senile Brain Disease, with Psychotic Reaction

Margaret Dresser (born Margeruite May Steinman in 1867) was Theodore Dreiser’s sister-in-law. She was the wife of Dreiser’s brother Alphons J. Dreiser.

Theodore Dreiser seems to have had minimal contact in later years with his brother Al, Margaret’s husband.

In his The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser, Jerome Loving states (footnote pg. 448):

The last known address for Al Dreiser was in 1934, at 1235 Muirhead Street, Los Angeles; he had apparently written Dreiser about his share of the royalties from the publication of The Songs of Paul Dresser.


Sara Dreiser (Aunt Juggie) postcard to her niece Gertrude Nelson, 1907




Sara White Dreiser postcard to Gertrude Nelson 8-4-1907



See above downloadable PDF file, above.

Sara Dreiser (“Aunt Juggie”) was Theodore Dreiser’s first wife.

Her postcard was addressed to  Gertrude Nelson. Gertrude, who was born in 1894, was the daughter of Dreiser’s sister Emma and Lorenzo A. Hopkins. She took the surname Nelson, the name of her stepfather John Nelson. Later, Gertrude changed her last name to Hopkins.

Gertrude Nelson was living at the time in St. Louis with her aunt Mame, Dreiser’s sister, and Mame’s husband Austin Brennan.



— Roger W. Smith





Miss Gertrude Nelson
1324 Union Blvd.
St. Louis

posted from Avon, N.J.
Sun., August 4, 1907


My dear Gertrude:

You should see your mother and father* sporting at Avon-by-the-Sea. Your Uncle Teddy & I came a week ago & they are spending the day with us. We all go back this p.m. Your mother looks lovely. Love to all of you.


Aunt Juggie


*Emma (Dreiser) Nelson (Theodore Dreiser’s  and Emma’s husband John Nelson.