Category Archives: biographical (including posts with fragmentary but potentially useful biographical information about Dreiser, his family, or associates)

Lorenzo A. Hopkins (the real George Hurstwood)

 

 

Please note.

 

This post partially reiterates and also amplifies upon material in a previous post of mine, namely: “Lorenzo A. Hopkins, Emma Wilhelmina Dreiser, and Family”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/roger-w-smith-lorenzo-a-hopkins-emma-wilhelmina-dreiser-and-family/

 

 

 

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‘Lorenzo A. Hopkins, the real George Hurstwood’

 

 

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 Hopkins’s death certificate, his gravestone, and the cemetery (Mt.  Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens, NYC) where he is buried.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017

 

 

 

See also:

“The Real Julia Hurstwood and the Lutz Murder Case”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/the-real-julia-hurstwood-and-the-lutz-murder-case/

 

 

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Lorenzo A. Hopkins death certificate

 

 

 

 

Lorenzo A. Hopkins gravestone (photograph by Roger W. Smith)

 

lorenzo-a-hopkins-gravestone-mt-olivet-cemetry-maspeth-queens-ny-roger

 

 

Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, NYC (photograph by Roger W. Smith)

 

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excerpts from the autobiography of Harold James Dies

 

 

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.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

      February 2017

 

 

 

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Bennett Cerf, “A Luncheon at the Ritz”

 

 

bennett-cerf-a-luncheon-at-the-ritz

 

 

 

Posted here is a downloadable PDF file of an article by publisher Bennett Cerf (1898–1971):

Bennett Cerf, “A Luncheon at the Ritz,” Playboy, vol. XIII, January 1969, pp. 179, 239.

Cerf describes a luncheon that Theodore Dreiser had at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Manhattan during which an oft recounted incident occurred. During the luncheon, Dreiser argued with publisher Horace Liveright over his share of the proceeds from the sale of film rights to his best selling novel An American Tragedy, and, outraged because he felt Liveright was cheating him out the share to which he was entitled, threw a cup of coffee at Liveright. (It was a huge sum, by any measure, for the 1920’s.)

The luncheon took place on March 19, 1926. It has been stated in other sources that it was attended by Dreiser, film producer Jesse L. Lasky, and Liveright.

Cerf claims in the article posted here that he was at the luncheon; he does not mention Lasky’s having been present. This has been questioned, as has been the accuracy of Cerf’s recollections of the luncheon.

Cerf states that the luncheon “involved exactly three people: …. Dreiser himself, … Horace Liveright, … and me. Despite other accounts to the contrary, that was the entire cast of characters. … .”

Cerf describes how he met Dreiser after joining the Liveright publishing firm in 1923. He describes Dreiser as an annoying visitor who would show up at the firm’s Manhattan offices periodically, would find fault with royalty statements, and would attempt to “make time” with a woman employee of the firm.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     November 2016
Note: This account was incorporated into Bennett Cerf, At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf (New York: Random House, 1977), pp. 58-59.

 

Carmel O’Neill Haley, “The Dreisers”

 

 

Carmel O’Neill Haley, ‘The Dreisers’ – Commonweal

 

 

 

Attached above as a downloadable PDF file is an article about the Dreiser family:

Carmel O’Neill Haley, “The Driesers,” The Commonweal, vol. XVIII, no. 10 (July 7, 1933), pg. 265-267

 

Ms. Haley knew Theodore Dreiser’s sister Maria Franziska Dreiser (1861-1944) – known by Ms. Haley as Mary and by the Dreiser family as Mame — and her husband Austin Daniel Brennan (1874-1928) well. She also knew Paul Dresser well.

In the article, she provides brief reminiscences of Mame and her husband; Theodore’s Dreiser’s father and mother; Theodore and Mame’s brother Paul Dresser, the songwriter (1858-1906); and a “red-headed nephew,” Carl Dresser (1888-1915), who was the son of Theodore and Mame’s sister Cacilia (Sylvia) Dreiser.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

  November 2016

Charles Fort and Dreiser

charles-fort-and-a-man-named-dreiser

Posted above as a downloadable PDF file is an article about the relationship between Charles Fort and Theodore Dreiser that appeared in Fortean Times, a British publication, (Mike Dash, “Charles Fort and a Man Named Dreiser,” Fortean Times, no. 51, winter 1988/89, pp. 40–48). The article is not referenced in the entry on Fort in A Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia.

 

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Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) and Theodore Dreiser met in 1905 and maintained a relationship until Fort’s death. According to the entry on Fort in A Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia, the two “maintained a close, dynamic relationship.”

Born in Albany, NY of Dutch ancestry, Fort was an American writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena.

 


See Roark Mulligan, “Fort, Charles” in A Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia, edited by Keith Newlin, pp. 144-145.

 

— Roger W. Smith

      October 2016

 

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Addendum
:

According to the Wikipedia entry on Charles Fort at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Fort

The Fortean Society was initiated at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel in New York City on 26 January 1931 by some of Fort’s friends, many of whom were significant writers such as Theodore Dreiser, Ben Hecht, Alexander Woollcott, and organized by fellow American writer Tiffany Thayer, half in earnest and half in the spirit of great good humor, like the works of Fort himself. The board of founders included Dreiser, Hecht, Booth Tarkington, Aaron Sussman, John Cowper Powys, the former editor of Puck Harry Leon Wilson, Woolcott and J. David Stern, publisher of the Philadelphia Record. Active members of the Fortean Society included journalist H.L. Mencken and prominent science fiction writers such as Eric Frank Russell and Damon Knight. Fort, however, rejected the Society and refused the presidency, which went to his friend writer Theodore Dreiser; he was lured to its inaugural meeting by false telegrams. As a strict non-authoritarian, Fort refused to establish himself as an authority, and further objected on the grounds that those who would be attracted by such a grouping would be spiritualists, zealots, and those opposed to a science that rejected them; it would attract those who believed in their chosen phenomena: an attitude exactly contrary to Forteanism. Fort did hold unofficial meetings and had a long history of getting together informally with many of NYC’s literati such as Theodore Dreiser and Ben Hecht at their various apartments where they would talk, have a meal and then listen to brief reports.

Roger W. Smith, “Lorenzo A. Hopkins, Emma Wilhelmina Dreiser, and Family”

 

 

‘Lorenzo A. Hopkins, Emma Wilhelmina Dreiser & Family’

 

 

See downloadable Word document above.

 

 

 

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Lorenzo A. Hopkins (aka L. A. Hopkins; 1847-1897) was the real life counterpart of the character George Hurstwood in Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie.

Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1973), Theodore Dreiser’s niece, was the daughter of Dreiser’s sister Enema Dreiser (1863-1936). Emma was the real life counterpart of, and model for, the lead character in Sister Carrie.

 

 

 

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Abstract/Summary:

 

Theodore Dreiser’s first novel, Sister Carrie, was based on real people and incidents: Dreiser’s sister Emma; and, Emma’s lover L. A. Hopkins with whom she eloped after Hopkins, a married man, stole money from his employer in Chicago.

In the novel, Carrie Meeber’s lover, George Hurstwood, commits suicide. Very little has been known hitherto about the identity of L. A. Hopkins, the real life model for Hurstwood, or what became of him after he and Dreiser’s sister Emma, the model for Carrie Meeber, settled in New York City.

This article provides information about Hopkins and his death. It also provides information about the life of Dreiser’s sister Emma after Hopkins’s death and about the children of Hopkins and Emma; they had two children whom Dreiser met in 1894 when he first visited New York City: George Nelson and Gertrude Hopkins. The former, George Nelson, did not relate to Dreiser in later life, though in his youth he had some contact with Dreiser’s brother Paul Dresser. The latter, Gertrude Hopkins, was Dreiser’s favorite niece.

 

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2016; updated July 2020

 

 

 

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Also, see below:

photo of Lorenzo A. Hopkins’s grave

photo of Theodore Dreiser’s niece Gertrude A. Hopkins

 

 

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See also my posts:

 

“contemporary newspaper accounts about the real life Hurstwood’s theft”
https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/contemporary-newspaper-accounts-about-the-real-life-hurstwoods-theft/

 

 

Roger W. Smith, “The Real Julia Hurstwood and the Lutz Murder Case”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/the-real-julia-hurstwood-and-the-lutz-murder-case/

 

 

PHOTOS

 

 

lorenzo-a-hopkins-grave-posted

gravestone of Lorenzo A. Hopkins (1847-1897); Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, NY (photograph by Roger W. Smith)

 

 

Gertrude A. Hopkins (Dreiser's niece)

Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1973)

“Memories of Dreiser”

 

 

Paul Vandeervoort, “Memories of Dreiser; The Famed Hoosier Writer’s Niece Writes About the Real Theodore”

Indianapolis Star, Saturday, October 2, 1976

 

 

see downloadable PDF file below

 

 

Indianapolis Star, Sat, Oct 2, 1976

 

“Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret!”: “Mrs.” (read mistress) Helen Dreiser, Marie Pergain, etc.

 

 

‘Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret’ – Detroit Free Press 4-4-1937

 

 

Laura Lou Brookman

“Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret!”

Detroit Free Press

Sunday, April 4, 1937

 

See typescript (prepared by Roger W. Smith) below. The article is full of inaccuracies.

 

— Roger W. Smith

 

 

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Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret

First Details of the Mysterious Second Marriage of the Eminent Novelist

By Laura Lou Brookman

 

 

So Theodore Dreiser has been happily married all these years and virtually nobody guessed it?

It took Dreiser, America’s frankest and, many say, foremost, novelist, to prove that a celebrity can have a private life. He did it by marrying a movie actress!

Fantastic? Well, that’s the way it happened. And not until Mrs. Theodore Dreiser, the former Helen Richardson of the movies, began singing with Enoch Light’s orchestra in a New York restaurant, was anyone aware that there WAS a Mrs. Dreiser, other than the novelist’s first wife, from whom he separated years ago.

The novelist and the movie actress were married in California “between 10 and 15 years ago.”

“We kept our marriage quiet for certain reasons,” says the pretty, brown haired, slightly buxom Mrs. Dreiser. “There was a Mexican divorce in Mr. Dreiser’s first marriage.”

Not so successful has Dreiser been in the public eye on other occasions. There were the times, for instance, when he:

(1) Faced court charges that his first novel was “lewd” and “profane.”

(2) Went to Russian, wrote a book about it, and was accused of plagiarism by Dorothy Thompson, wife of Sinclair Lewis.

(3) Had a fight with Nobel-Prize-winning Novelist Sinclair Lewis at a dinner party.

(4) Went with a committee of New York liberals to investigate labor conditions in the Kentucky coal fields, and was put on the spot by local authorities, who accused him of doing his investigating in a hotel room with a pretty member of the committee.

(5) Appealed to courts to prevent the release of the film version of his novel “American Tragedy.”

These are just a few of the highlights in the stormy career of the dynamic novelist and playwright who now is 66 years old. His home is a rustic retreat at Mount Kisco, N. Y.

Dreiser’s complete reticence about his present marriage is all the more remarkable because of the detailed frankness with which he has described personal affairs heretofore.

Particularly outspoken was his response to charges made against him and ___ [illegible] Marie Pergain when they, with a party of others, made that trip to the Harlan County, Kentucky, coal fields in 1931.

A grand jury indicted them on grounds of misconduct and won the praise of fellow townspeople resentful of the “interference” of the easterners in local labor affairs.

Said Dreiser: “If I were in a silk-hung boudoir with the most beautiful woman in the world and the door was locked, noting would follow but esthetic conversation.”

Witnesses who appeared before the grand jury testified that they had seen Miss Pergain enter Dreiser’s hotel room at 11 p.m. They were sure she had not emerged by 3. a.m. because they had placed toothpicks against the door and the toothpicks were still standing at that time.

To this the novelist replied: “I want to assure all persons of both sexes of my inescapable private morality.

“What is this toothpick game? I’d like to know. If the toothpicks are up you’re guilty. If they’re down you’re all right. Evidently mine were up.”

Warrants of arrest were never served, because both Dreiser and Miss Pergain were outside Kentucky by that time.

Dreiser’s first marriage – to Sarah Osborne White of St. Louis – took place in 1898. He was then a reporter and he met Miss White, a school teacher, when his newspaper sent her and other winners of a popularity victory contest to the Columbia Exposition in Chicago. Dreiser went along to report their adventures.

He described his schoolteacher sweetheart thus:

“There was something of the wood or water nymph about her, a seeking in her eyes, a breath of wild winds in her hair, a scarlet glory to her mouth … If only this love affair could have gone on to a swift fruition it would have been perfect, blinding. … But love, as it is in most places, was a slow process. … There must be many visits before I could place on arm on her. .. Well, I reached the place where I could hold her hand, put my arms about her, kiss her, but never could I induce her to sit on my lap.”

After Dreiser left St. Louis for New York to work on newspapers and magazines, Miss White came east and they were married. It was a union that proved far from smooth. Dreiser’s fortunes ebbed and rose and ebbed again.

When he became editor-in-chief of Butterick Publications, including five fashion magazines, he seemed to be getting up in the world. From this post he was discharged abruptly, following an incident said to have involved a pretty secretary. Dreiser has denied this, saying he left of his own accord.

Mr. and Mrs. Dreiser separated permanently in 1909. A friend who knew them well said:

“One night I went to see them up on Morningside Drive. There they were in the dining room. She was sprinkling clothes on the same table where he was correcting proof. I felt a lack of understanding in that. He, on the other hand, was subject to fits of terrible depression.”

By that time Dreiser had already made his mark among discriminating critics as an author of realistic novels of great power, but had not achieved public popularity.

However, he had enough money to make a trip to Europe in 1912, and there he met Ellen Adams Wrynn, the painter, who is credited with considerable influence on his later writing and success. She is one of the women included in his frank and revealing book, “A Gallery of Women.”

Of her he said:

She was one of those women where I lost out. She didn’t want me, that is, not until year later, and then I wouldn’t have her. She was just the same, but it is a rule with me not to moon over anyone.”

Between 1914 and 1919 Dreiser published eight books and made a bare living. After that he went to California, wrote another book, “A American Tragedy,” and — almost without knowing how it happened – found himself affluent, his books on best seller lists, and offers for screen and stage rights mounting to fabulous sums.

He took a handsome Manhattan apartment on 57th street and there, for five years, on Thursday nights New York’s ultra-sophisticated set used to gather – novelists, poets, singers, dancers, editors, critics – to talk and hear Dreiser talk.

Not all of them knew the story of that apartment – the story of the Face Across the Street.

It was a woman’s face, and it was always there at the same window. When Theodore Dreiser went in or out of the building, when he welcomed guests, and when he saw them depart, the woman’s face was always there.

There was no particular expression on the face. It was just watching.

It was the face of Sarah Osborne White Dreiser, the novelist’s first wife.

She had taken the apartment across the street so that never, for one moment, could her former husband forget her.

It was about the time that the film version of “An American Tragedy” was produced. Dreiser saw it. declared it misrepresented the meaning of his novel, and brought suit to prevent the picture’s release. The attempt was unsuccessful.

Finally, in 1931, after a trip to Russia, Dreiser gave up the 57th street apartment for an estate at Mt. Kisco.

“I’m going to leave New York,” he said. “I used to love to walk these streets, but now they are too miserable. They are meaningless. I can’t bear the brick or the cement or the color or lack of color that goes to make up the city. New York is a handsome woman with a cruel mouth.”

Could it have been the Face at the Window across the street of which he was thinking?

Women seem to have been involved, almost invariably, in Theodore Dreiser’s long series of difficulties.

The fray in which the eminent novelist smacked the equally eminent Sinclair Lewis was a sequel to charges of Lewis’ wife, Miss Thompson, that Dreiser had plagiarized material from her writings in his volume on Russia.

Miss Thompson never actually brought suit, but the affair made headlines. A little later Lewis and Dreiser met at a dinner party for a group of literati. Lewis, asked to make a speech, refused, saying, “There are three men here who are antagonistic to me and whom I don’t like.”

“Who are the other two?” Dreiser demanded.

Lewis answered – and was slapped twice. Said Dreiser afterward, “The two slaps I gave Lewis were the only possible answer to a vile insult. I consider the incident closed.”

Said Lewis, “it’s a shame two gentlemen can’t have a private squabble without letting the world in on it.”

It was during his stay in California from 1919 to 1922 which produced “An American Tragedy” that he met Helen Richardson, his present wife. She was 18 years old (about half his age), young and beautiful.

For Dreiser, Miss Richardson gave up her plans for a career. Today she says, “I always wanted to sing, but I felt I couldn’t leave Mr. Dreiser. Now when he talks about committing suicide I know he’ll change his mind as soon as he’s had his breakfast coffee. He’s a wonderful man – after breakfast.”

Her husband has no objections to her present work, since he has always believed that when anyone has an urge to express himself he should do so.

Mrs. Dreiser has written one manuscript, but hasn’t any intention of trying to make a name for herself as a writer. “Mr. Dreiser,” she says, “is enough writer for 10 families.”

She is amused when mistaken for the novelist’s daughter – as she has been frequently. She describes herself as “a tragic person,” given either to a great deal of gaiety or deep depression. She is domestic, likes to cook and care for a home, but is well pleased to be setting out on a new career.

 

 

Roger W. Smith, “Theodore Dreiser, Ervin Nyiregyházi, Helen Richardson, and Marie Pergain”

 

 

2 dreiser-nyiregyhazi-helen-richardson-and-marie-pergain-1

 

 

See downloadable Word document, which contains the complete text of this post, above.

 

 

 

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Abstract:

 

Hungarian pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi, a child prodigy, emigrated to the United States in 1920.

In 1927, Theodore Dreiser and his mistress Helen Richardson were invited to a Nyiregyházi concert in Manhattan. The pianist became friends with the couple. Nyiregyházi and Helen began an affair which lasted for about two months. Dreiser found out about it, causing a rupture of his friendship with Nyiregyházi.  Dreiser insisted that Helen break completely with the pianist. He demanded absolute liberty for himself to have affairs, but would not grant this to Helen.

Nyiregyházi tried to maintain the relationship with Dreiser. Dreiser rebuffed him. But in 1930, Nyiregyházi gave his girlfriend Marie Pergain a letter of introduction to Dreiser. Dreiser and Pergain commenced an affair.

Both Dreiser and Nyiregyházi were sex addicts and compulsive womanizers.

The relationship between Dreiser and Marie Pergain was a stormy one. Dreiser abused her.

Dreiser and Pergain traveled together to Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931 when Dreiser was heading up a committee investigating conditions of striking miners there. Dreiser had until that time kept his relationship with Pergain secret; he explained that she was one of his literary secretaries.

Dreiser and Pergain were indicted for adultery by Kentucky authorities, but they were never arrested and the charges were eventually dropped.

Dreiser and Pergain broke up shortly thereafter. Pergain moved to Hungary and lived with her former lover Nyiregyházi before breaking up with him.

Nyiregyházi and Pergain both returned to the United States. Near the end of Dreiser’s life, the pianist visited Dreiser and Helen in Los Angeles without renewal of the friendship with Dreiser or intimacy with Helen.

Marie Pergain has long been a “mystery woman.” She was an accomplished pianist and an actress with minor roles in several silent films during the 1920’s.

The affair between Dreiser’s mistress Helen and Ervin Nyiregyházi was not revealed until very recently, in a biography of Nyiregyházi that was published in 2007. The article by Roger W. Smith contained in the above attachment reveals hitherto unknown details about the affair and about Marie Pergain. The focus is on the incidents in this complicated story that involved Theodore Dreiser, directly or indirectly.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     March 2016

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

 

 

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Miss Gertrude Nelson
1324 Union Blvd.
St. Louis
Mo.

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.