Category Archives: Paul Dresser

a glimpse of Paul Dresser



mention of Paul Dresser – National Police Gazette 8-3-1889 (2)


In front of Dockstader’s I met genial Paul Dresser, the comedian and song writer. He told me the origin of his song, “Here Lies an Actor.” “I was down in Petersburg, Va., one night.” said he, “feeling very blue. It was raining. The hotel room in which I sat was gloomy. The furniture was old. The curtains were in shreds. The window were cracked and dirty. I felt blue; I had little money in my [pocket?]. I felt devilish blue and melanchol. I left my room and went down stairs into the parlor. The [parlor?] was more cheery than my room, and in [the middle of?] it stood an organ. I sat at the organ and let my fingers run over the keys. My melancholy mixed with the music. I played this, that and the other. I thought of the hard lot of some actors. Finally I struck an original tune. Slowly the music of “Here Lies an Actor” was found, and before I went to bed that night I scribbled the tune on dingy note paper, and that’s the origin of that popular song.”

As I left Mr. Paul Dresser and strolled down Broadway, I ran across Bloke, who told me he was to get the munificent salary of sixty a week next season.

I looked at him for moment and then, as I passed on, I hummed to myself, sarcastically, the persistent refrain:

“Here Lies an Actor!”

— “Paul Dresser’s Plaint.” The National Police Gazette, August 3, 1889




The meeting with Dreiser of “Rosen,” the vaudeville critic who wrote this piece, occurred in Manhattan. Lew Dockstader (1856-1924; born George A. Clapp) was a vaudeville actor who became known for minstrel shows.




Also of interest.

Theodore Dreiser, “My Brother Paul,” in Dreiser’s Twelve Men (Boni and Liveright, 1919)


Clayton W. Henderson, On the Banks of the Wabash: The Life and Music of Paul Dresser (Indiana Historical Society, 2003)



– posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 2021

Roger W. Smith review of “On the Banks of the Wabash” by Clayton W. Henderson



review of  On the Banks of the Wabash: The Life and Music of Paul Dresser by Clayton W. Henderson

(a biography of Paul Dresser)

reviewed by Roger W.  Smith

Indianapolis Star

September 27, 2003

new article published regarding the real “My Gal Sal”



An important article, viewed from the perspective of Dreiser studies, has just been published. It provides new information about the possible, if not likely, identity of a lover of Theodore Dreiser’s older brother Paul Dresser, the songwriter.


“112-year-old mystery solved? Indiana madam may have inspired famous song”

by Domenica Bongiovanni

The Indianapolis Star

August 3, 2017






Paul Dresser wrote a popular song, “My Gal Sal,” in 1905, which, with the exception of another one of his songs, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” is Paul’s best known song and which was a hit in its day. The song is about Paul’s lover, who was said to be the madam of a house of prostitution in Evansville, Indiana.

The article refers to ongoing research that has been pursued doggedly by New York Times Magazine writer John Jeremiah Sullivan and his research assistant Joel Finsel.

In his autobiogaphical work Dawn, Theodore Dreiser identified Sal, Paul’s lover, as Annie Brace, a madam whose working name was Sallie Walker.

Through painstaking sleuthing, Sullivan believes he has discovered the identity of the real Sal.

My thanks to Tamie Dehler for informing me about this article.



— Roger W. Smith

   August 3, 2017