Category Archives: primary source materials

source materials re Frederick Rotzler (Theodore Dreiser’s “captain”)


Thomas P. Riggio has published an article:

“Oh Captain, My Captain: Dreiser and the Chaplain of Madison Square” in

Studies in American Naturalism, vol. 11, no. 2 (Winter 2016)

in which, for the first time, the identity of “the captain,” a figure in Chapter XLV of Sister Carrie (“Curious Shifts of the Poor”), was identified, proving that the figure of “the captain,” a chaplain who aids homeless men by soliciting donations from the public for their shelter, did indeed have a real-life model.

Almost all of the primary source material in Professor Riggio’s article came from me and not from his research, as I have explained in my post:

“a scholarly rip-off; the real identity of Theodore Dreiser’s chaplain”

a scholarly rip-off; the real identity of Theodore Dreiser’s chaplain

I have posted here much of the primary material I have collected in the form of downloadable PDF files. The material has already been used (without attribution) by Professor Riggio. Some Dreiser scholars may find it useful to have access to the full text of the articles at a future date.



The articles posted below concern the real life “captain” in Dreiser’s novel: Frederick Rotzler (b. circa 1859).

Some of the articles feature Rotzler. In others, he is mentioned in passing. They describe charitable (or what might be described as missionary) activities the same as those described by Dreiser.

The earliest articles describe Rotzler as having served as a chaplain to National Guard units.

A few facts about Rotzler (other than the charitable activities described by Dreiser) emerge:

Rotzler tried to remain independent and nonsectarian. He was not an ordained minister. His denomination, such as it was, was Pentecostal.

He had been doing his charitable work in Worth Square, soliciting donations for homeless men, beginning in 1892. Sister Carrie was published in 1900. (Dreiser came to Manhattan for the first time in the summer of 1894 and settled there permanently in late 1894. So, he came not long after Rotzler had begun his charitable work.)

Rotzler does not appear to have been the proselytizing type. Rather, he was someone who conceived of his mission as helping the poor and downtrodden without seeking personal glory or credit.

Besides seeking to find beds for the homeless, he would visit prisons and hospitals during daytime hours.



imageedit_3_5018844377 (2).jpg

The Worth Monument is located in Worth Square, at Broadway and 24th Street in Manhattan, adjacent to Madison Square Park. The monument marks the grave of General William Jenkins Worth (1794– 1849), who served in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Worth Street in Lower Manhattan is named after him. (Photograph by Roger W. Smith.)


Present day Worth Square, where Frederick Rotzler did his charitable work. (Photograph by Roger W. Smith.)




1 – ‘The Fourth in Camp’ – NY Times 7-5-1889

2 – ‘In the Eleventh District’ – NY Times 4-2-1890

3 – ‘Eight Court-Martialed’ – NY Times 7-31-1890

4 – ‘National Guard Notes’ – NY Times 11-19-1893

5 – ‘A Preacher Unordained’ – NY Times 11-26-1893

6 – ‘National Guard Notes’ – NY Times 12-31-1893

7 – ‘Met at the Altar to Pray’ – NY Times 3-15-1894

8 – ‘Father Lambert Welcomed’ – NY Times 5-23-1894

9 – ‘The Gospel Through the Megaphone’ – The World (NY) 9-6-1896

10 – ‘Lodging for the Homeless’ – NY Times 12-20-1897

11 – ‘Dewey Arch Column Ablaze’ – NY Times 5-14-1900

12 – ‘Shelters A Little Army’ – NY Times 11-18-1901

13 – ‘Church Services To-morrow’ – NY Times 3-20-1909

14 – ‘Religious Notices’ – NY Times 6-4-1910

15 – ‘Tending His Flock by Night’ – The Continent 12-11-1913

16 – ‘Church Services To-morrow’ – NY Times 1-3-1914

17 ‘Putting His Congregation to Sleep’ – Literary Digest 1-16-1914



“The Fourth in Camp”

New York Times

July 5, 1889

“In the Eleventh District”

New York Times

April 2, 1890

“Eight Court-Martialed”

New York Times

July 31, 1890

“National Guard Notes

New York Times

November 19, 1893

“A Preacher Unordained”

New York Times

November 26, 1893

“National Guard Notes”

New York Times

December 31, 1893

“Met at the Altar to Pray”

New York Times

March 15, 1894

“Father Lambert Welcomed”

New York Times

March 23, 1894

“The Gospel Through the Megaphone”

The World (NY)

September 6, 1896

“Lodging for the Homeless”

New York Times

December 20, 1897

“Dewey Arch Column Ablaze”

New York Times article

May 14, 1900

“Shelters a Little Army”

New York Times

November 18, 1901

“Church Services To-morrow”

New York Times

March 20, 1909

“Religious Notices”

New York Times

June 4, 1910

“Tending His Flock by Night”

The Continent

December 11, 1913

“Church Services To-morrow”

New York Times

January 3, 1914

“Putting His Congregation to Sleep”

Literary Digest

January 16, 1914



Theodore Dreiser, ‘The Man’s Life is Dedicated to Preaching’ – Wash Post 7-1-1906

I have also posted here (above) as a PDF file an article by Theodore Dreiser:

“This Man’s Life Is Dedicated to Preaching to the World the Gospel of Human Brotherhood”

The Washington Post

July 1, 1906

which was originally published in Success magazine.

The article faithfully describes the charitable activities of “the captain” in Worth Square.


— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018