Dreiser family genealogy



Attached are three genealogical reports on the Dreiser family that that have been generated using genealogy software. The reports are based on genealogical research by Roger W. Smith.

Each report is in Register format, a genealogical format introduced in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register which is widely used by genealogists. Such reports are designed to show descent from a common ancestor.

The reports posted here (see below) are in PDF format and are downloadable:



“descendants of Johann Paul Dreiser” (Dreiser’s father)

“descendants of Henry Schnepp” (Dreiser’s maternal grandfather)

“descendants of Theodore Dreiser”



descendants of Johann Paul Dreiser


descendants of Henry Schnepp


descendants of Theodore Dreiser






Tamie Dehler on the history of the Dreiser family, Terre Haute Tribune-Star



In 2013, Tamie Dehler, a journalist based in Terre Haute, Indiana with expertise in genealogy, published a series of six articles in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star about the genealogy of Theodore Dreiser and his family, including many facts hitherto undiscovered.

Ms. Dehler’s articles are concise, packed with information, fascinating, and very well researched. They are groundbreaking from a biographical standpoint.

I am of the belief that any one of the three Dreiser biographers since Robert Elias, Dreiser’s first biographer, would have been very pleased to have had these articles at hand. The articles reveal a great deal, for example, about Dreiser’s siblings, whom Dreiser biographers have found difficult to trace.

The articles, all published in the Terre Haute, are attached here in the form of a downloadable PDF file. They are as follows:


October 27, 2013
“GENEALOGY: Father of Dreiser brothers was Terre Haute spinner”

November 2, 2013
“GENEALOGY: Paul Jr. was the eldest of the Dreiser children”

November 9, 2013
“GENEALOGY: Dresser’s fall in 20th century from wealthy to bankrupt”

November 17, 2013
“GENEALOGY: A little about the lives of the non-famous Dreiser children”

November. 23, 2013
“GENEALOGY: Continuing to Look at records of Dreiser siblings”

November 30, 2013
“GENEALOGY: Theodore Dreiser born in 1871 in Terre Haute”




Dreiser family, Tribune Star



The articles are posted courtesy of the Tribune-Star Publishing Company, Terre Haute, Indiana.



— Roger W. Smith

“George Ade Absolves Dreiser”




On September 7, 1926, the New York Herald Tribune printed a story concerning alleged plagiarism by Dreiser, including plagiarism in writing Sister Carrie whereby Dreiser lifted a story by George Ade.

Ade’s reply to these charges, the text of which follows below, was printed in the Herald Tribune of September 9, 1926: “George Ade Absolves Dreiser Of Lifting His ‘Swift Worker’ ”


— Roger W. Smith






You have asked if Theodore Dreiser in his novel ‘Sister Carrie’ incorporated in one of his early chapters part of a story which I had written for ‘The Chicago Record.’ Before I reply to your inquiry let it be understood that I am simply complying with your request. To get back. I am not stirring up any charge against Mr. Dreiser, not after all these years. Along about 1898 I wrote for ‘The Record’ a story in fable form called The Two Mandolin Players and the Willing Performer.

In that story I had a character shown as cousin Gus from St. Paul. He was of the type then known as a swift worker. Probably we would call him a sheik today, seeing that we have made such a tremendous advance in recent years. In my little story I detailed the tactics which would be employed by Gus if he spotted a good looker on the train between St. Paul and Chicago.

When the very large and important novel called Sister Carrie came out I read it, and I was much amused to discover that Theodore Dreiser had incorporated in a description of one of his important characters the word picture of Cousin Gus which I had outlined in my newspaper story and which later appeared in a volume called ‘Fables in Slang.’ It is true that for a few paragraphs Mr. Dreiser’s copy for the book tallied very closely with my copy for the little story. When I discovered the resemblance I was not horrified or indignant. I was simply flattered. It warmed me to discover that Mr. Dreiser has found my description suitable for the clothing of one of his characters. Many people came to me and called my attention to the fact that a portion of my little fable had been found imbedded in the very large novel of Mr. Dreiser.

I figured that he had read my fable was about like his character in the novel and that he absorbed the description and used it without any intent of taking something which belonged to someone else. Most certainly I do not accuse Mr. Dreiser of plagiarism even by implication or in a spirit of pleasantry. I have a genuine admiration for him. To me he is a very large and commanding figure in American letters. While some of us have been building chicken coops, or, possibly, bungalows, Mr. Dreiser has been erecting skyscrapers. He makes the three-decker novel look like a pamphlet. He is the only writer on our list who has the courage and the patience and the painstaking qualities of observation to get all of the one _____ [illegible word] into the story.

Theodore Dreiser was born in Indiana and the Hoosiers are very proud of him. I knew rather intimately his brother, Paul, who wrote many popular songs and one highly esteemed here at home, ‘The Banks of the Wabash.’ I was active in planning a memorial to Paul to be placed on the banks of the Wabash down near his old home. While we were planning the memorial I had some correspondence with Theodore Dreiser. I am rather sorry that some one has reminded the Herald Tribune, of which I an constant reader and regular subscriber, that Mr. Dreiser got into his novel something which I read like something written by one before his novel came out.

It all happened so many years ago. It seems to raise the absolutely preposterous suggestion that Mr. Dreiser needs help. Anybody who writes novels containing approximately one million words each doesn’t need any help from any one. As I said before, while most of our guild are at work on tiny structures which stay close to the ground, Mr. Dreiser is putting up skyscrapers. If, in building one of his massive structures he used a brick from my pile, goodness knows he was welcome to it and no questions were asked or will be asked. These are the facts in the case. Mr. Dreiser hasn’t hurt my feelings at any time. I don’t want to hurt his feelings now.








See also:

“did Dreiser plagiarize in writing his first novel?”

posted on this site at


James T. Farrell on “An American Tragedy” (from “Bernard Clare”)



The novelist James T. Farrell (1904-1979) was a great admirer of Dreiser. In his underrated novel Bernard Clare (The Vanguard Press, 1946), Farrell pays indirect tribute to Dreiser by having his two main characters engage in a discussion of An American Tragedy, about which the character Eva makes perceptive comments.

Many readers of An American Tragedy (and the admirers and makers of the film A Place in the Sun) have missed the point about the distinction between Roberta Alden and Sondra Finchley made by Farrell (indirectly, through his characters) here, although Dreiser certainly didn’t.

An excerpt from Bernard Clare is posted here below as a downloadable PDF  file.




from ‘Bernard Clare’



— Roger W. Smith

a visit with Dreiser; from “The Diary of Anaïs Nin”




from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1934-1939, edited by Gunther Stuhlman, pp. 12-13






In January 1935, the writer Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), who became famous for her diaries, paid a visit to Dreiser in his apartment at the Hotel Ansonia in Manhattan. She recorded the visit in her diary, an excerpt from which is posted below as a downloadable PDF file. Her brief diary entry sheds some light on Dreiser’s customary demeanor.

This meeting seems to have escaped the notice of Dreiser biographers.



from ‘The Diary of Anais Nin’



— Roger W. Smith

mistaken attribution (Dreiser credited with early news story he didn’t write)






The excerpts posted above – as a downloadable PDF file — are from Theodore Dreiser, Journalism, Volume One: Newspaper Writings, 1892-1895, edited by T. D. Nostwich (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988).





In his laboriously compiled, invaluable book Theodore Dreiser, Journalism, Volume One: Newspaper Writings, 1892-1895, the editor, Professor T. D. Nostwich, attributes two stories about the hanging of the convicted murderer Sam Welsor, which appeared in the St. Louis Republic in January 1894, to Theodore Dreiser.

News stories were not bylined in those days.

Regarding the attribution to Dreiser of these stories, Nostwich observes:

In ND [Newspaper Days], chap. 54, describing events of some unspecified time during his Republic period, Dreiser says, “I remember witnessing a hanging … standing beside the murderer when the trap was sprung and seeing him die …” In the next sentence he mentions the lynching of a “negro in an outlying county” – that is, the event he described in Nos. 73 [“This Calls for Hemp”] and 74 [“Ten-Foot Drop”] – seeming to imply that this lynching occurred after the hanging. His short story “Nigger Jeff,” which is based largely on Nos. 73 and 74, lends support to this inference, for there the young reporter who covers the lynching is said to have once before “been compelled to witness a hanging, and that had made him sick — deathly so – even though carried out as part of the due process of law of his day and place” (Free and Other Stories, p. 77). Inasmuch as the execution of Sam Welsor did occur before the lynching of John Buckner and was, in fact, the only one to take place while Dreiser lived there, it must be the one referred to in ND. Since Nos. 70 and 71 form a unified narrative sequence culminating in the execution, they can be attributed to Dreiser with confidence.

There are two problems with this attribution.

First, in his posthumously published Notes on Life (The University of Alabama Press, 1974, pp. 241-42), Dreiser states: “In 1892, in the city of St. Louis, I witnessed the execution of a wife-murderer who had to be carried to the gallows and was limp and unconscious at the time the trap was sprung.”

Sam Welsor’s execution occurred in 1894. (It is possible, of course, that Dreiser, who was often imprecise with facts, could have gotten the date wrong.) Welsor was convicted of murdering his mistress, not his wife. More importantly as regards the attribution of this story to Dreiser (in view of Dreiser’s recollections in Notes on Life), Welsor did not have to be carried to the gallows, as is shown in the second of the two news stories which follow; he was fully conscious.

I made an attempt to find from newspaper archives on the Internet if there were any hangings in cities where Dreiser lived around this time that would match his description of the hanging he recalled and could find none.

There is a second consideration that leads me to regard this attribution as problematic. The writing in the two stories about Welsor’s execution is too polished as compared with Dreiser’s other journalism of this time. He was still learning his craft, and while he was a diligent reporter and good at achieving color in his stories, one could see him still struggling with his material, struggling to learn his craft. The two stories in the excerpt posted above (as a PDF file) seem to be the work of a more experienced reporter.


— Roger W. Smith

    February 2016

links to useful Dreiser sites




Dreiser Web Source, University of Pennsylvania Library


An excellent starting point. This site contains a wealth of material:

Three essays on Sister Carrie which place the novel in its historical and social context and discuss its composition.

Facsimiles of the 1900 typescript for Sister Carrie and early drafts of Jennie Gerhardt. The 1900 edition of Sister Carrie in facsimile and searchable text. The 1981 University of Pennsylvania Press edition of Sister Carrie in searchable text.

An extensive collection of photographs and a film clip from the library’s Dreiser collection.

An online version of Theodore Dreiser: A Primary Bibliography and Reference Guide, ed. Donald Pizer, Richard W. Dowell, and Frederic E. Rusch (G. K. Hall, 1991), which has been updated through 2012.

A Register for the Theodore Dreiser Papers. Provides a detailed, searchable inventory of the contents of the University of Pennsylvania’s Theodore Dreiser collection.

Essays on Dreiser’s reputation by Donald Pizer and on his life by Thomas P. Riggio.

“Dreiser’s Private Library” by Roark Mulligan. An exhaustive catalog originally published in Dreiser Studies in 2002.

Searchable correspondence (images of same) by Dreiser and others, including his family. This section is under development, but is already useful.



International Theodore Dreiser Society


This well designed site contains a “Heard in the Corridors” page with announcements of interest to Dreiser scholars.

The Resources for Researching Dreiser page includes:

PDF files for all issues of The Dreiser Newsletter (the predecessor publication to Dreiser Studies) from 1970 through 1986.

Full text images of the complete Dreiser Studies from 1987 through 2005. Dreiser Studies ceased publication with the winter 2005 issue and has been subsumed by a successor publication, Studies in American Naturalism.

The complete Dreiser Society Newsletter, 1991 through 1997, available in the form of PDF files.

The Dreiser Studies issues posted on this site (as noted above) contain bibliographic updates on Dreiser published in Dreiser Studies from 1992 to 2005.



Guide to the Theodore Dreiser Collection in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library





Guide to manuscript collections related to Theodore Dreiser, Lilly Library, Indiana University





Catalog of the Robert H. Elias papers at the Cornell University Library

Robert H. Elias, who was intimate with Dreiser, was Dreiser, was Dreiser’s first biographer.





Guide to the Theodore Dreiser collection at the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University








Introductory (Dreiser’s life and works)

For a quick introduction to Dreiser with links to Dreiser sources, see:


PAL: Perspectives in American Literature – A Research and Reference Guide / Chapter 6: Late Nineteenth Century – Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)






Theodore Dreiser – Wikipedia




“Theodore Dreiser: American Author” – Encyclopaedia Britannica

by Dreiser scholar Lawrence E. Hussman




“Theodore Dreiser” – Chicago Literature/Critical Writers of the 20th Century




“Theodore Dreiser” – The Literary Encyclopedia




“Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie” – The Literary Encyclopedia




“Theodore Dreiser: An American Tragedy” – The Literary Encyclopedia



“American Naturalism” – The Literary Encyclopedia




“Theodore Dreiser” – The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.








Online e-texts of Dreiser works:


Sister Carrie

Project Guttenberg





Sister Carrie

Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library




Jennie Gerhardt

Project Gutenberg Australia




The Financier

Project Guttenberg





An American Tragedy

Project Gutenberg Australia





Twelve Men

Project Gutenberg












Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)


A web page maintained by Donna Campbell which provides links to useful sites.