Helen Dreiser was Theodore Dreise r’s second wife. She was born Helen Esther Patges in 1984 in Oregon. Her first husband, who she married in Oregon, was Francis Dawson Richardson. She married Theodore Dreiser in the state of Washington in 1944. She died at the home of her sister in Oregon on September 22, 1955.
Composed by Dreiser’s brother Paul Dresser (1857-1906), “On the Banks of the Wabash” became the Indiana state song. Theodore Dreiser claimed to have written part of the lyrics himself. For a discussion of this, see On the Banks of the Wabash: The Life and Music of Paul Dresser by Clayton W. Henderson (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2003). See also “’On the Banks of the Wabash’: A Musical Whodunit” by Richard W. Dowell in Indiana Magazine of History 66 (June 1970) and “Collaborating on ‘The Banks of the Wabash’: A Brief History of an Interdisciplinary Debate, Some New Evidence, and a Reflexive Consideration of Turf and Ownership” by Carol S. Loranger and Dennis Loranger in Dreiser Studies 30.1 (1999).
“On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”
Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool.
Oftentimes my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood,
Where I first received my lessons, nature’s school.
But one thing there is missing from the picture,
Without her face it seems so incomplete.
I long to see my mother in the doorway,
As she stood there years ago, her boy to greet.
Oh, the moonlight’s fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of newmown hay.
Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.
Many years have passed since I strolled by the river,
Arm in arm, with sweetheart Mary by my side,
It was there I tried to tell her that I loved her,
It was there I begged of her to be my bride.
Long years have passed since I strolled thro’ the churchyard.
She’s sleeping there, my angel, Mary dear,
I loved her, but she thought I didn’t mean it,
Still I’d give my future were she only here.
“My Gal Sal; or, They Called Her Frivolous Sal” (1905)
Composed by Dreiser’s brother Paul Dresser, this song did not become a hit until after Paul Dresser’s death in 1906. The song is about Annie Brace (alias Sallie Walker), an Evansville, Indiana madam who was Paul Dresser’s paramour. “My Gal Sal” is also the title of a 1942 film produced by Twentieth Century-Fox that was based on Paul Dresser’s life and which draws loosely on Theodore Dreiser’s affectionate memoir “My Brother Paul” in his Twelve Men.
“My Gal Sal.” Composed by Paul Dresser. Performed by Joan Morris, mezzo; William Bolcom, piano. From the album “Moonlight Bay” (Albany Records, catalogue # TROY318). Used with permission of Albany Records.
“My Gal Sal; or, They Called Her Frivolous Sal”
Everything is over and I’m feeling bad
I lost the best pal that I ever had
‘Tis but a fortnight since she was here
Seems like she’s gone tho’, for twenty years
Oh, how I miss her, my old pal
Oh, how I’d kiss her, My Gal Sal
Face not so handsome, but eyes don’t you know
That shone just as bright as they did years ago.
They called her frivolous Sal
A peculiar sort of a gal
With a heart that was mellow
An all ’round good fellow, was my old pal
Your troubles, sorrow and care
She was always willing to share
A wild sort of devil, but dead on the level
Was My Gal Sal.
Brought her little dainties just afore she died
Promised she would meet me on the other side
Told her how I love her, she said, “I know Jim
Just do your best, leave the rest to Him.”
Gently I pressed her to my breast
Soon she would take her last, long rest
She looked at me and murmured, “Pal.”
And softly I whispered “Goodbye, Sal.”
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)
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”
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.
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.