Tag Archives: Maria Franziska Dreiser

an exchange of letters

 

 

 

 

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Posted above are letters from

Dreiser to his brother Ed, April 18, 1938

Ed’s reply, April 20, 1938

Also — Rome Dreiser’s death certificate

 

Ed was Dreiser’s young brother

Rome (born Markus Romanus Dreiser) was the second oldest of the Dreiser siblings and Theodore and Ed’s brother.  He is the same Rome, a railroad engineer said to be a drifter, who — in his autobiographical work Dawn, published in May 1931, Dreiser wrote — “drank himself into failure if not death.”

Other Dreiser family members mentioned in Dreiser’s and Ed’s letters are their older sister Mame (Maria Franziska Dreiser) and her husband [Austin] Brennan; sister Emma; Mai (Skelly) Dresser. Ed’s wife; Paul Dresser, who died in 1907, the oldest of the Dreiser siblings; and Vera Dreiser, Ed and Mai’s daughter and Dreiser’s niece.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roger W. Smith, “Dreiser’s Nephew Carl”

 

 

‘Dreiser’s nephew Carl’

 

This post is in the form of a downloadable Word document (above).

 

 

'Dawn' - first typescript - Chapter XLII, pg. 13

Theodore Dreiser, “Dawn,” first typescript, Chapter XLII, pg. 13

 

 

 

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Abstract

 

 

This article focuses on Theodore Dreiser’s nephew Carl Dresser, who was born out of wedlock in 1886 to Dreiser’s sister Cacilia (Sylvia) Dreiser. The article provides hitherto unknown details about Sylvia’s affair with Carl’s father — the pseudonymous “Don Ashley” — when Theodore Dreiser, his sister Sylvia, and other siblings were living in Warsaw, Indiana with their mother, as recounted by Dreiser, with some major modifications of facts, in his autobiographical work Dawn.

I have discovered the identity of Carl’s father and confirmed details of Carl’s death. It was “known” on scant evidence that he was a suicide. It has been said, which is inaccurate, that Carl died in his teens. I have found Carl’s death record, as well as his birth record.

Dreiser’s sister Sylvia abandoned Carl and did not raise him; he was raised by Dreiser’s parents and also by his aunt Mame (Theodore Dreiser’s sister) and her husband. As an unwanted child, Carl had a difficult life. Many details have remained sketchy or were never investigated by Dreiser biographers; there is scant mention of Carl in Dreiser biographies.

The story of Sylvia’s affair and pregnancy, a scandal at the time, is worth investigating, since Dreiser saw it as not insignificant in his family history and as contributing to ideas about sex and morality he had as a teenager — he used it as the subject matter of two chapters in Dawn. And, the story of Carl’s birth and his short, unhappy life throws some light on characters in Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and, to a lesser extent, in his novel Jennie Gerhardt.

 

 

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Theodore Dreiser, “The Return of the Genius,” Chicago Sunday Globe. October 23, 1892 (under byline Carl Dreiser)

 

 

Theodore Dreiser, ‘The Return of the Genius.’

 

 

 

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132 West 15th Street, NYC

+ 132 West 15th Street, Manhattan; photo by Roger W. Smith, May 2020. Carl Dreiser was born at this address, in the apartment of Theodore Dreiser’s sister, Emma, in 1886.

 

 

 

Carl's building

53 West Erie Street, Chicago; where Carl Dresser lived at the time of his death; photo by Tamie Dehler

 

 

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Addendum, August 16, 2020:

 

I received an email from Professor Emeritus Thomas Kranidas today which called my attention to something I had overlooked (italics): “Dreiser was surely influenced by memory of Carl’s bellhop days. And Carl was tragically influenced by Dreiser’s portrayal of Hurstwood’s suicide in “Sister Carrie.”

Note that Carl Dresser (as detailed in my essay ) died from “Asphixiation by illuminating gas.”

 

 

— posted by Roger W.  Smith

   May 2020; updated August 2020

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