The following is a partial transcription of an article in the Atlanta Constitution, November 7, 1931.
— Roger W. Smith
Dreiser and Editor Exchange Jibes on Income and Service to Society
HARLAN, Ky., Nov 6 – (AP) – Theodore Dreiser, who came to Kentucky’s hills to investigate the sanguinary coal field controversy of the Harlan district, was transformed from prosecutor to witness today by a newspaperman who sought to learn if the famous novelist practiced what he advocated.
The newspaperman—Herndon Evans, publisher of the Pineville Sun—learned from the author of “An American Tragedy” that his annual income was approximately $35,000 and that he gave none of it to charity, but supported financially the Civil Liberties Union.
Mr. Dreiser and other New York writers were conducting the first session of their inquiry into conditions in the coal fields and were questioning Mr. Evans.
Dreiser questioned the Kentucky editor about his religion, income and other personal matters and asked Evans if he thought it fair to earn between $50 and $75 a week, while miners of the district worked for $30 and $40 a month. He had expressed the opinion the editor’s sympathies were with mine operators.
“May I ask you some questions?” Evans asked, and when Dreiser responded “Certainly,” he asked:
“What is your annual income?”
“Approximately $35,000,” said the author.
None for Charity.
“Do you give any of it to charity?”
“That’s all,” said the newspaperman.
Dreiser asked him not to stop, but “ask me some more questions.”
Evans then asked: “Do you give to any organization?”
To which Dreiser replied he contributed to the Civil Liberties Union and “other similar organizations.”
Dreiser recounted some personal matters and said there were 13 members of his family “and they were not very shrewd and couldn’t take care of themselves.”
“I am trying to take care of them,” he said, and estimated he spent between $5,000 and $6,000 a year on his family.
“You know,” he said, “I am a radical and interested in equality in government. I’m interested in social organization.”
Dreiser said he did not make any “real money until I wrote the ‘American Tragedy,’ at the age of 55.”
“Averaging my income over my life period,” he said, “I think you will find it to have been very moderate.”
Evans interrupted to say he believed he could show he had done more for charity of his income and along civic lines than Dreiser could on his earnings.
“Does that represent your theory of equality?” asked the Kentucky editor.
During Evans’ questioning, Dreiser denied he was a member of the communist party, but said he was in sympathy with some of its policies.
“I’m not a communist,” Dreiser said. “They wouldn’t take me, but I see an equity there, and that’s what I’m after. I believe we should let every country start on an equity basis and see what we get.”
“I don’t propose to import a Stalin or a Trotzky here, but there should be equity in all things.”
Both Evans and Dreiser were smiling when the session recessed after their exchange, which came at the end of a morning or routine questioning of miners and one miner’s wife.
[remainder of article not transcribed]