American National Biography: Supplement 1by American Council of Learned Societies
Told more as stories than history lessons, the biographies in American National Biography Supplement I recount the tales of all the different people who shaped Americaleaders, composers, entertainers, entrepreneurs, writers, scientists, and outlaws. Each one written by an expert in the field and masterfully woven together to present the most accurate and
- Editorial Reviews
- Product Details
- Related Subjects
- Read an Excerpt
- What People Are Saying
- Meet the author
Told more as stories than history lessons, the biographies in American National Biography Supplement I recount the tales of all the different people who shaped Americaleaders, composers, entertainers, entrepreneurs, writers, scientists, and outlaws. Each one written by an expert in the field and masterfully woven together to present the most accurate and up-to-date information, the entries bring forth a powerful narrative of America's past and some of the most important figures that went into its formation.
As the first in a series, ANB Supplement I extends the coverage from the original ANB to include notables who died prior to the end of 1999. This adds another four years of captivating history to the original 24-volume print edition's cutoff date of 1995.
Among the biographies in the Supplement are articles first published in the ANB Online. The result is hour after absorbing hour spent exploring the dance of Gene Kelly and the music of Ella Fitzgerald along with the lives of Revolutionary War General Peter Gansevoort and literary scholar Fredson Bowers, among many, many others.
With over 400 new listings, bibliographies after each entry, and a cumulative revised index of occupations and realms of renown, the Supplement continues the ANB tradition of bringing the people who have meant so much to this country to the forefront.
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Observer
- Oxford University Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 10.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 2.20(d)
- Age Range:
- 13 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
AARONS, Alexander A. (15 May 1890-14 Mar. 1943), theatrical producer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred E. Aarons, a theatrical composer and producer, and Josephine Hall. He was educated in New York schools. Aarons, whose producing career lasted only thirteen years, did not immediately take up his father's profession, but after hearing George Gershwin's songs in 1919 he determined to feature the young composer in a show of his own. Aarons's father had planned La La Lucille (1919) with Victor Herbert as composer, but he allowed his son to follow his instincts, hire Gershwin as composer, and produce the show himself. The show was a moderate success but closed quickly because of an actors' strike.
Even after The Hole in the Wall (1920), Aarons remained part owner of a Manhattan men's clothing store. Influenced by the Bolton-Wodehouse-Kern Princess Theatre musical comedies, Aarons produced Oui Madame in a small Philadelphia playhouse in 1920, with music by Herbert and with composer Vincent Youmans as rehearsal pianist. The show never left Philadelphia. Aarons's dream of a new Princess series did not progress until he persuaded Fred and Adele Astaire, then appearing in The Love Letter, to perform in For Goodness' Sake (1922) by William Daly and Paul Lannin. During the show's New York run Aarons convinced the Astaires to take the show to London. Renamed Stop Flirting, with Gershwin interpolations, the production ran for 455 performances, longer than any other Astaire show. Aarons then joinedforces with producer Vinton Freedley. After producing The New Poor (1923) they signed George and Ira Gershwin and the Astaires for Lady, Be Good! (1924). (In the meantime, writing as "Arthur Francis," Ira Gershwin and Youmans had written songs for Piccadilly to Broadway . George Gershwin played their songs for Aarons, who signed them to write Two Little Girls in Blue , but he sold the show to booking agent Abe Erlanger. Youmans also composed the score for Aarons's 1925 production of A Night Out, including "Sometimes I'm Happy," but the show closed on the road.)
The Princess-derived manifesto of the Aarons-Freedley musical comedies included everyday characters caught in comic situations, snappy contemporary dialogue, no intrusive "star turns," and songs arising from plot and character. Wishing to fill larger theaters, the producers used a larger chorus and youthful stars, relying on comics such as Victor Moore. The Gershwins became virtual "house composers." Gershwin biographer Edward Jablonski remarked, "The kind of `smart show' that Aarons and Freedley aimed at provided [them] with the chance to compose songs for a knowing, literate, contemporary audience."
Lady, Be Good! was a major hit, marking for the noted financial backer, "angel" Otto Kahn, "a unique experiencethe first time [Kahn] had ever received any return from a theatrical venture." It was followed by Tip-Toes (1925), Oh, Kay! (1926), which featured the American debut of English star Gertrude Lawrence, and Funny Face (1927), starring the Astaires. All scores were written by the Gershwins. In 1928 Aarons and Freedley produced Here's Howe, featuring the music of Gus Kahn, Joseph Meyer, and Irving Caesar; Hold Everything!, with a score by Buddy DeSylva and Ray Brown; and Treasure Girl, with music by the Gershwins. In 1929 followed Spring Is Here and Heads Up!, both with songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The last Aarons-Freedley-Gershwin hit was Girl Crazy (1930). Following Singin' the Blues (1931), a well-received musical about African Americans composed by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, and Pardon My English (1932), with score by the Gershwins, Aarons and Freedley ended their partnership.
According to Fred Astaire, Aarons was so anxious on opening nights that he hid in the men's room until the curtain fell. He once remarked, "You know, I just feel like throwing up all the time the show is on." With his wife Ella Mulliganthey had no childrenAarons enjoyed a transatlantic society that included Noël Coward, Tallulah Bankhead, Lord Ned Lathom, Jules Glaenzer of Cartiers, Paul Whiteman, Georges Carpentier, Florenz Ziegfeld, Fanny Brice, Charles Chaplin, and Marilyn Miller. Aarons always invited friends to his office for five o'clock cocktails, and Rodgers called him a "bald, bespectacled man with a great fund of jokes and an enormous love for music."
Called by Ira Gershwin "one of the keenest judges of a smart tune," Aarons insisted that George Gershwin expand a fragment he had written in London for Lady, Be Good! The song became the legendary "Fascinating Rhythm." Ira Gershwin said:
Alex was fond ... of at least 20 of George's songs which had not yet been written up lyrically, so he had no means of calling for any one of them by numeral or title. But he could request what he wanted to hear this way: whisking his hand across George's shoulder, he would say: "Play me the one that goes like that." Or: "Play the tune that smells like an onion." Or: "You know, the one that reminds me of the Staten Island Ferry." And so on.
Freedley once expressed dislike for an improvised Rodgers melody, but Aarons overruled him. The tune became "With a Song in My Heart," which went on to earn considerable fame.
The Aarons-Freedley partnership thrived on Aarons's musical instincts and Freedley's business sense. Both partners wrongly believed the Gershwin score for Funny Face to be substandard, but Aarons also understood that Robert Benchley's book, originally called Smarty, was the real problem. Consequently he extended the tryout and hired Paul Gerard Smith and Fred Thompson as new librettists. In 1927 the show opened the new Alvin Theater (derived from the first syllables of their given names; now the Neil Simon Theater) on Fifty-second Street west of Broadway, built specifically for the kinds of shows they produced. Funny Face succeeded in both New York and London.
Freedley gave actor Bert Lahr his first musical comedy starring role in Hold Everything!, but the show lost money in its tryout, and, according to theater critic and biographer (and Bert's son) John Lahr, Aarons viewed Freedley's "little flop" as "just one of those things I'd close up on the road." The show ended up running for two years, and Aarons and Freedley signed Lahr to a (never completed) five-year contract. Despite a charming score and the presence of Gertrude Lawrence, Treasure Girl, which centered on the unappealing side of fortune hunting, was the first Gershwin-Aarons-Freedley flop. Aarons subsequently recruited Rodgers and Hart, but before the opening of Heads Up! he reportedly charged down the aisles shouting, "Boys, you can forget about the show. You can forget about everything. The bottom's just dropped out of the market."
Girl Crazy was a great success, but the depression made the partners cautious, and Aarons's judgment failed. In 1932, short of funds and against Freedley's advice, he insisted on casting Jack Buchanan, the former Andre Chariot revue star, in a book musical called Pardon My English, which ignored Buchanan's intimate charm. Buchanan left the show during tryouts, Freedley took over, and in ten weeks the show lost $50,000. Discussions about another Gershwin show led nowhere, and the Gershwins became involved in Of Thee I Sing and Porgy and Bess. The Aarons-Freedley partnership formally ended in February 1933. Freedley went on to produce Anything Goes; Aarons never produced another Broadway show. He moved to Hollywood, where his only film credit was as assistant producer of The Broadway Melody of 1936. After working for various agencies, he was a producer at RKO Pictures, advising on the Gershwin film biography, when he died in Beverly Hills of a heart attack. Innovative, gregarious, and emotional, Aarons advanced the early careers of George Gershwin, Vincent Youmans, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart. In association with Vinton Freedley, he built the Alvin Theater, teamed Fred and Adele Astaire with the Gershwins, and produced the 1920s' most stylish and successful musical comedies.
· There is no known collection of Aarons papers. Aarons is fondly remembered in many biographies and books of memoirs. Among these are Fred Astaire, Steps in Time (1960); Gerald Bordman, Days to Be Happy, Years to Be Sad: The Life and Music of Vincent Youmans (1982); Ira Gershwin, Lyrics on Several Occasions (1959); Edward Jablonski, Gershwin: A Biography (1987); John Lahr, Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr (1969); and Richard Rodgers, Musical Stages: An Autobiography (1975).
James Ross Moore
AARONS, Alfred E. (16 Nov. 1865-16 Nov. 1936), theatrical manager and producer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Aaron Aarons, a clothier, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Educated in Philadelphia public schools, at age fifteen he began working in the box office of the Central Theater. After several other theatrical jobs, Aarons established a dramatic and vaudeville agency in Philadelphia; he opened an office in New York City after moving there in 1890. There in the same year he married Josephine Hall, an actress. They had three children.
Beginning in 1892 Aarons worked for Oscar Hammerstein, first as the manager of the Manhattan Roof Garden above Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera House and then at Koster and Bial's Music Hall on Thirty-fourth Street. Among many European acts making their debut at Koster and Bial's was Britain's saucy singer, Marie Lloyd. When Hammerstein bought America's largest variety theater, the Victoria, and turned it over to his son Willie, Aarons became its European representative. Between 1893 and 1895 Aarons sent back such star acts as the Moulin Rouge singer Yvette Guilbert and the classical dancer Cléo de Merode, noted for her flawless skin, heart-shaped face, and chignon hairstyle"le style Cléo," which became an American fad.
Never a man to put all his eggs in one basket, upon his return in 1897 Aarons joined the organization of Mark Klaw and Abraham Erlanger, the core of the recently formed Theatrical Syndicate that came to dominate legitimate theater bookings. He also leased Harriman's Theater in New York City and briefly produced international vaudeville. He began to write songs. In 1898 Aarons leased Krause's Music Hall on Thirty-fourth Street and renamed it the Savoy Theater.
An early Aarons composition, "Rag Time Liz," was interpolated into his production of the musical comedy Wine, Women and Song (1898), one of Eva Tanguay's earliest American shows. In 1900 Aarons produced and wrote the score for The Military Maid, a show in which Josephine Hall sang a showstopping number called "Sister Mary Has the Measles." It closed in a week. In the same year his score and production of Mam'selle Hawkins were called sprightly; the show ran slightly more than a month. His luck at producing musical comedies did not improve with The Ladies' Paradise (1901) for Hall, despite a score by Ivan Caryll; equally unsuccessful were his scores for Hall's The Knickerbocker Girl (1903) and, collaborating with the prolific Harry B. Smith, A China Doll (1904). Perhaps Aarons's most successful musical enterprise in these years was The Babes and the Baron (1905), an English musical comedy with interpolations by Aarons and Jerome Kern. Turning to straight drama, Aarons successfully produced His Honor, the Mayor (1906).
For Klaw and Erlanger, Aarons organized the International Theater Managers Association, covering the United States and Canada. He was thus credited with the Syndicate's stranglehold on theatrical road shows. He served on the board of trustees of the Actors Fund of America and became an increasingly powerful presence inside the Broadway power structure. In 1915, following the death of his first wife, Aarons married actress Leila Hughes. They had no children.
In 1919 Aarons was planning another musical comedy, which eventually was called La La Lucille: A New, Up to the Minute Musical Comedy of Class and Distinction, its score to be composed by Victor Herbert. Aarons's son Alex, a clothing store proprietor who had become interested in producing musical comedy, introduced him to a young composer named George Gershwin. Gershwin took over the showhis first complete theatrical scoreand the elder Aarons stepped partially aside; when the show took the road, Alex A. Aarons got his first production credit in collaboration with George Seitz.
Gershwin was invited to write Aarons's next show; instead he suggested Vincent Youmans and his own brother Ira, who was still writing as "Arthur Francis." This became Two Little Girls in Blue (1921), the first full theatrical score for both. Before the show opened, Erlanger bought Aarons out. Three nonmusical productions of the elder Aarons at this time were Yama and The Drums of Jeopardy (both 1922) and Magnolia (1923). Both elder and younger Aarons shared the misery of the pre-Broadway closing of the British hit A Night Out (1925). Later in 1925 the elder Aarons produced the Gershwins' Tell Me More. This followup to the younger Aarons's Lady, Be Good! (1924) for Fred and Adele Astaire ran 100 performances in New York City but 263 (under Alex Aarons's name) in London.
By this time Jake and Lee Shubert had broken the Syndicate's monopoly on legitimate theater and substituted their own. Aarons's most ambitious musical, My Princess, a Sigmund RombergDorothy Donnelly operetta that seemed dated by contrast to the Gershwins' peppy shows, was further unlucky in its choice of opening night: 6 October 1927, the first night of the talking film The Jazz Singer. Aarons's subsequent ventures into straight drama were largely unsuccessful: Headquarters (1929), a "derivative police drama"; The Girl Outside (1932), a "stale and pedestrian minor theatrical romance"; and $25 an Hour (1933), a "grim comedy" of European tenors that nevertheless managed to show off Jean Arthur in blue pajamas.
Aarons went on to manage New York City's most important theaters: the New Amsterdam, the Broadhurst, the Vanderbilt, and the National. In the early days of the depression, Aarons, still a part of the theatrical establishment, chaired the special committee representing theater within the New York mayor's Committee on Unemployment Relief. Aarons died in New York City.
· Information on Aaron's career can be found in Gerald Bordman, Days to Be Happy, Years to Be Sad (1982), and Vincent Sheean, The Amazing Oscar Hammerstein (1956). An obituary is in the New York Times, 17 Nov. 1936.
James Ross Moore
AARONS, Edward Sidney (1916-16 June 1975), mystery writer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Aarons (also known by the pen names Paul Ayres and Edward Ronns) worked variously as a newspaper reporter, millhand, salesman, and fisherman to support himself while attending Columbia University. In 1933 he won a collegiate short story contest. In 1936, with the publication of his first mystery novel, he decided to make writing his career.
Under the name Edward Ronns, he wrote hardboiled detective novels such as Death in a Lighthouse (1938), Murder Money (1938), and The Corpse Hangs High (1939). During this period and until 1956, when he turned exclusively to the novel form and his popular "Assignment" series, he wrote many magazine stories and novellas that appeared in publications such as Detective Story Magazine, The Shadow, and Scarab. Throughout this period of his career his fiction is set in the large eastern cities where he had spent much of his life before settling in Washington, Connecticut, in the mid-1950s. As a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia, for example, he gained an intimate knowledge of a big city's inner workings that is reflected in his early novels and short stories. Also during this period, with such novels as No Place to Live (1947) and Gift of Death (1948), Aarons began to develop a series hero named Jerry Benedict. In 1956, with great success, Aarons returned to the notion of a series heroSam Durrell, who first appears in Assignment to Disaster.
Aarons's writing career was sidetracked in 1941 when, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the coast guard. After having attained the rank of chief petty officer, Aarons returned to civilian life in 1945. He went back to school at Columbia University, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1947, with a concentration on ancient history and literature. He also met his first wife, Ruth Ives. After her death, he subsequently married Grace Dyer. There were no children from either marriage.
Although he abandoned the local settings of his early work with his Assignment series, there was a similar eye for detail and a concern for topical issues. These were most often set in the faraway places that Aarons researched on annual trips in search of new and vivid material. Along with their topical appeal, these later books also reflected Aarons's appreciation for each region's historical background.
Moving his fiction from a domestic to an international setting certainly helped its popularity. The Assignment series sold more than 23 million copies and has been reprinted in seventeen languages. In the New York Times Book Review, Anthony Boucher referred to the series as "among the best modern adventure stories of espionage and international intrigue." The series follows the fictional adventures of Sam Durrell, a Yale-educated Central Intelligence Agency agentcode named Cajun, for his Louisiana upbringingwho crisscrosses the globe fighting villains who threaten international or regional security. During his missions Durrell dishes out and receives large doses of graphically depicted violence. Despite Durrell's callous zeal in his pursuit of duty, he often reveals a soft spot for the women with whom he works. Readers of the series learned to depend on its formula. Each novel begins with a chapter of violent intrigue. Durrell is then introduced and situated in a foreign country, where, after confronting a series of obstacles, he beats the arch-villain, averts a catastrophe, and wins the lady.
The series format does allow for some variations within the broader formula, however. Early in the series, the villains are sometimes women. Later in the series, female characters who possess varying degrees of refinement become admiring accomplices in Durrell's heroic exploits. Although his depiction of women often displays the chauvinism typical of the spy novel of the 1950s and l960s, some readers find that the women who aid Durrell's later efforts display a fair amount of independent strength and intelligence.
Of Aarons's eighty-odd novels, it was the Assignment series along with its protagonist, Sam Durrell, that caught the public's attention. In fact, the series was so popular that a member of Aarons's family briefly continued it after the author's death in New Milford, Connecticut.
Through his Assignment series Aarons helped to create the American variant of the spy hero popularized by Ian Fleming's James Bond. Scholar Roger Handberg has suggested that Aarons's Americanization of the spy novelalong with Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series (1960-1974) and Philip Atlee's Joe Gall series (1964-1973)is a significant part of a distinctly American response to the tensions and increasing complexity of the Cold War.
· There is an extended listing of Aarons's writings, together with an assessment, in John M. Reilly, ed., Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, 2d ed. (1985). Aarons's Sam Durrell series is briefly considered in Roger Handberg, "Know Thy Enemy: Changing Images of the Enemy in Popular Literature," North Dakota Quarterly 53 (Winter 1985): 121-27. An obituary is in the New York Times, 20 June 1975.
ABBE, Cleveland (3 Dec. 1838-28 Oct. 1916), meteorologist and astronomer, was born in New York City, the eldest of seven children of George Waldo Abbe, a merchant, and Charlotte Colgate. He was educated at the New York Free Academy, now City College of New York (part of CUNY), where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1857 and a master's degree in 1860.
Abbe taught at Trinity Grammar School in New York from 1857 to 1858 and at Michigan State Agricultural College and the University of Michigan from 1859 to 1860. While in Ann Arbor, he studied with the German astronomer Franz Brunnow.
He was rejected for military service because of myopia and spent the Civil War years computing telegraphic longitudes for the U.S. Coast Survey under Benjamin Gould (1824-1896) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1865 and 1866 he studied astronomy with Otto Struve at Nicholas Central Observatory in Pulkova, Russia. Upon his return to the United States he served briefly as a computer, reducing data for the Nautical Almanac, and as an assistant observer at the U.S. Naval Observatory.
In 1868 Abbe became director of the Cincinnati Observatory where he developed a telegraphic meteorological service covering the greater part of the Ohio Valley and serving the commercial and agricultural interests of the region. His first weather bulletin was issued in 1869, several months before Congress passed a national weather service bill and a year before the U.S. Army Signal Office began issuing daily national weather reports. Abbe left the observatory in 1870 and became a civilian employee of the Signal Office, in Washington, D.C., where, as professor of meteorology, he was one of the nation's highest paid scientists.
From 1891 until his retirement in 1916 Abbe spent the rest of his career with the U.S. Weather Bureau in the Department of Agriculture. He was the founder and long-time editor of the Monthly Weather Review, author of numerous official reports, and translator of many European works. He was a pioneer in weather map analysis and forecasting, proponent of a national time standard, and meteorology editor for several encyclopedias, including Britannica. He wrote many articles on the history of meteorology. As an adjunct professor at Columbian (now George Washington) University and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, he tried, unsuccessfully, to establish meteorology's place in the academy. The first college departments of meteorology were not established until the 1930s, and meteorology was not fully professionalized until after World War II. Although he did not make original theoretical contributions to the science of meteorology, Abbe was a dedicated scientist in the federal service who kept the practical work of weather forecasting abreast of the latest physical theories, promoted the field of meteorology and its history, and served as a bridge between scientists in Europe and America.
Abbe was active in international scientific and learned societies and received several awards, including the Symons Medal of the Royal Meteorological Society, the Longstreth Medal of the Franklin Institute, and the Hartley Medal of the National Academy of Sciences.
Abbe was married to Frances Martha Neal in 1870; they had three sons. Frances died in 1908, and he married Margaret Augusta Percival in 1909. Abbe's hobbies included oriental archaeology and music. He died in Chew Chase, Maryland.
· Most of Abbe's personal papers are in the Library of Congress. Smaller collections are located in Eisenhower Library at the Johns Hopkins University, at the Cincinnati Observatory, and in the library of the City University of New York. Many of his official documents are in the Records of the Weather Bureau in the National Archives.
William J. Humphreys, "Biographical Memoir of Cleveland Abbe, 1838-1916," Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 8 (1919): 469-508, contains Abbe's curriculum vita and a bibliography with 290 items. There is a short article about Abbe in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Truman Abbe, Professor Abbe and the Isobars: The Story of Cleveland Abbe, America's First Weatherman (1955), was written by his son, who used his father's papers to prepare the book.
On Abbe's early career see Nathan Reingold, "Cleveland Abbe at Pulkowa: Theory and Practice in the Nineteenth Century Physical Sciences," Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences 17 (1964): 133-47. On his work in Cincinnati see William J. Humphreys, "Origin and Growth of the Weather Service of the United States, and Cincinnati's Part Therein," Scientific Monthly 18 (1924): 372-82, and James Rodger Fleming, Meteorology in America, 1800-1870 (1990). See also Cecil J. Alter, "National Weather Service Origins," Bulletin of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio 7 (1949): 139-85.
James Rodger Fleming
ABBEY, Edward (29 Jan. 1927-14 Mar. 1989), essayist, novelist, and radical ecologist, was born in Home, Pennsylvania, the son of Paul Revere Abbey, a farmer, and Mildred Postlewaite, a public schoolteacher. He was raised, with four siblings, on a hardscrabble farm. A turning point in late adolescence came out of some months of hitchhiking around the western United States, with which he ever after fervently identified himself.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army (1945-1947), which he later wrote of as arbitrary and despised servitudean insistently repeated theme. After discharge, he used the GI Bill to major in philosophy at the University of New Mexico (B.A., 1951). He worked at marginal living, varied jobs, and writing and intermittently did graduate work, studying Enlightenment thought on a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh (1951-1952) and philosophy at the University of New Mexico (M.A., 1956; thesis on ethics of violence in nineteenth-century anarchism).
For many years Abbey worked, somewhat intermittently, as a Forest Service fire-lookout and national park ranger in the mountain West (1956-1971). For brief periods he disconsolately tried being a social caseworker and technical writer in New York City. Primarily living in and writing about the mountain-desert West, he also made excursions, personal and literary, into wilderness areas in Appalachia, Alaska, Mexico, and Australia. Abbey's wives included Rita Deanin, whom he married in l952 and divorced in 1965 (they had two children); Judy Pepper, whom he married in 1965 and who died in 1970 (they had one child); and Clarke (maiden name unknown), who survived him with her two children. In his later years, he taught writing at the University of Arizona, until his death in Oracle, Arizona.
Abbey held that his main vocation was as iconoclastic litterateur defending natural wilderness and freedom. So with his eight novels. Jonathan Troy (1954), in the manner of socially critical naturalism, is about an adolescent growing up in rural poverty and disillusionment in the East. The others are mostly western in scene and theme. The Brave Cowboy (1956) centered on a quixotic, anti-authority contemporary cowboy and his defiant flight from police and military, ending with techno-destruction, in intensely realized mountain wilderness scenes. (It was also the source for an unusual western movie with Kirk Douglas, Lonely Are the Brave .) The slight Fire on the Mountain (1962; made into a movie of that title in 1981) told the story of an individualistic old rancher being dispossessed by military-technological developmenta favorite theme.
More vivid description of the mountain scene and of physical sensation, around a middle-aged fire-lookout and his ill-fated love affair with an upper-class adolescent woman, shapes the pathos of the novella Black Sun (1971). Less autobiographical is Good News (1980), a rather cartoonishly done satiric dystopia of the near-future civil war in Phoenix of vestigial rebels against stereotypical American fascists "after the Great Collapse" of ecologically disintegrating America. The more personal The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel (1988) episodically recounts the pilgrimage, through varied bohemian and yuppie scenes, of an Abbey-like, aging and ailing macho character, with old pickup truck and dog, from a Tucson suburb to a Pennsylvania farm in search of his roots in simple, marginal living and brotherly compassion.
"Cactus Ed's" best-known novel, and intended handbook of troublemaking, The Monkey-Wrench Gang (1975), along with its posthumously published continuation Hayduke Lives! (1990), is dedicated to the Luddite anarchism of sabotaging American technocracy in the remaining open West. Comic and hyperbolic picaresque, the two novels center on psychopathic-heroic George Washington Hayduke, war veteran and lower-class westerner, and his "eco-warrior" buddies battling the "development" machines and authorities. Abbey argues for a "healthy hatred" of "technotyranny" and for ingenious "creative destruction" (but no violence against persons) for a "counter-industrial revolution" against "the planetary Empire of Growth and Greed," a "megamachine" destroying all being.
Such dissidence ("Society is like a stewif you don't keep it stirred up you get a lot of scum on top") was also a major aspect of his half-dozen collections of nonfictional prose. These wilderness accounts and "personal history" essays may be some of Abbey's best writing, not only in the intensely vivid (yet antimystical) nature experiences, but in presenting a richly responsive, whether wry or angry, iconoclast. Desert Solitaire (1968), the best known, centers with tough candor on his times as a fire-lookout and park ranger. Here, and increasingly in later essays (influenced to more overt sabotage by post-1960s protest), he revived anarchist Propaganda of the Deed (destroying surveyors' markers, burning billboards, disabling diesels, protectively tree-spiking in old-growth forests, satiric sloganeering, and other measures). This became an acknowledged impetus for his friends founding in 1980 a radical environmentalist protest movement called Earth First! Defiant "direct action" is personally as well as socially therapeutic and positively "transforms the human personality," Abbey typically insisted.
But in fact Abbey was more of a sardonic commentator than a political activist. His defense of wilderness expresses not just conservation but a larger libertarian ethic: "The domination of nature leads to the domination of human nature." Power is "the natural enemy of truth," and thus we need radical depowering, especially from the "mad cancer of growth for its own sake." To achieve a properly decentralized and egalitarian society, he argued, Americans must reduce their population by more than half and develop a simpler, steady-state, limited-tech society "keeping true to the earth."
Abbey's commitment was not to "fine" literature but to combining "art" with "sedition." "Occupation? Criminal anarchy." His defiance gave his writings, with their immediacy of nature experience, wry and hyperbolic humor, and libertarian demands for limiting population, techno-organization, and other domination, a distinctive role, as did his diatribes against the "diseases" he labeled tourism, consumerism, and "mediaism." (Abbey did not own a TV.) The anarchist mockeries were broad scale: "Recorded history is largely an account of the crimes and disasters committed by banal little men at the levers of imperial machines." Some effects seem evident in his esteem in current radical environmentalist literature and movements.
Abbey's self-conscious role was to combine, in both person and writings, the ecologically sensitive wilderness westerner with the Enlightenment rebel-skeptic in a post-World War II he-man manner (he had trouble with "new feminism" and other "chicken-shit liberalism"). In spite of his considerable macho western modeincluding boots and vest over flannel shirt, six-pack of beer and cigar, pickup and .357 magnum, full beard and fully scornful tonguehe was also attempting a libertarian revision of western mythology. His late twentieth-century apocalyptic social concern as well as his personal responsiveness in a wry western style may convey a distinctive American rebelliousness.
· Manuscripts, letters, and other Abbey materials are in the Special Collections of the University of Arizona. In addition to the eight novels cited above, Abbey's writings include the self-edited The Best of Edward Abbey (1988)not always his best. The travel and personal essay collections are Desert Solitaire (1968), The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West (1977), Abbey's Road (1979), Down the River with Henry David Thoreau and Friends (1982), Beyond the Wall (1984), and One Life at a Time, Please (1988). A late collection of aphorisms is A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989). His texts to collections of photographs include Appalachian Wilderness: The Great Smokey Mountains, with Eliot Porter (1970), Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest, with Philip Hyde (1971), Cactus Country (1973), The Hidden Canyon: A River Journey, with John Blaustein (1977), and Desert Images, with David Muench (1979).
Some biographical material is in an introductory monograph by Garth McCann, Edward Abbey (1977). An interesting memoir is Edward Hoagland, "Abbey's Road," in Balancing Acts (1992). Brief recollections are in the miscellany by James Hepworth and Gregory McNamee, eds., Resist Much, Obey Little: Some Notes on Edward Abbey (1985). A survey of some of the writings is Ann Ronald, The New West of Edward Abbey (1982). The radical environmental context is presented in Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior (1991). See also Dave Foreman and Bill Haywood, eds., Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, 2d ed., with foreword by Abbey (1987). For fuller background, see Earth First! Journal (1980-1990); also, Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization (1990); Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement (1990); Susan Zakin, Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! (1993); and Kingsley Widmer, "Edward Abbey," in Contemporary American Activists, ed. David De Leon (1993).
ABBEY, Edwin Austin (1 Apr. 1852-1 Aug. 1911), artist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Maxwell Abbey, a commercial broker, and Margery Ann Kiple. Abbey's sole formal artistic training took place in 1868 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he took night classes under Christian Schussele.
In 1871 Abbey began a lifelong association as an illustrator for the publishing firm Harper & Brothers in New York City. Abbey entered the publishing business at a formate time, as popular magazines were increasing their use of illustrations accompanying news stories, feature articles, and works of literature. When he started at Harper, the firm used wood engraving to translate drawings to publication. The most successful illustrators were skilled draftsmen who could convey a scene succinctly without losing details in the print. As Abbey honed his drawing abilities, his assignments advanced in complexityfrom news and feature articles to historical and travel material to plays and poetry. Strong contour lines, tonal contrasts, and simple yet evocative costumes and settings were hallmarks of Abbey's early work. His first drawing to accompany a literary topic was for Robert Herrick's poem "Corinna's Going A-Maying," published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (May 1874); the poem was the subject as well of Abbey's first oil painting (1890). Harper also published books illustrated by Abbey (usually after the drawings ran in the magazines), including editions of Charles Dickens's Christmas Stories (1875), Selections from the Poetry of Robert Herrick (1882), Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer (1887), and Old Songs (1889).
Abbey occasionally drew for other publishers, including Scribner, Armstrong & Co. Bryant and Gay's Popular History of the United States (1876-1881) featured work by some of the best illustrators of the time, including Winslow Homer, Alfred Kappes, and Charles Mente as well as Abbey.
British art and history fascinated Abbey. His well-executed drawings for the volume of Herrick's poetry and an assignment to illustrate an article on Stratford-on-Avon prompted, in 1878, a trip to England, where he would remain for the rest of his life and where he befriended fellow expatriates James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Henry James. Influenced by the mid-nineteenth-century British painters known as the Pre-Raphaelites, Abbey incorporated their representational painting style, attention to historical detail, and dramatic subjects into his own work.
Around the beginning of 1888 Abbey began his largest commission for Harperillustrating all of Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies, and histories. His striving for historical accuracy was satisfied by several trips throughout Europe to view firsthand the plays' various settings, by the careful study and collection of period costumes and furniture, and by the re-creation of scenes in his studio in Gloucestershire, which he occasionally shared with Sargent. Abbey also regularly attended Shakespeare theater productions. Harper published the series in its monthly magazine between 1889 and 1908 using new photomechanical processes that benefited Abbey's fluid and detailed style. The comedies were published in book form in 1896. Several of Abbey's finest oil paintings were inspired by the Shakespeare series, including The Play Scene in "Hamlet" (1897) and King Lear's Daughters (1898).
The decision in 1890 to hire Abbey, a novice painter, to complete a large mural for the Boston Public Library was probably prompted by rite artist's friendship with architect-in-chief Charles Follen McKim and with Sargent and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, both of whom also contributed to the library's decoration. Also in 1890, Abbey married Mary Gertrude Mead, with whom he had no children. Abbey's contiguous series of oil paintings that hang in the delivery room of the library illustrates the theme of the Holy Grail set in twelfth-century France. The completed series, unveiled in 1901, was met with mixed reviews. Some critics preferred the flat, decorative quality of Puvis de Chavannes's legend of St. Genevieve to Abbey's theatrical scenes and elusive symbolism.
In 1896 Abbey was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and, in 1898, a royal academician. He exhibited his Shakespeare paintings and American commissions at the Academy before shipping them abroad. His dedication to British subject matter and his academic painting style overrode any hesitation the other members might have had about Abbey because of his American origins.
Abbey's international success warranted his election to several other distinguished associations, including the Institute of American Architects (1895), the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (1896), the National Academy of Design (1901), and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1905). In 1896 Abbey was awarded the Cross of the Légion d'honneur. He also received two honorary degrees, an M.A. from Yale University (1897) and an LL.D from the University of Pennsylvania (1902). In 1908 the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts gave Abbey a Gold Medal of Honor.
In 1902 Abbey began work on the decoration of the new state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his last major commission. The project's scope required Abbey to hire several assistants, make hundreds of figure studies, and use lantern slides to transfer his drawings to the large canvases. Combining allegorical and historical imagery, the largest painting is the 35-foot-tall Apotheosis of Pennsylvania in the state house of representatives; historical paintings Penn's Treaty with the Indians and The Reading of the Declaration of Independence accompany the Apotheosis. Lunettes in the rotunda represent the "treasures" of the state, from landscape to religious freedom to iron and steel workers. Because the paintings were unfinished when Abbey died in London, Sargent supervised their completion.
Abbey's most prestigious British commissions included a panel for the Royal Exchange in London and the official painting of King Edward VII's coronation (both completed in 1904). The Royal Exchange painting depicts the reconciliation of the Merchant Taylors Company and the Skinners Company in front of Richard III. The coronation painting, now in the Royal Collection, presents a friezelike formation of royal, government, and religious participants at the 1902 event.
Abbey's popularity waned in the twentieth century with the decline of magazine illustration and the advent of new painting styles and as historic and literary themes lost favor to the contemporary realism of the ashcan school and regionalism and to the art-for-art's sake fervor of abstraction. His position in history relegated him to being a follower of rather than a contributor to the Pre-Raphaelites. As a master of the graphic medium, however, Abbey is still revered for his imaginative and sensitive compositions.
· The Yale University Art Gallery owns the bulk of Abbey's work, and there are three main catalogs on portions of the collection: Paintings, Drawings, and Pastels by Edwin Austin Abbey (1939), Edwin Austin Abbey (1973), and Lucy Oakley, Unfaded Pageant: Edwin Austin Abbey's Shakespearean Subjects (1994). A plaster bas relief of Abbey by William Rudolph O'Donovan belongs to the Yale University Art Gallery, and a painting by John White Alexander is owned by the National Academy of Design. The major source on Abbey's life and work is E. V. Lucas, Edwin Austin Abbey, Rayal Academician: The Record of His Life and Work (1921).
N. Elizabeth Schlatter
What People are saying about this
Meet the Author
Barnard College, Columbia University
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >