Friday, April 26, 2013

F. S. Winger

F. S. Winger (b. Clay Lick, Pennsylvania, 24 January 1865; d. Chicago, Illinois, 5 March 1936)

Frank Stover Winger was the second of five sons of Elam Buckwalter Winger (1837-1904), a merchant,  and Barbara Elizabeth Stover (1841-1891).  Around 1889, in Chicago, he married his cousin May Porter Stover (1873-1944), the daughter of the wealthy Daniel Stover (1839-1908), who manufactured many things including a full line of Stover-brand gasoline engines, and the famous Henney buggy, from Freeport, Illinois.  Frank Winger and his wife would have one daughter, Clare M. Winger (1891-1968), and one son, Stover Carl Winger (1893-1969).  Under her married name, his daughter Clare Winger Harris became a pioneering woman writer of science fiction. Sometime around the beginning of World War I, Frank and his wife divorced, and later Frank married Emma May Finfrock (1871-1950), the widow of Louis Price Bennett (1866-1915) and mother of three adult sons.

Frank Stover Winger's only known writing is the short "pseudo-scientific novel," The Wizard of the Island or The Vindication of Prof. Waldinger (Chicago: Winger Publishing Company, 1917), which was presumably self-published, as there is no record of any other publication put out by the Winger Publishing Company.  The novel is dedicated to the memory of the author's older brother, Oswalt Emmert Winger (1862-c.1910?), from whose middle name is derived the surname of the character Jack Emmert.  Set a hundred years in the future, Professor Waldinger, who disappeared ten years earlier, had rejected atomic energy. On a small volcanic island in the south Pacific, Waldinger developed steam power so as to regulate the flow of the ether.  As his former rival Professor Turner flies nearby in a giant aircraft (piloted by Jack Emmert), Waldinger brings the plane down to show off his accomplishments. Later, the volcano explodes killing both Waldinger and Turner, so that Waldinger's discoveries are lost, but Waldinger's daughter and Jack Emmert have escaped with their lives.

E. F. Bleiler gives a lengthy description of the plot of the novel in his Science-Fiction: The Early Years (1990), concluding accurately that it is "amateurish." Perhaps the primary quality of the book is that it may have been a source of inspiration for Clare Winger Harris's early interest in science fiction.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Robert T. Griebling

Robert T. Griebling (b. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 9 November 1901; d. Tarentum, Pennsylvania, 1959)

Robert Theodore Griebling was the oldest of three sons (three daughters died in infancy) of Oscar Griebling (1858-1928) and Louise Dammann (1867-1934), who were married in Milwaukee on 12 May 1897. Both parents were the children of German immigrants who had settled in Wisconsin. Oscar Griebling worked in insurance, and his wife Louise was a school teacher.

Robert T. Griebling in 1922
Robert T. Griebling and his brothers grew up speaking German at home, where they read Grimms fairy tales and other German stories, including tales of the Rübezahl, and Struwwelpeter. Robert attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, studying journalism and graduating in 1922.  His thesis was on James Gibbon Huneker as a dramatic critic.  He married Mary H. Hughes (1902-1989) on 29 January 1927, and they settled near Pittsburgh, where Mary Griebling worked as a school teacher, and Robert T. Griebling worked in business.  

Some of  Griebling’s early writings were included in the “Little Blue Book” series published by Haldeman-Julius of Girard, Kansas. These include the title essay of Snyder-Gray Murder Echoes (1928), and pieces on “The Greek Letter System” in The Revolt of Modern Youth (1928) and “On the Correcting of the Plebs’ in Small Town Humor (1929).  One single short story, “A Wager in Candlesticks,” was published in Weird Tales magazine for May 1928. It is derivative of Richard Connell’s famous story “The Most Dangerous Game,” which had appeared in Collier’s Weekly for 19 January 1924 and which was filmed successfully in 1932.  Griebling’s variation has a Russian aristocrat killing people in candlestick duels.  After this Griebling apparently ceased publishing, until he collaborated with his two brothers on a pamphlet, The Story of Oscar Griebling on the Observance of the 100th Anniversary of His Birth, March 16, 1958 (1958), prepared as a memorial for the subjects grandsons.  The November, 1959, issue of Wisconsin Alumnus notes Robert T. Greibling’s passing. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

John Vasseur

John Vasseur (b. Worcester, Massachusetts, 22 September 1894; d. San Francisco, California, 14 March 1952)
Dust-wrapper art by Clifford Pyle

The only published book by John Vasseur is the novel Typhon's Beard (New York:  George H. Doran, 1927), which appeared in June of 1927. (A British edition followed soon afterwards from Allen & Unwin, made from sheets printed in the U.S.)  It tells the story of Pyrrhus, the idle and philandering son of Leonidas, a vineyard owner in the dullest province of Greece, who is sent off to explore the wider world.  The meandering plot takes Pyrrhus and his horse Heraclitus on a series of adventures, one of which is an encounter with Typhon, "the ugliest of all giants", who teaches Pyrrhus to stretch himself to giant-size and together they wander the empyrean. The prose in the novel has a light ironic touch which is mildly diverting, but otherwise the book lacks any depth or substance.

“John Vasseur” was the pseudonym of Chandler Parks Barton, the only child of Herbert Parks Barton (1866-1925) and his wife Frances Johnstone Vasseur (1867-1922), who were married in Brooklyn, New York, on 18 October 1890.  Herbert Parks Barton was a surgeon, and a great-great-nephew of Clara Barton (1821-1912), the founder of the American Red Cross. In the late 1890s, the Barton family settled in California, and in 1904, Herbert Parks Barton organized the Clara Barton Hospital in Los Angeles. Barton served as an administrator at the hospital until his death.
Chandler Barton at Berkeley

Chandler P. Barton grew up in Los Angeles, and attended the University of California in Berkeley, receiving an A.B. in 1916, and an M.A. in philosophy in December 1917.  For the latter, Barton’s thesis was on “Individualism and the State: A Comparison of Hegel and Plato.” Barton also served in World War I. In the 1920s, he contributed a small number of short stories to various magazines, including All-Story Weekly, Argosy All-Story Weekly, and Munsey’s Magazine. His mother died in an automobile accident in October 1922, and his father died three years later to the month. The pseudonym under which he published his novel, “John Vasseur,” was derived from his mother’s middle and maiden names. He married a Pasadena society girl, Mary Joyce, in 1928, but the marriage did not last long. In the 1940s, he worked as a checker for the U.S. Government at Pier 45, San Francisco. Barton died in 1952 at the age of  fifty-seven, and is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

NB: Thanks to Dave Goudsward for identifying the writer behind the pseudonym.