Author: Kevin Fitzpatrick

Algonquin Round Table Conversation, January 31 at New York Public Library

Algonquin Round Table Conversation, January 31 at New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has launched the Community Conversations initiative. On Wednesday, January 31, 6:30 p.m., the Mid-Manhattan branch will host a lecture and conversation “Literary Life in New York: Then and Now” to focus on the Algonquin Round Table history. It will feature Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, author of The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd and Fifth Avenue (476 Fifth Avenue). Enter on the 42nd Street side entrance. Currently the Mid-Manhattan branch is closed for renovations and it is temporarily located in the flagship building of the NYPL.

About the evening: Mid-Manhattan Library is organizing a series of lectures and conversations around the life of the mind for the average New Yorker. Following each public lecture, librarians will facilitate a dialogue with the goal of connecting neighbors and building new relationships through meaningful dialogue about local issues.

The second talk in the series, “Literary Life in New York: Then and Now,” with Kevin Fitzpatrick, focuses on the Algonquin Round Table. In 1919—a century ago next year—The Algonquin Round Table first started having their famous luncheons at the Hotel Algonquin. Since that time a direct line can be drawn through New York from those 30 members of the Vicious Circle. Their impact on books, magazines, theater, film, and music is still around us today. In this talk, Kevin will give an overview of the history of the Algonquin Round Table, and lead us from the New York era of the Jazz Age and speakeasies to the modern era of streaming music and Twitter.

Following the talk, join us for a community conversation on creative life in New York. How has literary life changed in the digital age? Share your insights and join the dialogue. The brand new Community Conversations initiative at The New York Public Library introduces a space for discussion on local topics that matter most to you. Local librarians at select branches will co-facilitate these dialogues with community organizations, inviting anyone and everyone to the table to share and listen. Let’s create a truly democratic space where we can connect together through meaningful dialogue.

Space is limited, reserve free tickets here.

Walk in the Footsteps of the Vicious Circle

Walk in the Footsteps of the Vicious Circle

The Algonquin Hotel
The Algonquin Hotel

The first public walking tours of 2018 will be in January and February. The walks are led by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, author of The Algonquin Round Table New York and A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York.

Algonquin Round Table Tour
Mondays, meet at the Algonquin Hotel 10:45, walks begin at 11:00.
29 January
5 February
12 February
26 February
Advance tickets required, click here to book.

Dorothy Parker’s Upper West Side
Wednesdays, meet at Riverside Drive and W. 72nd Street 10:45, walks begin at 11:00.
31 January
7 February
14 February
28 February
Advance tickets required, click here to book.

If the attendance is consistent more dates will be added in March and April. Keep watching the blog and Facebook page for announcements.

F.P.A. Diary Entries For His Birthday

Franklin P. Adams and his second wife, Esther Root, on their honeymoon, 1925.
Franklin P. Adams wrote his diary from 1911-1941; by his estimate more than two million words. It began June 11, 1911, in the New York Evening Mail. The column was called Always in Good Humor. On January 1, 1914, F.P.A. joined the New York Tribune staff and changed the name to The Conning Tower. He remained there until December 31, 1921, when he joined The World. When The World folded, he moved to the New York Herald Tribune on March 2, 1931. His column appeared there until 1937. His column ended in the New York Post in 1941, by which time F.P.A. was a radio star on Information Please.

Editor’s note: These entries are taken directly from the collection The Diary of Our Own Samuel Pepys, published by Simon and Schuster in 1935. All of F.P.A.’s idiosyncratic spelling and grammar usage is left intact. Editorial notes in [brackets] are from the editor and in some cases F.P.A. himself. None of the entries have been altered.

Adams was born in Chicago on November 15, 1881, and died on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on March 23, 1960.

* * *
Sunday, November 16, 1919
All day in the country, and had a pleasant day, playing croquet. Home, when I find E. Ferber [Edna Ferber] and Janet Grant and Miss Rosalind Fuller [an English actress and singer]; and A. Woollcott [Alexander Woollcott], very grand in a silk hat, and H. Ross [Harold Rosss]; and we had a frugal supper, and all left before eleven. Read [William] Congreve’s poems, indifferent stuff.

* * *
Thursday, November 15, 1923
Up and to the office early away and met Mistress Beatrice Gunsaulus Merriman [spouse of Rev. Robert Noel Merriman], who has come from Bethlehem to have a birthday party with me to-day and to-morrow. So we to Dottie Parker’s, where was a great crowd gathered to honour me, and a great shower of presents, tyes, and kerchiefs and a neck-scarf. So now home with Beatrice [Kaufman] and thence to a great and gay gathering at Mistress Ruth Fleischmann’s [Quincy, IL, native, spouse of baking heir Raoul], where I had the merriest birthday party anyone ever gave me, but they told me it was H. Miller’s [Henry Wise Miller, banker, spouse of Alice Duer Miller] and G. Kaufman’s [George S. Kaufman] and A. Krock’s [Arthur Krock, newspaperman, won Pulitzer 1935] and Beatrice’s, and that Ruth and Raoul had been married this day three years, yet by 10 o’clock I was certain the party was entirely in my honor and was not disinclined to think that the universe had been constructed for the same delightful purpose. So home, despite all in the car counseling to drive with more caution, and we had to walk up the stairs, and Beatrice lost an earring, which distressed her, but I told her we should find it in the morning.

* * *
Sunday, November 15, 1925
For a walk in the warm sunshine, and to luncheon at L. Dodd’s [Lee Wilson Dodd, playwright, novelist, poet, died 1933], and my wife told a tayle of some children who, being warned not to express astonishment when the ice cream was borne upon the table, did carol forth, “We have it all the time! We have it all the time!” So by steam-train to the city, and thence to the office, and so to R. Fleischmann’s, to a great party, and met Miss Fay Compton the play-actress, as fair and sweetly spoke a lady as ever I saw.

* * *
Monday, November 15, 1926
This day my birthday, and my wife give me a fine golden knife and H. Miller give me some kerchiefs and A. Samuels [Arthur Samuels, composer, publicist, editor] some tyes, all of which I was very glad to get, not so much for the sentiment behind them as for the value and beauty of the gifts. This day Frank Sullivan back to work, and he come to see me, looking very handsome with his long rest. All day at my office, and so home and did some scrivening before dinner, and my wife telling me that I had misspelled our handmaiden’s name, calling her Dougherty instead of Doherty, so I asked her whether she were a relative of the great lawn tennis players, but she said she never had heard of them. But she is as skilful in her field as they were in theirs, and I would suggest that she would play in the final of any cooking tournament. So to the theatre in Florence Hammond’s [spouse of Herald-Tribune drama critic Percy Hammond] petrol-wagon, and saw Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” and enjoyed it all mightily, in especiall Miss Lynn Fontanne’s and Mr. Henry Travers’s acting. And I did make some vows, on this my birthday, such as to waste no more time in frivolity, and to be more kind to my fellows. Yet last night there was a discussion about murder, and some that they were incapable of killing anybody, and they thought I would be, too; but I thought there was none in that company that might not have murder in his heart at some time; and as for myself, I know many persons I would like to kill, if there were no penalty attached to the act. Lord! if I could murder those I pleased to kill, it would almost be impossible to get a taxicab in this city. So home, and read E. Pearson’s [Edmund Lester Pearson] “Murder at Smutty Nose,” a thrilling compilation, with things in it about the Parkman case, and Dr. Crippen [Hawley Harvey Crippen, the first criminal to be captured with the aid wireless], and others.

* * *
Saturday, November 15, 1930
Early up, it being my birthday, and my wife give me a crimson sweater to wear next summer, and I got letters from my sisters Amy and Evelyn, and so did my work in the morning, and in the afternoon to H. Miller’s to listen to how badly the Yales would beat the Princetons, but they scarcely beat them at all, and so we to Manhasset, to a giant birthday celebration given for me at R. Fleischmann’s, very merry and gay, and I had a pleasant time with Mrs. Delehanty [née Margaret E. Rowland, spouse of John Bradley Delehanty, noted architect], who tells me she is a girl from Phillips, Wis., and she very gifted, shewing me how she can stand on her head, and I had a talk with A. Barach [Dr. Alvan L. Barach, founder of pulmonary rehabilitation and inventor of the oxygen tent] the physician, of clairvoyancy and fortune-telling and palm-reading, we telling each other of the great success we had at these charlatanries, what with the subjects telling us all that we wanted to know, and then being astonished at our magickall powers. But it is a dangerous thing to do, forasmuch as I never shall forget the trouble that I got into by telling a girl that she did not have confidence enough in herself, which is a thing that everybody believes about himself, especially those that have more confidence than they should have. It is also safe to tell people that they are too generous and too tender-hearted. So late to bed, and waked my wife, albeit I was quiet as a million mice.

* * *
Sunday, November 15, 1931
Lay mighty late, and so up and wondering what would be happening on November 15, 1981, I then being 100 years of age, but I fear that this will be the last time that there will be a legal holiday on my birthday, and so read the newspapers with great misgivings about what is going on in Manchuria, and would forecast that a year from now matters will be more troubled and unpeaceful than they are now, and so talked with A. Krock and R. Fleischmann about history and its teachings, and Krock said that he was proficient in its study when he was a boy forasmuch as it was taught with a stress upon dates of wars and deaths of kings and history made so little impression upon me that I forget how it was taught. But I feel that it ought to be taught backwards; that is, that the study should begin with the front page of today’s newspaper and go on from there to last year, and that it might then seem important and personal to the student to read about the Spanish Armada and Eric the Red and the Battle of Stirling and Ticonderoga and General P. T. G. Beauregard and Bannockburn and Themistocles and Hadrian and Ypres and Rutherford B. Hayes and Aguinaldo and the Guelphs and the Franco-Prussian War. So in the afternoon my wife and I beat H. Miller and R. Fleischmann two deuce sets, and in the evening had a very merry birthday party, almost everybody having been born a few years ago today, yesterday, and tomorrow; and so A. Woollcott drove me to the city in a cab, and told me many fascinating things, he being no less laconic than ever, and about how Herbert Wells, the author, had come to see him, and of many other things.

Donald Ogden Stewart in Hot Water

On This Date October 19, 1942: The FBI file on Donald Ogden Stewart is more than 1,000 pages. I conducted a Freedom of Information request several years ago to get it all. The government kept tabs on him for 30 years. I have some of it in the new book. Of all the Algonquin Round Table members, Stewart paid the biggest price for his political beliefs and convictions.

FBI Page
FBI Page

Crazy for Games, Sports, and Puzzles

Woollcott and Ferber
Alexander Woollcott and Edna Ferber, at the home of Margaret Leech and Ralph Pulitzer (Photo courtesy of Kate Pulitzer Freedberg)

Sports and leisure were important to the Round Table. They loved professional sports—with baseball and boxing being the chief attractions. F.P.A. was an amateur tennis star. Their leisure time was taken up with parlor games, mind-benders, word play, and gambling. Their poker games were soul-crushing feats of gambling (Broun won and lost his house at a poker table). Charades and croquet consumed them.

Neysa McMein was credited with “inventing”—or at least popularizing—Scavenger Hunts. F.P.A. wrote about it in “The Conning Tower” on July 28, 1925:

“To Jane Grant’s, where was a party for Alice Miller’s birthday, and had a merry time of it, save for a silly treasure hunt, a craze that hath become widespread while I was not here to crusade against it.”

While playing I Can Give You A Sentence, Dorothy Parker was tasked to use “horticulture” which led to the oft quoted, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” Baseball was a passion, especially New York Giants games at the Polo Grounds. F.P.A. wrote “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” one of the most famous baseball poems of all time following a Giants game. Broun is in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s sportswriters wing in Cooperstown.

The friends were crazy for crossword puzzles; they even wrote a book of them together. On January 4, 1925, the first Intercollegiate Cross Word Puzzle Tournament was held in the auditorium of the Hotel Roosevelt, 45 East 45th Street. With hundreds of cheering fans in the audience, Yale edged out Harvard, Princeton and the City College of New York. On the Harvard team were Broun (who never really graduated) and Robert E. Sherwood. Poet Stephen Vincent Benet and Jack Thomas made up the Yale team. The contest was held in rounds and each word was tackled individually. First Broun won a round by correctly guessing the name of a German poet with five letters (Heine). Then Sherwood backed him up with a seven-letter word meaning “honest in intention” (sincere). However, a foul play was called when the judge, Ruth Hale, sat beside her spouse, Broun.

Pulitzer Landmarks Tied to the Algonquin Round Table

This guest blog was written for Literary Manhattan.

I love literary landmarks. I seek them out whenever I possibly can. I’m the kind of person who can’t pass a plaque or historical marker and not stop for a look, and when the site is tied to an author or book, it’s even better. When I was writing my new book, The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide, I decided to make it a guidebook to everything related to the Vicious Circle in New York: their homes, offices, speakeasies, theaters, and related locations.

Several of the locations in my book have ties to the Pulitzer family that are shared here. If you have never been to Woodlawn Cemetery, take a trip to the beautiful landmark in the Bronx. The Pulitzer graves are incredibly touching to see placed there.

Here are two in Manhattan that you might want to visit if you get the opportunity. I enjoyed putting them in the book because they show that even though there is no longer a Pulitzer newspaper in the city, his literary landmarks are still around us.

The New Yorker has a long history of sticking its nose into matters of frivolity around New York City, and the magazine loves a good crusade. E. B. White complained vociferously about advertising in Grand Central Terminal, and editor Harold Ross, a commuter, testified at a city hearing against public address announcements in the terminal.

The magazine also took up the cause of the dirty bronze statue of Pomona, goddess of abundance, outside the Plaza Hotel in Grand Army Plaza. When New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer died in 1912, he bequeathed $50,000 to build it. Carrere & Hastings designed the Italian Renaissance-style fountain, which was dedicated in 1916. But in The New Yorker of April 18, 1931, poet Arthur Guiterman complained that the fountain was a mess. The last stanza of “Letter to Mr. Pulitzer” reads:

One hates to speak this way about a lady,
But she is obviously much too shady;
Though still quite young, a good bit under thirty,
No nymph was ever quite so black and dirty
In all New York; so you, sir, as her guardian
(You see I’m Mid-Victorian, not Edwardian),
Should personally scrub her form and face in
The sudsy foam of her own fountain basin.

A few weeks later the magazine published a response by Pulitzer’s son, Ralph, publisher of the World:

For know! The lady’s guardians ad litem,
Aroused by her attempts to mock and spite ’em,
Have joined the city in a contribution
To give her an immaculate ablution;
To scrub her from her head, with all its wet locks,
Clear down her contours to her very fetlocks.

Ralph Pulitzer donated $30,000 to restore the statue. Doris Doscher, the model who posed for sculptor Karl Bitter as Pomona, wrote to the New York Times: “I want to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to Mr. Pulitzer for enabling me to again stand exalted—and scrubbed—above the grounds on Fifth Avenue, generously spurting precious, clear water—flush, in these times of dried-up prosperity.”

The saga of the statue and Pulitzer Fountain is a long-running city drama. It was renovated in 1971 but, due to faulty plumbing, went dry for six years in the 1980s. In 1989, $3.3 million was raised privately to restore it yet again.

The World stood at 63 Park Row, with editorial offices on the eleventh floor of a tower that Pulitzer erected in 1890. A golden dome topped the 309-foot tall building. Pulitzer died in 1911, and the paper ran along for twenty more years.

Star reporter Herbert Bayard Swope became executive editor in 1921 and brought in the best talent, increasing high-quality reporting and also hiring New York’s first black reporter. By the time the Round Table came to it, the highly respected World was the “newspaperman’s newspaper.” Swope receives credit for creating the page opposite the editorial page—the “Op. Ed.”—a phrase he coined. Onto this page he brought a lively mix of writers, most from the Vicious Circle. Among the first of them to write for the World was Robert Benchley a month after he quit Vanity Fair in 1920. Benchley’s book reviews often had nothing to do with the books themselves and could easily contain ruminations on train schedules.

Swope stole both Heywood Broun and Franklin P. Adams (known as F.P.A.) from the Tribune in 1921. The 33-year-old Broun could write anything, from a play review to a recap of the Harvard-Yale football game. He had free rein in his column “It Seems to Me,” which ran for six years, to discuss books, sports, movies, or politics. The last of these landed him in hot water. When F.P.A. brought his famous “Conning Tower” to the Op. Ed. Page, it caused a sensation. Ralph Pulitzer and his brothers broke the family trust by court order in 1931 and sold the newspaper. It put more than 3,000 people out of work.

Today no plaque or monument marks the former Pulitzer Building and its wonderful gold dome. Before it was razed in 1955, Swope and F.P.A. toured the deserted newsroom one last time. It is now a highway approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. The stained glass windows from the city room were moved to Columbia University’s Journalism School building, 2950 North Broadway, where, each year in the World Room, the Pulitzer Prize winners are announced.

6 Women You Didn’t Know Were Members of the Algonquin Round Table

6 Women You Didn’t Know Were Members of the Algonquin Round Table

This article was written for the Huffington Post.

Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber were the only women sitting at the Algonquin Round Table, correct? That’s what I thought before I started researching my new book The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide. After all, these are the only females among the wits in most accounts, anecdotes, and cartoons. But I was delighted to uncover the names and stories of the other members of the Vicious Circle, women that had fascinating and full lives. Even though their names aren’t as common today as Parker and Ferber, the rich history and accomplishments they left behind are still relevant.

The Algonquin Hotel, 59 W. Forty-fourth Street, sits in the middle of “Club Row” a block west of Times Square. In June 1919, not long after he returned from serving in the army, Alexander Woollcott was treated to a free lunch here. Woollcott was the acerbic theater critic on the Times, and his hosts were two Broadway publicists, Murdock Pemberton and John Peter Toohey. The flacks struck out in interesting him in the playwright they were pitching —Eugene O’Neill of all people — but they did dream up the prank of holding a welcome home luncheon for Woollcott.

The men invited a colorful cast of characters from newspaper city rooms, magazine offices, and the Broadway milieu. As the legends hold, Parker, at the time a Vanity Fair staffer and freelance poet, and Ferber, novelist and short fiction dynamo, were popular members. But among the famous men — columnists Franklin P. Adams and Heywood Broun, composer Deems Taylor, playwrights Marc Connelly, George S. Kaufman, and Robert E. Sherwood, and humorist Robert Benchley — women were always in the midst.

Reading contemporary newspaper columns and sifting through recollections, at least 30 men and women were Round Table members. These half-dozen women are unique and deserve to be remembered, and that’s why they are in my book.

Margalo Gillmore
Margalo Gillmore, actress

Margalo Gillmore was the baby of the Vicious Circle, a Broadway actress barely out her teens when she joined the group for lunch. Her parents and grandparents were also actors, and she started onstage in high school. Growing up, her mother said that if she was working and needed to eat, to go where Ethel Barrymore and Gertrude Lawrence lived: The Algonquin. Gillmore appeared in early O’Neill dramas, including The Straw (1921) and racked up scores of credits. She worked in every medium, from silent pictures to live television. Her father, Frank Gillmore, was a founder of Actors Equity, and she earned one of the first union cards after the 1919 strike that shut down Broadway. She toured constantly and was a working actress for fifty years. In 1954, an audience of 65 million TV viewers saw her in Peter Pan as Mrs. Darling. In 1986 Gillmore was the last member of the Round Table to pass away. I was stunned to discover her gravestone, in Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County, has the Equity logo carved into it.

Jane Grant, reporter
Jane Grant, reporter

Jane Grant has slipped through the cracks as a pioneer feminist and a barrier-breaker in print media. With her first husband, Harold Ross, the two launched a “humorous weekly” in 1925 from their Hell’s Kitchen apartment, a fact long overlooked. In a 1945 letter, Ross wrote, “There would be no New Yorker today if it were not for her.” Grant pushed Ross to realize their dream, introduced him to the chief financial backer, and found some of the most famous names in the magazine’s history, such as Janet Flanner. Leaving out how Grant helped launch The New Yorker, she led a life like few others in the Jazz Age. She was the first female reporter in the city room at the Times. Grant interviewed Caruso and Chaplin, and was the first Times woman to visit China, Russia, and Nazi Germany. In addition, in 1921 she was a co-founder, with her close friend Ruth Hale, of the Lucy Stone League, a forerunner of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The group fought to allow women to maintain their maiden names after marriage. Grant wrote for more than 30 years. When she died in 1972, the Times buried her obituary on page forty-four.

Ruth Hale, feminist
Ruth Hale, feminist

Ruth Hale sued the U.S. State Department because she wanted a passport issued in her own name, not as the wife of her husband, Heywood Broun. She lost that fight but brought attention to the cause of the Lucy Stone League, an organization that came to define her. Hale was a writer, columnist, critic, and publicist in pre-World War I Manhattan. She and Broun went to Paris as war correspondents, then came back to New York and became one of the city’s most talked-about literary couples. From West Side apartments she directed efforts to support equal rights for women in the 1920s. Hale also ghostwrote for her more famous husband. Hale quit New York and retired to a farm in rural Connecticut, where she died alone.

Beatrice Kaufman, editor
Beatrice Kaufman, editor

Beatrice Kaufman was not a member of the Round Table because she was married to George S. Kaufman, the newspaperman turned successful playwright. The Vicious Circle didn’t tolerate wives very much, and Bea Kaufman carved her own life for herself as an editor, working under Carmel Snow at Harpers Bazaar. The Kaufmans had an open marriage, so in 1936 when George was mired in a national sex scandal with actress Mary Astor, Bea not only defended her husband, she was the one to move him to Bucks County to avoid the press. Bea was always the first to read his new work, and he leaned on her consistently. She was close friends with the Marx Brothers, Moss Hart, and the Gershwins. Kaufman parlayed her social standing into a job with Samuel Goldwyn as a movie script reader. Late in life she also tried writing plays, but none were successful. Perhaps Bea Kaufman’s best role was as her husband’s sounding board and guardian; following her 1945 death George wrote few hits.

Margaret Leech, double Pulitzer-winner
Margaret Leech, double Pulitzer-winner

Margaret Leech was a Vassar grad who started her career working for the Condé Nast magazines that were not named Vogue or Vanity Fair. She wrote articles and stories, and in her 30s had three romance novels published. With Heywood Broun she co-wrote a bestselling biography of New York’s anti-vice crusader, Anthony Comstock. Leech crafted short fiction for popular magazines, with her most famous, “Manicure,” set in the world of a nail salon, included in The Best Stories of 1929. The collection found Leech sharing company with Willa Cather. Her life took a dramatic turn in 1928 when she married the much-older and wealthy Ralph Pulitzer, scion of Joseph Pulitzer and the president-publisher of the World. Leech had children and travelled the world, and upon her husband’s death in 1939 she returned to writing. She became a serious presidential historian, and devoted the rest of her life to it. Reveille in Washington: 1860-1865 (1941) is considered a classic about the Civil War era. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history. Eighteen years after she won her first Pulitzer Prize, Leech won her second, for In the Days of William McKinley published in 1959. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in History, and is still the only woman to have won it twice in the category.

Peggy Wood, actress
Peggy Wood, actress

Peggy Wood had a calling to the acting profession that kept her working for sixty years. Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the daughter of a magazine editor, Wood made her Broadway debut in 1911 and worked until the 1970s. She appeared in early talkies with Will Rogers, and was a close confidant of Noël Coward. She was the original Ruth in the three-year Broadway run of Blithe Spirit. When Wood was starring in Coward’s Bitter Sweet, Harpo Marx visited her. “Why didn’t you tell me you were as good as this?” he asked her. “I’d have married you long ago!” When she wasn’t onstage, she was writing about it, for newspapers, books, and magazines. Wood married a fellow member of the Vicious Circle, poet John V. A. Weaver, in 1924. If Peggy Wood is remembered for anything almost forty years after her death, it’s that she co-starred in The Sound of Music in 1965 as Mother Abbess. She was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress.

The Vermont Alexander Woollcott Painting

The Vermont Painting.
Now that my book is out, I am looking at what went right and what went wrong with The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide. Today I was in a file of letters, and I came across one that I never got a response to.

In 2010, I wrote to the director of the Castleton Free Library, in Castleton, Vermont. This is not far from where Alexander Woollcott and his friends had a vacation house on an island in nearby Lake Bomoseen. From what I learned, Woollcott, the egomaniac that he was, gifted to the little library a large oil painting of himself. It is the work of John Decker, a close Hollywood friend of John Barrymore and W. C. Fields. It’s based on a photo of Woollcott wearing his favorite vest, embroidered by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt II.

At the time of the letter I was working like crazy to collect as many photos, rare and unseen, as possible. I loved this lost little piece of art, and wanted a photo of it for the book. At the most, someone just needed to get on a ladder and snap a photo for me. (The one in this blog post is from this site).

Here is my letter from Nov. 3, 2010:

I’m an author currently completing a book about New York City authors in the 1920s and one of my subjects is Alexander Woollcott. I was delighted to learn that there is a fantastic painting of Mr. Woollcott hanging in the Castleton Free Library.

I’m writing to humbly request if you could ask someone to send me a photo of the painting as it hangs in the library. Because of Mr. Woollcott’s lifelong association with literature, I’d like to include a photo of your library and the painting in my book.

If you would be so kind as to let me know if you can assist me, I’d appreciate it very much. I have until the end of the year to track down photographs, and having this addition would be a real asset to the book.


Kevin C. Fitzpatrick

And… I never got a reply. One day I hope to go to Vermont and visit the lake house and I’m going to the library to see the painting.