100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the category “Literature”

Author Pens Story In One Night

Franz Kafka was born in Prague in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in July 1883. He grew up in a upper middle-class secular family with 4 sisters and parents who were hardly home. He read profusely, did well in school and spoke Czech as well as German and Yiddish. Kafka had finished his studies of law at the Karl-Ferdinands-Universität of Prague in 1907 and had worked various jobs including an insurance company and starting an asbestos factory with his brother-in-law.

Franz Kafka

Kafka’s oldest story is from a letter he wrote a friend in 1902. His earliest published works were eight stories CONTEMPLATION which appeared in the first issue of the literary journal Hyperion in 1908. He worked on “Description of a Struggle” from 1904 to 1909.

On September 23, 1912 Franz Kafka finished THE JUDGMENT after starting it the night before. It is about a depressing confrontation a man has with his father that end in rejection and apparent suicide. He described it as “the total opening of body and soul” and “the story evolved as a true birth, covered with filth and slime”. He viewed the work as “one of his most successful and perfect literary creations” which he was able to write in a “semi-unconscious state of mind.” It is about a depressing confrontation a man has with his father that end in rejection and apparent suicide. It was all done in one draft without revision.

Poetess Discovered In Maine

Edna St Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine in 1892. Her mother divorced and moved from town to town in poverty with Millay and her 3 sisters. The family finally settled in a small house in Maine on the property of an aunt. Millay always had literature around her and started writing poems. At Camden High School she wrote for the school’s literary magazine. Millay won the St Nicholas Gold Badge for poetry and published her poetry in the popular children’s magazine St Nicholas, the Camden Herald, and Current Literature. In 1912 Millay is working at the Whitehall Inn in Camden as a waitress.

On August 29, 1912 Edna St Vincent Millay attended a staff party at Whitehall Inn where she and her sister both sang, danced, and won prizes for best costume and dancer. She was reading a long poem she had written “Renascence” when she was heard by a guest Caroline B Dow of New York City, the executive secretary of the YWCA’s national training school of New York. She is impressed with Millay’s talent and is moved to help the young girl if she can, perhaps getting her into a good college.

Edna St Vincent Millay


Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in September 1875, in Chicago, Illinois. In 1895 after failing the entrance exam for the United States Military Academy (West Point), he ended up as an enlisted soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. After being diagnosed with a heart problem and thus found ineligible for a commission, he was discharged in 1897. He married and had children and had a string of jobs ending with a job as a salesman for a manufacturer of pencil sharpeners.
He spent his time reading, especially “pulp fiction” magazines, inexpensive fiction magazines published since 1896 printed on cheap paper with ragged, untrimmed edges.The name pulp comes from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Burroughs reflected :”…if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs

In August 1911 Burroughs submitted a partial manuscript to Argosy Magazine, entitled “Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess” which portrays “Barsoom”, the native Martian word for Mars. He used the pseudonym or pen name Norman Bean. The “Princess of Mars’ series was very popular and began the literary career of Burroughs. He has taken up writing full-time.
On August 27, 1912 Burrough’s new novel, TARZAN OF THE APES made its first appearance in THE ALL STORY magazine October 1912 issue described as  “…the most exciting story we have seen in a blue moon, and about as original as they make ’em … Through a series of catastrophes an English baby boy is kidnapped by a tribe of huge anthropoid apes. He grows up among them. The fact that he is a reasoning animal makes a difference in his development, and then the forces of civilization obtrude. Zowie! but things happen!

The All Story magazine
October 1912
“Tarzan of the Apes”

Portrait Of Crusading Author

Reginald Wright Kauffman was born in Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1877. He attended Harvard and became a reporter for the Philadelphia Press and an associate editor for The Saturday Evening Post. He wrote several books that dealt with social issues including HOUSE OF BONDAGE (1910) a frank examination of prostitution in America and one of the first to attempt to present this problem in a non-moralistic manner.


On August 27, 1912 photographer Elias Goldensky of Philadelphia took this portrait of Kauffman.

Reginald Wright Kauffman
portrait by Elias Goldensky
August 27, 1912

Recorded on June 5, 1912

James Whitcomb Riley was born in October 1849 in Greenfield, Indiana. Though his father was an attorney and politician in state politics, Riley’s education was sporadic and he graduated eight grade at age 20. He like writing poetry but his understanding of proper grammar was poor. Riley picked up the cadence and character of the dialect of central Indiana and this heavily influenced the hundreds of poems he wrote in 19th century Hoosier dialect. The Civil War left his father wounded and the family destitute. Riley got a job as a sign painter which his poetic talents aided in sign slogans. His brother in Indianapolis gave some his poems to the newspaper THE INDIANAPOLIS MIRROR and over 20 poems appeared on the front page by 1872. Riley submitted poems to newspapers, performed with a group of actors and continued to paint signs. By 1879 he got a job as a reporter but was still disappointed by his rejection by east coast publishers.

In 1885 Riley with other mid-western writers organized the Western Association of Writers to promote authors who did not come from the east. In 1887 he performed with other writers including Mark Twain and was lauded for his dialect poems. His writing were soon carried by major newspapers and his fame spread. Riley participated in major poem reading tours with other writers making a fortune. His famous poems include “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man”. Since the mid-1880’s Riley has been the nation’s most read poet, a trend that accelerated at the turn of the century. Demand for his works was so large that the level of popularity he achieved has not since been surpassed by any poet in their lifetime. He has focused primarily on children’s poetry and his health is failing.

In 1912 Riley recorded readings of his most popular poetry to be sold by Edison Records. Here is “Out To Old Aunt Mary’s” recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 5, 1912.

Out To Old Aunt Mary’s – James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley in later years surrounded by latest fans – children

Children’s Book Patented

Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell was born in Rice Corners, Illinois in 1862. He moved to New York City and attended the Art Students League. By 1883 he was a working illustrator published in newspapers and magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar. In 1893 Newell started doing children’s books. The Slant Book and Topsys and Turvys became very popular.

The Slant Book


…and Turvys!


In 1905 he started doing comic strips including “The Naps of Polly Sleepyhead” about a young girl and her fantastic naps.


The Naps Of Polly Sleepyhead


On June 4, 1912, Newell patented THE ROCKET BOOK, the story of a naughty boy who set of a rocket he found in the basement of his apartment building and how it affected each floor it went through.

THE ROCKET BOOK – patented June 4, 1912

THE ROCKET BOOK in its entirety thanks to Bullfinch’s Mythology – The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Rocket Book, by Peter Newell Produced by Jason Isbell, David Garcia and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net/


Writer Makes Profound Diary Entry In Bohemia

Franz Kafka was born in Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary in July 1883. He was the eldest child of 6 in an affluent secular Jewish family. He had a typical middle-class German-based education and obtained a degree of Doctor of Law in June 1906 after which he performed an obligatory year of unpaid service as law clerk for the Civil and criminal courts. He worked in insurance, a job he performed well but considered boring and oppressive. He has little time for indulgences, like theater and writes when he can and hangs out with a small circle of literary friends.

On June 1, 1912 Franz Kafka wrote in his diary:

” Wrote nothing.”

…which he did, and didn’t, and did! Pure existentialism!

Franz Kafka – passport photo 1911-1912

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