Home » USA » Theodore Dreiser

Theodore Dreiser


Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1871. Two years before his birth, his father was ruined when the wool factory he was managing burned to the ground. Dreiser attended Indiana University for one year and then dropped out. He became a newspaper reporter, working primarily in Chicago and St. Louis. While covering a strike in Pittsburgh, he became fully aware of the disparity between the rich and the poor. He moved to New York and, after initial failure, produced many articles and started writing his first novel, Sister Carrie. It was published in 1900 but the publisher did not approve of the subject matter and did not promote it, so it sold badly, though it did better in Britain. He soon started work on his second novel, Jennie Gerhardt, and had made considerable progress when he was hit by writer’s block, the result of a nervous breakdown, which essentially lasted for ten years. After his breakdown, he returned to journalism and worked for Butterick but was fired when he had an affair with the seventeen-year old daughter of one of his colleagues.

He returned to Jennie Gerhardt and soon finished it. He went on to write many books, including a book about his travels to Europe. He espoused many left-wing causes and was subject to much censorship for his”gritty realism”. During World War I, he was also attacked for his German name. Though his books were often critically successful, they did not sell well and he continued to write for magazines and do similar work, including writing generally unsuccessful film scripts, particularly after he moved to Los Angeles with his lover, Helen Patges Richardson, an aspiring actress. They were unable to marry till 1944, after his wife died, as she would not divorce him. While in Los Angeles, he started work on An American Tragedy and moved back to New York to finish it. Helen followed soon after. It was his most successful novel financially, though it was banned in Boston, and soon became a successful film. For the first time he had financial independence. In 1927, he visited the Soviet Union and, on returning to the USA, compared the situation there to the breadlines he saw in New York. During the 1930s, he spent most of his time involved in political causes and then moved to California permanently, where he spent his last days. In 1945, shortly before his death, he joined the Communist Party. He died at the end of 1945.

Other links

Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Dreiser
Dreiser, Theodore (1871-1945)
Dreiser’s Private Library
Theodore Dreiser, A Primary Bibliography and Reference Guide


1900 Sister Carrie
1911 Jennie Gerhardt
1912 The Financier
1913 A Traveler at Forty
1914 The Titan
1915 The”Genius”
1916 Plays of the Natural and the Supernatural
1916 A Hoosier Holiday
1918 Free and Other Stories
1919 Twelve Men
1919 The Hand of the Potter
1920 Hey Rub-a-Dub-Dub
1922 A Book About Myself (later: Newspaper Days)
1923 The Color of a Great City
1925 An American Tragedy
1926 Moods Cadenced and Declaimed
1927 The Financier
1927 Chains
1928 Dreiser Looks at Russia
1929 The Aspirant
1929 A Gallery of Women
1929 My City
1930 Plays Natural and Supernatural
1930 Epitaph a Poem
1930 Fine Furniture
1931 Dawn
1931 Tragic America
1935 Moods: Philosophic and Emotional (Cadenced and Declaimed)
1941 America Is Worth Saving
1946 The Bulwark
1947 The Stoic
1974 Notes on Life
1982 American Diaries, 1902-1926
1983 An Amateur Laborer
2011 Theodore Dreiser: Political Writings