Her Letters To Lovecraft: Henriette Ziegfeld

“The Blind Prince,” by Henriette Ziegfeld, is an excellent juvenile tale involving a fairy story. The only serious objection is the undercurrent of adult comment which flows through the narrative. Particularly cynical is the closing sentence: “‘And here’s Mother,’ finished poor Auntie with a sigh of relief.” The ordinary fairy stories told to children are bits of actual Teutonic mythology, and should be related with a grave, absolute simplicity and naivete. However, as a psychological study of the typical childish auditor, the sketch as a whole is highly meritorious. We are inclined to wonder at the possible meaning of the strange word “alright,” which appears more than once in Miss Ziegfeld’s tale. It is certainly no part of our language, and if it be a corruption of “all right,” we must say that we fail to perceive why the correct expression could not have been used.

“Department of Public Criticism,” The United Amateur 15, no. 2 (Sep 1915), in Collected Essays 1.72

This was, as far as can be determined, Lovecraft’s first notice of the existence of Henriette Ziegfeld (1894-1976), an amateur journalist from Columbus, Ohio. According to census data, Henriette was the child of immigrant parents, her father Dutch and mother German, and one of 11 children that survived to be recorded. “The Blind Prince” was published in The Woodbee, the amateur journal of the Woodbee Press Club of Columbus, which was associated with the faction of the United Amateur Press Association that H. P. Lovecraft had joined the previous year.

Amateur journalism appears to have been something of a family affair for the Zeigfelds. Lovecraft’s editorials and a letter mention her brothers Arthur (1901-1971; CE 1.267, 302, 307-8) and Florenz (1888-1951; CE 1.88, 124; LRKO 87); a 1920 convention report also lists as voting members their siblings Emelie (Emily), Hilda, Alma, Oscar, and Mrs. Ziegfeld—presumably their mother, Pauline Ziegfeld (1859-1929). A 1921 accounting of officers of the Woodbees lists Arthur F. Ziegfeld as President and his sister Henriette as the Secretary and Treasurer (CE 1.267).

By coincidence, Florenz Ziegfeld shared his name with the impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1869-1932), who staged the famous revue Ziegfeld’s Follies (1906-1930s), which featured dozens of elaborately costumed showgirls (popularly called “Ziegfeld Girls”) in an elaborate musical and visual tableau. Inspired by the coincidence, in 1921 Arthur F. Ziegfeld began producing his own amateur journal titled Ziegfeld’s Follies.

The only surviving correspondence between the two is a single letter dated 6 Nov 1920 from Lovecraft to Ziegfeld, thanking the Woodbee Club for the generous donation of $25 toward the United Amateur Press Association’s fund for the publication of The United Amateur. Presumably, Henriette was acting as treasurer and had sent the money and an accompanying letter or note, so this was Lovecraft’s official thank-you. He also included an official notice in The United Amateur, which contains another relevant detail:

The Woodbee Club, now doubly prominent in amateurdom through its possession of both the Presidency and the Secretary-Treasurership, continues to be the most active of local bodies. On Labour Day, September 5, a successful corn roast was held on the Frazier Farm, whilst on September 24 the third annual rummage sale took place. Of the proceeds of the latter, $25.00 will be very generously donated to the Official Organ Fund in five-dollar instalments. The latest event is a farewell party to Miss Henriette Ziegfeld on the eve of her departure for India.

“News Notes,” The United Amateur 21, no. 1 (Sep 1921) in Collected Essays 1.300

Whether she replied is unknown; but possible—someone had to have informed Lovecraft that Henriette was leaving for a teaching mission in India, and in subsequent issues Lovecraft offered brief updates of her progress, so someone was keeping him appraised:

Miss Henriette Ziegfeld of the Woodbee Club on November 12 sailed for India, where she will be engaged in missionary work at Nagercoil, Travancore, in the southernmost part of the peninsula.

“News Notes,” The United Amateur 21, no. 2 (Nov 1921) in Collected Essays 1.303

On December 24th the Club received the pleasing news that Miss Henriette Ziegfeld had safely reached her destination in India, despite two threatened onslaughts of mal de mer during the voyage; onslaughts which were cleverly defeated by means of judicious pedestrianism.

“News Notes,” The United Amateur 21, no. 3 (Jan 1922) in Collected Essays 1.308
Henriette Ziegfeld’s 1921 passport photo
Henriette Ziegfeld in India, 1923, Concordia Historical Institute

That is the last word in Lovecraft’s amateur journalism essays or letters on Henriette Zeigfeld. No doubt a good example of many brief correspondences with women in various positions of amateur journalism, most of which do not survive.

The letter from Lovecraft to Henriette Ziegfeld has been published in Miscellaneous Letters (2022). While the date given on the letter is 1920, the notice of the $25 donation occurred in 1921—either the Woodbee Club made two such donations, or the letter is from 1921 and was misdated or mistranscribed.

Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.

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