Conrad Richter Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Conrad Michael Richter was born in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, on October 13, 1890, the eldest of three sons of a Lutheran minister. Richter grew up in several small rural Pennsylvania towns where his father had congregations. He came from mixed German, French, and Scotch-Irish blood. One of his forebears served with George Washington’s Continental Army and another fought as a Hessian mercenary for the British. His grandfather, uncle, and great-uncles were preachers. Richter was brought up in bucolic surroundings, and he passed a happy boyhood in a score of central and northern Pennsylvania villages. In 1906, he graduated from Tremont High School and during the next three years took a number of odd jobs—clerking, driving teams, pitching hay, and working as a bank teller. His first permanent job was as a reporter for the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Journal, a job he started at the age of nineteen.

Richter’s first published story, “How Tuck Went Home,” was written in 1913 while he was living in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1914, a second story, “Brothers of No Kin,” was awarded a twenty-five-dollar prize for being one of the best stories of the year. In 1915, Richter was married to Harvena Maria Achenbach. Moving West to find his fortune in a silver mine venture at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, he made a short sojourn as a speculator in the mine fields. After returning East, where the couple’s daughter was born in 1917, Richter started writing children’s literature and published a periodical for juveniles called Junior Magazine Book. Meanwhile, his short stories had been appearing in magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal and Saturday Review.

Richter’s early work as a newspaper reporter and editor influenced his literary style. His sparse method of expression was a product of his journalism training, and the typical length of his novels is about two hundred pages. In lieu of formal education, Richter, like many self-taught people, became a voracious reader. In an interview, he said, “All my life I have been a reader and one of my joys as a boy and young man was a good book in which I could lose myself.” His reading was eclectic, ranging from the adventure writer W. H. Hudson to scientific authors such as Michael Faraday and G. W. Crele, whose theories of chemistry and physics influence Richter’s later philosophical works. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Burroughs also helped shape his idealistic views on nature. The most important influence on his own writing came, however, from Willa Cather, whose pioneer characters and Western backgrounds...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201275-Richter.jpg Conrad Richter Published by Salem Press, Inc.

A specialist in early Americana, Conrad Michael Richter (RIHK-tur) was born on October 13, 1890, in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, a town that his great-grandfather, a major in the War of 1812 and a local storekeeper, helped to name. His father was a minister, as were his grandfather, a great-uncle, and an uncle. Richter, however, remarked that his interest in the American past derived from still earlier ancestors who were soldiers, country squires, traders, and farmers. During his boyhood, as his father moved from ministry to ministry, Richter became familiar with sections of Pennsylvania where old habits of living and speech still survived, and these early impressions are reflected in his books. In those days it was expected that he would study for the ministry, but at fifteen he finished high school and went to work driving a wagon over the mountains of central Pennsylvania.

A variety of jobs followed—work in a machine shop, in a coal breaker, on a farm, reporting for Johnstown and Pittsburgh papers. At nineteen, he was editor of a country weekly; later, he worked for two years as a private secretary in Cleveland. After a brief mining venture in the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho, he returned to Pennsylvania to set up a small publishing business of his own. During the next decade, his writing was divided between magazine fiction and several nonfiction books of scientific-philosophical theorizing such as Human Vibrations and Principles in Bio-Physics. Brothers of No Kin, a collection of short stories, was published in 1924. He married Harvena M. Achenbach in 1915. The Richters had one daughter, Harvena, a poet and short-story writer.

In 1928 Conrad Richter sold his business and moved his family to New Mexico. Interested from childhood in stories of pioneer days, he found in the American Southwest a region not long removed from the everyday realities of the frontier experience. Out of the files of old newspapers, diaries, letters, land deeds, account books, and from tales heard at first hand from older settlers in the Southwest, he filled his notebooks with material that eventually became the short stories collected in Early Americana. Chronologically and technically, these stories make a good introduction to the whole body of his fiction because they reveal the working of a specialized point of view. In Richter’s fiction, the rigors and dangers of the frontier do not enlarge upon life for pictorial or dramatic effect; they are its actual substance. If the present intrudes briefly on the past, as it does in several of the stories, it is only because the lives of his characters extend into modern times. In these stories, the reader may trace the development of a narrative method. It is not the simple pastness of the past that is important but the effect gained...

(The entire section is 1149 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Conrad Richter, novelist, short story writer, and essayist, was born on October 13, 1890, in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. Considered one of...

(The entire section is 605 words.)