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McCutcheon, George Barr (1866-1928) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: McCutcheon, George Barr (1866-1928)


Historical Note:

Novelist and playwright George Barr McCutcheon, 1866-1928, was the brother of Lake Forest resident and eminent Chicago newspaper cartoonist John T. McCutcheon, 1870-1949.  John came to Chicago and was established as a cartoonist/artist/ writer in the 1890s.  But the older George stayed in Indiana near the family farm, as editor of the Lafayette (IN) newspaper.  He continued in that post until 1902, by which time his successful novel "Graustarck..." had been published (1901) -- the number one best seller that year.  The novel was set in a mythical or fictitious Balkan kingdom.  In 1902 his novel "Brewster's Millions" was an equally spectacular hit. 

He continued to write novels and also plays for the rest of his career until his death at the age of 62, but rarely with nearly as much success as with these two early hits.  One of his later novels, "West Wind Drift" (1920; serialized in the Chicago Tribune, sixteen parts from August 8 to November 20, 1920), though, is an early 20th C. version of the early 21st C. television serial "Lost," with the passengers of an ocean liner shipwrecked on a deserted island.  But unlike their dysfunctional early 21st C. counterparts, McCutcheon's castaways set up a colony with a government, etc. and reform a society.  Perhaps this was a commentary on the chaos that followed the November 1917 Bolshevist Revolution in Russia.  This 1920 book rarely is mentioned though along with his other more romantic, more popular fictional works.  Over his career George McCutcheon sold over 5,000,000 books and made some years $60,000 and even $70,000 in royalties, etc. (1910 and 1912), a vast sum for a writer of the day.  By 1927 he still was earning over $34,000 for the year. 

McCutcheon, by then in Chicago, in 1904 married a widow, Marie Fay, and they moved from Chicago to New York in 1910.  Soon after his marriage he began buying (and selling/exchanging) art--oil paintings, watercolors, etchings, etc.  In 1920 he also bought 3,000 acres of land at Pebble Beach, California.

These lists appear to be recording his financial life and inventories of his non-literary assets, activities (club memberships) and transactions.

Arthur H. Miller, Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections, amiller@lakeforest.edu; 847-735-5064.

Sources:

Gale, Robert L.  "George Barr McCutcheon."  American National Biography.  New York: Oxford U. Press, 1999; 15, 2-3. 

McCutcheon, George Barr. Notebook of lists.

McCutcheon, George Barr.  West Wind Drift. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1920; and serialized in the Chicago Tribune, August 8 to November 20, 1920 (sixteen installments).

Note Author: Arthur H. Miller, amiller@lakeforest.edu; 847-735-5064.





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