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Sister Carrie
"A Strangely Strong Novel
in a Queer Milieu"
Curated by Nancy M. Shawcross
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Pennsylvania

The Enablers: Sara Osborne White and Arthur Henry

Photograph of Sara "Jug" Dreiser

Photograph of Arthur Henry

by Arthur Henry

Holograph of short story, 1899

After faking a group of theatrical reviews for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (Dreiser wrote them without attending the performances, unaware that the shows had not yet arrived because of a train delay), Dreiser resigned his position at the Globe-Democrat and ultimately presented himself to the inferior morning daily, Republic. To promote circulation, the paper sponsored a contest to select the most popular Missouri schoolteachers; Dreiser was assigned to cover the trip to the Chicago World's Fair for the twenty who received the most votes. On the train he met his future wife, Sara Osborne White, one of the contest's finalists: she was two and a quarter years Dreiser's senior. Married in Washington, D.C., on 28 December 1898--more than five years after first meeting--the couple initially settled in New York. As Dreiser began his first novel in earnest in the fall of 1899, it was Sara (known as Jug)--the schoolteacher--who corrected grammar and improved sentence structure. Her misgivings about the immorality of some of the characters proved prophetic in the turmoil that ensued with the publication of Sister Carrie.

In March 1894 Dreiser, still an itinerant newspaperman, came to Toledo, Ohio, in search of a job. There he met Arthur Henry, the then twenty-six-year-old city editor at the Toledo Blade, for whom Dreiser wrote an account of the Toledo streetcar strike. The two men felt an immediate rapport, and although Henry could not offer Dreiser a permanent position, they agreed to keep in touch, particularly regarding their shared literary ambitions. By 1899 Dreiser, his wife Jug, and Henry were all in New York. Henry convinced his friend to begin work on a novel, suggesting, in fact, that they spend the summer of 1899 at Henry's home in Ohio, where both would devote time to their literary endeavors, offering each other advice and encouragement and even sharing their incomes. Dreiser never did begin a novel during this summer retreat, although he did work on several short stories. Upon their return to New York, Dreiser and Henry continued their tandem pursuit of becoming novelists: Henry produced A Princess of Arcady and Dreiser began and completed Sister Carrie. Both texts were published by Doubleday, Page & Co. in 1900.

Jug's notes on Sister Carrie


Letter from Arthur Henry to Dreiser, ca. 1900

Letter from Arthur Henry to Dreiser, 19 June 1900

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