Eric Hodgins

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Eric Francis Hodgins (March 2, 1899 – January 7, 1971) was the American author of the popular novel Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, illustrated by William Steig.

Portrait of author Eric Hodgins in 1948. Photograph by Joseph Janney Steinmetz, held by State Archives of Florida

Hodgins was born in Detroit, Michigan to the Episcopal clergyman Frederic Brinkley Hodgins and Edith Gertrude Bull on March 2, 1899. He attended the Trinity School in New York City, from which he graduated in 1917. After working for a year, he entered Cornell University in 1918 and transferred to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Autumn 1919.[1]

He graduated from MIT in 1922 with a chemical engineering degree. While at MIT, he was editor of VooDoo, the student humor magazine.[2] After graduation, he was managing editor of Technology Review until 1927.[3] From 1927-29, he was editor of The Youth's Companion. In 1929, he became an advertising salesman and then associate editor for Redbook.[1] In 1933, he became associate managing editor of Fortune magazine, promoted to managing editor in 1935 and publisher from 1937-41. From 1941-46 he was a vice-president of Time Inc..[4] While at Fortune, he wrote an expose of the European munitions industry, published in March 1934 as "Arms and the Men".[5] He resigned from Time Inc. in 1946 to become a full-time writer.

In 1930, he married Catherine Carlson, who had been an editorial assistant at The Youth's Companion. She died on January 20, 1933[6] while giving birth to their son, Roderic.[1] In 1936, he married Eleanor Treacy, an art editor at Fortune, with whom he had a daughter, Patricia.[4]

From 1929-32, he wrote several books on aviation and transportation with Frederick Alexander Magoun, who had been an instructor at MIT when Hodgins was a student there.[7] In April 1946, he wrote an article for Fortune called "Mr. Blandings Builds His Castle", a fictional account of the real-life troubles he encountered while building a house in New Milford, Connecticut. Later that year, he turned the article into a book, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, which was a best-seller. The novel was adapted as a popular movie of the same name, starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.

In real life, the house was completed in 1939, but was so expensive (costing $56,000 while the original budget was $11,000), that Hodgins was forced to sell it in 1945 for $38,000 to John Allard, a retired Air Force general. Hodgins unsuccessfully tried to buy the house back after receiving $200,000 from movie rights to the book. In 1953, the house was sold to Ralph Gulliver who gave it to his son Jack in 1972.[8] In 1980, the house was sold to the author and composer Stephen Citron and his wife, the biographer and novelist Anne Edwards.[9] In 2004, the house was sold for $1.2 million.

His next novel was a sequel called Blandings' Way about a liberal man working in advertising who wanted to do good but was accused of being a Communist. He thought it was a better book, but it was overshadowed by the success of the earlier one.

On January 8, 1960, he suffered a stroke.[10] He described the stroke and long recovery in Episode: Report On the Accident Inside My Skull, published in 1964. It received the Howard W. Blakeslee Award from the American Heart Association.[1] At the time of his death in 1971, he was writing an autobiography that was published posthumously as Trolley to the Moon: An Autobiography

Books[edit]

  • Sky High: The Story of Aviation (1929), co-authored with Frederick Alexander Magoun
  • A History of Aircraft (1931), co-authored with Frederick Alexander Magoun
  • Behemoth: The Story of Power (1932), co-authored with Frederick Alexander Magoun
  • Ocean Express: The Story of the Bremen and the Europa (1932)
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1946) — ISBN 978-0897332453
  • Blandings' Way (1950)
  • Enough Time?: The Pattern of Executive Life (1959) — ISBN 978-0548385821
  • Episode: Report On the Accident Inside My Skull (1964) — ISBN 978-0671210434
  • Trolley to the Moon: An Autobiography (1973) — ISBN 978-0671214401

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Eric Francis Hodgins. Dictionary of American Biography. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1994. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Gridiron Guests Hear Mr. Hodgins Discuss Fortune". The Tech. May 14, 1937. p. 1. 
  3. ^ "Killian Succeeds Eric Hodgins as Managing Editor". The Tech. May 9, 1927. p. 1. 
  4. ^ a b "Eric Hodgins". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Augspurger, Michael (2004). An Economy of Abundant Beauty: Fortune Magazine and Depression America. Cornell University Press. p. 278. ISBN 9780801442049. 
  6. ^ "Mrs. Eric Hodgins". The New York Times. January 22, 1933. p. 24. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "F(rederick) Alexander Magoun". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. 2001. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Taylor, Angela (September 4, 1975). "Remember the House That Blandings Built? There's an Epilogue". The New York Times. p. 41. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  9. ^ Grandjean, Patricia (May 24, 1992). "From Mr. Blandings's Nightmare, a Couple's Dream House Stirs". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Slaughter, Frank (March 22, 1964). "Lost Paths Rediscovered". The New York Times.