Floyd Dell

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Floyd Dell
Fdell profile.jpg
Born Floyd James Dell
June 28, 1887
Barry, Illinois, United States
Died July 23, 1969(1969-07-23) (aged 82)
Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Occupation critic; magazine editor; novelist
Known for Friday Literary Review
The Masses
Spouse(s) Margery Currey
Berta Marie Gage

Floyd James Dell (June 28, 1887 – July 23, 1969) was an American newspaper and magazine editor, literary critic, novelist, playwright, and poet. Dell has been called "one of the most flamboyant, versatile and influential American Men of Letters of the first third of the 20th Century."[1] As editor and critic, Dell's influence is alive in the work of many major American writers from the first half of the 20th century. A lifelong poet, he was also a best-selling author, as well as a playwright whose hit Broadway comedy, Little Accident (1928),[2] was made into a Hollywood movie.[3]

Dell wrote extensively on controversial social issues of the early 20th century, and played a major part in the political and social movements originating in New York City's Greenwich Village during the 1910s & 1920s. As editor of left-wing magazine The Masses, Dell was twice put on trial for publishing subversive literature.


Early life & career[edit]

Floyd Dell was born in Barry, Illinois on June 28, 1887 to Anthony Dell, a Civil War veteran and unsuccessful butcher, and Kate Crone, a home maker. Dell spent his childhood in poverty, with his family moving often. He lived in Quincy, Illinois for a large portion of his childhood. Encouraged by his mother, a former school teacher, Dell became a voracious reader, spending much of his time at Quincy's local library.

In 1903 Dell moved with his family to Davenport, Iowa, which was then a liberal and cosmopolitan port city and center of trade with a thriving literary and intellectual scene. Initially attending Davenport High School, Dell did not return to school after the summer of 1904, instead becoming a reporter at a local paper. Dell also became an active socialist, and associated with other local writers to form what would be called the 'Davenport group'. While in Davenport Dell also began publishing poetry, first in local papers, then in national periodicals. By the time Dell left Davenport for Chicago in 1908 he had escaped blue-collar life to emerge as a promising young professional writer and intellectual.

Playbook for The Angel Intrudes (1917).

In Chicago Dell became editor and book reviewer for of the Chicago Evening Post's nationally-distributed Friday Literary Review, the "leading organ of literary modernism in America at the time."[4] Dell used his position as editor to introduce many Americans to modernist literature and promote the work of many Chicago writers, including Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Carl Sandburg. Dell's further influence as a critic can be seen in the work of many major American writers from the first half of the 20th century.

Greenwich Village[edit]

Relocating to New York in 1913, Dell became a leader of the pre-war bohemian community in Greenwich Village and managing editor of Max Eastman's radical magazine The Masses. Following the passing of the Espionage Act of 1917, the government officially labeled the magazine “treasonable material” in August of that year and issued charges against its staff for “unlawfully and willfully… obstruct[ing] the recruiting and enlistment of the United States" military. The "conspirators" faced fines up to 10,000 dollars and twenty years imprisonment. After deliberating for three days, the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision. The jurors seeking to convict the defendants blamed one juror for being unable to conform to the majority opinion, as he was also a socialist. Not only did the other eleven jurors demand the prosecutor to levy charges against the lone juror, but they attempted to drag the socialist supporter out into the street and lynch him. The Judge, given the uproar, declared a mistrial. A second trial also resulted in a deadlocked jury.

Dell joined fellow Davenporters Susan Glaspell and George Cram Cook as a member of the Provincetown Players and his play King Arthur's Socks was the first performed by that historic theater group.

Later life & career[edit]

Following the war, Dell turned to fiction and his first novel, the bildungsroman Moon-Calf, became a best seller. This was followed by several other novels with limited success. His autobiographical memoir, Homecoming, is a striking eyewitness view of the social and artistic-bohemian history of the midwest. Dell continued to publish both fiction and non-fiction until the end of his life.

Dell joined the WPA and U.S. Information Service in 1935 from which he retired following World War II. He marred Beatrice Marie, and had two sons. One son, Christopher Dell, became a writer as well. He married, had two daughters, then divorced and remarried Kate Kane. Kane has all of Dell's playwrights. With her he had a daughter, Mia Dell. She married and has three children.

Floyd Dell died in Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., on July 23, 1969. In 2015, he was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. [5]

Partial bibliography[edit]


  • (1920) Moon-Calf
  • (1921) The Briary-Bush
  • (1923) Janet March
  • (1925) This Mad Ideal
  • (1925) Runaway
  • (1926) Love in Greenwich Village
  • (1926) An Old Man's Folly
  • (1927) An Unmarried Father
  • (1929) Souvenir
  • (1931) Love Without Money
  • (1932) Diana Stair
  • (1934) The Golden Spike


  • (1913) Women as World Builders
  • (1919) Were You Ever a Child?
  • (1924) Looking at Life; essays
  • (1926) Intellectual Vagabondage; essays
  • (1926) The Outline of Marriage
  • (1927) Upton Sinclair: A Study in Social Protest
  • (1930) Homecoming; autobiography
  • (1930) Love in the Machine Age
  • (1947) Government Aid During the Depression to Professional, Technical and Other Service Workers (Washington: Government Printing Office)
  • (1947) Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43 (Washington: Government Printing Office)


  • (1914) Feminism for Men
  • (1914) Mona Lisa and the Wheelbarrow
  • (1915) The Censor's Triumph
  • (1915) Enter the Woman


  • (1913) Human Nature: A Very Short Morality Play
  • (1914) Chaste Adventures Of Joseph: A Comedy
  • (1914) Ibsen Revisited: A Piece Of Foolishness
  • (1915) Enigma: A Domestic Conversation
  • (1915) Rim Of The World: A Fantasy
  • (1915) Legend: A Romance
  • (1916) King Arthur's Socks: A Comedy
  • (1917) Long Time Ago: A Tragic Fantasy
  • (1917) Angel Intrudes: A Comedy
  • (1918) Sweet-And-Twenty: A Comedy
  • (1920) Poor Harold: A Comedy
  • (1928) Little Accident

Further reading[edit]

  • Dell, Floyd; Homecoming: An Autobiography, New York Farrar & Rinehart Incorporated (1933).
  • Clayton, Douglas; Floyd Dell: The Life and Times of an American Rebel, (Chicago: Ivan R, Dee, 1994).
  • Hart, John E; Floyd Dell, Twayne Publishers Inc (New York: 1971).


  1. ^ Krupnick, Mark (1996). Floyd Dell, Sensible Rebel [Review of the book Essays From the Friday Literary Review, 1909-1913, by Floyd Dell (Edited by R. Craig Sautter)]. Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1996.
  2. ^ Greasley, Philip A., Dictionary of Midwestern Literature, Indiana U. Press, 2001
  3. ^ "The Little Accident (1930)". IMDb. 3 August 1930. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  4. ^ Stansell, Christine, American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century, Princeton University Press; 1 edition (December 6, 2009)
  5. ^ "The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame - Author Details - Floyd Dell". chicagoliteraryhof.org. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 

External links[edit]