Henry Kitchell Webster

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Henry Kitchell Webster
Henry Kitchell Webster 1917.jpg
Webster circa 1917
Born (1875-09-07)September 7, 1875
Evanston, Illinois
Died December 8, 1932(1932-12-08) (aged 57)
Evanston, Illinois
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright
Spouse Mary Ward Orth Webster

Henry Kitchell Webster (September 7, 1875 – December 8, 1932) was an American author who lived in Evanston, Illinois. He wrote novels and short stories on themes ranging from mystery to family drama to science fiction. He first achieved moderate recognition in 1899 when he co-wrote The Short Line War with fellow Illinois author Samuel Merwin, with whom he later collaborated to write one of his more famous works, Calumet "K" (1901).


Calumet "K", which The Chicago Daily Tribune called "a vivifying romance of business," has maintained a modest level of popularity due to its status as Ayn Rand's favorite novel, a source of inspiration for her Objectivist philosophy.[1][2][3] Webster's novels The Real Adventure (1916) and An American Family: A Novel of Today (1918) both received critical praise upon release, and the former novel was made into a silent film in 1922.[4][5][6][7] By the time of his death, Webster had become one of the most popular authors of magazine serials in America.[2]

Writing habits and style[edit]

Webster's tales were often either set in Chicago, his "favorite literary locale," or in a fictitious urban location in the Midwest.[8] Webster usually released even his novels in serial form first, and he purposely straddled the line between popular "pot-boiler" fiction and longer, more ambitious works. He wrote an average of 2,000 words per day, at several points in his career reaching 60,000 words in as little as three weeks.[8] While producing such an enormous volume of text, Webster would decide which pieces were worthy of bearing his name and which should be released under a pseudonym. He asserted (anonymously) in The Saturday Evening Post that most authors must knowingly churn out large quantities of possibly inferior fiction in order to "make a living by literature."[8][9] Plenty of Webster’s work did bear his name, however, and under that name, he published twenty-nine novels and hundreds of short stories.[2]


  1. ^ Rand, Ayn (July, 1967). Introduction to Calumet "K", by Merwin-Webster, i-ix. New York: NBI Press, 1967.
  2. ^ a b c Butcher, Fanny. “Literary Circle Mourns Webster.” The Chicago Daily Tribune. 10 December 1932, 17.
  3. ^ Dalrymple, Scott (1997). "Capital Fictions: The Business Novel in America, 1890–1910." PhD diss., State University of New York at Buffalo. 81–82.
  4. ^ Lehman, Peter (2012). "Change in Urban America: The Early 20th Century through the Works of Henry Kitchell Webster." MA Thesis, Pennsylvania State University. 1–6.
  5. ^ Butler, Shepherd. "Henry K. Webster's Novel of Chicago and Chicagoans." The Chicago Daily Tribune. 19 October 1918. 10.
  6. ^ "Marriage as 'The Real Adventure.'" The New York Times. 23 January 1916. BR26.
  7. ^ The Real Adventure at silentera.com database
  8. ^ a b c “Henry K. Webster, Noted Writer, Dead,” The New York Times. 10 December 1932. 15.
  9. ^ Anonymous (Henry Kitchell Webster). "Making a Living by Literature." The Saturday Evening Post 184, no. 20 (11 November 1911): 20.

External links[edit]