Margaret Horton Potter

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Margaret Horton Potter, in a 1904 publication

Margaret Horton Potter (May 20, 1881 – December 22, 1911) was an American novelist, specializing in historical fiction.

Early life[edit]

Margaret Horton Potter was born in Chicago, Illinois,[1] the daughter of Orrin Woodard Potter (1836-1907), a wealthy steel manufacturer,[2] and Ellen Owen Potter, who was active in women's clubs in Chicago.[3]


Margaret Horton Potter was still a teenager when she published her first novel, which was considered such a scandalous tale, modeled on actual people and events in Chicago society, that her family tried (unsuccessfully) to prevent its publication.[4]

Novels by Margaret Horton Potter include Uncanonized: A Romance of English Monachism (1900); The House of de Mailly: A Romance (1901); Istar of Babylon: A Phantasy (1902); A Social Lion (1903, under pseudonym Robert Dolly Williams); The Castle of Twilight (1903); The Flame-Gatherers (1904); The Fire of Spring (1905); The Genius (1906); The Princess (1907); and The Golden Ladder (1908).[5] Her works were generally historical fiction, with romance plots and exotic settings for American readers,[6][7] though A Social Lion and The Golden Ladder are set in Chicago.[8] There were also fantasy elements in some of Potter's novels, such as supernatural characters (the title character in Istar of Babylon is the goddess Ishtar) and the transmigrated souls in The Flame-Gatherers.[9]

In addition to novels, Potter wrote short stories and poems that appeared in Harper's Magazine.[10] and co-wrote a play, The Devil's Choice (1909), with Wallace Rice.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Margaret Horton Potter married lawyer John Donald Black (son of John C. Black) in 1902.[12] In about 1905, she became addicted to morphine.[13] In May 1910, she was declared mentally incompetent due to chronic alcoholism and morphine addiction,[14] and institutionalized.[15] After her release, her husband divorced her for "habitual drunkenness."[16] She died from a morphine overdose, ruled accidental,[17] in 1911, aged 30 years.[18]


  1. ^ Rossiter Johnson and John Howard Brown, eds., The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans (Biographical Society 1904): 1903.
  2. ^ "Orrin W. Potter Stricken" Chicago Tribune (May 15, 1907): 9.
  3. ^ "Mrs. Orrin W. Potter Dies at Lake Geneva" Los Angeles Herald (June 21, 1904).
  4. ^ "Wife in Asylum is Divorce Defendant" Inter Ocean (October 6, 1910): 1. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  5. ^ "Online Books by Margaret Horton Potter" The Online Books Page.
  6. ^ "Margaret Horton Potter" The Bookseller (September 1903): 316.
  7. ^ "The Stage Setting and Some Recent Books" The Bookman (May 1906): 281.
  8. ^ James A. Kaser, The Chicago of Fiction: A Resource Guide (Scarecrow Press 2011): 290.
  9. ^ "Good Books for Summer Reading" Book News 22(June 1904): 1053-1054.
  10. ^ Margaret Horton Potter, author, Harper's Magazine.
  11. ^ "In the Theaters" Chicago Daily Tribune (May 4, 1909): 10. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  12. ^ "Margaret Horton Potter, Authoress, Who Vowed Never to Wed, is Now Mrs. J. D. Black" Boston Post (January 9, 1902): 9. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  13. ^ "Tells of Authoress's Struggle with Drug" Pittsburgh Daily Post (December 24, 1911): 2. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  14. ^ "Margaret Black is Insane" Chicago Tribune (May 6, 1910): 3. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  15. ^ "A Woman Novelist Insane" Kansas City Times (May 6, 1910): 1. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  16. ^ "Would Divorce Novelist" New York Times (October 6, 1910).
  17. ^ "Chicago Authoress is Morphine Victim" Indianapolis Star (December 23, 1910: 5. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  18. ^ "Drug Kills Noted Novelist" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 23, 1911): 10.

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