Charles Alden Seltzer: The Men who Make The Argosy


Between the issues of January 25, 1929 and January 24, 1942, The Argosy published profiles about 141 of its leading writers. However sketchy some of these autobiographical pieces are, they provide the only available information about many of the adventure writers who contributed to this magazine. Wherever possible, we'll add newly researched articles about certain writers, and develop bibliographies of their magazine stories and books.

Charles Alden Seltzer
(Aug. 15, 1875 - Feb. 9, 1942)

The vital statistics are: Born in August 1875, at the village of Janesville, Wisconsin. One year in Wisconsin. Then to Columbus, Ohio, where after a time I worked at various enterprises, such as newsboy, telegraph messenger, painter, carpenter and manager of the circulation of a newspaper. Spent the better part of five summer and some of the winters in Union County, New Mexico. At twenty I was in Cleveland, Ohio, where I was again a carpenter. Foreman, contractor. Began to write about this time -- nights. Thirteen years of writing without finding a publisher. In the interim I was engaged in various enterprises: Building inspector for the City of Cleveland, editor of a small newspaper, expert for the Cuyahoga County Board of Appraisers. Wrote and sold about one hundred short stories. Published a book of short stories called the Range Riders in 1911. A success. Followed it with a full length novel called The Two Gun Man in 1911. Another bell-ringer. Gone North will be the thirtieth published book. Twenty-three of these have been published as serials in ARGOSY.

I have no regular working hours, but I try my best to turn out at least two full-length serials each year. I still try to make an occasional trip to the West. I like to go over the old ranges. I do not like to have any one refer to Western stories as "wild and woolly," because, while I concede that the West was wild, it never became woolly until the advent of the sheep -- and that was after I lived there. I never saw a pair of sheep chaps; I never heard a cowhand call another "cowboy," "cow-puncher" or "waddie." "Hand," or "rider," or "cowhand" was the radius of the terminology as applied to the regular ranch employee. "Straw-boss," "wrangler," "buster," "range-boss" were others -- all understandable and universal in the Southwest. To be sure, there were Mexican equivalents used.

I have made some trips into the country which I have written about in Gone North. Fishing, hunting and observing. My hobbies are hunting, fishing, trap shooting, pistol practice and politics. I have broken ninety-two out of a possible hundred clay targets. In a pistol shoot in competition -- with a thirty-eight Colt -- at twenty yards I have made a ninety-one and a quarter per cent target. Last November I rang the bell in North Olmstead politics by being elected mayor of the town -- and I am now serving my sentence. North Olmstead is a suburban town on the edge of Cleveland and has a population of twenty-five hundred people and by the end of my two-year term I expect they will all join in chasing me out of town.

I have been married thirty-five years. Five children. One girl married, one at home. One boy Louis B., is editor of the Cleveland Press; another, Robert M., is a star reporter; the third is an advertising man. I am grateful that they did not attempt to follow in their father's footsteps.

P. S. My wife still believes in me.

[Editor's Note: Charles Alden Seltzer was a modest man, according to his son, Louis B. Seltzer (1897-1980). He recalled in his autobiography that his father wrote 200 hundred stories before he sold his first one. Too poor to buy paper on which to write them in longhand, his wife was able to obtain butcher's wrapping paper from a kind neighborhood meat man. Once he found markets for his stories and began writing novels, he became one of the most successful and prolific Western writers of his day. His books are now lauded for their authenticity, and were widely reprinted and translated during his lifetime, and for several decades after. A number of his novels were adapted for the screen beginning in the silent-film era. Seltzer was often hired to write the screenplays for those books he sold to Hollywood when sound took over.

Louis B. Seltzer was also a fascinating man in his own right. With nothing more than a seventh-grade education, became a newspaper reporter at age 13. Five years later he joined the Cleveland Press, rising rapidly in the editorial ranks. In 1928, at age 30, became that newspaper's editor-in-chief, a position he held until his retirement in 1966. During his long newspaper career he became one of the most respected crusading editors in the country.]

Copyright 2001-2002 by Adventure

Posted by ds at January 30, 2003 04:50 PM

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Great article- the only site I found that had the info I needed!

Posted by: Lise at February 14, 2004 10:20 AM

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