Monday, November 5, 2012

New Katharine Clugston Items

The Clugston family, ca. 1890
     The library has recently acquired several photos of Crawfordsville playwright Katharine Thatcher Clugston, from her nephew. Although Katharine didn't live in Crawfordsville for long, she is definitely part of the great literary tradition here.
      Katharine was born in Whitley County in 1892, the daughter of Emma Thatcher, a teacher, and Harry Clugston, lawyer and mayor of Columbia City. Harry was associated with the firm of Marshall & McNagny--the Marshall being Thomas Riley Marshall, governor of Indiana and vice president under Woodrow Wilson. The family story is that Katharine's father expected her to go into clerking at her father's store, but Tom Marshall put his foot down. He believed she must go to college, and if her family wouldn't pay, he would!
Katharine Clugston, ca. 1914
      Kate went to Wells College, graduating in 1914, and then studied at Radcliffe. She also studied playwriting at Yale under the eminent George Pierce Baker, who also taught Eugene O'Neill and Tom Wolfe. Her play "Finished" was produced at Yale to great reviews, but it flopped at its New York showing, despite the fact that it starred Katharine Hepburn in one of her first theater roles. Katharine (as well as other knowledgeable parties) blamed the failure on the new third act the producer forced her to write.
      Kate spent a year abroad with a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed her to write furiously away from the pressure and financial stress of New York City. She was also head of the play bureau in the Federal Theatre Project during the Depression. Kate kept busy writing, publishing two books, one a psychological thriller and the other a collaborative novel about Daniel Boone. One of her plays was made into the 1934 film "The Last Gentleman" starring George Arliss.
Kate spent her later years teaching, and retired to her home on Chebeague Island, Maine. She died there in 1985.

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