August Derleth will celebrate his 100th Birthday

12 Feb


Back in the 1990’s Kay Price and I regularly visited Hugo Schwenker who lived in The Harness Shop on Water Street in Sauk City. Hugo was a childhood friend of August Derleth and they remained friends up to Derleth’s death in 1971. Derleth wrote about their teenage years in The Adventures of the Mill Creek Irregulars — a series of ten mysteries. Hugo’s Harness Shop remained essentially unchanged from the 1940’s up until his death. When I asked Paul Churchill to illustrate the series he did a caricature of the Steve and Sim and I illustrate it here:


"Steve Grendon and Sim Jones" by Paul Churchill

On one of our visits, I asked Hugo if he remembered the stamp that August had created back in the 1940’s. He said a simple “yes” and went to a drawer in his cabinet where he kept his correspondence and took out a couple to give me. There were two distinct shades, one was brown gray and the other was gray. They both had straight edges. I wondered how large the sheets were? and whether any of the four sides had selvage? I gave him a copy of Country Matters, a series of short stories featuring the shenanigans of Gus Elker, one of Augie’s Sac Prairie characters who manages to regularly get himself into and out of trouble in each of his 6,000+ word stories.

I subsequently met with April Derleth, and discussed the August Derleth Sac Prairie Stamp, and she presented me with an intact sheet of 100 stamps (straight edges on all 4 sides), and then we spent the evening looking through Augie’s stamp collection — a memorable experience. The stamps themselves have an Arabic gum. I have now produced a reprint of this “Cinderella” stamp and this second printing has a PVA gum, and has a lighter gray in colour, and it will be available in reasonable quantities at no charge, to all those individuals who wish to use them on February 24, 2009 on their mail along with regular US postage.


There will also be two series of postcards. The first will feature the front Dustjacket reproduction of each of the four Macabre Quarto Volumes. The second will feature the “Barn in the Meadow” in all four seasons, and the reverse has an extract reproduced from Augie’s journals.

And finally, the header that started this post featuring train is one of the Frank Utpatel’s woodcuts that that Augie regularly used on his stationary. I have seen many different varieties over the years while viewing his correspondence, and somebody should really collect them, and I do believe that Dan Boulden already is. Frank Utpatel illustrated many of Arkham House’s books and covers over the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. It is a curious irony that many of these dustjackets in fine condition are worth many times the price of the books themselves. This is truly a quaint variegation of book collecting obsession as opposed to plain and simple addiction to book reading!


"The Harness Shop" by Frank Utpatel


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