Who Was Donald Barr Chidsey?
September 14, 2010 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have more information about the author Donald Barr Chidsey?

Found a pulpy sea-adventure book, Captain Adam, a few years ago containing a short author's bio that was more interesting and fantastic than the story itself. I've searched on and off for more info about him, but keep coming up dry; no Wikipedia entry, no biography, only a NYT obituary and a host of suggestions to read his nonfiction historical books. NYT's pay archive seems to have several reviews of his book, but I didn't see any real biographical information in the abstracts.

Full text of the author's bio (I bracketed "Tahiti," because the dust jacket was torn there and that's my confident guess):
There is a handsome, middle-aged gentleman who lives quietly with his wife in Lyme, Connecticut. He is a Justice of the Peace, and is active in the local P.T.A., Boy Scout movement, concert association, and Church.

It was not always thus.

Donald Barr Chidsey has covered a good part of the earth in tramp steamers or tramp schooners, pearl shell boats or copra boats, or private yachts. He owned a plantation in the Punaauia district of [Tahiti,] visited or lived in most of the South Sea Islands: the Society Islands, American and Western Samoa, the Australs, the Cooks, the Fiji Islands, the Gambiers, the Tuamotus, New Guinea, Papua, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and many others; Central and South America, China, Indo-China, Japan, Malaya, the Near East.

Mr. Chidsey has been a newspaperman, Broadway actor, farmer, road gang foreman, mountaineer, bartender, boxer, and fencer with foil, épée, saber, schlaeger and broadsword. He was an ambulance driver with the British 8th Army in North Africa, has served also with the 9th Army in Syria, the New Zealanders, the United States army, the Free French in Tunisia, and the 51st Highland Division. Throughout his own adventures, he has always been a writer. Many previous works include the bestselling novels Panama Passage and Stronghold.

These days, Mr. Chidsey hardly ever dreams of returning to the South Seas. He likes it in Connecticut. However, he has a new hobby, stunt flying…
Full disclosure: I posted about this on my personal blog today, but I'm not trying to drive traffic there; I am genuinely curious about this apparent real-life adventure hero and am asking everywhere I can.
posted by JeremiahBritt to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have emailed the selectman in the small town of Lyme, as well as Long Neck, NY, the last place I can find reference of to his brother G. Alan Chidsey.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 1:06 PM on September 14, 2010

We have a Books & Authors database at my library and I found these tidbits:

Life: Born May 14, 1902, in Elizabeth, NJ; died in 1981 in New London, CT; son of John Marshall and Catherine (Barr) Chidsey; married Virginia Clark, 1944.

Career: Newspaperman for ten years on many different papers; writer, beginning 1928. Served with American Field Service in Middle East.

Awards: Boys Clubs of America Junior Book Award for Rod Rides High, 1951; Colonial Dames of America annual book award, 1965, for The Birth of the Constitution.
posted by morganannie at 1:10 PM on September 14, 2010

Here's a para about him from the Saturday Evening Post (8/17/1946), mostly repeating and confirming info you know:
"DONALD BARR CHIDSEY, who writes of old Connecticut in DEADLINE AT MIDNIGHT, Page 12 [not included in the original], is one of the newest and most devoted citizens of Lyme, Connecticut, after many years of combining writing and travel. The photograph [sorry, wasn't able to copy that for you] was taken in Quinn's Bar, in Pápete, in 1940. Chidsey lived a relatively long time in Tahiti: He put down stakes, bought a small copra plantation, and stayed six years. He has spent shorter periods of semi-permanent residence in Honolulu and Haiti."

There's a really weird newspaper column written about him that was published in the Florida Times Union in 1998 (talking about yachting during the Great Depression); MeMail if you'd like the full text, as I can't put it online.

I also have access to 14 NYT reviews of his books (the archived paywall stuff), as well as two reviews of other books that Chidsey himself wrote and of course the obituary that you have. Again, MeMail me if you'd like these articles.

Chidsey also wrote a linguistics (?) article indexed in MLA. Here's the citation:
Chidsey, Donald Barr. "Some Lexicographical Notes." American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage 21.3 (1946): 208-211. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 14 Sept. 2010 9 [note that 14 Sept is my date of accessing the article; the article was written in 1946]

I do have access to the lexicographical article, but it's on microfiche and you'd have to make a pretty compelling case before I'd go pull the fiche, copy it, and then scan it for you. Maybe someone else hear has access to American Speech online from '46? I don't even know if they've been digitized that far back yet.

He wrote an article for National Geographic that I don't have digital access to (but your local public library should have the run of the magazine back that far). Here's the citation for that article:
Chidsey, Donald Barr. "The Old Boston Post Roads." National Geographic 122.2 (1962): 188. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 14 Sept. 2010.

There's also yet more book reviews (one of them quite scathing!) and once again let me know if you want access to these. I think, beyond that, you've exhausted most of the easy stuff but there's still more out there, depending on what you're looking for. I specifically mentioned what book reviews I know about because they usually include some biographical info on the author (and as they're done over time, they will be changed with his life changes). Hope this helps!
posted by librarylis at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, librarians are warrior magicians of information, pulling knowledge out of hats and disappearing ignorance with a vengeance.

I have a Library of Congress card, but for some reason they didn't tell me when I went there to sign up for it that I need to request a PIN to actually use it, I don't know why. I'll have to make my way back there eventually and dredge up what librarylis can't easily get.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:52 AM on September 15, 2010

« Older I need a cardboard tube   |   Please help me organize I'm drowning in lists Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.