Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lenore E. Chaney (1881-1972)

Author and Farmer
Born December 6, 1881, Pittsfield, Illinois
Died April 27, 1972, Monterey County, California

One of the problems with researching the women who wrote for Weird Tales is that they can be hard to find in census and other records. Married women often did not give a trade or profession to the census enumerator, either because they did not make a living as writers, or because of conventions that said that a man is the breadwinner of the family and that his wife should not work outside the home or for pay inside the home. Women of course were not required to register for the draft. Draft registries are an invaluable record for information on male writers. In addition, a woman's unmarried name can be hard to find. But if the evidence is compelling enough, the researcher can draw conclusions as good as any that are likely to appear.

First, "Lenore E. Chaney" or just "Lenore Chaney" would seem a common enough name. Surprisingly, it isn't. A search of the census records pretty quickly yields a woman born in Illinois, married to a man named Osborne E. Chaney, and who was a longtime resident of California. Second, that same Osborne E. Chaney called himself a journalist and a magazine publisher. It isn't much of a stretch to speculate that his wife was a writer herself. Third, of two known stories authored by Lenore E. Chaney, one concerned a businessman and a lost son and was printed in a railroad magazine. Chaney was of course a businessman whose son may have been lost, while his brother, Oscar Chaney, was a railroad brakeman. Fourth, Chaney told a Federal judge in 1918 that he was returning to life on the farm. Whether he did as he said, his wife in fact became a farmer. And last, Lenore E. Chaney was of an age to contribute to Weird Tales in 1925.

My friend is reading a book called Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1971). As in Stegner's earlier and more autobiographical book, The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943), Angle of Repose follows the exploits of a male character--a husband and father--who is always looking for the next big thing--always scheming, always chasing a prize that forever remains just beyond his reach. Lenore E. Chaney's husband may have been such a man. Born in Bedford, Iowa, in 1877, Osborne E. Chaney first shows up in the records I have found in 1906, a journalist by trade with a residence in Kansas City, Missouri. His son was born in Minnesota in about 1908. In 1910, he and his wife were living in Berkeley, California. Chaney was by then a magazine publisher and may have put out a journal called Irrigation. At the time he registered for the draft during World War I, he was on the opposite coast running his own firm, O.E. Chaney and Company, and selling stocks and bonds. That's where his troubles began. He became involved with Emerson Motors Company, an up-and-coming concern that was going to manufacture automobiles. Only it wasn't. Instead, Emerson Motors was, in the words of a complaint against it, "a stock jobbing scheme." Indicted by a Federal grand jury in 1917, those involved with the scheme, Osborne E. Chaney included, were convicted and sentenced in July 1918. Chaney got off pretty lightly all things considered. He was fined $10,000 and placed in the custody of U.S. Marshals for one day. "The prisoner," the New York Times reported, "told the Judge that he intended to give up the brokerage business and go back to a farm."

When he applied for a passport two years later, Chaney was still in the business of selling stocks and bonds. His destination according to his passport was the Bahamas, his purpose, "recreation." He planned to take the "first vessel after receiving [a] passport." Evidently, Chaney was eager to leave the United States. There is no mention of his wife in the application as there had been in 1906 when he first sought a passport. In 1924 and 1925, Chaney made trips to Europe. Now his occupation was mine owner. Again, his wife's name was conspicuously absent.

The woman who endured all this was Lenore E. Johnstone Chaney. (The"E" may have stood for Edith.) She was born in Pittsfield, Illinois, on December 6, 1881, and was married to Osborne E. Chaney by 1906. If this is indeed the same Lenore E. Chaney, she wrote two stories for publication as far as I can find. The first was called "The Bowes Street House," and it was published in The Cavalier on April 26, 1913, and reprinted in Locomotive Engineers Monthly Journal in 1915. The second was a novelette, "White Man's Madness," published in Weird Tales in January 1925. By the time that story was published, she and her husband may have gone their separate ways. In 1930, Lenore was listed as the head and sole member of her household in Contra Costa County, California. Her occupation was chicken farmer.

Lenore E. Chaney lived in California for many years, in Berkeley, San Francisco, and perhaps other places. Her last address was Pacific Grove in Monterey County. Lenore died in Monterey County on April 27, 1972. She was ninety years old.

Lenore E. Chaney's Story in Weird Tales
"White Man's Madness" (Jan. 1925)

Further Reading
Lenore's story, "The Bowes Street House," is available on Google Books.

Lenore E. Chaney's novelette, "White Man's Madness," appeared in Weird Tales in January 1925. Lenore shared those pages with some high-powered authors, including E. Hoffman Price, Henry S. Whitehead, Seabury Quinn, Frank Belknap Long, Arthur J. Burks, Greye La Spina, and H.P. Lovecraft.
Update on Lenore Chaney, October 28, 2011
The Lenore E. Chaney of whom I wrote was in fact the writer and the wife of Osborne E. Chaney. Confirmation comes by way of an obituary provided by Weird Tales researcher Randal A. Everts and printed in the Monterey Peninsula Herald, April 28, 1972.

Lenore Edith Johnstone Chaney was born on December 6, 1881, in Pittsfield, Illinois. Her husband was a businessman and onetime president of the Amador Mother Lode Mining Company. That concern was still in business in 1935.

During the 1920s, Lenore Chaney was involved in California politics, serving as campaign manager for Friend W. Richardson, governor between 1923 and 1927. She also lobbied for passage of the California Community Protection Act. In later life, she became a real estate broker in Walnut Creek, retiring in 1960 to Pacific Grove. Lenore E. Chaney died on April 27, 1972.

A stock certificate for the Amador Mother Lode Mining Company. The president of the company was at one time Osborne E. Chaney, husband of Lenore E. Chaney.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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