Author, Historian, Folklorist, Biographer, Artist, and Businessman
Born March 10, 1875, Sedalia, Missouri
Died November 17, 1963, the Bronx, New York
Alvin Fay Harlow was born on March 10, 1875, in the central Missouri railroad town of Sedalia and started work at age eighteen in an express office. He attended Franklin College in central Indiana, where he was president of his fraternity, the college literary society, and the senior class. He also served as editor and founder of his class annual. Harlow graduated from Franklin College in 1899. The following year, the federal census taker found him living with his parents in North Vernon, Indiana. Nicknamed "The City of Railroads," North Vernon is near the location of the first railroad laid down west of the Allegheny Mountains and the first train robbery in the United States, perpetrated by the Reno Gang. Coincidentally, both Sedalia and North Vernon were threatened by Confederates during the Civil War.
Harlow married in Tennessee in 1909. Between 1909 and 1913, he worked for the Grand View Coal and Timber Company in that state. Nineteen twenty found him Chattanooga and employed as a commercial artist, perhaps at the Pennebaker-Turley Printing Company, where he had worked in 1917 when he filled out his draft card. Harlow was interested in Appalachian culture and folkways. He even made topical and educational films about life in the mountains.
By 1930, Harlow had completed his eastward trek, settling in New York City and writing for a living. His book titles comprise a long list. Many concern railroads, canals, communications, and history in general. He also wrote biographies of Andrew Carnegie, Bret Harte, and Theodore Roosevelt, among others. His contributions to the Dictionary of American Biography amounted to 100 articles. Harlow topped that with 300 articles for the Dictionary of American History.
Harlow also wrote non-fiction for Weird Tales. In a series that ran in every issue from September 1927 to October 1929, he wrote about "What Folks Used to Believe," from "The Indestructible Bone" to "The Roc." Harlow was admired as a writer. His articles must have made for fascinating reading. I should mention that his twenty-six works in prose for "The Unique Magazine" place him in a tie for fifteenth place among its most prolific writers. I should mention also that all of Harlow's articles were illustrated by Hugh Rankin.
In addition to Weird Tales, Harlow wrote for pulp titles such as Complete Detective Novel Magazine, All-Story Weekly, and Railroad Magazine. His work also appeared in slick magazines such as Collier's, Esquire, and The Saturday Evening Post, and in newspapers such as the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune. His co-author on the article "She Fought for Her Husband’s Life" for Woman’s World (May 1935) was his wife Dora Shockley Harlow.
Franklin College, Harlow's alma mater, granted him an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. The author was also an honorary member of the New York Historical Society, a fellow of the Society of American Historians, and a member of the Authors League of America and the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. Harlow died on November 17, 1963, in the Bronx, New York. He was eighty-eight years old.
Alvin F. Harlow's Articles in Weird Tales
"Folks Used to Believe: The Indestructible Bone" (Sept. 1927)
"Folks Used to Believe: Some 'Old Masters' " (Oct. 1927)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Werewolf" (Nov. 1927)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Dragon and His Kinsmen" (Dec. 1927)
"Folks Used to Believe: Conceptions of Deity" (Jan. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Barnacle Goose" (Feb. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Vampire" (Mar. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Familiar" (Apr. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Basilisk" (May 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Fad for Relics" (June 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: Weird Recipes" (July 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: Wonderfully Preserved Relics" (Aug. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Serpent in Eden" (Sept. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Phoenix" (Oct. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Fairy Court" (Nov. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: Lilith" (Dec. 1928)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Resurrecting Snake" (Jan. 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: Pope Joan" (Feb. 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: May Dew" (Mar. 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Unicorn" (Apr. 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Cockatrice" (May 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Mouse Legend" (June 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: Salty Superstitions" (July 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Murderer's Touch" (Aug. 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Salamander" (Sept. 1929)
"Folks Used to Believe: The Roc" (Oct. 1929)
Alvin Harlow's papers are located at the University of Tulsa and Western Kentucky University. His prolific writings are available still in many different formats.