Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harry Noyes Pratt (1879-1944)

Author, Editor, Poet, Lyricist, Museum Curator and Director
Born July 14, 1879, River Falls, Wisconsin
Died May 19, 1944, Sacramento, California

Harry Noyes Pratt was born on July 14, 1879, in River Falls, Wisconsin. As a young man, he worked as a bookkeeper and purchasing agent. By 1920 he was calling himself a "writer of verse" (despite the fact that his middle name is a homonym for "noise"). He earned that title with two volumes of poetry, Mother of Mine and Other Verse (1918) and Hill Trails and Open Sky: A Book of California Verse (1919). As the title of the second book suggests, Pratt made a name for himself in the Golden State. He lived there as early as 1910 with his Californian wife and resided at one time or another in Lodi, Alameda, Berkeley, and Sacramento. Eventually he would become editor of The Overland Monthly, art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, and curator and/or director of the Haggin Museum in Stockton and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. His poetry and short stories were published in Short Stories, Ace-High Magazine, All-Story Love Stories, and Argosy, as well as in anthologies of verse. As a California poet of the 1910s-1930s, Pratt may very well known Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961). The title of Pratt's operetta Atlantis (1926) implies that the author had an interest in the fantastic. His story for Weird Tales confirms that. Called "The Curse of Ximu-tal," Pratt's was the cover story for the August 1930 issue of the magazine. The cover and interior illustrations were by Hugh Rankin. Harry Noyes Pratt died on May 19, 1944, in Sacramento, two months short of his sixty-fifth birthday.

Harry Noyes Pratt's Story in Weird Tales
"The Curse of Ximu-tal" (Aug. 1930)

Further Reading
The Smithsonian Archives of American Art has a collection of Pratt's letters. His verse and non-fiction are still available in works out of print.

"The Curse of Ximu-tal" by Harry Noyes Pratt made the cover of Weird Tales in August 1930, despite the fact that tales by Seabury Quinn, Robert E. Howard, and Edmond Hamilton were also featured in the magazine. Hugh Rankin ("Doak") was the creator of the somewhat muddy cover art.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. Harry Noyes Pratt did indeed know Clark Ashton Smith. They met as early as 1911 through a cultural group called the Monday Night Club in Auburn. Pratt later arranged for Smith to exhibit his artwork at the gallery of the Hotel Claremont in Berkeley as well as the Crocker in Sacramento. He wrote a sympathetic and perceptive critique of SMith's artwork that impressed H. P. Lovecraft, and later suggested that Smith make plaster castings of his carvings to sell through the mail.