Saturday, November 5, 2011

George Armin Shaftel (1903-1999)

Aka George S. Rosenberg
Author, Playwright, and Educator
Born December 24, 1903, St. Louis, Missouri
Died December 7, 1999, Portola Valley, California

George Armin Shaftel was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on Christmas Eve, 1903. Son of Russian immigrants (his father was an itinerant watchmaker), Shaftel grew up in Du Quoin in "the soft coal country" of southern Illinois and matriculated at the University of Illinois. When the Shaftel family moved to southern California, George Shaftel transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. He wrote for the university magazine, The Occident, and plays for the University of California Little Theatre. Two of his plays won prizes.

After graduating with a masters degree in English, Shaftel returned to Champaign, Illinois, where he got in touch with a former teacher, William Byron Mowery. A professional author, Mowery offered guidance to Shaftel and other young writers on how to break into magazines. As George S. Rosenberg, Shaftel wrote stories for Western pulps for about a decade (1927-1937). He also wrote under his own name, including for detective magazines. Argosy, Blue BookCollier's, Country Gentleman, Holland'sLiberty, Short Stories, and This Week were among the other titles to publish his work. Shaftel sold one story to Weird Tales, "The Giant in a Test Tube," from May 1942.

Living in Pasadena in the mid-1940s, Shaftel was part of what the Los Angeles Times called a "pulp mill," a group of authors who together cranked out two million words every year for pulp magazines. In addition to Shaftel, the group included John A. Saxson, Robert Leslie Bellem (1902-1968), and Frank Bonham (1914-1988), all housed in an office building on Arroyo Parkway. After World War II--as pulp magazines faded from the scene--George Shaftel switched gears and began writing more educational and non-fictional works, some with his wife, Stanford University education professor Dr. Fannie R. Shaftel. Also after the war, the Shaftels became involved in the creation of a housing cooperative in San Mateo County, California, close to Stanford University. Named Ladera, the community's members included writer Wallace Stegner and inventor Sigurd Varian, two interesting characters in their own right.

The Shaftels' marriage and professional collaboration lasted sixty-five years and ended only with the death of Fannie R. Shaftel on March 21, 1999. Her husband, George Armin Shaftel, died on December 7, 1999, in Portola Valley, California, just short of his ninety-sixth birthday.

George Armin Shaftel's Story in Weird Tales
"The Giant in a Test Tube" (May 1942)

Further Reading
Some of George Shaftel's pulp fiction stories are available as electronic books on the Internet.

The Pasadena "pulp mill" of the 1940s (left to right): Frank Bonham, R.L. Bellem, G.A. Shaftel, and J.A. Saxson. (Photo from the Los Angeles Times.)
George Armin Shaftel (1903-1999). (Photo from the New York Times.)

Thanks to Randal Everts for additional information on George Armin Shaftel.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley


  1. George and Fannie were good friends with my dad during WWII in LosAngeles. I believe my father first met George at the University of Illinois while my father was studying to be a writer also. I have pictures of them holding me as a baby and as a young child. I also have a signed book "Dynamics of Drama", Comfort Press, Inc. St.Louis, MO, by George which was left to me upon my father's death in 1976. I have only vague fond recollections of George and Fannie as a five year old but I remember my dad always speaking highly of both of them for the rest of his life.

  2. Hi, Anonymous,

    Thanks for your very nice remembrance.