Monday, September 17, 2018

Harold S. Farnese (1890 or 1891-1945)-Part One

Aka Harold Sulzire (or Sulzer) Farnese, Harold Solcetto Farnese, H.S. Farnese
Bank Clerk, Bookkeeper, Musician, Composer, Conductor, Educator
Born March 11, 1890 (or 1891), Monaco
Died October 29, 1945, Los Angeles City or County, California

Harold S. Farnese didn't write any stories, poems, or articles for Weird Tales, nor was he a cover artist or illustrator. His eight letters published in "The Eyrie," the letters column of Weird Tales, failed to land him in the top twenty contributors in that category. You might say that he was a pretty minor figure in the history of the magazine and its contributors. Except for that part where he was so central to a certain understanding of what we call the Cthulhu Mythos. Beyond that, Farnese may have been the first person to adapt a work by H.P. Lovecraft to a form other than verse or prose.

Harold S. Farnese was born on March 11, 1890 (or 1891), in Monaco. His father, named James (or equivalent), was Italian. His mother was French. (Farnese's mother tongue was also French.) When I'm working on genealogical or biographical research, I tend to put more weight on earlier rather than later sources. I also like information written down by or directly provided by the person in question. That's why I have 1890 as Farnese's probable birth year and Sulzire as a probable middle name, for both are from Farnese's draft card from 1917. (1)

According to a later newspaper source, Farnese was a graduate of the Paris Conservatory of Music. Another newspaper source gives a fuller account of his education:
Harold Farnese, dean of the institute, studied piano under Martial Lecompte and Sapellnikoff, theory and composition under Racky, a pupil of Saint-Saens [sic], and graduated from the Dijon Conservatory. (2, 3)
The institute mentioned here was the Institute of Musical Education, established in Los Angeles in 1915. More on that in part two of this series.

In the U.S. census of 1920, Farnese gave information that he had immigrated to the United States in 1914 but that he was not yet a citizen. (4) I found another record for a border crossing he made in January 1916 from Canada to the United States in which he gave his occupation as bank clerk; his place of national origin ("Nationality") as Germany; his father's name as James; his father's address as Frankfurt am Main, Germany; and his last permanent residence as Montreal, Canada. Farnese's stated final destination was Los Angeles, California, and that's where he went after all. (5)

When he filled out his draft card in 1917, Farnese was still an alien (i.e., not yet a citizen), living at 2195 West 27th Street in Los Angeles, and working as a bank clerk at Hellman Bank. That name is new to me but is no doubt familiar to those who know the history of Los Angeles, as the Hellmans--two German-born brothers--helped to establish many of that city's institutions. Presumably, Farnese's employer was connected in one way or another to these men. It's worth noting here that Farnese seems to have worked in banks and with musicians and composers who had foreign ties. He may never have really cut his own ties to Europe.

In 1919-1921, Farnese lived in San Francisco at 610 Geary Street, site of a hotel, and worked as a bookkeeper and bank clerk. By 1922, he was with the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. Farnese turned thirty-two that year. Sometime during the decade that followed, his life seems to have taken a turn. Unbeknownst to himself and everybody else in the world besides Jacob Clark Henneberger, Farnese also arrived that year at the eve of Weird Tales.

To be continued . . .

(1) I haven't seen Farnese's surname as anything but Farnese, but there are indications that Sulzire and Solcetto are also surnames. Until we know something more, I'll assume that Sulzire and Solcetto were surnames in Farnese's family. If I figure this right, Sulzire is a Corsican name, while Solcetto is Italian. Farnese is also an Italian name and a pretty prominent one at that. All of this would match well with Farnese's mother as having been French and his father as having been Italian. Incidentally, Farnese used the middle name Sulzire in his World War I draft card and Solcetto in his World War II draft card.
(2) "Faculty Body at Music Institute Has Top Rating," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26, 1936, p. 56.
(3) I don't know who Martial Lecompte or Racky were, but I presume that "Sapellnikoff" was the Russian pianist Wassily Sapellnikoff (1867-1941).
(4) In the census of 1920, there is a column for citizenship with choices of either "Naturalized or alien." The abbreviation for Harold Farnese was "Pa," denoting "Papers," i.e., Farnese had "take[n] out papers of declaration of intention to become a citizen." 
(5) About half of the information in this record is unclear; there seems to be a problem with the way the original pages were scanned or photographed and then fitted together again in a digital format.

Revised September 18, 2018. Be aware that previous versions of this article contained errors.
Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Farnese was the name of an extremely ancient and powerful Italian noble family. Is it possible that Harold Sulzire/Solcetto decided to adopt a classier name on his arrival in America?

    1. Dear Cambias,

      I wouldn't rule it out, as I have not found anything on him before he crossed the border from Canada to the United States in January 1916. And when he made that crossing, the last-name-first, first-name-last format of the records shows this:

      Sulzer Farnese, Harold

      I find his Christian name suspect, too. "Harold" seems pretty anglo to me, but there is an Italian equivalent, Aroldo. I wonder if he anglicized his Christian name as well as his father's Christian name, James.

      I wish we knew more, but one of the points of my biography of him is to move us all towards a better understanding of who Harold S. Farnese was and where he came from.

      Thanks for writing.