Born November 7, 1899, Akron, Ohio
Died September 21, 1985, Pinellas County (possibly in Largo), Florida
When I first looked at Paul Ernst a few years ago, information on his life was pretty well missing. That has changed, but Wikipedia still has his birth and death dates wrong. His biography on that website is otherwise spare. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is better, but it has a link to the biography of another man (German actor Paul Ernst [1866-1933]) on the Internet Movie Database. It also has a link to the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which has Ernst's place of birth wrong. (His place of death on that same website may or may not be right.) I guess the thing to do is to start with primary sources.
First, according to Summit County, Ohio, birth records, Paul Frederick Ernst was born on November 7, 1899, in Akron, Ohio, to Louis C. and Nellie (Ticknor) Ernst. They had married on August 22, 1897, in Portage County, Ohio, and Paul was their firstborn and only child. Louis Ernst worked as a railroad postal clerk. His parents were immigrants from Germany.
By 1910, Louis Ernst was gone. His widow Nellie, then working as a dressmaker in her own home, was in Chicago with ten-year-old Paul. She remarried on October 14, 1915, in Cook County, Illinois. Her new husband was George B. Kerr. He was nearly thirty years her senior. In the U.S. census of 1920, the three were living in Chicago, where Kerr managed a brass foundry. Paul Ernst, giving his age as twenty-two, was unemployed at the time.
The next record I have for Paul Ernst is for a trip he made with his mother to Europe and back. On December 19, 1928, the two arrived in New York City from Naples. They gave their address as 540 Brampton Place in Chicago. That place seems to be no longer in existence.
I have not found Ernst in the 1930 census, but in 1940, he was living in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and working as a freelance writer. He was also married. His wife was named Martha, and the two let the enumerator of the census know that they had lived in the same place in 1935. She was the former Martha Jones, who had lived in Chicago with her parents. In 1930, she was single. That narrows down the marriage date for Paul Ernst and Martha Jones to the period 1930-1935. Ernst was in New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1942 when he filled out his draft card. At five feet, ten inches tall, he was a slight 140 pounds.
That's where the public records leave off until the death of Martha (Jones) Ernst on May 5, 1974, in Pinellas County, Florida. She was seventy-five years old at her death. (She was born on December 26, 1898.) Paul Ernst remarried after his wife's death. His second wife, Rae Ernst of Largo, Florida, died on May 1, 1989, at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Florida, at the age of ninety. (May was a bad month for the wives of Paul Ernst.) "A native of Finland," reads her obituary, "she moved to the [Tampa] area in 1953. She was a retired executive for AT&T. She was past president of Telephone Pioneer[s] of America." (1)
In between those two deaths, Paul Ernst himself died. That unhappy event took place on September 21, 1985, when he was eighty-five years old. At the time of his death, Ernst lived at 202 Crestwood Lane, Largo, Florida. According to his obituary, he had arrived in the area twenty years before from Pennsylvania. "He was a U.S. Navy veteran," it read. "He was a member of the Pelican Golf Club, Belleair." (2)
I guess it's no wonder that the facts in the life of Paul Ernst are so hard to come by. His parents died before he reached mid life. He didn't have any brothers or sisters. He also didn't have any children as far as I can tell. His first wife died before him. And, finally, his second wife, whom he had married late in life, had been married before and had only a daughter, in other words another family apart from him. In any case, Wikipedia is wrong, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database is right but has an errant link, and the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has his dates right but at least one of the places wrong. Here's hoping that corrections are on the way. Oh, and by the way, today would have been his 119th birthday, so Happy Birthday, Paul Ernst!
Next: The Writing Career of Paul Ernst
(1) Tampa Tribune, May 3, 1989, p. 110.
(2) Tampa Tribune, September 24, 1985, p. 20. According to public records, Ernst died in Pinellas County. I assume he died either at home or at a local hospital.
Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley