Friday, March 20, 2020

The Mysterious Dolgov-Part Three

One of the things about this ever-expanding Internet is that sources that were unavailable even a week ago are now suddenly here before us. I first wrote about Boris Dolgov on August 27, 2016. At the time, the only person I could find in public records by that name or anything close was Boris Dolgoff (1897-1989), a Russian-born Jewish poultry dealer in Seattle, Washington. I knew then that he wasn't our artist, but I wondered about a possible connection to Hannes Bok, who lived in Seattle for a couple of stints during the 1930s. Now, through a new search, I have a candidate for the Mysterious Dolgov, a supposition based on two and a half bits of evidence.

First, I found a death record. And after I found a death record, I found mention of Boris Dolgov's cause of death. I'll take the cause of death first.

On the website Notasdecine, the author, who seems to be anonymous, wrote in June 2009 a parenthetical statement about Dolgov's cause of death. Here it is in its entirety:
(Over the years I've heard stories from several old timers that he fell to his death by falling from the fire escape to his own apartment)
You might say the author at Notasdecine skimped on his information and sources. His sentence doesn't even end in a period. But if we accept that Dolgov fell from a fire escape; and we know that his genre credits ended in the 1950s, suggesting that something greater ended then, too; and we can guess that Dolgov was about the same age as Hannes Bok, then we can say that his death was untimely and tragic, just as Bok's own death would be in 1964.

That's half a piece of evidence. Now comes a whole piece from the Internet and posted there since I first wrote about Dolgov in 2016: a death record, from the New York, New York, Death Index, 1949-1965, states that a Boris Dolgoff, born circa 1910 (meaning, I think, that his age at his death was thought to be about forty-eight), died on November 4, 1958, in Manhattan. All of that lines up pretty well: the age is about right (Bok was born in 1914, making the presumed Dolgov four years his senior), the disappearance from genre work is about right (according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Dolgov's last genre illustration was in the penultimate issue of Weird Tales, July 1954), and the untimely death is right (leaving only "old timers" to remember it).

Boris Dolgov isn't in the indexes for The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom by Sam Moskowitz (1954), All Our Yesterdays: An Informal History of Science Fiction Fandom in the Forties by Harry Warner, Jr. (1969), or The Futurians: The Story of the Science Fiction "Family" of the 30's That Produced Today's Top SF Writers and Editors by Damon Knight (1977). I have only a paperback edition of The Way the Future Was: A Memoir by Frederik Pohl (1979). There isn't any index, and I came up empty in only a cursory search of the text. The Mysterious Dolgov seems to have remained mysterious even among science fiction fans, writers, artists, and editors of the 1930s and '40s. It would seem also that he was a pretty peripheral figure. If a fan-based artist of that time was remembered at all, he was the middle third of the pen name Dolbokov, i.e., Hannes Bok. All of that is a shame because Boris Dolgov was a good and interesting artist.

Now for the second whole bit of evidence: In the Manhattan City Directory of 1957, there is a listing for a Boris Dolgoff with an address of 630 East 14th Street and a telephone number of O Regn 3-8552. (I take that to mean that his number was OR3-8552, or 673-8552.) I don't know much about Manhattan (the Bronx and Staten Island, too), but it looks like that address would fall within the East Village. In reading about the East Village on that ultimate source of all knowledge Wikipedia, I find that it was home to the Yiddish Theatre District in the early to mid twentieth century, also that it became home to poets, artists, musicians, writers, and general Beatniks during the 1950s. That second fact is pertinent when we're talking about an artist, but the first fact may be pertinent, too. The reason is that there was a Jewish performer of the 1920s through the early 1950s who shared Boris Dolgoff's last name, and so maybe we have a place of origin and a possible family member for the Mysterious Dolgov.

To be continued . . .

Copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

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