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Edna Fern papers


Held at: German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library [Contact Us]611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Edna Fern was the literary pseudonym of the German-American writer Fernande Anna Therese Franziska Auguste Richter (née Osthaus). She belonged to the circle authors around Robert Reitzel, editor of the Detroit-based journal Der arme Teufel, to which she was a frequent contributor. She was the author of poems and stories, a novel, and at least one play.

Born in the village of Rössing, town of Nordstemmen, in the Kingdom of Hannover (today, county of Hildesheim, in Lower Saxony), Fern was educated privately and then spent two years in a cloister in Aachen. She lived with her parents in Hildesheim, Osnabrück, and on an estate in Upper Swabia, before financial difficulties compelled the family to emigrate in 1861 to the United States, where they at first lived on a farm in southwest Missouri. From 1882 on Fern was a resident of St. Louis. After a first marriage that ended in divorce (1882-1887), she married the physician Georg Richter in 1894. Fern served with the St. Louis welfare board from 1893 to 1895. In 1896 she travelled and lectured on literary and social questions in various American cities. In 1900 she became secretary of the Schillerverein of Saint Louis.


1. Das Buch der Deutschen in Amerika, ed. Max Heinrici (Philadelphia: Walther's Buchdruckerei, 1909), 389.

2. Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon: biographisch-bibliographisches Handbuch. Begründet von Wilhelm Kosch. 3. Aufl. (Bern: Francke Verlag, 1968-2010; 30 v.), vol. 4, col. 932.

3. Kluge, Cora Lee, "Fernande Richter" (introductory essay), Other Witnesses: an anthology of literature of the German Americans, 1850-1914, ed. Kluge (Madison, WI: Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, c2007), 345-348. This anthology contains Edna Fern's story "Ein Farm-Idyll in Süd-Missouri" (349-360) and her play "Die Brücke" (361-393).

4. Ward, Robert E., A bio-bibliography of German-American writers, 1670-1970 (White Plains, N.Y.: Krauss International Publications, c1985), 28.

5. Zucker, A. E., "In memoriam: Edna Fern," Monatsheft für deutschen Unterricht, vol. 33, no. 3 (March 1941): 139-139.

Collection of clippings and typescripts of writings by the German-American author Edna Fern (pseudonym of Fernande Richter), who was active in St. Louis, Mo. Includes clippings of her presumably unfinished novel entitled "Dietrichs in Amerika," in the form that it was serialized in the Chicago-based journal Zeitgeist, in 1917 to 1918, arranged in the form of a scrapbook. Typescripts and clippings of other writings, including stories and essays, mostly undated (circa 1905-1930), were laid in. A photograph of Fern and one of her husband, Georg Richter, are also included.

Concerning the serialized novel "Dietrichs in Amerika" (Folders 1 to 8), the clippings are pasted down on 65 leaves that were originally contained in a three-ring binder. The binder, which has been retained, has a calendar on the inside back cover for 1930 to 1932. The leaves in the scrapbook had contemporary numbering 1-33 on the first 33 leaves. The source of the clippings was not indicated in the scrapbook; during processing it was confirmed that they are indeed from the journal Zeitgeist, edited by Michael Singer, where the novel is known to have been published.

It should be noted that the scrapbook does not contain all of the installments that were published, but only the first 13. A total of 22 installments were published, one in every issue of Zeitgeist that appeared, from October 23, 1917 to April 27, 1918. (See the Library's holdings of the journal, with 4 issues wanting; GAC AZ 872). The first installment was unnumbered, and the others were numbered as the first to the twenty-second continuation (Fortsetzung).The 22nd installment (21. Fortsetzung) appeared in the last published issue of the journal, Vol. 2, No. 17, April 27, 1918. That installment indicates that more was supposed to follow ("Fortseztung folgt").

In the scrapbook, the clippings are pasted down end to end, so that one cannot always discern where one installment ends and the next begins. (Most of the headings, as well as the customary tag line found at the end of each installment, "Fortsetzung folgt," indicating continuation to follow, are omitted.) The text on the last page of the scrapbook corresponds to the end of the 13th installment (12. Fortsetzung), published in Zeitgeist, Vol. 2, No. 8, February 23, 1918.

Also included are typescripts of other writings by the author, including five stories and three nonfiction pieces, on separate, loose leaves that originally were folded and laid in the scrapbook.

The novel "Dietrichs in Amerika" concerns members of the Dietrich family who emigrate to the United States from Hesse. One segment of the story takes place in Pennsylvania around the time of the American Revolution; and another concerns a refugee of the 1848 revolutions, who arrives in Mississippi in 1853 and eventually participates in the Civil War.

Of the other writings, the typescripts of three stories have handwritten emendations: "Der Balkon" (Folder 9), which is typed on the verso of letterhead of the Schillerverein of Saint Louis bearing a form letter, circa 1905; "Ein Frauenleben" (Folder 10); and "Klostergeschichten" (Folder13). The story "Frauenleben" is about a woman from Kentucky who settles in Oklahoma during the land rush of 1889; the time of the narration is around 1907. None of the material appears to correspond to any of the stories and essays contained in the collections of the author's writings published in book form in 1899 to 1901.

The photographs (Folder 17) include a copy of the photograph of Edna Fern on lightweight paper, probably related its publication in the American-German Review vol. 7, no. 6 (August 1941), p. 23. (The journal was the organ of the Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation, later called the National Carl Schurz Association, the former repository of this collection.) It appeared in an article (p. 22-23, 36) that commemorated the author in the year of her death, by reprinting her story "Der Schwiegersohn des Prominenten," prefaced by a note from the editor; the photograph appeared with a caption dating it 1925.

Gift of the author or her family to the Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation, circa 1941. Subsequently donated by the Foundation, later known as the National Carl Schurz Association, to the German Society of Pennsylvania.

German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Violet Lutz
Finding Aid Date
The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Max Kade Foundation, as part of the grant project "Retrieval and Cataloging of the German-American Experience, 1918-1960."
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the German Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.

Collection Inventory

Scrapbook: "Dietrichs in America: Roman," clippings, 1917-1918, 65 leaves.
Folder 1-8
"Der Balkon," typescript, 8 leaves, undated. With handwritten emendations. No attribution. Typed on the verso of form letters of the Schillerverein of Saint Louis produced circa 1905 (the letter concerns sale of a Schiller book on the 100th anniversary of the poet's death).
Folder 9
"Ein Frauenleben / von Edna Fern," typescript, 9 leaves, undated. With handwritten emendations.
Folder 10
"Fremd gewordene Brüder," typescript, 3 leaves, undated. No attribution.
Folder 11
"Die Gestaltung der Künste in Amerika / von Fernande Richter," typescript, 6 leaves, undated.
Folder 12
"Klostergeschichten, aus: Erlebt und Ersonnen /von Edna Fern," typescript, 14 leaves, undated. With handwritten emendations.
Folder 13
Clipping: "Die Kunst im Neuland," 1 leaf, undated. P. 15-16; the source is not noted.
Folder 14
Clipping: "Ein Plauderstündchen mit Edna Fern," 1 leaf, circa 1905. Preservation copy included.
Folder 15
Clipping: "Waldfahrt / von Edna Fern," 3 leaves, undated. P. 82-86; the source is not noted.
Folder 16
Photographs, 3 items, circa 1925-1930. One photograph of Edna Fern and one of her husband Georg Richter, both pictured in their later years. Pencilled notes on the versos date the former circa 1925 to 1930 and the latter Christmas 1930. 1 leaf is a copy of the same photograph of Edna Fern, probably reflecting its use in a publication after her death, circa 1941.
Folder 17

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