- Thomas P. Riggio
Dreiser, Theodore (27 August 1871–28 December 1945), author, was born Hermann Theodore Dreiser in Terre Haute, Indiana, the son of Johann Paul Dreiser and Sarah Schänäb. Dreiser’s father had emigrated from Germany in 1844 and had been a moderately successful wool dealer until 1869, when a fire destroyed his factory in Sullivan, Indiana. The family never recovered either economically or psychologically from the disaster. Theodore, the twelfth of thirteen children, was born into poverty, and in his childhood his parents moved from town to town in search of employment. His family life was emotionally unstable, and he had few educational opportunities. These experiences colored his worldview and influenced the character of his writing. In addition, his youth was further darkened by the strict Roman Catholic training he received in German-American parochial schools, an experience that fed his later anti-Catholicism and deeply influenced his quest for alternative forms of religious experience....