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Author of 'King Kong' began writing career as Fargo newspaper reporter

In this installment of "Did you know that?" column, readers learn about Delos W. Lovelace, the author of the book the movie is based upon.

Curt Eriksmoen online column signature
Photo by Michael Vosburg, Forum Photo Editor. Artwork by Troy Becker.
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FARGO — Ancient mythologies are filled with colossal-sized creatures. The most famous mythological giant creature today, at least in the film industry, appears to be King Kong.

Kong has been featured in 12 motion pictures and five television series. He was first introduced to the public in the 1932 book, "King Kong," authored by Delos W. Lovelace. Lovelace began his writing career in 1913 as a reporter for a Fargo newspaper and later gained fame as a reporter and columnist for some of the country's leading newspapers as well as authoring nine books and numerous short stories. Three of the books and several of the short stories were co-authored with his wife Maud Hart Lovelace, who became famous for her “Betsy-Tacy” series of books and short stories.

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Delos Lovelace
Contributed / https://ancestors.familysearch.org

Delos Wheeler Lovelace was born Dec. 2, 1895, in Deer River, Minnesota, to Mortimer “Morton” and Josephine (Wheeler) Lovelace. Most sources list his place of birth as Brainerd, but since Lovelace listed his birth location as “Deer River” on his World War I draft registration card, I find this as the most credible source for his place of birth. Sometime before 1899, Morton died and Josephine moved to Detroit to work as a dressmaker and raise her five children, of which Delos was the youngest.

To help the family financially, Delos delivered newspapers and, spent his summers working on his uncle’s farm in Michigan. He also worked in the harvest fields in northern Minnesota. In early 1911, Josephine moved to Fargo where she continued to work as a dressmaker and Delos attended high school. After graduation in 1913, Delos Lovelace was hired as a reporter for the Fargo Courier News by managing editor Lewis T. Guild.

In 1914, Loveless moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota and work as a reporter for the (Minneapolis) Daily News. While there, he met and befriended another reporter, Merian C. Cooper. Little did they realize that 17 years later they would work together on a project about a gigantic gorilla that terrorized the citizens of New York.

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Lovelace began working as a reporter and copy editor for Harry Wakefield, a good friend and city editor of the Minneapolis Tribune, in 2015. Also employed by the Tribune as a feature writer was Maud Hart from Mankato, Minnesota.

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Maud Hart
Contributed / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Wakefield's wife, Lillian, hired Maud to work for her when she opened the Wakefield Publicity Bureau in 1916. In April 1917, Lillian invited Maud and Lovelace to her place for dinner, and an immediate attraction developed between the two.

With the U.S. engaged in World War I, Lovelace joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Fort Snelling, located near Minneapolis. Maud wrote, “When possible, Mrs. Wakefield would send me on assignments out to Fort Snelling,” so that she could spend time with Lt. Lovelace.

Prior to being shipped overseas, Lovelace was sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa, with the 339th Machine Gun Battalion. While he was on leave, Lovelace returned to Minneapolis and married Maud on Nov. 29, 1917. After spending a couple of weeks together, Lovelace returned to Camp Dodge to complete his training.

He was sent to France on Aug. 14, 1918. After the war ended three months later, the army sent him to Trinity College in Cambridge for four months of study while he waited for space on a troopship to come home.

Lovelace arrived back in the U.S. on July 13, 1919, and returned to the Tribune as a copy editor and telegraph editor. In 1920, the Lovelaces relocated to New York and Delos accepted a position as night editor for the New York Daily News.

He resigned late in 1922 to spend most of his time writing short stories. Between 1923 and 1929, stories written by Delos were published in The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, the Delineator, Metropolitan, Success, The American Magazine, The Popular Magazine, Liberty, and Catholic World. Country Gentleman, a popular agricultural magazine, published 27 of his short stories. The setting for most of his stories was rural Minnesota.

The Lovelaces had relocated back to Minnesota, living in Minneapolis and Lakeville, during the time Delos was cranking out his magazine stories. Besides being the co-author with Delos on nine of the stories, Maud also authored three of her own stories for the magazine Delineator. She preceded her husband by writing her first book when "The Black Angels" was released in 1926. It was a historical novel about the fun-loving Angel family in early Minnesota.

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The Lovelaces returned to New York in 1928 so Maud could work with a publisher and Delos could return to the newspaper business. Delos was hired by the New York Sun as assistant city editor. A couple of years later, he was also contracted to work on special projects with his former employer, the New York News. Between the two papers, he served as a syndicated columnist, book reviewer, and as the story writer for a comic strip.

Maud’s second historical novel, "Early Candlelight," was published in 1929. It was about the life of a young lady who experienced love at Fort Snelling in the mid-19th century. The novel was highly successful and appreciated by the military. Maud received a reception at the fort in September 1929 by the Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. According to the St. Paul Dispatch, "this was the first American military review to honor a woman in private life.”

In 1930, Maud published her third novel, "Petticoat Court," about a young girl in Paris who is in awe about all the different wardrobe changes that Empress Eugenie goes through before she appears in court for various royal functions. That same year, Delos, using the pen name Coram Foster, had his first book published, "Rear Admiral Byrd and the Polar Expedition."

On March 31, 1931, the legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne was killed in an airplane crash. His 1929 and 1930 teams went undefeated and were national champions. Delos knew that the first author to publish Rockne’s biography would have a best seller. In six days, writing 10,000 words a day, his book "Rockne of Notre Dame" was ready for publication.

On January 18, 1931, Maud gave birth to a daughter which she and Delos named Merian, in honor of Merian Cooper, a good friend of Delos when they were both reporters for the Minneapolis Daily News. Merian Lovelace also became the inspiration for Betsy in Maud’s "Betsy-Tacy" books and articles.

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Pictured is a promotional book cover for "King Kong."
Contributed / David Blanchard 2014

Also, in 1931, Cooper, now a motion picture director-producer, began looking for someone to write a book about a gigantic gorilla that would serve as the base of a movie he was planning to produce and direct. Cooper employed the noted British author Edgar Wallace to write the book, but midway through the project Wallace died on Feb. 10, 1932. Cooper then turned to his friend Delos, who completed the book "King Kong" a few months later.

(We will conclude the story about Delos Lovelace next week.)

More history columns from Curt Eriksmoen
InForum history columnist Curt Eriksmoen concludes the story of William Jennings Gardner, a North Dakota-born football player who crossed paths with Jim Thorpe and helped take down Al Capone.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTAHISTORICALFARGO
Curt Eriksmoen has been writing a weekly history column for The Forum since 2004. He has taught at both the high school and college level and served as social studies coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction for 13 years. He is the author of nine books and is know for inventing barroom team trivia in 1974. Reach him at cjeriksmoen@gmail.com or calling 701-793-8508.
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