Randall Sell: Notes on Ralph Werther/Jennie June
Randall Sell: RALPH WERTHER NOTES. Last edit September 5, 2030, 3:19 PM EST See also: Earl Lind: The Cercle Hermaphroditos, c. 1895
- Werther says “1874” in Auto (p.35). In FI Werther says: “Connecticut, famous for its wooden nutmegs and other freak products, gave to the world, in 1874, one of its half-dozen most widely known girl-boys.” Sell: Based on statements about his age in specific years, one may believe his birthday was in the last few months of that year (or the true year if he was lying about years). For example in FI on page 82 he says “At sixteen I entered college in New York City” and in Auto he says “In September of 1891 I entered a university in the City of New York.” He would consequently turn seventeen in 1891 sometime after entering college in September.
Siblings and Parents:
- “The fourth child of my mother’s eleven children” (Auto p. 35)
- “At the date of my birth my mother was twenty-eight and my father thirty-two. I was their fourth child.” (Riddle p.16 of the typed pdf version)
- Contradicts the number of children on p. 41 of Auto: “I grew up slowly, and when adult was the shortest of my parents' eight children.”
- ETHNIC BACKGROUND: “In my own veins flows blood of five different nationalities of western Europe, but no Irish or Italian.” (Auto p. 78)
- Werther’s article in the March issue of Urology and Sexology in 1919, titled “Boy-But Never Man,” he discusses visiting the “Crystal Palace” as a youth (p. 98) which existed in London from 1854 to 1936 (years Werther could have visited), while the Crystal Palace in New York existed only from 1853 to 1856 (before Werther was born if we can believe his birth dates). He also uses the terms mollie coddle, and nancy which are distinctly British. He also discusses Essex Street (the Essex Street in London is 2.1 miles walking to Hyde Park).
Possible Colleges/Universities (most from a list of existing colleges in NYC so may miss institutions that no longer exist). I did send emails asking about William Hawken to Columbia, General Theological Seminary, New York University, and Cazenovia (none were able to find anything helpful):
- City College of New York
- Cooper Union: probably not because of it’s focus on science, but Hawken claims to be a science writer.
- Fordham: probably not because it’s a Catholic University and Werther strongly seems to be protestant.
- General Theological Seminary
- Manhattan College, St Francis College, and St. John’s College: probably none of these because they are Catholic Universities and Werther strongly seems to be protestant.
- New York University
- Pratt Institute: located in Brookly so unlikely, but does have a 14th street branch (but pretty sure it was created later…. The current 14th street building was acquired in 1970).
- “In my middle teens, my desire changed radically, due chiefly to my having just become a God-intoxicated youth, with the work of a missionary in China as my goal.” (FI p.70)
- “If Providence had permitted me to follow my own will I would have passed my adult life as a proclaimer, in China, of the gospel of “peace and good-will to men.” During my first two years in college I was a student volunteer for foreign missions, besides giving half-a-dozen hours a week to city-mission work.” (Riddle typed pdf p.5)
- Mentions foreign missionary work in many places including Auto p.40: “My intention from the age of fifteen to nineteen to pass my life as a foreign missionary and preacher of the Gospel was relinquished because inconsistent with the much stronger appetency of the fairie, which finally carried all good resolutions before it.”
- In Riddle he uses the names “Ralph Werther” and “Jennie June.” Discussing Werther he says: “in my publications I assign the name “Ralph Werther,” in point of time my second masculine alias.” (Riddle p.4 of the typed pdf version); Interestingly he only uses the name “Ralph Werther” on the bronze plaque he wants as a memorial.
- In Auto (p.34) Werther discusses extensively how he choose aliases:
“CHOOSING ALIASES In this autobiography, I may sometimes refer to myself as "Ralph Werther." At the beginning of my career as "Jennie June," when asked for my real name, I answered "Raphael Werther," since I did not wish to bring disgrace on my family name. I adopted the name "Raphael" because of its euphony and glorious associations; the name "Werther," because like Goethe's hero I was doomed to great sorrow through the passion of love. During my first two years in college, when I often meditated suicide, and was by far the unhappiest person in the college community, Goethe's "Sorrows of Werther,"47 the romance of suicide, had a peculiar fascination for me. Later I substituted "Ralph" for "Raphael" since I found the latter sounded too "stagey" to be believed. The author may be accused of copying the pen-name of Mrs. Croly in the name that he gave himself when undertaking the role of a girl. But I was not conscious of the existence of this pen-name until after I had selected "Jennie June." In early childhood I had called myself "Jennie," always my favorite girl's name. It has always seemed to me the most feminine of names. I adopted the name "June" because of the alliteration, the beauty of the word, and its agreeable associations. It was first suggested to me while reading one of Cooper's novels, where it appears as the name of a gentle, extremely feminine squaw.49 It was suggested to me secondly by my seeing it appear as a surname on the sign of a business house. At the beginning of my career as a fairie, I debated for some time whether the name of my feminine personality should be "Jennie June," "Baby," "Pussie," or the name of a particular one of the foremost prima donnas of history. I enjoyed hugely being called "Baby" by young men. A strange young ruffian one day passed me on the street, and addressed me jocularly: "Hello Pussie!'' I cannot express how much it pleased me, and I longed to be called "Pussie" always.”
- In FI (p.93-94) Werther discusses aliases:
Necessity of Aliases : I have used five : Raphael Werther, Ralph Werther, Earl Lind, Jennie June, and Pussie. When I began my double life, I told the Underworld my legal name was Raphael Werther. I named myself after "the Prince of Painters," because he was the greatest ultra-androgyne who ever lived. He was my idol—my ideal. I wished him to pass through the earthly life all over again in my body. I further named myself after "the Prince of Amatory Melancholiacs" since I was myself such during my teens. Werther was Goethe himself, the most brilliant and most versatile man, "the Prince of Men," born subsequently to the Shakespeare-Author (Francis Bacon). As for the genesis of my first feminine name, I chose "Jennie" at four. I have always considered it the most feminine of names. When I began my double life, I appended "June." I adopted that surname because of its beautiful associations, as well as because of the repetition of the j and n. I have always considered "Jennie June" as the most exquisite of names: the poetic name; the magic name; the "divine" name (in the sense that we speak of the "divine" or "godlike" human form) . I later substituted the feminine "Pussie" because so nicknamed, much to my delight, by the tremendously virile. I later adopted "Earl" primarily because it rhymes with "girl", the creature of enchantment that I longed to be, and secondarily because it arouses noble ideas. I adopted "Lind" after Jennie Lind, one of my models. Perhaps these fancies about names are proof of insanity. A medical reviewer of my Autobiography of an Androgyne, who devoted only five minutes to the 70,000 words, declared me "clearly insane." When I transferred my female-impersonations from Mulberry Street to the Fourteenth Street Rialto, incredulity occasioned my transliterating the fancy "Raphael" to prosaic "Ralph." As a result of my 1905 court-martial making the names "Ralph Werther" and "Jennie June" known to some army heads, I found it advisable, when in 1907 renewing my kind of army life for seven years, to choose new masculine and feminine names. I feared it might become known to the army heads that the fairie "Jennie June" had transferred "her" stage for female-impersonations to a distant military post. Hence the substitutions of "Earl Lind" and "Pussie."
- The very famous female impersonator John Lind took his last name from Jenny Lind. Werther does the same when he uses Lind (but does not mention John Lind who he most certainly was aware of). Interestingly he only uses the name Lind once in Auto and it is on the title page. He does not discuss it when discussing aliases or anywhere else in Auto. He credits its creation with the 1905 court-martial incident on p.94 of FI. Lind is only mentioned on pages 92-94. Interestingly, on the title page he uses “Ralph Werther” and Earl Lind is put in parentheses. Sell: This indicates to me that Werther is somehow preferred, perhaps more real, than Lind to him.
- Law clerk: An episode of my own checkered life was employment in a New York law office and as counsel’s clerk in New York’s criminal courts.” Riddle p. 30 of typed manuscript. This was his work for Clark Bell (see handwritten notes on manuscript).
- Editor at large periodical: “One of my tasks was to edit articles dashed off in a jiffy by his colossal intellect.” (Riddle pdf p.24). Discussing the same person he was editing on p.25 of Riddle: “During the five years of our collaboration, we were both on the staff of a large periodical.”
- Worked in settings with professional writers for most of his career. “These two sexual freaks (and geniuses into the bargain) happened to be professional writers. But they constitute no evidence that such freaks are unusually numerous in that profession. I merely discovered them in that profession because most of my won bread-winning career has been staged there.” (Riddle p.26 of typed pdf). Compare with Hawken arrested for stealing typewriters.
- Talks about multiple professions: “my personality had a tremendously more remarkable career in its journey through life than that achieved in New York’s Overworld: as a hard worker in three successive learned professions by the “Dr. Jekyll” side of my dual bisexual nature.” (Riddle p.4 of the typed pdf version).
- Secretary work see below.
Working as Secretary:
- WERTHER: “While secretary to a millionaire in the suburbs, I rode twelve miles in the same car with two Mulberry Street companions with whom I had passed many evenings.” Probably 1897 (Auto p. 133). Also probably 1897 and the same employer Werther says: “I have now reached a period of my life lasting over two years during which it was my luck to serve as private secretary to a millionaire septuagenarian living in the suburbs of the metropolis.” (Auto p. 142). And finally, in probably 1899 talking of the same employer “After holding my position as private secretary during my middle twenties for over two years, I was compelled to resign because a tradesman's driver who frequently delivered goods at the house of my employer chanced to identify me….” (Auto p. 152).
- HAWKEN: The court records for the arrest of William Ralph Vyvyan Hawken list his “trade” as “secretary” in 1891. In a Morning Post (London) article of February 14, 1892, it says Hawken, age 24, stole fifteen shares of the International Okonite Company from Frederick Lawerence Rawson, who “he was for a short period the private secretary…”.In an 1894 article about the arrest of Bell’s clerk, it says he “had been private secretary to Lionel Cohn, a Member of Parliament.” (NY Evening Telegram 11.24.1894).
- There is a six year difference in the 1897 secretary episode described by Werther and the Hawkins arrest where he’s described as a secretary in 1891. Sell: one theory is that Werther’s writing the Auto in the late 1890s and by then has subtracted 6 years from his age which is the difference between 1868 (date in English arrest records as birth) and 1874 (date Werther gives). This would mean he’s not a child prodigy in the ministry but a more appropriate age. Also, it says in Auto (p. 152 see first bullet in this section) that he was a secretary in his middle twenties which fits better with Hawken if you subtract 6 years.
- In Auto p.184 Werther discusses being “courtmarialled”:
“I AM COURTMARTIALLED For a month, until my face became presentable, I had to remain away from my ordinary circle. A full description of my injuries was written out by my regular physician to accompany the charges presented several days after the assault to the general commanding the military Department of the East, Governor's Island, New York Harbor. I had to go so high because the temporary commandant at Ft. X was among those accused, that is, for not giving me a hearing when I sought to bring charges against earlier assailants. I immediately visited the United States district attorney also, thinking my case lay in his province. But he dismissed me after merely remarking that according to law, he could only be on the side of the soldiers and against me. I next went to the police station in whose precinct the fort was situated. I was here received with warm sympathy, notwithstanding that at the outset I declared myself an invert. But I was informed that since all the offences had been committed on the military reservation, the police and civil courts had no jurisdiction. News of the assault had got into the papers, and a police detective had made an investigation. Both the detective and the police sergeant told me that the commandant of the fort had informed them that I had been assaulted because I had indecently accosted my assailants. The military secretary at Governor's Island appointed Col. G. to investigate my charges. In the course of the hearing, which lasted about three hours, I appeared to be the one under charges, and was repeatedly insulted by the captain adjutant and the temporary commandant. At its close the latter cried out: "The police are waiting to arrest you as soon as you step off the reservation!"”
Where Werther’s Lived/Traveled:
- Does mention Connecticut in last sentence on page 243 of 1920 medical life article. Says he moved away at the age of 16 on page 244.
- Discusses living near the Astor Library (p. 243 of 1918 Urology article): “Mike started out for a gambling "joint," while June spent the afternoon in the Astor Library—near which he resided—finding there, almost every day, food for his strong intellectual instincts.” The building now is part of the Public Theater.
- Discusses international travel on page 237 of studies in androgynism: “The writer has resided in fifteen different civilized countries, and in many of these countries has explored the underworlds of the great cities.”
- “And my career as a female-impersonator happened to be staged in numerous cities and several countries because I was fated to be something of a globetrotter.” (Riddle p.2 of typed manuscript)
- On living in NYC says in Riddle (p.5 of pdf typed version): I was driven, right from the start of my adult career as a member of the gentle sex, to the Underworld of New York, in which city I was fated to reside from the age of sixteen to thirty-one as well as from forty down to the date of the present writing (1921) when I am in my forty-seventh year.
- “My female-impersonation apprenticeship chanced to fall in the very center of the principal foreign-born Italian quarter of New York and within a radius of a quarter of a mile of the present Police Headquarters. In 1893 the latter’s site was occupied by a city market, closed evenings. Some of my earliest impersonations were staged on the very site.” (Riddle p.6 typed pdf version)
- GRAND STREET and MULBERRY STREET: “If, after my death (for during my lifetime I can not expect to obtain much attention from the reading public: man is such a biased animal) I ever attract a few hundred sympathetic readers, it would be a good joke, as suggested by my non-sexual bosom friend whom I once took on a tour of the scenes of my New York Underworld career, for them to collect pennies for a bronze tablet to be affixed to the Grand Street façade of Police Headquarters: “ON THIS SITE SOME OF THE EARLIEST FEMALE-IMPERSONATIONS OF THE ADULT RALPH WERTHER WERE STAGED. HIS DEBUT AS AN ADULT IMPERSONATOR AT THE AGE OF NINETEEN TOOK PLACE AT THE ARCHED PORTAL OF THE WAREHOUSE AROUND THE CORNER OF MULBERRY STREET, TWO HUNDRED FEET EAST.”” (Riddle typed pdf p.6) Possibly named after these arches, in Riddle p. 9: “My associates on these sprees were always the “Arch Gang” of stalwarts, varying in age from sixteen to twenty-one and numbering a score. In addition, three filles de joie constituted a species of “hangers on.””
- “I had a craze to reside in New York City, which I had often visited since it was only an hour by express train from my native village.” Riddle p. 14 of the typed pdf.
- "FAIRIE ADVENTURES IN EUROPE. I now spent five months in Europe with my employer. I was generally free evenings, and during our stay in the large cities, spent two or three a week with beaux that I came across. I had considerable conversational ability in four foreign languages. In Paris I generally spent my evenings with the adolescent porters of the Gare St. Lazaire, and in Berlin with soldiers whom I met in the Tiergarten. Because of indiscretions, I came near being arrested in Berlin and in Naples." (Auto p.151) Sell: Given the placement in the book I am lead to believe this is around 1898 or 1899.
- Bell is friends with Jennie June and both are members of Goethe Society: An article in the New York Times on December 10th 1889: “The Goethe Society. It’s Fourteenth Anniversary Celebrated….Among those that took their places….Mrs. D. G. Croly, (“Jennie June,”) Mr. and Mrs. Clark Bell,….” Bell’s name is listed next to Jennie June (Mrs. Croly) and there are many newspaper articles discussing Bell and Croly so they knew each other well. Werther gets “Ralphael” name from Goethe and calls himself Jennie June, but disputes it came from Mrs Croly. (Auto p.33)
- Herzog needs evidence Werther worked for BELL: In handwriting (on page 33 of the pdf version of the Underworld manuscript, and Werther’s typed p12) it says “I once gave Dr. Herzog, its present editor indisputable evidence I had been in the employ of Clark Bell.” Sell: This indicates to me that Bell and Herzog may not have personally discussed Werther despite their close relationship (otherwise why would Werther have had to give Herzog evidence). Werther says on p.30 of Riddle pdf that “The great lawyer never evidenced a suspicion that I was myself an androgyne, being himself in the sixties at the time he employed me.”
- Auto publication announcement 6 months after BELL’s death: I find it very curious that the Medico Legal Journal announces the publication of Autobiography in the September-October 1918 issue after Bell’s death on February 23, 1918. It has always seemed like more than a coincidence to me. Perhaps Werther knew Bell would not publish the Autobiography given what Bell accused him of. And if Bell and Herzog didn’t discuss Hawken then perhaps Herzog didn’t know of the incident.
- Werther published in Victor Robinson’s journal as well as Victor’s father’s journal: William J. Robinson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Robinson) father of Victor Robinson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Robinson) published the American Journal of Urology and Sexology and many articles by Werther/June. Could either Robinson have known the real name? In the contract with Werther for the publication of Riddle the name used is “Ralph Werther.”
- Werther discussing the arrest of Wilde says: “The slums of London were combed in order to find witnesses.” (Auto p. 203) Werther in the 1918 Urology article discussing himself says: The slums were combed in order to obtain witnesses against our nut-brown boy.”
- Would have probably met Shufeldt (who writes about Werther in 1905 and photographs him) through Bell or Robinson. Shufeldt and Bell were both on the Executive Committee of the Medico-Legal Society as early as 1903 and as late as 1908 (and probably additional years as well). Shufeldt publishes in Robinson’s Medical Life in 1921 (Robinson was in contract with Werther to publish The Riddle of the Underworld).Herzog published an article the same year in Robinson’s journal. So they were all pretty connected.
Hawken, William as WERTHER
Born as William Hawken in England in 1868 (lies about his birthdate (1874) to shave off about six years when writing as Werther). Goes to college in England (probably London); Comes to the U.S. as a Methodist Missionary in 1889 and goes to upstate NY (near Cazenovia). Travels back to England possibly multiple times, but certainly at the end of 1891 when he gets arrested for stealing from Rawson. He returns to the U.S. after released in February 1892. Walks around starving and gets hired by Clark Bell as a clerk/law student. Works for Bell until May of 1893 when he leaves college depressed. He starts passing bad checks in New York City
Here’s a quick write up that mentions the key points in my case (the strongest evidence is in red, but it makes more sense presenting the facts in this order).
Werther says in a handwritten note on the Underworld manuscript (p. 33 of the scanned Underworld document in pdf format, see attached) that he “was employed by Clark Bell.” In the typed text of the Underworld (also page 33) he says the lawyer he worked for was in his “sixties at the time he employed me.” Clark Bell was in his sixties from March 12, 1892 to March 11, 1902 (based on a birthdate provided in a New York Times article in 1918 announcing Bell’s death, also attached). So Werther would have worked for Bell at some point during those years. The Underworld manuscript also says “I once gave Dr. Herzog, its present editor indisputable evidence I had been in the employ of Clark Bell.” It also indicates to me that Bell and Herzog may not have personally discussed Werther despite their close relationship (otherwise why would Werther have had to give Herzog evidence).
I searched for newspaper articles in FultonHistory.org that mentioned “Clark Bell” from 1890-1922 (to include dates up to the publication of the books). Several articles discuss a “William Hawken” (sometimes spelled Hawkin) who in the most complete article which appears in the Evening Telegram on November 24, 1894 was described as “formerly a law student in the office of Clark Bell” and that “Mr. Bell gave him $3 a week.” (see attached top of third column). Hawken is accused in the article of “forging Mr. Bell’s name” to cash checks. The case was presented before “United States Commissioner Shields.” I have, from the National Archives all documents pertaining to this case.
I find it very curious that the Medico Legal Journal announces the publication of Autobiography abour six months after Bell’s death in 1918. Has always seemed like more than a coincidence to me. Perhaps Werther knew Bell would not publish the Autobiography given what Bell accused him of. And if Bell and Herzog didn’t discuss Hawkin then perhaps Herzog didn’t know of the incident.
An Evening Telegram article also mentions that Hawken may have recently come to the United States from England. I don’t see this as too problematic with the overall story. For example, in Werther’s article in the March issue of Urology and Sexology in 1919, titled “Boy-But Never Man,” he discusses visiting the “Crystal Palace” (p. 98) which existed in London from 1854 to 1936 (years Werther could have visited), while the Crystal Palace in New York existed only from 1853 to 1856 (before Werther was born if we can believe his birth dates). Other items in the article such as “Essex Street” could be London references as well. And there is an article about a William Hawken “Out of Work and Starving” in an article in the World on October 25, 1893 where Hawkens discusses being born in the U.S (specifically Baltimore) but being raised in England. It seems that Bell employed Hawken sometime after this article was written.
There is a William Hawken that is becoming a Methodist Minister described in the Rome NY Daily Sentinal in 1891 (see the fourth column article titled “Gathering of Methodists”). The article says “these men have been preaching two years since they were admitted on trial….. Their names are…. William Hawken.” On page 29 of Autobiography Werther discusses in the year 1891 “I preached about twelve times from the pulpit, besides being the leader of about a hundred secondary church services.” On page 57 he discusses “thinking of becoming a minister of the Gospel.” But more importantly on page 69 he says “I had been appointed a delegate to a student’s missionary convention in another city….” Werther gives much detail about the convention through page 70 of the Autobiography. The Rome article doesn’t describe it as a “convention” like Werther does but rather a “conference” (being a Methodist I know they still today discuss conferences and not conventions which is a strike against my case here). But in the Female Impersonators (p. 127) Werther may be indicating he’s a Methodist when he says “But this was probably on account of his Methodist bringing up, like my own.”
Now back to Hawken’s possible theft from Clark Bell. In the Evening Telegram article mentioned above, Hawken’s full name is “William R. V. Hawken.” Another shorter article on November 24, 1894 in The World spells out the full middle names. Here he is described as “William Ralph VyVyar Hawken” and at the end of the article, curiously using only the middle names it says “His friends managed to send “Ralph VyVyar” out of England. Werther discusses on page 30 of Autobiography how he “built a pseudonym on my baptismal name….” This description discusses the interrelationship between Ws and Vs in the creation of such names.
Finally, an article from the New York Times in 1900 descries a “William Hawken, twenty-eight years old, of 9 Rector Street” charged with “larceny of two or more typewriters.” This guy is the right age and from the right neighborhood for our story. And isn’t it a curious thing to steal, a typewriter, unless perhaps he was busy writing books! In the Underworld Werther states “My first three books have had the benefit of three typings before publication.”
- Hawken is reported as “formerly a law student of Clark Bell…” in November 1894. Werther says he leaves college in his junior year in May 1894 due to a nervous breakdown.
- W.R. Vivian Hawken, Esq. and Vivian Hawken in 1893 minutes for Medico-Legal Society for November 1893.
- Birth dates: 6 year difference not much (was Werther shaving a few years off of his age in the late 1890s when he was writing this?
- Bell, Clark: both worked for
- Pub date Autobiography of an Androgyne: after Clark Bell dies, even though Werther says it was written earlier.
- Ralph: name used by both
- Hawken, William H.: There is a Methodist minister named Wiliam H. Hawken preaching between 1891 and 1892 and leaves the Methodists in 1892 just like Werther says he did.
- Vyvyan: Werther talks on page 30 of Autobiography on substituting letters V and W in making up a pseudonym
- Werther’s father disowns him: so Werther is left without income and Hawken is listed as without cash, and may have stolen typewriter