1903: Writer Anna Katharine Green & Husband

From a 1903 issue of Successful American:




Charles Rohlfs, son of Peter Rohlfs, a native of Denmark, was born in New York City on February 15, 1853, where he was educated in and graduated from the famous Grammar School No. 35, under Thomas Hunter, one of the most noted of the public school principals of the metropolis. Subsequently he attended the Cooper Union night classes, and became the best draughtsman of the school, and was also proficient in chemistry and physics.

Mr. Rohlfs’ first occupation was in a banker’s office. Next he entered the Sandy Hook Pilot-Boat service; then he worked in a general machine shop, and was afterwards employed in a stove foundry as designer. But none of his previous occupations were in accord with his desire, and he determined to try the stage, and for eleven years Mr. Rohlfs “trod the boards,” commencing at the Boston Theatre, and successively supporting such distinguished actors as Edwin Booth, Barrett, McCullough, Anderson, Owens, etc.

In the meantime, Mr. Rohlfs had met the well-known author, Anna Katharine Green, and an attachment sprang up between them; but the lady’s father objecting to his daughter marrying an actor, the versatile Rohlfs dropped the stage and suddenly returned to the drawing-board. The couple were soon after married, and Mr. Rohlfs continued to make designs for the general trade, until conditions were favorable to his going abroad with his family, and while taking a rest in the Black Forest his wife, by way of diversion, dramatized her celebrated novel, “The Leavenworth Case,” and on their return to the United States the play was produced, Mr. Rohlfs appearing in the author’s strongest character, Harwell. His success as an actor did not, however, satisfy him. He had yearnings in other directions, and having made articles of furniture for his own home which had commanded admiration, he resolved to make a start in that line. His furniture was put on exhibition and accepted as a decided departure, and he is now known as an undoubted authority in his chosen field, on both sides of the Atlantic. It was Charles Rohlfs who originated the emphatic change in furniture now so generally followed.

Mr. Rohlfs came by his skill naturally. His father was a successful cabinet-maker, and the many occupations in which Mr. Rohlfs has been engaged seemed to have combined to give an original bent to his efforts, far beyond anything of the kind ever attempted by others in his line. His work is characterized by a quality that for the want of a better word we must call “dramatic.” His working-rooms have become a Mecca for the lovers of things beautiful. Mr. Rohlfs’ recent exhibit at Turin was a center of attraction to European artists, and secured recognition from one of the crowned heads in a personal communication.

Working in his shop ten hours daily, Mr. Rohlfs, now a resident of Buffalo, New York, still finds time to acquaint himself with the literature and art of the day. But those who know him well say that he rarely refers to the work that has now given him such an enviable position, and he is quoted as saying: “If I only knew what I know that I don’t know, you’d see something done.”

— William J. Hartford.




Anna Katharine Green, daughter of James Wilson Green, a lawyer of prominence in New York City, was born in Brooklyn, on November 11, 1946, educated in the public schools of the metropolis, and was graduated from the Ripley Female Seminary, at which institution, while President of the M. Y. O. B. Society, she initiated Ralph Waldo Emerson into membership. Her great talent as a writer was developed when a young child. She and her associates published a little paper, to which the future author contributed poems. Her first efforts were all in verse; but she eventually wrote a novel which has won for her the praise of men high in their several callings in all the countries of the globe. She published the book with many misgivings, and doubted if she would write another prose work; but a letter from the renowned Wilkie Collins decided the matter for her, and no verse came from her pen after the receipt of his letter of praise and unqualified approval.

“The Leavenworth Case,” which was the title of her first book, and some of her later works have been translated into all modern languages, evoking letters of commendation from men and women in all professions. Her work is noted for sustained power and close logic. In the construction and plot of her novels and the relationship of cause to effect, the foreign press would have us believe that not only a careful analysis of crime and court procedure, as well as a keen natural mental inclination in that direction, is the gifted author’s stock in trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anna Katharine Green knows, as we are credibly informed, next to nothing about courts or criminals. “It is,” at she informed the writer, “pure fiction suggested by the imagination, and evolved by an imaginative identification with every detail of the plot.”

Mrs. Charles Rohlfs, for that is the name of the lady, is the mother of three children — Rosamond, Sterling and Roland. Every detail of her household is known to her, and she impresses one as being a conscientious mother and capable, housewifely woman. She is interested in the affairs of her church, neglecting no social duties, and is a famous hostess — her entertainments being known for their unique character.

The home occupied by the Rohlfs at Buffalo, New York, has been furnished by her artist-husband, many of his best designs being the result of his wife’s requirements. The entire furnishings have a most restful effect on a visitor, but only when one has seen the author’s own room is the full effect of the husband’s genius realized, his wife being his inspiration.

In twenty-five years Mrs. Rohlfs has written eighteen volumes in prose and two in verse. Her fame is far from becoming dimmed. Her continued hold upon her readers is sustained, because, as she herself has said, “I cannot write unless I am deeply moved, and have something vital to say.”

Mrs. Rohlfs’ painstaking labor in her writings has been amply rewarded — the old books holding their own, while the new ones are increasing the popularity of the author year by year.

— William J. Hartford.

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