|Birth Day:||June 4, 1898|
|Death Date:||Dec 10, 1929 (age 31)|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
Massachusetts-born poet, author, and publisher whose notable works include Red Skeletons, Chariot of the Sun, and Transit of Venus. He founded Black Sun Press, a company that published the works of James Joyce, Kay Boyle, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and other renowned authors.
As per our current Database, Harry Crosby died on Dec 10, 1929 (age 31).
He was born into a wealthy Boston family and was a volunteer with the American Field Service during World War I.
He had one sister, Katherine Schuyler Crosby, nicknamed Kitsa, who was born in 1901. They moved shortly after his birth to an estate that had, among other things, a dance floor that could accommodate 150 people. His mother instilled in him a love for poetry. He would toss water bombs off the upper stories of the house onto unsuspecting guests. The family spent its summers on the North Shore of Massachusetts at a second home in Manchester, about 25 miles (40 km) from Boston. His religious, affectionate mother loved nature and was one of the founders of the Garden Club of America. His father, a banker, relived his days as a college football star through his Ivy League and Boston society connections.
As a child, he attended the exclusive Noble and Greenough School. In 1913, when he was 14 years old, his parents decided it was time to send him to Boston's foremost prep school, St. Mark's School, from which he graduated in 1917.
At age 19, like many young men of upper-crust American society, Crosby volunteered to serve in the American Ambulance Service in France. A number of writers whose works he would later publish also served in the ambulance corps, including Ernest Hemingway and Malcolm Cowley. He arrived in France on July 7, 1917.
When America officially entered the War, the American Ambulance Service corps was integrated into the U. S. Army Ambulance Corps and Crosby enlisted. During the Battle of Verdun, he was very close to the front, and ferried wounded soldiers from the front lines to rear areas for three days without relief. On November 22, 1917, as Crosby and his best friend, Way "Spud" Spaulding, and another friend, Ben Weeden, were transporting several wounded soldiers to a medical aid station, Crosby's Ambulance 741 was hit by an artillery shell that landed 10 feet (3.0 m) away, sending shrapnel ripping through the vehicle, completely destroying it. Miraculously, Crosby was unhurt, but Spaulding, following close behind in another ambulance, was struck in the chest by shrapnel. Crosby and Weeden were able to transport him to a hospital. After leaving Spaulding at the hospital in Beaulieu and returning to the aid station, Crosby was seen running in circles, lap after lap, without apparent purpose. Crosby declared later that that was the night he changed from a boy to a man. From that moment on, he never feared death. Spaulding was in intensive care for three months and was released from the hospital after six months.
On August 23–25, 1918, during a battle near Orme, his section (Section Sanitaire 641, attached to the 120th French Division) evacuated more than 2000 wounded and was cited for bravery in the field while under heavy German bombardment. Crosby became in 1919 one of the youngest Americans to be awarded the Croix de guerre. Harry was happy to finally have a medal to prove his valor and wrote home, "Oh Boy!!!!!! won THE CROIX DE GUERRE. Thank God."
When the Armistice was signed, Crosby, like every other soldier, was anxious to go home, but waited for more than a month for orders. He wrote his mother, asking her to get "Uncle Jack" J.P. Morgan to intervene on his behalf. During the war, J.P. Morgan & Company had loaned $1.5 billion dollars (about $22.33 billion in today's dollars) to the Allies to fight against the Germans. On March 21, 1919, Crosby left Brest for Boston via Philadelphia and arrived home a hero.
Crosby's mother invited Mrs. Richard Rogers Peabody (née Mary Phelps Jacob) to chaperone Crosby and some of his friends at a picnic on July 4, 1920, including dinner and a trip to the amusement park at Nantasket Beach. During dinner, Crosby never spoke to the girl on his left, breaking decorum. By some accounts, Crosby fell in love with the buxom Mrs. Peabody in about two hours, confessing his love for her in the Tunnel of Love at the amusement park. Two weeks later, they went to church together in Manchester-by-the-Sea and spent the night together. Their public relationship was a scandal among blue-blood Boston.
After returning from World War I, Crosby attended Harvard in the spring of 1919 under an accelerated program for veterans. He took 19 courses, six in French (which he read and spoke fluently) and six in English literature. The remainder of his courses were in fine arts, music, Spanish, and social ethics. Taking his studies very lightly, he thought he was going to fail, and paid a knowledgeable man who was familiar with what questions would be asked on the examinations to tutor him. He graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1921.
She was 28, six years older than Crosby, with two small children, and married. No matter what Crosby tried, Polly would not divorce Richard and marry him. Crosby took a job in Boston at the Shawmut National Bank, a job he disliked, and took the train to visit Polly in New York. In May 1921, when Polly would not respond to his demands, Crosby threatened suicide if Polly did not marry him. Polly's husband Richard Peabody was in and out of sanatoriums several times fighting alcoholism. In June 1921, she formally separated from him. Later that winter, Polly accepted weekend visits from Crosby, who would take the midnight train home to Boston afterward. In December, Polly's husband Richard offered to divorce her, and in February 1922, their marriage was legally ended.
After eight months at the Shawmut National Bank, Crosby got drunk for six days and resigned on March 14, 1922. Crosby's uncle, J. P. Morgan, Jr., agreed to provide a position for Crosby in Paris at Morgan, Harjes et Cie. Crosby already spoke and read fluent French and moved to Paris in May. Polly preceded him there, but returned to the United States in July, angry and jealous. On September 2, 1922, Crosby proposed to Polly via transatlantic cable, and the next day bribed his way aboard the Aquitania for New York, which made a weekly six-day express run to New York.
On September 9, 1922, Crosby and Polly were married in the Municipal Building in New York City, and two days later they reboarded the RMS Aquitania and moved with her children to Paris. There, they joined the Lost Generation of expatriate Americans disillusioned by the loss of life in World War I and the moral and social values of their parents' generation. Crosby continued his work at Morgan, Harjes et Cie, the Morgan family's bank in Paris. They found an apartment at 12, Quai d'Orléans overlooking the Seine, on the exclusive Île Saint-Louis, and Polly would don her red bathing suit and row Crosby down the Seine in his dark business suit, formal hat, umbrella, and briefcase to the Place de la Concorde, where he would walk the last few blocks to the bank on Place Vendôme. As she rowed back home, Polly, who was well endowed, would enjoy whistles, jeers, and waves from workmen. She said the exercise was good for her breasts.
In 1923, shortly after their arrival in Paris, Caresse introduced Crosby to her friend Constance Crowninshield Coolidge, also a Boston Brahmin, an American expatriate. She was the niece of Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair, and had been married to American diplomat Ray Atherton. Constance did not care what others thought about her. She loved anything risky and was addicted to gambling. Crosby nicknamed her the "Lady of the Golden Horse". She began a sexual relationship with Crosby that continued for several months. Harry rationalized their affair, telling Constance, "One should follow every instinct no matter where it leads." But Crosby would not leave Caresse, nor did Constance ask this of him. When Constance received a letter from Caresse who confessed that her affair with her husband had made her "very miserable", Constance wrote Harry and told him she would not see him any more. Harry was devastated by her decision. "Your letter was bar none the worst blow I have ever received. ... I wouldn't leave her under any circumstances nor as you say would you ever marry me." The three remained close friends, and on October 1, 1924, Constance married the Count Pierre de Jumilhac, although the marriage only lasted 5 years.
Polly and Crosby purchased their first race horse in June 1924, and then two more in April 1925. At the end of 1924, Crosby persuaded Polly to formally change her first name to Caresse, as he felt Polly was too prim and proper for his wife. They briefly considered Clytoris before deciding on Caresse. Crosby suggesting that her new name "begin with a C to go with Crosby and it must form a cross with mine." The two names intersected at right angles at the common "R," "the Crosby cross."
In 1924, they rented an apartment in the Faubourg St. Germain for six months from Princess Marthe Bibesco, a friend of Crosby's cousin Walter Berry, for 50,000 francs (the equivalent of $2,200, about $32,821 in today's dollars). When they moved in, they brought with them "two maids and a cook, a governess, and a chauffeur."
They took extended traveling tours. In January 1925, they traveled to North Africa, where they first smoked opium, a habit to which they would return again and again. Crosby had tattoos on the soles of his feet—a cross on one and a pagan sun symbol on the other.
On November 19, 1925, Crosby and Polly rented a fashionable apartment on 19, Rue de Lille, where they remained for the rest of their time in Paris.
Crosby met Ernest Hemingway on a skiing trip to Gstaad in 1926. In July 1927, Crosby and Hemingway visited Pamplona for the running of the bulls. Crosby wrote of Hemingway that "H. could drink us under the table." Harry and Caresse published the Paris edition of Hemingway's The Torrents of Spring. In early 1928, they traveled to the Middle East, visiting a number of countries.
Their wildness was in full flower during the drunken orgies of the annual Four Arts Balls (Bal des Quatz' Arts). In July 1927, he turned 10 live snakes loose on the dance floor. He wrote in his diary about it later:
In April, 1927, they founded an English language publishing company, first called Éditions Narcisse, after their black whippet, Narcisse Noir. They used the press as an avenue to publish their own poetry in small editions of finely made, hard-bound volumes.
In late 1928, they secured a 20-year lease on a medieval mill outside of Paris in Ermenonville, for living quarters, which they named "Le Moulin du Soleil" ("The Mill of the Sun"). It had three old stone buildings, no electricity or telephone, and a single bathroom. The Crosbys added a racing course on which to play donkey polo and a small swimming pool. The millstream had slowed to a trickle. Inside the mill, Caresse converted the old washrooms and cellars into a large kitchen. The ground floor of the central mill tower served as a dining room, where guests sat on logs cut from the neighboring woods. The mill also contained a solid brass marine cannon that was rolled out for special guests, who were announced with a loud report. A whitewashed wall near the stairway served as a guest book. It was signed by many guests who included D. H. Lawrence, Douglas Fairbanks, the future George VI, and Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's future wife.
They printed limited quantities of meticulously produced, hand-manufactured books, printed on high-quality paper. Publishing in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s put the company at the crossroads of many American writers who were living abroad. In 1928, as Éditions Narcisse, they printed a limited edition of 300 numbered copies of "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe with illustrations by Alastair.
In 1928, they found they enjoyed the reception their initial works received, and decided to expand the press to serve other authors, renaming the company the Black Sun Press, following on Crosby's obsession on the symbolism of the sun. The press rapidly gained notice for publishing beautifully bound, typographically flawless editions of unusual books. They took exquisite care with the books they published, choosing the finest papers and inks.
On July 9, 1928, Crosby met 20-year-old Josephine Noyes Rotch, the daughter of Arthur and Helen Ludington Rotch of Boston. Ten years his junior, Josephine was shopping in Venice at the Lido for her wedding trousseau. She had belonged to the Vincent Club and the Junior League and graduated from Lee School before she had attended Bryn Mawr. After only two years at Bryn Mawr, she left because she planned to marry Albert Bigelow. "She was dark and intense ... since the season of her coming out in 1926-7, she had been known around Boston as fast, a 'bad egg' ... with a good deal of sex appeal."
During 1929, Crosby wired his father, an investment banker, several times asking him to put more money from his inheritance into his account. In January, he asked his father to sell $4,000 ($59,558 today) worth "to make up for past extravagances in New York" In May, he noted in his diary that he had sold another $4,000 worth of stock "to enjoy life when you can". In mid-July, drunk on sherry cobblers, he sent a cable to his father, who was not pleased by it:
Crosby experimented with photography and saw the medium as a viable art form before it was widely accepted as such. In 1929, he met Henri Cartier-Bresson in Le Bourget, where Cartier-Bresson's air squadron commandant had placed him under house arrest for hunting without a license. Crosby persuaded the officer to release Cartier-Bresson into his custody for a few days. The two men had an interest in photography, and Henry presented Henri with his first camera. They spent their time together taking and printing pictures at Crosby's home, Le Moulin du Soleil. Cartier-Bresson was attracted to Caresse and began a sexual relationship with her that lasted until 1931, two years after Harry's suicide.
Crosby also learned to fly solo in November, 1929, when the aeroplane was so new that its spelling had not been agreed upon.
They published early works of a number of writers before they were well known, including James Joyce's Tales Told of Shem and Shaun (which was later integrated into Finnegans Wake). They published Kay Boyle's first book-length work, Short Stores, in 1929. and works by Hart Crane, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Archibald MacLeish, Ernest Hemingway, Laurence Sterne, and Eugene Jolas. The Black Sun Press evolved into one of the most important small presses in Paris in the 1920s. After Crosby died in a suicide pact with one of his many lovers, Caresse Crosby continued publishing into the 1940s.
On November 20, 1929, the Crosbys returned to the United States aboard the RMS Mauretania for a visit and the Harvard-Yale football game. Crosby and Josephine met and traveled to Detroit, where they checked into the expensive ($12 a day—about $179 today) Book-Cadillac Hotel as Mr. and Mrs Harry Crane. For four days, they took meals in their room, smoked opium, and had sex.
On December 7, 1929, the lovers returned to New York, where Josephine said she was going to return to Boston and her husband. Crosby's friend Hart Crane threw a party that evening to celebrate his completion after seven years of his poem, The Bridge. The Black Sun Press was scheduled to publish it the next week, and he wanted to bid Crosby and Caresse bon voyage, since they were due to sail back to France the next week. Among the guests present were Margaret Robson, Malcolm Cowley, Walker Evans, E. E. Cummings, and William Carlos Williams. The party went on until nearly dawn. Crosby and Caresse made plans to see Crane again before they left for Europe on December 10 to attend the popular Broadway play Berkeley Square.
In 1931, Caresse also published Torchbearer, a collection of his poetry with an afterword by Ezra Pound, and Aphrodite in Flight, a 75-paragraph-long prose-poem and how-to manual for lovers that compared making love to a woman to flying planes. Caresse published a boxed set of Crosby's work titled Collected poems of Harry Crosby containing Chariot of the Sun with D. H. Lawrence's introduction, Transit of Venus with T. S. Eliot's introduction, Sleeping Together with Stuart Gilbert's introduction, and Torchbearer in 1931. It was hand-set in dorique type; only 50 copies were printed.
During 1931 and 1932, Caresse collaborated with Harry's mother Henrietta to publish letters he had written to his family while serving in France from the summer of 1917 until he returned home in 1919. Henrietta added a chronology and brief preface to the letters. The book War Letters was published in a unnumbered edition of 125 copies. As of 2015, a leather-bound edition of the book was priced from $2,000 to $3,500.
Caresse Crosby edited and published Crosby's diaries and papers. She wrote and published Poems for Harry Crosby in 1931. She also published and translated some of the works of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Dorothy Parker, among others. The Black Sun Press enjoyed the greatest longevity among the several expatriate presses founded in Paris during the 1920s. Through 1936, it published nearly three times as many titles as did Edward Titus through his Black Manikin Press.
Crosby as a poet was never more than a minor literary figure while he lived, and was remembered more for his scandalous suicide over his creative efforts. He has greater importance as a co-founder of the Black Sun Press, which Caresse continued to operate after his death. She also established, with Jacques Porel, a side venture, Crosby Continental Editions, that published paperback books by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Dorothy Parker, among others. The paperback books did not sell well, and Crosby Continental closed in 1933. The Black Sun Press, however, continued publishing into the 1950s. The Black Sun Press produced finely crafted books in small editions, including works by, among others, D. H. Lawrence, Archibald MacLeish, James Joyce, Kay Boyle, and Hart Crane.
Crosby's friend Crane committed suicide less than two years later. Malcolm Cowley, whom Crosby had published, wrote in his 1934 book Exile's Return, that the death of "Harry Crosby becomes a symbol" of the rise and fall of the Jazz Age. He recited the excesses typified by Crosby's extravagant lifestyle as evidence of the shallowness of society during that era. When he edited and reissued the book in 1951, he softened his opinion of Crosby somewhat. "I had written at length about the life of Harry Crosby, who I scarcely know," he wrote, "in order to avoid discussing the more recent death of Hart Crane, whom I know so well that I couldn't bear to write about him."
In 2004, Fine Line Features optioned Andrea Berloff's first screenplay Harry and Caresse. Lasse Hallström was initially attached to direct and Leslie Holleran was attached as a producer.
Books printed by the Black Sun Press are valued by collectors. Each book was hand-designed, beautifully printed, and illustrated with elegant typeface. A rare volume published by the Black Sun Press of Hart Crane's book-length poem The Bridge, including photos by Walker Evans, was sold by Christie's in 2009 for US$21,250. In 2009, Neil Pearson, an antiquarian books expert, said, "A Black Sun book is the literary equivalent of a Braque or a Picasso painting—except it's a few thousand pounds, not 20 million."
A new collection of Harry Crosby's poetry, Ladders to the Sun: Poems by Harry Crosby was published by Soul Bay Press in April 2010.
Harry had an open marriage with Polly Crosby (formerly Mrs. Richard Peabody), with whom he had previously enjoyed a high-profile affair.
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Currently, Harry Crosby is 125 years, 0 months and 1 days old. Harry Crosby will celebrate 126th birthday on a Tuesday 4th of June 2024. Below we countdown to Harry Crosby upcoming birthday.