Sunday, April 9, 2017

A New Discovery: Herbert Klatt's Personal Photo Album by Todd B. Vick

A few months ago, I received a message from a reader of this blog regarding Robert E. Howard and a friend of his named Herbert Klatt. Of course, I’ve written about Herbert Klatt here at On An Underwood No. 5 since he was not only a friend of Robert E. Howard’s but also of Tevis Clyde Smith's, Truett Vinson's, and Harold Preece's. It turns out the person who contacted me, Christopher Oldham, is a relative of Herbert Klatt’s. Christopher contacted me because he had recently come into possession through his great aunt Oleta Klatt (a sister of Herbert’s), Herbert Klatt’s personal photo album.

When Christopher mentioned the photo album, the only thought in my mind was that there might be a potential picture of Robert E. Howard no one had seen. Through correspondence, Christopher began to tell me some of the names of the photos that were labeled in the book. I recognized several of these names, especially Truett Vinson. I asked Christopher if any of the pictures were labeled Tevis Clyde Smith or Harold Preece. “No,” he said, “but there are a few photos that are not labeled.” So, there was hope. Out of sheer kindness and a tremendous amount of trust, Christopher offered to mail the photo album to me so I could scan the pictures. This, of course, made me a little nervous. What if the pictures were lost in the mail? A question that was in the forefront of my mind. We arranged a plan: send the pictures first class priority with delivery confirmation, then I’ll scan them and return them the same way. That way we could track the package as it was in transit between the two of us, both ways. The plan worked without a hitch. I received the package, scan the pictures, and sent them back. No issues.

What was the result? Several new pictures that have never surfaced have been discovered. Unfortunately, none of the pictures were of Robert E. Howard. Even so, two new pictures of Truett Vinson were present, and a possible picture of Tevis Clyde Smith. These will be revealed in my upcoming biography about Robert E. Howard. Moreover, several pictures of Lone Scouts who were also participants in The Junto—an "amateur press association created by his [Howard's] friends Harold Preece and Booth Mooney, both ex-Lone Scouts, which they had cooked up after a meeting in San Antonio."—surfaced. For the picture that is potentially Tevis Clyde Smith, I got Howard historian and scholar, Rob Roehm involved. After comparing the photos Roehm had on file of Smith, he agreed that the picture was likely Smith. Unfortunately, the picture of Smith is not labeled, but it was placed on the same page with one of Truett Vinson’s photos (the only two on that page), and the fact that it is in Herbert Klatt’s personal photo album gives it strong provenance.

Now that everything is said and done, I asked Christopher if he’d be willing to participate in a small interview about his family and the photo album. He graciously agreed and what follows is our discussion about Herbert Klatt and the photo album. (U5 - On an Underwood No. 5 & CO - Christopher Oldham)

U5: How are you related to Herbert Klatt?
CO: He was my Grandfather’s brother which makes him my Great Uncle.
U5: How did you end up with the photo album?
CO: It belonged to my Great Aunt, Herbert’s sister, Oleta Klatt.
U5: When did you realize that your great uncle, Herbert Klatt, was a friend of Robert E. Howard's?
CO: When I read Lone Scout of Letters – Herbert C Klatt by Rob Roehm
U5: How did you discover Robert E. Howard?
CO: I discovered Howard when I read Rob Roehm’s book, which piqued my curiosity and caused me to read works by and about Robert E. Howard.
U5: Oh, so you did not know about Robert E. Howard before reading Rob’s book?
CO: No, I was not familiar with him like I am now. Rob Roehm contacted my family but the other branch. He contacted my mother’s cousins and they gave him some information. My mother mentioned it to me but her information may not have been consistent and I thought she might be mistaken. So, at first I was a little skeptical. But, that’s how I found out about Lone Scout of Letters – Herbert C Klatt.
U5: What made you want to get in touch with me regarding the photo album?
CO: I found the album in my aunt’s things last year and thought someone might be interested in the pictures and of his fellow Lone Scouts and friends he corresponded with.  I reached out to you via your website. I believe we have a responsibility when we discover these things to do what we can to share them with those that are interested.
U5: Can you recall and share any family stories about Herbert Klatt?
CO: Unfortunately, I cannot remember any. My great aunt spoke of him, but my memory fails me. She wished she had his creative writing ability. I believe his illness and untimely death inspired her to follow a career path which lead her into Cancer Research at MD Anderson in Houston Texas.  I would say that was highly unusual for a woman born in 1914. My great aunt and grandfather seemed to be profoundly affected by the loss of their older brother. They were 7 to 8 years younger, so I imagine that would have fostered a different relationship than if they were closer in age, less completion and perhaps more mentoring?  I knew Herbert planned to be a lawyer, and my grandfather wanted to study law as well.  Sadly, my grandfather was not able to finish high school, because Herbert passed, and his father became too ill to farm and tend livestock, so my grandfather had to work on the farm to support the family.
U5: Do you have anything else you would like to add?
CO: My aunt passed in 2006. It’s hard to believe it’s been was 11 years since then. Time passes faster and faster. She would have delighted in speaking to you about her brother.

I’m so thankful Christopher contacted me regarding the photo album. His eagerness to share helps us add new information to our studies of Robert E. Howard. Thank you Christopher.

Below are photographs (not scans) of a few of the pictures from Herbert Klatt's photo album. More of these pictures will be revealed in my upcoming biography about Robert E. Howard. Several of the pictures are people Howard knew either personally or through The Junto.

J. Leland Gault, two poses
Roy W. McDonald (a Lone Scout &
a member of The Junto)

Various Lone Scouts
(each marked except the upper right picture)

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