Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Possible New Photo of Tevis Clyde Smith from the Herbert Klatt Photo Album by Todd B. Vick

Back on April 9, 2017, I posted an article/interview about contacting a family member of Herbert C. Klatt, one of Robert E. Howard's friends, regarding Klatt’s personal photo album. The album was a collection of pictures from various friends around the country who were members of the organization the Lone Scouts of America (LSA). All the photos (except two) in the album were labeled, either on the back of the photo or underneath the photo in the album. One of the photos that was unlabeled was on a page with another friend of Klatt’s and Howard’s—Truett Vinson. The Truett Vinson picture was labeled underneath the picture (with a date on the back), but the unidentified picture, the label had come off or had been removed over the years.

The unlabeled photo next to one of Truett Vinson’s picture had no writing on the back. In fact, the backside had what looked like a label removed from it, or something removed from the back that was perhaps glued there. So, there is no label indicating that this picture is of Tevis Clyde Smith. That being the case, what clues are there that this might be a photograph of Smith? Before I answer, let’s take a very brief look at the history of Herbert Klatt’s eventual meeting of Truett Vinson, Tevis Clyde Smith, and Robert E. Howard.

 Without going too far back (I recommend reading Rob Roehm’s Lone Scout of Letters for a more in-depth look into Klatt’s life), let’s begin where Klatt joined the LSA. The LSA made its debut in 1915 for boys in rural areas that did not necessarily have access to a Boy Scouts of America branch near them. Shortly after the beginning of the LSA, the organization created a magazine called Lone Scout. Just like most other magazines, Lone Scout had a section for their readers who wanted to message or correspond with other Lone Scouts (readers) across the country, some in quite isolated areas. This section was called "Lone Scout Messenger Department," and "Herbert Klatt made his debut in this department in the July 10, 1920 issue."[1] It was through the "Lone Scout Message Department" that Klatt began collecting names of boys with whom to correspond, and by March of 1923, Klatt began corresponding with Truett Vinson. It was through Vinson that Klatt became acquainted with Tevis Clyde Smith, who eventually asked Klatt to contribute to his April edition of the All-Around Magazine Smith and Vinson created while at Brownwood High School. And then, of course, through Vinson and Smith, Klatt met Robert E. Howard.

Over the years, as Klatt corresponded with the various boys he met through the Lone Scout Messenger Department, he exchanged photographs with a few and collected them in a photo album. And thus, we get to our mystery photograph.

In an attempt to possibly find out if Smith mentions a photo that he intends to send Klatt in one of their letters, I read Rob Roehm’s book, Lone Scout of Letters, but found nothing. So, back to the initial question: What clues do we have that this might be a photograph of Smith?

First, the person in the picture looks like Tevis Clyde Smith (at a mid-teenaged year). The facial features, ears, lips, and dimpled (cleft) chin are all similar facial features of Smith seen in other photos.

Photo from Smith's book,
Images Out of the Sky
The "mystery" photo from Klatt's album

Second, the placement of the picture in the photo album, on the same page as one of the pictures of Truett Vinson. The Vinson picture (which will be published in my upcoming biography about Robert E. Howard) is dated December 28, 1924. My guess is the mystery picture is dated sometime that same year (or maybe even earlier), or possibly sometime in 1925.

Third, some of the people in the photo album sent Klatt two photos of themselves in various settings and poses, making it easy (despite their being labeled) to see that these are the same people (e.g. same facial features, etc.). There is no one else from any of the other pictures that look like the person in the mystery photo. And while that’s not a definitive factor, it is something to consider.

With no hard and fast evidence, I can’t say definitively that this is Tevis Clyde Smith, but it does seem highly probable. Moreover, the fact that the picture is in Klatt’s personal photo album is certainly strong provenance that it could be Smith. All these factors tend to make me think that this is, in fact, a picture of Tevis Clyde Smith.

[1] Roehm, Rob. "Introduction: Herbert C. Klatt." In Lone Scout of Letters, x. Lancaster, CA: Roehm's Room Press, 2011.