Donald Barr Chidsey (born 1902)

Wikipedia 🌐 Donald Barr Chidsey


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"Donald Barr Chidsey was an American writer, biographer, historian, novelist and writer of adventure fiction.

Donald Barr Chidsey was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on May 14, 1902. He worked at the Elizabeth Daily Journal, and traveled widely in his youth.

He wrote more than fifty books. Alden Whitman called him "an old hand at light writing." According to Kirkus Reviews, Chidsey "is known for his popular American histories, and has a nose for a good story."

He lived in Lyme, Connecticut for many years. Along with artist W. Langdon Kihn, he was a Democratic candidate for the Connecticut House of Representatives from the town of Lyme, in the November 2, 1948 election.

He died on March 17, 1981, in Lawrence Memorial Hospital at New London, Connecticut"

Donald Barr Chidsey (1902-1981) was a frequent contributor to the pulp magazines in the 1930s, even as he developed a more socially acceptable career as a historical novelist and biographer. Early on he dabbled in private eye fiction for such magazines as Star Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Detective, and Black Mask, where he wrote tough stuff about homicide cops and busybody newshawks. He became best known for adventure stories, swift and flavorful historical fiction, much of it set at sea, where the author had spent some time himself. His biographies included the life stories of such personages as Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788) and Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618).

A rugged, handsome fellow from Elizabeth, New Jersey, Chidsey enjoyed a peripatetic, adventurous youth, including several years aboard a series of tramp steamers that took him to every exotic port on the globe. He also did time as a press agent, keeper, actor, bartender, and golf caddy. In the 1930s he lived in the South Seas, sailing about the islands on his own boat, and for a time he managed a small coconut plantation in Tahiti. During World War II Chidsey fought alongside the Free French and New Zealand forces as well as serving in the U.S. Army (stationed in North Africa). Chidsey imbued his fiction with his zest for life and adventure.

1910 Census

Glen Allen ... Chidsey

Father - John M. Chidsey (aka "John Marshall Chidsey (born 1871) "). His job is listed as " Expressman", and that he "own his own business"

Birth year changes - Here, John M Chidsey - 1871 birth year ...

Mother - Catherine Chidsey - Born in 1872 in England. She says her parents were both born in Scotland, and that she immigrated to the United States in 1889

Two Sons:

  • Donald "B" Chidsey (born in 1902)
  • Glen Allan Chidsey (born in 1900)
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191(8)? - High School - Graduated from battin High School (Elizabeth, N.J.)


1920 Census

Father - John Marshall Chidsey (born 1871)

Mother - Catherine , born in 1871

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1920s (early) - Traveled and had experiences to help writing


"He worked variously at the jobs usually tackles by very young and ambitious boys of a literary turn. [...] Including a hitchhike to Virginia, where he talked with James Branch Cabell. "

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Donald Barr Chidsey briefly was married to Shirley Chidsey (born Elinor Shirley Stewart) 1935 to 1940

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[ Shirley Armitage Chidsey Bridgwater (born 1907) ] had a huge appetite for travel and adventure. She lived for three years in Haiti, three months in Hawaii, a month in France, and a month in Germany, and visited China. In 1935 she married the author Donald Barr Chidsey and went with him to Tahiti, where she sailed in his boat and helped to manage a coconut plantation; she also learned Tahitian. While there she made friends with a number of writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tahiti has often been described as paradise, but the same could not be said of the Chidseys’ marriage: Shirley separated from him in February 1940. She went to New York and placed an advertisement in the Saturday Review of Literature for a “Girl Friday”—to do typing, research, and stenography.

1936 (Sep)

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[ Donald Barr Chidsey ] is a handsome, middle-aged gentleman who lives quietly with his wife in Lyme, Connecticut. He is a Justice of the Peace, and is active in the local P.T.A., Boy Scout movement, concert association, and Church. It was not always thus.

Donald Barr Chidsey has covered a good part of the earth in tramp steamers or tramp schooners, pearl shell boats or copra boats, or private yachts. He owned a plantation in the Punaauia district of [Tahiti,] visited or lived in most of the South Sea Islands: the Society Islands, American and Western Samoa, the Australs, the Cooks, the Fiji Islands, the Gambiers, the Tuamotus, New Guinea, Papua, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and many others; Central and South America, China, Indo-China, Japan, Malaya, the Near East.

Mr. Chidsey has been a newspaperman, Broadway actor, farmer, road gang foreman, mountaineer, bartender, boxer, and fencer with foil, épée, saber, schlaeger and broadsword. He was an ambulance driver with the British 8th Army in North Africa, has served also with the 9th Army in Syria, the New Zealanders, the United States army, the Free French in Tunisia, and the 51st Highland Division. Throughout his own adventures, he has always been a writer. Many previous works include the bestselling novels Panama Passage and Stronghold.

These days, Mr. Chidsey hardly ever dreams of returning to the South Seas. He likes it in Connecticut. However, he has a new hobby, stunt flying…


Career: Newspaperman for ten years on many different papers; writer, beginning 1928. Served with American Field Service in Middle East.

Awards: Boys Clubs of America Junior Book Award for Rod Rides High, 1951; Colonial Dames of America annual book award, 1965, for The Birth of the Constitution.

Here's a para about him from the Saturday Evening Post (8/17/1946), mostly repeating and confirming info you know: "DONALD BARR CHIDSEY, who writes of old Connecticut in DEADLINE AT MIDNIGHT, Page 12 [not included in the original], is one of the newest and most devoted citizens of Lyme, Connecticut, after many years of combining writing and travel. The photograph [sorry, wasn't able to copy that for you] was taken in Quinn's Bar, in Pápete, in 1940. Chidsey lived a relatively long time in Tahiti: He put down stakes, bought a small copra plantation, and stayed six years. He has spent shorter periods of semi-permanent residence in Honolulu and Haiti."

There's a really weird newspaper column written about him that was published in the Florida Times Union in 1998 (talking about yachting during the Great Depression); MeMail if you'd like the full text, as I can't put it online.



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Donald Barr Chidsey, a biographer and author of many books dealing with the American Revolution, died March 17 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn. He was 78 years old and lived in Lyme, Conn.

Mr. Chidsey started his writing career when he was about 17 years old on The Elizabeth (N.J.) Daily Journal, his hometown paper. He eventually wrote 50 books including novels.

Among his books on the Revolution was ''Valley Forge,'' ''Victory at Yorktown,'' and ''The Loyalists: The Story of Those Americans Who Fought Against Independence.'' His biographies included ''Marlborough, The Portrait of a Conquerer,'' ''Bonnie Prince Charlie'' and ''John the Great,'' the life of John L. Sullivan, the American boxer.

He is survived by a brother, G. Alan Chidsey of Port Washington, L.I.


"Here's a 1937 Argosy without a table of contents in the Fiction Mags Index. Fortunately, a site dedicated to the pulp writings of L. Ron Hubbard has this issue covered with a detailed table. For Hubbard fans or followers, this issue is extra-special because the great man has a letter in Argonotes along with his story "Nine Lives." In the letter, Hubbard defends "fast-production" writers like Frederick Faust and H. Bedford-Jones against snobby critics, crediting them with more nimble brains and "unconscious technique," while saying of himself that " If I write less than fifty thousand a month, my idea-machine practically breaks down." As was often the case in the second half of the 1930s, Donald Barr Chidsey gets the cover with the debut of a new series. "Call Me Mike" introduces Mikkud-Phni Luangba, heir to the real of Kamorriri, and his American companion/bodyguard George Marlin. Mikkud-Phni, aka "Mike," has adventures all around the world when he's not studying at Princeton. The running gag is that Marlin usually is forced into frantic action to rescue Mike, while the prince views everything with placid bemusement -- though he shouldn't be underestimated in a fight. Chidsey published at least three more Mike stories: two in September 1937 and one in 1940. There may be more, since the Mike series isn't recognized in the Fiction Mags Index. The first three stories have "Mike" in the title, but the 1940 story is "Flight to Singapore," and other Mike stories may be similarly obscured. I've read a couple of the Mikes, and they're mildly amusing, though you can see how they'd quickly grow monotonous. Along with these highlights the Aug. 21 issue features serial chapters from Bennett Foster, John Hawkins and Arthur Leo Zagat and stories by Frank Richardson Pierce (possibly a No-Shirt McGee), Garnett Radcliffe and Bertrand L Shurtleff. Hubbard's stuff was pretty entertaining in these early days of his career, so this issue's probably a pretty good overall package. "