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Burton Rascoe

Arthur Burton Rascoe (October 22, 1892 - March 19, 1957), was an American journalist, editor and literary critic of the New York Herald Tribune.

Burton Rascoe
Born(1892-10-22)October 22, 1892
Fulton, Kentucky
DiedMarch 19, 1957(1957-03-19) (aged 64)
New York City
OccupationEditor and literary critic
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
Notable worksTheodore Dreiser (1925), A Bookman's Daybook (1929), Titans of Literature: From Homer to the Present (1932), The Joys of Reading: Life's Greatest Pleasure (1937), Before I Forget (1937), Belle Starr: The Bandit Queen (1941)
SpouseHazel Adelaide Luke (m. 1913)
ChildrenAlfred Burton Rascoe
Ruth Helen Rascoe

External images From left to right: Burton Rascoe, Ellen Glasgow, James Branch Cabell, Priscilla Bradley Shepherd Cabell and Elliott White Springs, 1928. Undated image of Burton Rascoe, probably 1930s or 1940s.

Born in Fulton, Kentucky to Matthew L. Rascoe and Elizabeth Burton Rascoe, his father chose to investigate business prospect in Oklahoma Territory. The family eventually settled in Shawnee, Oklahoma, which despite fears planted by friends in Fulton. was a thriving community. Housing had not kept up with the influx of citizens and the Rascoe family was left to small dismal accommodations, something Mrs. Rascoe was never overcome. Burton, however, grabbed at every opportunity to find work and educate himself outside the school system. While serving as a class officer at Shawnee High School he played baseball and played quarterback on the football team after earning 30 dollars digging potatoes to purchase his uniform. He began a paper route for the Shawnee Herald but soon had put himself in charge of all the other newsboys. He also worked as assistant librarian at the town's Carnegie Library, was a ghost writer for citizens who were called on to make speeches or publish articles, a stringer for the Oklahoma City Times and writing articles for the Herald . . . all this while attending classes. His father continued to struggle supporting his family and by 16 Burton was supporting himself. Feeling ready and recognizing his more open-minded views he left school before graduation and moved to Chicago. From 1911 until 1913, he attended the University of Chicago where he joined Sigma Nu. While still a student, he started writing for the Chicago Tribune and continued working there until 1920.

In 1922, he became literary editor of the New York Tribune. He continued in that position until a merger turned the paper into the New York Herald Tribune in 1924. The writing and editorial staff he assembled included writers who became well-respected: Isabel Paterson and Will Cuppy.

Rascoe continued to hold high-profile editorial jobs in the field of literary criticism and to write books of his own about literature and authors. In 1935 he was appointed a senior editor at Doubleday, Doran, holding this post until 1952. His best-known work, Titans of Literature, appeared in 1932. He also authored Before I Forget, an autobiography of sorts revealing much of his upbringing in Oklahoma. The book gives a good insight to life for a young man during the early days of the 20th century. Other works include Theodore Dreiser(1925), A Bookman's Daybook (1929), The Smart Set Anthology, edited together with Groff Conklin (1934), The Joys of Reading: Life's Greatest Pleasure (1937) and Belle Starr, The Bandit Queen (1941).[1]

He was also a literary critic (New York World Telegram) and was a syndicated columnist throughout his career. He was best known for "A Bookman's Daybook," "The Book of the Week," and "TV First-Nighter.[2]"

Rascoe was married to Hazel Luke, July 5, 1913, and they had two children, Alfred Burton Rascoe, Jr., born July 2, 1914, who died by suicide in 1936,[3] and daughter Ruth Helen, born 1918.

In his last few years of life, Rascoe worked as a television reviewer.[4] He died of heart failure in New York City on March 19, 1957.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ (8 June 1941). The Notorious Career Of Belle Starr, The New York Times
  2. ^ "Finding aid to the Burton Rascoe paper". University of Pennsylvania Finding Aids. University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  3. ^ (20 September 1936). BURTON RASCOE'S SON DIES BY GAS IN HOME, The New York Times
  4. ^ Rascoe, Judith (14 May 1989). A Cautionary Tale for Reviewers, The New York Times (letter to the editor from Rascoe's niece offer an explanation for Rascoe's negative reviews of The Grapes of Wrath)
  5. ^ (21 March 1957). Burton Rascoe, Discovered Fine Writers, St. Petersburg Times
  6. ^ (20 March 1957). BURTON RASCOE, CRITIC, 64, DEAD; Editor and Author Had Been Writing TV Column--Once Syndicated in 400 Papers Attacked Milton and Dunte On New York Tribune, The New York Times
  7. ^ Lawrence, Larry (12 October 1960). That Reminds Me, Milwaukee Journal (personal recollections of Rascoe by college classmate)
  • Who Was Who in America, v. 3 (1951-1960), Chicago: Marquis - Who's Who, 1963, p. 711.
  • Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft (eds.), Twentieth Century American Authors, New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1942, pp. 1148–1149.
  • Burton Rascoe, Before I Forget, New York: Literary Guild, 1937, 442 pages.

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