Detroit Free Press, Michigan, June 30, 1940
Detroit Free Press, Michigan, June 30, 1940
Detroit Free Press, Michigan, May 5, 1940
A little bit!
Katharine Brush was born to Charles Samuel Ingham, a headmaster of a boys’ boarding school in New Hampshire called Dummer Acadamy, and his wife Clara Louise (Northrop) in Middletown, Connecticut in 1902. When she was a girl, she’d “blackmail” the boys at her dad’s school into lending her their bicycles and giving her their frat pins. She attended boarding school in New Jersey (Centenary Collegiate Institute, which was a prep school/junior college, now Centenary University), but didn’t attend college because she flunked Latin. She moved back home and tutored at her dad’s school, and then attended business school.
Her first real job was as a stenographer for the Boston Herald and Traveler, where she later wrote a movie column. When she began writing for the Herald, one of her first jobs was to interview a theatrical manager – and it was a big flop. Katharine lost not only her notes, her pencils, and her handbag (a brand new gift from her fiance, Thomas), too.
Her first husband, Thomas Stewart Brush, who she married at 18, was a newspaper editor. His father was Louis Herbert Brush, who owned numerous newspapers in Ohio. Katharine and Thomas had one son, also named Thomas Stewart, who was a newspaper executive. As a child, Tommy would write, illustrate and bind stories and sell them to Katharine for 50 cents each. Although they divorced in 1929, Katharine and Thomas remained very close friends until his death.
Although her father-in-law was a bonafide newspaper man, she didn’t use his position as an opening. Instead, besides trying her hand at writing greeting card verses, she send off her writing to every type of magazine she could think of, from golfing magazines to true confession magazines. One of these true confession magazines happened to publish one of her stories under her real name, when Katharine was visiting her (very strict) father back home in Massachusetts. Katharine and a friend ended up running around town, buying up every copy they could find, and throwing them into the Parker River to in the hopes of preventing the off chance of a copy ending up being confiscated from a student of her father’s school! (The magazine just ended up sending more copies.)
Katharine’s first big break was with College Humor, she told that she had had many of her anecdotes published by them, each fetching a dollar, but that they kept returning her short stories. When the magazine’s editor began a contest calling for suggestions on how to improve the magazine, Katharine sent in her entry, which read, “stop rejecting my stories!”. Eventually Katharine would publish 40 short stories and two novels (Glitter and Little Sins), which were serialized, through College Humor. She also wrote for Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and Red Book.
Her second husband was Harvard graduate and international banker Hubert Charles Winans, who she met in the Ritz bar in Paris. They were married from 1929 to 1941. The couple had married with the idea of a proposal (and acceptance) every three years, and that while they would live in the same home, they’d have separate quarters and meet for dinner and dates, staying out each other’s hair. With her son Tommy, Winans and Katharine shared a beautiful, giant, double penthouse in New York with an early intercom, servants quarters, a balcony dining room and a 30 foot circular ceiling in the main room which was red, black and silver (white leather couches, scarlet curtains, black chairs, and black and scarlet pillows, silver carpet), with three huge mirrors and a nine foot oil portrait of Katharine (a birthday present from her husband to himself). The living room had a twenty foot fireplace, and throughout the home there was much chrome. The apartment was bought from artist Joseph Urban (one of the originators of the Art Deco style, famous for his stage sets), but she found her home office (also circular, with polished brown wood, a semi-circular desk, walls with framed covers of her novels and built in bookcases) too quiet and began to write in hotel rooms. After her second divorce, she spent much of her time living in hotels because, she said, “in the end, your possessions end up possessing you”.
Katharine passed away in New York in 1952.
She wrote at least seven novels, two collections of short stories, and an autobiography titled This Is On Me (which was sort of a compromise with her publishers, being a collection of her favourite short stories with explanations of how the stories came to be). Her novel, Glitter, was contemporaneously compared to Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise (she admits in This is on Me that she tried to copy his style). Two of her best selling novels were Young Man of Manhattan and Red-Headed Woman (screenplay by Anita Loos), which began as ideas for short stories which then were serialized, then novelized, and finally turned into movies; the former showing Ginger Rogers in her screen debut (also starring Claudette Colbert), and the latter being Jean Harlow’s first big break.
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