I have come across a new candidate for S.W. Erdnase, the anonymous
author of The Expert At The Card Table (TEATCT). This individual,
Herbert Lee Andrews….
- Had a wife named Emma Shaw Andrews (S.W Erdnase in reverse).
- Lived in Chicago around the time of publication of TEATCT.
- Helped run a business just a few blocks away from James McKinney and Co, the company that printed TEATCT. This business went bankrupt a few years before the publication of TEATCT.
- Was well educated, and had an analytical and inventive mind, with several engineering patents to his name (thus perhaps explaining the detailed nature of TEATCT and the unusual copyright notices in the book).
- Came from a well-respected and religious family based in Hartford County (thus providing a possible motivation for anonymity).
A few months ago I was carrying out some research into the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and came across the following map from the time of the exhibition.
It had been produced by Rand McNally, and showed a bird's-eye view of the East End of Adams Street in the Chicago downtown ‘loop’. 11 of the buildings were numbered, and each number corresponded to a brief description printed below the map. Building number 6 was erected in 1890, located at 215-221 Wabash Avenue, and housed ‘A. H. Andrews & Co.’. It wasn’t just the reference to Andrews that made me curious. The map also clearly showed a street named ‘Plymouth Place’, and that sounded vaguely familiar. A quick flick through The Man Who Was Erdnase revealed that James McKinney and Co (who printed the first edition of Erdnase) were based at 73 Plymouth Place.
I checked an 1886
street map of Chicago, and discovered that Plymouth Place (originally
called Third Avenue) was not very long, and so A. H. Andrews &
Co. was only a few blocks away from James McKinney and Co.
Interestingly, just a few doors away from ‘A. H. Andrews and Co’ is building number 7, described as ‘The Casino’. Originally built as the Eden Musee, this ‘handsome structure of the old style’, was built in 1888 and was ‘open to the public as a wax-work museum and family minstrel show’.
According to the online Encyclopedia of Chicago, A. H. Andrews and Co was founded in 1865 by Alfred Herbert Andrews, and produced (amongst other things) school and office furniture. In addition, the Encyclopedia notes, “Andrews & Co. started to produce metal furniture in the early 1890s, but it entered bankruptcy and went into decline soon thereafter.”, perhaps supporting Erdnase’s comments that ‘if it [the book] sells, it will accomplish the primary motive of the author, as he needs the money’.
The Andrews family history is well documented, with Herbert Cornelius Andrews publishing a 500-page book on the topic in 1906. This book reveals that Alfred Herbert Andrews ran the firm with his younger brother, Herbert Lee Andrews, and gives many additional details about his brother’s life.
Herbert Lee Andrews was born in 1844 to Deacon Alfred Andrews, a well-known Minister of the First Church of New Britain in Connecticut. Several other members of the Andrews family also held prominent positions in the Church, thus perhaps explaining the need for the author of a book on crooked gambling to remain anonymous. Interestingly, it is also in line with speculation that Erdnase was from a well off East Coast family.
Herbert Lee Andrews was well educated, obtaining a ‘common school education’, then two additional years at the High School of New Britain, and another year in the State Normal School of New Britain. After spending time in Leavenworth and St. Louis, he traveled to Chicago, and worked in the manufacturing department of his brother’s company. He was described as having ‘a natural taste for drawing and perspective, and a high admiration of the beauties of nature. He has an inventive genius, and has obtained several valuable patents on school furniture and appliances.’ A quick search of Google Patents (under 'H L Andrews') revealed his patents for a range of clever inventions, including furniture made of metal rods and wire, and new forms of fabric design. This is in keeping with TEATCT being a detailed and analytical description of card moves, and may help explain the unusual copyright notices in the book.
Herbert Lee Andrews married Emma Shaw Cuthbert, and thus his wife would have been named Emma Shaw Andrews (S.W Erdnase in reverse).
A search of The Hartford Courant revealed that Andrews died in December 1906.
Obviously, all of this could be just a coincidence. However, if anyone can find out any additional information about Herbert Lee Andrews, then I would be delighted to hear from them.