Claude Degler Found in 1940 Census

Claude Degler wanted to be an epic figure in 1940s sf fandom. He only succeeded in making himself the center of an unforgettable, morbid parody of early fans’ ambitions to change the world — as this Fancyclopedia 2 article shows.

I think there is an acknowledged “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God” quality to his self-aggrandizement that has sustained fans’ curiosity about the things he did and why he did them, such as creating the Cosmic Circle, headquartered in his hometown of New Castle, IN. Perhaps the best thing ever written about this fascination is David B. Williams’ “Looking for Degler” in Mimosa #30, which reveals the tragic end of the rest of the Degler family, if not Claude himself.

New Castle is in Henry County, Indiana and I have located the Deglers’ listing in the 1940 census.

Claude, his mother Virgie, and his brother Robert lived at 267 S. 6th on the day the census taker came to the door. The “x” marked beside his name on the census form shows Robert provided the information. They rented the place for $15 a month. Virgie was divorced, and worked as an assembler in an auto factory.

Claude was 19. He was born in Missouri. He’d completed the 6th grade.

The three Deglers lived in New Castle at the time of the 1930 census as well.

This may be the old Degler manse. Or it’s the next one on the left. Certainly near that corner on that side of 6th Street. (I found a pet shop three blocks away and used its listing to help me decide which was the odd-numbered side of the street.)

[I’ve moved the map after the jump because it’s making everybody crazy, automatically centering the page on itself.]

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Note: The Degler record is in E.D. 33-18. If you download the set of files, the image you want is m-t0627-01052-00450.

11 thoughts on “Claude Degler Found in 1940 Census

  1. You misspelled “fancyclopedia” (omitting the ‘l’ in “cyclo”) in the URL of the link to the fancyclopedia 2 article.

  2. Boy, this has “poor white trash” written all over it, and 1930 was a time when such appellations had meaning.

  3. @Morris: Thanks for catching that. It’s easy to make a freudian slip in a case like this.

  4. Are you sure you got the right one? I got the impression from the late Harry Warner Jr that Degler was a pseudonym and his real name was something else.

  5. Latest issue of FANSTUFF (#25) by coincidence mentions biography of Degler. Born as Don Rogers in Poplar Bluff, Illionois. Moved to Newcastle, Indiana, as a baby still in arms.

    Will some American fan with experience in genealogy research this?

  6. According to the Mimosa article referenced above, it was the 1981 InConJunction, in Indianapolis, and Tucker was at the con, but not GoH.

  7. @Dale: Degler is the name he lived under. You were casting doubt on the census identification. There is solid reason for believing it is correct. Wlliams’ research showed that when Robert Degler murdered their mother and committed suicide in October 1950 Claude was located by police in LA where he had been since Sept. 16. Claude was in LA several times in the 1940s. Warner says Claude was at the Portland Worldcon at the beginning of September 1950, so he can be placed on the West Coast at that time.

  8. And what did Harry say that gave you that impression? Neither Jack Speer nor Richard Eney’s Fancyclopedias cast any doubt on the Degler name itself, but Eney does identify several other Degler pseudonyms. And remember Speer’s “Investigation in Newcastle” ferreting out details of Degler’s past.

  9. Talk about sifting through the individual leaves left in a teapot after its been stirred by a breath of wind disguised as a tempest.

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