Smith, H. Allen (Harry Allen), (1907-1976.) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
Harry Allen Smith was born December 19, 1907, in McLeansboro, Illinois, and in 1929 he began work with the United Press as a rewrite man. He was soon doing feature stories, and became well known for his unconventional interviews with celebrities and assorted personalities. He stayed five years with the United Press and then worked five years with the New York World-Telegram, doing much the same thing. His book "Lo, The Former Egyptian" gave a humor-based account of his return to the region in the 1940's.
Smith's first publication was a commissioned biography of industrialist Robert Gair in 1939. Soon after that he wrote a spoof of Hitler entitled Mr. Klein's Kampf. His next attempt was Low Man on the Totem Pole, culled from his experience and interviews as a columnist and newspaper. This book, published in 1941, became a best seller and established Smith's fame as a humorist.
Throughout the 50's and 60's, Smith published about a book a year, plus hundreds of articles for such magazines as Reader's Digest, Saturday Evening Post, Playboy, and Esquire. He wrote numerous articles and books based on his travels to London, Mexico, Hawaii, Tahiti, and throughout the U.S. In 1946, Smith published his first novel, Rhubarb, which subsequently became a movie, and inspired him to eventually write two sequel novels. The third Rhubarb novel, The View from Chivo, was published in 1971. Around this time, Smith began collecting material for a biography of Gene Fowler, a man he had loved and respected all his life. This book, The Life and Legend of Gene Fowler, was published posthumously in Spring 1977. Smith died in February of 1976 while in San Francisco gathering material for articles and books.