Wandrei, Donald, 1908-1987

Alternative names
Birth 1908-04-20
Death 1987-10-15

Biographical notes:

Donald Wandrei was born on April 20, 1908 in St. Paul, Minnesota to Albert C. (1872-1942) and Jeannette Adelaide (1878-1972) Wandrei. He had three siblings, David G. ([1907?]-1959), Howard (1909-1956), and Jeannette Alberta (1913-1972). Donald received his B.A. degree with a major in English prose from the University of Minnesota in 1928. While in school he was a contributor to the Minnesota Quarterly and a member of the editorial board of the Minnesota Daily. He sold his first story, "The Red Brain," to the magazine Weird Tales in 1927, became a regular contributor to several national magazines, and during his senior year published his first book of poetry entitled Ecstasy and Other Poems (1928).

After graduating, Donald moved to New York City and worked as advertising manager for the publishing firm E.P. Dutton & Co. He returned to St. Paul in 1929; completed three years of course work towards a Ph.D. in English; and, together with his brother Howard, published a second volume of verse entitled Dark Odyssey (1931). After returning to New York (1932) Donald worked as a public relations executive and continued to write fantastic fiction.

In 1939 Donald and August Derleth founded the publishing firm Arkham House with the express purpose of publishing the works of H. P. Lovecraft. The firm's first book, a Lovecraft collection edited by both Wandrei and Derleth, was entitled The Outsider and Others. Arkham House became the first publishing house devoted solely to fantasy and survived to become a leading publisher of the weird and science fiction genre.

Donald returned to St. Paul after serving in the army during World War II (1942-1945). He moved back to New York in 1947 and moved to Hollywood in 1950. He returned to St. Paul in 1952, where he remained until his death in 1987.

Howard Wandrei, Donald's younger brother, was born on September 24, 1909. At eighteen he was arrested for burglary and spent almost three years at the Minnesota State Reformatory in St. Cloud (1928-1930). During his incarceration he continued his education through extension courses offered by the University of Minnesota and received his B.A. degree, cum laude, in 1932.

Howard and Donald collaborated on the book Dark Odyssey, which contained twenty-three poems written by Donald and five pen and ink sketches by Howard. Howard was also a writer, sculptor, and renowned batik maker. His writings were published in several national publications and his art was exhibited in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and New York.

Howard moved to New York in 1933. He married Connie Colestock in 1936 and they had one child, Suzanne, in 1941. The couple was divorced in 1946. Howard moved back to St. Paul in 1945 and lived there for the remainder of his life. He died on September 5, 1956.

Biographical data was taken from the collection.

From the guide to the Donald Wandrei and family papers., 1862-1988 (bulk 1927-1988)., (Minnesota Historical Society)


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Ark ID:


  • Bloch, Robert, 1917-
  • Barlow, Robert H. (Robert Hayward), 1918-1951
  • Fantasy fiction, American
  • Publishers and Publishing
  • Artists--Minnesota--Saint Paul
  • Copyright--Royalties
  • Authors and publishers
  • Publishers and publishing--Wisconsin
  • Fantastic fiction, American
  • Morels--Minnesota
  • Science fiction, American
  • Copyright--United States--Royalties
  • Personality assessment


  • Authors, American
  • Artists--Minnesota--Saint Paul


  • Minnesota--Saint Paul (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Wisconsin (as recorded)
  • Le Sueur (Minn.). (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Le Sueur (Minn.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)