Matthew Josephson

Josephson headshot
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrants from Romania and Russia, Matthew Josephson (1899-1978) graduated with an A.B. from Columbia University in 1920 and worked briefly as a reporter for the Newark Ledger. As an expatriate in Paris in the 1920s “to win a year or two of freedom and give all my time to writing,” he was associate editor of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts (1922–24), befriended leading surrealists like Paul Éluard, André Breton, Louis Aragon and Max Ernst and was an editor at the magazine transition (1928–29). After returning to America, Josephson worked on Wall Street before joining the editorial staff of The New Republic. He contributed regularly to The Nation, The New Yorker, and the Saturday Evening Post.

His first book was a biography of
Émile Zola, Zola and His Time: The History of His Martial Career in Letters (1928). Interested in 19th-century French literature, he also wrote the biographies Victor Hugo (1942) and Stendhal (1946). His books about American economic history include The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists, 1861–1901 (1934), which chronicles the lives of late 19th century barons of industry like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, Edison: A Biography (1959) and The Money Lords: The Great Finance Capitalists, 1925–1950 (1972). Josephson wrote two memoirs, Life Among the Surrealists (1962) and Infidel in the Temple (1967), and with his wife Hannah, a biography of Al Smith. He was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1948.

Hannah Josephson

Born in New York City, Hannah Josephson, née Geffen (1900-1976) studied at Hunter College and at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She married Matthew Josephson in 1920 and started working as a journalist. In 1949 she became librarian, editor of publications, publicity director and director of manuscript exhibition for the American Academy of Arts and Letters until her retirement in 1965.

Together with Malcolm Cowley, Hannah Josephson published
Aragon: Poet of the Resistance. Her own books include The Golden Threads about women workers in the textile mills of Massachusetts between 1822 and 1850. With her husband she wrote Al Smith: Hero of the Cities which received the Van Wyck Brooks Award of the University of Bridgeport. Her last book was Jeanette Rankin: First Lady in Congress. Josephson also translated several books including Louis Aragon’s The Century Was Young, Philippe Soupault’s Age of Assassins and Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute.

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