While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Douglas Martin Dawson

ELSER, FRANK BALL (1885–1935). Frank Elser, newspaperman, novelist, playwright, son of Elizabeth (Loving) and Maximilian Elser, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on September 9, 1885. His parents were pioneer residents of the town, his mother a descendant of novelist Henry Fielding. Elser attended Mercersburg Academy, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1902. He attended Cornell for two years and returned to Fort Worth in 1904 to write for the Fort Worth Telegram (see FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM). There followed stints with newspapers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and work as a publicist for some traveling circus acts. Elser began his New York journalistic career in 1906 as telegraph editor with the Evening Sun and moved to the Associated Press in 1908 as city editor. He served as correspondent with AP in London, where he covered the British in Belgium and the sinking of the Lusitania (1915). With the New York Times, he accompanied Gen. John J. Pershing on his punitive expedition against Francisco (Pancho) Villa in 1916 and was night city editor in 1916–17. Elser also contributed to Century, Colliers, and the Saturday Evening Post. He wrote one well-received novel, The Keen Desire (1926), based on his early newspaper experience in Fort Worth, Little Rock, and New York. In theater, he adapted Liam O'Flaherty's novel Mr. Gilhooley for the Broadway stage in 1930. Low Bridge (1933) and The Farmer Takes a Wife (1934) were both adaptations of Rome Haul, Walter D. Edmonds's account of life on the Erie Canal around 1850 and the coming of the railroads. The Farmer Takes a Wife, coauthored by Marc Connelly and starring Henry Fonda, enjoyed a successful run and earned critical acclaim.

Elser was a member of the Authors' League, the Dramatists' Guild, and Zeta Psi Fraternity. He married Rebecca Elsbry Mix in 1910. They had one son, Robert Fielding, born in 1911. Elser was at work on "a folk drama of Texas and Oklahoma in the Nineties, `a play about my own people,'" when he died, on January 31, 1935, at St. George, Grenada. He is buried in Cranford, New Jersey, where the Elsers lived for many years.

Goldie Capers Smith, The Creative Arts in Texas: A Handbook of Biography (Nashville: Cokesbury, 1926). New York Times, November 11, 1934, January 6, February 2, 1935.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Douglas Martin Dawson, "ELSER, FRANK BALL," accessed July 02, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fel24.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...