Robert Haven Schauffler was an American writer of poetry and a number of biographies of famous musicians such as Brahms and Beethoven. He is also remembered as the author of a series of travel books on American and European destinations aimed at Americans contemplating a holiday, either at home or abroad. He was equally adept as a musician, specialising in playing the cello. Towards the end of the First World War he joined the large American Expeditionary Force who were fighting on the Western Front. His efforts, along with thousands of his comrades, helped to bring about the end of the war and he was wounded, winning the Purple Star.
He was born on the 8th April 1879 in the Bohemian town of Brünn, a place now known as Brno which is part of the Czech Republic. His parents were missionaries there. At the age of two though the family moved to Cleveland where, in 1886, they founded the Schaffler College. This was for the benefit of fellow Bohemian migrants who wished to take up religious or social work. Robert began his own studies at Northwestern University and then took a degree course at Princeton. Having graduated he went to the University of Berlin for two years in 1902.
Schauffler was a musician before becoming a writer and he studied the cello under the tutelage of a number of notable musicians. He combined this with magazine editorship which he started at the Nassau Literary Magazine. On his return to America he continued in this line and eventually published a collection of poetry in 1912 called Scum o’ the Earth. The poem with the same title as the book had already been published in a magazine and was a hard hitting reflection on the financial injustices that he saw between poor immigrants and the middle classes in the United States. Here are the opening lines from the poem:
Before this though he had started his publication of a series of travel books, primarily on the topic of American holidays. He began with Thanksgiving and followed this with Our American Holidays – Christmas, a book which explored the legend of Santa Claus, and whether or not he existed (the book suggested that he DID!). He also published guides for the European traveller such as Through Italy with the Poets (1908), Romantic Germany (1909) and then, in 1913, he published Romantic America.
As war in Europe progressed Schauffler joined his comrades, first serving as an instructor, and later seeing active service at one of the decisive battles of the whole war which took place at Montfaucon in October 1918, only weeks before the Armistice. Following the war he worked as a lecturer for a time while writing poetry whenever he found the time and publishing a number of biographies on famous musicians.
In the 1940s he collaborated with Hilah Paulmier on a further series of holiday-themed books including Pan American Day (in 1946) and Peace Days and Goodwill Days the following year.
Robert Haven Schauffler died on the 24th November 1964 aged 85.