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Wheeler, Andrew Carpenter (1835-1903)

Nym Crinkle
Journalist, Travel Writer, Novelist, Lecturer, Playwright, War Correspondent

Andrew C. Wheeler's journalistic career began in 1857 when he started writing for the New York Times. He worked at the Times for six months and then left to report on the lawlessness of the western frontier. He later used the experiences of his two years in Kansas, Iowa, and Colorado as material for his novella, The Iron Trail (1876). During the Civil War, Wheeler worked as a war correspondent for several newspapers. He also submitted articles under the penname "Trinculo" to papers like the Leader. Wheeler's writing style during this time is described as "reminiscent of [Henry] Clapp ten years earlier" (T. Miller 130). Wheeler "found the Bohemian style of personal, aggressive, and witty dramatic criticism suited to his personal tastes [. . . and] began haunting Pfaff's shortly after his arrival in New York, sometime in 1864-1865" (128). With the start of his career as a dramatic critic, Wheeler created a new penname: Nym Crinkle.

As Nym Crinkle, Wheeler wrote for the New York World and the Sun. In 1879 he took the position of editor at the New York Star; six months later he left the Star to found the Sunnyside Press in Tarrytown, NY. When that venture failed, he created Nym Crinkle's Feuilleton which reportedly also failed. In 1883, Wheeler left his failures behind and started working at Joseph Pulitzer's recently acquired New York World. Wheeler's salary as a dramatic critic and editor was rumored to be "equaled only by the sports writer" (T. Miller 131).

Wheeler also tried his hand at being a playwright. He co-wrote Twins with Steele MacKaye in 1876. This play, like many of his other writings illustrated "his obsession with masculinity and femininity . . . He had little use for masculine women or feminine men" (T. Miller 134). More than a decade after Twins opened at Wallack's Lyceum, Wheeler "wrote the libretto for a comic opera, Big Pony, or The Gentlemanly Savage (134). The opera was described as "a musical extravaganza," but it was not well-received by critics. In it, Wheeler addressed "conventional social customs, the Indian question, and numerous other current topics of interest" (134). The negative opinions of critics were enhanced by the fact that the leading man, Nat Goodwin, openly disparaged the play while he performed it (135).

With the death of his wife in 1889 and his remarriage to Jennie Pearl Mowbray in 1892, Wheeler reached a turning point in his personal and professional lives. He created a new pseudonym for himself (J. P. M. or J. P. Mowbray). He also focused more of his attention on the natural world, spending much of his time at his farm and publishing four books about various aspects of nature. Near the end of his life Wheeler also received brief attention as a novelist. He eventually "came to deplore newspaper criticism. In his opinion, the newspaper press wanted the event not the truth" (T. Miller 158).

On March 10, 1903 Wheeler died of apoplexy; he was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, NY. His obituary in the Dramatic Mirror reported that "for many years he was one of the foremost representatives of a class of American newspaper men that is fast disappearing. In the school of letters to which he belonged, individuality of thought, aggressiveness and vigor of expression were the qualities most cultivated and most admired. Mr. Wheeler possessed these qualities in the highest degree" (qtd. in T. Miller 158).