An archive of primary source materials about the adventurer and spy Fritz Duquesne collected for a book written about him by Los Angeles-based journalist turned studio publicist Art Ronnie. The collection includes scarce letters written by Duquesne along with photographs, Ronnie’s handwritten interview notes, and a working manuscript for his book, Counterfeit Hero: Fritz Duquesne, Adventurer and Spy (Naval Institute Press, 1995).
Frederick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne (1877–1956) was born to a Boer family of French Huguenot origin in East London, Cape Colony, and later moved with his parents to what is now Modimolle, South Africa, where he learned to hunt big game. His family farmed until they and six other settler families were attacked by local tribes. Duquesne was sent to a boarding school in England but returned to South Africa in 1899 when the English invaded. While fighting for the Boer cause, he was captured and ultimately sent to a penal colony in Bermuda, which he escaped and fled to America. He settled in New York City and found employment with the New York Herald as a traveling correspondent. By 1910, he became Theodore Roosevelt's personal shooting instructor and accompanied him on a hunting expedition that he wrote about for newspapers.
As a Boer spy, Duquesne was known as the "Black Panther” but also as "the man who killed Kitchener.” He claimed to have sabotaged and sunk the HMS Hampshire, while Lord Kitchener was en route to Russia in 1916, but forensics of the ship do not support this claim. During World War II, while Duquesne was living in the United States, he became a German spy, who went by the code name DUNN. In 1942, he and 32 other members of the Duquesne Spy Ring were convicted in the largest espionage case in the history of the United States. During the trial, Duquesne claimed that his actions were aimed at the UK as revenge for the crimes done to his people and his country during the Second Anglo-Boer War.
Ronnie’s book deals primarily with the spy ring and the character of Duquesne leading up to his arrest. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, and also received a 2-year concurrent sentence and a $2,000 fine for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. He served his sentence in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas, where he claims he was mistreated and beaten by inmates. In 1954, he was released owing to ill health, having served 13 years. He died indigent at City Hospital on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island) on May 24, 1956.
Notable material in this collection is approximately 75 leaves of original handwritten correspondence, including 30 letters from Duquesne between 1940 and 1954, during his incarceration and hospitalization before his death. Most of these letters were written to Lillian Linding, Duquesne’s longtime friend and apparent love interest. ‘Fritz’ wrote to her affectionately and honestly: “The fake trial (against me) was a build up by professional fakes and fakers to make propaganda for war.” As the years go on, his handwriting and spirits are beginning to fail because of solitary confinement and his poor health: “Of course, I would like to see you, but I did not want you to come to a prison to see a sick man. It’s hard enough to live without being with a half dead personality at long range. I did not want you to assume a part of the burden of my misery. I know your tender soul.”
Ronnie corresponded with Linding while researching his book and received the letters and some photographs from her. She wrote to Ronnie, “I met him in 1911, and from then on was almost always, when possible, in touch with him. That means during his trials and imprisonment periods. I knew his former wife, etc. etc.” She also wrote that she “met Fritz at Pennsylvania station when he was released from prison. What a sight. Also, I identified him in the morgue.”
Other correspondence includes a typed letter to the New York Sun, accusing the newspaper of discrediting him, and a few other typed letters to friends asking for help with his appeal.
This archive also contains:
-600-page typescript photocopy with extensive edits and corrections, including the images with captions
-390-page proof with corrections and notes
-Four-page book synopsis of “Counterfeit Hero: The Masquerades of Fritz Duquesne”
-Two-page typescript research summary of the book
-Handwritten notes and timeline for the Fritz Duquesne biography
-Folders including reproductions of photographic materials used for the book
-Three envelopes with copies of the original synopsis for the book (titled “Cat’s Paw”) with corrections and edits
-Folder with one typescript MSS synopsis and one handwritten in ink MSS, foreword with various summary parts
-Yellow lined notebooks with various handwritten notes on the Boer War
-Seven folders of black and white photographic reproductions and negatives for research and book publication, including portraits of Fritz Duquesne, the extensive ‘spy ring’ of other co-conspirators, Fritz’s wife Alice, and movie stills from the set of “The House on 92nd Street” (1945), the film based on the case of William G. Sebold. Many of the images are labelled and identified on the verso.
-Folder with eight black-and-white contact sheets of places of interest and portraits
Ronnie was especially concerned about acquiring primary and secondary source materials and citations, therefore the collection contains extensive research notes, copies of primary sources requests from libraries and archives, and several copies of images and photographs to include as reproductions in the book. One notable detailed methodology is a card file catalog documenting the various subject topics and detailed notes, interviews, and other fact-based information about Fritz Duquesne. Each section is tabbed and contains detailed biographical and interview statements such as: Wiretapping, Biography-Prison, Boer War, Roosevelt—Brazil, Birth, FBI Interviews, etc. The metal card file drawer contains over 300 cards and extensive typed notes, clippings and photocopies of citations, and handwritten annotations by Ronnie.
In addition to the subject / interview card catalog, the papers include two linear feet of source and research material gathered from newspaper sources, reference requests from archives, and several folders and hundreds of pages of notes. Highlights include:
-Hundreds of photocopies of reproduction requests and correspondence for primary sources including, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, City of New York Archives, New York Public Library, Harvard University, and the National Archives for source material for the book. Also contains copies of Duquesne’s naturalization documents.
-Photostatic copy of the death certificate of Duquesne
-Copies of the legal proceedings of the Duquesne trial, in addition to a file folder with copies of incarceration reports, medical, and psychiatric reports and copies of court appeals
-Press and photographic newspaper clipping source files
The collection also contains a folder of correspondence pertaining to Ronnie’s rejected publishers’ responses. Fortunately, after much effort, the book was published by Naval Institute Press; included here are letters from the editor and press. After the book was published, Ronnie corresponded with several people in the historical and military publications field promoting the book. The collection includes numerous letters of praise and thanks from friends and colleagues about the book.
Counterfeit Hero was Ronnie’s second book. His biography of Ormer Locklear, the daredevil stuntman who was the first to change planes mid-air and died while filming the silent movie The Skywayman, was published in 1973.
The materials in this collection are housed in four banker boxes (four linear feet) and all in very good condition. The papers reflect the intensive research and writing process, developing a narrative and biographical outline of a controversial figure. Item #73931