Friday, 12 October 2012

Charles Haven Liebe aka Hapsburg Liebe – Soldier, Lumber mill operator, Writer, Movie Producer

[Charles Haven Liebe was the author of many Tennessee mountain and western stories. He started out as a lumberman. More after the break.]

Hapsburg Liebe c. 1911
Hapsburg Liebe c. 1911

Charles Haven Liebe (Hapsburg Liebe was a pen name) was born on 17 October 1880 in Johnson City, Tennessee. He was the son of George and ​ Josephine H Liebe. His father was from Virginia and his mother from New Jersey.
Johnson City at the time was a railroad junction, with three railroads crossing it. It had been founded in 1856, and the population was around 600 in 1880. The Financial Panic of 1893 stopped Johnson City’s growth. There was little opportunity for education, and in his own words, he “took less advantage of that”. He claimed to have been the “meanest boy in school” and did not read his school books. However, he read pretty much anything else he could lay his hands on.
At the age of eight, he wrote his first poems. Towards the end of his schooling, he had an opportunity to write an original story for the very small literary society of his school. He left school through a window, as he had been kept inside at noontime for fighting, and he never completed his schooling.
At seventeen, he tried to become a writer and attracted some local attention with one of his stories. However, the magazines rejected him and so did his teacher’s sister. He decided to see the world, and joined the 29th Infantry division of the army. The division was posted to the Phillippines, which was an American colony at the time, in revolt against the US. He must have seen some action here, and used it later as background for some of his stories later.
He came back home in 1902, and married Harriet Lee White on 07 August, 1903. Coming back, he joined a saw-mill, and rose to became a saw fitter, working ten hours a day and earning as much as ten dollars a day. In 1909, he decided to try writing again. He went to office on a Sunday, used the company’s typewriter to write an article for a trade journal, and sent it off. He was successful, and it renewed his urge to become a writer.
In 1910, he bought a typewriter for fifteen dollars, and started writing at nights, while working days in the lumber mill. He would revise his work on Sundays. His wife was ill at the time, and he had to type keeping his typewriter in the hearth to reduce the noise. He sent the story to one magazine after another. It was rejected many times, and he kept sending it out after changing envelopes each time it was returned. He made his first sale to Short Stories, with his eighteenth story. He was delighted.
Though he was selling stories, he still kept his job at the sawmill, and kept working nights at his stories. His favorite magazine at the time was the Argosy, and he sent every story he wrote to the Argosy. However, he was selling his stories to other magazines and newspapers as well.
He sold seventeen of the first hundred stories he wrote, and forty of the second hundred. He was bothered by having to work on Sundays, as he wanted to keep the Sabbath. He became successful, and quit the sawmill job to take up writing full-time. In World War I, he did not join the army, but was part of a group of writers, named the Vigilantes, who were writing propaganda articles and stories in newspapers.
By the 1920s, he was making a comfortable living selling stories to magazines, as well as writing scripts for movies. By 1929, he had sold around six hundred stories and had around twenty five stories made into movies. At some time in this decade, he had moved out of Tennessee and into Florida. He had also changed from writing stories about the Tennessee mountain folk to western stories, writing well into the 1950s.
He also owned a movie studio at one time. His hobbies were fishing and shooting. He had at least two children, both daughters, named Elizabeth (b. 1904) and Virginia (b. 1910). He passed away in October 1957, in Pinellas County, Florida.
I could not find much biographical information on him from 1930 onwards, even though he was writing stories for the pulps then. If anyone knows more, please add that information in the comments.


  1. The funny story about this author, because of his name, Hapsburg Liebe, some readers thought he was of German or Austrian heritage and during WW I, some complaints were received by magazines. ADVENTURE in the Campfire letter column explained that Liebe was not a German.

  2. I get a kick out of his stories, not just because they're pretty good (at least the Westerns are) but because of the name (if you speak German the idea of a Hapsburg being lieblich is kind of funny).