Sadakichi Hartmann

Name Sadakichi Hartmann
Born 1867
Died 1944
Birth Location Japan
Generational Identifier


Playwright and critic. An important figure in the American arts and literature world around the turn of the 20th Century, Sadakichi Hartmann (1867–1944) was also among the few Japanese Americans living on the West Coast who was able to avoid mass removal and incarceration. He was born in Japan in 1867, the son of a German trader father and a Japanese mother, and mostly raised in Europe. Sent to live with a relative in Philadelphia in 1882 and first gained fame as a playwright in the 1890s. He also became an influential art critic, authoring the two volume History of American Art in 1901 and a pioneering figure in writing about art photography. He addition to his writing, he painted, danced and became a well-known figure in the Bohemian scene in New York, gaining the nickname "King of Greenwich Village."

He moved west, setting in Riverside County in California in 1923, trying to break into Hollywood as a screenwriter and becoming a drinking buddy of John Barrymore and W. C. Fields. He also wrote haiku and tanka, some of which were published in the Japanese American vernacular press in the 1930s. By 1942, Hartmann was living with one of his daughters on a ranch near Banning, California. Elderly and in ill-health, Hartmann and his family were allowed to avoid the mass wartime expulsion of Japanese Americans, though he was frequently investigated by local and federal officials. He died in Florida in 1944 while visiting another daughter. His papers—including correspondence concerning his efforts to avoid wartime incarceration—are held at the University of California at Riverside. Since the 1970s, a resurgence of interest in Hartmann that led to the republication and anthologizing of many of his works over the next two decades.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Fowler, Gene. Minutes of the Last Meeting . New York: Viking Press, 1954. [Popular memoir of a Hollywood journalist in which an older and down-on-his-luck Hartmann is a key figure.]

"Guide to the Sadakichi Hartmann Papers." Special Collections & Archives, University of California, Riverside.

Hartmann, Sadakichi. The Valiant Knights of Daguerre: Selected Critical Essays on Photography and Profiles of Photographic Pioneers . Edited by Harry W. Lawton and George Knox, with the collaboration of Wisteria Hartmann Lindon. Foreword by Thomas F. Barrow. Bibliography by Michael Elderman. Berkeley:University of California Press, 1978.

The Life and Times of Sadakichi Hartmann, 1867–1944 . Exhibition catalog for exhibition at the University of California, Riverside, May 1 to 31, 1970. Riverside, CA: University of Riverside Art Gallery, 1970.

Tajiri, Larry. "Nisei USA: The Last of the Bohemians." Pacific Citizen , Oct. 11, 1947, p. 4.

––– "Vagaries...: Bohemian Sadakichi Hartmann." Pacific Citizen , Feb. 5, 1954, 8.

---. "Vagaries: Spy-Hunters vs. Sadakichi Hartmann." Pacific Citizen , April 29, 1955, 1.

Weaver, Jane Calhoun, ed. Sadakichi Hartmann: Critical Modernist . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Last updated Jan. 29, 2024, 7:20 p.m..