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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Salinger's Mom Born in Atlantic, Not Across the Atlantic

I do love correcting the New York Times:

[J.D. Salinger's] mother, Marie Jillisch, was of Irish descent, born in Scotland, but changed her first name to Miriam (the name, incidentally, of the wife who drives Seymour Glass to suicide) to appease her in-laws. [Link]
Not quite. His mother was the daughter of George and Nellie Jillich, born 11 May 1891 in Atlantic, Cass County, Iowa. Here she is in the 1900 census with her parents. They too were born in Iowa. I'm pretty sure that I've seen ship manifests which confirm Miriam Salinger's exact place of birth, but—like the Times—I am too lazy to double-check my sources.

The Times obit also says that J.D. "married a German woman, very briefly — a doctor about whom biographers have been able to discover very little. Her name was Sylvia, Margaret Salinger said, but Mr. Salinger always called her Saliva."

Dr. Saliva's full name was Sylvia Louise Welter. An article in this newsletter (pdf) discusses their brief marriage. The couple arrived in New York aboard the Ethan Allen on 28 April 1946. The manifest indicates that the doctor was a citizen of France, 27 years of age, born in Frankfurt-au-Main, Germany, and was fluent in English, French, German and Italian. No wonder he dumped her.

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