Skip to main content

Jellineks’ World

Our Research

In the spring of 2014, the Center of Alcohol Studies Library hosted the 36th annual conference of the Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS). On the final day of the conference*, current and former members of the CAS Library, along with our long-time collaborator, alcohol historian Ron Roizen, presented on a panel documenting the mysteries and legends surrounding the late E. M. Jellinek. Our panel was entitled Mystery and speculations: Piecing together E. M. Jellinek’s redemption and my task was to provide an introduction to perhaps the most influential figure in the field, while setting up some of the titular mysteries, and giving a taste of what would be explored more in-depth by the subsequent panelists. I was to do this all inside of a fifteen-minute span.

The Jellinek Corner at the Center of Alcohol Studies Library, featuring the famous “Bunky’s Doodle” (donated by G. Strachan to the Summer School and preserved G. Milgram); the “Bunky,” awarded to Mark Keller; and some of his publications

By this point, I had spent several months attempting to piece together Jellinek’s scholarship, career, and private life, picking up on the years of prior research by the CAS Library and numerous others. From this perspective, my first inclination was to show the gaps and inconsistencies in our research as well as the roadblocks that we had run into along the way. Indeed, much of the introduction did focus on these inconsistencies, but a more compelling find were the numerous aborted biographical attempts from those who personally knew and interacted with him, including his very own daughter, Ruth Surry; perhaps his closest professional colleague, Mark Keller; and his ex-wife, Thelma Pierce Anderson. Thelma’s correspondence with Mark Keller in particular proved to be invaluable in understanding some of the difficulties. In fact, a particularly verbose passage about a potential biography in one of Keller’s letters to Thelma highlights these difficulties. To wit:

“O.K., he was born in New York. Must have been taken to Hungary as a young child. Age? What University? What did he do before he left? When? Married there? Divorced? Worked for United Fruit (is that the name?) – in South America? Which country? (Vaguely: Africa?) To Worcester – what year? What year married die zaubernde Thelma? […] What year (a) divorced? (b) When married What’s-her-name? (c) She died when? (d) When did he marry next What’s her-name? (e) And what happened to her?”
(Keller to Anderson, 1988)

With this narrative conceit established, I highlighted some of the likely elements that stalled and ultimately derailed these biographical attempts. Included among these are his shifting academic credentials, his spotty early career, a troublesome CV, and a potentially self-authored biographical sketch.

I would also be remiss to exclude Ron Roizen’s pointed critiques, always constructive and supported by his vast knowledge of the subject at hand. Upon review of an initial draft, he offered a few suggestions, including providing context with a brief summary of Jellinek’s contributions to the field and highlighting Jellinek’s inarguably versatile education while discussing his potentially problematic credentials.

It was certainly a lot to cover in fifteen minutes, and of course impossible to properly encapsulate the breadth and depth of his personal and professional life, but the table was adequately set (Bejarano, 2014), and the presentations that followed revealed much of the new information that we had obtained, including details about his mysterious Hungarian past (Ward, 2014), about his immediate and extended family (Bariahtaris, 2014), and his alleged “banana book” (Goldstein, 2014), written under a pseudonym. There is also a more detailed account of his time working at the Worcester State Hospital (Thomas, 2014) as well as a closer look at his personal and professional relationship with Mark Keller (Stewart, 2014). The panel was then summarized by Ron Roizen (2014), who was careful to point out that the research is far from finished and commented on the existing gaps and potential new areas of focus going forward.


  • Bariahtaris, C. (2014). The family of E. M. Jellinek: Documenting a history. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 55-61.
  • Bejarano, W. (2014). Mystery and speculations: An introduction to E.M. Jellinek’s redemption. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 33-41.
  • Goldstein, S. (2014). The “banana book” by E. M. Jellinek. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 62-66.
  • Keller, M. (1988, April 7). [Letter to Thelma Anderson]. Keller Files. Center of Alcohol Studies Archives, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway.
  • Roizen, R. (2014). The Jellinek project: Summing up, so far. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 78-82.
  • Stewart, M. (2014). Mark Keller and E. M. Jellinek. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 73-77.
  • Thomas, K. (2014). E. M. Jellinek: The Worcester Hospital years (1930-1939). Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 67-72.
  • Ward, J. H. (2014). E.M. Jellinek: The Hungarian connection. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies, 1, 42-54.

*Download the SALIS Conference Special Issue of the CAS Information Services Newsletter.

**All articles are available in the SALIS Journal, Vol. 1. Issue 1. [download complete volume]

Published in the Jellinek Special Anniversary issue of the CAS Information Services Newsletter in 2015.