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The Myth of Ephraim Tutt

Arthur Train and His Great Literary Hoax

Molly Guptill Manning

Publication Year: 2012

The Myth of Ephraim Tutt explores the true and previously untold story behind one of the most elaborate literary hoaxes in American history.
Arthur Train was a Harvard-educated and well-respected attorney. He was also a best-selling author. Train’s greatest literary creation was the character Ephraim Tutt, a public-spirited attorney and champion of justice.Guided by compassion and a strong moral compass, Ephraim Tutt commanded a loyal following among general readers and lawyers alike—in fact, Tutt’s fictitious cases were so well-known that attorneys, judges, and law faculty cited them in courtrooms and legal texts. People read Tutt’s legal adventures for more than twenty years, all the while believing their beloved protagonist was merely a character and that Train’s stories were works of fiction.
But in 1943 a most unusual event occurred: Ephraim Tutt published his own autobiography. The possibility of Tutt’s existence as an actual human being became a source of confusion, spurring heated debates. One outraged reader sued for fraud, and the legendary lawyer John W. Davis rallied to Train’s defense. While the public questioned whether the autobiography was a hoax or genuine, many book reviewers and editors presented the book as a work of nonfiction.
In The Myth of Ephraim Tutt Molly Guptill Manning explores the controversy and the impact of the Ephraim Tutt autobiography on American culture. She also considers Tutt’s ruse in light of other noted incidents of literary hoaxes, such as those ensuing from the publication of works by Clifford Irving, James Frey, and David Rorvik, among others.
As with other outstanding fictitious characters in the literary canon, Ephraim Tutt took on a life of his own. Out of affection for his favorite creation, Arthur Train spent the final years of his life crafting an autobiography that would ensure Tutt’s lasting influence—and he was spectacularly successful in this endeavor. Tutt, as the many letters written to him attest, gave comfort to his readers as they faced the challenging years of the Great Depression and World War II and renewed their faith in humanity and justice. Although Tutt’s autobiography bewildered some of his readers, the great majority were glad to have read the “life” story of this cherished character.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

Let me begin by introducing myself: John Train, son of Arthur Train, and thus, as it were, stepbrother of Ephraim Tutt. When I was a boy, Eph Tutt practically lived in our house. He was always there, in that my father was usually thinking about the next Tutt story. He wrote them one after another, whereupon they reappeared ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book would never have been written if it were not for Richard Hamm, who is responsible for introducing me to both Arthur Train and Ephraim Tutt. In addition to being a wonderful professor and instilling in me a lasting interest in the field of legal history, I will forever be grateful for his enthusiasm for this project and his assistance in tracking down the truth ...

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pp. 1-5

May 23, 1945, was a grueling day for the infantrymen of the Seventh Division. As “wind and rain lashed at the[ir] camou aged bodies,” they slowly advanced through mud and enemy fire to gain control of strategic hills on O kinawa Island, Japan. Servicemen stationed nearby reported trudging through a “stream of death,” as they faced some of the “fiercest fighting ...

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1. Arthur Train

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pp. 6-37

On March 13, 1944, Atrhur Train was at the height of his literary career. His most recent book had become a best seller, and he could hardly believe the storm of publicity that surrounded it. Although his exact actions on that date have been lost to history, he likely followed his usual schedule and awoke early, dressed in his signature outfit—a dark blue pinstripe suit, ...

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2. Yankee Lawyer: The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt

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pp. 38-70

By the time Yankee Lawyer was finally published, America had been embroiled in World War II for two years. Those who remained at home were living in a world far different from the one that existed just years earlier. Rationing of common household goods was the norm—from meat, butter, canned vegetables, and sugar ...

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3. The Cooperation of the Press

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pp. 71-87

One of the most outstanding characteristics of Arthur Train’s publication of Yankee Lawyer is that he somehow convinced major newspapers and other media across the United States to publish reviews that generally encouraged the idea that the book was written by Ephraim Tutt. In the realm of literary hoaxes, it is a rare occurrence for the media to know about a ...

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4. Here We Go Again! [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 88-116

Literary hoaxes have taken many appearances and have baffled society frequently enough to be considered “a dubious but at least time-honored human endeavor, probably as old as literature itself.” While one of the first is said to have taken place during the first century, when Philo Biblos manufactured sources for his history of Phoenicia, the appeal of publishing a “true” story ...

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5. “As Popular as Pin-Up Girls”

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pp. 117-139

The confusion over Tutt’s existence proved a welcome distraction during the early 1940s as World War II was raging overseas, and Americans were prompted to actively join the hostilities after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a dire time, with a generation of Americans being sent across the globe to join the fight, meeting ruthless war tactics and conditions for ...

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6. Mr. Tutt, the Celebrity

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pp. 140-157

By the 1940s Mr. Tutt, the fictional character, had become so famous that he was considered as popular, if not more so, than the celebrities of the day. Tutt was a household name, and his image was easily recognized because of the lifelike, practically photographic, sketches that accompanied Tutt stories. In 1945T rain surmised that “in all probability, Ephraim Tutt ...

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7. Pygmalion and Frankenstein

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pp. 158-171

Six months after Yankee Lawyer was published, Arthur Train decided to issue a public statement addressing the bewilderment that plagued some of his readers. However, what response would be appropriate? To apologize would suggest that he intended to trick readers, but to take no responsibility for their confusion might cause even more agitation. Issuing any ...

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8. Mr. Tutt’s Day in Court

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pp. 172-194

On March 2, 1943, before Yankee Lawyer was published, Train received a letter from the Albany Institute of History and Art, located in Albany, New York. At first blush, it appears the letter, from J. D. Hatch, the director of the institute, sought only to “complete our uncompleted business officially,” with respect to the sale ...

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9. Life after Death

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pp. 195-211

While Train gamely dealt with all of the publicity and inquiries  owing from Tutt’s autobiography, his health was quietly declining during the 1940s. At the time, Train was in his mid-sixties, and although he appeared to be robust and healthy, he suffered from intermittent illnesses. Perhaps these growing health concerns fueled his desire to complete a meticulous ...

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10. Mr. Tutt at His Best

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pp. 212-223

The terrific publicity storm that burst forth with the publication of Yankee Lawyer and the resulting chaos over whether Tutt existed caused Tutt’s fame to continue to rise, even though Train was not around to continue writing about him. It did not seem to matter whether Tutt was real or not—people loved Tutt for the characteristics and ideals he represented. ...

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pp. 224-230

Several years ago, on a Sunday evening in the early summer, I walked at twilight to my friend’s home on West Sixty-Third Street. It was a gorgeous night. The temperature was mild and comfortable, and a breeze stirred the air every so often to diminish the heat that languished earlier in the day. As I approached the block on which my friend’s little brownstone was located, I noticed ...

Appendix: Arthur Train’s Books

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pp. 231-232


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pp. 233-250

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 251-253


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pp. 255-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386573
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317874

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Train, Arthur Cheney, 1875-1945. -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Train, Arthur Cheney, 1875-1945. Yankee lawyer.
  • Train, Arthur Cheney, 1875-1945. -- Authorship.
  • Literary forgeries and mystifications -- History -- 20th century.
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