Of all the different Doc Savage authors, Laurence Donovan was the hardest to find information about. Donovan was born in July 1885 in Ohio. The family name was O’Donovan. His residence up through 1908 was Covington, Kentucky.
The information below is compiled from census forms, city directories, articles and other items.
1880 United States Census – The available information shows the O’Donovan family was living in Covington, Kentucky. They are listed as being in the 8th ward of Covington in Kenton County.
- Patrick O’Donovan, 39 years old is a shoemaker and was born in Ireland
- Annie O’Donovan, 37 years old keeps house and was born in Ireland.
- Charles O’Donovan, 11 years old was born in Massachusetts.
- Daniel O’Donovan, 5 years old was born in Kentucky.
- John O’Donovan, 3 years old was born in Kentucky.
- Mary O’Donovan, 1 year old was born in Kentucky.
Laurence O’Donovan’s birth is listed as July 1885 in Ohio. Source: 1900 United States Census
1890 United States Census – virtually all the material for this census was destroyed by fire in 1921.
The 1900 United States Federal Census as of June 2, 1900 show the O’Donovans living at 121 East 13th Street, Covington, Kentucky. They are listed in the 6th ward which differs from that shown in 1880.
- Patrick O’Donovan, Laurence’s father, is not listed. He died on April 5, 1900.
- Hannah O’Donovan, age 49 is listed as head and was born March 1851 in Ireland.
- Charles O’Donovan, age 27, son, born July 1872 in Massachusetts and works as a shoe cutter.
- John O’Donovan, age 23, son, born September 1876 in Kentucky and works as a shoe cutter.
- Anna O’Donovan, age 18, daughter, born July 1881 in Kentucky with no occupation listed.
- Lawrence O’Donovan, age 14, son, born July 1885 in Ohio and works as a press feeder.
- Catherine O’Donovan, age 11, daughter, born November 1888 in Kentucky and is at school.
1903 – Lawrence O’Donovan listed as a press feeder for the American Book Company. The listing shows his middle initial as “F.” Source: 1903 Cincinnati, Ohio, City Directory
1904 – Lawrence O’Donovan listed as a press feeder for the American Book Company. The listing shows his middle initial as “F.” Source: 1904 Cincinnati, Ohio, City Directory
1904 – Lawrence O’Donovan listed as working as a press feeder. His home address is listed as 121 East 13th Street, Covington, Kentucky. Three other members of the O’Donovan family are also listed in the directory. Ann O’Donovan works as a stenographer. John O’Donovan works are a shoemaker. Hannah O’Donovan is listed as a widower (Patrick). Source: 1904 Covington, Kentucky, City Directory
1906 – Anna O’Donovan listed as working as a clerk at “1023 German”. Her home address is 121 East 13th Street, Covington, Kentucky. No other member of the family is listed under the O’Donovan name. Source: 1906 Covington, Kentucky, City Directory
1906 – Mary Donovan, widow of Patrick, listed as living at 436 Crescent Avenue, Covington, Kentucky. Jason Dooley who works as a plumber also lives at the same address. The directory lists an “h” for each person indicating this is their home. Source: 1906 Covington, Kentucky, City Directory
1908 – Lawrence O’Donovan listed at living at 121 East 13th Street, Covington, Kentucky. His occupation is press feeder. Others listed living at the same address are Hannah O’Donovan, widow of Patrick, Charles J. O’Donovan, shoemaker, Daniel A. O’Donovan (no occupation), John P O’Donovan, shoemaker. Source: 1908 Covington, Kentucky, City Directory
The 1910 United States Census, dated April 21, 1910, lists three people in the O’Donovan household living at 172 East 18th Street. Listed are Anna O’Donovan, age 27, who works as a stenographer for a distillery, Hannah O’Donovan, age 60, and Catherine O’Donovan, age 21, who works as a bookkeeper for a carpet store.
1910 – Anna O’Donovan listed as working as a stenographer at 27 Park Place. Her home address is 172 East 18th Street, Covington, Kentucky. No other member of the family is listed under the O’Donovan name. Source: 1910 Covington, Kentucky, City Directory
November 9, 1921 – Laurence Donovan’s brother, Daniel O’Donovan, elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives for Kenton County. The Courier Journal, Wednesday, November 9, 1921
January 7, 1924 – Daniel O’Donovan sworn in as Mayor of Covington, Kentucky. Source: Kenton County Public Library
1924 – Lawrence Donovan and Myrtle Ruth Johns married in Lake County, Indiana on July 14, 1924. Source: Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 for Lawrence Donovan
Lone Prospector First to Discover Pitt Lake Glacier – This article by Laurence Donovan about Pitt Glacier. Source: Vancouver Sun 28 August 1926.
1926 – The issue includes an article by Laurence Donovan titled The Paradox of the Northwest. Donovan is described as working for The Vancouver Sun as an editorial writer. He was previously working in Portland, Oregon. Source: American Forests and Forest Life, page 165; Published by American Forestry Association, 1926
A search of articles by Donovan shows him working at The Vancouver Sun from March to November of 1926. An article from October 2, 1926 dealing with Christmas for destitute families carried the picture shown below.
January 18, 1927 – Hannah O’Donovan died in Covington, Kentucky at her residence 338 East 18th Street, Covington, Kentucky. Requiem high mass was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral. She is buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery at Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. Her husband, Patrick O’Donovan and son Charles O’Donovan are also buried here. Source: Kentucky, Death Index, 1911-2000; Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer, Thursday, January 20, 1927
The obituary notice states she had been a resident of northern Kentucky for fifty years and was well-know throughout the region. Three sons survive her, Mayor Daniel O’Donovan, John O’Donovan, secretary to the mayor, and Lawrence O’Donovan who resides in California. Three daughters survive her, Hannah O’Donovan and Cercena O’Donovan both of Covington along with Sister Nazarsius of the Sisters of Charity of Boston, Massachusetts. Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer, Thursday, January 19, 1927
Articles from the Spokane Chronicle find Donovan back in the United States in late 1927 through June 1928. The picture below is from the June 5, 1928 issue of the Spokane Chronicle. Donovan is listed as Assistant City Editor and appears second from the left on the first row.
On The Ebb Tide – story by Laurence Donovan. Source: Miami Daily News Record, Sunday, October 13, 1929
Rodeo and the Racketeers – story by Laurence Donovan. Source: Miami Daily News Record, Sunday, November 3, 1929
Love — By Hook or Crook – advertisement for a story by Laurence Donovan. Virtue Isn’t Always will be published in the Sunday magazine section. Source: Detroit Free Press, Friday, November 4, 1927
April 1930 – Laurence Donovan and family are listed renting at Atherstone Apartments 79, O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, San Francisco County, California. The document notes they do not have a radio. Laurence Donovan is age 46 and his occupation is listed as copy reader for “The Call.” That would be the San Francisco Call newspaper. Ruth H. Donovan, age 37, is listed as spouse. Laurence, age 3, and Patrick, age 2, are listed as sons. Source: 1930 United States Census
Yesterday Island – the paper has a small article mentioning Laurence Donovan’s story in this month’s issue of Open Road for Boys. Source: Detroit Free Press, Saturday, May 3, 1930
1931 – Laurence Donovan listed living at 25 21st Street, Redondo Beach, California. His occupation is writer. Ruth M. is listed but there is no mention of the two boys. Source: Redondo Beach, California, City Directory, 1931
The Catch – story by Laurence Donovan. Source: The Klamath News, Thursday, April 20, 1933
Mr. and Mrs. Laurence Donovan and family are newly moved to Fort Myers, Florida. They intend to remain the summer after spending the winter. They are living in Edison Park. Laurence Donovan is listed as a writer and former newspaper man. The article states that Donovan worked on the desk for large papers for 30 years. Donovan also professes to a professional baseball career that was ended by a broken arm. Source: News Press, Wednesday, April 4, 1934; (Note that Donovan was working as a press feeder as recently as 1908 when he was 23 years old.)
Committees to Report on Dues and Secretary Tonight – The Chamber of Commerce is meeting tonight. Laurence Donovan is one of the candidates for the secretary position. Source: News Press, Tuesday, May 8, 1934
Indian Association To Study Problems Of Florida Redmen – Laurence Donovan was present yesterday at the Seminole Indian Association of Florida meeting. Donovan suggested the members use publicity to bring in revenue. Source: News Press, Saturday, July 14, 1934
Street & Smith kept author addresses on manuscript cards. Laurence Donovan has two entries for January 19, 1934 and March 29, 1935 directing all mail be sent to his agent, Robert Hardy. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Cards
The 1940 United States Census included a question about residence in 1935. Laurence Donovan and his wife, Ruth, were living apart when the census data was collected. Laurence Donovan lists his 1935 residence as Fort Myers, Florida. Ruth Donovan lists her 1935 residence as Iron Mountain, Michigan.
April 5, 1935 – Laurence Donovan residence: 220 East 45th Street, New York, New York. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
April 12, 1935 – Laurence Donovan residence: 164-18 – 43rd Avenue, Flushing, New York. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
September 15, 1935 – Laurence Donovan residence: 55 Rogers Avenue, Southampton, Long Island, New York. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
September 11, 1936 – Laurence Donovan residence: P. O. Box 221, Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
August 6, 1937 – Laurence Donovan residence: General Delivery, Fort Pierce, Florida. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
October 29, 1937 – Laurence Donovan residence: Colonial Hall, Kew Gardens, Long Island, New York. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
September 26, 1939 – Laurence Donovan residence: 423 Concourse Plaza Hotel, Grand Concr. & 161st, Bronx, New York. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
November 6, 1939 – Laurence Donovan residence: 213 West 71st Street, New York, New York. Source: Street & Smith Manuscript Tracer
The 1940 United States Census, dated April 24, 1940, lists Lawrence Donovan, age 55, living at 213 West 71st Street, New York, New York. He is listed as married and head, but no other family members are shown. The Census lists his occupation as a writer in the writing industry. The highest grade completed in his education is elementary school 5th grade. He lists 26 weeks of work for 1939.
The 1940 United States Census, dated April 16, 1940, lists Ruth Donovan, age 41, listing at Northwest South River Drive, Miami, Florida. The two sons are living with her. She is listed as head on the census form and working as a waitress in a restaurant.
The Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001 for 1941 in Dade County lists a divorce between Laurence L. Donovan and Myrtle Ruth, certificate 4641.
June 26, 1943 – Laurence Donovan’s brother, Daniel O’Donovan dies. The obituary lists immediate family members as survivors and also names three sisters. There is no mention of Laurence Donovan. Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer,Sunday, June 27, 1943
The 1945 Florida State Census shows Ruth Donovan working as a clerk. She is 51 years old and her place of birth is listed as Michigan. One son, age 17, is living with her.
Laurence Donovan died on March 11, 1948 in Manhattan, New York. He was 63 years old. Source: New York Death Index, Certificate Number 6247
Laurence Donovan was cremated on March 13, 1948 at Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium in Middle Village, Queens County, New York. Memorial ID 117762994
Myrtle Ruth Donovan died in 1962 in Gadsden, Florida. She was born on February 3, 1894 in Detroit, Michigan. Her father, John W. Johnson and her mother Lizzie Johnson are both listed as being born in Canada. Source: Michigan, Births and Christenings Index, 1867-1911
Donovan’s oldest son, Laurence Jr, went on to become an English professor in Florida at the University of Miami. He died in 2001 and his papers are housed in the university’s special collections. The collection includes a small amount of material on the father and includes some Street & Smith manuscript cards that were obtained from Syracuse University in New York which houses the Street & Smith achieves. There is also some family correspondence that indicated Donovan, Sr. was a violent man at times.