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Edwin Rolfe


Rolfe, Edwin

Rolfe, Edwin. (Fishman, Sol [real name]), b. September 7, 1909, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jewish, Attended City College of New York 1 yr. and 1.5 yrs. at the University of Wisconsin, Married, Journalist and Poet, CP 1933 and YCL 1924 (YCL and CP 1925), Domicile 119 E. 17th Street, NYC, Arrived in Spain on June 20, 1937, Served as the Editor for the Volunteer for Liberty; XV BDE, Lincoln-Washington BN, Co. 1 (July 1938), Cultural Director, rank Soldado; Served at Ebro Offensive,  Became the correspondent for the Daily Worker, Returned to the US on January 6, 1939 aboard the Washington, WWII Armed forces, d. May 24, 1954, Hollywood, California, Wrote the first history of the Americans in Spain, The Lincoln Battalion.

Sources: Cadre, Pay, RA, ALBA PHOTO 010 Edwin Rolfe Photgraphs Collection; Edwin Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion, Ancestry.

Photograph: Edwin Rolfe, Lincoln-Washington Battalion, May 1938. The 15th International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection; ALBA Photo 11; ALBA Photo number 11-0031. Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.



Rolfe was born Solomon Fishman to Russian Jewish parents. He spent the first few years of his life in Philadephia before the family moved to New York City. His father was a socialist and official of a union local in New York. He later became a member of the Lovestonite faction of the Communist Party. His mother was active in the birth control movement, a supporter of the striking Paterson silk workers in 1913, and a member of the Communist Party. During high school, Fishman began using pen names, using the name Edwin Rolfe on some publications in the 1920s.

Rolfe joined the Party in 1925 when he was 15 and was assigned to the Young Communist League. He published his first poem, "The Ballad of the Subway Digger," in the Daily Worker in 1927. He quit the Party in 1929 and moved from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin, to enroll in the Experimental College at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He spent his time writing non-political poems between 1929 and 1930 and in 1932 was published in Pagany. He left the university during his second year and rejoined the Party in New York City. After a variety of temporary jobs he began working full time at the Daily Worker. Rolfe published To My Contemporaries, his first book of poetry, in 1936, the same year he married Mary Wolfe. A few months later the Spanish Civil War began. After the Comintern began organizing international volunteers to help defend the Spanish Republic, Rolfe joined the International Brigades in the spring of 1937. Once in Spain he was assigned to edit the Volunteer for Liberty, the English-language magazine of the volunteers, in Madrid until joining the troops in the field in the spring of 1938. Rolfe's wife Mary joined him in Barcelona that fall.

In January of 1939, the Rolfe's returned to the United States where the Spanish cause was already under attack. Martin Dies began congressional hearings on Communist activity and the volunteers who fought in Spain, as well as their supporters, were immediate suspects. Rolfe's brother Bern Fishman, a federal employee who had raised money for the fledgling Spanish republic came under scrutiny and Milt Wolff was called to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. While government harassment of the Lincoln Brigade veterans commenced, Random House published Rolfe's, The Lincoln Battalion, in 1939. He subsequently worked for the Soviet news agency TASS until he was drafted in 1943. Mary moved to Los Angeles and Rolfe joined her after the war where he published a mystery novel (The Glass Room) and found occasional work on the fringes of the film industry. He was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 and continued to be active in the struggle against McCarthyism until his death, by heart attack, in 1954.

Rolfe accrued the images in this collection in the course of his work as a journalist for the Volunteer for Liberty and the Daily Worker.

- Biography courtesy of Tamiment Library, NYU.  




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Last Name Rolfe
First/Middle Name Edwin
Ethnicity Note
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Education HS
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