Henry Hotchener was born on October 13, 1881, in Watkins Glen, Schuyler County, New York, as the son of Saul and Hedwig Hotchner. While his family used the spelling "Hotchner," Henry added an "e" to his version.
Around 1929, Hotchener was working as the business manager for actor John Barrymore.
According to Barrymore's biographer Gene Fowler, Henry (who spelled the family name Hotchener) "served a secretary to Daniel Guggenheim, President of the American Smelting and Refining Company and head of the vast Guggenheim family enterprises," then as "general manager of a realty enterprise of Maximilian Morgenthau," the uncle of Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of the treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr., before becoming deeply interested in after-death phenomena and oriental philosophy."
Working with Barrymore had some rough patches. In 1939, Hotchener brought suit against Barrymore, claiming $2,418 in unpaid fees and expenses. Some of the actor's sports equipment was seized by the sheriff.
World War I and League of Nations
In 1919, Hotchener accompanied a Senator on a diplomatic trip to France:
"Among the guests at the Mission Inn yesterday was Henry Hotchener, who has just returned from a trip to France, where he accompanied Senator Robert L. Owen, Chairman of the Senate committee on banking and currency.
Mr. Hotchener, who occupied a confidential relationship which brought his into close contact with some of the diplomatic leaders in connection with the peace conference, said when asked about the situation:
"The real impulse that makes the League of Nations necessary is not alone political; it is psychological. There is a wave of unity sweeping over the world superseding the wave of separation and hatred which caused the war....
One international federation of the world, with a reduction of armament, a court to hear and determine international disputes, is the logical result of the evolution of humanity toward brotherhood and true Christianity."
Theosophical Society involvement
He first met Alexander Fullerton in June, 1900, and that encounter started his interest in Theosophy. That same year he met New York Theosophist Arthur Jacoby, beginning a lifelong friendship and correspondence. Other close friends included other prominent Theosophists – Dr. George DeHoff of Baltimore and Charles Luntz of St. Louis. He was admitted to the American Theosophical Society as a member on February 4, 1902, sponsored by Alexander Fullerton and Frank F. Knothe.
From the beginning, Hotchener was active in the Society. During the Founder-President Henry Steel Olcott's final visit to the United States, Hotchener was one of the speakers in Chicago, where the 20th Convention was held. Initially a member of the New York Lodge, in 1921 he transferred to the Krotona Lodge, then in Hollywood. Five years later he transferred again, to the Besant Hollywood Lodge, where he and his wife were members until their deaths.
Henry made a 1912 trip to India, where he met the Theosophical society leaders Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater, as well as a young woman named Marie Rusak, who moved to California with him in 1916 and became his wife. Marie, the daughter of a California pioneer, Judge Allyn M. Barnard, and a graduate of Mills College, had given up an impressive singer career – including touring with John Philip Sousa's band, soloing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and singer opera in several European countries – to devote herself to the study of Theosophy. After meeting Besant in India, Marie became her deputy, traveling with her around the world to spread Theosophy's good news, before Marie became a celebrated lecturer in her own right.
Marie was actually 45 years old when they met, fourteen years older than Henry, but she was exceptionally beautiful, and they made a glamorous couple.
They returned to Adyar to live for two years (1935-1937) and attended conventions there in many other years. They returned via Hong Kong and Japan, and immediately visited lodges in Ojai, Hollywood, and Los Angeles.
Marie Russak Hotchener died on March 4, 1945. Henry's friend Arthur Jacoby wrote a letter in sympathy, and Henry responded, in accord with his belief in Theosophical concepts regarding rebirth:
Marie's passing was natural and beautiful – like her.
We have so long been unified in our three bodies – that there was no wrench, no sense of separation. She and I remain one and go on together. I feel a glorious exaltation that she is going on to higher work and then to get a new body – when I hope to woo and win her again – honor beyond belief!
Henry continued with his involvement in the Besant Hollywood Lodge until his own death on August 20, 1959.
- Extensive correspondence with Arthur Jacoby. Arthur Jacoby Papers. Records Series 25.18. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
- Passport application, 1916.
- Michael N. McGregor, Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax (Fordham University Press, 2017), 56-57. Quoting Gene Fowler's book Good Night, Sweet Prince: The Life and Times of John Barrymore. NY: The Viking Press, 1944.
- "] Barrymore Guns Seized" [unidentified newspaper] October 1, 1939. Clipping at Theosophical Society in America Archives.
- "Just Back from Paris; Favors League of Nations" Riverside Independent Enterprise (April 1, 1919): 1.
- Henry Hotchener letter to Arthur Jacoby. June 9, 1950. Arthur Jacoby Papers. Records Series 25.18. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
- Membership records no. 01201-01203. Ledger Cards 4. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
- "Program of the 20th Annual Convention" The Theosophic Messenger 7 no.12 (September, 1906): 182.
- Michael N. McGregor, Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax (Fordham University Press, 2017), 57.
- "En Route to India" The American Theosophist 34.2 (Feb 1946): 44.
- "Mr. and Mrs. Hotchener" The American Theosophist 25 no.12 (December, 1937): 284.
- Henry Hotchener letter to Arthur Jacoby. March 12, 1945.