Library Juice 7:16 - July 30th, 2004


1. Links...
2. The Libary's Primary Duty (Hiller Wellman, 1915)
3. Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check.... Introduction and first chapters

Quote for the week:

"The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments
of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth
of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means
of protecting corporate power against democracy."

-Alex Carey

Homepage of the week: Georgie Donovan


1. Links...


Statement from ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman on the destruction of
Department of Justice documents

[ from Don Wood to ifaction ]


The Alternative Press and Academic Libraries: A Selected Bibliography

[ found surfing ]


White House Suggests Reinstating Literacy Requirements for Voting
The Watley Review

[ from Library Link of the Day ]


Silent Treatment - A copyright battle kills an anthology of essays about
the composer Rebecca Clarke
Richard Byrne, The Chronicle of Higher Education (July 16, 2004)

[ from Carie Mclaren - ]

preservation and persistence of the changing book$141

[ from Emma Jane Hogbin to me ]


Copyright Bill to Kill Tech?

By Katie Dean,, Jul. 22, 2004,1283,64297,00.html/wn_ascii

"The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill Thursday that would
hold technology companies liable for any product they make that
encourages people to steal copyright materials."

[ Chuck Hamaker to liblicense-l ]


ALA report on library funding in the US

[ from Fred Stoss to SRRTAC-L ]


Artists call for Cultural Policy - a petition

[ from Mark Rosenzweig to ALA member-forum ]


"Librarian" (acoustic demo, by Jonathan Rundman)
First on the list at

[ from Donna Braquet to NEWLIB-L ]


What's Wrong With Kansas?
A Conversation With Thomas Frank
June 14, 2004

[ found surfing ]

2. The Libary's Primary Duty (Hiller Wellman, 1915)

President's Address, ALA Annual Conference, Berkeley, CA, June 3-9, 1915

By Hiller C. Wellman, Librarian, City Library, Springfield, Mass.
Fellow Members: This gathering of the American Library Association is but
the thirty-seventh annual conference.  The fact is significant, because it
reminds us how brief is the history of the public library.  Our other
teachers are even more venerable.  Books we have had since the world was
young; the church, through the ages; schools and universities and great
reference libraries for scholars, hundreds of years; the newspaper, some
three centuries; but the public library -- free to all the people -- only a
few decades.  That is an amazingly brief period to witness the rise and
development of a great educational agency - so widespread and so
Yet, rapid as it has been, the spread of the public library is in a sense
not surprising.  It is a truism to say that the safety of a republic rests
on the enlightenment of its people; and wise men were quick to see in the
library a sound instrument of popular instruction.  More slowly, they are
recognizing that is also contributes, in a measure equalled by few other
institutions save the public school, toward realization of the great ideal
-- still dear to America -- equality of opportunity.  It is not strange,
therefore, that American communities everywhere are coming to deem it
proper that all men have access to books; and for the spread of public
libraries, we as librarians need feel no great concern.  It will go on
whether we urge or no; for the public library has become an essential of

But the shaping of the libraries is a different matter; it lies often in the
hands of the men and women who administer them.  And if it is peculiarly
the librarian's responsibility, so, too, it is a responsibility demanding
foresight and judgment.  For the library -- to use a mathematical term --
is not a constant but a variable.  It has assumed new functions and today
is still changing to a degree hardly realized save when we regard it in
That the public library should have started with traditions inherited from
scholars' or research libraries is but natural.  For a whole generation
librarians laid more stress on garnering books and on perfecting the
admirable machinery of their organization, than on finding readers for
them; and it did not seem anomalous in the late 'sixties -- though it does
now to us -- to find the trustees of a great public library virtually
contratulating themselves that the poorest books were the most read, for
they reported "It is in many respects fortunate that the wear and tear of
the Library falls mainly upon the class of works of the smallest relative
importance," while the librarian lamented that "It had become very common
for visitors to demand the use in the Hall of costly books of engravings,
for mere purposes of curiosity."  As late as 1868, when the foremost public
library in the country -- that of Boston -- stood second in size only to
the Library of Congress, the classes in the community chiefly served may be
guessed from the fact that its reference collections and reading rooms were
closed, not only Sundays and holidays, but every evening as well; while a
population numbering a quarter of a million souls, less than twelve
thousand held cards.  The proportion would be the same if at present all
the public libraries in the United States should reach a clientage no
larger than the number of people living in New York City.
But about that date, under the leadership of a scholar, Justin Winsor, began
the great work of popularization, a process which was without doubt
hastened by the influence of the American Library Association, with its
opportunities for conference and comparison.  In former times there had
even been question as to the status of women in libraries, or at least
protest against admitting them to "the corrupter portions of the polite
literature"; but in an early report the trustees of the Boston library gave
assurance that they regarded it as "one of the most pleasing and hopeful
features .... that its advantages are equally open to both sexes."  
Nowadays libraries besides making extensive provision for the general
reader are striving more and more to meet the special needs of every class
in the community.  Municipal reference collections are being established
for our legislators and officials, technical books are supplied in
profusion for the artisans in every branch of industry, commercial books
for the business men, books for the blind, books for the aliens, even for
the sick, the insane, and the criminal, and above all, for the children who
have in recent years come to absorb such a large share of attention.
Furthermore, this great public has been admitted freely to the books on the
library shelves; while outside, through branch libraries and stations, by
collections in schools and other institutions, by travelling libraries and
deposits in factory and office building, in shop and grange and club -- in
short, by placing books wherever they will be accessible -- the library
alike in the small town and the great city is being carried to the people.

More significant still, is the changed conception of library work.  To
supply demand is now regarded as by no means enough; the library must
create demand.  It must be aggressive, not passive.  By booklists and
bulletins, by addresses to societies and personal visits to the working men
in shop or club, by exhibitions, by circulars, by a constant fire of
articles and notes in newpapers and magazines, in short by all the arts and
wiles of modern publicity, librarians are expected to make known their
resources, to spread a realization of the opportunities both cultural and
practical afforded by the library; and the ideal is not fulfilled until in
every man, woman and child capable of comprehending, there has been
awakened an appreciation of the benefits and the delights to be derived
from books.
Thus has evolved the modern public library.  No similar institution in a
community touches the lives of so many of its people.  Consider how rapid
has been this development.  Much of it has taken place within a generation,
much within the years still be regarded as tentative.  With so large a sum
of achievement, librarians do not fear frank criticism of details; and a
prime purpose of these annual gatherings is to scrutinize the wisdom of our
various activities.  For example, in these days when the utilitarian is
coming to be a fetich even in education, is there danger of the cultural
ideal of the library becoming overshadowed?  Is there a temptation to
overemphasize the bread-and-butter side of the library -- the excellent
practical work of helping men and women in all callings to advance
materially, of furnishing aid to men in business and commerce -- all of
which appeals so readily to the taxpayer?  Are our methods of publicity in
keeping with the dignity of an educational institution?  With limited
funds, is the share of the library's money and energy allotted to the
extensive work with children justified by the returns?  It is well to
consider questions like these, to endeavor to make sure that in all
directions results are commensurate with the cost, and to weigh the
relative emphasis to be given different phases of the work.

Whether there be or be not room for some advancement  of relative effort as
regards the activities already described, it will be agreed without
question that they are in the main wise and successful, that they are
approved by the taxpayer, and that they constitute but a logical
development for accomplishing the ends for which the public library is
maintained.  But in recent years there has become evident a somewhat
different nature.  They are often grouped under the term library extension,
which might be taken to imply that they extend beyond the field of libraray
work in its strictest sense.  It is becoming increasingly common for
lectures -- not simply on library or literary topics, but popular courses
on all manner of subjects -- to be provided by libraries and occasionally
delivered by librarians themselves.  Here and there has been further
adventuring in the field of direct instruction, with classes for children
in science, for foreigners learning English, and even tentative
correspondence courses.  Exhibitions of all kinds are held by libraries,
including not simply books, bindings, and prints, but paintings, rugs,
porcelains and other objects of art, frequently natural history specimens,
flower shows, occasionally industrial displays or commercial exhibits; and
some libraries have installed permanent museums.  Story-telling for
children on an elaborate scale has become not unusual, with the avowed
purpose of interesting them in good literature, but sometimes conducted at
playgrounds and other places where there is no distribution of books; and
in general the work with children has been extended in manifold directions.  
We read here and there of games, dances, parties -- particularly for the
holidays, plays, aeroplane contests, athletic meets, and other
entertainments, and children's clubs of many kinds.  In one city the branch
libraries were centers for collection in the "fly-swatting" contests.  Such
work is sometimes carried on by outside agencies in rooms furnished by the
library; more often it is conducted by the library itself.  One large
library offered prizes to boys and girls making articles during the summer
for exhibition last fall; and exhibitions of model aeroplanes, bird houses
and other results of manual training seem not infrequent.  The adults, too,
are not neglected.  We are lending library halls freely for literary,
educational, civic and charitable purposes, and to a growing extent for
social gatherings and entertainments as well.  Here a library has
established a social center for young women where "all the various ueful
arts and handicrafts [can] be taught, free of charge," and there another
has opened public debates each week on topics of timely interest, with
speakers chosen by the trustees.  Photographs and printes of all kinds,
music rolls, scores, lantern slides, phonographic records, which are often
supplied for circulation, perhaps fall within the legal definition of book
or writing, and the lending of historical and scientific specimens, and of
stereoscopes, radiopticons, and lanterns, is a function that is closely
allied.  In one or two cities branch librarians are employed in friendly
visiting among the families of the neighborhood or for social service work
with factory girls.  One library is reported to maintain close relations
with the probation officer and juvenile court; another publishes an
excellent magazine giving large space to matters of civic and commercial
interest; elsewhere libraries are said to be aiding in social surveys.  Not
only is the reading of foreigners fostered, but their welfare in other ways
is looked out for.  Semi-social gatherings are held, talks on citizenship
sometimes planned, and in at least a few places, exhibitions of their
handiwork have been arranged.  Concert-giving by libraries with victrolas
is becoming not unusual; and now we are introducing moving pictures.
Most of the practices enumerated are as yet by no means common enough to be
characteristic of the American public library; but whether general or
sporadic, they are of sufficiently frequent occurrence to show a strong
trend.  It has been said by one friendly critic that librarians are
peculiarly alert to social needs, and so eager to render possible service,
that once convinced of a real want in the community, they are prone to
undertake to meet it without always considering whether the work falls
properly within the sphere of the library or could be better conducted by
some other agency.  No doubt it is true that an institution like the public
library, which has developed so rapidly, with few hampering traditions, is
especially pliable, and possibly extends its scope more readily than it
might otherwise.  But the truth is, as a matter of fact, somewhat larger,
for the tendency seems but in keeping with the spirit of the times
observable elsewhere in the church, in playgrounds and public centers of
recreation and education of diverse sorts, and, some critics hint, even in
school curricula.  Yet, if these signs really mark the beginning of librray
evolution toward institutions of wider social activity, the path should be
chosen consciously and with deliberation, for it is obvious that the change
is likely to affect the library itself profoundly -- either for good or ill.
Some of the papers and discussions at the present conference will bear
directly or indirectly on various phases of the questions I have raised;
and it is not my purpose to anticipate by offering here my own conslucions.  
But I should like to plead that however occupied with executive cares, and
whether engaged in supplying with books the practical needs of the
community, or turning to work of wider social application, the librarian
should never forget or slight what seems to me to be a primary duty of the
public library -- a service so fundamental that, as I shall try to show, it
may be said without exaggeration to touch the springs of our civilization
For this twentieth century civilization of ours, which the world so easily
takes for granted, is nevertheless regarded with misgiving by many who
examine its evolution and condition.  Within the past two or three years
alone, not a few thoughtful writers have questioned its solidity and
permanence.  The Italian historian, Ferrero; the brilliant English
churchman, J. N. Figgis; A. J. Hubbard in his "Fate of Empires," S. O. G.
Douglas, Guy Theodore Wrench, Mrs. John Martin -- all are impressed with
the transitoriness of the phenomenon known as civilization.  Macaulay's
famous New Zealander taking his stand on a broken arch of London bridge to
sketh the ruins of St. Paul's, in his "vast solitude" may count at least on
teh ghostly fellowship of a goodly number of our contemporary writers who
have been solicitous as to the laws of maodern civilization and its decay.
Perhaps the most interesting of these treatises is the immensely suggestive
little volume in which the archaeologist, W. M. Flinders Petrie, has traced
the rise, the flourishing, and the decay of eight successive civilizations
in Egypt during the period of ten thousand years, and five distinct eras of
civilization in Europe from the early Cretan down through the classical and
that of our own day.  It is only in recent years that, owing to the
discovery and study of archaeological remains, it has become possible to
take the long view.  Hitherto, students have been confined largely to
comparisons between our own civilization and the classical which
immediately preceeded it.  Professor Petrie uses as criteria the
development of the different arts, especially the period when each passes
from a stage of archaism to a condition of full artistic freedom; and he
finds that in all the civiliations he has presented, so far as discernible,
the arts have reached their highest development in the same sequence.  
First comes sculpture, followed by painting, and then literature; these in
turn are succeeded after a somewhat longer interval by the development of
mechanics, of science, andt the results of applied science, or wealth.  
There appears to be a striking conformity, not only in the sequence, but
roughly, in the relative time, suggesting that the same laws are operative
throughout the entire period.  The intervals between the successive waves
of civilization as shown by the point when sculpture, the first of the
arts, reaches the stage when it is fully freed from archaism averages
between thirteen and fourteen hundred years, with an an apparent tendency
towards lengthening in the case of the later civilizations.  Our modern
European civilization, according to Professor Petrie, reached the turning
point of freedom in sculpture about 1240 A. D.; in painting, about 1400; in
literature during the Elizabethan age, or about 1600; in mechanics possibly
in 1890; while the full development in science and in the production of
wealth is still to come.

Of course, I have not cited the interesting and ingenious conclusions of
Professor Petrie, which are bristling with debatable points, nor referred
to the works of the other authors, who differ much among themselves, as
proving any definite theory of civilization.  I merely wish to impress on
you the well-recognized fact that civilization is an intermittent
phenomenon.  Nor can I personally see that our own civilization, though
covering so much wider area than any which have preceeded it, differs
essentially from them, except in two respects.  One of them is the
possession of a religion so ennobling that if its principles were valid in
the hearts of men, it would seem in itself to afford a strong preservative,
at least against the corruption and ill living that accompany a decaying
civilization.  But one of the phenomena that all students point out is the
weakening in our times of the hold of religion on the minds and actions of
men.  The other essential difference, as I see it, between our civilization
and previous ones lies in the remarkable development of the arts of
communication.  The facilities for travel by steamship and railroad, and
for the transmission of information by mail and telegraph, have so united
the world and brought into contact differing civilizations as to produce a
condition without parallel in earlier ages.
But incomparably greater in its effect is the ease of communication from
mind to mind resulting from the invention of printing.  One would be rash,
indeed, to assume that this new force in the world, powerful though it be,
and aptly termed the art preservative of arts, has yet within itself
sufficient virtue to overbalance the laws which, working through human
nature for ages past, have caused one great civilization after another to
rise, reach its zenith, and decay.  Yet, when we consider that not simply
in preserving knowledge, but in diffusing it among the whole people, it has
produced a condition of general enlightenment that has never before been
known; and when we remember also the immense acceleration given to the
renascence of the very civilization we now enjoy through the recovery by
scholars of the Greek manuscripts and classical texts, it may not be
immoderate to hope that this great art of printing will have an
incalculable influence in deepening, strengthening, carrying higher, and
prolonging this present wave of our civilization; and should this likewise
be destined to recede, in alleviating man's intervening low estate and
hastening the world's next great advance.  And in carrying to the whole
people the solider and more vital product of the printing press, no such
agency has ever before existed as the modern free public library.
This, then, I conceive to be the great fundamental obligation of the public
library -- to make accessible to all men the best thought of mankind,
whether it be found in the classic works of the older civilizations that
preceded our own, or in the master intellects of a later day, or in the
innumerable derivative writings of lesser minds.  And this function is one
that I trust may never be forgotten, however far it may seem well to extend
the province of the library in other directions.  While striving in every
wise way to further the material or ephemeral interests of our communities,
above all, we as librarians should prize and cherish the things of the mind
and of the spirit.  Only those gifted by God can hope for the supreme joy
of feeding the pure, white flame that lights man's pathway through the
ages.  Few they be and blessed.  It is privilege enough for us to strive to
hold aloft the light, and carry ourselves staunchly and worthily as

3. Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check.... Introduction and first chapters


Monday, Oct. 6, 1919

My Dear Confrère:

I am happy to see you always so burning with energy, but your next book
prepares for you some rude combats. It requires a bold courage to dare,
when one is alone, to attack the monster, the new Minotaur, to which the
entire world renders tribute: the Press.

I return to Paris in a few weeks. Reaction there holds the center of the
walk. It speaks already as master, and perhaps it will be master before the
end of the winter. The wave of counter-revolution, of counter-liberty,
passes over the world. It will drown more than one among us, but it will
retire, and our ideas will conquer.

Very cordially I press your hand.



The social body to which we belong is at this moment passing through one of
the greatest crises of its history, a colossal process which may best he
likened to a birth. We have each of us a share in this process, we are to a
greater or less extent responsible for its course. To make our judgments,
we must have reports from other parts of the social body; we must know what
our fellow men in all classes of society, in all parts of the world, are
suffering, planning, doing. There arise emergencies which require swift
decisions, under penalty of frightful waste and suffering. What if the
nerves upon which we depend for knowledge of this social body should give
us false reports of its condition?

The first half of this book tells a personal story: the story of one man's
experiences with American journalism. This personal feature is not
pleasant, but it is unavoidable. If I were taking the witness-chair in a
court of justice, the jury would not ask for my general sentiments and
philosophic opinions; they would not ask what other people had told me, or
what was common report; the thing they would wish to know--the only thing
they would be allowed to know--is what I had personally seen and
experienced. So now, taking the witness-stand in the case of the American
public versus Journalism, I tell what I have personally seen and
experienced. I take the oath of a witness: the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, so help me God. After this pledge, earnestly given
and earnestly meant, the reader must either believe me, or he must exclude
me from the company of civilized men.

My motive in writing this book is not to defend myself. We live in a time of
such concentrated agony and peril that a man who would waste ink and paper
on a defense of his own personality would be contemptible. What I tell you
is "Look! Here is American Journalism! Here is what it did to one man,
systematically, persistently, deliberately, for a period of twenty years.
Here are names, places, dates--such a mass of material as you cannot doubt,
you cannot evade. Here is the whole thing, inside and out. Here are your
sacred names, the very highest of your gods. When you have read this story,
you will know our Journalism; you will know the body and soul of it, you
will know it in such a way that you will not have to be told what it is
doing to the movement for industrial freedom and self-government all over
the world."

In the second half of the book you will hear a host of other
witnesses--several score of them, the wisest and truest and best people of
our country. They are in every part of our country, in every class and
every field of public life; and when you have heard their experiences, told
for the most part in their own words, you must grant my claim concerning
this book--that it is a book of facts. There are no mistakes in it, no
guesses, no surmises; there are no lapses of memory, no inaccuracies. There
are only facts. You must understand that I have had this book in mind for
twenty years. For twelve years I have been deliberately collecting the
documents and preserving the records, and I have these before me as I
write. In a few cases of personal experiences I have relied upon my memory;
but that memory is vivid, because the incidents were painful, they were
seared into my soul, and now, as I recall them, I see the faces of the
people. I hear their very tones. Where there is any doubt or vagueness in
my recollection, or where there is hearsay testimony, I state the fact
explicitly; otherwise, I wish the reader to understand that the incidents
happened as I say they happened, and that upon the truth of every statement
in this book I pledge my honor as a man and my reputation as a writer.

One final word: In this book I have cast behind me the proprieties usually
held sacred; I have spared no one, I have narrated shameful things. I have
done this, not because I have any pleasure in scandal; I have not such
pleasure, being by nature impersonal. I do not hate one living being. The
people I have lashed in this book are to me not individuals, but social
forces; I have exposed them, not because they lied about me, but because a
new age of fraternity is trying to be born, and they, who ought to be
assisting the birth, are strangling the child in the womb.



Once upon a time there was a little boy; a nice little boy, whom you would
have liked if you had known him at least, his mother says. He had been
brought up in the traditions of the old South, to which the two most
important things in world were good cooking and good manners. He obeyed his
mother and father, and ate his peas with a fork, and never buttered the
whole slice of his bread. On Sunday mornings he carefully shined his shoes
and brushed his clothes at the window, and got into a pair of tight kid
gloves and under a tight little brown derby hat, and walked with his
parents to a church on Fifth Avenue. On week-days he studied hard and
obeyed his teachers, and in every field of thought and activity he believed
what was told him by those in authority. He learned the catechism and
thought it was the direct word of God. When he fell sick and the doctor
came, he put himself in the doctor's hands with a sense of perfect trust
and content; the doctor knew what to do, and would do it, and the little
boy would get well.

The boy's grandfather had been a Confederate naval officer, drowned at sea.
The boy's father had spent his youth in Virginia during the agonies of the
Civil War, thus missing most of his education. After the war the family was
ruined, and the father had to enter into competition with Yankee "hustle,"
handicapped by a Southern gentleman's quaint notions of dignity, and also
by a Southern gentleman's weakness for mint-juleps. So the last week's
board bill was generally a matter of anxiety to the family. But always, no
matter how poor the family might be, the little boy had a clean white
collar, and a copy of the "New York Sun" every morning. This paper was
beautifully printed, smooth and neat; the little boy knew all its
peculiarities of type, and he and his father and his mother accepted every
word they read in it, both the news-columns and the editorial page,
precisely as they accepted the doctor's pills and the clergyman's sermons,
the Bible and the multiplication table and Marian Harland's cookbook.

The "New York Sun" was edited by one of the bitterest cynics that ever lived
in America. He had been something of a radical in his early days, and had
turned like a fierce wolf upon his young ideals. He had one fixed opinion,
which was that everything new in the world should be mocked at and
denounced. He had a diabolical wit, and had taught a tradition to his
staff, and had infected a good part of American Journalism with the poison
of his militant cynicism. Once every twenty-four hours the little boy
absorbed this poison, he took it for truth, and made all his ideas of it.

For example, there were women who were trying to be different from what
women had always been. There was a thing called "Sorosis." The boy never
knew what "Sorosis" was; from the "Sun" he gathered that it was a
collection of women who wanted to have brains, and to take part in public
affairs--whereas the "Sun" acidly considered that woman's place was the
home. And the boy found it easy to agree with this. Did not the boy's
grandmother make the best ginger-cakes of any grandmother in the whole city
of Baltimore? Did not his mother make the best chocolate-cake and the best
"hot short-cake"--that is, whenever the family could escape from
boarding-houses and have a little kitchen of its own. The boy was
enormously fond of chocolate-cake and short-cake, and of course he didn't
want women neglecting their duties for fool things such as "Sorosis."

Also there were the Populists. The little boy had never seen a Populist, he
had never been given an opportunity to read a Populist platform, but he
knew all about the Populists from the funny editorials of Charles A. Dana.
The Populists were long-haired and wild-eyed animals whose habitat was the
corn-fields of Kansas. The boy knew the names of a lot of them, or rather
the nick-names which Dana gave them; he had a whole portrait-gallery of
them in his mind. Once upon a time the "Sun" gave some statistics from
Kansas, suggesting that the Populists were going insane; so the little boy
took his pen in hand and wrote a letter to the editor of the "Sun," gravely
rebuking him. He had never expected to read in the columns of the "Sun" a
suggestion that Populists might go insane. And the "Sun" published this
feeble product of its own "smartness."
Later on the boy discovered the "New York Evening Post," the beau ideal of a
gentleman's newspaper, and this became for years his main source of
culture. "The Evening Post" was edited by E. L. Godkin, a scholar and a
lover of righteousness, but narrow, and with an abusive tongue. From him
the boy learned that American politics were rotten, and he learned the
cause of the rottenness: First, there was an ignorant mob, composed mainly
of foreigners; and second, there were venal politicians who pandered to
this mob. Efforts were continually being made by gentlemen of decency and
culture to take the government away from these venal politicians, but the
mob was too ignorant, and could not be persuaded to support a clean
government. Yet the fight must be kept up, because conditions were going
from bad to worse. The boy witnessed several "reform campaigns," conducted
mainly by the "Evening Post" and other newspapers. These campaigns
consisted in the publication of full-page exposures of civic rottenness,
with denunciations of the politicians in office. The boy believed every
word of the exposures, and it never occurred to him that the newspapers
might be selling more copies by means of them; still less did it occur to
him that anybody might be finding in these excitements a means of diverting
the mind of the public from larger and more respectable forms of "graft."

There was a candidate for district attorney, William Travers Jerome by name;
a man with a typical "Evening Post" mind, making an ideal "Evening Post"
candidate. He conducted a "whirlwind" campaign, speaking at half a dozen
meetings every evening, and stirring his audience to frenzy by his accounts
of the corruption of the city's police-force. Men would stand up and shout
with indignation, women would faint or weep. The boy would sit with his
finger-nails dug into the palms of his hands, while the orator tore away
the veils from subjects which were generally kept hidden from little boys.

The orator described the system of prostitution, which was paying its
millions every year to the police of the city. He pictured a room in which
women displayed their persons, and men walked up and down and inspected
them, selecting one as they would select an animal at a fair. The man paid
his three dollars, or his five dollars, to a cashier at the window, and
received a brass check; then he went upstairs, and paid this check to the
woman upon receipt of her favors. And suddenly the orator put his hand into
his pocket and drew forth the bit of metal. "Behold!" he cried. "The price
of a woman's shame!"

To the lad in the audience this BRASS CHECK was the symbol of the most
monstrous wickedness in the world. Night after night he would attend these
meetings, and next day he would read about them in the papers. He was a
student at college, living in a lodging-house room on four dollars a week,
which he earned himself; yet he pitched in to help this orator's campaign,
and raised something over a hundred dollars, and took it to the "Evening
Post" candidate at his club, interrupting him at dinner, and no doubt
putting a strain on his patience. The candidate was swept into office in a
tornado of excitement, and did what all "Evening Post" candidates did and
always do--that is, nothing. For four long years the lad waited, in
bewilderment and disgust, ending in rage. So he learned the grim lesson
that there is more than one kind of parasite feeding on human weakness,
there is more than one kind of prostitution which may be symbolized by the


The boy, now become a youth, obtained a letter of introduction from his
clergyman to the editor of his beloved "Evening Post," and at the age of
sixteen was given a trial as reporter. He worked for a week collecting odd
scraps of news, and when the week was over he had earned the generous sum
of two dollars and sixty-seven cents. This was his first and last
experience as newspaper reporter, and it confirmed his boyish impression of
the integrity of the journalistic profession. His work had consisted of
compiling obituary notices about leading citizens who had died. "John T.
McGurk, senior partner of McGurk and Isaacson commission-merchants of 679
Desbrosses Street, died yesterday of cirrhosis of the liver at his home,
4321 George Washington Avenue, Hoboken. Mr. McGurk was 69 years of age, and
leaves a widow and eleven children. He was a member of the Elks, and
president of the North Hoboken Bowling Association." And these facts the
"Evening Post" printed exactly as he had written them. In a book which will
not have much to say in favor of American Journalism, let this fidelity to
truth, and to the memory of the blameless McGurk, have its due need of

The youth took to writing jokes and jingles, at which he earned twice as
much as the "Evening Post" had paid him. Later on he took to writing
dime-novels, at which he made truly fabulous sums. He found it puzzling
that this cheap and silly writing should be the kind that brought the
money. The editors told him it was because the public wanted that kind; but
the youth wondered--might not at least part of the blame lie with the
editors, who never tried giving anything better? It was the old
problem--which comes first, the hen or the egg?

We have spoken jestingly of the traditions of the old South, in which the
youth was brought up; but the reader should not get a false impression of
them--in many ways they were excellent traditions. For one thing, they
taught the youth to despise a lie; also to hate injustice, so that wherever
in his life he encountered it, his whole being became a blaze of
excitement. Always he was striving in his mind to discover the source of
lies and injustice--why should there be so much of them in the world? The
newspapers revealed the existence of them, but never seemed to know the
causes of them, nor what to do about them, further than to support a reform
candidate who did nothing but get elected. This futility in the face of the
world's misery and corruption was maddening to the youth.

He had rich relatives who were fond of him, so that he was free to escape
from poverty into luxury; he had the opportunity to rise quickly in the
world, if he would go into business, and devote his attention thereto. But
would he find in business the ideals which he craved? He talked with
business men, also he got the flavor of business from the advertisements in
the newspapers--and he knew that this was not what he was seeking. He
cultivated the friendship of Jesus, Hamlet and Shelley, and fell in love
with the young Milton and the young Goethe; in them he found his own
craving for truth and beauty. Here, through the medium of art, life might
he ennobled, and lifted from the muck of graft and greed.

So the youth ran away and buried himself in a hut in the wilds of Canada,
and wrote what he thought was the great American novel. It was a painfully
crude performance, but it had a new moral impulse in it, and the youth
really believed that it was to convert the world to ways of love and
justice. He took it to the publishers, and one after another they rejected
it. They admitted that it had merit, but it would not sell. Incredible as
it seemed to the youth, the test by which the publishers judged an embryo
book and its right to be born, was not whether it had vision and beauty and
a new moral impulse; they judged it as the newspapers judged what they
published--would it sell? The youth earned some money and published the
book himself, and wrote a preface to tell the world what a wonderful book
it was, and how the cruel publishers had rejected it. This preface,
together with the book, he sent to the leading newspapers; and thus began
the second stage of his journalistic experiences.

Two newspapers paid attention to his communication--the "New York Times," a
respectable paper, and the "New York American," a "yellow" paper. The
"American" sent a woman reporter, an agreeable and friendly young lady, to
whom the author poured out his soul. She asked for his picture, saying that
this would enable her to get much more space for the story; so the author
gave his picture. She asked for his wife's picture; but here the author was
obdurate. He had old-fashioned Southern notions about "newspaper notoriety"
for ladies; he did not want his wife's picture in the papers. There stood a
little picture of his wife on the table where the interview took place, and
after the reporter had left, it was noticed that this picture was missing.
Next day the picture was published in the "New York American," and has been
published in the "New York American" every year or two since. The author,
meantime, has divorced his first wife and married a second wife--a fact of
which the newspapers are fully aware; yet they publish this picture of the
first wife indifferently as a picture of the first wife and of the second
wife. When one of these ladies says or does a certain thing, the other lady
may open her paper in the morning and receive a shock!

Both the "New York Times" and the "New York American" published interviews
with the young author. It had been his fond hope to interest people in his
book and to cause them to read his book, but in this he failed; what both
the interviews told about was his personality. The editors had been amused
by the naïve assumption of a young poet that he might have something of
importance to say to the world; they had made a "human interest" story out
of it, a journalistic tidbit to tickle the appetites of the jaded and
worldly-wise. They said scarcely anything about the contents of the book,
and as a result of the two interviews, the hungry young author sold
precisely two copies!

Meantime he was existing by hack-work, and exploring the world in which
ideas are bought and sold. He was having jokes and plots of stories stolen;
he was having agreements broken and promises repudiated; he was trying to
write worth-while material, and being told that it would not sell; he was
trying to become a book-reviewer, and finding that the only way to succeed
was to be a cheat. The editor of the "Independent" or the "Literary Digest"
would give him half a dozen books to read, and he would read them, and
write an honest review, saying that there was very little merit in any of
them: whereupon, the editor would decide that it was not worth while to
review the books, and the author would get nothing for his work. If, on the
other hand, he wrote an article about a book, taking it seriously, and
describing it as vital and important, the editor would conclude that the
book was worth reviewing, and would publish the review, and pay the author
three or four dollars for it.

This, you understand, was the "literary world," in which ideas, the most
priceless possession of mankind, were made the subject of barter and sale.
In every branch of it there were such petty dishonesties, such tricks of
the trade. There were always ten times as many people trying to get a
living as the trade would support. They were clutching at chances, elbowing
each other out of the way and their efforts were not rewarded according to
their love of truth and beauty, but according to quite other factors. They
were dressing themselves up and using the "social game," they were posing
and pretending, the women were using the sex-lure. And everywhere, when
they pretended to care about literature and ideas, they were really caring
about money, and "success" because it would bring money. Everywhere, above
all things else, they hated and feared the very idea of genius, which put
them to shame, and threatened with annihilation their petty gains and

From these things the youth fled into the wilderness again, living in a tent
with his young wife, and writing a story in which he poured out his
contempt upon the great Metropolis of Mammon. This was "Prince Hagen," and
he sent it to the "Atlantic Monthly," and there came a letter from the
editor, Professor Bliss Perry, saying that it was a work of merit and that
he would publish it. So for weeks the young author walked on the top of the
clouds. But then came another letter, saying that the other members of the
"Atlantic" staff had read the story, and that Professor Perry had been
unable to persuade them to see it as he saw it. "We have," said he, "a very
conservative, fastidious and sophisticated constituency."

The young author went back to his "pot-boiling." He spent another winter in
New York, wrestling with disillusionments and humiliations, and then,
fleeing to the wilderness for a third summer, he put his experience into
"The Journal of Arthur Stirling," the story of a young poet who is driven
to suicide by neglect and despair. The book was given to the world as a
genuine document and relieved the tedium of a literary season. Its
genuineness was accepted almost everywhere, and the author sat behind the
scenes, feeling quite devilish. When the secret came out, some critics were
cross, and one or two of them have not forgiven the writer. The "New York
Evening Post" is accustomed to mention the matter every once in a while,
declaring that the person who played that trick can never receive anyone's
confidence. I will not waste space discussing this question, save to point
out that the newspaper reviewers had set the rules of the game--that love
and beauty in art were heeded only in connection with personalities and
sensation; so, in order to project love and beauty upon the world, the
young author had provided the personalities and sensations. As for the
"Evening Post" and its self-righteousness, before I finish this book I
shall tell of things done by that organ of Wall Street which qualify
decidedly its right to sit in judgment upon questions of honor.


My next effort was "Manassas," a novel of the Civil war. I poured into it
all my dream of what America might be, and inscribed it: "That the men of
this land may know the heritage that has come down to them." But the men of
this land were not in any way interested in the heritage that had come down
to them. The men of this land were making money. The newspapers of this
land were competing for advertisements of whiskey and cigars and soap, and
the men who wrote book reviews for the literary pages of these newspapers
were chuckling over such works of commercial depravity as "The Letters of a
Self-Made Merchant to His Son." They had no time to tell the public about
"Manassas"; though Jack London called it "the best Civil War book I've
read," and though it is my one book which no severest critic can say has
any propaganda motive. Charlotte Perkins Gilman told me a story of how she
persuaded an old Civil War veteran to read it. The old fellow didn't want
to read any book about the war by a youngster; he had been through it all
himself, and no youngster could tell him anything. But Mrs. Gilman
persisted, and when she met him again she found him with shining eyes and a
look of wonder on his face. "It's the War," he cried. "It's the War--and he
wasn't even born!"

It happened that at this time Lincoln Steffens was publishing his terrible
exposes of the corruption of American civic life. Steffens did for the
American people one specific service. He knocked out forever the notion, of
which E. L. Godkin and his "New York Evening Post" were the principal
exponents, that our political corruption was to be blamed upon "the
ignorant foreign element." Steffen showed that purely American communities,
such as Rhode Island, were the most corrupt of all; and he traced back the
corruption, showing that for every man who took a bribe there was another
man who gave one, and that the giver of the bribe made from ten to a
thousand times as much as he paid. In other words, American political
corruption was the buying up of legislatures and assemblies to keep them
from doing the people's will and protecting the people's interests; it was
the exploiter entrenching himself in power, it was financial autocracy
undermining and destroying political democracy.

Steffens did not go so far as that in the early days. He just laid bare the
phenomena, and then stopped. You searched in vain through the articles
which he published in "McClure's" for any answer to the question: What is
to be done about it? So I wrote what I called "An Open Letter to Lincoln
Steffens." I cannot find it now, but I recall the essence of it well

Mr. Steffens, you go from city to city and from state to state, and you show
us these great corporations buying public privileges and capitalizing them
for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, and unloading the securities
upon the general investing public. You show this enormous mass of capital
piling up, increasing at compound interest, demanding its toll of
dividends, which we, the people who do the hard work of the world, who
produce the real wealth of the world, must continue forever to pay. I ask
you to tell us, what are we to do about this? Shall we go on forever paying
tribute upon this mass of bribery and fraud? Can we go on paying it
forever, even if we want to? And if not, what then? What will happen when
we refuse to pay?"

I sent this letter to Steffens, to see what he thought about it. He replied
that it was the best criticism of his work that he had seen, and he tried
to persuade "McClure's" to publish it, but in vain. I forget whether it was
he or I who sent it to "Collier's Weekly"; but anyway, the article was read
and accepted, and Robert J. Collier, the publisher, wrote and asked me to
come to see him.

Picture me at this moment, a young writer of twenty-five who has been
pleading with the American public to remember its high traditions, and has
seen his plea fall flat, because the newspapers and magazines overlooked
him; also--a painful detail, but important--who has been supporting a wife
and baby on thirty dollars a month, and has been paid only five hundred
dollars for two years work on a novel. A friend who knows the literary
world tells me that this is the chance of my life. "Collier's" is run "on a
personal basis," it appears; a sort of family affair. "If Robbie likes you,
your fortune is made," says my friend. "This is your 'open sesame' to the
public mind."

Well, I go to see Robbie, and it appears that Robbie likes me. I am young
and ascetic-looking; the tension under which I have worked has given me
dyspepsia, so my cheeks are hollow and my skin is white and my eyes have a
hectic shine. Robbie, no doubt, is moved to sympathy by these phenomena; he
himself is a picture of health, florid and jolly, a polo-player, what is
called a "good fellow." He asks me, will I come to dinner at his home and
meet some of his friends and his editorial staff? I answer that of course I

My worldly-wise friend insists that I shall invest my spare savings in a
dress-suit, but I do not take this advice. I go to Robbie's palatial home
in my old clothes, and Robbie's velvet-footed butler escorts me upstairs to
Robbie's dressing room, where Robbie's valet is laying out his things on
the bed.

And while Robbie is dressing, he tells me again how much he admires my
article, it is the most illuminating discussion of present-day problems
that he has ever read. He and his friends don't meet many Socialists,
naturally, so I am to tell them about Socialism. I am to tell them
everything, and needn't be afraid. I answer, quite simply, that I shall not
be in the least afraid.

The evening was spoiled because Robbie's father came in. Old Peter Collier
was a well-known character in New York "society"; but as not all my readers
have been intimate in these circles, I explain that he had begun life as a
pack-peddler, had started "Collier's Weekly" as an advertisement sheet, and
by agents offering books as premiums had built up a tremendous circulation.
Now he was rich and important; vulgar, ignorant as a child, but
kind-hearted, jovial--one of those nice, fatherly old fellows who put their
arms about you, no matter who you are.

And here he had come in to dinner with his son, and found his son
entertaining a Socialist. "What? What's this?" he cried. It was like a
scene in a comedy. He would hear one sentence of what I had to say, and
then he would go up in the air. "Why--why--that's perfectly outrageous! Who
ever heard of such a thing?" he would sputter for five or ten minutes, to
the vast amusement of the rest of the guests.

Presently he heard about the "Open Letter to Lincoln Steffens." "What's
this? You are going to publish an article like that in my magazine? No,
sir! I won't have it! It's preposterous!" And there sat Robbie, who was
supposed to be the publisher; there sat Norman Hapgood, who was supposed to
be the editor--and listened to Old Peter lay down the law. Norman Hapgood
has since stated that he does not remember this episode, that he never knew
Peter Collier to interfere with the policy of the magazine. Well, the
reader may believe that the incident was not one that I would forget in a
hurry. Not if I should live to be as old as Methuselah will I forget my
emotions, when, after the dinner, the old gentleman got me off in a corner
and put his arm around my shoulders. "You are a nice boy, and I can see
that you've got brains, you know what you're talking about. But what you
ought to do is to put these ideas of yours into a book. Why do you try to
get them into my magazine, and scare away my half million subscribers?"

I went home that evening feeling more sick at heart than I like to remember.
And sure enough, my worst fears were justified. Week after week passed, and
my Open Letter to Lincoln Steffens did not appear in the columns of
"Collier's Weekly." I wrote and protested, and was met with evasions; a
long time afterwards, I forget how long, "Collier's" graciously
condescended to give me back the article, without asking the return of the
two hundred dollars they had paid me. The article was rejected by many
other capitalist magazines, and was finally published in some Socialist
paper, I forget which.

Such is the picture of a magazine "run on a personal basis." See what it
means to you, the reader, who depend upon such a magazine for the thoughts
you think. Here is Lincoln Steffens, taking his place as America's leading
authority on the subject of political graft; and here am I, making what
Steffens declares is the best criticism of his work. It is accepted and
paid for, and a date is set to give it to you, the reader; but an ignorant
and childish old pack-peddler steps in, and with one wave of his hand
sweeps it out of your sight. Sixteen years have passed, and only now you
hear about it--and most of you don't hear about it even now! But here is a
vital point to get clear. The old pack-peddler wiped out my discussion of
the question, but he did not wipe out the question. To-day the question is
cried aloud from the throats of a hundred and eighty million people in
Russia, and the clamor of it spreads all over Europe, a deafening roar
which drowns out the eloquence of statesmen and diplomats.

It is the question of the hour in America, and America must find the answer
under penalty of civil war. Sixteen years ago the answer was given to
Robert Collier, and if he had had the courage to stand out against his
father, if Norman Hapgood had been what he pretended to be, an editor, they
would have taken up the truth which I put before them, they would have
conducted a campaign to make the American people see it--and to-day we
should not be trying to solve the social problem by putting the leaders of
the people's protest into jail.

You can download the whole 1919 book from

L I B R A R Y   J U I C E

ISSN 1544-9378

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