Friday, January 11, 2013

Fighting Modern Evils With Old Rare Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

MILLER, Fred S. Fighting Modern Evils That Destroy Our Homes
- A Startling Exposure of the Snares and Pitfals of the Social World
- Vividly Depicting How Homes Are Wrecked and Souls Destroyed
Through Wiles and Trickery of Mystic Cults.
N.P. [U.S. of Canada]: n.p. [the author], n.d. [c. 1913].

In the modern world each footfall is an opportunity to drop into an abyss and snowshoes won't prevent you from sinking into perdition. There is, however, a rich corpus of vintage self-help, instructional and inspirational literature to keep you from drowning in a pool of damnation.

Here's a small selection, from Old New Age, the latest catalog from David Mason Rare Books.

KRESS, Daniel H. The Cigarette.
As a Physician Sees It.
Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publ., [c. 1932].

Modern Evil #1: Cigarettes.

Pacific Press Publishers of Mountain View, California was a Seventh Day Adventist venture dedicated to educational titles on activities that lead to the road to ruin. Get your kicks on Route 666 and experience Hell Before Death.

Here, inside the Los Angeles Coliseum during the 1932 Olympic Games, the U.S. track team doc examines a runner prior to race time. Judging by the expression on the Olympian's face, he's just been diagnosed with Stage-3 lung cancer and congestive heart failure. Will he make it to the finish line?

Not too long after this pamphlet appeared, Big Tobacco would recruit doctors real or otherwise to endorse their products in advertisements, M.D.s who, apparently, had their fingers crossed when taking the Hippocratic Oath.

HORN, M[ildred]. A. Mother and Daughter.
A Digest for Women and Growing Girls,
Which Completely Covers the Field of Sex Hygiene.
Toronto: Canadian Hygienic Products Ltd, n.d. [c. 1940s].

Modern Evil #2: Reckless Teen Behavior.

Young girls - you know who you are - have you no shame? Want to find a good husband? Have children? Lead a long, wholesome life? Listen to your mother! She'll teach you all about the science of keeping clean, healthy, and happy! You'll be miserable but so what? Fun is over-rated.

HALE, Beatrice Forbes Robertson. What Women Want.
An Interpretation of the Feminist Movement.
New York: Frederick Stokes, (1914).

Modern Evil #3: Feminism.

Damned suffragettes were tearing the social fabric in America and England, the contemporary social fabric an easily stained synthetic silk with rough threads; good riddance. 

Actress, suffragist, prolific author and lecturer Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale (1883-1967), niece of J. Forbes Robertson,  the famed London actor and theater manager, was an ardent feminist who married young Wall Street lawyer Swinburne Hale in 1910. He was "won by her speeches…Young attorney began ardent courtship after hearing her espouse woman's cause" (NY Times, April 29, 1910)

"Miss Forbes-Robertson will not give up the stage nor abate her efforts on behalf of the woman suffrage cause after her marriage to Mr. Hale. She has been prominently connected with the campaign for woman suffrage in both England and in this country, where she has been of large service through her platform eloquence.

"She is a finished speaker, and though she has never become associated with the extreme militant suffragettes closely enough to accomplish arrest, she has done a great deal of platform work here and abroad" (Ibid).

The Hales divorced in 1920 and Beatrice returned home to England but continued to visit the United States and remained fully engaged in the women's rights movement.

Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale was, it seems, a bit naive about her sisters in the struggle. Margaret Sanger, in The Woman Rebel,  her law-challenging journal, wrote:

"Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale said at a debate on feminism that she knew of only two feminists who advocated free love and unmarried motherhood, and that they were not suffragists, but anarchists. What a limited knowledge of women Mrs. Hale has! Perhaps after all self respect and morality are confined to the anarchist women!"

What Women Want is a very rare book with only a handful of copies in institutional holdings worldwide. Read the full text here.

VOM BRUCH, Harry W. The Carnival of Death.
Or the Modern Dance and Other Amusements.
Mont Morris, IL: Kable Brothers Co., n.d. [c. late 1910s].

Modern Evil #4: Dancing.

Dancing had been viewed as sinful as far back as the eighteenth century but with the influx of single girls into the urban workforce the perils of the dance hall did a grand jeté into the evangelical congregation with jeremiads aplenty.

The tacit terpsichorean culprit in Carnival of Death is, I suspect, the Black Bottom, which originated in New Orleans in the first decade of the 20th century. Its roots in African-American culture made it Public Enemy #1 amongst the decline of the West set.

Am I alone in mourning the passing of dances with names? The Black Bottom, Charleston, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Mambo. Cha-Cha, Merengue, Rhumba, Bossa Nova, the Swim, the Frug, the Shing-a-ling, the Monkey, the Mashed Potatoes, Watusi, Hully-Gully, the Shake, the Twist, the Funky Chicken, Pony, the Loco-motion, the Freddy,  the Bump, the Hustle, Macarena - even those dreaded of all social-banquet dances, the Hokey-Pokey and the Bunny Hop: quick, what's the name of the latest dance of 2012-2013? The Whatever.

ELLESBY, James. A Caution Against Ill Company:
Or, a Discourse Shewing the Danger of
Conversing Familiarly With Bad Men.
London: F.C. & J. Rivington, 1812.
Tenth edition.

Modern Evil #5: Bad Men.

Reverend James Ellesby, author of The Sick Christian's Companion (1729) -  no smirking, please; the book is a selection of prayers to endure illness, not a guide for Christians of dubious turn of mind - here cautions against females engaging in casual social intercourse with bad men; it can lead to that other casual intercourse, you know, the one that leads to the streets. From hello to Hell is only one lost virtuous vowel away.

Come on, gals, 'fess-up. Bad men are catnip! This is why, only hours after my Bar Mitzvah, I immediately began riding Harleys without a license, using bad language, smoking, playing pool, hanging-out on street corners, staying up past my bedtime, and generally flouting authority so egregiously that I was routinely remanded by the court to my room without supper. In short, I became a chicklette-magnet, 11 and 12-year old vampettes vying for the attention of this older, thirteen year old man so incredibly wise, so astonishingly smart, so breathtakingly handsome, so overweeningly conceited, and desperate to become an excommunicated Boy Scout but too milquetoast for misdemeanors, much less felonies.

"He's irresistible. He treats me like crap. I'm in love!"

HARRIS, Rev. W.S.. Hell Before Death.
With Illustrations by Paul Krafft.
N.P.: (Luther Minter): n.d. [c. 1908].
By Subscription Only.

Modern Evil #6: Capitalism.

Hell Before Death author, Rev. W.S. Harris, "who has devoted many years in securing better conditions for humanity," writes:

"Under the whip of monopolistic slavemasters, the host of common people, generally known as laborers, are getting deeper into bondage…This movement on the part of Labor was perhaps the most fortunate thing that could have happened; for, if capitalistic oppression had continued unchecked for a few decades more, by this time, the nation would be owned and controlled by a few great moguls, and the great bulk of humanity would be reduced to a new type of slavery even more abject than the kind under which we now suffer" (from the Preface. Full text of Hell Before Death here).

Sure glad that didn't happen.

SOUTHARD, R.E. Problems of Decency.
(St. Louis): The Queen's Work, n.d. [c. 1949].

Modern Evil #7: Indecency.

The Catholic University of America library has 742 publications, pamphlets and magazines from The Queen's Work, a Jesuit publishing house based in St. Louis and the pioneer mass circulation magazine to popularize the Catholic faith.

It was founded and edited by Daniel Aloysius Lord, S.J. (1888-1955), a popular American Catholic writer. Lord became national director of the Sodality of Our Lady in 1926, also serving as editor of its publication, The Queen's Work magazine. He stepped down from editorship in 1948, but continued to write for the magazine for the remainder of his life, producing more than 500 pamphlets, plays, and songs.

In 1927, he served as a consultant to Cecil B. DeMille for his silent film, King of Kings. The advent of talkies alarmed him. "Silent smut had been bad," he would write in his autobiography, Played by Ear. "Vocal smut cried to the censors for vengeance."

In 1929, he began work on Hollywood's Production Code. "Here was a chance," he wrote, "to read morality and decency into mass recreation." He aimed "to tie the Ten Commandments in with the newest and most widespread form of entertainment," aspiring to an ecumenical standard of decency, so that "the follower of any religion, or any man of decent feeling and conviction, would read it and instantly agree."

In 1930, Lord's draft of the Code was accepted by Will H. Hays and promulgated to the studios with only minor changes, but it lacked an enforcement mechanism, and Lord came to consider it a failure. It was only with the mid-1934 advent of the Production Code Administration headed by Joseph Breen that the Code became the law of Hollywood for more than twenty-five years.

Clean up the movies? Sanitized for your protection? Mission accomplished!

GAYNOR, R. Leo. The Mysteries of Luck,
Together With Invaluable Information on the Occult
Science of Astrology, Numerology, Graphology, etc.
N.P. [Canada?}: W.K. Buckley, n.d. [ c. 1936].

All the self-help and inspirational books in the world will not, of course, be of any value whatsoever unless Lady Luck takes a liken' to ya' and makes it all better. But don't tell Dr. Phil.

Images courtesy of David Mason Rare Books, currently offering these titles, with our thanks.

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