Part 6 out of 7
him cognizant of the matter in all its aspects.
"I can do nothing," said the President, "unless there is an awakened
public sentiment that compels action. Give me that, and I'll either put
the subject in my next message to Congress or send a special message.
I'm from Missouri on this point," continued the President. "Show me that
the American people want their Falls preserved, and I'll do the rest.
But I've got to be shown." Bok assured the President he could
demonstrate this to him.
The next number of his magazine presented a graphic picture of the
Horseshoe Falls as they were and the same Falls as they would be if more
water was allowed to be taken for power: a barren coal-pile with a tiny
rivulet of water trickling down its sides. The editorial asked whether
the American women were going to allow this? If not, each, if an
American, should write to the President, and, if a Canadian, to Earl
Grey, then Governor-General of Canada. Very soon after the magazine had
reached its subscribers' hands, the letters began to reach the White
House; not by dozens, as the President's secretary wrote to Bok, but by
the hundreds and then by the thousands. "Is there any way to turn this
spigot off?" telegraphed the President's secretary. "We are really being
Bok went to Washington and was shown the huge pile of letters.
"All right," said the President. "That's all I want. You've proved it to
me that there is a public sentiment."
The clerks at Rideau Hall, at Ottawa, did not know what had happened one
morning when the mail quadrupled in size and thousands of protests came
to Earl Grey. He wired the President, the President exchanged views with
the governor-general, and the great international campaign to save
Niagara Falls had begun. The American Civic Association and scores of
other civic and patriotic bodies had joined in the clamor.
The attorney-general and the secretary of state were instructed by the
President to look into the legal and diplomatic aspects of the question,
and in his next message to Congress President Roosevelt uttered a
clarion call to that body to restrict the power-grabbing companies.
The Ladies' Home Journal urged its readers to write to their congressmen
and they did by the thousands. Every congressman and senator was
overwhelmed. As one senator said: "I have never seen such an avalanche.
But thanks to The Ladies' Home Journal, I have received these hundreds
of letters from my constituents; they have told me what they want done,
and they are mostly from those of my people whose wishes I am bound to
The power companies, of course, promptly sent their attorneys and
lobbyists to Washington; but the public sentiment aroused was too strong
to be disregarded, and on June 29, 1906, the President signed the Burton
Bill restricting the use of the water of Niagara Falls.
The matter was then referred to the secretary of war, William Howard
Taft, to grant the use of such volume of water as would preserve the
beauty of the Falls. McFarland and Bok wanted to be sure that Secretary
Taft felt the support of public opinion, for his policy was to be
conservative, and tremendous pressure was being brought upon him from
every side to permit a more liberal use of water. Bok turned to his
readers and asked them to write to Secretary Taft and assure him of the
support of the American women in his attitude of conservatism.
The flood of letters that descended upon the secretary almost taxed even
his genial nature; and when Mr. McFarland, as the editorial
representative of The Ladies' Home Journal, arose to speak at the public
hearing in Washington, the secretary said: "I can assure you that you
don't have to say very much. Your case has already been pleaded for you
by, I should say at the most conservative estimate, at least one hundred
thousand women. Why, I have had letters from even my wife and my
Secretary Taft adhered to his conservative policy, Sir Wilfred Laurier,
premier of Canada, met the overtures of Secretary of State Root, a new
international document was drawn up, and Niagara Falls had been saved to
the American people.
In 1905 and in previous years the casualties resulting from fireworks on
the Fourth of July averaged from five to six thousand each year. The
humorous weekly Life and The Chicago Tribune had been for some time
agitating a restricted use of fireworks on the national fete day, but
nevertheless the list of casualties kept creeping to higher figures. Bok
decided to help by arousing the parents of America, in whose hands,
after all, lay the remedy. He began a series of articles in the
magazine, showing what had happened over a period of years, the
criminality of allowing so many young lives to be snuffed out, and
suggested how parents could help by prohibiting the deadly firecrackers
and cannon, and how organizations could assist by influencing the
passing of city ordinances. Each recurring January, The Journal returned
to the subject, looking forward to the coming Fourth. It was a
deep-rooted custom to eradicate, and powerful influences, in the form of
thousands of small storekeepers, were at work upon local officials to
pay no heed to the agitation. Gradually public opinion changed. The
newspapers joined in the cry; women's organizations insisted upon action
from local municipal bodies.
Finally, the civic spirit in Cleveland, Ohio, forced the passage of a
city ordinance prohibiting the sale or use of fireworks on the Fourth.
The following year when Cleveland reported no casualties as compared to
an ugly list for the previous. Fourth, a distinct impression was made
upon other cities. Gradually, other municipalities took action, and year
by year the list of Fourth of July casualties grew perceptibly shorter.
New York City was now induced to join the list of prohibitive cities, by
a personal appeal made to its mayor by Bok, and on the succeeding Fourth
of July the city authorities, on behalf of the people of New York City,
conferred a gold medal upon Edward Bok for his services in connection
with the birth of the new Fourth in that city.
There still remains much to be done in cities as yet unawakened; but a
comparison of the list of casualties of 1920 with that of 1905 proves
the growth in enlightened public sentiment in fifteen years to have been
steadily increasing. It is an instance not of Bok taking the
initiative--that had already been taken--but of throwing the whole force
of the magazine with those working in the field to help. It is the
American woman who is primarily responsible for the safe and sane
Fourth, so far as it already exists in this country to-day, and it is
the American woman who can make it universal.
Mrs. Pennypacker, as president of The Federation of Women's Clubs, now
brought to Bok's attention the conditions under which the average rural
school-teacher lived; the suffering often entailed on her in having to
walk miles to the schoolhouse in wintry weather; the discomfort she had
to put up with in the farm-houses where she was compelled to live, with
the natural result, under those conditions, that it was almost
impossible to secure the services of capable teachers, or to have good
teaching even where efficient teachers were obtained.
Mrs. Pennypacker suggested that Bok undertake the creation of a public
sentiment for a residence for the teacher in connection with the
schoolhouse. The parson was given a parsonage; why not the teacher a
"teacherage"? The Journal co-operated with Mrs. Pennypacker and she
began the agitation of the subject in the magazine. She also spoke on
the subject wherever she went, and induced women's clubs all over the
country to join the magazine in its advocacy of the "teacherage."
By personal effort, several "teacherages" were established in connection
with new schoolhouses; photographs of these were published and sent
personally to school-boards all over the country; the members of women's
clubs saw to it that the articles were brought to the attention of
members of their local school-boards; and the now-generally accepted
idea that a "teacherage" must accompany a new schoolhouse was well on
its way to national recognition.
It only remains now for communities to install a visiting nurse in each
of these "teacherages" so that the teacher need not live in solitary
isolation, and that the health of the children at school can be looked
after at first hand. Then the nurse shall be at the call of every small
American community--particularly to be available in cases of childbirth,
since in these thinly settled districts it is too often impossible to
obtain the services of a physician, with the result of a high percentage
of fatalities to mothers that should not be tolerated by a wealthy and
progressive people. No American mother, at childbirth, should be denied
the assistance of professional skill, no matter how far she may live
from a physician. And here is where a visiting nurse in every community
can become an institution of inestimable value.
Just about this time a group of Philadelphia physicians, headed by
Doctor Samuel McClintock Hamill, which had formed itself into a hygienic
committee for babies, waited upon Bok to ask him to join them in the
creation of a permanent organization devoted to the welfare of babies
and children. Bok found that he was dealing with a company of
representative physicians, and helped to organize "The Child
Federation," an organization "to do good on a business basis."
It was to go to the heart of the problem of the baby in the congested
districts of Philadelphia, and do a piece of intensive work in the ward
having the highest infant mortality, establishing the first health
centre in the United States actively managed by competent physicians and
nurses. This centre was to demonstrate to the city authorities that the
fearful mortality among babies, particularly in summer, could be
Meanwhile, there was created a "Baby Saving Show," a set of graphic
pictures conveying to the eye methods of sanitation and other too often
disregarded essentials of the wise care and feeding of babies; and this
travelled, like a theatrical attraction, to different parts of the city.
"Little Mothers' Leagues" were organized to teach the little girl of ten
or twelve, so often left in charge of a family of children when the
mother is at work during the day, and demonstrations were given in
various parts of the city.
The Child Federation now undertook one activity after the other. Under
its auspices, the first municipal Christmas tree ever erected in
Philadelphia was shown in the historic Independence Square, and with two
bands of music giving concerts every day from Christmas to New Year's
Day, attracted over two hundred thousand persons. A pavilion was erected
in City Hall Square, the most central spot in the city, and the "Baby
Saving Show" was permanently placed there and visited by over one
hundred thousand visitors from every part of the country on their way to
and from the Pennsylvania Station at Broad Street.
A searching investigation of the Day Nurseries of Philadelphia--probably
one of the most admirable pieces of research work ever made in a
city--changed the methods in vogue and became a standard guide for
similar institutions throughout the country. So successful were the
Little Mothers' Leagues that they were introduced into the public
schools of Philadelphia, and are to-day a regular part of the
curriculum. The Health Centre, its success being proved, was taken over
by the city Board of Health, and three others were established.
To-day The Child Federation is recognized as one of the most practically
conducted child welfare agencies in Philadelphia, and its methods have
been followed by similar organizations all over the country. It is now
rapidly becoming the central medium through which the other agencies in
Philadelphia are working, thus avoiding the duplication of infant
welfare work in the city. Broadening its scope, it is not unlikely to
become one of the greatest indirect influences in the welfare work of
Philadelphia and the vicinity, through which other organizations will be
able to work.
Bok's interest and knowledge in civic matters had now peculiarly
prepared him for a personal adventure into community work. Merion, where
he lived, was one of the most beautiful of the many suburbs that
surround the Quaker City; but, like hundreds of similar communities,
there had been developed in it no civic interest. Some of the most
successful business men of Philadelphia lived in Merion; they had
beautiful estates, which they maintained without regard to expense, but
also without regard to the community as a whole. They were busy men;
they came home tired after a day in the city; they considered themselves
good citizens if they kept their own places sightly, but the idea of
devoting their evenings to the problems of their community had never
occurred to them before the evening when two of Bok's neighbors called
to ask his help in forming a civic association.
A canvass of the sentiment of the neighborhood revealed the unanimous
opinion that the experiment, if attempted, would be a failure,--an
attitude not by any means confined to the residents of Merion! Bok
decided to test it out; he called together twenty of his neighbors, put
the suggestion before them and asked for two thousand dollars as a
start, so that a paid secretary might be engaged, since the men
themselves were too busy to attend to the details of the work. The
amount was immediately subscribed, and in 1913 The Merion Civic
Association applied for a charter and began its existence.
The leading men in the community were elected as a Board of Directors,
and a salaried secretary was engaged to carry out the directions of the
Board. The association adopted the motto: "To be nation right, and State
right, we must first be community right." Three objectives were selected
with which to attract community interest and membership: safety to life,
in the form of proper police protection; safety to property, in the form
of adequate hydrant and fire-engine service; and safety to health, in
careful supervision of the water and milk used in the community.
"The three S's," as they were called, brought an immediate response.
They were practical in their appeal, and members began to come in. The
police force was increased from one officer at night and none in the
day, to three at night and two during the day, and to this the
Association added two special night officers of its own. Private
detectives were intermittently brought in to "check up" and see that the
service was vigilant. A fire hydrant was placed within seven hundred
feet of every house, with the insurance rates reduced from twelve and
one-half to thirty per cent; the services of three fire-engine companies
was arranged for. Fire-gongs were introduced into the community to guard
against danger from interruption of telephone service. The water supply
was chemically analyzed each month and the milk supply carefully
scrutinized. One hundred and fifty new electric-light posts specially
designed, and pronounced by experts as the most beautiful and practical
road lamps ever introduced into any community, were erected, making
Merion the best-lighted community in its vicinity.
At every corner was erected an artistically designed cast-iron road
sign; instead of the unsightly wooden ones, cast-iron automobile
warnings were placed at every dangerous spot; community bulletin-boards,
preventing the display of notices on trees and poles, were placed at the
railroad station; litter-cans were distributed over the entire
community; a new railroad station and postoffice were secured; the
station grounds were laid out as a garden by a landscape architect; new
roads of permanent construction, from curb to curb, were laid down;
uniform tree-planting along the roads was introduced; bird-houses were
made and sold, so as to attract bird-life to the community; toll-gates
were abolished along the two main arteries of travel; the removal of all
telegraph and telephone poles was begun; an efficient Boy Scout troop
was organized, and an American Legion post; the automobile speed limit
was reduced from twenty-four to fifteen miles as a protection to
children; roads were regularly swept, cleaned, and oiled, and uniform
sidewalks advocated and secured.
Within seven years so efficiently had the Association functioned that
its work attracted attention far beyond its own confines and that of
Philadelphia, and caused Theodore Roosevelt voluntarily to select it as
a subject for a special magazine article in which he declared it to
"stand as a model in civic matters." To-day it may be conservatively
said of The Merion Civic Association that it is pointed out as one of
the most successful suburban civic efforts in the country; as Doctor
Lyman Abbott said in The Outlook, it has made "Merion a model suburb,
which may standardize ideal suburban life, certainly for Philadelphia,
possibly for the United States."
When the armistice was signed in November, 1918, the Association
immediately canvassed the neighborhood to erect a suitable Tribute
House, as a memorial to the eighty-three Merion boys who had gone into
the Great War: a public building which would comprise a community
centre, with an American Legion Post room, a Boy Scout house, an
auditorium, and a meeting-place for the civic activities of Merion. A
subscription was raised, and plans were already drawn for the Tribute
House, when Mr. Eldridge R. Johnson, president of the Victor Talking
Machine Company, one of the strong supporters of The Merion Civic
Association, presented his entire estate of twelve acres, the finest in
Merion, to the community, and agreed to build a Tribute House at his own
expense. The grounds represented a gift of two hundred thousand dollars,
and the building a gift of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. This
building, now about to be erected, will be one of the most beautiful and
complete community centres in the United States.
Perhaps no other suburban civic effort proves the efficiency of
community co-operation so well as does the seven years' work of The
Merion Civic Association. It is a practical demonstration of what a
community can do for itself by concerted action. It preached, from the
very start, the gospel of united service; it translated into actual
practice the doctrine of being one's brother's keeper, and it taught the
invaluable habit of collective action. The Association has no legal
powers; it rules solely by persuasion; it accomplishes by the power of
combination; by a spirit of the community for the community.
When The Merion Civic Association was conceived, the spirit of local
pride was seemingly not present in the community. As a matter of fact,
it was there as it is in practically every neighborhood; it was simply
dormant; it had to be awakened, and its value brought vividly to the
XXXII. A Bewildered Bok
One of the misfortunes of Edward Bok's training, which he realized more
clearly as time went on, was that music had little or no place in his
life. His mother did not play; and aside from the fact that his father
and mother were patrons of the opera during their residence in The
Netherlands, the musical atmosphere was lacking in his home. He realized
how welcome an outlet music might be in his now busy life. So what he
lacked himself and realized as a distinct omission in his own life he
decided to make possible for others.
The Ladies' Home Journal began to strike a definite musical note. It
first caught the eye and ear of its public by presenting the popular new
marches by John Philip Sousa; and when the comic opera of "Robin Hood"
became the favorite of the day, it secured all the new compositions by
Reginald de Koven. Following these, it introduced its readers to new
compositions by Sir Arthur Sullivan, Tosti, Moscowski, Richard Strauss,
Paderewski, Josef Hofmann, Edouard Strauss, and Mascagni. Bok induced
Josef Hofmann to give a series of piano lessons in his magazine, and
Madame Marchesi a series of vocal lessons. The Journal introduced its
readers to all the great instrumental and vocal artists of the day
through articles; it offered prizes for the best piano and vocal
compositions; it had the leading critics of New York, Boston, and
Chicago write articles explanatory of orchestral music and how to listen
Bok was early attracted by the abilities of Josef Hofmann. In 1898, he
met the pianist, who was then twenty-two years old. Of his musical
ability Bok could not judge, but he was much impressed by his unusual
mentality, and soon both learned and felt that Hofmann's art was deeply
and firmly rooted. Hofmann had a wider knowledge of affairs than other
musicians whom Bok had met; he had not narrowed his interests to his own
art. He was striving to achieve a position in his art, and, finding that
he had literary ability, Bok asked him to write a reminiscent article on
his famous master, Rubinstein.
This was followed by other articles; the publication of his new mazurka;
still further articles; and then, in 1907, Bok offered him a regular
department in the magazine and a salaried editorship on his staff.
Bok's musical friends and the music critics tried to convince the editor
that Hofmann's art lay not so deep as Bok imagined; that he had been a
child prodigy, and would end where all child prodigies invariably
end--opinions which make curious reading now in view of Hofmann's
commanding position in the world of music. But while Bok lacked musical
knowledge, his instinct led him to adhere to his belief in Hofmann; and
for twelve years, until Bok's retirement as editor, the pianist was a
regular contributor to the magazine. His success was, of course,
unquestioned. He answered hundreds of questions sent him by his readers,
and these answers furnished such valuable advice for piano students that
two volumes were made in book form and are to-day used by piano teachers
and students as authoritative guides.
Meanwhile, Bok's marriage had brought music directly into his domestic
circle. Mrs. Bok loved music, was a pianist herself, and sought to
acquaint her husband with what his former training had omitted. Hofmann
and Bok had become strong friends outside of the editorial relation, and
the pianist frequently visited the Bok home. But it was some time, even
with these influences surrounding him, before music began to play any
real part in Bok's own life.
He attended the opera occasionally; more or less under protest, because
of its length, and because his mind was too practical for the indirect
operatic form. He could not remain patient at a recital; the effort to
listen to one performer for an hour and a half was too severe a tax upon
his restless nature. The Philadelphia Orchestra gave a symphony concert
each Saturday evening, and Bok dreaded the coming of that evening in
each week for fear of being taken to hear music which he was convinced
was "over his head."
Like many men of his practical nature, he had made up his mind on this
point without ever having heard such a concert. The word "symphony" was
enough; it conveyed to him a form of the highest music quite beyond his
comprehension. Then, too, in the back of his mind there was the feeling
that, while he was perfectly willing to offer the best that the musical
world afforded in his magazine, his readers were primarily women, and
the appeal of music, after all, he felt was largely, if not wholly, to
the feminine nature. It was very satisfying to him to hear his wife play
in the evening; but when it came to public concerts, they were not for
his masculine nature. In other words, Bok shared the all too common
masculine notion that music is for women and has little place in the
lives of men.
One day Josef Hofmann gave Bok an entirely new point of view. The artist
was rehearsing in Philadelphia for an appearance with the orchestra, and
the pianist was telling Bok and his wife of the desire of Leopold
Stokowski, who had recently become conductor of the Philadelphia
Orchestra, to eliminate encores from his symphonic programmes; he wanted
to begin the experiment with Hofmann's appearance that week. This was a
novel thought to Bok: why eliminate encores from any concert? If he
liked the way any performer played, he had always done his share to
secure an encore. Why should not the public have an encore if it desired
it, and why should a conductor or a performer object? Hofmann explained
to him the entity of a symphonic programme; that it was made up with one
composition in relation to the others as a sympathetic unit, and that an
encore was an intrusion, disturbing the harmony of the whole.
"I wish you would let Stokowski come out and explain to you what he is
trying to do," said Hofmann. "He knows what he wants, and he is right in
his efforts; but he doesn't know how to educate the public. There is
where you could help him."
But Bok had no desire to meet Stokowski. He mentally pictured the
conductor: long hair; feet never touching the earth; temperament galore;
he knew them! And he had no wish to introduce the type into his home
Mrs. Bok, however, ably seconded Josef Hofmann, and endeavored to
dissipate Bok's preconceived notion, with the result that Stokowksi came
to the Bok home.
Bok was not slow to see that Stokowski was quite the reverse of his
mental picture, and became intensely interested in the youthful
conductor's practical way of looking at things. It was agreed that the
encore "bull" was to be taken by the horns that week; that no matter
what the ovation to Hofmann might be, however the public might clamor,
no encore was to be forthcoming; and Bok was to give the public an
explanation during the following week. The next concert was to present
Mischa Elman, and his co-operation was assured so that continuity of
effort might be counted upon.
In order to have first-hand information, Bok attended the concert that
Saturday evening. The symphony, Dvorak's "New World Symphony," amazed
Bok by its beauty; he was more astonished that he could so easily grasp
any music in symphonic form. He was equally surprised at the simple
beauty of the other numbers on the programme, and wondered not a little
at his own perfectly absorbed attention during Hofmann's playing of a
rather long concerto.
The pianist's performance was so beautiful that the audience was
uproarious in its approval; it had calculated, of course, upon an
encore, and recalled the pianist again and again until he had appeared
and bowed his thanks several times. But there was no encore; the stage
hands appeared and moved the piano to one side, and the audience
relapsed into unsatisfied and rather bewildered silence.
Then followed Bok's publicity work in the newspapers, beginning the next
day, exonerating Hofmann and explaining the situation. The following
week, with Mischa Elman as soloist, the audience once more tried to have
its way and its cherished encore, but again none was forthcoming. Once
more the newspapers explained; the battle was won, and the no-encore
rule has prevailed at the Philadelphia Orchestra concerts from that day
to this, with the public entirely resigned to the idea and satisfied
with the reason therefor.
But the bewildered Bok could not make out exactly what had happened to
his preconceived notion about symphonic music. He attended the following
Saturday evening concert; listened to a Brahms symphony that pleased him
even more than had "The New World," and when, two weeks later, he heard
the Tschaikowski "Pathetique" and later the "Unfinished" symphony, by
Schubert, and a Beethoven symphony, attracted by each in turn, he
realized that his prejudice against the whole question of symphonic
music had been both wrongly conceived and baseless.
He now began to see the possibility of a whole world of beauty which up
to that time had been closed to him, and he made up his mind that he
would enter it. Somehow or other, he found the appeal of music did not
confine itself to women; it seemed to have a message for men. Then, too,
instead of dreading the approach of Saturday evenings, he was looking
forward to them, and invariably so arranged his engagements that they
might not interfere with his attendance at the orchestra concerts.
After a busy week, he discovered that nothing he had ever experienced
served to quiet him so much as these end-of-the-week concerts. They were
not too long, an hour and a half at the utmost; and, above all, except
now and then, when the conductor would take a flight into the world of
Bach, he found he followed him with at least a moderate degree of
intelligence; certainly with personal pleasure and inner satisfaction.
Bok concluded he would not read the articles he had published on the
meaning of the different "sections" of a symphony orchestra, or the
books issued on that subject. He would try to solve the mechanism of an
orchestra for himself, and ascertain as he went along the relation that
each portion bore to the other. When, therefore, in 1913, the president
of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association asked him to become a member
of its Board of Directors, his acceptance was a natural step in the
gradual development of his interest in orchestral music.
The public support given to orchestras now greatly interested Bok. He
was surprised to find that every symphony orchestra had a yearly
deficit. This he immediately attributed to faulty management; but on
investigating the whole question he learned that a symphony orchestra
could not possibly operate, at a profit or even on a self-sustaining
basis, because of its weekly change of programme, the incessant
rehearsals required, and the limited number of times it could actually
play within a contracted season. An annual deficit was inevitable.
He found that the Philadelphia Orchestra had a small but faithful group
of guarantors who each year made good the deficit in addition to paying
for its concert seats. This did not seem to Bok a sound business plan;
it made of the orchestra a necessarily exclusive organization,
maintained by a few; and it gave out this impression to the general
public, which felt that it did not "belong," whereas the true relation
of public and orchestra was that of mutual dependence. Other orchestras,
he found, as, for example, the Boston Symphony and the New York
Philharmonic had their deficits met by one individual patron in each
case. This, to Bok's mind, was an even worse system, since it entirely
excluded the public, making the orchestra dependent on the continued
interest and life of a single man.
In 1916 Bok sought Mr. Alexander Van Rensselaer, the president of the
Philadelphia Orchestra Association, and proposed that he, himself,
should guarantee the deficit of the orchestra for five years, provided
that during that period an endowment fund should be raised, contributed
by a large number of subscribers, and sufficient in amount to meet, from
its interest, the annual deficit. It was agreed that the donor should
remain in strict anonymity, an understanding which has been adhered to
until the present writing.
The offer from the "anonymous donor," presented by the president, was
accepted by the Orchestra Association. A subscription to an endowment
fund was shortly afterward begun; and the amount had been brought to
eight hundred thousand dollars when the Great War interrupted any
further additions. In the autumn of 1919, however, a city-wide campaign
for an addition of one million dollars to the endowment fund was
launched. The amount was not only secured, but over-subscribed. Thus,
instead of a guarantee fund, contributed by thirteen hundred
subscribers, with the necessity for annual collection, an endowment fund
of one million eight hundred thousand dollars, contributed by fourteen
thousand subscribers, has been secured; and the Philadelphia Orchestra
has been promoted from a privately maintained organization to a public
institution in which fourteen thousand residents of Philadelphia feel a
proprietary interest. It has become in fact, as well as in name, "our
XXXIII. How Millions of People Are Reached
The success of The Ladies' Home Journal went steadily forward. The
circulation had passed the previously unheard-of figure for a monthly
magazine of a million and a half copies per month; it had now touched a
million and three-quarters.
And not only was the figure so high, but the circulation itself was
absolutely free from "water." The public could not obtain the magazine
through what are known as clubbing-rates, since no subscriber was
permitted to include any other magazine with it; years ago it had
abandoned the practice of offering premiums or consideration of any kind
to induce subscriptions; and the newsdealers were not allowed to return
unsold copies of the periodical. Hence every copy was either purchased
by the public at the full price at a newsstand, or subscribed for at its
stated subscription price. It was, in short, an authoritative
circulation. And on every hand the question was being asked: "How is it
done? How is such a high circulation obtained?"
Bok's invariable answer was that he gave his readers the very best of
the class of reading that he believed would interest them, and that he
spared neither effort nor expense to obtain it for them. When Mr.
Howells once asked him how he classified his audience, Bok replied: "We
appeal to the intelligent American woman rather than to the intellectual
type." And he gave her the best he could obtain. As he knew her to be
fond of the personal type of literature, he gave her in succession Jane
Addams's story of "My Fifteen Years at Hull House," and the remarkable
narration of Helen Keller's "Story of My Life"; he invited Henry Van
Dyke, who had never been in the Holy Land, to go there, camp out in a
tent, and then write a series of sketches, "Out of Doors in the Holy
Land"; he induced Lyman Abbott to tell the story of "My Fifty Years as a
Minister." He asked Gene Stratton Porter to tell of her bird-experiences
in the series: "What I Have Done with Birds"; he persuaded Dean Hodges
to turn from his work of training young clergymen at the Episcopal
Seminary, at Cambridge, and write one of the most successful series of
Bible stories for children ever printed; and then he supplemented this
feature for children by publishing Rudyard Kipling's "Just So" stories
and his "Puck of Pook's Hill." He induced F. Hopkinson Smith to tell the
best stories he had ever heard in his wide travels in "The Man in the
Arm Chair"; he got Kate Douglas Wiggin to tell a country church
experience of hers in "The Old Peabody Pew"; and Jean Webster her
knowledge of almshouse life in "Daddy Long Legs."
The readers of The Ladies' Home Journal realized that it searched the
whole field of endeavor in literature and art to secure what would
interest them, and they responded with their support.
Another of Bok's methods in editing was to do the common thing in an
uncommon way. He had the faculty of putting old wine in new bottles and
the public liked it. His ideas were not new; he knew there were no new
ideas, but he presented his ideas in such a way that they seemed new. It
is a significant fact, too, that a large public will respond more
quickly to an idea than it will to a name.
This The Ladies' Home Journal proved again and again. Its most
pronounced successes, from the point of view of circulation, were those
in which the idea was the sole and central appeal. For instance, when it
gave American women an opportunity to look into a hundred homes and see
how they were furnished, it added a hundred thousand copies to the
circulation. There was nothing new in publishing pictures of rooms and,
had it merely done this, it is questionable whether success would have
followed the effort. It was the way in which it was done. The note
struck entered into the feminine desire, reflected it, piqued curiosity,
and won success.
Again, when The Journal decided to show good taste and bad taste in
furniture, in comparative pictures, another hundred thousand circulation
came to it. There was certainly nothing new in the comparative idea; but
applied to a question of taste, which could not be explained so clearly
in words, it seemed new.
Had it simply presented masterpieces of art as such, the series might
have attracted little attention. But when it announced that these
masterpieces had always been kept in private galleries, and seen only by
the favored few; that the public had never been allowed to get any
closer to them than to read of the fabulous prices paid by their
millionaire owners; and that now the magazine would open the doors of
those exclusive galleries and let the public in--public curiosity was at
once piqued, and over one hundred and fifty thousand persons who had
never before bought the magazine were added to the list.
In not one of these instances, nor in the case of other successful
series, did the appeal to the public depend upon the names of
contributors; there were none: it was the idea which the public liked
and to which it responded.
The editorial Edward Bok enjoyed this hugely; the real Edward Bok did
not. The one was bottled up in the other. It was a case of absolute
self-effacement. The man behind the editor knew that if he followed his
own personal tastes and expressed them in his magazine, a limited
audience would be his instead of the enormous clientele that he was now
reaching. It was the man behind the editor who had sought expression in
the idea of Country Life, the magazine which his company sold to
Doubleday, Page & Company, and which he would personally have enjoyed
It was in 1913 that the real Edward Bok, bottled up for twenty-five
years, again came to the surface. The majority stockholders of The
Century Magazine wanted to dispose of their interest in the periodical.
Overtures were made to The Curtis Publishing Company, but its hands were
full, and the matter was presented for Bok's personal consideration. The
idea interested him, as he saw in The Century a chance for his
self-expression. He entered into negotiations, looked carefully into the
property itself and over the field which such a magazine might fill,
decided to buy it, and install an active editor while he, as a close
adviser, served as the propelling power.
Bok figured out that there was room for one of the trio of what was, and
still is, called the standard-sized magazines, namely Scribner's,
Harper's, and The Century. He believed, as he does to-day, that any one
of these magazines could be so edited as to preserve all its traditions
and yet be so ingrafted with the new progressive, modern spirit as to
dominate the field and constitute itself the leader in that particular
group. He believed that there was a field which would produce a
circulation in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million copies a month
for one of those magazines, so that it would be considered not, as now,
one of three, but the one.
What Bok saw in the possibilities of the standard illustrated magazine
has been excellently carried out by Mr. Ellery Sedgwick in The Atlantic
Monthly; every tradition has been respected, and yet the new progressive
note introduced has given it a position and a circulation never before
attained by a non-illustrated magazine of the highest class.
As Bok studied the field, his confidence in the proposition, as he saw
it, grew. For his own amusement, he made up some six issues of The
Century as he visualized it, and saw that the articles he had included
were all obtainable. He selected a business manager and publisher who
would relieve him of the manufacturing problems; but before the contract
was actually closed Bok, naturally, wanted to consult Mr. Curtis, who
was just returning from abroad, as to this proposed sharing of his
For one man to edit two magazines inevitably meant a distribution of
effort, and this Mr. Curtis counselled against. He did not believe that
any man could successfully serve two masters; it would also mean a
division of public association; it might result in Bok's physical
undoing, as already he was overworked. Mr. Curtis's arguments, of
course, prevailed; the negotiations were immediately called off, and for
the second time--for some wise reason, undoubtedly--the real Edward Bok
was subdued. He went back into the bottle!
A cardinal point in Edward Bok's code of editing was not to commit his
magazine to unwritten material, or to accept and print articles or
stories simply because they were the work of well-known persons. And as
his acquaintance with authors multiplied, he found that the greater the
man the more willing he was that his work should stand or fall on its
merit, and that the editor should retain his prerogative of
declination--if he deemed it wise to exercise it.
Rudyard Kipling was, and is, a notable example of this broad and just
policy. His work is never imposed upon an editor; it is invariably
submitted, in its completed form, for acceptance or declination. "Wait
until it's done," said Kipling once to Bok as he outlined a story to him
which the editor liked, "and see whether you want it. You can't tell
until then." (What a difference from the type of author who insists that
an editor must take his or her story before a line is written!)
"I told Watt to send you," he writes to Bok, "the first four of my child
stories (you see I hadn't forgotten my promise), and they may serve to
amuse you for a while personally, even if you don't use them for
publication. Frankly, I don't myself see how they can be used for the L.
H. J.; but they're part of a scheme of mine for trying to give children
not a notion of history, but a notion of the time sense which is at the
bottom of all knowledge of history; and history, rightly understood,
means the love of one's fellow-men and the land one lives in."
James Whitcomb Riley was another who believed that an editor should have
the privilege of saying "No" if he so elected. When Riley was writing a
series of poems for Bok, the latter, not liking a poem which the Hoosier
poet sent him, returned it to him. He wondered how Riley would receive a
declination--naturally a rare experience. But his immediate answer
settled the question:
"Thanks equally for your treatment of both poems, [he wrote], the one
accepted and the other returned. Maintain your own opinions and respect,
and my vigorous esteem for you shall remain 'deep-rooted in the fruitful
soil.' No occasion for apology whatever. In my opinion, you are wrong;
in your opinion, you are right; therefore, you are right,--at least
righter than wronger. It is seldom that I drop other work for logic, but
when I do, as my grandfather was wont to sturdily remark, 'it is to some
purpose, I can promise you.'
"Am goin' to try mighty hard to send you the dialect work you've so long
wanted; in few weeks at furthest. 'Patience and shuffle the cards.'
"I am really, just now, stark and bare of one commonsence idea. In the
writing line, I was never so involved before and see no end to the
ink-(an humorous voluntary provocative, I trust of much
merriment)-creasing pressure of it all.
"Even the hope of waking to find myself famous is denied me, since I
haven't time in which to fall asleep. Therefore, very drowsily and
yawningly indeed, I am your
"James Whitcomb Riley."
Neither did the President of the United States consider himself above a
possible declination of his material if it seemed advisable to the
editor. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson wrote to Bok:
"Sometime ago you kindly intimated to me that you would like to publish
an article from me. At first, it seemed impossible for me to undertake
anything of the kind, but I have found a little interval in which I have
written something on Mexico which I hope you will think worthy of
publication. If not, will you return it to me?"
The President, too, acted as an intermediary in turning authors in Bok's
direction, when the way opened. In a letter written not on the official
White House letterhead, but on his personal "up-stairs" stationery, as
it is called, he asks:
"Will you do me the favor of reading the enclosed to see if it is worthy
of your acceptance for the Journal, or whether you think it indicates
that the writer, with a few directions and suggestions, might be useful
"It was written by --. She is a woman of great refinement, of a very
unusually broad social experience, and of many exceptional gifts, who
thoroughly knows what she is writing about, whether she has yet
discovered the best way to set it forth or not. She is one of the most
gifted and resourceful hostesses I have known, but has now fallen upon
"Among other things that she really knows, she really does thoroughly
know old furniture and all kinds of china worth knowing.
"Pardon me if I have been guilty of an indiscretion in sending this
direct to you. I am throwing myself upon your indulgence in my desire to
help a splendid woman.
"She has a great collection of recipes which housekeepers would like to
have. Does a serial cook-book sound like nonsense?"
A further point in his editing which Bok always kept in view was his
rule that the editor must always be given the privilege of revising or
editing a manuscript. Bok's invariable rule was, of course, to submit
his editing for approval, but here again the bigger the personality back
of the material, the more willing the author was to have his manuscript
"blue pencilled," if he were convinced that the deletions or
condensations improved or at least did not detract from his arguments.
It was the small author who ever resented the touch of the editorial
pencil upon his precious effusions.
As a matter of fact there are few authors who cannot be edited with
advantage, and it would be infinitely better for our reading if this
truth was applied to some of the literature of to-day.
Bok had once under his hand a story by Mark Twain, which he believed
contained passages that should be deleted. They represented a goodly
portion of the manuscript. They were, however, taken out, and the result
submitted to the humorist. The answer was curious. Twain evidently saw
that Bok was right, for he wrote: "Of course, I want every single line
and word of it left out," and then added: "Do me the favor to call the
next time you are again in Hartford. I want to say things which--well, I
want to argue with you." Bok never knew what those "things" were, for at
the next meeting they were not referred to.
It is, perhaps, a curious coincidence that all the Presidents of the
United States whose work Bok had occasion to publish were uniformly
liberal with regard to having their material edited.
Colonel Roosevelt was always ready to concede improvement: "Fine," he
wrote; "the changes are much for the better. I never object to my work
being improved, where it needs it, so long as the sense is not altered."
William Howard Taft wrote, after being subjected to editorial revision:
"You have done very well by my article. You have made it much more
readable by your rearrangement."
Mr. Cleveland was very likely to let his interest in a subject run
counter to the space exigencies of journalism; and Bok, in one instance,
had to reduce one of his articles considerably. He explained the reason
and enclosed the revision.
"I am entirely willing to have the article cut down as you suggest,"
wrote the former President. "I find sufficient reason for this in the
fact that the matter you suggest for elimination has been largely
exploited lately. And in looking the matter over carefully, I am
inclined to think that the article expurgated as you suggest will gain
in unity and directness. At first, I feared it would appear a little
'bobbed' off, but you are a much better judge of that than I. ... I
leave it altogether to you."
It was always interesting to Bok, as a study of mental processes, to
note how differently he and some author with whom he would talk it over
would see the method of treating some theme. He was discussing the
growing unrest among American women with Rudyard Kipling at the latter's
English home; and expressed the desire that the novelist should treat
the subject and its causes.
They talked until the early hours, when it was agreed that each should
write out a plan, suggest the best treatment, and come together the next
morning. When they did so, Kipling had mapped out the scenario of a
novel; Bok had sketched out the headings of a series of analytical
articles. Neither one could see the other's viewpoint, Kipling
contending for the greater power of fiction and Bok strongly arguing for
the value of the direct essay. In this instance, the point was never
settled, for the work failed to materialize in any form!
If the readers of The Ladies' Home Journal were quick to support its
editor when he presented an idea that appealed to them, they were
equally quick to tell him when he gave them something of which they did
not approve. An illustration of this occurred during the dance-craze
that preceded the Great War. In 1914, America was dance-mad, and the
character of the dances rapidly grew more and more offensive. Bok's
readers, by the hundreds, urged him to come out against the tendency.
The editor looked around and found that the country's terpsichorean
idols were Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle; he decided that, with their
cooperation, he might, by thus going to the fountainhead, effect an
improvement through the introduction, by the Castles, of better and more
decorous new dances. Bok could see no reason why the people should not
dance, if they wanted to, so long as they kept within the bounds of
He found the Castles willing and eager to cooperate, not only because of
the publicity it would mean for them, but because they were themselves
not in favor of the new mode. They had little sympathy for the
elimination of the graceful dance by the introduction of what they
called the "shuffle" or the "bunny-hug," "turkey-trot," and other
ungraceful and unworthy dances. It was decided that the Castles should,
through Bok's magazine and their own public exhibitions, revive the
gavotte, the polka, and finally the waltz. They would evolve these into
new forms and Bok would present them pictorially. A series of three
double-page presentations was decided upon, allowing for large
photographs so that the steps could be easily seen and learned from the
The magazine containing the first "lesson" was no sooner published than
protests began to come in by the hundreds. Bok had not stated his
object, and the public misconstrued his effort and purpose into an
acknowledgment that he had fallen a victim to the prevailing craze. He
explained in letters, but to no purpose. Try as he might, Bok could not
rid the pages of the savor of the cabaret. He published the three dances
as agreed, but he realized he had made a mistake, and was as much
disgusted as were his readers. Nor did he, in the slightest degree,
improve the dance situation. The public refused to try the new Castle
dances, and kept on turkey-trotting and bunny-hugging.
The Ladies' Home Journal followed the Castle lessons with a series of
the most beautiful dances of Madam Pavlowa, the Russian dancer, hoping
to remove the unfavorable impression of the former series. But it was
only partially successful. Bok had made a mistake in recognizing the
craze at all; he should have ignored it, as he had so often in the past
ignored other temporary, superficial hysterics of the public. The
Journal readers knew the magazine had made a mistake and frankly said
Which shows that, even after having been for over twenty-five years in
the editorial chair, Edward Bok was by no means infallible in his
judgment of what the public wanted or would accept.
No man is, for that matter.
XXXIV. A War Magazine and War Activities
When, early in 1917, events began so to shape themselves as directly to
point to the entrance of the United States into the Great War, Edward
Bok set himself to formulate a policy for The Ladies' Home Journal. He
knew that he was in an almost insurmountably difficult position. The
huge edition necessitated going to press fully six weeks in advance of
publication, and the preparation of material fully four weeks previous
to that. He could not, therefore, get much closer than ten weeks to the
date when his readers received the magazine. And he knew that events, in
war time, had a way of moving rapidly.
Late in January he went to Washington, consulted those authorities who
could indicate possibilities to him better than any one else, and found,
as he had suspected, that the entry of the United States into the war
was a practical certainty; it was only a question of time.
Bok went South for a month's holiday to get ready for the fray, and in
the saddle and on the golf links he formulated a policy. The newspapers
and weeklies would send innumerable correspondents to the front, and
obviously, with the necessity for going to press so far in advance, The
Journal could not compete with them. They would depict every activity in
the field. There was but one logical thing for him to do: ignore the
"front" entirely, refuse all the offers of correspondents, men and
women, who wanted to go with the armies for his magazine, and cover
fully and practically the results of the war as they would affect the
women left behind. He went carefully over the ground to see what these
would be, along what particular lines women's activities would be most
likely to go, and then went home and back to Washington.
It was now March. He conferred with the President, had his fears
confirmed, and offered all the resources of his magazine to the
government. His diagnosis of the situation was verified in every detail
by the authorities whom he consulted. The Ladies' Home Journal could
best serve by keeping up the morale at home and by helping to meet the
problems that would confront the women; as the President said: "Give
help in the second line of defense."
A year before, Bok had opened a separate editorial office in Washington
and had secured Dudley Harmon, the Washington correspondent for The New
York Sun, as his editor-in-charge. The purpose was to bring the women of
the country into a clearer understanding of their government and a
closer relation with it. This work had been so successful as to
necessitate a force of four offices and twenty stenographers. Bok now
placed this Washington office on a war-basis, bringing it into close
relation with every department of the government that would be connected
with the war activities. By this means, he had an editor and an
organized force on the spot, devoting full time to the preparation of
war material, with Mr. Harmon in daily conference with the department
chiefs to secure the newest developments.
Bok learned that the country's first act would be to recruit for the
navy, so as to get this branch of the service into a state of
preparedness. He therefore secured Franklin D. Roosevelt, assistant
secretary of the navy, to write an article explaining to mothers why
they should let their boys volunteer for the Navy and what it would mean
He made arrangements at the American Red Cross Headquarters for an
official department to begin at once in the magazine, telling women the
first steps that would be taken by the Red Cross and how they could
help. He secured former President William Howard Taft, as chairman of
the Central Committee of the Red Cross, for the editor of this
He cabled to Viscount Northcliffe and Ian Hay for articles showing what
the English women had done at the outbreak of the war, the mistakes they
had made, what errors the American women should avoid, the right lines
along which English women had worked and how their American sisters
could adapt these methods to transatlantic conditions.
And so it happened that when the first war issue of The Journal appeared
on April 20th, only three weeks after the President's declaration, it
was the only monthly that recognized the existence of war, and its pages
had already begun to indicate practical lines along which women could
The President planned to bring the Y. M. C. A. into the service by
making it a war-work body, and Bok immediately made arrangements for a
page to appear each month under the editorship of John R. Mott, general
secretary of the International Y. M. C. A. Committee.
The editor had been told that the question of food would come to be of
paramount importance; he knew that Herbert Hoover had been asked to
return to America as soon as he could close his work abroad, and he
cabled over to his English representative to arrange that the proposed
Food Administrator should know, at first hand, of the magazine and its
possibilities for the furtherance of the proposed Food Administration
The Food Administration was no sooner organized than Bok made
arrangements for an authoritative department to be conducted in his
magazine, reflecting the plans and desires of the Food Administration,
and Herbert Hoover's first public declaration as food administrator to
the women of America was published in The Ladies' Home Journal. Bok now
placed all the resources of his four-color press-work at Mr. Hoover's
disposal; and the Food Administration's domestic experts, in conjunction
with the full culinary staff of the magazine, prepared the new war
dishes and presented them appetizingly in full colors under the personal
endorsement of Mr. Hoover and the Food Administration. From six to
sixteen articles per month were now coming from Mr. Hoover's department
The Department of Agriculture was laid under contribution by the
magazine for the best ideas for the raising of food from the soil in the
creation of war-gardens.
Doctor Anna Howard Shaw had been appointed chairman of the National
Committee of the Women's Council of National Defence, and Bok arranged
at once with her that she should edit a department page in his magazine,
setting forth the plans of the committee and how the women of America
could co-operate therewith.
The magazine had thus practically become the semiofficial mouthpiece of
all the various government war bureaus and war-work bodies. James A.
Flaherty, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, explained the
proposed work of that body; Commander Evangeline Booth presented the
plans of the Salvation Army, and Mrs. Robert E. Speer, president of the
National Board of the Young Women's Christian Association, reflected the
activities of her organization; while the President's daughter, Miss
Margaret Wilson, discussed her work for the opening of all schoolhouses
as community war-centres.
The magazine reflected in full-color pictures the life and activities of
the boys in the American camps, and William C. Gorgas, surgeon-general
of the United States, was the spokesman in the magazine for the health
of the boys.
Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo interpreted the first Liberty Loan
"drive" to the women; the President of the United States, in a special
message to women, wrote in behalf of the subsequent Loan; Bernard
Baruch, as chairman of the War Industries Board, made clear the need for
war-time thrift; the recalled ambassador to Germany, James W. Gerard,
told of the ingenious plans resorted to by German women which American
women could profitably copy; and Elizabeth, Queen of the Belgians,
explained the plight of the babies and children of Belgium, and made a
plea to the women of the magazine to help. So straight to the point did
the Queen write, and so well did she present her case that within six
months there had been sent to her, through The Ladies' Home Journal, two
hundred and forty-eight thousand cans of condensed milk, seventy-two
thousand cans of pork and beans, five thousand cans of infants' prepared
food, eighty thousand cans of beef soup, and nearly four thousand
bushels of wheat, purchased with the money donated by the magazine
On the coming of the coal question, the magazine immediately reflected
the findings and recommendations of the Fuel Administration, and Doctor
H. A. Garfield, as fuel administrator, placed the material of his Bureau
at the disposal of the magazine's Washington editor.
The Committee on Public Information now sought the magazine for the
issuance of a series of official announcements explanatory of matters to
When the "meatless" and the "wheatless" days were inaugurated, the women
of America found that the magazine had anticipated their coming; and the
issue appearing on the first of these days, as publicly announced by the
Food Administration, presented pages of substitutes in full colors.
Of course, miscellaneous articles on the war there were, without number.
Before the war was ended, the magazine did send a representative to the
front in Catherine Van Dyke, who did most effective work for the
magazine in articles of a general nature. The fullpage battle pictures,
painted from data furnished by those who took actual part, were
universally commended and exhausted even the largest editions that could
be printed. A source of continual astonishment was the number of copies
of the magazine found among the boys in France; it became the third in
the official War Department list of the most desired American
periodicals, evidently representing a tie between the boys and their
home folks. But all these "war" features, while appreciated and
desirable, were, after all, but a side-issue to the more practical
economic work of the magazine. It was in this service that the magazine
excelled, it was for this reason that the women at home so eagerly
bought it, and that it was impossible to supply each month the editions
called for by the extraordinary demand.
Considering the difficulties to be surmounted, due to the advance
preparation of material, and considering that, at the best, most of its
advance information, even by the highest authorities, could only be in
the nature of surmise, the comprehensive manner in which The Ladies'
Home Journal covered every activity of women during the Great War, will
always remain one of the magazine's most noteworthy achievements. This
can be said without reserve here, since the credit is due to no single
person; it was the combined, careful work of its entire staff, weighing
every step before it was taken, looking as clearly into the future as
circumstances made possible, and always seeking the most authoritative
sources of information.
Bok merely directed. Each month, before his magazine went to press, he
sought counsel and vision from at least one of three of the highest
sources; and upon this guidance, as authoritative as anything could be
in times of war when no human vision can actually foretell what the next
day will bring forth, he acted. The result, as one now looks back upon
it, was truly amazing; an uncanny timeliness would often color material
on publication day. Of course, much of this was due to the close
government co-operation, so generously and painstakingly given.
With the establishment of the various war boards in Washington, Bok
received overtures to associate himself exclusively with them and move
to the capital. He sought the best advice and with his own instincts
pointing in the same way, he decided that he could give his fullest
service by retaining his editorial position and adding to that such
activities as his leisure allowed. He undertook several private
commissions for the United States Government, and then he was elected
vice-president of the Philadelphia Belgian Relief Commission.
With the Belgian consul-general for the United States, Mr. Paul
Hagemans, as the president of the Commission, and guided by his intimate
knowledge of the Belgian people, Bok selected a committee of the ablest
buyers and merchants in the special lines of foods which he would have
to handle. The Commission raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, with
which it purchased foods and chartered ships. The quantities of food ran
into prodigious figures; Bok felt that he was feeding the world; and yet
when the holds of the ships began to take in the thousands of crates of
canned goods, the bags of peas and beans, and the endless tins of
condensed milk, it was amazing how the piled-up boxes melted from the
piers and the ship-holds yawned for more. Flour was sent in seemingly
endless hundreds of barrels.
Each line of goods was bought by a specialist on the Committee at the
lowest quantity prices; and the result was that the succession of ships
leaving the port of Philadelphia was a credit to the generosity of the
people of the city and the commonwealth. The Commission delegated one of
its members to go to Belgium and personally see that the food actually
reached the needy Belgian people.
In September, 1917, word was received from John R. Mott that Bok had
been appointed State chairman for the Y. M. C. A. War Work Council for
Pennsylvania; that a country-wide campaign for twenty-five million
dollars would be launched six weeks hence, and that Pennsylvania's quota
was three millions of dollars. He was to set up an organization
throughout the State, conduct the drive from Philadelphia, speak at
various centres in Pennsylvania, and secure the allocated quota. Bok
knew little or nothing about the work of the Y. M. C. A.; he accordingly
went to New York headquarters and familiarized himself with the work
being done and proposed; and then began to set up his State machinery.
The drive came off as scheduled, Pennsylvania doubled its quota,
subscribing six instead of three millions of dollars, and of this was
collected five million eight hundred and twenty-nine thousand
dollars--almost one hundred per cent.
Bok, who was now put on the National War Work Council of the Y. M. C. A.
at New York, was asked to take part in the creation of the machinery
necessary for the gigantic piece of work that the organization had been
called upon by the President of the United States to do. It was a
herculean task; practically impossible with any large degree of
efficiency in view of the almost insurmountable obstacles to be
contended with. But step by step the imperfect machinery was set up, and
it began to function in the home camps. Then the overseas work was
introduced by the first troops going to France, and the difficulties
increased a hundredfold.
But Bok's knowledge of the workings of the government departments at
Washington, the war boards, and the other war-work organizations soon
convinced him that the Y. M. C. A. was not the only body, asked to set
up an organization almost overnight, that was staggering under its load
and falling down as often as it was functioning.
The need for Y. M. C. A. secretaries overseas and in the camps soon
became acute, and Bok was appointed chairman of the Philadelphia
Recruiting Committee. As in the case of his Belgian relief work, he at
once surrounded himself with an able committee: this time composed of
business and professional men trained in a knowledge of human nature in
the large, and of wide acquaintance in the city. Simultaneously, Bok
secured the release of one of the ablest men in the Y. M. C. A. service
in New York, Edward S. Wilkinson, who became the permanent secretary of
the Philadelphia Committee. Bok organized a separate committee composed
of automobile manufacturers to recruit for chauffeurs and mechanicians;
another separate committee recruited for physical directors, and later a
third committee recruited for women.
The work was difficult because the field of selection was limited. No
men between the military ages could be recruited; the War Boards at
Washington had drawn heavily upon the best men of the city; the
slightest physical defect barred out a man, on account of the exposure
and strain of the Y. M. C. A. work; the residue was not large.
It was scarcely to be wondered at that so many incompetent secretaries
had been passed and sent over to France. How could it have been
otherwise with the restricted selection? But the Philadelphia Committee
was determined, nevertheless, that its men should be of the best, and it
decided that to get a hundred men of unquestioned ability would be to do
a greater job than to send over two hundred men of indifferent quality.
The Committee felt that enough good men were still in Philadelphia and
the vicinity, if they could be pried loose from their business and home
anchorages, and that it was rather a question of incessant work than an
Bok took large advertising spaces in the Philadelphia newspapers, asking
for men of exceptional character to go to France in the service of the
Y. M. C. A.; and members of the Committee spoke before the different
commercial bodies at their noon luncheons. The applicants now began to
come, and the Committee began its discriminating selection. Each
applicant was carefully questioned by the secretary before he appeared
before the Committee, which held sittings twice a week. Hence of over
twenty-five hundred applicants, only three hundred appeared before the
Committee, of whom two hundred and fifty-eight were passed and sent
The Committee's work was exceptionally successful; it soon proved of so
excellent a quality as to elicit a cabled request from Paris
headquarters to send more men of the Philadelphia type. The secret of
this lay in the sterling personnel of the Committee itself, and its
interpretation of the standards required; and so well did it work that
when Bok left for the front to be absent from Philadelphia for ten
weeks, his Committee, with Thomas W. Hulme, of the Pennsylvania
Railroad, acting as Chairman, did some of its best work.
The after-results, according to the report of the New York headquarters,
showed that no Y. M. C. A. recruiting committee had equalled the work of
the Philadelphia committee in that its men, in point of service, had
proved one hundred per cent secretaries. With two exceptions, the entire
two hundred and fifty-eight men passed, brought back one hundred per
cent records, some of them having been placed in the most important
posts abroad and having given the most difficult service. The work of
the other Philadelphia committees, particularly that of the Women's
Committee, was equally good.
To do away with the multiplicity of "drives," rapidly becoming a drain
upon the efforts of the men engaged in them, a War Chest Committee was
now formed in Philadelphia and vicinity to collect money for all the
war-work agencies. Bok was made a member of the Executive Committee, and
chairman of the Publicity Committee. In May, 1918, a campaign for twenty
millions of dollars was started; the amount was subscribed, and although
much of it had to be collected after the armistice, since the
subscriptions were in twelve monthly payments, a total of fifteen and a
half million dollars was paid in and turned over to the different
Bok, who had been appointed one of the Boy Scout commissioners in his
home district of Merion, saw the possibilities of the Boy Scouts in the
Liberty Loan and other campaigns. Working in co-operation with the other
commissioners, and the scoutmaster of the Merion Troop, Bok supported
the boys in their work in each campaign as it came along. Although there
were in the troop only nine boys, in ages ranging from twelve to
fourteen years--Bok's younger son was one of them--so effectively did
these youngsters work under the inspiration of the scoutmaster, Thomas
Dun Belfield, that they soon attracted general attention and acquired
distinction as one of the most efficient troops in the vicinity of
Philadelphia. They won nearly all the prizes offered in their vicinity,
and elicited the special approval of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Although only "gleaners" in most of the campaigns--that is, working only
in the last three days after the regular committees had scoured the
neighborhood--these Merion Boy Scouts sold over one million four hundred
thousand dollars in Liberty Bonds, and raised enough money in the Y. M.
C. A. campaign to erect one of the largest huts in France for the army
boys, and a Y. M. C. A. gymnasium at the League Island Navy Yard
accommodating two thousand sailor-boys.
In the summer of 1918, the eight leading war-work agencies, excepting
the Red Cross, were merged, for the purpose of one drive for funds, into
the United War Work Campaign, and Bok was made chairman for
Pennsylvania. In November a country-wide campaign was launched, the
quota for Pennsylvania being twenty millions of dollars--the largest
amount ever asked of the commonwealth. Bok organized a committee of the
representative men of Pennsylvania, and proceeded to set up the
machinery to secure the huge sum. He had no sooner done this, however,
than he had to sail for France, returning only a month before the
beginning of the campaign.
But the efficient committee had done its work; upon his return Bok found
the organization complete. On the first day of the campaign, the false
rumor that an armistice had been signed made the raising of the large
amount seem almost hopeless; furthermore, owing to the influenza raging
throughout the commonwealth, no public meetings had been permitted or
held. Still, despite all these obstacles, not only was the twenty
millions subscribed but oversubscribed to the extent of nearly a million
dollars; and in face of the fact that every penny of this large total
had to be collected after the signing of the armistice, twenty millions
of dollars was paid in and turned over to the war agencies.
It is indeed a question whether any single war act on the part of the
people of Pennsylvania redounds so highly to their credit as this
marvellous evidence of patriotic generosity. It was one form of
patriotism to subscribe so huge a sum while the war was on and the guns
were firing; it was quite another and a higher patriotism to subscribe
and pay such a sum after the war was over!
Bok's position as State chairman of the United War Work Campaign made it
necessary for him to follow authoritatively and closely the work of each
of the eight different organizations represented in the fund. Because he
felt he had to know what the Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army,
the Y. W. C. A., and the others were doing with the money he had been
instrumental in collecting, and for which he felt, as chairman,
responsible to the people of Pennsylvania, he learned to know their work
just as thoroughly as he knew what the Y. M. C. A. was doing.
He had now seen and come into personal knowledge of the work of the Y.
M. C. A. from his Philadelphia point of vantage, with his official
connection with it at New York headquarters; he had seen the work as it
was done in the London and Paris headquarters; and he had seen the
actual work in the American camps, the English rest-camps, back of the
French lines, in the trenches, and as near the firing-line as he had
been permitted to go.
He had, in short, seen the Y. M. C. A. function from every angle, but he
had also seen the work of the other organizations in England and France,
back of the lines and in the trenches. He found them all
faulty--necessarily so. Each had endeavored to create an organization
within an incredibly short space of time and in the face of adverse
circumstances. Bok saw at once that the charge that the Y. M. C. A. was
"falling down" in its work was as false as that the Salvation Army was
doing "a marvellous work" and that the K. of C. was "efficient where
others were incompetent," and that the Y. W. C. A. was "nowhere to be
The Salvation Army was unquestionably doing an excellent piece of work
within a most limited area; it could not be on a wider scale, when one
considered the limited personnel it had at its command. The work of the
K. of C. was not a particle more or less efficient than the work of the
other organizations. What it did, it strove to do well, but so did the
others. The Y. W. C. A. made little claim about its work in France,
since the United States Government would not, until nearly at the close
of the war, allow women to be sent over in the uniforms of any of the
war-work organizations. But no one can gainsay for a single moment the
efficient service rendered by the Y. W. C. A. in its hostess-house work
in the American camps; that work alone would have entitled it to the
support of the American people. That of the Y. M. C. A. was on so large
a scale that naturally its inefficiency was often in proportion to its
Bok was in France when the storm of criticism against the Y. M. C. A.
broke out, and, as State chairman for Pennsylvania, it was his duty to
meet the outcry when it came over to the United States. That the work of
the Y. M. C. A. was faulty no one can deny. Bok saw the "holes" long
before they were called to the attention of the public, but he also saw
the almost impossible task, in face of prevailing difficulties, of
caulking them up. No one who was not in France can form any conception
of the practically insurmountable obstacles against which all the
war-work organizations worked; and the larger the work the greater were
the obstacles, naturally. That the Y. M. C. A. and the other similar
agencies made mistakes is not the wonder so much as that they did not
make more. The real marvel is that they did so much efficient work. For
after we get a little farther away from the details and see the work of
these agencies in its broader aspects, when we forget the lapses--which,
after all, though irritating and regrettable, were not major--the record
as a whole will stand as a most signal piece of volunteer service.
What was actually accomplished was nothing short of marvellous; and it
is this fact that must be borne in mind; not the omissions, but the
commissions. And when the American public gets that point of view--as it
will, and, for that matter, is already beginning to do--the work of the
American Y. M. C. A. will no longer suffer for its omissions, but will
amaze and gladden by its accomplishments. As an American officer of high
rank said to Bok at Chaumont headquarters: "The mind cannot take in what
the war would have been without the 'Y.'" And that, in time, will be the
universal American opinion, extended, in proportion to their work, to
all the war-work agencies and the men and women who endured, suffered,
and were killed in their service.
XXXV. At the Battle-Fronts in the Great War
It was in the summer of 1918 that Edward Bok received from the British
Government, through its department of public information, of which Lord
Beaverbrook was the minister, an invitation to join a party of thirteen
American editors to visit Great Britain and France. The British
Government, not versed in publicity methods, was anxious that selected
parties of American publicists should see, personally, what Great
Britain had done, and was doing in the war; and it had decided to ask a
few individuals to pay personal visits to its munition factories, its
great aerodromes, its Great Fleet, which then lay in the Firth of Forth,
and to the battle-fields. It was understood that no specific obligation
rested upon any member of the party to write of what he saw: he was
asked simply to observe and then, with discretion, use his observations
for his own guidance and information in future writing. In fact, each
member was explicitly told that much of what he would see could not be
revealed either personally or in print.
The party embarked in August amid all the attendant secrecy of war
conditions. The steamer was known only by a number, although later it
turned out to be the White Star liner, Adriatic. Preceded by a powerful
United States cruiser, flanked by destroyers, guided overhead by
observation balloons, the Adriatic was found to be the first ship in a
convoy of sixteen other ships with thirty thousand United States troops
It was a veritable Armada that steamed out of lower New York harbor on
that early August morning, headed straight into the rising sun. But it
was a voyage of unpleasant war reminders, with life-savers carried every
moment of the day, with every light out at night, with every window and
door as if hermetically sealed so that the stuffy cabins deprived of
sleep those accustomed to fresh air, with over sixty army men and
civilians on watch at night, with life-drills each day, with lessons as
to behavior in life-boats; and with a fleet of eighteen British
destroyers meeting the convoy upon its approach to the Irish Coast after
a thirteen days' voyage of constant anxiety. No one could say he
travelled across the Atlantic Ocean in war days for pleasure, and no one
Once ashore, the party began a series of inspections of munition plants,
ship-yards, aeroplane factories and of meetings with the different
members of the English War Cabinet. Luncheons and dinners were the order
of each day until broken by a journey to Edinburgh to see the amazing
Great Fleet, with the addition of six of the foremost fighting machines
of the United States Navy, all straining like dogs at leash, awaiting an
expected dash from the bottled-up German fleet. It was a formidable
sight, perhaps never equalled: those lines of huge, menacing, and yet
protecting fighting machines stretching down the river for miles, all
conveying the single thought of the power and extent of the British Navy
and its formidable character as a fighting unit.
It was upon his return to London that Bok learned, through the
confidence of a member of the British "inner circle," the amazing news
that the war was practically over: that Bulgaria had capitulated and was
suing for peace; that two of the Central Power provinces had indicated
their strong desire that the war should end; and that the first peace
intimations had gone to the President of the United States. All
diplomatic eyes were turned toward Washington. Yet not a hint of the
impending events had reached the public. The Germans were being beaten
back, that was known; it was evident that the morale of the German army
was broken; that Foch had turned the tide toward victory; but even the
best-informed military authorities outside of the inner diplomatic
circles, predicted that the war would last until the spring of 1919,
when a final "drive" would end it. Yet, at that very moment, the end of
the war was in sight!
Next Bok went to France to visit the battle-fields. It was arranged that
the party should first, under guidance of British officers, visit back
of the British lines; and then, successively, be turned over to the
American and French Governments, and visit the operations back of their
It is an amusing fact that although each detail of officers delegated to
escort the party "to the front" received the most explicit instructions
from their superior officers to take the party only to the quiet sectors
where there was no fighting going on, each detail from the three
governments successively brought the party directly under shell-fire,
and each on the first day of the "inspection." It was unconsciously
done: the officers were as much amazed to find themselves under fire as
were the members of the party, except that the latter did not feel the
responsibility to an equal degree. The officers, in each case, were
plainly worried: the editors were intensely interested.
They were depressing trips through miles and miles of devastated
villages and small cities. From two to three days each were spent in
front-line posts on the Amiens-Bethune, Albert-Peronne,
Bapaume-Soissons, St. Mihiel, and back of the Argonne sectors. Often,
the party was the first civilian group to enter a town evacuated only a
week before, and all the horrible evidence of bloody warfare was fresh
and plain. Bodies of German soldiers lay in the trenches where they had
fallen; wired bombs were on every hand, so that no object could be
touched that lay on the battle-fields; the streets of some of the towns
were still mined, so that no automobiles could enter; the towns were
deserted, the streets desolate. It was an appalling panorama of the most
frightful results of war.
The picturesqueness and romance of the war of picture books were
missing. To stand beside an English battery of thirty guns laying a
barrage as they fired their shells to a point ten miles distant, made
one feel as if one were an actual part of real warfare, and yet far
removed from it, until the battery was located from the enemy's "sausage
observation"; then the shells from the enemy fired a return salvo, and
the better part of valor was discretion a few miles farther back.
The amazing part of the "show," however, was the American doughboy.
Never was there a more cheerful, laughing, good-natured set of boys in
the world; never a more homesick, lonely, and complaining set. But good
nature predominated, and the smile was always uppermost, even when the
moment looked the blackest, the privations were worst, and the longing
for home the deepest.
Bok had been talking to a boy who lived near his own home, who was on
his way to the front and "over the top" in the Argonne mess. Three days
afterward, at a hospital base where a hospital train was just
discharging its load of wounded, Bok walked among the boys as they lay
on their stretchers on the railroad platform waiting for bearers to
carry them into the huts. As he approached one stretcher, a cheery voice
called, "Hello, Mr. Bok. Here I am again."
It was the boy he had left just seventy-two hours before hearty and
"Well, my boy, you weren't in it long, were you?"
"No, sir," answered the boy; "Fritzie sure got me first thing. Hadn't
gone a hundred yards over the top. Got a cigarette?" (the invariable
Bok handed a cigarette to the boy, who then said: "Mind sticking it in
my mouth?" Bok did so and then offered him a light; the boy continued,
all with his wonderful smile: "If you don't mind, would you just light
it? You see, Fritzie kept both of my hooks as souvenirs."
With both arms amputated, the boy could still jest and smile!
It was the same boy who on his hospital cot the next day said: "Don't
you think you could do something for the chap next to me, there on my
left? He's really suffering: cried like hell all last night. It would be
a Godsend if you could get Doc to do something."
A promise was given that the surgeon should be seen at once, but the boy
was asked: "How about you?"
"Oh," came the cheerful answer, "I'm all right. I haven't anything to
hurt. My wounded members are gone--just plain gone. But that chap has
got something--he got the real thing!"
What was the real thing according to such a boy's idea?
There were beautiful stories that one heard "over there." One of the
most beautiful acts of consideration was told, later, of a lovable boy
whose throat had been practically shot away. During his convalescence he
had learned the art of making beaded bags. It kept him from talking, the
main prescription. But one day he sold the bag which he had first made
to a visitor, and with his face radiant with glee he sought the
nurse-mother to tell her all about his good fortune. Of course, nothing
but a series of the most horrible guttural sounds came from the boy: not
a word could be understood. It was his first venture into the world with
the loss of his member, and the nurse-mother could not find it in her
heart to tell the boy that not a word which he spoke was understandable.
With eyes full of tears she placed both of her hands on the boy's
shoulders and said to him: "I am so sorry, my boy. I cannot understand a
word you say to me. You evidently do not know that I am totally deaf.
Won't you write what you want to tell me?"
A look of deepest compassion swept the face of the boy. To think that
one could be so afflicted, and yet so beautifully tender and always so
radiantly cheerful, he wrote her.
Pathos and humor followed rapidly one upon the other "at the front" in
those gruesome days, and Bok was to have his spirits lightened somewhat
by an incident of the next day. He found himself in one of the numerous
little towns where our doughboys were billeted, some in the homes of the
peasants, others in stables, barns, outhouses, lean-tos, and what not.
These were the troops on their way to the front where the fighting in
the Argonne Forest was at that time going on. As Bok was walking with an
American officer, the latter pointed to a doughboy crossing the road,
followed by as disreputable a specimen of a pig as he had ever seen.
Catching Bok's smile, the officer said: "That's Pinney and his porker.
Where you see the one you see the other."
Bok caught up with the boy, and said: "Found a friend, I see, Buddy?"
"I sure have," grinned the doughboy, "and it sticks closer than a poor
"Where did you pick it up?"
"Oh, in there," said the soldier, pointing to a dilapidated barn.
"Why in there?"
"My home," grinned the boy.
"Let me see," said Bok, and the doughboy took him in with the pig
following close behind. "Billeted here--been here six days. The pig was
here when we came, and the first night I lay down and slept, it came up
to me and stuck its snout in my face and woke me up. Kind enough, all
right, but not very comfortable: it stinks so."
"Yes; it certainly does. What did you do?"
"Oh, I got some grub I had and gave it to eat: thought it might be
hungry, you know. I guess that sort of settled it, for the next night it
came again and stuck its snout right in my mug. I turned around, but it
just climbed over me and there it was."
"Well, what did you do then? Chase it out?"
"Chase it out?" said the doughboy, looking into Bok's face with the most
unaffected astonishment. "Why, mister, that's a mother-pig, that is.
She's going to have young ones in a few days. How could I chase her
"You're quite right, Buddy," said Bok. "You couldn't do that."
"Oh, no," said the boy. "The worst of it is, what am I going to do with
her when we move up within a day or two? I can't take her along to the
front, and I hate to leave her here. Some one might treat her rough."
"Captain," said Bok, hailing the officer, "you can attend to that, can't
you, when the time comes?"
"I sure can, and I sure will," answered the Captain. And with a quick
salute, Pinney and his porker went off across the road!
Bok was standing talking to the commandant of one of the great French
army supply depots one morning. He was a man of forty; a colonel in the
regular French army. An erect, sturdy-looking man with white hair and
mustache, and who wore the single star of a subaltern on his sleeve,
came up, saluted, delivered a message, and then asked:
"Are there any more orders, sir?"
"No," was the reply.
He brought his heels together with a click, saluted again, and went
The commandant turned to Bok with a peculiar smile on his face and
"Do you know who that man is?"
"No," was the reply.
"That is my father," was the answer.
The father was then exactly seventy-two years old. He was a retired
business man when the war broke out. After two years of the heroic
struggle he decided that he couldn't keep out of it. He was too old to
fight, but after long insistence he secured a commission. By one of the
many curious coincidences of the war he was assigned to serve under his
When under the most trying conditions, the Americans never lost their
sense of fun. On the staff of a prison hospital in Germany, where a
number of captured American soldiers were being treated, a German
sergeant became quite friendly with the prisoners under his care. One
day he told them that he had been ordered to active service on the
front. He felt convinced that he would be captured by the English, and
asked the Americans if they would not give him some sort of testimonial
which he could show if he were taken prisoner, so that he would not be
The Americans were much amused at this idea, and concocted a note of
introduction, written in English. The German sergeant knew no English
and could not understand his testimonial, but he tucked it in his
pocket, well satisfied.
In due time, he was sent to the front and was captured by "the ladies
from hell," as the Germans called the Scotch kilties. He at once
presented his introduction, and his captors laughed heartily when they
"This is L--. He is not a bad sort of chap. Don't shoot him; torture him
slowly to death."
One evening as Bok was strolling out after dinner a Red Cross nurse came
to him, explained that she had two severely wounded boys in what
remained of an old hut: that they were both from Pennsylvania, and had
expressed a great desire to see him as a resident of their State.
"Neither can possibly survive the night," said the nurse.
"They know that?" asked Bok.
"Oh, yes, but like all our boys they are lying there joking with each
Bok was taken into what remained of a room in a badly shelled farmhouse,
and there, on two roughly constructed cots, lay the two boys. Their
faces had been bandaged so that nothing was visible except the eyes of
each boy. A candle in a bottle standing on a box gave out the only
light. But the eyes of the boys were smiling as Bok came in and sat down
on the box on which the nurse had been sitting. He talked with the boys,
got as much of their stories from them as he could, and told them such
home news as he thought might interest them.
After half an hour he arose to leave, when the nurse said: "There is no
one here, Mr. Bok, to say the last words to these boys. Will you do it?"
Bok stood transfixed. In sending men over in the service of the Y. M. C.
A. he had several times told them to be ready for any act that they
might be asked to render, even the most sacred one. And here he stood
himself before that duty. He felt as if he stood stripped before his
Maker. Through the glassless window the sky lit up constantly with the
flashes of the guns, and then followed the booming of a shell as it
"Yes, won't you, sir?" asked the boy on the right cot as he held out his
hand. Bok took it, and then the hand of the other boy reached out.
What to say, he did not know. Then, to his surprise, he heard himself
repeating extract after extract from a book by Lyman Abbott called The
Other Room, a message to the bereaved declaring the non-existence of
death, but that we merely move from this earth to another: from one room
to another, as it were. Bok had not read the book for years, but here
was the subconscious self supplying the material for him in his moment
of greatest need. Then he remembered that just before leaving home he
had heard sung at matins, after the prayer for the President, a
beautiful song called "Passing Souls." He had asked the rector for a
copy of it; and, wondering why, he had put it in his wallet that he
carried with him. He took it out now and holding the hand of the boy at
his right, he read to them:
For the passing souls we pray,
Saviour, meet them on their way;
Let their trust lay hold on Thee
Ere they touch eternity.
Holy counsels long forgot
Breathe again 'mid shell and shot;
Through the mist of life's last pain
None shall look to Thee in vain.
To the hearts that know Thee, Lord,
Thou wilt speak through flood or sword;
Just beyond the cannon's roar,
Thou art on the farther shore.
For the passing souls we pray,
Saviour, meet them on the way;
Thou wilt hear our yearning call,
Who hast loved and died for all.
Absolute stillness reigned in the room save for the half-suppressed sob
from the nurse and the distant booming of the cannon. As Bok finished,
he heard the boy at his right say slowly: "Saviour-meet-me-on-my-way":
with a little emphasis on the word "my." The hand in his relaxed slowly,
and then fell on the cot; and he saw that the soul of another brave
American boy had "gone West."
Bok glanced at the other boy, reached for his hand, shook it, and
looking deep into his eyes, he left the little hut.
He little knew where and how he was to look into those eyes again!
Feeling the need of air in order to get hold of himself after one of the
most solemn moments of his visit to the front, Bok strolled out, and
soon found himself on what only a few days before had been a field of
carnage where the American boys had driven back the Germans. Walking in
the trenches and looking out, in the clear moonlight, over the field of
desolation and ruin, and thinking of the inferno that had been enacted
there only so recently, he suddenly felt his foot rest on what seemed to
be a soft object. Taking his "ever-ready" flash from his pocket, he shot
a ray at his feet, only to realize that his foot was resting on the face
of a dead German!
Bok had had enough for one evening! In fact, he had had enough of war in
all its aspects; and he felt a sigh of relief when, a few days
thereafter, he boarded The Empress of Asia for home, after a ten-weeks
He hoped never again to see, at first hand, what war meant!
XXXVI. The End of Thirty Years' Editorship
On the voyage home, Edward Bok decided that, now the war was over, he
would ask his company to release him from the editorship of The Ladies'
Home Journal. His original plan had been to retire at the end of a
quarter of a century of editorship, when in his fiftieth year. He was,
therefore, six years behind his schedule. In October, 1919, he would
reach his thirtieth anniversary as editor, and he fixed upon this as an
appropriate time for the relinquishment of his duties.
He felt he had carried out the conditions under which the editorship of
the magazine had been transferred to him by Mrs. Curtis, that he had
brought them to fruition, and that any further carrying on of the
periodical by him would be of a supplementary character. He had, too,
realized his hope of helping to create a national institution of service
to the American woman, and he felt that his part in the work was done.
He considered carefully where he would leave an institution which the
public had so thoroughly associated with his personality, and he felt
that at no point in its history could he so safely transfer it to other
hands. The position of the magazine in the public estimation was
unquestioned; it had never been so strong. Its circulation not only had
outstripped that of any other monthly periodical, but it was still
growing so rapidly that it was only a question of a few months when it
would reach the almost incredible mark of two million copies per month.
With its advertising patronage exceeding that of any other monthly, the
periodical had become, probably, the most valuable and profitable piece
of magazine property in the world.
The time might never come again when all conditions would be equally
favorable to a change of editorship. The position of the magazine was so
thoroughly assured that its progress could hardly be affected by the
retirement of one editor, and the accession of another. There was a
competent editorial staff, the members of which had been with the
periodical from ten to thirty years each. This staff had been a very
large factor in the success of the magazine. While Bok had furnished the
initiative and supplied the directing power, a large part of the
editorial success of the magazine was due to the staff. It could carry
on the magazine without his guidance.
Moreover, Bok wished to say good-bye to his public before it decided,
for some reason or other, to say good-bye to him. He had no desire to
outstay his welcome. That public had been wonderfully indulgent toward
his shortcomings, lenient with his errors, and tremendously inspiring to
his best endeavor. He would not ask too much of it. Thirty years was a
long tenure of office, one of the longest, in point of consecutively
active editorship, in the history of American magazines.
He had helped to create and to put into the life of the American home a
magazine of peculiar distinction. From its beginning it had been unlike
any other periodical; it had always retained its individuality as a
magazine apart from the others. It had sought to be something more than
a mere assemblage of stories and articles. It had consistently stood for
ideals; and, save in one or two instances, it had carried through what
it undertook to achieve. It had a record of worthy accomplishment; a
more fruitful record than many imagined. It had become a national
institution such as no other magazine had ever been. It was indisputably
accepted by the public and by business interests alike as the recognized
avenue of approach to the intelligent homes of America.
Edward Bok was content to leave it at this point.
He explained all this in December, 1918, to the Board of Directors, and
asked that his resignation be considered. It was understood that he was
to serve out his thirty years, thus remaining with the magazine for the
best part of another year.
In the material which The Journal now included in its contents, it began
to point the way to the problems which would face women during the
reconstruction period. Bok scanned the rather crowded field of thought
very carefully, and selected for discussion in the magazine such
questions as seemed to him most important for the public to understand
in order to face and solve its impending problems. The outstanding
question he saw which would immediately face men and women of the
country was the problem of Americanization. The war and its
after-effects had clearly demonstrated this to be the most vital need in
the life of the nation, not only for the foreign-born but for the
American as well.
The more one studied the problem the clearer it became that the vast
majority of American-born needed a refreshing, and, in many cases, a new
conception of American ideals as much as did the foreign-born, and that
the latter could never be taught what America and its institutions stood
for until they were more clearly defined in the mind of the men and
women of American birth.
Bok went to Washington, consulted with Franklin K. Lane, secretary of
the interior, of whose department the Government Bureau of
Americanization was a part. A comprehensive series of articles was
outlined; the most expert writer, Esther Everett Lape, who had several
years of actual experience in Americanization work, was selected;
Secretary Lane agreed personally to read and pass upon the material, and
to assume the responsibility for its publication.
With the full and direct co-operation of the Federal Bureau of
Americanization, the material was assembled and worked up with the
result that, in the opinion of the director of the Federal Bureau, the
series proved to be the most comprehensive exposition of practical
Americanization adapted to city, town, and village, thus far published.
The work on this series was one of the last acts of Edward Bok's
editorship; and it was peculiarly gratifying to him that his editorial
work should end with the exposition of that Americanization of which he
himself was a product. It seemed a fitting close to the career of a
foreign-born Americanized editor.
The scope of the reconstruction articles now published, and the clarity
of vision shown in the selection of the subjects, gave a fresh impetus
to the circulation of the magazine; and now that the government's
embargo on the use of paper had been removed, the full editions of the
periodical could again be printed. The public responded instantly.
The result reached phenomenal figures. The last number under Bok's full
editorial control was the issue of October, 1919. This number was
oversold with a printed edition of two million copies--a record never
before achieved by any magazine. This same issue presented another
record unattained in any single number of any periodical in the world.
It carried between its covers the amazing total of over one million
dollars in advertisements.
This was the psychological point at which to stop. And Edward Bok did.
Although his official relation as editor did not terminate until
January, 1920, when the number which contained his valedictory editorial
was issued, his actual editorship ceased on September 22, 1919. On that
day he handed over the reins to his successor.
As Bok was, on that day, about to leave his desk for the last time, it
was announced that a young soldier whom he "had met and befriended in
France" was waiting to see him. When the soldier walked into the office
he was to Bok only one of the many whom he had met on the other side.
But as the boy shook hands with him and said: "I guess you do not
remember me, Mr. Bok," there was something in the eyes into which he
looked that startled him. And then, in a flash, the circumstances under
which he had last seen those eyes came to him.
"Good heavens, my boy, you are not one of those two boys in the little
hut that I--"
"To whom you read the poem 'Passing Souls,' that evening. Yes, sir, I'm
the boy who had hold of your left hand. My bunkie, Ben, went West that
same evening, you remember."
"Yes," replied the editor, "I remember; I remember only too well," and
again Bok felt the hand in his relax, drop from his own, and heard the
words: "Saviour-meet-me-on-my way."
The boy's voice brought Bok back to the moment.
"It's wonderful you should remember me; my face was all bound up--I
guess you couldn't see anything but my eyes."
"Just the eyes, that's right," said Bok. "But they burned into me all
right, my boy."
"I don't think I get you, sir," said the boy.
"No, you wouldn't," Bok replied. "You couldn't, boy, not until you're
older. But, tell me, how in the world did you ever get out of it?"
"Well, sir," answered the boy, with that shyness which we all have come
to know in the boys who actually did, "I guess it was a close call, all
right. But just as you left us, a hospital corps happened to come along
on its way to the back and Miss Nelson--the nurse, you remember?--she
asked them to take me along. They took me to a wonderful hospital, gave
me fine care, and then after a few weeks they sent me back to the
States, and I've been in a hospital over here ever since. Now, except
for this thickness of my voice that you notice, which Doc says will be
all right soon, I'm fit again. The government has given me a job, and I
came here on leave just to see my parents up-State, and I thought I'd
like you to know that I didn't go West after all."
Fifteen minutes later, Edward Bok left his editorial office for the last
But as he went home his thoughts were not of his last day at the office,
nor of his last acts as editor, but of his last caller-the soldier-boy
whom he had left seemingly so surely on his way "West," and whose eyes
had burned into his memory on that fearful night a year before!
Strange that this boy should have been his last visitor!
As John Drinkwater, in his play, makes Abraham Lincoln say to General
"It's a queer world!"
XXXVII. The Third Period
The announcement of Edward Bok's retirement came as a great surprise to
his friends. Save for one here and there, who had a clearer vision, the
feeling was general that he had made a mistake. He was fifty-six, in the
prime of life, never in better health, with "success lying easily upon
him"--said one; "at the very summit of his career," said another--and
all agreed it was "queer," "strange,"--unless, they argued, he was
really ill. Even the most acute students of human affairs among his
friends wondered. It seemed incomprehensible that any man should want to
give up before he was, for some reason, compelled to do so. A man should
go on until he "dropped in the harness," they argued.
Bok agreed that any man had a perfect right to work until he did "drop
in the harness." But, he argued, if he conceded this right to others,
why should they not concede to him the privilege of dropping with the
"But," continued the argument, "a man degenerates when he retires from
active affairs." And then, instances were pointed out as notable
examples. "A year of retirement and he was through," was the picture
given of one retired man. "In two years, he was glad to come back," and
so the examples ran on. "No big man ever retired from active business
and did great work afterwards," Bok was told.
"No?" he answered. "Not even Cyrus W. Field or Herbert Hoover?"
And all this time Edward Bok's failure to be entirely Americanized was
brought home to his consciousness. After fifty years, he was still not
an American! He had deliberately planned, and then had carried out his
plan, to retire while he still had the mental and physical capacity to
enjoy the fruits of his years of labor! For foreign to the American way
of thinking it certainly was: the protestations and arguments of his
friends proved that to him. After all, he was still Dutch; he had held
on to the lesson which his people had learned years ago; that the people
of other European countries had learned; that the English had
discovered: that the Great Adventure of Life was something more than
material work, and that the time to go is while the going is good!
For it cannot be denied that the pathetic picture we so often see is
found in American business life more frequently than in that of any
other land: men unable to let go--not only for their own good, but to
give the younger men behind them an opportunity. Not that a man should
stop work, for man was born to work, and in work he should find his
greatest refreshment. But so often it does not occur to the man in a
pivotal position to question the possibility that at sixty or seventy he
can keep steadily in touch with a generation whose ideas are controlled
by men twenty years younger. Unconsciously he hangs on beyond his
greatest usefulness and efficiency: he convinces himself that he is
indispensable to his business, while, in scores of cases, the business
would be distinctly benefited by his retirement and the consequent
coming to the front of the younger blood.
Such a man in a position of importance seems often not to see that he
has it within his power to advance the fortunes of younger men by
stepping out when he has served his time, while by refusing to let go he
often works dire injustice and even disaster to his younger associates.
The sad fact is that in all too many instances the average American
business man is actually afraid to let go because he realizes that out
of business he should not know what to do. For years he has so excluded
all other interests that at fifty or sixty or seventy he finds himself a
slave to his business, with positively no inner resources. Retirement
from the one thing he does know would naturally leave such a man useless
to himself and his family, and his community: worse than useless, as a
matter of fact, for he would become a burden to himself, a nuisance to
his family, and, when he would begin to write "letters" to the
newspapers, a bore to the community.
It is significant that a European or English business man rarely reaches
middle age devoid of acquaintance with other matters; he always lets the
breezes from other worlds of thought blow through his ideas, with the
result that when he is ready to retire from business he has other
interests to fall back upon. Fortunately it is becoming less uncommon
for American men to retire from business and devote themselves to other
pursuits; and their number will undoubtedly increase as time goes on,
and we learn the lessons of life with a richer background. But one