The Americanization of Edward Bok
Edward William Bok (1863-1930)
Part 2 out of 7
raising of the curtain, and, there being no understudy, no performance
had been given and the audience dismissed. All this was duly commented
upon by the New York morning newspapers. Edward read this bit of news on
the ferry-boat, but his notice was in the hands of the city editor.
On reaching home that evening he found a summons from The Eagle, and the
next morning he received a rebuke, and was informed that his chances
with the paper were over. The ready acknowledgment and evident regret of
the crestfallen boy, however, appealed to the editor, and before the end
of the week he called the boy to him and promised him another chance,
provided the lesson had sunk in. It had, and it left a lasting
impression. It was always a cause of profound gratitude with Edward Bok
that his first attempt at "faking" occurred so early in his journalistic
career that he could take the experience to heart and profit by it.
One evening when Edward was attending a theatrical performance, he
noticed the restlessness of the women in the audience between the acts.
In those days it was, even more than at present, the custom for the men
to go out between the acts, leaving the women alone. Edward looked at
the programme in his hands. It was a large eleven-by-nine sheet, four
pages, badly printed, with nothing in it save the cast, a few
advertisements, and an announcement of some coming attraction. The boy
mechanically folded the programme, turned it long side up and wondered
whether a programme of this smaller size, easier to handle, with an
attractive cover and some reading-matter, would not be profitable.
When he reached home he made up an eight-page "dummy," pasted an
attractive picture on the cover, indicated the material to go inside,
and the next morning showed it to the manager of the theatre. The
programme as issued was an item of considerable expense to the
management; Edward offered to supply his new programme without cost,
provided he was given the exclusive right, and the manager at once
accepted the offer. Edward then sought a friend, Frederic L. Colver, who
had a larger experience in publishing and advertising, with whom he
formed a partnership. Deciding that immediately upon the issuance of
their first programme the idea was likely to be taken up by the other
theatres, Edward proceeded to secure the exclusive rights to them all.
The two young publishers solicited their advertisements on the way to
and from business mornings and evenings, and shortly the first
smaller-sized theatre programme, now in use in all theatres, appeared.
The venture was successful from the start, returning a comfortable
profit each week. Such advertisements as they could not secure for cash
they accepted in trade; and this latter arrangement assisted materially
in maintaining the households of the two publishers.
Edward's partner now introduced him into a debating society called The
Philomathean Society, made up of young men connected with Plymouth
Church, of which Henry Ward Beecher was pastor. The debates took the
form of a miniature congress, each member representing a State, and it
is a curious coincidence that Edward drew, by lot, the representation of
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The members took these debates very
seriously; no subject was too large for them to discuss. Edward became
intensely interested in the society's doings, and it was not long before
he was elected president.
The society derived its revenue from the dues of its members and from an
annual concert given under its auspices in Plymouth Church. When the
time for the concert under Edward's presidency came around, he decided
that the occasion should be unique so as to insure a crowded house. He
induced Mr. Beecher to preside; he got General Grant's promise to come
and speak; he secured the gratuitous services of Emma C. Thursby, Annie
Louise Cary, Clara Louise Kellogg, and Evelyn Lyon Hegeman, all of the
first rank of concert-singers of that day, with the result that the
church could not accommodate the crowd which naturally was attracted by
such a programme.
It now entered into the minds of the two young theatre-programme
publishers to extend their publishing interests by issuing an "organ"
for their society, and the first issue of The Philomathean Review duly
appeared with Mr. Colver as its publisher and Edward Bok as editor.
Edward had now an opportunity to try his wings in an editorial capacity.
The periodical was, of course, essentially an organ of the society; but
gradually it took on a more general character, so that its circulation
might extend over a larger portion of Brooklyn. With this extension came
a further broadening of its contents, which now began to take on a
literary character, and it was not long before its two projectors
realized that the periodical had outgrown its name. It was decided--late
in 1884--to change the name to The Brooklyn Magazine.
There was a periodical called The Plymouth Pulpit, which presented
verbatim reports of the sermons of Mr. Beecher, and Edward got the idea
of absorbing the Pulpit in the Magazine. But that required more capital
than he and his partner could command. They consulted Mr. Beecher, who,
attracted by the enterprise of the two boys, sent them with letters of
introduction to a few of his most influential parishioners, with the
result that the pair soon had a sufficient financial backing by some of
the leading men of Brooklyn, like A. A. Low, H. B. Claflin, Rufus T.
Bush, Henry W. Slocum, Seth Low, Rossiter W. Raymond, Horatio C. King,
The young publishers could now go on. Understanding that Mr. Beecher's
sermons might give a partial and denominational tone to the magazine,
Edward arranged to publish also in its pages verbatim reports of the
sermons of the Reverend T. De Witt Talmage, whose reputation was then at
its zenith. The young editor now realized that he had a rather heavy
cargo of sermons to carry each month; accordingly, in order that his
magazine might not appear to be exclusively religious, he determined
that its literary contents should be of a high order and equal in
interest to the sermons. But this called for additional capital, and the
capital furnished was not for that purpose.
It is here that Edward's autographic acquaintances stood him in good
stead. He went in turn to each noted person he had met, explained his
plight and stated his ambitions, with the result that very soon the
magazine and the public were surprised at the distinction of the
contributors to The Brooklyn Magazine. Each number contained a
noteworthy list of them, and when an article by the President of the
United States, then Rutherford B. Hayes, opened one of the numbers, the
public was astonished, since up to that time the unwritten rule that a
President's writings were confined to official pronouncements had
scarcely been broken. William Dean Howells, General Grant, General
Sherman, Phillips Brooks, General Sheridan, Canon Farrar, Cardinal
Gibbons, Marion Harland, Margaret Sangster--the most prominent men and
women of the day, some of whom had never written for magazines--began to
appear in the young editor's contents. Editors wondered how the
publishers could afford it, whereas, in fact, not a single name
represented an honorarium. Each contributor had come gratuitously to the
aid of the editor.
At first, the circulation of the magazine permitted the boys to wrap the
copies themselves; and then they, with two other boys, would carry as
huge bundles as they could lift, put them late at night on the front
platform of the street-cars, and take them to the postoffice. Thus the
boys absolutely knew the growth of their circulation by the weight of
their bundles and the number of their front-platform trips each month.
Soon a baker's hand-cart was leased for an evening, and that was added
to the capacity of the front platforms. Then one eventful month it was
seen that a horse-truck would have to be employed. Within three weeks, a
double horse-truck was necessary, and three trips had to be made.
By this time Edward Bok had become so intensely interested in the
editorial problem, and his partner in the periodical publishing part,
that they decided to sell out their theatre-programme interests and
devote themselves to the magazine and its rapidly increasing
circulation. All of Edward's editorial work had naturally to be done
outside of his business hours, in other words, in the evenings and on
Sundays; and the young editor found himself fully occupied. He now
revived the old idea of selecting a subject and having ten or twenty
writers express their views on it. It was the old symposium idea, but it
had not been presented in American journalism for a number of years. He
conceived the topic "Should America Have a Westminster Abbey?" and
induced some twenty of the foremost men and women of the day to discuss
it. When the discussion was presented in the magazine, the form being
new and the theme novel, Edward was careful to send advance sheets to
the newspapers, which treated it at length in reviews and editorials,
with marked effect upon the circulation of the magazine.
All this time, while Edward Bok was an editor in his evenings he was,
during the day, a stenographer and clerk of the Western Union Telegraph
Company. The two occupations were hardly compatible, but each meant a
source of revenue to the boy, and he felt he must hold on to both.
After his father passed away, the position of the boy's desk--next to
the empty desk of his father--was a cause of constant depression to him.
This was understood by the attorney for the company, Mr. Clarence Cary,
who sought the head of Edward's department, with the result that Edward
was transferred to Mr. Cary's department as the attorney's private
Edward had been much attracted to Mr. Cary, and the attorney believed in
the boy, and decided to show his interest by pushing him along. He had
heard of the dual role which Edward was playing; he bought a copy of the
magazine, and was interested. Edward now worked with new zest for his
employer and friend; while in every free moment he read law, feeling
that, as almost all his forbears had been lawyers, he might perhaps be
destined for the bar. This acquaintance with the fundamental basis of
law, cursory as it was, became like a gospel to Edward Bok. In later
years, he was taught its value by repeated experience in his contact
with corporate laws, contracts, property leases, and other matters; and
he determined that, whatever the direction of activity taken by his
sons, each should spend at least a year in the study of law.
The control of the Western Union Telegraph Company had now passed into
the hands of Jay Gould and his companions, and in the many legal matters
arising therefrom, Edward saw much, in his office, of "the little wizard
of Wall Street." One day, the financier had to dictate a contract, and,
coming into Mr. Cary's office, decided to dictate it then and there. An
hour afterward Edward delivered the copy of the contract to Mr. Gould,
and the financier was so struck by its accuracy and by the legibility of
the handwriting that afterward he almost daily "happened in" to dictate
to Mr. Cary's stenographer. Mr. Gould's private stenographer was in his
own office in lower Broadway; but on his way down-town in the morning
Mr. Gould invariably stopped at the Western Union Building, at 195
Broadway, and the habit resulted in the installation of a private office
there. He borrowed Edward to do his stenography. The boy found himself
taking not only letters from Mr. Gould's dictation, but, what interested
him particularly, the financier's orders to buy and sell stock.
Edward watched the effects on the stock-market of these little notes
which he wrote out and then shot through a pneumatic tube to Mr. Gould's
brokers. Naturally, the results enthralled the boy, and he told Mr. Cary
about his discoveries. This, in turn, interested Mr. Cary; Mr. Gould's
dictations were frequently given in Mr. Cary's own office, where, as his
desk was not ten feet from that of his stenographer, the attorney heard
them, and began to buy and sell according to the magnate's decisions.
Edward had now become tremendously interested in the stock game which he
saw constantly played by the great financier; and having a little money
saved up, he concluded that he would follow in the wake of Mr. Gould's
orders. One day, he naively mentioned his desire to Mr. Gould, when the
financier seemed in a particularly favorable frame of mind; but Edward
did not succeed in drawing out the advice he hoped for. "At least,"
reasoned Edward, "he knew of my intention; and if he considered it a
violation of confidence he would have said as much."
Construing the financier's silence to mean at least not a prohibition,
Edward went to his Sunday-school teacher, who was a member of a Wall
Street brokerage firm, laid the facts before him, and asked him if he
would buy for him some Western Union stock. Edward explained, however,
that somehow he did not like the gambling idea of buying "on margin,"
and preferred to purchase the stock outright. He was shown that this
would mean smaller profits; but the boy had in mind the loss of his
father's fortune, brought about largely by "stock margins," and he did
not intend to follow that example. So, prudently, under the brokerage of
his Sunday-school teacher, and guided by the tips of no less a man than
the controlling factor of stock-market finance, Edward Bok took his
first plunge in Wall Street!
Of course the boy's buying and selling tallied precisely with the rise
and fall of Western Union stock. It could scarcely have been otherwise.
Jay Gould had the cards all in his hands; and as he bought and sold, so
Edward bought and sold. The trouble was, the combination did not end
there, as Edward might have foreseen had he been older and thus wiser.
For as Edward bought and sold, so did his Sunday-school teacher, and all
his customers who had seen the wonderful acumen of their broker in
choosing exactly the right time to buy and sell Western Union. But
Edward did not know this.
One day a rumor became current on the Street that an agreement had been
reached by the Western Union Company and its bitter rival, the American
Union Telegraph Company, whereby the former was to absorb the latter.
Naturally, the report affected Western Union stock. But Mr. Gould denied
it in toto; said the report was not true, no such consolidation was in
view or had even been considered. Down tumbled the stock, of course.
But it so happened that Edward knew the rumor was true, because Mr.
Gould, some time before, had personally given him the contract of
consolidation to copy. The next day a rumor to the effect that the
American Union was to absorb the Western Union appeared on the first
page of every New York newspaper. Edward knew exactly whence this rumor
emanated. He had heard it talked over. Again, Western Union stock
dropped several points. Then he noticed that Mr. Gould became a heavy
buyer. So became Edward--as heavy as he could. Jay Gould pooh-poohed the
latest rumor. The boy awaited developments.
On Sunday afternoon, Edward's Sunday-school teacher asked the boy to
walk home with him, and on reaching the house took him into the study
and asked him whether he felt justified in putting all his savings in
Western Union just at that time when the price was tumbling so fast and
the market was so unsteady. Edward assured his teacher that he was
right, although he explained that he could not disclose the basis of his
Edward thought his teacher looked worried, and after a little there came
the revelation that he, seeing that Edward was buying to his limit, had
likewise done so. But the broker had bought on margin, and had his
margin wiped out by the decline in the stock caused by the rumors. He
explained to Edward that he could recoup his losses, heavy though they
were--in fact, he explained that nearly everything he possessed was
involved--if Edward's basis was sure and the stock would recover.
Edward keenly felt the responsibility placed upon him. He could never
clearly diagnose his feelings when he saw his teacher in this new light.
The broker's "customers" had been hinted at, and the boy of eighteen
wondered how far his responsibility went, and how many persons were
involved. But the deal came out all right, for when, three days
afterward, the contract was made public, Western Union, of course,
skyrocketed, Jay Gould sold out, Edward sold out, the teacher-broker
sold out, and all the customers sold out!
How long a string it was Edward never discovered, but he determined
there and then to end his Wall Street experience; his original amount
had multiplied; he was content to let well enough alone, and from that
day to this Edward Bok has kept out of Wall Street. He had seen enough
of its manipulations; and, although on "the inside," he decided that the
combination of his teacher and his customers was a responsibility too
great for him to carry.
Furthermore, Edward decided to leave the Western Union. The longer he
remained, the less he liked its atmosphere. And the closer his contact
with Jay Gould the more doubtful he became of the wisdom of such an
association and perhaps its unconscious influence upon his own life in
its formative period.
In fact, it was an experience with Mr. Gould that definitely fixed
Edward's determination. The financier decided one Saturday to leave on a
railroad inspection tour on the following Monday. It was necessary that
a special meeting of one of his railroad interests should be held before
his departure, and he fixed the meeting for Sunday at eleven-thirty at
his residence on Fifth Avenue. He asked Edward to be there to take the
notes of the meeting.
The meeting was protracted, and at one o'clock Mr. Gould suggested an
adjournment for luncheon, the meeting to reconvene at two. Turning to
Edward, the financier said: "You may go out to luncheon and return in an
hour." So, on Sunday afternoon, with the Windsor Hotel on the opposite
corner as the only visible place to get something to eat, but where he
could not afford to go, Edward, with just fifteen cents in his pocket,
was turned out to find a luncheon place.
He bought three apples for five cents--all that he could afford to
spend, and even this meant that he must walk home from the ferry to his
house in Brooklyn--and these he ate as he walked up and down Fifth
Avenue until his hour was over. When the meeting ended at three o'clock,
Mr. Gould said that, as he was leaving for the West early next morning,
he would like Edward to write out his notes, and have them at his house
by eight o'clock. There were over forty note-book pages of minutes. The
remainder of Edward's Sunday afternoon and evening was spent in
transcribing the notes. By rising at half past five the next morning he
reached Mr. Gould's house at a quarter to eight, handed him the minutes,
and was dismissed without so much as a word of thanks or a nod of
approval from the financier.
Edward felt that this exceeded the limit of fair treatment by employer
of employee. He spoke of it to Mr. Cary, and asked whether he would
object if he tried to get away from such influence and secure another
position. His employer asked the boy in which direction he would like to
go, and Edward unhesitatingly suggested the publishing business. He
talked it over from every angle with his employer, and Mr. Cary not only
agreed with him that his decision was wise, but promised to find him a
position such as he had in mind.
It was not long before Mr. Cary made good his word, and told Edward that
his friend Henry Holt, the publisher, would like to give him a trial.
The day before he was to leave the Western Union Telegraph Company the
fact of his resignation became known to Mr. Gould. The financier told
the boy there was no reason for his leaving, and that he would
personally see to it that a substantial increase was made in his salary.
Edward explained that the salary, while of importance to him, did not
influence him so much as securing a position in a business in which he
felt he would be happier.
"And what business is that?" asked the financier.
"The publishing of books," replied the boy.
"You are making a great mistake," answered the little man, fixing his
keen gray eyes on the boy. "Books are a luxury. The public spends its
largest money on necessities: on what it can't do without. It must
telegraph; it need not read. It can read in libraries. A promising boy
such as you are, with his life before him, should choose the right sort
of business, not the wrong one."
But, as facts proved, the "little wizard of Wall Street" was wrong in
his prediction; Edward Bok was not choosing the wrong business.
Years afterward when Edward was cruising up the Hudson with a yachting
party one Saturday afternoon, the sight of Jay Gould's mansion, upon
approaching Irvington, awakened the desire of the women on board to see
his wonderful orchid collection. Edward explained his previous
association with the financier and offered to recall himself to him, if
the party wished to take the chance of recognition. A note was written
to Mr. Gould, and sent ashore, and the answer came back that they were
welcome to visit the orchid houses. Jay Gould, in person, received the
party, and, placing it under the personal conduct of his gardener,
turned to Edward and, indicating a bench, said: "Come and sit down here
"Well," said the financier, who was in his domestic mood, quite
different from his Wall Street aspect, "I see in the papers that you
seem to be making your way in the publishing business."
Edward expressed surprise that the Wall Street magnate had followed his
"I have because I always felt you had it in you to make a successful
man. But not in that business," he added quickly. "You were born for the
Street. You would have made a great success there, and that is what I
had in mind for you. In the publishing business you will go just so far;
in the Street you could have gone as far as you liked. There is room
there; there is none in the publishing business. It's not too late now,
for that matter," continued the "little wizard," fastening his steel
eyes on the lad beside him!
And Edward Bok has often speculated whither Jay Gould might have led
him. To many a young man, a suggestion from such a source would have
seemed the one to heed and follow. But Edward Bok's instinct never
failed him. He felt that his path lay far apart from that of Jay
Gould--and the farther the better!
In 1882 Edward, with a feeling of distinct relief, left the employ of
the Western Union Telegraph Company and associated himself with the
publishing business in which he had correctly divined that his future
His chief regret on leaving his position was in severing the close
relations, almost as of father and son, between Mr. Cary and himself.
When Edward was left alone, with the passing away of his father,
Clarence Cary had put his sheltering arm around the lonely boy, and with
the tremendous encouragement of the phrase that the boy never forgot, "I
think you have it in you, Edward, to make a successful man," he took him
under his wing. It was a turning-point in Edward Bok's life, as he felt
at the time and as he saw more clearly afterward.
He remained in touch with his friend, however, keeping him advised of
his progress in everything he did, not only at that time, but all
through his later years. And it was given to Edward to feel the deep
satisfaction of having Mr. Cary say, before he passed away, that the boy
had more than justified the confidence reposed in him. Mr. Cary lived to
see him well on his way, until, indeed, Edward had had the proud
happiness of introducing to his benefactor the son who bore his name,
Cary William Bok.
VIII. Starting a Newspaper Syndicate
Edward felt that his daytime hours, spent in a publishing atmosphere as
stenographer with Henry Holt and Company, were more in line with his
editorial duties during the evenings. The Brooklyn Magazine was now
earning a comfortable income for its two young proprietors, and their
backers were entirely satisfied with the way it was being conducted. In
fact, one of these backers, Mr. Rufus T. Bush, associated with the
Standard Oil Company, who became especially interested, thought he saw
in the success of the two boys a possible opening for one of his sons,
who was shortly to be graduated from college. He talked to the publisher
and editor about the idea, but the boys showed by their books that while
there was a reasonable income for them, not wholly dependent on the
magazine, there was no room for a third.
Mr. Bush now suggested that he buy the magazine for his son, alter its
name, enlarge its scope, and make of it a national periodical.
Arrangements were concluded, those who had financially backed the
venture were fully paid, and the two boys received a satisfactory amount
for their work in building up the magazine. Mr. Bush asked Edward to
suggest a name for the new periodical, and in the following month of
May, 1887, The Brooklyn Magazine became The American Magazine, with its
publication office in New York. But, though a great deal of money was
spent on the new magazine, it did not succeed. Mr. Bush sold his
interest in the periodical, which, once more changing its name, became
The Cosmopolitan Magazine. Since then it has passed through the hands of
several owners, but the name has remained the same. Before Mr. Bush sold
The American Magazine he had urged Edward to come back to it as its
editor, with promise of financial support; but the young man felt
instinctively that his return would not be wise. The magazine had been
The Cosmopolitan only a short time when the new owners, Mr. Paul J.
Slicht and Mr. E. D. Walker, also solicited the previous editor to
accept reappointment. But Edward, feeling that his baby had been
rechristened too often for him to father it again, declined the
proposition. He had not heard the last of it, however, for, by a curious
coincidence, its subsequent owner, entirely ignorant of Edward's
previous association with the magazine, invited him to connect himself
with it. Thus three times could Edward Bok have returned to the magazine
for whose creation he was responsible.
Edward was now without editorial cares; but he had already, even before
disposing of the magazine, embarked on another line of endeavor. In
sending to a number of newspapers the advance sheets of a particularly
striking "feature" in one of his numbers of The Brooklyn Magazine, it
occurred to him that he was furnishing a good deal of valuable material
to these papers without cost. It is true his magazine was receiving the
advertising value of editorial comment; but the boy wondered whether the
newspapers would not be willing to pay for the privilege of simultaneous
publication. An inquiry or two proved that they would. Thus Edward
stumbled upon the "syndicate" plan of furnishing the same article to a
group of newspapers, one in each city, for simultaneous publication. He
looked over the ground, and found that while his idea was not a new one,
since two "syndicate" agencies already existed, the field was by no
means fully covered, and that the success of a third agency would depend
entirely upon its ability to furnish the newspapers with material
equally good or better than they received from the others. After
following the material furnished by these agencies for two or three
weeks, Edward decided that there was plenty of room for his new ideas.
He discussed the matter with his former magazine partner, Colver, and
suggested that if they could induce Mr. Beecher to write a weekly
comment on current events for the newspapers it would make an auspicious
beginning. They decided to talk it over with the famous preacher. For to
be a "Plymouth boy"--that is, to go to the Plymouth Church Sunday-school
and to attend church there--was to know personally and become devoted to
Henry Ward Beecher. And the two were synonymous. There was no distance
between Mr. Beecher and his "Plymouth boys." Each understood the other.
The tie was that of absolute comradeship.
"I don't believe in it, boys," said Mr. Beecher when Edward and his
friend broached the syndicate letter to him. "No one yet ever made a
cent out of my supposed literary work."
All the more reason, was the argument, why some one should.
Mr. Beecher smiled! How well he knew the youthful enthusiasm that rushes
"Well, all right, boys! I like your pluck," he finally said. "I'll help
you if I can."
The boys agreed to pay Mr. Beecher a weekly sum of two hundred and fifty
dollars--which he knew was considerable for them.
When the first article had been written they took him their first check.
He looked at it quizzically, and then at the boys. Then he said simply:
"Thank you." He took a pin and pinned the check to his desk. There it
remained, much to the curiosity of the two boys.
The following week he had written the second article and the boys gave
him another check. He pinned that up over the other. "I like to look at
them," was his only explanation, as he saw Edward's inquiring glance one
The third check was treated the same way. When the boys handed him the
fourth, one morning, as he was pinning it up over the others, he asked:
"When do you get your money from the newspapers?"
He was told that the bills were going out that morning for the four
letters constituting a month's service.
"I see," he remarked.
A fortnight passed, then one day Mr. Beecher asked: "Well, how are the
checks coming in?"
"Very well," he was assured.
"Suppose you let me see how much you've got in," he suggested, and the
boys brought the accounts to him.
After looking at them he said: "That's very interesting. How much have
you in the bank?"
He was told the balance, less the checks given to him. "But I haven't
turned them in yet," he explained. "Anyhow, you have enough in bank to
meet the checks you have given me, and a profit besides, haven't you?"
He was assured they had.
Then, taking his bank-book from a drawer, he unpinned the six checks on
his desk, indorsed each thus: wrote a deposit-slip, and, handing the
book to Edward, said:
For deposit (??) in Bank
H. W. Beecher
"Just hand that in at the bank as you go by, will you?"
Edward was very young then, and Mr. Beecher's methods of financiering
seemed to him quite in line with current notions of the Plymouth
pastor's lack of business knowledge. But as the years rolled on the
incident appeared in a new light--a striking example of the great
preacher's wonderful considerateness.
Edward had offered to help Mr. Beecher with his correspondence; at the
close of one afternoon, while he was with the Plymouth pastor at work,
an organ-grinder and a little girl came under the study window. A cold,
driving rain was pelting down. In a moment Mr. Beecher noticed the
girl's bare toes sticking out of her worn shoes.
He got up, went into the hall, and called for one of his granddaughters.
"Got any good, strong rain boots?" he asked when she appeared.
"Why, yes, grandfather. Why?" was the answer.
"More than one pair?" Mr. Beecher asked.
"Yes, two or three, I think."
"Bring me your strongest pair, will you, dear?" he asked. And as the
girl looked at him with surprise he said: "Just one of my notions."
"Now, just bring that child into the house and put them on her feet for
me, will you?" he said when the shoes came. "I'll be able to work so
One rainy day, as Edward was coming up from Fulton Ferry with Mr.
Beecher, they met an old woman soaked with the rain. "Here, you take
this, my good woman," said the clergyman, putting his umbrella over her
head and thrusting the handle into the astonished woman's hand. "Let's
get into this," he said to Edward simply, as he hailed a passing car.
"There is a good deal of fraud about beggars," he remarked as he waved a
sot away from him one day; "but that doesn't apply to women and
children," he added; and he never passed such mendicants without
stopping. All the stories about their being tools in the hands of
accomplices failed to convince him. "They're women and children," he
would say, and that settled it for him.
"What's the matter, son? Stuck?" he said once to a newsboy who was
crying with a heavy bundle of papers under his arm.
"Come along with me, then," said Mr. Beecher, taking the boy's hand and
leading him into the newspaper office a few doors up the street.
"This boy is stuck," he simply said to the man behind the counter.
"Guess The Eagle can stand it better than this boy; don't you think so?"
To the grown man Mr. Beecher rarely gave charity. He believed in a
return for his alms.
"Why don't you go to work?" he asked of a man who approached him one day
in the street.
"Can't find any," said the man.
"Looked hard for it?" was the next question.
"I have," and the man looked Mr. Beecher in the eye.
"Want some?" asked Mr. Beecher.
"I do," said the man.
"Come with me," said the preacher. And then to Edward, as they walked
along with the man following behind, he added: "That man is honest."
"Let this man sweep out the church," he said to the sexton when they had
reached Plymouth Church.
"But, Mr. Beecher," replied the sexton with wounded pride, "it doesn't
"Don't tell him so, though," said Mr. Beecher with a merry twinkle of
the eye; and the sexton understood.
Mr. Beecher was constantly thoughtful of a struggling young man's
welfare, even at the expense of his own material comfort. Anxious to
save him from the labor of writing out the newspaper articles, Edward,
himself employed during the daylight hours which Mr. Beecher preferred
for his original work, suggested a stenographer. The idea appealed to
Mr. Beecher, for he was very busy just then. He hesitated, but as Edward
persisted, he said: "All right; let him come to-morrow."
The next day he said: "I asked that stenographer friend of yours not to
come again. No use of my trying to dictate. I am too old to learn new
tricks. Much easier for me to write myself."
Shortly after that, however, Mr. Beecher dictated to Edward some
material for a book he was writing. Edward naturally wondered at this,
and asked the stenographer what had happened.
"Nothing," he said. "Only Mr. Beecher asked me how much it would cost
you to have me come to him each week. I told him, and then he sent me
That was Henry Ward Beecher!
Edward Bok was in the formative period between boyhood and young manhood
when impressions meant lessons, and associations meant ideals. Mr.
Beecher never disappointed. The closer one got to him, the greater he
became--in striking contrast to most public men, as Edward had already
Then, his interests and sympathies were enormously wide. He took in so
much! One day Edward was walking past Fulton Market, in New York City,
with Mr. Beecher.
"Never skirt a market," the latter said; "always go through it. It's the
next best thing, in the winter, to going South."
Of course all the marketmen knew him, and they knew, too, his love for
"What do you think of these apples, Mr. Beecher?" one marketman would
stop to ask.
Mr. Beecher would answer heartily: "Fine! Don't see how you grow them.
All that my trees bear is a crop of scale. Still, the blossoms are
beautiful in the spring, and I like an apple-leaf. Ever examine one?"
The marketman never had. "Well, now, do, the next time you come across
an apple-tree in the spring."
And thus he would spread abroad an interest in the beauties of nature
which were commonly passed over.
"Wonderful man, Beecher is," said a market dealer in green goods once.
"I had handled thousands of bunches of celery in my life and never
noticed how beautiful its top leaves were until he picked up a bunch
once and told me all about it. Now I haven't the heart to cut the leaves
off when a customer asks me."
His idea of his own vegetable-gardening at Boscobel, his Peekskill home,
was very amusing. One day Edward was having a hurried dinner,
preparatory to catching the New York train. Mr. Beecher sat beside the
boy, telling him of some things he wished done in Brooklyn.
"No, I thank you," said Edward, as the maid offered him some potatoes.
"Look here, young man," said Mr. Beecher, "don't pass those potatoes so
lightly. They're of my own raising--and I reckon they cost me about a
dollar a piece," he added with a twinkle in his eye.
He was an education in so many ways! One instance taught Edward the
great danger of passionate speech that might unconsciously wound, and
the manliness of instant recognition of the error. Swayed by an
occasion, or by the responsiveness of an audience, Mr. Beecher would
sometimes say something which was not meant as it sounded. One evening,
at a great political meeting at Cooper Union, Mr. Beecher was at his
brightest and wittiest. In the course of his remarks he had occasion to
refer to ex-President Hayes; some one in the audience called out: "He
was a softy!"
"No," was Mr. Beecher's quick response. "The country needed a poultice
at that time, and got it."
"He's dead now, anyhow," responded the voice.
"Not dead, my friend: he only sleepeth."
It convulsed the audience, of course, and the reporters took it down in
After the meeting Edward drove home with Mr. Beecher. After a while he
asked: "Well, how do you think it went?"
Edward replied he thought it went very well, except that he did not like
the reference to ex-President Hayes.
"What reference? What did I say?"
Edward repeated it.
"Did I say that?" he asked. Edward looked at him. Mr. Beecher's face was
tense. After a few moments he said: "That's generally the way with
extemporaneous remarks: they are always dangerous. The best impromptu
speeches and remarks are the carefully prepared kind," he added.
Edward told him he regretted the reference because he knew that General
Hayes would read it in the New York papers, and he would be nonplussed
to understand it, considering the cordial relations which existed
between the two men. Mr. Beecher knew of Edward's relations with the
ex-President, and they had often talked of him together.
Nothing more was said of the incident. When the Beecher home was reached
Mr. Beecher said: "Just come in a minute." He went straight to his desk,
and wrote and wrote. It seemed as if he would never stop. At last he
handed Edward an eight-page letter, closely written, addressed to
"Read that, and mail it, please, on your way home. Then it'll get there
just as quickly as the New York papers will."
It was a superbly fine letter,--one of those letters which only Henry
Ward Beecher could write in his tenderest moods. And the reply which
came from Fremont, Ohio, was no less fine!
IX. Association with Henry Ward Beecher
As a letter-writer, Henry Ward Beecher was a constant wonder. He never
wrote a commonplace letter. There was always himself in it--in whatever
mood it found him.
It was not customary for him to see all his mail. As a rule Mrs. Beecher
opened it, and attended to most of it. One evening Edward was helping
Mrs. Beecher handle an unusually large number of letters. He was reading
one when Mr. Beecher happened to come in and read what otherwise he
would not have seen:
"Reverend Henry Ward Beecher.
"I journeyed over from my New York hotel yesterday morning to hear you
preach, expecting, of course, to hear an exposition of the gospel of
Jesus Christ. Instead, I heard a political harangue, with no reason or
cohesion in it. You made an ass of yourself.
"Very truly yours, __ __.
"That's to the point," commented Mr. Beecher with a smile; and then
seating himself at his desk, he turned the sheet over and wrote:
My Dear Sir:--
"I am sorry you should have taken so long a journey to hear Christ
preached, and then heard what you are polite enough to call a 'political
harangue.' I am sorry, too, that you think I made an ass of myself. In
this connection I have but one consolation: that you didn't make an ass
of yourself. The Lord did that."
"Henry Ward Beecher.
When the Reverend T. De Witt Talmage began to come into public notice in
Brooklyn, some of Mr. Beecher's overzealous followers unwisely gave the
impression that the Plymouth preacher resented sharing with another the
pulpit fame which he alone had so long unquestioningly held. Nothing, of
course, was further from Mr. Beecher's mind. As a matter of fact, the
two men were exceedingly good friends. Mr. Beecher once met Doctor
Talmage in a crowded business thoroughfare, where they got so deeply
interested in each other's talk that they sat down in some chairs
standing in front of a furniture store. A gathering throng of intensely
amused people soon brought the two men to the realization that they had
better move. Then Mr. Beecher happened to see that back of their heads
had been, respectively, two signs: one reading, "This style $3.45," the
other, "This style $4.25."
"Well," said Mr. Beecher, as he and Doctor Talmage walked away laughing,
"I was ticketed higher than you, Talmage, anyhow."
"You're worth more," rejoined Doctor Talmage.
On another occasion, as the two men met they began to bandy each other.
"Now, Talmage," said Mr. Beecher, his eyes twinkling, "let's have it
out. My people say that Plymouth holds more people than the Tabernacle,
and your folks stand up for the Tabernacle. Now which is it? What is
"Well, I should say that the Tabernacle holds about fifteen thousand
people," said Doctor Talmage with a smile.
"Good," said Mr. Beecher, at once catching the spirit. "And I say that
Plymouth accommodates, comfortably, twenty thousand people. Now, let's
tell our respective trustees that it's settled, once for all."
Mr. Beecher could never be induced to take note of what others said of
him. His friends, with more heart than head, often tried to persuade him
to answer some attack, but he invariably waved them off. He always saw
the ridiculous side of those attacks; never their serious import.
At one time a fellow Brooklyn minister, a staunch Prohibitionist,
publicly reproved Mr. Beecher for being inconsistent in his temperance
views, to the extent that he preached temperance but drank beer at his
own dinner-table. This attack angered the friends of Mr. Beecher, who
tried to persuade him to answer the charge. But the Plymouth pastor
refused. "Friend -- is a good fellow," was the only comment they could
"But he ought to be broadened," persisted the friends.
"Well now," said Mr. Beecher, "that isn't always possible. For
instance," he continued, as that inimitable merry twinkle came into his
eyes, "sometime ago Friend -- criticised me for something I had said. I
thought he ought not to have done so, and the next time we met I told
him so. He persisted, and I felt the only way to treat him was as I
would an unruly child. So I just took hold of him, laid him face down
over my knee, and proceeded to impress him as our fathers used to do of
old. And, do you know, I found that the Lord had not made a place on him
for me to lay my hand upon."
And in the laughter which met this sally Mr. Beecher ended with "You
see, it isn't always possible to broaden a man."
Mr. Beecher was rarely angry. Once, however, he came near it; yet he was
more displeased than angry. Some of his family and Edward had gone to a
notable public affair at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where a box had
been placed at Mr. Beecher's disposal. One member of the family was a
very beautiful girl who had brought a girl-friend. Both were attired in
full evening decollete costume. Mr. Beecher came in late from another
engagement. A chair had been kept vacant for him in the immediate front
of the box, since his presence had been widely advertised, and the
audience was expecting to see him. When he came in, he doffed his coat
and was about to go to the chair reserved for him, when he stopped,
stepped back, and sat down in a chair in the rear of the box. It was
evident from his face that something had displeased him. Mrs. Beecher
leaned over and asked him, but he offered no explanation. Nothing was
Edward went back to the house with Mr. Beecher; after talking awhile in
the study, the preacher, wishing to show him something, was going
up-stairs with his guest and had nearly reached the second landing when
there was the sound of a rush, the gas was quickly turned low, and two
white figures sped into one of the rooms.
"My dears," called Mr. Beecher.
"Yes, Mr. Beecher," came a voice from behind the door of the room in
"Come here one minute," said Mr. Beecher.
"But we cannot," said the voice. "We are ready for bed. Wait until--"
"No; come as you are," returned Mr. Beecher.
"Let me go down-stairs," Edward interrupted.
"No; you stay right here," said Mr. Beecher.
"Why, Mr. Beecher! How can we? Isn't Edward with you?"
"You are keeping me waiting for you," was the quiet and firm answer.
There was a moment's hesitation. Then the door opened and the figures of
the two girls appeared.
"Now, turn up the gas, please, as it was," said Mr. Beecher.
"But, Mr. Beecher--"
"You heard me?"
Up went the light, and the two beautiful girls of the box stood in their
"Now, why did you run away?" asked Mr. Beecher.
"Why, Mr. Beecher! How can you ask such a question?" pouted one of the
girls, looking at her dress and then at Edward.
"Exactly," said Mr. Beecher. "Your modesty leads you to run away from
this young man because he might possibly see you under a single light in
dresses that cover your entire bodies, while that same modesty did not
prevent you all this evening from sitting beside him, under a myriad of
lights, in dresses that exposed nearly half of your bodies. That's what
I call a distinction with a difference--with the difference to the
credit neither of your intelligence nor of your modesty. There is some
modesty in the dresses you have on: there was precious little in what
you girls wore this evening. Good night."
"You do not believe, Mr. Beecher," Edward asked later, "in decollete
dressing for girls?"
"No, and even less for women. A girl has some excuse of youth on her
side; a woman none at all."
A few moments later he added:
"A proper dress for any girl or woman is one that reveals the lady, but
not her person."
Edward asked Mrs. Beecher one day whether Mr. Beecher had ever expressed
an opinion of his sister's famous book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and she told
this interesting story of how the famous preacher read the story:
"When the story was first published in The National Era, in chapters,
all our family, excepting Mr. Beecher, looked impatiently for its
appearance each week. But, try as we might, we could not persuade Mr.
Beecher to read it, or let us tell him anything about it.
"'It's folly for you to be kept in constant excitement week after week,'
he would say. 'I shall wait till the work is completed, and take it all
at one dose.'
"After the serial ended, the book came to Mr. Beecher on the morning of
a day when he had a meeting on hand for the afternoon and a speech to
make in the evening. The book was quietly laid one side, for he always
scrupulously avoided everything that could interfere with work he was
expected to do. But the next day was a free day. Mr. Beecher rose even
earlier than usual, and as soon as he was dressed he began to read Uncle
Tom's Cabin. When breakfast was ready he took his book with him to the
table, where reading and eating went on together; but he spoke never a
word. After morning prayers, he threw himself on the sofa, forgot
everything but his book, and read uninterruptedly till dinner-time.
Though evidently intensely interested, for a long time he controlled any
marked indication of it. Before noon I knew the storm was gathering that
would conquer his self-control, as it had done with us all. He
frequently 'gave way to his pocket-handkerchief,' to use one of his old
humorous remarks, in a most vigorous manner. In return for his teasing
me for reading the work weekly, I could not refrain from saying
demurely, as I passed him once: 'You seem to have a severe cold, Henry.
How could you have taken it?' But what did I gain? Not even a
half-annoyed shake of the head, or the semblance of a smile. I might as
well have spoken to the Sphinx.
"When reminded that the dinner-bell had rung, he rose and went to the
table, still with his book in his hand. He asked the blessing with a
tremor in his voice, which showed the intense excitement under which he
was laboring. We were alone at the table, and there was nothing to
distract his thoughts. He drank his coffee, ate but little, and returned
to his reading, with no thought of indulging in his usual nap. His
almost uncontrollable excitement revealed itself in frequent
"Mr. Beecher was a very slow reader. I was getting uneasy over the marks
of strong feeling and excitement, and longed to have him finish the
book. I could see that he entered into the whole story, every scene, as
if it were being acted right before him, and he himself were the
sufferer. He had always been a pronounced Abolitionist, and the story he
was reading roused intensely all he had felt on that subject.
"The night came on. It was growing late, and I felt impelled to urge him
to retire. Without raising his eyes from the book, he replied:
"'Soon; soon; you go; I'll come soon.'
"Closing the house, I went to our room; but not to sleep. The clock
struck twelve, one, two, three; and then, to my great relief, I heard
Mr. Beecher coming up-stairs. As he entered, he threw Uncle Tom's Cabin
on the table, exclaiming: 'There; I've done it! But if Hattie Stowe ever
writes anything more like that I'll--well! She has nearly killed me.'
"And he never picked up the book from that day."
Any one who knew Henry Ward Beecher at all knew of his love of books. He
was, however, most prodigal in lending his books and he always forgot
the borrowers. Then when he wanted a certain volume from his library he
could not find it. He would, of course, have forgotten the borrower, but
he had a unique method of tracing the book.
One evening the great preacher suddenly appeared at a friend's house
and, quietly entering the drawing-room without removing his overcoat, he
walked up to his friend and said:
"Rossiter, why don't you bring back that Ruskin of mine that I lent
The man colored to the roots of his hair. "Why, Mr. Beecher," he said,
"I'll go up-stairs and get it for you right away. I would not have kept
it so long, only you told me I might."
At this Beecher burst into a fit of merry laughter. "Found! Found!" he
shouted, as he took off his overcoat and threw himself into a chair.
When he could stop laughing, he said: "You know, Rossiter, that I am
always ready to lend my books to any one who will make good use of them
and bring them back, but I always forget to whom I lend them. It
happened, in this case, that I wanted that volume of Ruskin about a week
ago; but when I went to the shelf for it, it was gone. I knew I must
have lent it, but to whom I could not remember. During the past week, I
began to demand the book of every friend I met to whom I might have lent
it. Of course, every one of them protested innocence; but at last I've
struck the guilty man. I shall know, in future, how to find my missing
books. The plan works beautifully."
One evening, after supper, Mr. Beecher said to his wife:
"Mother, what material have we among our papers about our early Indiana
Mr. Beecher had long been importuned to write his autobiography, and he
had decided to do it after he had finished his Life of Christ.
Mrs. Beecher had two boxes brought into the room.
"Suppose you look into that box, if you will," said Mr. Beecher to
Edward, "and I'll take this one, and we'll see what we can find about
that time. Mother, you supervise and see how we look on the floor."
And Mr. Beecher sat down on the floor in front of one box,
shoemaker-fashion, while Edward, likewise on the floor, started on the
It was a dusty job, and the little room began to be filled with
particles of dust which set Mrs. Beecher coughing. At last she said:
"I'll leave you two to finish. I have some things to do up-stairs, and
then I'll retire. Don't be too late, Henry," she said.
It was one of those rare evenings for Mr. Beecher--absolutely free from
interruption; and, with his memory constantly taken back to his early
days, he continued in a reminiscent mood that was charmingly intimate to
"Found something?" he asked at one intermission when quiet had reigned
longer than usual, and he saw Edward studying a huge pile of papers.
"No, sir," said the boy. "Only a lot of papers about a suit."
"What suit?" asked Mr. Beecher mechanically, with his head buried in his
"I don't know, sir," Edward replied naively, little knowing what he was
reopening to the preacher. "'Tilton versus Beecher' they are marked."
Mr. Beecher said nothing, and after the boy had fingered the papers he
chanced to look in the preacher's direction and found him watching him
intently with a curiously serious look in his face.
"Must have been a big suit," commented the boy. "Here's another pile of
papers about it."
Edward could not make out Mr. Beecher's steady look at him as he sat
there on the floor mechanically playing with a paper in his hand.
"Yes," he finally said, "it was a big suit. What does it mean to you?"
he asked suddenly.
"To me?" Edward asked. "Nothing, sir. Why?"
Mr. Beecher said nothing for a few moments, and turned to his box to
examine some more papers.
Then the boy asked: "Was the Beecher in this suit you, Mr. Beecher?"
Again was turned on him that serious, questioning look.
"Yes," he said after a bit. Then he thought again for a few moments and
said: "How old were you in 1875?"
"Twelve," the boy replied.
"Twelve," he repeated. "Twelve."
He turned again to his box and Edward to his.
"There doesn't seem to be anything more in this box," the boy said, "but
more papers in that suit," and he began to put the papers back.
"What do you know about that 'suit,' as you call it?" asked Mr. Beecher,
stopping in his work.
"Nothing," was the reply. "I never heard of it."
"Never heard of it?" he repeated, and he fastened that curious look upon
Edward again. It was so compelling that it held the boy. For several
moments they looked at each other. Neither spoke.
"That seems strange," he said, at last, as he renewed the search of his
box. "Never heard of it," he repeated almost to himself.
Then for fully five minutes not a word was spoken.
"But you will some day," said Mr. Beecher suddenly.
"I will what, Mr. Beecher?" asked the boy. He had forgotten the previous
Mr. Beecher looked at Edward and sighed. "Hear about it," he said.
"I don't think I understand you," was the reply.
"No, I don't think you do," he said. "I mean, you will some day hear
about that suit. And I don't know," then he hesitated, "but--but you
might as well get it straight. You say you were twelve then," he mused.
"What were you doing when you were twelve?"
"Going to school," was the reply.
"Yes, of course," said Mr. Beecher. "Well," he continued, turning on his
haunches so that his back rested against the box, "I am going to tell
you the story of that suit, and then you'll know it."
Edward said nothing, and then began the recital of a story that he was
destined to remember. It was interesting then, as Mr. Beecher
progressed; but how thrice interesting that wonderful recital was to
prove as the years rolled by and the boy realized the wonderful telling
of that of all stories by Mr. Beecher himself!
Slowly, and in that wonderfully low, mellow voice that so many knew and
loved, step by step, came the unfolding of that remarkable story. Once
or twice only did the voice halt, as when, after he had explained the
basis of the famous suit, he said:
"Those were the charges. That is what it was all about."
Then he looked at Edward and asked: "Do you know just what such charges
"I think I do," Edward replied, and the question was asked with such
feeling, and the answer was said so mechanically, that Mr. Beecher
replied simply: "Perhaps."
"Well," he continued, "the suit was a 'long one,' as you said. For days
and weeks, yes, for months, it went on, from January to July, and those
were very full days: full of so many things that you would hardly
And then he told the boy as much of the days in court as he thought he
would understand, and how the lawyers worked and worked, in court all
day, and up half the night, preparing for the next day. "Mostly around
that little table there," he said, pointing to a white, marble-topped
table against which the boy was leaning, and which now stands in Edward
"Finally the end came," he said, "after--well, months. To some it seemed
years," said Mr. Beecher, and his eyes looked tired.
"Well," he continued, "the case went to the jury: the men, you know, who
had to decide. There were twelve of them."
"Was it necessary that all twelve should think alike?" asked the boy.
"That was what was hoped, my boy," said Mr. Beecher--"that was what was
hoped," he repeated.
"Well, they did, didn't they?" Edward asked, as Mr. Beecher stopped.
"Nine did," he replied. "Yes; nine did. But three didn't. Three
thought--" Mr. Beecher stopped and did not finish the sentence. "But
nine did," he repeated. "Nine to three it stood. That was the decision,
and then the judge discharged the jury," he said.
There was naturally one question in the boyish mind to ask the man
before him--one question! Yet, instinctively, something within him made
him hesitate to ask that question. But at last his curiosity got the
better of the still, small voice of judgment.
"And, Mr. Beecher--" the boy began.
But Mr. Beecher knew! He knew what was at the end of the tongue, looked
clear into the boy's mind; and Edward can still see him lift that fine
head and look into his eyes, as he said, slowly and clearly:
"And the decision of the nine was in exact accord with the facts."
He had divined the question!
As the two rose from the floor that night Edward looked at the clock. It
was past midnight; Mr. Beecher had talked for two hours; the boy had
spoken hardly at all.
As the boy was going out, he turned to Mr. Beecher sitting thoughtfully
in his chair.
"Good night, Mr. Beecher," he said.
The Plymouth pastor pulled himself together, and with that wit that
never forsook him he looked at the clock, smiled, and answered: "Good
morning, I should say. God bless you, my boy." Then rising, he put his
arm around the boy's shoulders and walked with him to the door.
X. The First "Woman's Page," "Literary Leaves," and Entering Scribner's
Mr. Beecher's weekly newspaper "syndicate" letter was not only
successful in itself, it made liberal money for the writer and for its
two young publishers, but it served to introduce Edward Bok's proposed
agency to the newspapers under the most favorable conditions. With one
stroke, the attention of newspaper editors had been attracted, and
Edward concluded to take quick advantage of it. He organized the Bok
Syndicate Press, with offices in New York, and his brother, William J.
Bok, as partner and active manager. Edward's days were occupied, of
course, with his duties in the Holt publishing house, where he was
acquiring a first-hand knowledge of the business.
Edward's attention was now turned, for the first time, to women and
their reading habits. He became interested in the fact that the American
woman was not a newspaper reader. He tried to find out the psychology of
this, and finally reached the conclusion, on looking over the
newspapers, that the absence of any distinctive material for women was a
factor. He talked the matter over with several prominent New York
editors, who frankly acknowledged that they would like nothing better
than to interest women, and make them readers of their papers. But they
were equally frank in confessing that they were ignorant both of what
women wanted, and, even if they knew, of where such material was to be
had. Edward at once saw that here was an open field. It was a productive
field, since, as woman was the purchasing power, it would benefit the
newspaper enormously in its advertising if it could offer a feminine
There was a bright letter of New York gossip published in the New York
Star, called "Bab's Babble." Edward had read it, and saw the possibility
of syndicating this item as a woman's letter from New York. He
instinctively realized that women all over the country would read it. He
sought out the author, made arrangements with her and with former
Governor Dorscheimer, owner of the paper, and the letter was sent out to
a group of papers. It was an instantaneous success, and a syndicate of
ninety newspapers was quickly organized.
Edward followed this up by engaging Ella Wheeler Wilcox, then at the
height of her career, to write a weekly letter on women's topics. This
he syndicated in conjunction with the other letter, and the editors
invariably grouped the two letters. This, in turn, naturally led to the
idea of supplying an entire page of matter of interest to women. The
plan was proposed to a number of editors, who at once saw the
possibilities in it and promised support. The young syndicator now laid
under contribution all the famous women writers of the day; he chose the
best of the men writers to write on women's topics; and it was not long
before the syndicate was supplying a page of women's material. The
newspapers played up the innovation, and thus was introduced into the
newspaper press of the United States the "Woman's Page."
The material supplied by the Bok Syndicate Press was of the best; the
standard was kept high; the writers were selected from among the most
popular authors of the day; and readability was the cardinal note. The
women bought the newspapers containing the new page, the advertiser
began to feel the presence of the new reader, and every newspaper that
could not get the rights for the "Bok Page," as it came to be known,
started a "Woman's Page" of it own. Naturally, the material so obtained
was of an inferior character. No single newspaper could afford what the
syndicate, with the expense divided among a hundred newspapers, could
pay. Nor had the editors of these woman's pages either a standard or a
policy. In desperation they engaged any person they could to "get a lot
of woman's stuff." It was stuff, and of the trashiest kind. So that
almost coincident with the birth of the idea began its abuse and
disintegration; the result we see in the meaningless presentations which
pass for "woman's pages" in the newspaper of to-day.
This is true even of the woman's material in the leading newspapers, and
the reason is not difficult to find. The average editor has, as a rule,
no time to study the changing conditions of women's interests; his time
is and must be engrossed by the news and editorial pages. He usually
delegates the Sunday "specials" to some editor who, again, has little
time to study the ever-changing women's problems, particularly in these
days, and he relies upon unintelligent advice, or he places his "woman's
page" in the hands of some woman with the comfortable assurance that,
being a woman, she ought to know what interests her sex.
But having given the subject little thought, he attaches minor
importance to the woman's "stuff," regarding it rather in the light of
something that he "must carry to catch the women"; and forthwith he
either forgets it or refuses to give the editor of his woman's page even
a reasonable allowance to spend on her material. The result is, of
course, inevitable: pages of worthless material. There is, in fact, no
part of the Sunday newspaper of to-day upon which so much good and now
expensive white paper is wasted as upon the pages marked for the home,
for women, and for children.
Edward Bok now became convinced, from his book-publishing association,
that if the American women were not reading the newspapers, the American
public, as a whole, was not reading the number of books that it should,
considering the intelligence and wealth of the people, and the cheap
prices at which books were sold. He concluded to see whether he could
not induce the newspapers to give larger and more prominent space to the
news of the book world.
Owing to his constant contact with authors, he was in a peculiarly
fortunate position to know their plans in advance of execution, and he
was beginning to learn the ins and outs of the book-publishing world. He
canvassed the newspapers subscribing to his syndicate features, but
found a disinclination to give space to literary news. To the average
editor, purely literary features held less of an appeal than did the
features for women. Fewer persons were interested in books, they
declared; besides, the publishing houses were not so liberal advertisers
as the department stores. The whole question rested on a commercial
Edward believed he could convince editors of the public interest in a
newsy, readable New York literary letter, and he prevailed upon the
editor of the New York Star to allow him to supplement the book reviews
of George Parsons Lathrop in that paper by a column of literary chat
called "Literary Leaves." For a number of weeks he continued to write
this department, and confine it to the New York paper, feeling that he
needed the experience for the acquirement of a readable style, and he
wanted to be sure that he had opened a sufficient number of productive
news channels to ensure a continuous flow of readable literary
Occasionally he sent to an editor here and there what he thought was a
particularly newsy letter just "for his information, not for sale." The
editor of the Philadelphia Times was the first to discover that his
paper wanted the letter, and the Boston Journal followed suit. Then the
editor of the Cincinnati Times-Star discovered the letter in the New
York Star, and asked that it be supplied weekly with the letter. These
newspapers renamed the letter "Bok's Literary Leaves," and the feature
started on its successful career.
Edward had been in the employ of Henry Holt and Company as clerk and
stenographer for two years when Mr. Cary sent for him and told him that
there was an opening in the publishing house of Charles Scribner's Sons,
if he wanted to make a change. Edward saw at once the larger
opportunities possible in a house of the importance of the Scribners,
and he immediately placed himself in communication with Mr. Charles
Scribner, with the result that in January, 1884, he entered the employ
of these publishers as stenographer to the two members of the firm and
to Mr. Edward L. Burlingame, literary adviser to the house. He was to
receive a salary of eighteen dollars and thirty-three cents per week,
which was then considered a fair wage for stenographic work. The
typewriter had at that time not come into use, and all letters were
written in long-hand. Once more his legible handwriting had secured for
him a position.
Edward Bok was now twenty-one years of age. He had already done a
prodigious amount of work for a boy of his years. He was always busy.
Every spare moment of his evenings was devoted either to writing his
literary letter, to the arrangement or editing of articles for his
newspaper syndicate, to the steady acquirement of autograph letters in
which he still persisted, or to helping Mr. Beecher in his literary
work. The Plymouth pastor was particularly pleased with Edward's
successful exploitation of his pen work; and he afterward wrote: "Bok is
the only man who ever seemed to make my literary work go and get money
out of it."
Enterprise and energy the boy unquestionably possessed, but one need
only think back even thus far in his life to see the continuous good
fortune which had followed him in the friendships he had made, and in
the men with whom his life, at its most formative period, had come into
close contact. If we are inclined to credit young Bok with an
ever-willingness to work and a certain quality of initiative, the
influences which played upon him must also be taken into account.
Take, for example, the peculiarly fortuitous circumstances under which
he entered the Scribner publishing house. As stenographer to the two
members of the firm, Bok was immediately brought into touch with the
leading authors of the day, their works as they were discussed in the
correspondence dictated to him, and the authors' terms upon which books
were published. In fact, he was given as close an insight as it was
possible for a young man to get into the inner workings of one of the
large publishing houses in the United States, with a list peculiarly
noted for the distinction of its authors and the broad scope of its
The Scribners had the foremost theological list of all the publishing
houses; its educational list was exceptionally strong; its musical list
excelled; its fiction represented the leading writers of the day; its
general list was particularly noteworthy; and its foreign department,
importing the leading books brought out in Great Britain and Europe, was
an outstanding feature of the business. The correspondence dictated to
Bok covered, naturally, all these fields, and a more remarkable
opportunity for self-education was never offered a stenographer.
Mr. Burlingame was known in the publishing world for his singularly keen
literary appreciation, and was accepted as one of the best judges of
good fiction. Bok entered the Scribner employ as Mr. Burlingame was
selecting the best short stories published within a decade for a set of
books to be called "Short Stories by American Authors." The
correspondence for this series was dictated to Bok, and he decided to
read after Mr. Burlingame and thus get an idea of the best fiction of
the day. So whenever his chief wrote to an author asking for permission
to include his story in the proposed series, Bok immediately hunted up
the story and read it.
Later, when the house decided to start Scribner's Magazine, and Mr.
Burlingame was selected to be its editor, all the preliminary
correspondence was dictated to Bok through his employers, and he
received a firsthand education in the setting up of the machinery
necessary for the publication of a magazine. All this he eagerly
He was again fortunate in that his desk was placed in the advertising
department of the house; and here he found, as manager, an old-time
Brooklyn boy friend with whom he had gone to school: Frank N. Doubleday,
to-day the senior partner of Doubleday, Page and Company. Bok had been
attracted to advertising through his theatre programme and Brooklyn
Magazine experience, and here was presented a chance to learn the art at
first hand and according to the best traditions. So, whenever his
stenographic work permitted, he assisted Mr. Doubleday in preparing and
placing the advertisements of the books of the house.
Mr. Doubleday was just reviving the publication of a house-organ called
The Book Buyer, and, given a chance to help in this, Bok felt he was
getting back into the periodical field, especially since, under Mr.
Doubleday's guidance, the little monthly soon developed into a literary
magazine of very respectable size and generally bookish contents.
The house also issued another periodical, The Presbyterian Review, a
quarterly under the editorship of a board of professors connected with
the Princeton and Union Theological Seminaries. This ponderous-looking
magazine was not composed of what one might call "light reading," and as
the price of a single copy was eighty cents, and the advertisements it
could reasonably expect were necessarily limited in number, the
periodical was rather difficult to move. Thus the whole situation at the
Scribners' was adapted to give Edward an all-round training in the
publishing business. It was an exceptional opportunity.
He worked early and late. An increase in his salary soon told him that
he was satisfying his employers, and then, when the new Scribner's
Magazine appeared, and a little later Mr. Doubleday was delegated to
take charge of the business end of it, Bok himself was placed in charge
of the advertising department, with the publishing details of the two
periodicals on his hands.
He suddenly found himself directing a stenographer instead of being a
stenographer himself. Evidently his apprentice days were over. He had,
in addition, the charge of sending all the editorial copies of the new
books to the press for review, and of keeping a record of those reviews.
This naturally brought to his desk the authors of the house who wished
to see how the press received their works.
The study of the writers who were interested in following the press
notices of their books, and those who were indifferent to them became a
fascinating game to young Bok. He soon discovered that the greater the
author the less he seemed to care about his books once they were
published. Bok noticed this, particularly, in the case of Robert Louis
Stevenson, whose work had attracted him, but, although he used the most
subtle means to inveigle the author into the office to read the press
notices, he never succeeded. Stevenson never seemed to have the
slightest interest in what the press said of his books.
One day Mr. Burlingame asked Bok to take some proofs to Stevenson at his
home; thinking it might be a propitious moment to interest the author in
the popular acclaim that followed the publication of Doctor Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde, Bok put a bunch of press notices in his pocket. He found the
author in bed, smoking his inevitable cigarette.
As the proofs were to be brought back, Bok waited, and thus had an
opportunity for nearly two hours to see the author at work. No man ever
went over his proofs more carefully than did Stevenson; his corrections
were numerous; and sometimes for ten minutes at a time he would sit
smoking and thinking over a single sentence, which, when he had
satisfactorily shaped it in his mind, he would recast on the proof.
Stevenson was not a prepossessing figure at these times. With his sallow
skin and his black dishevelled hair, with finger-nails which had been
allowed to grow very long, with fingers discolored by tobacco--in short,
with a general untidiness that was all his own, Stevenson, so Bok felt,
was an author whom it was better to read than to see. And yet his
kindliness and gentleness more than offset the unattractiveness of his
After one or two visits from Bok, having grown accustomed to him,
Stevenson would discuss some sentence in an article, or read some
amended paragraph out loud and ask whether Bok thought it sounded
better. To pass upon Stevenson as a stylist was, of course, hardly
within Bok's mental reach, so he kept discreetly silent when Stevenson
asked his opinion.
In fact, Bok reasoned it out that the novelist did not really expect an
answer or an opinion, but was at such times thinking aloud. The mental
process, however, was immensely interesting, particularly when Stevenson
would ask Bok to hand him a book on words lying on an adjacent table.
"So hard to find just the right word," Stevenson would say, and Bok got
his first realization of the truth of the maxim: "Easy writing, hard
reading; hard writing, easy reading."
On this particular occasion when Stevenson finished, Bok pulled out his
clippings, told the author how his book was being received, and was
selling, what the house was doing to advertise it, explained the
forthcoming play by Richard Mansfield, and then offered the press
Stevenson took the bundle and held it in his hand.
"That's very nice to tell me all you have," he said, "and I have been
greatly interested. But you have really told me all about it, haven't
you, so why should I read these notices? Hadn't I better get busy on
another paper for Mr. Burlingame for the next magazine, else he'll be
after me? You know how impatient these editors are." And he handed back
Bok saw it was of no use: Stevenson was interested in his work, but,
beyond a certain point, not in the world's reception of it. Bok's
estimate of the author rose immeasurably. His attitude was in such sharp
contrast to that of others who came almost daily into the office to see
what the papers said, often causing discomfiture to the young
advertising director by insisting upon taking the notices with them. But
Bok always countered this desire by reminding the author that, of
course, in that case he could not quote from these desirable notices in
his advertisements of the book. And, invariably, the notices were left
It now fell to the lot of the young advertiser to arouse the interest of
the public in what were to be some of the most widely read and
best-known books of the day: Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde; Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy; Andrew
Carnegie's Triumphant Democracy; Frank R. Stockton's The Lady, or the
Tiger? and his Rudder Grange, and a succession of other books.
The advertising of these books keenly sharpened the publicity sense of
the developing advertising director. One book could best be advertised
by the conventional means of the display advertisement; another, like
Triumphant Democracy, was best served by sending out to the newspapers a
"broadside" of pungent extracts; public curiosity in a novel like The
Lady, or the Tiger? was, of course, whetted by the publication of
literary notes as to the real denouement the author had in mind in
writing the story. Whenever Mr. Stockton came into the office Bok pumped
him dry as to his experiences with the story, such as when, at a dinner
party, his hostess served an ice-cream lady and a tiger to the author,
and the whole company watched which he chose.
"And which did you choose?" asked the advertising director.
"Et tu, Brute?" Stockton smilingly replied. "Well, I'll tell you. I
asked the butler to bring me another spoon, and then, with a spoon in
each hand, I attacked both the lady and the tiger at the same time."
Once, when Stockton was going to Boston by the night boat, every room
was taken. The ticket agent recognized the author, and promised to get
him a desirable room if the author would tell which he had had in mind,
the lady or the tiger.
"Produce the room," answered Stockton.
The man did. Stockton paid for it, and then said: "To tell you the
truth, my friend, I don't know."
And that was the truth, as Mr. Stockton confessed to his friends. The
idea of the story had fascinated him; when he began it he purposed to
give it a definite ending. But when he reached the end he didn't know
himself which to produce out of the open door, the lady or the tiger,
"and so," he used to explain, "I made up my mind to leave it hanging in
To the present generation of readers, all this reference to Stockton's
story may sound strange, but for months it was the most talked-of story
of the time, and sold into large numbers.
One day while Mr. Stockton was in Bok's office, A. B. Frost, the
illustrator, came in. Frost had become a full-fledged farmer with one
hundred and twenty acres of Jersey land, and Stockton had a large farm
in the South which was a financial burden to him.
"Well, Stockton," said Frost, "I have found a way at last to make a farm
stop eating up money. Perhaps it will help you."
Stockton was busy writing, but at this bit of hopeful news he looked up,
his eyes kindled, he dropped his pen, and eagerly said:
And looking behind him to see that the way was clear, Frost answered:
"Pave it solid, old man."
When the stories of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Little Lord Fauntleroy
were made into plays, Bok was given an opportunity for an entirely
different kind of publicity. Both plays were highly successful; they ran
for weeks in succession, and each evening Bok had circulars of the books
in every seat of the theatre; he had a table filled with the books in
the foyer of each theatre; and he bombarded the newspapers with stories
of Mr. Mansfield's method of making the quick change from one character
to the other in the dual role of the Stevenson play, and with anecdotes
about the boy Tommy Russell in Mrs. Burnett's play. The sale of the
books went merrily on, and kept pace with the success of the plays. And
it all sharpened the initiative of the young advertiser and developed
his sense for publicity.
One day while waiting in the anteroom of a publishing house to see a
member of the firm, he picked up a book and began to read it. Since he
had to wait for nearly an hour, he had read a large part of the volume
when he was at last admitted to the private office. When his business
was finished, Bok asked the publisher why this book was not selling.
"I don't know," replied the publisher. "We had great hopes for it, but
somehow or other the public has not responded to it."
"Are you sure you are telling the public about it in the right way?"
The Scribner advertising had by this time attracted the attention of the
publishing world, and this publisher was entirely ready to listen to a
suggestion from his youthful caller.
"I wish we published it," said Bok. "I think I could make it a go. It's
all in the book."
"How would you advertise it?" asked the publisher.
Bok promised the publisher he would let him know. He carried with him a
copy of the book, wrote some advertisements for it, prepared an
attractive "broadside" of extracts, to which the book easily lent
itself, wrote some literary notes about it, and sent the whole
collection to the publisher. Every particle of "copy" which Bok had
prepared was used, the book began to sell, and within three months it
was the most discussed book of the day.
The book was Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward".
XI. The Chances for Success
Edward Bok does not now remember whether the mental picture had been
given him, or whether he had conjured it up for himself; but he
certainly was possessed of the idea, as are so many young men entering
business, that the path which led to success was very difficult: that it
was overfilled with a jostling, bustling, panting crowd, each eager to
reach the goal; and all ready to dispute every step that a young man
should take; and that favoritism only could bring one to the top.
After Bok had been in the world of affairs, he wondered where were these
choked avenues, these struggling masses, these competitors for every
inch of vantage. Then he gradually discovered that they did not exist.
In the first place, he found every avenue leading to success wide open
and certainly not over-peopled. He was surprised how few there were who
really stood in a young man's way. He found that favoritism was not the
factor that he had been led to suppose. He realized it existed in a few
isolated cases, but to these every one had pointed and about these every
one had talked until, in the public mind, they had multiplied in number
and assumed a proportion that the facts did not bear out.
Here and there a relative "played a favorite," but even with the push
and influence behind him "the lucky one," as he was termed, did not seem
to make progress, unless he had merit. It was not long before Bok
discovered that the possession of sheer merit was the only real factor
that actually counted in any of the places where he had been employed or
in others which he had watched; that business was so constructed and
conducted that nothing else, in the face of competition, could act as
current coin. And the amazing part of it all to Bok was how little merit
there was. Nothing astonished him more than the low average ability of
those with whom he worked or came into contact.
He looked at the top, and instead of finding it overcrowded, he was
surprised at the few who had reached there; the top fairly begged for
more to climb its heights.
For every young man, earnest, eager to serve, willing to do more than he
was paid for, he found ten trying to solve the problem of how little
they could actually do for the pay received.
It interested Bok to listen to the talk of his fellow-workers during
luncheon hours and at all other times outside of office hours. When the
talk did turn on the business with which they were concerned, it
consisted almost entirely of wages, and he soon found that, with
scarcely an exception, every young man was terribly underpaid, and that
his employer absolutely failed to appreciate his work. It was
interesting, later, when Bok happened to get the angle of the employer,
to discover that, invariably, these same lamenting young men were those
who, from the employer's point of view, were either greatly overpaid or
so entirely worthless as to be marked for early decapitation.
Bok felt that this constant thought of the wages earned or deserved was
putting the cart before the horse; he had schooled himself into the
belief that if he did his work well, and accomplished more than was
expected of him, the question of wages would take care of itself. But,
according to the talk on every side, it was he who had the cart before
the horse. Bok had not only tried always to fill the particular job set
for him but had made it a rule at the same time to study the position
just ahead, to see what it was like, what it demanded, and then, as the
opportunity presented itself, do a part of that job in addition to his
own. As a stenographer, he tried always to clear off the day's work
before he closed his desk. This was not always possible, but he kept it
before him as a rule to be followed rather than violated.
One morning Bok's employer happened to come to the office earlier than
usual, to find the letters he had dictated late in the afternoon before
lying on his desk ready to be signed.
"These are the letters I gave you late yesterday afternoon, are they
not?" asked the employer.
"Must have started early this morning, didn't you?"
"No, sir," answered Bok. "I wrote them out last evening before I left."
"Like to get your notes written out before they get stale?"
"Good idea," said the employer.
"Yes, sir," answered Bok, "and I think it is even a better idea to get a
day's work off before I take my apron off."
"Well said," answered the employer, and the following payday Bok found
an increase in his weekly envelope.
It is only fair, however, to add here, parenthetically, that it is
neither just nor considerate to a conscientious stenographer for an
employer to delay his dictation until the end of the day's work, when,
merely by judicious management of his affairs and time, he can give his
dictation directly after opening his morning mail. There are two sides
to every question; but sometimes the side of the stenographer is not
kept in mind by the employer.
Bok found it a uniform rule among his fellow-workers to do exactly the
opposite to his own idea; there was an astonishing unanimity in working
by the clock; where the hour of closing was five o'clock the
preparations began five minutes before, with the hat and overcoat over
the back of the chair ready for the stroke of the hour. This concert of
action was curiously universal, no "overtime" was ever to be thought of,
and, as occasionally happened when the work did go over the hour, it was
not, to use the mildest term, done with care, neatness, or accuracy; it
was, to use a current phrase, "slammed off." Every moment beyond five
o'clock in which the worker was asked to do anything was by just so much
an imposition on the part of the employer, and so far as it could be
safely shown, this impression was gotten over to him.
There was an entire unwillingness to let business interfere with any
anticipated pleasure or personal engagement. The office was all right
between nine and five; one had to be there to earn a living; but after
five, it was not to be thought of for one moment. The elevators which
ran on the stroke of five were never large enough to hold the throng
which besieged them.
The talk during lunch hour rarely, if ever, turned toward business,
except as said before, when it dealt with underpaid services. In the
spring and summer it was invariably of baseball, and scores of young men
knew the batting averages of the different players and the standing of
the clubs with far greater accuracy than they knew the standing or the
discounts of the customers of their employers. In the winter the talk
was all of dancing, boxing, or plays.
It soon became evident to Bok why scarcely five out of every hundred of
the young men whom he knew made any business progress. They were not
interested; it was a case of a day's work and a day's pay; it was not a
question of how much one could do but how little one could get away
with. The thought of how well one might do a given thing never seemed to
occur to the average mind.
"Oh, what do you care?" was the favorite expression. "The boss won't
notice it if you break your back over his work; you won't get any more
And there the subject was dismissed, and thoroughly dismissed, too.
Eventually, then, Bok learned that the path that led to success was wide
open: the competition was negligible. There was no jostling. In fact,
travel on it was just a trifle lonely. One's fellow-travellers were
excellent company, but they were few! It was one of Edward Bok's
greatest surprises, but it was also one of his greatest stimulants. To
go where others could not go, or were loath to go, where at least they
were not, had a tang that savored of the freshest kind of adventure. And
the way was so simple, so much simpler, in fact, than its avoidance,
which called for so much argument, explanation, and discussion. One had
merely to do all that one could do, a little more than one was asked or
expected to do, and immediately one's head rose above the crowd and one
was in an employer's eye--where it is always so satisfying for an
employee to be! And as so few heads lifted themselves above the many,
there was never any danger that they would not be seen.
Of course, Edward Bok had to prove to himself that his conception of
conditions was right. He felt instinctively that it was, however, and
with this stimulus he bucked the line hard. When others played, he
worked, fully convinced that his play-time would come later. Where
others shirked, he assumed. Where others lagged, he accelerated his
pace. Where others were indifferent to things around them, he observed
and put away the results for possible use later. He did not make of
himself a pack-horse; what he undertook he did from interest in it, and
that made it a pleasure to him when to others it was a burden. He
instinctively reasoned it out that an unpleasant task is never
accomplished by stepping aside from it, but that, unerringly, it will
return later to be met and done.
Obstacles, to Edward Bok, soon became merely difficulties to be
overcome, and he trusted to his instinct to show him the best way to
overcome them. He soon learned that the hardest kind of work was back of
every success; that nothing in the world of business just happened, but
that everything was brought about, and only in one way--by a willingness
of spirit and a determination to carry through. He soon exploded for
himself the misleading and comfortable theory of luck: the only lucky
people, he found, were those who worked hard. To them, luck came in the
shape of what they had earned. There were exceptions here and there, as
there are to every rule; but the majority of these, he soon found, were
more in the seeming than in the reality. Generally speaking--and of
course to this rule there are likewise exceptions, or as the Frenchman
said, "All generalizations are false, including this one"--a man got in
this world about what he worked for.
And that became, for himself, the rule of Edward Bok's life.
XII. Baptism Under Fire
The personnel of the Scribner house was very youthful from the members
of the firm clear down the line. It was veritably a house of young men.
The story is told of a Boston publisher, sedate and fairly elderly, who
came to the Scribner house to transact business with several of its
departments. One of his errands concerning itself with advertising, he
was introduced to Bok, who was then twenty-four. Looking the youth over,
he transacted his business as well as he felt it could be transacted
with a manager of such tender years, and then sought the head of the
educational department: this brought him to another young man of
With his yearnings for some one more advanced in years full upon him,
the visitor now inquired for the business manager of the new magazine,
only to find a man of twenty-six. His next introduction was to the head
of the out-of-town business department, who was twenty-seven.
At this point the Boston man asked to see Mr. Scribner. This disclosed
to him Mr. Arthur H. Scribner, the junior partner, who owned to
twenty-eight summers. Mustering courage to ask faintly for Mr. Charles
Scribner himself, he finally brought up in that gentleman's office only
to meet a man just turning thirty-three!
"This is a young-looking crowd," said Mr. Scribner one day, looking over
his young men. And his eye rested on Bok. "Particularly you, Bok.
Doubleday looks his years better than you do, for at least he has a
moustache." Then, contemplatively: "You raise a moustache, Bok, and I'll
raise your salary."
This appealed to Bok very strongly, and within a month he pointed out
the result to his employer. "Stand in the light here," said Mr.
Scribner. "Well, yes," he concluded dubiously, "it's there--something at
least. All right; I'll keep my part of the bargain."
He did. But the next day he was nonplussed to see that the moustache had
disappeared from the lip of his youthful advertising manager. "Couldn't
quite stand it, Mr. Scribner," was the explanation. "Besides, you didn't
say I should keep it: you merely said to raise it."
But the increase did not follow the moustache. To Bok's great relief, it
This youthful personnel, while it made for esprit de corps, had also its
disadvantages. One day as Bok was going out to lunch, he found a
small-statured man, rather plainly dressed, wandering around the retail
department, hoping for a salesman to wait on him. The young salesman on
duty, full of inexperience, had a ready smile and quick service ever
ready for "carriage trade," as he called it; but this particular
customer had come afoot, and this, together with his plainness of dress,
did not impress the young salesman. His attention was called to the
wandering customer, and it was suggested that he find out what was
wanted. When Bok returned from lunch, the young salesman, who, with a
beaming smile, had just most ceremoniously bowed the plainly dressed
little customer out of the street-door, said: "You certainly struck it
rich that time when you suggested my waiting on that little man! Such an
order! Been here ever since. Did you know who it was?"
"No," returned Bok. "Who was it?"
"Andrew Carnegie," beamed the salesman.
Another youthful clerk in the Scribner retail bookstore, unconscious of
the customer's identity, waited one day on the wife of Mark Twain.
Mrs. Clemens asked the young salesman for a copy of Taine's Ancient
"Beg pardon," said the clerk, "what book did you say?"
Mrs. Clemens repeated the author and title of the book.
Going to the rear of the store, the clerk soon returned, only to
inquire: "May I ask you to repeat the name of the author?"
"Taine, T-a-i-n-e," replied Mrs. Clemens.
Then did the youthfulness of the salesman assert itself. Assuming an air
of superior knowledge, and looking at the customer with an air of
sympathy, he corrected Mrs. Clemens:
"Pardon me, madam, but you have the name a trifle wrong. You mean
With so many young men of the same age, there was a natural sense of
team-work and a spirit of comradeship that made for successful
co-operation. This spirit extended outside of business hours. At
luncheon there was a Scribner table in a neighboring restaurant, and
evenings saw the Scribner department heads mingling as friends. It was a
group of young men who understood and liked each other, with the natural
result that business went easier and better because of it.
But Bok did not have much time for evening enjoyment, since his outside
interests had grown and prospered and they kept him busy. His syndicate
was regularly supplying over a hundred newspapers: his literary letter
had become an established feature in thirty different newspapers.
Of course, his opportunities for making this letter interesting were
unusual. Owing to his Scribner connection, however, he had taken his
name from the letter and signed that of his brother. He had, also,
constantly to discriminate between the information that he could publish
without violation of confidence and that which he felt he was not at
liberty to print. This gave him excellent experience; for the most vital
of all essentials in the journalist is the ability unerringly to decide
what to print and what to regard as confidential.
Of course, the best things that came to him he could not print. Whenever
there was a question, he gave the benefit of the doubt to the
confidential relation in which his position placed him with authors; and
his Dutch caution, although it deprived him of many a toothsome morsel
for his letter, soon became known to his confreres, and was a large
asset when, as an editor, he had to follow the golden rule of editorship
that teaches one to keep the ears open but the mouth shut.
This Alpha and Omega of all the commandments in the editorial creed some
editors learn by sorrowful experience. Bok was, again, fortunate in
learning it under the most friendly auspices. He continued to work
without sparing himself, but his star remained in the ascendency. Just
how far a man's own efforts and standards keep a friendly star centred
over his head is a question. But Edward Bok has always felt that he was
materially helped by fortuitous conditions not of his own creation or
He was now to receive his first public baptism of fire. He had published
a symposium, through his newspaper syndicate, discussing the question,
"Should Clergymen Smoke?" He had induced all the prominent clergymen in
the country to contribute their views, and so distinguished was the list
that the article created widespread attention.
One of the contributors was the Reverend Richard S. Storrs, D.D., one of
the most distinguished of Brooklyn's coterie of clergy of that day. A
few days after the publication of the article, Bok was astounded to read
in the Brooklyn Eagle a sensational article, with large headlines, in
which Doctor Storrs repudiated his contribution to the symposium,
declared that he had never written or signed such a statement, and
accused Edward Bok of forgery.
Coming from a man of Doctor Storrs's prominence, the accusation was, of
course, a serious one. Bok realized this at once. He foresaw the damage
it might work to the reputation of a young man trying to climb the
ladder of success, and wondered why Doctor Storrs had seen fit to accuse
him in this public manner instead of calling upon him for a personal
explanation. He thought perhaps he might find such a letter from Doctor
Storrs when he reached home, but instead he met a small corps of
reporters from the Brooklyn and New York newspapers. He told them
frankly that no one was more surprised at the accusation than he, but
that the original contributions were in the New York office of the
syndicate, and he could not corroborate his word until he had looked
into the papers and found Doctor Storrs's contribution.
That evening Bok got at the papers in the case, and found out that,
technically, Doctor Storrs was right: he had not written or signed such
a statement. The compiler of the symposium, the editor of one of New
York's leading evening papers whom Bok had employed, had found Doctor
Storrs's declaration in favor of a clergyman's use of tobacco in an
address made some time before, had extracted it and incorporated it into
the symposium. It was, therefore, Doctor Storrs's opinion on the
subject, but not written for the occasion for which it was used. Bok
felt that his editor had led him into an indiscretion. Yet the
sentiments were those of the writer whose name was attached to them, so
that the act was not one of forgery. The editor explained that he had
sent the extract to Doctor Storrs, who had not returned it, and he had
taken silence to mean consent to the use of the material.
Bok decided to say nothing until he heard from Doctor Storrs personally,
and so told the newspapers. But the clergyman did not stop his attack.
Of course, the newspapers egged him on and extracted from him the
further accusation that Bok's silence proved his guilt. Bok now took the
case to Mr. Beecher, and asked his advice.
"Well, Edward, you are right and you are wrong," said Mr. Beecher. "And
so is Storrs, of course. It is beneath him to do what he has done.
Storrs and I are not good friends, as you know, and so I cannot go to
him and ask him the reason of his disclaimer. Otherwise I would. Of
course, he may have forgotten his remarks: that is always possible in a
busy man's life. He may not have received the letter enclosing them.
That is likewise possible. But I have a feeling that Storrs has some
reason for wishing to repudiate his views on this subject just at this
time. What it is I do not, of course, know, but his vehemence makes me
think so. I think I should let him have his rein. Keep you quiet. It may
damage you a little here and there, but in the end it won't harm you. In
the main point, you are right. You are not a forger. The sentiments are
his and he uttered them, and he should stand by them. He threatens to
bring you into court, I see from to-day's paper. Wait until he does so."
Bok, chancing to meet Doctor Talmage, told him Mr. Beecher's advice, and
he endorsed it. "Remember, boy," said Doctor Talmage, "silence is never
so golden as when you are under fire. I know, for I have been there, as
you know, more than once. Keep quiet; and always believe this: that
there is a great deal of common sense abroad in the world, and a man is
always safe in trusting it to do him justice."
They were not pleasant and easy days for Bok, for Doctor Storrs kept up
the din for several days. Bok waited for the word to appear in court.
But this never came, and the matter soon died down and out. And,
although Bok met the clergyman several times afterward in the years that
followed, no reference was ever made by him to the incident.
But Edward Bok had learned a valuable lesson of silence under fire--an
experience that was to stand him in good stead when he was again
publicly attacked not long afterward.
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