A FOE OF ELEGANT NONSENSE
On July 31, 1951, the demise of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius in his backyard pool was seen as a thing of the past, even in Girard, Kansas, his new home.
His notoriety grew as he was labeled a communist in numerous newspapers and targeted by the FBI; he had recently been found guilty in a federal tax evasion trial and was up against jail time.
In the tense political climate, the kids in Girard began to gossip that he was a Russian secret agent and had been killed; the adults speculated that he had taken his own life – although the only note he left behind was a joke for his wife.
The passing of a man who, within three decades, became a distinguished publisher in the U.S. was an odd occurrence. Over the course of his career, he released approximately 300 million Little Blue Books which were affordable and small enough to fit in a pocket.
These books were intended to provide culture and education to those of a lower socio-economic status, with topics ranging from traditional literature to sex education.
Furthermore, they were distributed discreetly by mail order, offering information on birth control not easily accessible in rural libraries and promoting racial acceptance in a period when the Ku Klux Klan had political influence. In addition, individuals without a higher education could be exposed to the likes of Euripides, Shakespeare, and Emerson.
A family photograph of the Haldeman-Julius clan is presented in the image.
The Kansas press owned by Haldeman-Julius first presented the works of Will Durant, Bertrand Russell, and Clarence Darrow to an American audience. Henry James’s titles were more widely read in the Little Blue Book editions than any other publisher’s.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia approved of the booklets and Admiral Richard Byrd even took them to the south pole. Twentieth-century authors such as Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, Studs Terkel, Harlan Ellison, Louis L’Amour, Margaret Mead, and Langston Hughes benefited from the Little Blue Books as part of their early education.
When queried about how his work would be remembered, Haldeman-Julius predicted that his obituary would read as follows: “I sold hundreds of millions of books and endeavored to help some of my contemporaries with honesty, sincerity, and wisdom. It may also note my candid opposition to Supernaturalism, Mysticism, Fundamentalism, and all types of baseless and dignified nonsense.”
One could even assert that my influence sparked a revolution in reading habits among Americans, generating a multitude of fresh readers for the publishers who followed my lead.
At his passing, the late Kansas publisher was honored in national obituaries as a huckster visionary.
However, with the dawn of postwar wealth and television, his influence was soon forgotten. Even in Girard, the town of his birth, only a small plaque serves to remember Emanuel Haldeman-Julius’s contribution. His Little Blue Books are occasionally appreciated by a few book collectors and eBay enthusiasts, but otherwise, the public memory of him is very limited.
Though it may seem anonymous now, the legacy of this remarkable individual was revolutionary for its time. Before the Internet, no other endeavor had provided such a large amount of information to so many people in the US at such a low cost.
MARK TWAIN HAD SOCIALIST VIEWS.
The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants from Odessa, Emanuel Julius was born in Philadelphia in 1889. His father changed the family name from Zolajefsky and found work as a bookbinder in Pennsylvania.
Young Emanuel was highly interested in books from a young age. At thirteen, he abandoned school to become an usher at the Keith Theater, and later was a bellboy at Miss Mason’s School for Girls. He used his salary to purchase books, though it was hard for him since books were rare and expensive. He would comment later that it was worse than being hungry and seeing a bun in a bakery window but not being able to buy it.
Emanuel recounts a life-changing experience he had at age fifteen.
He spent a dime on a used copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Jail and spent an entire winter afternoon reading it on a park bench. While reading, he was so entranced that he paid no mind to the cold, stating that he felt he had been taken out of this world with just that ten-cent booklet.
This spurred the idea of making thousands of these booklets available, which he eventually did fifteen years later with the release of the Little Blue Books series, which contained The Ballad of Reading Jail amongst its initial titles.
Emanuel was an avid reader and burgeoning writer, and it was while working as a bellhop in his teenage years that he sold his first article, “Mark Twain–Radical,” to the International Socialist Review for which he received ten dollars. This led to a copyreading position at the socialist Philadelphia Daily and then to reporting jobs at other socialist papers such as the Milwaukee Leader (where he worked with Carl Sandburg), the Chicago Daily World, and the Los Angeles Citizen.
He finally landed a job at the New York Call and eventually became Sunday magazine editor. He was a short, stocky man with gray eyes, jet-black hair, and a soft baritone voice, and often mingled with Emma Goldman, Eugene O’Neill, and Edna St. Vincent Millay in the Greenwich Village socialist scene.
Pictured on the left are personnel completing orders for LBB while on the right is Haldeman-Julius at home in the company of Clarence Darrow.
In 1915, Emanuel’s future became much clearer when Louis Kopelin, editor of the Appeal to Reason, a socialist weekly based in Kansas, offered him a 40 percent pay raise. In its heyday, the Appeal to Reason had more copies than the Sunday edition of the New York Times and Jack London even referred to its press as “The Temple of the Revolution”.
In an unexpected turn of events, the small town of Girard, Kansas has seen a significant boost in literary activity.
The curious story of how the most successful socialist newspaper in American history came to be based in Girard, Kansas, is one of geographical influence combined with entrepreneurship.
Girard had grown to roughly three thousand inhabitants by the turn of the century, with the adjoining area seeing a mining boom which attracted numerous immigrants from Italy, Germany, Austria, France, and Scotland. J. A. Wayland, a newspaperman, decided to move his paper, Appeal to Reason, from Kansas City to Girard in 1897, taking advantage of the socialist inclinations of the immigrant population and the cost-effectiveness of sending mail-order editions to both coasts.
The Appeal was known for its tenacious, investigative journalism, which spurred a surge in mail-order subscriptions and created job opportunities in Girard. The paper’s mission was “to war against oppression and vast wrongs, dispelling the tears, the blood, the woe of capitalism”.
However, editor Wayland had an eye for business and used mailing lists to sell items from the Girard Manufacturing Company. At its peak, the Appeal had over six hundred thousand weekly subscribers, making it the most popular political newspaper of the era. Despite criticism of Wayland for profiting off of socialism, Girard became known as a hub for socialists, freethinkers and atheists. In 1908, Eugene V. Debs gave his acceptance speech for the Socialist Party’s presidential nomination on the steps of the local courthouse.
In later years, William F. Ryan praised the town as being home to “some of the hottest, toughest journalists the nation had seen in a century”.
Despite the fact that many of the causes supported by the Appeal to Reason newspaper have become widely accepted today (like the forty-hour workweek, universal suffrage, and the abolishment of child labor), the government continually resisted it. During the Taft administration, an editor was even convicted and sentenced to prison for publishing an article about “degenerate practices” at the very same prison.
He was later freed on appeal, but the paper suffered a devastating blow when J. A. Wayland committed suicide and was “hounded to death” by the “relentless dogs of capitalism.” By the time Emanuel Julius came to write for the paper in 1915, it had already entered a period of decline from which it would never recover.
An announcement for the Little Blue Books series was made.
The fateful arrival of a twenty-six year old reporter coincided with that of Marcet Haldeman, an aspiring stage actress who had just returned to Girard for her mother’s funeral. She was about to inherit her father’s bank, provided she lived in Girard for one year prior. The twenty-eight year old, who was known for her cigarette-smoking, Bryn Mawr education, and independent-mindedness, must have intimidated most men in the area. Nevertheless, Emanuel Julius was not intimidated.
After six months of courtship, they agreed to a “companionate marriage,” which was a radical concept in those days because it involved financial independence, equal responsibilities, and birth control. Soon after their union, Emanuel took on Marcet’s surname, and became Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.
Haldeman-Julius and his wife began to settle into marriage as the Appeal to Reason started to unravel. After publishing editorials opposing the US military’s conscription policies during WWI, the government removed the paper’s mailing privileges.
These events, combined with the post-Russian Revolution “Red Scare”, the limitations of the Espionage Act, and internal disputes among American socialists, caused subscriptions to drop drastically. Seeing an opening, Haldeman-Julius used his wife’s funds to acquire majority ownership in the Appeal and promised to provide an additional fifty thousand dollars within a year.
The plan Haldeman-Julius devised to acquire funds — using his presses to create and sell low-cost books on a broad range of social and intellectual matters — proved to be much more successful in succeeding years than the paper he had set out to rescue.
POCKET-SIZED READING FOR ON-THE-GO WORKERS
Aside from his financial needs, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius was motivated by several factors to print what we now call the Little Blue Books. This ambition was partly due to his teenage encounter with Oscar Wilde in Philadelphia. In addition, he had been exchanging letters with Marian Wharton, the head of the English department at the People’s College of Fort Scott, located 30 miles north of Girard. She requested literature that could be used at her socialist college, so he printed copies of The Ballad of Reading Jail and The Rub aiyat of Omar Khayyam for 25 cents each, which he also sold to the 175,000 subscribers on the Appeal ‘s mailing list.
These books were so popular that he decided to publish a series of classics; the whole fifty-book series was available for five dollars. His plan was a success–within the first week, he received five thousand orders. Haldeman-Julius had a dream: “I thought that it might be possible to put books within the reach of everyone, rich or poor. By that I mean I dreamed of publishing in such quantities that I could sell them at a price which would put all books at the same cost level.”
Haldeman-Julius’s publishing project, originally called “The Appeal’s Pocket Series,” began by selling individual titles for a quarter. His intent was to provide the working-class people of America with controversial rationalist and sex-education writings that they would otherwise not have access to. His books offered information, encouraged discussion, and encouraged independent thinking.
Many of the books were reprints of classics, ranging from Aesop to Zarilla; he also employed freelancers to create books on political and how-to topics. For example, Margaret Sanger was recruited to write about birth control, a topic that was usually off limits at the time. Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser also contributed works, and lesser-known authors wrote about various other subjects.
An atheist himself, Haldeman-Julius made sure to include excerpts from religious texts as well as skeptical tracts.
He stated, “I am against all religion–I think the Bible is a dull book… Yet I print the Bible, and in spite of a very low annual sale, I keep it in the series. I do this out of stubborness. I am determined, since I know I am prejudiced against it, to give it more than a fair chance. Could supporters of the Bible ask for more from one who doesn’t like it?”
Achieving ongoing success and rising production enabled the cost to decrease to ten cents per book in 1922. Even though the left-wing press effusively praised Girard (“The Literary Capital of the United States”), the mainstream media was initially doubtful. In the August 1922 edition of The Smart Set, H.L. Mencken commented “the editing and printing [of the books] demonstrate the ordinary Socialist ineptitude.… It is not agreeable to consider a destitute individual spending their money on such trash, and then earnestly absorbing it. They’d be much better off snoozing in the sun.”
H.L. Mencken’s opinion acknowledges that, before Little Blue Books, Charles H. Kerr & Co. of Chicago had released a “Pocket Library of Socialism” in the early 1900s. Moreover, the attempt to bring literature to the working class goes back even further, with “Bohn’s Library” in the 1870s, and even to the 1840s when newsweeklies like New World and Brother Jonathan used new papermaking machines to serialize novels in broadsheet form at a low cost.
Haldeman-Julius’s undertaking was distinguished by his promotional style, his responsiveness to market conditions, and his unwavering purpose.
By 1924 he had procured a cylinder press that could produce 40,000 books in an 8-hour span, and he was able to further minimize the cost to five cents by confining their size to 3.5″ by 5″, keeping the page count to 50-60 pages, and utilizing the least expensive heavy-grade paper available (which was coincidentally blue) for the covers.
The Haldeman-Julius imprint tried out different cover colors, but the “Little Blue Books” moniker remained to refer to their literary series for the rest of its lifetime.
WHAT YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF: THE FACTS BEHIND THIS LITTLE SECRET
During the 1920s, Haldeman-Julius had various methods of selling Little Blue Books; this included sending out lists of titles to Appeal subscribers. To promote the books, he put out eye-catching ads in magazines such as Life, Popular Science, and Ladies’ Home Journal, as well as newspapers like the New York Times and the Kansas City Star.
One of his ads famously read “Would You Pay $2.98 for a High School Education?”, resulting in thousands of orders. By the late 1920s, the books had been dubbed “A University in Print”. To maximize space, the titles of the books were listed according to their topic-headings, such as “Philosophy”, “How-To”, and “Sex”, with customers able to select which titles they wanted and then submit the order form with a minimum of one dollar for 20 books.
The mid-1920s saw Haldeman-Julius’ mail-order business become increasingly successful, and he responded by establishing Little Blue Book franchise stores in several cities, including Boston, Buffalo, Atlantic City, Montreal, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Portland. For example, the Los Angeles store put in an initial order for 275,000 titles and the Detroit store sold a remarkable 300,000 copies within two weeks.
In New York, Little Blue Books were even available from subway vending machines. At one point, the entrepreneur toyed with the idea of turning trucks into mobile bookstores so that he could reach those living in more rural areas.
The majority of Little Blue Book business was based on advertisement-driven mail orders, and Haldeman-Julius was adept at taking full advantage of any given ad. Books with dry socialist-related topics were presented as self-help titles, and those with unclear titles were modified to have more alluring labels like “The Truth About…” or “A Little Secret That…”. For example, when Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy was re-titled as How to Argue Logically, the sales volume rose from a few thousand to thirty thousand annually; when Whistler’s Ten O ‘Clock was renamed to What Art Should Mean to You, the sales figures quadrupled. This technique had been learned by Haldeman-Julius from his past experience as a newspaper headline writer, and he was unashamed of his strategy for renaming books.
He stated: “An important secret of successful titling is to be imperative, to demand in the title that the reader obtain the book.
For instance, Life Among the Ants saw its distribution increase by recasting it to Facts You Should Know About Ant Life…. The public today requires facts and it likes to be reassured that it is getting facts.”
Haldeman-Julius quickly realized that the public had a taste for titillation. The Tallow Ball by Guy de Maupassant sold three times more when it was titled A French Prostitute’s Sacrifice, and Gautier’s Fleece of Gold saw a jump from six thousand to fifty thousand when labeled as The Quest for a Blonde Mistress. He asked, “What could Fleece of Gold mean to someone who has never heard of Gautier or his story?”.
He concluded that the new title was “exactly the sort of story it is”. In the same way, a book about Abelard and Heloise was sold as The Love Affair of a Priest and a Nun.
In Haldeman-Julius’ 1928 book The First Hundred Million, he states that his modifications of the titles of great pieces of literature made them more approachable and understandable for those who would otherwise not read them; the title of the book itself being a reference to the amount of Little Blue Books he had sold until that point.
Convincing the less well-read readers that Ibsen, Wilde, Shaw, Voltaire, Emerson, and other famous authors have a very human and appealing side to them can be a great incentive for them to purchase their works. They do not base their decision on the author’s name, but the suggestion that they would find something in the book interesting.
It is important to make it known to modern readers that when Aristophanes, Sophocles, and Euripides wrote plays, they were not doing so as “great plays”, but instead, were depicting life in a way that their people at the time could recognize and relate to.
Mainstream media observed the success of Haldeman-Julius and the New Republic commented that his sales were remarkable and showed plebian tastes. A New Yorker profile noted that, when on the subway in New York, Haldeman-Julius probably took pride in seeing a workman reach for a Little Blue Book in his pocket. However, the most exuberant commendation was in a 1924 McClure ‘s article which stated that Little Blue Books were proliferating across the country and would lessen America’s cultural solitude. It said that through Haldeman-Julius’ work, the culture of the world would be known to the world and praised him as a creative genius with principles similar to those of Ford.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had referred to Haldeman-Julius as “the Henry Ford of Literature”, with other publications dubbing him “the Book Baron”, “Voltaire from Kansas”, and “the Barnum of Books”.
However, the publisher had a difference of opinion with Ford’s anti-union stances, which led to him writing the contentious book called What the Ford Five-Day Week Really Means. Even though his business model had shifted to capitalist practices, Haldeman-Julius still held close to his socialist beliefs. He argued that rather than making money through exploitative means, such as the sale of weapons, he was using his profits to benefit the masses.
THE ORDINARY VERSUS THE SELF-PROCLAIMED EXCEPTIONAL
To comprehend the influence Little Blue Books had on “the masses” necessitates an understanding of life in America during the 1920s. Despite the “roaring twenties” stereotype, it has been estimated that 40 percent of American households lived at or beneath the poverty line–resulting in a cultural atmosphere outside certain urban centers that was characterized by the isolation caused by social class and physical distance.
Women and minorities did not enjoy the same rights and opportunities as white males; rural and small-town libraries were usually under the control of conservative forces and thus did not provide information on sexuality, political activism, or evolutionary science.
Universal education was on the rise, but comparatively few Americans pursued college and the literature geared towards the increasingly literate working class largely consisted of pulp magazines, newspapers, and comic books.
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius was firmly committed to the idea that the American Dream could only be achieved through widespread access to knowledge.
According to Eric Schocket in his work entitled “Proletarian Paperbacks,” the Little Blue Books offered a unique blend of literature, self-help advice, socialism, and free thought to farmers and laborers who had been excluded from the postwar economic surge, yet were still fascinated by the new electric technologies.
Through studying the history, content, and even the format of these books, it is possible to gain insight into the desires of a generation that existed between labor and consumption, traditionalism and modernity, poverty and wealth.
The Little Blue Books were particularly popular due to their wide readership, with many titles reflecting middle-class dreams, such as “How to Own Your Home” and “How to Enjoy Orchestra Music”.
Unlike the leather-bound “Great Books” collections which were more suited for those of an upper class, the Little Blue Books were designed to be read and shared during moments of leisure, such as breaks, bus rides, and naps. Starting in the 1920s, they were found in hospital wards, factories, and prison cells, becoming in some cases a de facto library. Haldeman-Julius wrote that “American readers are thorough in their quest for knowledge” and that no book should be denied to them because of some “self-styled Superior Man”.
The sales numbers of Little Blue Books from the 1920s and ’30s make it evident that the Average Man (and Woman) desired to read more about sex.
In 1927, two of the most popular books were What Every Married Woman Should Know and What Every Married Man Should Know, which gave directions on sexual health and pleasure. What Every Married Woman Should Know covered topics such as menstruation, how often sexual intercourse should occur, pregnancy, and menopause, while What Every Married Man Should Know noted that the clitoris is the main source of erotic pleasure in women, but there are other erogenous zones that also have sexual significance.
As it was hard to find such explicit sexual advice in American bookstores and libraries of the 1920s, mail order offered a level of anonymity when ordering titles such as A Hindu Book of Love (which featured excerpts from the Kama Sutra) or Homosexuality in the Lives of the Great. Haldeman-Julius often joked that a person ordering philosophical essays and Physics Self-Taught books could not avoid the presence of books such as The Art of Kissing, when that’s really what the customer wanted in the first place.
In the years following the Kinsey Report, Liberty magazine noted that the high sales of Little Blue Books had been indicative of the public’s interest in sexuality. An article read, “Sexual material outsells Shakespeare and everything else by a margin of 10 to 1.
It is likely that the Haldeman-Julius Company can be credited with making the public comfortable enough with the topic to read such ‘forbidden fruit’ thirty years ago, which has resulted in the success of the Kinsey Report.”
The Little Blue Books were seen as a precursor to the sexual revolution and were recommended by W.E.B. Du Bois in The Crisis, used for self-education and to radicalize African American communities, such as Langston Hughes and Claude McKay. Furthermore, the books served to challenge the complacency of white American readers by addressing issues such as the burning of African Americans at the stake and the idea that America was a Christian nation.
This inspired Haldeman-Julius to assemble and publish the first anthology of African-American poetry that was easily accessible in the United States, following a number of high-profile lynchings.
CONTROVERSY ERUPTS, AS EXPECTED.
It is easy to overlook that the prosperous Little Blue Books enterprise of the early 20th century was based in the small town of Girard, Kansas, whose population of a few thousand was mainly Republican Presbyterians who were tolerant but not particularly fond of Haldeman-Julius. Had socialist publication not been so successful, he may not have been so welcome. Nonetheless, the Philadelphia-born publisher had a fondness for the prairie town.
He commented that in the East, there was more freedom of thought and sophistication, yet more stress given to social etiquette and appearances. He found that in Kansas, the more democratic social environment was much more pleasant.
After the initial success of their publishing business, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and his wife Marcet moved to a white house with a backyard swimming pool located on a farm near Girard. They raised a son and daughter there and had a range of prominent guests, including Upton Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, Anna Louise Strong and Will Durant (who wrote the popular book Story of Philosophy, which first appeared as a Little Blue Book).
Even though Emanuel was politically opinionated (he had referred to Hitler as a “mad homosexual” and Pope Pius XI as a “conceited and purblind ass”), he would rather engage in amusing conversations than in serious socialist debates. He once said, “I’m a radical, but I hate radicals. I’d rather forget the revolution over a glass of wine.”
Haldeman-Julius, an enthusiast of cigars, would start his day by smoking and looking through mail orders.
He proudly noted that Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, and Franklin P. Adams were all regular customers. When he received an order from Haile Selassie of Abyssinia for grammar books, rhyming dictionary, two crossword puzzle books, a joke book, and a copy of What Every Married Woman Should Know, he remarked that “the Lion of Judah reads practically the same kind of books which would appeal to an intelligent taxi driver, with a few sexology titles thrown in.
” He was a firm believer in mail order and would often send in seafood such as oysters, trout, and lobster, as well as items such as socks and electric egg-incubators. Hatching chickens became a hobby of his at the printing plant and his secretary recalls how he would act amazed “as though a great miracle had taken place right before his eyes” when a yellow chick would emerge from its shell.
Marcet took part in the Haldeman-Julius publishing business, authoring multiple Little Blue Books, including What the Editor ‘s Wife Is Thinking About (which was later renamed Marcet Haldeman-Julius ‘s Intimate Notes on Her Husband). She also had a hand in editing and writing for larger-format magazines like the Haldeman-Julius Monthly, which once ran a Harry Houdini interview, and American Freeman, which featured a Billy Graham interview. Also in the early 1920s, the pair wrote short stories for the Atlantic Monthly and co-authored a prairie novel titled Dust, which was highly praised by East Coast literary circles. According to the New York Times, Dust was “painfully gloomy” yet deservedly one of the “big” novels of the year.
In spite of the strong connection between Haldeman-Julius and Marcet and the romantic circumstances of their initial meeting, both were alcoholics and their marriage started to deteriorate in the mid-1920s.
The publisher was known for his womanizing habits and he would take various female companions on weekend road trips in his custom Lincoln Coupe, using the alias “Lloyd Smith”, which was the name of his assistant at the printing plant. This behavior caused quite a stir in the local community and Marcet’s second wife later mentioned how the people around thought he had an excessive love for sex.
Furthermore, Marcet had an affair with John Gunn, a Little Blue Book writer and editor for Emanuel; she even went as far as to throw him out of the house and move Gunn in. To make matters worse, she had given Emanuel all the family assets after she had a breast cancer surgery in 1925 and he proved to be uncooperative when it came to her monthly allowance.
During the 1920s, Haldeman-Julius sought solace from his domestic issues by visiting Chicago and New York, where he connected with colleagues and gained a respite from the rural seclusion. In October, 1929, when the stock market crashed, he was in New York, causing the majority of his and Marcet’s assets, earned through a decade of publishing, to be wiped out.
After returning to Girard, he placed his Lincoln in storage and continued his work while the Great Depression worsened.
Following 1931, the Little Blue Book stores, which were already struggling, ceased to exist and the business introduced few new titles. However, despite the nationwide poverty, the printing plant managed to keep its employees as a result of a constant stream of orders for existing titles.
It would be a different story when it came to having prosperity across the nation.
MYSTERIOUS POSSIBLE-SELF-DESTRUCTION MESSAGE
On the day before he drowned in 1951, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius celebrated his sixty-second birthday. His first wife, Marcet, had passed away from cancer a decade prior and left him the house. When Sue, his second wife, returned home from visiting her mother, she found his unclothed body in the backyard pool, floating face-down. Inside the house was a letter that he left for her, which said, “If you want to insult a dog, let me smell your highball.”
It is natural to speculate that his death was caused by someone who had a grudge against him.
Prior to that day, Haldeman-Julius had been the target of criticism due to his antireligious, anticorporate articles and his series of pieces connecting the Vatican with the Axis powers during WWII.
This prompted the Catholic Legion of Decency to launch a letter-writing campaign against him. Schools around the country sent postcards to magazines and newspapers, contributing to some of them refusing to accept Little Blue Book ads, or only doing so if atheist and socialist titles were not included.
Furthermore, newspapers in Detroit and Philadelphia ran ads for Little Blue Books, followed by editorials encouraging people not to buy them. Nonetheless, Haldeman-Julius hired Joseph McCabe, an ex-priest, for the production of nearly fifty Little Blue Books between 1943 and 1947, with titles such as How an Ape Became a Man and How Christianity Grew Out of Paganism.
In 1948, Haldeman-Julius published The FBI –The Basis of an American Police State: The Alarming Methods of J. Edgar Hoover which resulted in an investigation by the FBI. Despite the First Amendment protecting the right to publish such materials, the Internal Revenue Service sued him for $120,000 in unpaid taxes back to 1945.
As the court case progressed, Emanuel’s drinking increased and it seemed he was considering escaping to Mexico. Ultimately, the court found him guilty of tax evasion and he was fined $12,500 and sentenced to six months in jail, though he immediately appealed the ruling.
Amidst all the turbulence, a feeling of Cold War paranoia had significantly altered public opinion about Haldeman-Julius. Since its inception, Little Blue Books had been publishing controversial books and lighter material without prejudice (Communist Manifesto and the Soviet Constitution being among the earliest).
Now, after 30 years of circulating ideas, he was perceived as a national threat by many. In response to the accusations made by Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler, Haldeman-Julius responded by saying, “It is quite saddening that even now one must explain the difference between a Social Democrat and a Communist. I abide by the authentic American tradition of radicalism; I might be the last of the renowned American radicals.”
A few weeks after he wrote some work, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius’ life ended.
The coroner reported it as an “accidental drowning”, possibly caused by a heart attack.
When Sue later emptied the swimming pool, she noticed smears and claw marks on the algae-covered walls, which seemed to indicate a failed attempt of Emanuel to climb out. In 1954, his son Henry began to print and sell the Little Blue Books, yet the process was slow and they were sued for obscenity for mailing sex manuals. (Henry emerged victorious in court.) On the Fourth of July in 1978, a fire that was likely started by stray fireworks destroyed the Little Blue Book printing factory in Girard.
MATERIALISM CAN LEAD TO DEATH
Materialism can be a deadly influence, as it can lead to one’s eventual demise. The focus on material possessions and wealth can become so strong that it becomes an uncontrollable obsession and can result in death.
People can become so obsessed with possessions and money that they are willing to do anything to get them, including illegal activities. These activities can have serious consequences, including death. The lesson is that materialism should not be taken lightly, as it can have fatal results.
The hasty and widespread erasure of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius’ impact on American culture was not only caused by Cold War-era biases, but also by the popularization of television and the rise of material well-being among the working classes, which is in keeping with the American habit of disregarding the past and constantly remodeling how we see ourselves.
It is only in the recent years, with the advent of the Internet as a tool, that we have found a way to understand what the Little Blue Books meant in their time.
The gains made in the economy after the war played a major role in reducing the appeal of Little Blue Books. Before the war, these books provided an alternative option for those not able to attend college, however, after the war many soldiers took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to college, creating an American middle class.
The increase of material wealth across American society also caused a shift in the political climate of the working-class. Daniel Bell’s book, The End of Ideology, pointed out that “the workers, who were once the driving force of social change, are more content with the state of the society than the intellectuals. The working class has not achieved perfection, however, their expectations were lower than those of the intellectuals and the gains they made were more substantial.”
The advent of television marked the end of Neil Postman’s “Age of Exposition”, a time when the majority of public discourse was based on the written word, allowing the average American to think rationally and express their ideals in a rational way.
In contrast, the notions that were disseminated by television were shallow, lacking in detail and context. Even though Americans were being exposed to more information than ever before, it was presented in a way that put little emphasis on subtlety and a wide perspective.
It was easy to overlook the efforts of a small-town Kansas publisher who considered ideas important, as a new generation grew up with the significant advances of feminism, civil rights, and sexual freedom.
This individual liked to refer to himself as a “small-town printer who happens to think that ideas count,” even though he had been instrumental in popularizing those causes some four decades earlier.