May 25, 1850: Ralph Waldo Emerson Visits Ohio’s Fort Ancient.

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Fort Ancient State Memorial.

Section of Fort Ancient State Memorial.

On May 25, 1850, Ralph Waldo Emerson—essayist, poet, lecturer, and Transcendentalist–turned forty-seven years of age. He was in the midst of a lecture tour in the Midwest, and had just finished a series of engagements in Cincinnati. On this day Emerson joined a group of young men on a trip to the ancient earthworks now known as Fort Ancient in Warren County, Ohio. Fort Ancient is an enclosed ceremonial fort created by Ohio’s Hopewell Indians at some point between 100 B.C. and 400 A.D. It’s walls, which can be as much as twenty-three feet high, enclose an area of nearly 100 acres. There are mounds within the fortification. Fort Ancient is located on a plateau above the Little Miami River. The site is now officially known as Fort Ancient State Memorial.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was visiting the earthworks at a time when American archaeology was in its infancy. There had long been a notion among Euro-Americans that a mysterious race of “Mound Builders” unrelated to the American Indians created the mysterious earthworks of the United States. White explorers and settlers had a hard time crediting the idea that the American Indians they knew were possibly related to the cultures that built these structures. One theory was that a “lost tribe of Israel” from Biblical times had built them. Just two years before Emerson’s visit, the Smithsonian Institution had just published its first book–Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley by Ephraim George Squier of New York and Edwin Hamilton Davis of Ohio. This book is an important early contribution to our understanding of the historical earthworks of the United States.

Map of Fort Ancient from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley.

Map of Fort Ancient from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley.

Emerson was deeply impressed with both the ancient monuments and the area’s tulip poplars. “In this sylvan Persepolis, I spent my birthday with a very intelligent party of young men,” wrote Emerson. He also noted that the site reminded him of a trip to Stonehenge.

Tulip poplar. Photo courtesy of Jane Shelby Richardson through Wikipedia Commons.

Tulip poplar. Photo courtesy of Jane Shelby Richardson through Wikipedia Commons.

I find it intriguing to picture the Sage of Concord wandering the Ohio countryside. But this was just one stop on Emerson’s lecture and sightseeing tour of the Midwest in 1850. Later this week I will have a more in-depth post on the entire journey.

 

Patrick Kerin

May 21, 1945: Bogie and Bacall marry at Malabar Farm.

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart

On May 21, 1945, one of the most famous weddings in Hollywood history occurred, and it didn’t happen in Monaco, New York, London, or Paris. It happened in the beautiful rolling hills of rural Ohio when Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married at writer Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm. The wedding, occurring just a couple of weeks after the Allies declared victory in Europe, was an entertainment reporter’s dream. It was springtime, and the war was drawing to an end—a great time to celebrate the nuptials of a fascinating new Hollywood couple.

The best account I’ve found of this event comes from the bride herself—Lauren Bacall. In her first autobiography, Lauren Bacall By Myself—which I’ve found to be an impressive and interesting book–she tells the story of how the wedding was a hurried event to accommodate their movie schedules, and how she managed to keep it together despite the intense scrutiny. The public was fascinated with the sultry young beauty marrying the classic Hollywood tough guy twenty-five years her senior.

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Bacall had been seeing Bogie since 1944. He was in a disintegrating marriage to Mayo Methot, his third wife. The two fell in love on the set of To Have and Have Not, a famous Howard Hawks film loosely based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel. One fascinating element of Lauren Bacall’s book is her very candid description of how callow she felt in Hollywood society. Born in the Bronx as Betty Joan Perske, she started her career as a model and lived with her mother until married to Bogart. Once she was cast in To Have and Have Not, her world soon became a fascinating whirl of Hollywood actors, directors, and other show business people, many of them with strong personalities, such as director Howard Hawks, who was not thrilled when Bogie and the young starlet became romantically involved on his movie set. Bogie gave her some insight on how to deal with Hawks, describing him as a jealous man who liked to be in control. Eventually Bogart separated from his wife and the relationship was public.

Bogie and Bacall on their wedding day.

Bogie and Bacall on their wedding day.

Louis Bromfield was an old friend of Bogart’s. Both men had strong political views. Although a Democrat, Bromfield was more conservative and was critical of much of FDR’s New Deal, while Bogart was a passionate liberal. The two traded good-natured political jibes with one another. Bacall writes the following:

“Bogie and Louis’ political philosophies were diametrically opposed, but that did not interfere with their friendship. Bogie felt that Louis worked his farm, cared about farmers, understood about them—and that his politics were the result of intelligent thought. Based on that, they must be respected. Louis was a very tall man of enormous charm and good humor. We got on well immediately. It was odd to see Bogie in the company of such a man—it made his past life much clearer to me. I could comprehend, in part at least, why Bogie always said the Twenties were the ‘good old days’—much more fun than the Forties.”

Louis Bromfield with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on their wedding day.

Louis Bromfield with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on their wedding day.

Bromfield had purchased several rundown Ohio farms in the late 1930s and combined them into one. He had grown up close to nearby Mansfield, Ohio and had lived for many years as an expatriate in France. His mission became restoring the worn-out land and educating the public about conservation. There was always a steady stream of visitors to the farm, including Hollywood celebrities like Humphrey Bogart.

Louis Bromfield back at his writing desk.

Louis Bromfield back at his writing desk.

The decision to marry at Malabar resulted from an earlier trip the couple made to Bromfield’s property. Bacall traveled there with her mother and Bogart in the winter of 1945. In her autobiography she writes affectionately of the Bromfield clan, which included not only Louis, his wife, his mother and three daughters, but also “seven boxer dogs and one cocker spaniel.” Despite wartime rationing there were “fresh eggs and great slabs of butter.” She was impressed with how Bromfield had restored the land and writes of how much she enjoyed being there, of the card games and banter between Bogart and Bromfield, the “dog fights under the table and boxers breaking wind at all times.” She witnessed a calf’s birth in one of the barns. Bromfield and George Hawkins, his friend and business manager, suggested the couple marry at Malabar, an idea Bacall eagerly embraced–she found Malabar an oasis from the world of Hollywood pressure and publicity.

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Bogie and Bacall left Pasadena for Ohio on May 18, 1945. Louis Bromfield and George Hawkins met them at the train station.

Local police worked to keep intruders off the property as the couple went through the required blood tests and trip to the local courthouse to get their marriage license. Finally the big moment arrived, although Bromfield’s daughter Hope had to re-start her rendition of The Wedding March as Lauren Bacall had nervously run off to the bathroom one last time. George Hawkins gave Lauren away as her father was an absent figure in her life. For those of us who have grown up seeing Lauren Bacall as an older woman with a formidable presence, it is startling and endearing to read how she was a nervous bride just like so many other young women.

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“My knees were knocking together, my cheek was twitching—would any sound come out when I had to say ‘I do?’ We turned the corner. When I reached Bogie, he took my hand—the enormous, beautiful white orchids were shaking themselves to pieces; as I stood there, there wasn’t a particle of me that wasn’t shaking visibly.”

A local judge married the couple. The ceremony, like many weddings, was emotional. Bacall writes that Bogart had “tears streaming down his face.” Once the ceremony ended the press cameramen began snapping photos. Bacall wrote that Bromfield had to get out of his confining suit and “changed into his dirty, old man of the soil corduroys—and newsreel cameras followed us around the farm.”

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The couple savored the day: “We eked out every last drop of Midwestern air and sky—of farm and cooking smells—boxer dogs.” Bromfield gave them a puppy and one acre of Malabar land. They left the next day.

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“We hated having to leave, but the following day, after profuse thanks to family and staff and one last look, with a promise to return soon, we left for our train. There was so much ahead that it was probably the only time in my life I was able to leave a place that housed people I loved without a wrenching pain. So the newlyweds headed back to California united at last and ready to live happily ever after.”

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were married just a little under twelve years and had two children.Bogart died at the age of fifty-seven on January 14, 1957 of esophageal cancer. Lauren Bacall would later marry Jason Robards, Jr. They divorced in 1969.

By the early 1950s, Bromfield’s wife and his business manager were both dead, and his daughters were beginning their own adult lives. Malabar became increasingly expensive to run, and Bromfield was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1955, dying in March 1956 in a Columbus hospital.

Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

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But Malabar eventually passed into state ownership, becoming a wonderful state park promoting Bromfield’s legacy of  sustainable agriculture and educating people about Bromfield’s life and mission. I have only been there once, and the “Big House” where Bogie and Bacall were married was closed for restoration work. But I look forward to going back. I was able to walk the land that was so precious to Bromfield, and to Lauren Bacall as well. Visitors can see the land the Bromfield family treasured, where in the waning months of a war two stars were married and people looked forward to a better world to come.

 

Patrick Kerin

 

Sources:

Lauren Bacall By Myself. Ballantine Books, 1978.

Wikipedia: Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Howard Hawks.

http://www.malabarfarm.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 14, 1917: Thomas Boyd, author of WWI classic Through The Wheat, enlists in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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devildog

May, 1917. Just one month earlier the United States has declared war against the Central Powers. The draft has begun. For almost three years Europe has been ravaged by the First World War, much of it brutal trench warfare in France and Belgium. Now the U.S. has entered the fray after a long debate about neutrality.

On May 14, 1917, a young man born in Defiance, Ohio entered a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station in Chicago and enlisted. Like countless other young men the decision changed the course of his life dramatically, and like other young writers who have entered the service in wartime, the experiences he had of both combat and military life helped shape the books he eventually wrote.

Photo of Tom Boyd on the cover of Brian Bruce's Thomas Boyd: Lost Author of the Lost Generation.

Photo of Tom Boyd on the cover of Brian Bruce’s Thomas Boyd: Lost Author of the Lost Generation.

Thomas Boyd, who wrote a classic World War I novel called Through the Wheat, occupies, along with two other men, a special place in American literary history. When American novels of the First World War are discussed in standard literary histories, three particular books are often highlighted: Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms; John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers; and e.e. cummings’s The Enormous Room. It is an interesting fact of our literary history that these three famous works associated with American experience of WWI were written by men who were not soldiers but civilian ambulance drivers. This is a noteworthy anomaly since there has been a flood of fiction and poetry by America’s veterans in the wake of other twentieth century wars, especially World War Two and Vietnam.

This fact has no bearing on the high quality of these three famous books, nor their significance as important American novels. Neither does it take away from the sacrifices and courage of these three men, nor the fact that they witnessed firsthand many times the war’s carnage. Hemingway almost lost his life in a mortar attack on the Italian front, and cummings had the misfortune of being wrongfully imprisoned by the French government when he ran afoul of French censors in his letters to friends and family.

Badge of the Norton-Harjes ambulance unit.

Badge of the Norton-Harjes ambulance unit. (Photo from U.S. militaria forums).

For those who seriously study WWI history and WWI literature, the story of the volunteer ambulance units and their roll call of distinguished literary figures is well known, but it is certainly little known to those Americans who may have some general knowledge about the war. The larger story of the ambulance drivers in the Great War is one that Americans should honor and remember. It has never received the recognition it deserves. They rescued and transported the wounded, often under fire. They risked their lives in a foreign war long before their own country was officially involved. A number of them joined the U.S. Army’s ambulance units. It is also worth noting that cummings and Dos Passos were eventually drafted into the U.S. Army before the war ended, experiencing the American military’s rites of passage like so many of their countrymen. This was probably of particular value to Dos Passos as he was so dedicated to chronicling American life. He was exposed to a large number of fellow Americans from varied regions and social backgrounds in the close quarters of garrison duty.

Ernest Hemingway in Milan. Photo from the Ernest Hemingway collection at the John F. Kennedy Library.

Ernest Hemingway in Milan. Photo from the Ernest Hemingway collection at the John F. Kennedy Library.

But these three books are not the only important American novels that emerged from the war. There are other books that deserve recognition, and they too tell a story of how war exacts a toll on human beings. While bearing the impress and unique vision of their creators, these narratives also capture the doughboy’s experience of the war.

Any reexamination of American literature and World War One demands that Thomas Boyd, along with William March and Laurence Stallings, be brought into the light. These three writers are the most distinguished American authors of fictional works on the war whose experience was that of the rank and file American soldier on the front lines—those who enlisted or were drafted and arrived in Europe to confront the nasty realities of trench combat. They endured the military rituals of boot camp, battle, and eventual demobilization. This was an experience they shared with tens of thousands of other American men during 1917-1918.

William March in the Marine Corps in World War One.

William March in the Marine Corps in World War One.

And all three of these men were Marines, a branch of the service most Americans may not know was so deeply involved in World War One combat, nor that it was during this conflict that the Marines’ reputation as fierce warriors became better known to the American public.

William March, an Alabama native, wrote a memorable book called Company K. It is a series of vignettes, each one powerful on its own terms, that adds up to a devastating portrait of the war’s terrors and pain. March is likely better known for his book The Bad Seed, a novel about a murderous little girl. The Bad Seed was adapted for the stage and made into a motion picture.

Companyk

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Laurence Stallings suffered a severe leg wound in the war and returned home to co-author with Maxwell Anderson a famous play about the military called What Price Glory? Stallings in later life wrote a well-regarded history of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) called The Doughboys, but he also wrote a novel—Plumes—that deserves a wider readership. It is not a war novel in the strict sense, but a novel of a warrior after he has returned home. It is a story of a veteran readjusting to civilian life and dealing with a Veteran’s Administration system swamped with corruption and notoriously incompetent (sound familiar?). The treatment of returning servicemen and women by Harding’s administration is an unpleasant chapter of the Roaring Twenties that is not usually covered in social studies class. This sad history has been repeated too often with successive wars.

Laurence Stallings, USMC, 1918. Photo by Arnold Genthe.

Laurence Stallings, USMC, 1918. Photo by Arnold Genthe.

Boyd would be best known for Through The Wheat, a novel that F. Scott Fitzgerald would say “is not only the best combatant story of the Great War but also the best war book since The Red Badge of Courage. Fitzgerald’s friend and Princeton classmate Edmund Wilson, one of the best and toughest literary critics of the last century—and a man not lavish with praise—would call it “The most authentic novel written by an American about war.”

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Thomas Boyd was born in Defiance, Ohio on July 3, 1898. His father came from a once wealthy Montreal family, and his mother, Alice Dunbar, was one of nine daughters born to a Defiance farmer who was a descendant of one of the earliest families to settle western Ohio. They met in Chicago where Alec Boyd was trying to establish himself in business and where Alice was working as a nurse. They were married only a short time before Alec died from an illness. Alice returned to Defiance and gave birth to Thomas Boyd.

Thomas Boyd’s upbringing was erratic. He spent his early years with his maternal grandparents, who met his basic needs but were emotionally distant. His life was further complicated when his mother, who lived with chronic pain after eye surgery, became addicted to morphine. However, his grandfather taught him much about his family history and local Ohio history—interests that would remain with Tom Boyd when later in life he wrote much about the early American frontier.

Old Woodward High School in Cincinnati.

Old Woodward High School in Cincinnati.

Alice later overcame her addiction and took custody of Tom. He attended the Ohio Military Academy in the College Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati and joined the Catholic Church. He later bounced between schools in Defiance, Porter Military Academy in South Carolina and Woodward High School in Cincinnati before going to live with relatives in Chicago. He eventually settled with an aunt and uncle from his father’s side of the family in Elgin, Illinois and adopted their faith: Christian Science. These relatives were also Oberlin graduates who valued literature, and Tom became more  interested in reading and writing. He was attending a local business school when the U.S. entered the war, and Tom and his friend Bob Hepburn went to a recruiting office in Chicago and enlisted. They were both soon bound for Parris Island, South Carolina.

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Tom Boyd finished basic training and was placed in the 75th Company of the 1st Battalion of the Sixth Marine Division. On September 16, 1917, he sailed for France and was promoted to corporal two days later. His first months in France were mainly spent on labor details, but in March of 1918 he was sent into the front lines near Verdun. From that point on Boyd and his comrades would, except for short rest periods, be involved in combat. Boyd would see action at Verdun, Belleau Wood, Soissons, and St. Mihiel. At Soissons, Tom Boyd was one of a number of men who rescued wounded Marines during a heavy bombardment, and Boyd was later awarded the Croix de Guerre for his actions. He was gassed on October 6 at Mont Blanc and evacuated to a hospital. Thomas Boyd would spend the rest of the war either in hospital beds or doing guard duty as a member of the army of occupation in Germany after the armistice.

American gunners in the Argonne Forest.

American gunners in the Argonne Forest.

Phosgene gas is one of the nastiest weapons human beings have developed. According to his biographer, Brian Bruce, Boyd “suffered through several illnesses and maladies related to his injuries, including bronchitis, laryngitis, diseased tonsils, and a hysterical spasm of his laryngeal muscles.” Boyd was eventually returned to the U.S. and discharged on July 10, 1919 at the Naval Hospital at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois.

World War One Croix de Guerre with bronze palms and silver star.

World War One Croix de Guerre with bronze palms and silver star.

He returned to Defiance, then drifted to Toledo and Chicago, where he met Margaret Woodward, who became his wife. She was also a writer—she wrote under the name Woodward Boyd–who eventually had several books published by Scribner’s as well. Boyd and his wife moved to Minneapolis, where he managed a bookstore, became a literary page editor, and met many prominent writers. He also struck up a friendship with Scott Fitzgerald, who became one of his biggest supporters and encouraged Scribner’s to publish Through the Wheat. The book was published on April 27, 1923, and reviews were good. The book sold steadily and by April of 1924 went into its seventh printing.

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Boyd produced another war novel, The Dark Cloud, and followed it in 1925 with a collection of war stories entitled Points of Honor. He later turned to writing history, producing the biographies Samuel Drummond (1925), Simon Girty (1928), Mad Anthony Wayne (1929), and Poor John Fitch (1935). He also wrote a historical novel called Shadow of the Long Knives in 1928 and continued the story of Private Hicks, the central character of Through The Wheat in a novel called In Time of Peace (1935). In this phase of his career it’s clear that Boyd’s interest in midwestern frontier history resurfaced in the form of his historical novel and the books on Wayne and the famous frontier renegade Simon Girty. Boyd’s book on Girty is one of the few serious biographical treatments of this notorious figure.

Rendering of Girty from Boyd's biography.

Rendering of Girty from Boyd’s biography.

Tom and Margaret divorced and Thomas Boyd remarried and moved to Vermont. The Depression had a strong impact on Boyd and he became more radical in his politics, joining the Communist party and running as the Communist candidate for governor of Vermont. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1935. Thomas Boyd was only thirty-six years old. Doctors indicated that the mustard gas attack Boyd experienced in October 1918 likely contributed to his early death.

For decades Through The Wheat has gone in and out of print, but has always found appreciative readers. The story is a simple and timeless one. A young man named Hicks arrives in France with his fellows and prepares for the inevitable experience of battle. Soon they experience chaos and the destruction of combat. Here is a young man who would, in another time, be back at home making his way in the world, now plunged into a terrible and brutal conflict, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of destruction. The beautiful and fertile farm country of France has become a killing ground. It has been ninety-one years since this book first appeared, but the vision and gift of Thomas Boyd captured for all time the sad pilgrimage of a young man in a war that has shaped our lives more than we might believe. Hicks is still there, talking to the dead and trying to shake them awake, his boyhood left behind forever in the blood soaked fields of wheat.

 

Patrick Kerin

 

Sources:

 

Thomas Boyd: Lost Author of the Lost Generation. The University of Akron University Press. 2006. At long last a good biography of Thomas Boyd, and the only one available. This book focuses more on his life and does not go into much detail about his works, but it is a good treatment of his life.

Through The Wheat , Popular Library 1978 (Lost American Fiction Series under the general editorship of Matthew J. Bruccoli.) Afterword by James Dickey and biographical note by Matthew J. Bruccoli.

Wikipedia entry on Thomas Boyd.

American Literary Almanac: From 1608 To The Present, Bruccoli, Clark, Layman. 1988.

Rvive Books biographical entry on Thomas Boyd. Rvive Books has brought a number of books by Thomas and Woodward Boyd back into print.

Here’s a link to their website:

http://www.rvive.com/live/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring comes to Winesburg, Ohio.

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ohio farm scene

 

In the spring when the rains have passed and before the long hot days of summer have come, the country about Winesburg is delightful. The town lies in the midst of open fields, but beyond the fields are pleasant patches of woodlands. In the wooded places are many little cloistered nooks, quiet places where lovers go to sit on Sunday afternoons. Through the trees they look out across the fields and see farmers at work about the barns or people driving up and down on the roads. In the town bells ring and occasionally a train passes, looking like a toy thing in the distance.”

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–Sherwood Anderson, from the story “Adventure” in Winesburg, Ohio.

 

 

Patrick Kerin

Newton Minow, John Bartlow Martin, and the “Vast Wasteland.”

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Newton Minow

Newton Minow

On this date—May 9—in 1961, Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued his famous description of television as “a vast wasteland.” It turns out that the famous words were the edited version of a phrase created by journalist and JFK speechwriter John Bartlow Martin, a Hamilton, Ohio native who spent most of his childhood and youth in Indianapolis, Indiana. Martin became a prominent Midwestern journalist before working in politics.

While the description of TV as a “vast wasteland” has become part of our private and public discourse, the context for the phrase is more complex and sheds a stronger light on what Minow was saying. Minow said that when TV is good, nothing is better, but watching television in America for a length of time gives the impression of a “vast wasteland”—an emotional and mental desert. He delivered his speech to the National Association of Broadcasters. Its formal title was “Television and the Public Interest.” He was speaking in the wake of quiz show and pop music payola scandals, and also wanted broadcasters to provide more public interest programming in exchange for the generous licenses broadcasters had giving them free and exclusive use of the airwaves.

Minow told them that when “television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse.” He then went on to complain about the “procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials—many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.”

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On one hand it’s hard not to chuckle about his comments when we consider that modern networks like ME TV offer programming from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies as a respite from the coarseness and violence of our era. Not long ago I saw a series—on PBS of all places—highlighting the achievements of America’s postwar television shows. But there was plenty that was inane on TV when he made his comment. There was no PBS, no Sesame Street, no cable television programming featuring public access. The big three networks held all the cards. News broadcasts lasted only fifteen minutes. Television documentaries were nowhere to be found.

Minow’s speech became famous, and he later said he was frustrated that newsmen focused on the words “vast wasteland” instead of “public interest.” But things happened in the wake of his speech. News broadcasts were expanded, and networks began creating documentaries, leading in turn to special programs such as 60 Minutes. PBS was created. Other channels were made available through UHF and cable. And the media would become increasingly important in all our lives, further intensifying the debate about its effects, both good and bad.

Newton Minow is eighty-eight now, and has remained active in public life. In a 2011 article for The Atlantic upon the fiftieth anniversary of his speech, Minow had praise for all of the positive changes that have occurred and the quality offerings that are available on TV. However, he also noted the trends that bother him: the pervasiveness of sex and violence and the targeting of children by advertisers.

Newton Minow

Newton Minow

But what about the man who gave Minow the famous phrase, albeit in edited form? John Bartlow Martin was a friend and colleague of Minow’s. He told Minow that one time, while researching a magazine article, he watched twenty straight hours of television and described TV as “a vast wasteland of junk.” Martin was one of four writers who contributed drafts of the speech, and Minow edited “vast wasteland of junk” down to the bare and emphatic “vast wasteland.”

Martin will eventually be featured in an extensive profile on this blog, but here’s some information on this distinguished reporter and non-fiction writer who deserves to be better known. As noted above, he was born in Hamilton, Ohio and was brought up in Indianapolis. He was three years old when his family moved to Indiana. He described his childhood as dark. His parents frequently quarreled, and the family also suffered the loss of one of Martin’s brothers. He became interested in literature and writing in high school and entered DePauw University at age sixteen, but was expelled after he was caught drinking in his dorm room. He began working for the Indianapolis bureau of the Associated Press and later landed a job with the Indianapolis Times. He returned to DePauw, eventually editing the school paper and earning his degree.

John Bartlow Martin

John Bartlow Martin

Martin moved to Chicago and became a freelance writer. He wrote both hard news stories and detective fiction—Martin had learned how to cover the police beat at the Indianapolis Times. Martin had a natural sympathy for the cast-offs and downtrodden of society, and wrote often of crime, poverty, race, politics, and labor. After Army service in World War II, Martin began placing articles with major magazines such as Harper’s and Collier’s. Martin really broke into the big time with a 1947 story in Harper’s about a mine explosion in Centralia, Illinois.

In 1952 he met Adlai Stevenson and became one of his speechwriters. Martin later wrote a two-volume biography of Stevenson and eventually worked for John and Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. JFK appointed Martin as ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and Martin became an authority on that country. Martin continued to write and later taught at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. He died on January 3, 1987 at age 71.

John Bartlow Martin in later years.

John Bartlow Martin in later years.

I first became acquainted with John Bartlow Martin through a wonderful book he wrote called Indiana: An Interpretation, which was first published in 1947 and reprinted by Indiana University Press in 1992. (This book will also be profiled on this blog at some point in the future).

Martin wrote later in his life that when his journalism career kicked into high gear that he was writing “a million words a year.” I hope readers will take a look at Martin’s life and works and read some of those words—but in the case of Minow’s speech, he contributed a couple of words that still resonate to this day.

 

Patrick Kerin

 

 

Sources:

 

New York Times obituary on John Bartlow Martin, January 5, 1987.

Introduction by James H. Madison to Indiana: An Interpretation. Indiana University Press, 1992.

Wikipedia: John Bartlow Martin.

Wikipedia: Wasteland Speech.

Atlantic Monthly, May 11, 2011. James Fallows: “Where the Phrase ‘Great Wasteland’ Came From.

Atlantic Monthly, February 24, 2011. Newton Minow: “A Vaster Wasteland.”

 

Albion Tourgee: Born May 2, 1838.

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Albion Tourgee, far left, with two of his fellow officers of the 105th Ohio in the field in Tennessee.

Albion Tourgee, far left, with two of his fellow officers of the 105th Ohio in the field in Tennessee.

Albion Tourgee was born on this date—May 2—in 1838 in Williamsfield, Ohio, located in Ashtabula County. He became known in his lifetime not only as a novelist, but also as a  judge, lawyer, soldier, and diplomat. He was educated at Kingsville Academy in Ohio and the University of Rochester in New York. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the 27th New York and fought at the first Battle of Bull Run, in which he suffered a severe back injury that plagued him the rest of his life. After a period of convalescence he re-enlisted, this time with the 105th Ohio Volunteers. He would go on to serve at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky in October of 1862. He was injured again, this time suffering a bullet wound to his hip. He recovered but was captured several months later near Murfreesboro, Tennessee and languished in a series of Confederate prisons before being paroled. Returned to active duty, he fought at the Battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863 but later injured his back again. He was released from active duty on December 6, 1863, and was officially discharged on January 1, 1864.

Harper's Weekly rendering of the Battle of Perryville.

Harper’s Weekly rendering of the Battle of Perryville.

After his war service, Tourgee first practiced law in Ohio before moving to Greensboro, North Carolina in 1865. Tourgee would remain there until 1879, working as a pension agent, editor and, most notably, judge of the superior court from 1868-1875. Tourgee was a “carpetbagger,” one of the northerners who moved south after the war to participate in Reconstruction. In North Carolina he was a controversial figure who fought against entrenched anti-Reconstruction southern interests, including the Ku Klux Klan.

19th century rendering of  Reconstruction era Klansmen.

19th century rendering of Reconstruction era Klansmen.

In 1881 he settled in Mayville, New York and later served as U.S. counsel in Bordeaux, France. Several years before his return to the north, Tourgee began writing the prose works that eventually included sixteen works of fiction, a history of the 105th Ohio, and assorted legal writings. His novels range from historical fictions and entertainments to works dealing seriously with southern politics and racial issues. Some of his better known works include Figs and Thistles (1879), which includes both treatment of political and financial issues in the North during the war and descriptions of battle; Toinette (1874) which concerns a love story between a southern man and a woman of mixed racial heritage; and A Fool’s Errand (1879), which is likely his best known work. A Fool’s Errand concerns the political education of a northerner who goes south after the war to participate in Reconstruction.

Albion Tourgee

Albion Tourgee

Albion Tourgee died on May 21, 1905, just a few weeks after turning 67 years of age. He is buried in Mayville Cemetery in Mayville, New York,

 

Patrick Kerin

 

Sources:

American Literary Almanac: From 1608 To The Present–edited by Karen L. Rood. Bruccoli Clark Layman, Inc. (1988).

Ohio Authors and their Books 1796-1950. Edited by William Coyle. The World Publishing Company. (1962)

The Unwritten War: American Writers And The Civil War by Daniel Aaron. Oxford University Press (1973).