Sunday, October 19, 2008

Little Blue Books 

The story of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1889-1951) reads like a Coen brothers script.
Photos from a lecture at the Powerplant Gallery in Toronto

A young go-getter Emanuel Julius begins working at the Socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason where he meets and marries a wealthy heiress. Eventually he buys 25% of the paper with the heiress' backing and starts publishing public domain classics in pamphlet format. When EHJ discovers there is a voracious appetite for the pint sized books, he quickly starts churning out pamphlets consisting of re-printed classics and commissioned originals from notable authors such as Upton Sinclair and Clarence Darrow. Not all of Haldeman-Julius contributers were as esteemed and the quality of the Little Blue Books, as they were later called, quickly deteriorated. The following titles attest to the range of work published:

1507. A Rational View of the Sex Issue [by] Harry Elmer Barnes.
1508. What You Should Know about Poisons [by] Heinz Norden.
1509. The Gay Chronicle of the Monks and Nuns [by] Joseph McCabe.
1515. The Love Affair of a Priest and a Nun (Abelard and Heloise) [by] Joseph McCabe.
1516. Facts You Should Know About Gonorrhea [by] Heinz Norden.
1517. Land, and Old Man and His Wife [by] Konrad Bercovici.
1523. How to Avoid Catching Venereal Diseases [by] Heinz Norden.
1524. Famous Eccentric Americans [by] J. V. Nash.
1534. How to Test Your Urine at Home [by] B. C. Meyrowitz.
1535. How to Throw a Party [by] Heinz Norden.
1536. Facing Death Fearlessly [by] Joseph McCabe.
1537. The Essence of Unitarianism [by] L. M. Birkhead.
1538. A Rational Sex Code [by] E. Haldeman-Julius.
1545. Why I Do Not Fear Death [by] E. Haldeman-Julius.
1546. An Encyclopedia of Sex [by] E. Haldeman-Julius.
1553. Beneficial Exercises for Nervousness and Indigestion [by] C. O. Benson and Dr. C. L. Smith.
1560. Why I Quit Being a Prohibitionist [by] Harry Hibschman.
1564. Homosexuality in the Lives of the Great [by] J. V. Nash.
1565. The Danger of Catholicism in the Public Schools [by] E. Haldeman-Julius.
1566. How to Conduct a Love Affair [by] Betty Van Deventer.
1567. Making Men Happy with Jams and Jellies [by] Elizabeth Palmer.

Of course, some of the more popular titles involved titillating topics of sexuality or the conduct of the sexually active (or deviant). Yet these pamphlets, sold mostly through mail-order for 20 for $1, made E. Haldeman-Julius wealthy. He became a man about town, which couldn't be that hard in a town like Girard, Kansas. Eventually though, his wife, Matrice ran off with his alcoholic assistant leaving Emanuel alone to womanize and write many, many, many, many, many, many more Little Blue Books.

In the end, it was E. Haldeman-Julius' writing that may have been his undoing. In a book about the FBI he outed J. Edgar Hover as a homosexual which of course didn't go over too well at the Bureau. The FBI already had a file on Haldeman-Julius due to his role as a publisher of socialist literature and as they dug deeper they discovered EHJ's unpaid taxes. EHJ was charged and found guilty of tax evasion but he died before he served any time. In 1951, he was found dead in his pool, or as many locals believe, the FBI murdered him.

His printing house was left to his son but on July 4th, 1978 errant fire works landed on the roof catching fire and burning the building down.

See what I mean. A Coen brothers' script.

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