Frontispiece

A DUTCH BOY
FIFTY YEARS AFTER

BY

EDWARD BOK

Originally published by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

NEW YORK            CHICAGO            BOSTON

ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO

in the year of our Lord, 1921 ce.

I'm not sure how many errors have crept into this manuscript because of my copying techniques. Throwing a towel over the machine can't be the best of solutions.  Besides that, the book I used has set on many a shelf and seen quite a bit of use as befits a book of this nature.  Errors are inevitable, I suppose. 

HOWEVER, for some reason it would seem that I have secured a better picture of Bok's grandmother than appears elsewhere, and I have a picture of the grandfather which is altogether missing from other editions that I am aware of.  For this great blessing I feel to cheer.

You will also notice that I have made several enhancements

  • in the text
  • in the layout
  • in the choice of fonts
  • judicial use of color
  • in adding photos I have from other sources
  • and in my derivative use of the illustrations.

For these enhancements and derivative work I claim copyright for this new product as published by SeaStone Books.

� Copyright 2017 by Lin Stone

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Thank you.

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INTRODUCTION

In recent years American literature has been enriched by certain autobiographies of men and women who had been born abroad, but who had been brought to this country, where they grew up as loyal citizens of our great nation. Such assimilated Americans had to face not only the usual conditions confronting a stranger in a strange land, but had to develop within themselves the noble conception of Americanism that was later to become for them a flaming gospel. Andrew Carnegie, the canny Scotch lad who began as a cotton weaver's assistant, became a steel magnate and an eminent constructive philanthropist. Jacob Riis, the ambitious Dane, told in The Making of an American the story of his rise to prominence as a social and civic worker in New York. Mary Antin, who was brought from a Russian ghetto at the age of thirteen, gave us in The Promised Land a most impressive interpretation of America's significance to the foreign-born. The very title of her book was a flash of inspiration.

To this group of notable autobiographies belongs The Americanization of Edward Bok, which received, from Columbia University, the Joseph Pulitzer Prize of one thousand dollars as "the best American biography teaching patriotic and unselfish service to the Nation and at the same time illustrating an eminent example." The judges who framed that decision could not have stated more aptly the scope and value of the book. It is the story of an unusual education, a conspicuous achievement, and an ideal now in course of realization.

At the age of six Edward Bok was brought to America by his parents, who had met with financial reverses in their native country of the Netherlands. He spent six years in the public schools of Brooklyn, but even while getting the rudiments of a formal education he had to work during his spare hours to bring home a few more dollars to aid his needy family. His first job was cleaning the show-window of a small bakery for fifty cents a week. At twelve he became an office boy in the Western Union Telegraph Company; at nineteen he was a stenographer; at twenty-six he became editor of The Ladies' Home Journal, which during the thirty years of his supervision achieved the remarkable circulation of two million copies and reached every month an audience of perhaps ten million persons. Such is the bare outline of a career that has the essential characteristics of struggle and achievement, of intimate contact with eminent men and women, and, most interesting of all, is not a fulfilled career, but a life still in the making.

The significance of The Americanization of Edward Bok is threefold and is clearly indicated by the author's own conception of the three periods that should constitute a well-rounded life.. These he characterizes as education, achievement, and service for others. Conceived in this ideal spirit, the autobiography has a message for every American schoolboy or schoolgirl who is looking forward to the years of achievement and who should be made to understand that there is a finer duty beyond.

It has an equally important message for those of us who in the turmoil of a busy world are struggling to achieve, in many instances with no vision beyond the desire to provide as best we can for the welfare of ourselves and our families. Lastly, it has an inspiring, constructive message for those who are now in a position to render altruistic service and thus contribute their share toward making the world in general and America in particular a better place in which to live.

Because of the recognized value of Edward Bok's life-story, the present abridged edition, which is re-named A Dutch Boy Fifty Years After, has been undertaken. The chapters here brought together, with the approval of Mr. Bok, tell the story of the Dutch boy in the American school, his earnest efforts to help his parents, his journalistic and literary experiences, his wide-spread influence as editor, and a vision of what he still hopes to accomplish for the land of his adoption.

Our boys and girls who become familiar with the story of this resourceful Dutch lad should note that he is not ashamed to tell us he helped his mother by building the fire, preparing the breakfast, and washing the dishes before he went to school, and when he returned from school he did not play but swept, scrubbed, and washed more dishes after the evening meal. He did not whine and mope because his parents could no longer keep the retinue of servants to which they had been accustomed in the Netherlands. He simply pitched in and helped. The same spirit impelled him to clean the baker's windows for fifty cents a week, to deliver a newspaper over a regular route, to sell ice water on the Coney Island horse-cars--in short, to do any honorable work to overcome the burden of poverty.

Meanwhile he strove to acquire what little education he could, but he probably learned more from his association with the prominent persons whom he met as a result of his early passion for autograph collecting. Such a boyhood brings home the important truth that necessity is the mother of self-reliance.

Mr. Bok's story indicates the road to success and gives gentle encouragement to those who would tread that pleasant way, but it also sounds a frank warning against the pitfalls that beset ambitious youth. When he was sent by the city editor of the Brooklyn Eagle to review a theatrical performance and decided to write his review without going to the theatre, he had, of course, no warning that the performance would not take place. He took what many a more experienced reporter would consider a reasonable chance and he suffered keen humiliation when the lesson was forced home that it does not pay to attempt deception. He tells us that the incident left a lasting impression and he felt grateful because it happened so early in life that he could take the experience to heart and profit by it.

With equal candor he tells of the stock-market "tips" that resulted from his intimacy with Jay Gould. Wisely he records that he resolved to keep out of Wall Street thereafter, in spite of his initial success in speculation. When he gave up an association that probably would have led to his becoming a stock-broker, and somewhat later, when he declined an offer to be the business manager for a popular American actress, Edward Bok was called upon to make fateful decisions. In this story he lays ample stress upon the need for careful and deliberate consideration at such crucial moments.

The account of his long and successful editorship of The Ladies' Home Journal reveals the extent of his influence on American social and domestic conditions. He broadened the scope of The Journal until it touched the life of the nation at many points. The earlier women's magazines had devoted most attention to fashions, needle-work, and cookery, printing a few sentimental stories and poems to give the necessary literary atmosphere.

The Ladies' Home Journal took up a great variety of problems concerning the American home and those who dwelled therein. A corps of editors was assembled to conduct departments and to answer questions either by mail or in the pages of The Journal. Free scholarships in colleges and in musical conservatories were given in place of the usual magazine premiums. Series of articles were published to foster our national appreciation for better architecture, better furniture, better pictures--in brief, for better homes in every respect.

Mr. Bok discouraged the taking of patent medicines, the wearing of cigarettes, the use of the public drinking-cup, the disfiguring of American scenery with glaring signs and bill-posting, the use of fireworks on the Fourth of July, and many similar matters that were not to our credit or advantage. He printed convincing photographs taken in various "dirty cities" that tolerated refuse and other evidences of untidiness on their streets and literally shamed those communities into cleaning up the plague-spots.

Had he been a commonplace editor with his main thought on the subscription list he would have avoided controversy by confining his leading articles to subjects unlikely to offend any one, but he would not pursue any policy that meant a surrender of his ideals. When occasion demanded he did not hesitate to hit squarely from the shoulder. Whether the public agreed with him or not, it knew that The Journal was very much in earnest whenever it espoused any cause.

Mr. Bok's last important service as editor of The Journal was a direct outcome of our participation in the Great War. The problems raised by that world cataclysm called for a restatement of American ideals and aspirations. He therefore arranged for a number of articles adapted to the needs of every community, whether large or small, and these were soon acclaimed as the most comprehensive exposition of practical Americanization that had yet been published.

As a far-sighted editor with a long experience behind him he knew that many of the immigrants coming to this country were ready to enjoy our privileges without undertaking to share our responsibilities. The newcomer could realize a freedom unknown in Europe, he had a chance to achieve higher standards of living and to establish a better home for himself and his family; what were we asking in return?

We did not subject him to a political confession of faith and we did not fix his social caste; were we justified in asking him to accept our language and to uphold our institutions?

The intelligent immigrant knows that the culture of America is a transplanted European culture, but he quickly realizes that it has become something distinctive because it developed under conditions where social barriers or racial jealousies are of slight importance. The person who grasps this truth, as did Edward Bok, knows well that America stands ready to accept any man, whether native-born or alien, at his true worth and will give him unequalled opportunity to make the most of his abilities.

In accomplishing his Americanization, Mr. Bok learned much from us and he has given his fellow-Americans a chance to learn something from him. He is aware of our pride in what we have achieved, but he points the way to still greater triumphs in the years to come.

He urges us to give more regard to thrift, to be more painstaking and thorough in what we do, and finally, to overcome our prevalent lack of respect for authority. Such advice is especially appropriate at this time. During the present critical period in the wake of the greatest and most destructive of all wars, a prudent nation will follow the fundamental political and economic virtues. It is no time for extravagance, for slipshod service, or for defiance of established law.

Our young people need every incentive to make the most of their talents and of their opportunities. If they observe closely the successive steps of Mr. Bok's career they will understand why he did not continue to wash shop-windows all his life or why the Western Union's office-boy did not grow up to be a mere clerk or local manager.

In the important chapters entitled "The Chances for Success" and "What I Owe to America" they will learn that ambition and industry must be supplemented by other admirable qualities in the loyal American who is eager to serve his country to the utmost.

The concluding chapters of the autobiography have a most valuable lesson for every American, young or old. In them Mr. Bok calls upon us to give a helping hand to the other fellow and to accept in more genuine spirit the gospel of the brotherhood of man. The civic pride that urged him to join in the movement to beautify his home community of Merion and that caused his activity in the raising of an endowment fund of almost two million dollars for the Philadelphia Orchestra is what we would expect of the idealist who sets out to observe the wise precept of his Dutch grandparents: "Make you the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been in it."

Throughout the book the observant reader will note the author's pride in his Dutch ancestry and his consciousness of the fact that he owes so much to the splendid qualities of his forbears. Such pride may be shared by every other progressive American of foreign birth or parentage who feels that he is bringing into our social and industrial life certain commendable traits that characterize the best sons and daughters of his fatherland, whatever that fatherland may be.

The admirable dedication that Mr. Bok has prepared for this little volume is addressed to American schoolboys and schoolgirls, but its message is just as vital for the older reader. In the prime of life and on the threshold of his Third Period, Mr. Bok has begun to give practical demonstration of the kind of service that is possible for those who are sincerely ready to serve. He is alive to the fact that as a nation we are still young and eager to learn.

We have made serious mistakes in the past and our institutions are as yet far from perfect, but with more of our intellectual leaders accepting the watchword of altruistic service in the spirit of Mr. Bok's conception, there can be virtually no limitations to the part that America seems destined to play in the future.

JOHN L. HANEY


 

Next, you are to read the story of the Dutch Grandfather: