Copyright
Edward William Bok.

A Dutch Boy Fifty Years After online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online LibraryEdward William BokA Dutch Boy Fifty Years After → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


E-text prepared by Al Haines



Note: Project Gutenberg also has an HTML version of this
file which includes the original illustrations.
See 15930-h.htm or 15930-h.zip:
(http://www.gutenberg.net/dirs/1/5/9/3/15930/15930-h/15930-h.htm)
or
(http://www.gutenberg.net/dirs/1/5/9/3/15930/15930-h.zip)





A DUTCH BOY FIFTY YEARS AFTER

by

EDWARD BOK

Adapted from _The Americanization of Edward Bok_

Edited with an Introduction by John Louis Haney, Ph.D.
President, Central High School, Philadelphia

Charles Scribner's Sons
New York Chicago Boston
Atlanta San Francisco

1921







[Frontispiece: Photograph of Edward Bok.]




TO

THE SCHOOLBOYS AND SCHOOLGIRLS OF AMERICA

I DEDICATE THIS STORY OF A BOY

WHO BELIEVED THAT AN OBSTACLE IS NOT SOMETHING

TO BE AFRAID OF

BUT IS ONLY A DIFFICULTY TO BE OVERCOME

AND WHO TOOK FOR HIS MOTTO

AS I HOPE EVERY ONE WHO READS THESE PAGES WILL DO

THESE LINES BY MADELINE S. BRIDGES:


"Give to the world the best you have
And the best will come back to you."




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 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
aigrettes, 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


CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

PHILADELPHIA




CONTENTS


EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

AN INTRODUCTION OF TWO PERSONS

CHAPTER

I. THE FIRST DAYS IN AMERICA

II. THE FIRST JOB: FIFTY CENTS A WEEK

III. THE HUNGER FOR SELF-EDUCATION

IV. A PRESIDENTIAL FRIEND AND A BOSTON PILGRIMAGE

V. GOING TO THE THEATRE WITH LONGFELLOW

VI. PHILLIPS BROOKS'S BOOKS AND EMERSON'S MENTAL MIST

VII. A PLUNGE INTO WALL STREET

VIII. STARTING A NEWSPAPER SYNDICATE

IX. THE FIRST "WOMAN'S PAGE," "LITERARY LEAVES,"
AND ENTERING SCRIBNER'S

X. THE CHANCES FOR SUCCESS

XI. LAST YEARS IN NEW YORK

XII. SUCCESSFUL EDITORSHIP

XIII. BUILDING UP A MAGAZINE

XIV. MEETING A REVERSE OR TWO

XV. ADVENTURES IN ART AND IN CIVICS

XVI. THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S INFLUENCE

XVII. THE PRESIDENT AND THE BOY

XVIII. ADVENTURES IN MUSIC

XIX. A WAR MAGAZINE AND WAR ACTIVITIES

XX. THE THIRD PERIOD

XXI. WHERE AMERICA FELL SHORT WITH ME

XXII. WHAT I OWE TO AMERICA

EDWARD WILLIAM BOK: BIOGRAPHICAL DATA

THE EXPRESSION OF A PERSONAL PLEASURE




ILLUSTRATIONS


Edward W. Bok . . . Frontispiece

Edward Bok at the age of six

Edward Bok's birthplace at Helder, Netherlands

The grandmother

The Dutch grandfather [Transcriber's note: missing from book]

Where Edward Bok is happiest: in his garden




AN INTRODUCTION OF TWO PERSONS


IN WHOSE LIVES ARE FOUND THE SOURCE AND MAINSPRING OF SOME OF THE
EFFORTS OF THE AUTHOR OF THIS BOOK IN HIS LATER YEARS


Along an island in the North Sea, five miles from the Dutch coast,
stretches a dangerous ledge of rocks that has proved the graveyard of
many a vessel sailing that turbulent sea. On this island once lived a
group of men who, as each vessel was wrecked, looted the vessel and
murdered those of the crew who reached shore. The government of the
Netherlands decided to exterminate the island pirates, and for the job
King William selected a young lawyer at The Hague.

"I want you to clean up that island," was the royal order. It was a
formidable job for a young man of twenty-odd years. By royal
proclamation he was made mayor of the island, and within a year, a
court of law being established, the young attorney was appointed judge;
and in that dual capacity he "cleaned up" the island.

The young man now decided to settle on the island, and began to look
around for a home. It was a grim place, barren of tree or living green
of any kind; it was as if a man had been exiled to Siberia. Still,
argued the young mayor, an ugly place is ugly only because it is not
beautiful. And beautiful he determined this island should be.

One day the young mayor-judge called together his council. "We must
have trees," he said; "we can make this island a spot of beauty if we
will!" But the practical seafaring men demurred; the little money they
had was needed for matters far more urgent than trees.

"Very well," was the mayor's decision - and little they guessed what the
words were destined to mean - "I will do it myself." And that year he
planted one hundred trees, the first the island had ever seen.

"Too cold," said the islanders; "the severe north winds and storms will
kill them all."

"Then I will plant more," said the unperturbed mayor. And for the
fifty years that he lived on the island he did so. He planted trees
each year; and, moreover, he had deeded to the island government land
which he turned into public squares and parks, and where each spring he
set out shrubs and plants.

Moistened by the salt mist the trees did not wither, but grew
prodigiously. In all that expanse of turbulent sea - and only those who
have seen the North Sea in a storm know how turbulent it can be - there
had not been a foot of ground on which the birds, storm-driven across
the water-waste, could rest in their flight. Hundreds of dead birds
often covered the surface of the sea. Then one day the trees had grown
tall enough to look over the sea, and, spent and driven, the first
birds came and rested in their leafy shelter. And others came and
found protection, and gave their gratitude vent in song. Within a few
years so many birds had discovered the trees in this new island home
that they attracted the attention not only of the native islanders but
also of the people on the shore five miles distant, and the island
became famous as the home of the rarest and most beautiful birds. So
grateful were the birds for their resting-place that they chose one end
of the island as a special spot for the laying of their eggs and the
raising of their young, and they fairly peopled it. It was not long
before ornithologists from various parts of the world came to
"Egg-land," as the farthermost point of the island came to be known, to
see the marvellous sight, not of thousands but of hundreds of thousands
of bird-eggs.

A pair of storm-driven nightingales had now found the island and mated
there; their wonderful notes thrilled even the souls of the natives;
and as dusk fell upon the seabound strip of land the women and children
would come to "the square" and listen to the evening notes of the birds
of golden song. The two nightingales soon grew into a colony, and
within a few years so rich was the island in its nightingales that over
to the Dutch coast and throughout the land and into other countries
spread the fame of "The Island of Nightingales."

Meantime, the young mayor-judge, grown to manhood, had kept on planting
trees each year, setting out his shrubbery and plants, until their
verdure now beautifully shaded the quaint, narrow lanes, and
transformed into wooded roads what once had been only barren wastes.
Artists began to hear of the place and brought their canvases, and on
the walls of hundreds of homes throughout the world hang to-day bits of
the beautiful lanes and wooded spots of "The Island of Nightingales."
The American artist, William M. Chase, took his pupils there almost
annually. "In all the world to-day," he declared to his students, as
they exclaimed at the natural cool restfulness of the island, "there is
no more beautiful place."

The trees are now majestic in their height of forty or more feet, for
it is nearly a hundred years since the young attorney went to the
island and planted the first tree; to-day the churchyard where he lies
is a bower of cool green, with the trees that he planted dropping their
moisture on the lichen-covered stone on his grave.

This much did one man do. But he did more.

After he had been on the barren island two years he went to the
mainland one day, and brought back with him a bride. It was a bleak
place for a bridal home, but the young wife had the qualities of the
husband. "While you raise your trees," she said, "I will raise our
children." And within a score of years the young bride sent thirteen
happy-faced, well-brought-up children over that island, and there was
reared a home such as is given to few. Said a man who subsequently
married a daughter of that home: "It was such a home that once you had
been in it you felt you must be of it, and that if you couldn't marry
one of the daughters you would have been glad to have married the cook."

One day when the children had grown to man's and woman's estate the
mother called them all together and said to them, "I want to tell you
the story of your father and of this island," and she told them the
simple story that is written here.

"And now," she said, "as you go out into the world I want each of you
to take with you the spirit of your father's work, and each, in your
own way and place, to do as he has done: make you the world a bit more
beautiful and better because you have been in it. That is your
mother's message to you."

The first son to leave the island home went with a band of hardy men to
South Africa, where they settled and became known as "the Boers."
Tirelessly they worked at the colony until towns and cities sprang up
and a new nation came into being: The Transvaal Republic. The son
became secretary of state of the new country, and to-day the United
States of South Africa bears tribute, in part, to the mother's message
to "make the world a bit more beautiful and better."

The second son left home for the Dutch mainland, where he took charge
of a small parish; and when he had finished his work he was mourned by
king and peasant as one of the leading clergymen of his time and people.

A third son, scorning his own safety, plunged into the boiling surf on
one of those nights of terror so common to that coast, rescued a
half-dead sailor, carried him to his father's house, and brought him
back to a life of usefulness that gave the world a record of
imperishable value. For the half-drowned sailor was Heinrich
Schliemann, the famous explorer of the dead cities of Troy.

The first daughter now left the island nest; to her inspiration her
husband owed, at his life's close, a shelf of works in philosophy which
to-day are among the standard books of their class.

The second daughter worked beside her husband until she brought him to
be regarded as one of the ablest preachers of his land, speaking for
more than forty years the message of man's betterment.

To another son it was given to sit wisely in the councils of his land;
another followed the footsteps of his father. Another daughter,
refusing marriage for duty, ministered unto and made a home for one
whose eyes could see not.

So they went out into the world, the girls and boys of that island
home, each carrying the story of their father's simple but beautiful
work and the remembrance of their mother's message. Not one from that
home but did well his or her work in the world; some greater, some
smaller, but each left behind the traces of a life well spent.

And, as all good work is immortal, so to-day all over the world goes on
the influence of this one man and one woman, whose life on that little
Dutch island changed its barren rocks to a bower of verdure, a home for
the birds and the song of the nightingale. The grandchildren have gone
to the four corners of the globe, and are now the generation of


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryEdward William BokA Dutch Boy Fifty Years After → online text (page 1 of 16)