What They Were Reading in 1910
April 23 is World Book Night. It wasn't being celebrated in 1910 when much of Yours in a Hurry takes place, but it made me think about what the characters were reading. Knowing their interests, I can guess.
The realism in London's writing has caught on with today's readers. New books on his early development, adventures, and politics continue to be published. Many of Purl's Pacific Ocean experiences are based on London's collected short stories and his 1907 world cruise on the yacht Snark. He was a passionate socialist and a war correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War. His writings reflected empathy for many cultures, but he feared Asian immigration, coining the term 'the yellow peril,’ which many, like Hiram Cowell in YIAH, felt flamed intolerance. The Hartles were avid readers and interested in politics, so London would have been a favorite.
Samuel Clemens said that he came in with Halley's Comet in 1835 and he expected to go out with it in 1910. Some would agree that the author of many notable books of the last century, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson, was, like the ancient god Mercury, an eloquent messenger. Like London, he spent several years in the west as a reporter. By 1883, the irreverent writer was one of the most popular and famous in America. We can't imagine that any child, even today, hasn't read a book by Twain. His humor faded and his egocentrism created both problems with his family and a rivalry with the President of the United States, but he was good at predicting his future: Twain died of a heart attack one day after the Comet appeared at its brightest in 1910.
Until he died in 1969, Purl Hartle spoke with respect of his hero, Teddy Roosevelt. Some in the family thought Purl joined the Army Cavalry in 1908 for that very reason since the Spanish-American War and the Rough Riders were still fresh in memory. Who didn't know the stories of how Roosevelt overcame childhood illness to become the strong, intelligent, muckraker, world traveler, and politician. We often forget his great contributions as an author documenting his times. My spouse has most of his books—stories on the west, the wilderness, historic wars at home and overseas, big game hunting, and his political views, just to name a few.
In The Bully Pulpit, Doris Kearns Goodwin quotes William Sturges Bigelow in a letter to Henry Cabot Lodge describing Roosevelt: "He was just as much interested in the next thing as if the last one had never happened." It actually describes many young men's enthusiasms about the new century and its opportunities—including Purl’s and Addison’s.
If you haven't picked your book for World Book Night, choose one of these authors and transport yourself back in time or read about them in one of the sources below.
Jack London and his Times, Joan London
Jack London, Earle Labor
The Collected Jack London, Steven J. Kasdin
Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, James Haley
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Doris Kearns Goodwin
Mark Twain and the Colonel, Philip McFarland
The Rough Riders, Teddy Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt, David McCullough
Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight-The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Roosevelt, Edward Kohn
Colonel Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
Next time: How did the first motion picture studio came to be?
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