The Contributors' Column

Frank Tannenbaum, whose paper on ‘Prison Cruelty’ in the Atlantic for last April aroused widespread interest and discussion, is now traveling through the United States, devoting himself to a comprehensive study of the whole question of prison management.L. Ames Brown is a veteran newspaper correspondent in Washington. Charles Bernard Nordhoff is spending a year away from time, in the South Seas. A. Edward Newton has recently been elected the first honorary member of the American Booksellers’ Association. A manufacturer of electrical apparatus, quite innocent of electrical knowledge, Mr. Newton has, we believe, the profoundest comprehension of the instinct of correct advertising that ever graced an eighteenth century essayist.

George P. Brett, President of the Macmillan Company and a publisher of great experience, follows in his article an argument apt to encourage serious controversy. It will interest our readers to see the comments upon this paper made by a well-informed advertising man to whom we showed proofs of the article.

I have read with surprise the comments made by Mr. Brett in his article which are, I think, unfair, not only to the business of advertising, but to manufacturing and selling as well.

Let me check up certain of his points in detail.

In his third paragraph Mr. Brett gives the impression that a certain publication (which the judicious will recognize as the Saturday Evening Post) increased its circulation over-night. As a matter of fact the tremendous growth of this magazine covered a period of four years.

In paragraph four, he goes on to state that the general increase of the magazines in circulation and in bulk is due to advertising, further remarking that most of this advertising is simply a means for national advertisers to escape the excess-profits tax. He quotes the president of a large western corporation to prove his case.

Coming in contact as I do with the majority of national advertisers, I should dispute Mr. Brett’s statement. There may be a few isolated cases of manufacturers spending more than they should, but the great majority are exercising just as much prudence and foresight in their advertising as under pre-war conditions. It is true, some advertising appropriations have been increased because of the fact that, advertising being free from taxation, the manufacturers are taking this opportunity of strengthening their hold upon the consuming public and creating a larger demand for their product and thereby reducing the cost of manufacture, which has been the function of advertising and the reason for its strength in our social, economic, and commercial life to-day.

As it happens, I have just come from the office of an advertising counsel who handles the publicity for a large public utility where the directors are inclined toward retrenchment at a time when it would be of great danger to their product to yield to the inclination. This case is multiplied by many within my personal experience.

A little later on, Mr. Brett seems to me to misrepresent the power of advertising, when he says, ‘neither is it a matter of doubt that the many millions of dollars spent annually in advertising of this description are added to the price of the commodity sold and that the expenditure is one of the causes of our present high cost of living.’

From data which I happen to have on my desk I can show that there are but four large advertisers who are spending a higher percentage for advertising than that shown by Mr. Brett’s book publisher whose exhibit appears on page 474. A women’s wearing-apparel company, which sells entirely by mail, has no retail store or salesmen, and whose entire selling force is that of advertising, spends 15 per cent; Old Dutch Cleanser, 10 per cent; Sears, Roebuck, whose entire selling-cost is advertising, 10 per cent.

Mr. Brett’s strictures on magazines are obviously directed to the so-called ‘flat’ magazines, not to periodicals of the old standard size. He does not differentiate between a standard magazine like the Atlantic and large-sized publications like the Saturday Evening Post, the Ladies’ Home Journal, and the Pictorial Review, where the amount of white paper per page is from 250 to 300 per cent greater than in the case of the standard magazine. It is fair that the reader should appreciate the immense economy of paper practised by the magazines of standard size.

As an illustration of what advertising can do, take the California Almond-Growers’ Exchange. It assesses its members one cent per pound for advertising. During the past two years, the price of almonds to the consumer has increased about 25 per cent, while during the same period, wages have increased 300 per cent. There have also been heavy increases in transportation; but the reason that the increase in cost of almonds has been lower than in that of practically any other food-product, is that the advertising has so greatly increased the consumption of almonds.

Robert M. Gay, long familiar to Atlantic readers, is now Professor of English at Simmons College, Boston. His ‘Writing through Reading,’ recently published by the Atlantic Monthly Press, is based upon a novel plan for teaching composition, which has met with immediate appreciation.

Amory Hare, a Philadelphia poet pleasantly familiar to our readers, is a granddaughter of the late Bishop William Hobart Hare, the Apostle to the Sioux. L. Adams Beck is an Oriental scholar and wanderer in many lands. At this moment he is visiting the Midnight Sun in Alaska. Francis B. Gummere, who was Professor of English at Haverford College from 1887 till 1919, has left behind him a name honored wherever America cherishes the humanities.

Lord Dunsany, of the historic Plunkett family, and holder of one of the oldest titles in the peerage of Ireland, is the author of numerous volumes of plays and essays. His ‘Fame and the Poet’ was printed in the Atlantic for August, 1919. Gamaliel Bradford, eighth of the name, lives in Wellesley Hills,Massachusetts. Carl F. L. Zeisberg is a manufacturer, of Warren,Pennsylvania. W. W. Williams, who served his country at a dollar a year in Washington, here gives his poetic impression of a lady in the stenographic ranks.

Charles W. Eliot, for two generations a public servant in private life, is of all distinguished Americans the most detached and independent in beliefs and in processes of thought. The Atlantic, having invited this contribution without knowledge of President Eliot’s present choice of party, is all the more interested in the definiteness of his conclusion. Meredith Nicholson, novelist and essayist, student of men and manners, and excursionist into politics, has with his solid friend Smith frequently figured in Atlantic pages. What Smith thinks of the Church is known, we imagine, to every clergyman who faces a congregation. It is the same Smith who now has a word of advice to politicians. Raymond B. Fosdick was appointed Under-Secretary of the League of Nations, by Sir Eric Drummond, in May, 1919, but resigned when it became apparent that the United States was not likely to be an early member of the League. In June of this year the Atlantic printed his paper, ‘The League of Nations is Alive.’ Eugene E. Rovillain is Professor of French at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He served his country with distinction in the war, and was subsequently sent to Mexico by his government as official observer.

Interesting testimony to the remarkable rightness of Mrs. Gerould’s judgments comes to us direct from the capital of Bulgaria.

Another example of the ‘ Remarkable Rightness of Rudyard Kipling’ is furnished by the inclosed clipping from the Chicago Tribune, Paris Edition. I had been rereading Actions and Reactions, when I came upon it. You remember the ‘ads’ that follow ‘With the Night Mail’? Compare these actual ones with those.


Leaving Paris for London

9.30 a.m. & 4.30 p.m. (Daily) Air Express.

11.00 a.m. (Mon., Thur.) Gds. Express Aeriens.

12.30 p.m. (Daily) Mess. Aeriennes-Handley Page Cos.

Leaving London for Paris

9.30 a.m. & 4.30 p.m. (Daily) Air Express.

11.00 a.m. (Wed., Sat.) Gds. Express Aeriens.

12.00 m. (Daily) Mess. Aeriennes-Handley Page Cos.



Daily Flights are made over London & Trips to all Business Centres, Pleasure & Health Resorts arranged at short notice.

After arid weeks, nay, months, of wandering about Germany and the Balkans, imagine the joy of coming, last week-end, upon two copies of the Atlantic (for May and July) up at the American School at Samokov, about forty miles back in the mountains from Sophia. The last copies I had seen were in the American Church Library at Munich....
Next to a daily shower-bath, the chiefest delight of getting home again will be the regular arrival, warm off the press, of each Atlantic at my front door. Faithfully yours,

The following ‘ human reaction ’ will interest deeply all those to whom the order of the world is a subject of concern.

I’m so sleepy, but I cannot resist the impulse to tell you what a breath of life you are to me at times. I live in one of the cesspools of the earth — in a city within a city. The Great City is one of the proud of the earth, whereas my city — my city is the sediment of the Great City: what even its jails and worst lodging-houses won’t keep; for I am at ‘the County.’ I sometimes wonder if even the ‘yellowest’ reporter in the city would not be stunned into comparative silence by the vast fund of lurid experiences he would find if he were a nurse at ‘the County.’
‘The County’ is in the heart of the city. It is near the Ghetto, near ‘the Bucket o’ Blood.’ It knows that summer is here only because of the hideous waves of heat that sweep over the Great City and send in dying babies and hideous stinking sores. It draws its inhabitants from every corner of the earth — and the Seven Seas. One cold winter morning, just before dawn, I stood by a bed where lay a giant who would never walk again; and he grinned between his pains, and thanked me for the water I gave him by telling me of being for days in an open boat on the China Sea without a drop of that precious fluid. Near him lay a little gnome of a man, who has been with us for years — Johannus, who cleans the bed-pans, and who is nearing the end of his journey alone and in a foreign land. For Johannus is a son of a high-born German family, a graduate of Alt’ Heidelberg, and he quotes Heine and Shakespeare and the rest. And not far from Johannus is a man who will go to jail under the Mann Act when his wounds are healed — wounds made with a dagger by a jealous woman.
On the floor above is a little Frenchman who has tried for the third time to commit suicide because of the overthrow of all his ideals and beliefs by the war. Beside him lies a belated ‘D. T.,’ to use the hospital parlance: a man who is leaving this world in a delirium tremens in which his old mother on the farm seems to come to him between his fights with 1 red-hot monkeys ’ and the rest. It was in that ward that Thaddeus died, coming out of his dreadful pain at the last, to cry, ‘Mutter, mutter! Don’t cry! Oh — I’m going to mass mit der angels! ’ Thaddy was the son of a fine old man, who had been a banker in Poland and who had surrounded his family with every luxury — till the Germans came.
But I could go on indefinitely — we get them all, the murderers and the murdered, the suicides, the betrayed, the feeble-minded. We have a fourteen-year-old colored girl and her baby, whose father is little older than the mother; we have the girls whose families have cast them off and who have come here to have their illegitimate babies; we have old people whose families have turned them out in their helpless old age; we have tiny children who are already steeped beyond hope in sin and crime; we have lepers that society fears as it does no other class; we have women with broken heads and razor-cuts and bruised faces.
Can you see what a breath of life you are to me when I come out of this that is so far from the happy, sane, beauty-loving world you live in ? I am seized with a sort of horror at times as I look at some of them! ‘And this is the Dream He dreamed, to be the ruler of the world, to search the heavens for power, to feel the passion of Eternity!’ Oh, I know that is not correctly quoted, but I’m too sleepy to see or quote correctly. Imagine only two nurses on duty, all night long, making rounds with a candle in the midst of this! Don’t you believe that it is almost soul-crushing at times? How many who lie in their comfortable beds ever think of that hideous maelstrom at ‘the County’?

Is the dearest tenet of popular natural history in danger? Is ‘playing ’possum’ an exhibition, not of cunning, but of nerves. Mr. Erich A. O’D. Taylor, of Newport, Rhode Island, writes us as follows: —

The author of the ‘Whimsical Goddess’ seems to be under the impression that the ’possum is capable of feigning death to escape its enemies, much in the same way as the man in the story feigned death to escape the bear. Such is not the case. It seems almost unnecessary to say that in order to imitate something one must have some idea of the thing one would imitate. As far as I know there is nothing to show that the ’possum (or indeed any other animal) does know anything of death. If there were, we must admit that the animal takes thought of the future. That seems to me to be going too far.

Jean Henri Fabre, the French entomologist, made very careful experiments upon this subject. In his case, however, a beetle and not a ’possum was the subject of the experiment. It was dropped two or three times and then turned on its back. To all outward appearances it was dead. Sometimes this condition lasted for over fifty minutes; sometimes only twenty. At any rate, after a longer or shorter time its legs began to quiver and its antennæ moved. Within another minute it had turned over and was moving off as alive as ever.

If the beetle was subjected to strong light (which exposed it to full view of its enemies), the ‘sham’ ceased. In other words, when danger threatened, the beetle ceased to ‘sham,’ and made frantic efforts to get away.

If the ‘sham’ was a trick, why did it not make use of it? On the other hand, if this condition is not a trick of the beetle to escape its enemies, what is it? The answer is fairly simple. The insect has been ‘hypnotized’ by the shock! If it was ‘shamming,’ when the danger had passed it would at once turn over and escape. Instead, its energy returns slowly, and it is some time before it is strong enough to right itself. All this coincides with the action of one returning to consciousness after a faint or a deep sleep.

The scorpion has been said to sting itself to death if surrounded by a ring of fire. M. Fabre made this experiment also. He surrounded a large scorpion with glowing charcoal. The animal, crazed by the heat, made a vain effort to escape. It brandished its sting, crooking and straightening it out, with all the fury of its intense anguish. At length it became motionless. Had it stung itself? It might well have done so, for its movements were so rapid that the eye could not follow them. With much uncertainty the experimenter removed the ‘corpse’ from the furnace and placed it on some cool sand. Within an hour the animal returned to life as lusty as ever. Evidently hypnosis, or a faint, is again the answer.

Birds also may be hypnotized. There are probably many people who have tucked a hen’s head under its wing and rocked it gently until the bird was apparently dead. Only the rise and fall of the feathers denotes the fact that she ‘ is not dead but sleepeth.’

Now birds, scorpions, and beetles are all less highly organized than the ’possum. Clearly, then, the argument that the ’possum belongs to too low an order to be rendered unconscious by a nervous shock falls to the ground. The shamming of the ’possum is no more a trick than that of the bird, beetle, or scorpion, or the fainting of a woman on hearing of her husband’s sudden death.

Thousands who have read in the Atlantic of ‘ Old Sawney ’ have a regard for him which may fairly be called affection. It is good, then, to learn from Mr. E. B. Chappell of Nashville that he

has not retired from the oversight of the school. He is still hale and vigorous, a Socrates grown mellow with the passing of the years. He still makes his morning talks to the boys, not the garrulous mouthings of an old man in his dotage, but talks full of wit and vivacity and homely counsel, and apt comment upon current life and events. And the school is still dominated by the influence of his personality. Moreover, two of his sons, who have inherited a measure of his genius and have worked with him for many years, are ready to perpetuate the spirit and ideals which he has wrought into the life of the institution when the great founder has gone to wear ‘a truer crown than any wreath that man can weave him.’

The ‘Soaring Hawk’ will not stay down. Another paper on the subject will be contributed by Mr. Burroughs to an early issue. Meanwhile, Mr. John Breck, of Grosse Ile, Michigan, has some interesting remarks to make.

How does a hawk soar? That question will probably remain open for speculation through another decade while we perfect the airplane. A spirited discussion of it between Mr. George Clough and Mr. Burroughs has recently broken into print. It would be a bold naturalist who dared oppose either one of them in his own field, but — I have tried soaring.

Back in the early days of airplanes, I had a third interest in a glider — a home-made contraption of split bamboo fishing-rods lashed together with a wilderness of wires. And it was a monoplane, an imitation of the wings of a soaring bird.

It would support us only in a strong head wind. The instant it veered off a direct course, the leeward wing would drop and it would begin a descending spiral. But if you could manage to lean the windward wing, it would sometimes seem to pry up the leeward one, — which had less wind-pressure, and therefore less resistance, — face about full and lift strongly again.

Is n’t this the secret of the body-roll? Is n’t a bird a kite, with gravity for the boy and the string, the wind for its power, and this incessant shifting of the weight on the windward wing for its lifting energy?

The forward motion of a bird, at any gait, is intrinsically a matter of wing-construction. The wing is an arch, since an arched surface will lift half again as efficiently as a plane surface in the same head wind. Its centre of support is the hollow directly behind the bone; its rigid cutting edge, a form echoed by each individual flightfeather. Here is the point of compression for the downward stroke; the escaping air is kicked out of the flexible rear edge of the wing exactly as a screw-propeller kicks water. Hence even the slight pressure exerted by gravity may enable the bird to use a head wind in lieu of considerable forward effort.

But the wind cannot do it all. The bird must lift itself enough to counteract that gravity-pull. It must maintain steerage-way, the stability to continually present those arched wings to the aircurrents. Otherwise it would fly like a curled leaflet, tumbling before the autumn breeze. Whichever way it heads, its own velocity must keep it at an angle with that tie to the solid earth, like a kite tugging at its slanting string. And the alternating stroke of the body-roll applies as positive a pressure as though the wings beat in unison. Little power is needed, no more than the tentative oar-dips by which we head a boat into a current, perhaps no more regular.

After comparing the wing and tail areas on various birds as diverse as the frigate-bird and the hawk, for instance, I feel sure that a tail is a counter-balance with no more effective a supporting surface than the tail-planes of an airship, unless perchance the thrushes get an occasional lift out of that spank with which they mark their dipping flight. The frigate-bird’s tail is slit for three fifths of its length, and the two halves have an opposable as well as a united action. This not only contributes to the marvelous flexibility of his turns and dodges, but gives him a forward impulse. He brakes by water-pressure, either submerging or dragging his feet at the end of his glide.