Periodicals, magazines, and journals targeted towards young and developing readers.
Juvenile periodicals, among the oldest forms of children's literature, are a popular means of early literary interaction for young readers. Incorporating fiction, nonfiction, illustrations, poetry, and other materials, such periodicals offer the advantage of brevity, variety, and the ability to evolve and interact over the passage of time with the changing needs of children, helping, in the words of Marianne Carus, to "build a community of readers." "Because of this interaction with children," Carus has suggested, "this close reader-editor relationship, magazines are never fixed or static. They are ‘alive’, ready for change, expansion, dialogue, communication, and adjustment to their readers' wishes." This specialized child/journal relationship in children's serials probably began, as with many other aspects of juvenile literature, with religious tracts and chapbooks. Typical of the genre, such publications were heavily didactic, meant to shape children into a specific manner of thought and behavior. Limited both in their approach and delivery, they bore little resemblance to the children's magazines of today. While religious periodicals for children served an important role in child-development in their era, they had inherent limitations in scope and entertainment value. Their place as the predominant form of literature for young readers was soon diminished as Industrial Age-inspired educational reforms increased childhood literacy and reductions in printing costs and faster shipping methods soon drove an explosion of available periodicals for child audiences. With children still constituting an important facet of the Industrial workplace—and thus creating a population with independent funds—young readers were able to pick their own reading materials for the first time on a mass scale, thus creating a free market system among children's periodicals driven entirely by juvenile interest. The primary beneficiaries were the so-called penny dreadfuls, cheaply-produced magazines featuring macabre stories like that of Spring-Heeled Jack and Sweeney Todd which were targeted principally to young boys. Controversial in their time, these stories were blamed for potential increases in childhood delinquency. Publishers responded by offering periodicals that were meant to offer a more positive and polished alternative. Lighter in tone and often offering glorious tales of adventure, early pioneers in this field included the Reverend J. Erskine Clarke's The Boy's Own Paper (1879-1967) and, in America, the Edward Stratemeyer syndicate which was responsible for the Rover Boys and Tom Swift series books.
While the American tradition of children's periodicals lacks the history of its English counterpart, there is an established American tableau of periodicals with over four-hundred contemporary publications in existence, catering to an estimated forty-eight million juvenile readers. The first American children's periodical is generally credited as being Children's Magazine, a four-issue experiment created by Barzillai Hudson and George Goodwin of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1789. While several other printers offered similarly short-lived efforts, the first successful U.S. children's publication was Lydia Maria Child's Juvenile Miscellany (1826-1834), which primarily featured children's poetry. After that publication ended, inheritors to its legacy included Our Young Folks (1865-1873) with editors Lucy Larcom, J. T. Lowell, and Nathaniel Willis, and The Riverside Magazine (1867-1871), edited by Horace Scudder. As their circulation numbers increased, so too did their profiles and public positions. Many of these publications offered the child reader and, in many cases, the general public, their first introductions to important juvenile writers. For instance, Sarah Joseph Hale's iconic American poem, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," first appeared in Juvenile Miscellany, and Aunt Judy's Magazine (1866-1885), edited by Margaret Scott Gatty, provided American schoolchildren with their first exposure to such famed international children's authors as Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Andersen. Children's magazines also offered a popular means of promoting serialized novels, including school stories like Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) and F. W. Farrar's Little by Little (1858). Other prominent works initially serialized in children's magazines include Jacob Abbott's Rollo at School (1838) and John Bailey Aldrich's The Story of a Bad Boy (1868)—which both began life in Youth's Companion (1827-1929)—and Charles Dickens' The Magic Fishbone (1867).
However, the mid-eighteenth century saw a shift in tone in children's periodicals, moving away from the moral dogmatism that characterized American serials up to this point. Among those at the forefront of this movement was Mary Mapes Dodge, chief editor of St. Nicholas (1873-1943), who advocated a philosophy where "there be no sermonizing—no wearisome spinning out of facts, no rattling of the dry bones of history." Still, these publications, while less overtly didactic in tone, nevertheless sought to help shape the tenor of their young readers' opinions of issues related to the developing American national consciousness, particularly with regards to the charged politics surrounding slavery. Of this era, Caroline Levander has commented that "depictions of the child constantly featured in popular narrative forms between the Revolutionary and Civil wars represent a primary, and increasingly urgent, national question of where freedom ends and slavery begins." Northern periodicals, in particular, were strongly abolitionist in tenor, pushing readers to consider the terrible implications of slavery and the fractured sense of national identity that resulted in the Civil War. Active participants in the war, these Northern periodicals chronicled soldiers' lives, episodic battles, and the moral implications of continued slavery, further seeking to involve their readership through active editor/reader correspondence. Andrea McKenzie has stated that, "through their independent choices, [editors] created a version of the war in which children are knowledgeable and active participants who learn, work, and make difficult decisions, and contribute to the ultimate victory." Serials retain their role as a social conduit today, Lorinda B. Cohoon has asserted, with "editors of children's periodicals guid[ing] readers' responses more explicitly through inserted commentary and explanation than in periodicals for adults." Among these is the contemporary magazine Ranger Rick (1967-), which, Arlene Plevin has suggested, "has been a forerunner of ecocriticism, anticipating and even directing, to some degree, some of that criticism's perceptions of humanism and stewardship." Readers, Plevin has argued, "are invited to join Ranger Rick in putting out fires of all sorts, evolving with him into the more complex world of environmental stewardship, perceived as being for the good of all."
Such innovations are often credited as evolving out of the strident literary philosophies of Mary Mapes Dodge and St. Nicholas, which Susan Gannon has labelled "the best of all children's magazines." Owned and developed by Scribner's—who hand-selected Dodge to head the journal—St. Nicholas was a higher quality publication than its contemporaries, containing a dramatic variability in topics and genre and embracing a philosophy wherein, in the words of Dodge, "we edit for the approval of fathers and mothers and endeavor to make the child's monthly a milk-and-water variety of the adult's periodical. But in fact the child's magazine needs to be stronger, truer, bolder, more uncompromising than the other." Beyond the usual inclusion of stories, poems, and biographies of prominent figures of the era, Dodge's serial further incorporated reader contests, perhaps the most active letterbox of the period, and educational material manifested in the forms of travelogues, natural history essays, and introductions to science. Further, St. Nicholas was renowned for providing a forum for both established and new literary voices, among them, L. Frank Baum, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Jack London, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as several well-known works serialized within its pages, including Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins (1875), Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885), and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894). Such was its strong influence that the magazine counted among its devout readership such future writers as E. B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Ultimately, in the words of Fred Erisman, St. Nicholas "consistently present[ed] to its readers the basic ideals of middle-class America, a clear-cut sense of right and wrong, a regard for the Puritan work ethic, and a sense of personal responsibility." While the goals of contemporary periodicals may have changed to some degree, many retain the philosophical lessons born of St. Nicholas—education, entertainment, and moral indoctrination delivered to the palate and literary levels of its juvenile readership.
American Boy (juvenile periodical) 1899-1929
American Girl (juvenile periodical) 1993-
Aunt Judy's Magazine (juvenile periodical) 1866-1885
Boys' Life [published by the Boy Scouts of America] (juvenile periodical) 1911-
Boy's Own Paper (juvenile periodical) 1879-1967
Children's Magazine (juvenile periodical) 1789
Cricket (juvenile periodical) 1973-
Girl's Own Paper (juvenile periodical) 1880-1956
Highlights for Children (juvenile periodical) 1946-
Jack & Jill (juvenile periodical) 1938-
John Martin's Book (juvenile periodical) 1912-1933
Juvenile Miscellany (juvenile periodical) 1826-1834
The Little Pilgrim (juvenile periodical) 1853-1868
Merry's Museum (juvenile periodical) 1841-1872
*Our Young Folks (juvenile periodical) 1865-1873
Ranger Rick's Nature Magazine [published by The National Wildlife Federation] (juvenile periodical) 1967-
The Riverside Magazine (juvenile periodical) 1867-1871
St. Nicholas Magazine (juvenile periodical) 1873-1943
Seventeen (juvenile periodical) 1944-
Youth's Companion (juvenile periodical) 1827-1929
*Our Young Folks merged with St. Nicholas in 1873.
Lorinda B. Cohoon (essay date spring-summer 2004)
SOURCE: Cohoon, Lorinda B. "Necessary Badness: Reconstructing Post-Bellum Boyhood Citizenships in Our Young Folks and The Story of a Bad Boy." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 29, nos. 1-2 (spring-summer 2004): 5-31.
[In the following essay, Cohoon attempts to determine—through analyses of the nineteenth-century serialized story The Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich and accompanying texts in the children's periodical Our Young Folks—how nineteenth-century literature associated American male adolescence with "bad boyhoods."]
This is the Story of a Bad Boy. Well, not such a very bad, but a pretty bad boy; and I ought to know, for I am, or rather I was, that boy myself.
—Aldrich, The Story of a Bad Boy, 1869
In the United States during the last years of the twentieth century, many non-fiction texts about boys were published. Best-selling titles included Michael Gurian's The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men (1996), William Pollack's Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood (1998), and Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson's Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (1999).1 Insisting that boys are "wired differently" (Gurian 45) and that they are in "serious trouble" (Pollack xix), these arguably misogynistic texts critique the presence of women in the workplace and blame feminism for boys' violence in schools and for their "bad" behavior in other social arenas. In "Boyology in the Twentieth Century," Kenneth Kidd finds that in the early twentieth century there was a similar proliferation of manuals that addressed, much as do their late twentieth-century counterparts, the nature/nurture makeup of boys and the best methods of raising them.2 "Naturally bad" boyhoods seem to be one of the most prevalent late twentieth-century constructions of boyhood. Often, these texts embrace "literary" and "cultural" myths and use them to provide evidence for society's crimes against boys.3
How did these "bad" American boy constructions get put into place, and in what ways are the best-selling manuals connected to the American boyhoods of children's literature? Partly because of the use of the literary bad boy to construct narratives about American boyhood and partly because of how these narratives resist the progress of the feminist project, it is important to examine the history of these literary bad boys and to find out about their links to ongoing constructions of boyhood citizenship. The history of inquiring into the nature of boys goes back further than the early twentieth-century and some of this history can be found in texts written, not for parents, but for boys.
Conventionally, overviews of American children's literature have defined boyhood as ahistorically stable. Histories of children's literature provide some records of how American boyhood has been "textually" constructed, but well-known works about American boys such as Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have become the definitive sites for explaining literary American boyhood in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.4 In Rediscoveries in Children's Literature, Suzanne Rahn notes this problem when she argues, "[t]he effect of focusing all serious attention on a small number of books and authors is to diminish awareness of the richness and variety of children's literature. It becomes impossible to grasp the development of children's literature, or the context in which individual books were written" (xv-xvi). American bad boyhood then has a history that is tied to literary histories and, specifically, to histories of children's literature. From Hawkeye to Huck Finn and from Holden Caulfield to Newcharlie in Jacqueline Woodson's award winning Miracle's Boys, bad boy characters continue to construct powerful versions of boyhood in the United States.5
Using an interdisciplinary approach informed by poststructuralist, feminist, and cultural theories, this ar- ticle investigates Thomas Bailey Aldrich's The Story of a Bad Boy, a lesser-known boys' text that was serialized in a children's periodical during the 1860s, as a location to begin to uncover the complex construction processes behind the ongoing packaging of American boyhoods as bad. Aldrich's text focuses mostly on white, middle-class boyhood, and it constructs American boyhood as arising from this limited group. During the post-bellum era, there were, of course, many other kinds of boyhoods being lived and experienced in the United States. The bad boy, in its white middle-class permutation, however, has influenced ongoing constructions of boyhood and has spread this influence to boys outside of white, middle-class, small-town cultures.
The story takes place in the late 1830s, and it tells how a young boy named Tom is sent from his father's home in Louisiana to his grandfather's home in "Rivermouth," New Hampshire. In part, he is sent away because he has been raised as a privileged only child and has begun to become used to being a part of a slave-owning family. His nanny, Aunt Chloe, is a slave whom he takes for granted, and so is Sam, a boy Tom's own age, who Tom treats thoughtlessly and cruelly. Tom's father fears that his son's selfish mischief and his familiarity with slavery will prevent him from becoming a productive adult, and he hopes that New England will be a better environment for his son to experience boyhood. In New Hampshire, Tom is no longer isolated from other boys, and he does not have slaves to meet his needs. In order to fit in, Tom joins in the pranks of the boys who attend his school, and he learns the traditions of his new town. The qualities of Tom's badness change when he moves from South to North, and the book recounts how his mischievous adventures in the North shape his citizenship. The text ends with Tom leaving his boyhood mischief behind to begin working and taking on adult responsibilities in New York.
Drawing from the text and from cultural evidence found in the surrounding periodical material in Our Young Folks, I suggest that there exist links between The Story of a Bad Boy, post-Civil War descriptions of citizenship, and the subsequent proliferation of the idea that boyhood and Americanness are related to "badness" and the rejection of citizenship through rebellious pranks or excursions into the wilderness.6 This article first explores how periodical literature can extend current understanding of the cultural work a literary text does to promote American boyhood as bad boyhood. It shows how this bad boyhood connects other texts to The Story of a Bad Boy and the periodical context of its serialization. Using The Story of a Bad Boy, several aspects of 1860s boyhood are examined, including constructions of northern and southern boyhood as they relate to regional and national citizenships. This paper suggests that Tom's boyhood becomes part of many texts that use narratives about the bad boyhoods of the past to imagine the citizenships of boys in the post-Civil War years.
Story of a Bad Boy focuses on Tom's boyhood and treats as "natural" Tom's white, middle-class boyhood, while it ignores the boyhoods of slaves, working-class boys, and immigrants. Thus, Tom's badness is constructed as the only kind of badness associated with boyhood. When Tom moves North, he participates in many instances of badness that promote participatory citizenship in the form of small "wars," rebellions, club membership rites, and pranks played on adults. The periodical context of The Story of a Bad Boy suggests that these constructions work with other narratives to use memory to (re)construct national boyhood as bad in the years following the Civil War. In its use of Tom as a central character, this text foregrounds Tom's boyhood as national, and the circulation of this boyhood in periodical form influences other boyhood citizenships that vary by race, ethnicity, class, and geography. It is Tom's boyhood and his badness that seems to have had a lasting presence in subsequent texts about boys, and this has to do, I argue, with the reconstruction of Americanness and citizenship as emerging from remembered mischief and boyhood participation in it.
Culture, Periodicals, and Bad Boyhood in Children's Literature
In suggesting that periodical material that was published alongside The Story of a Bad Boy provides context for the unusually persistent idea of the American boy as a bad boy, my paper participates in feminist and cultural studies projects that use culture to first understand and then to resist hegemonic and ideological forces that essentialize members of one gender or another in ways that ultimately oppress and limit citizenship possibilities. In The Idea of Culture, Terry Eagleton has suggested that "culture" needs to be used with caution both as an approach to and as a treatment for "cultural" ills and argues that "Culture is … symptomatic of a division which it offers to overcome" (31). In thinking about my article's aim to explore the cultural contexts of 1860s American boyhoods, I want to signal my awareness of these cautions and to interrogate them. When "culture," in the form of what Eagleton describes as "questions of value, symbolism, language, tradition, belonging, or identity," (130) is used (as it is in the help-for-boys books) to describe and proliferate a problem perceived as being rooted in "literature," a homeopathic approach of culture countering culture works to simultaneously "acknowledg[e] [culture's] significance, [and] to put it back in its place" (131). The cultural evidence of periodical material surrounding The Story of a Bad Boy reveals a fuller picture of the forces at work in the beginnings of the bad American boy story and provides means of resisting the grand narratives of the bad boy texts that continue to be produced.
Although the "canonical" records are indubitably among the many cultural forces that construct American boyhoods, the best-known texts were not produced in isolation. Texts serialized in periodicals provide other versions of boyhood; however, until recently, this important production history has often been ignored. Commenting on the cultural power of the periodical in the nineteenth century, Kenneth M. Price and Susan Belasco Smith's Periodical Literature in Nineteenth-Century America (1995) suggests that the "periodical—far more than the book—was a social text, involving complex relationships among writers, readers, editors, publishers, printers, and distributors" (3). Periodicals for children especially exploit the social aspects of the form to actively shape what Richard Brodhead terms the "cultural identity" of the readers (6). The serialized formats of texts about and for boys record the "complex relationships" between publishers, authors, and readers that contribute to the initial textual construction of those American boyhoods that are both canonically and popularly known today (Price and Smith 6). Books about boys, in their serialized and full-text productions, combined with the histories of reading evidenced in the readers' letters, provide partial records of what Pierre Bourdieu calls "particular case[s] of the possible" (xi).7 These records fill in gaps in current understandings of American boyhoods and also undermine and create gaps in the long-standing and monolithic stories that have been told and re-told about the American bad boy, thus allowing twenty-first century readers and critics to re-imagine what bad boyhood means to larger issues of U.S. citizenship. My examination of The Story of a Bad Boy is limited to one particular case of serialization, and many more studies are required to expand understandings of literary intervention in the construction of boyhood. I chose The Story of a Bad Boy because of the title's explicit naming of badness and because of the availability of Our Young Folks. This periodical also has connections to the long lasting influential magazine St. Nicholas, which serialized novels by Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. During the nineteenth century, periodicals provided children with information about literature. Lending libraries and the first public libraries were only beginning to be put into place, and the periodicals provided children with publishers' advertisements, partially and fully serialized texts, and access to other children's responses to these texts. In short, the periodicals were a site of rich and varied cultural production that provided child readers with a space to locate books to read and to share ideas about these books with others. These forums shaped ideas held by both adults and children about how childhood, girlhood, and boyhood should be lived.
The Story of a Bad Boy was serialized in 1869 in Our Young Folks, which was one of the only children's periodicals to begin production during the Civil War. Published in Boston and designed for the same kind of white middle-class readers who read Merry's Museum and St. Nicholas, this periodical ran from 1865-1873 and finally merged with St. Nicholas Magazine.8 It was initially edited by Lucy Larcom, John Townsend Trowbridge and Gail Hamilton (Mary Mapes Dodge) and published by Ticknor and Fields. According to R. Gordon Kelly, circulation numbers were in the 75,000 range (Mother Was A Lady 19). When compared to other Boston based children's periodicals such as The Youth's Companion, which ran for nearly a hundred years, Our Young Folks seems to have had a relatively short run. Despite this short span, Thomas Bailey Aldrich's The Story of a Bad Boy and other texts serialized in this magazine have been important in literary histories of children's literature and continue to influence current understandings of boys' books and boyhood.9
Told by an older narrator who lives in the 1860s but was a child during the 1830s, most of The Story of a Bad Boy focuses on Tom Bailey's move to Rivermouth. Although Tom resists the move from South to North at first, he makes his way toward citizenship through displays of badness, including fights with other boys and pranks on older town citizens. The Story of a Bad Boy is linked to earlier books about boyhood such as Jacob Abbott's Rollo books, which were serialized in The Youth's Companion, but it also claims to recount boyhood in a new way. The opening of Aldrich's text explicitly sets it apart from other books about boys:
Lest the title should mislead the reader, I hasten to assure him here that I have no dark confessions to make. I call my story the story of a bad boy, partly to distinguish myself from those faultless young gentlemen who generally figure in narratives of this kind, and partly because I really was not a cherub. I may truthfully say that I was an amiable, impulsive lad, blessed with fine digestive powers, and no hypocrite.
As it proclaims itself different from the earlier stories of "faultless young gentlemen," The Story of a Bad Boy prepares the way for other bad boy texts that make similar declarations of difference, such as Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.10 More than ten years later, Twain's Huck Finn, a "good" bad boy makes his first appearance in Century, a periodical for adult readers, and Twain's text furthers the influence of the bad boy by inviting adult readers to think about the social and political choices available to boys. Interestingly, Aldrich's text is not the only post-Civil War text to explore the territory between "dark confessions" of badness and cherubic goodness. Like Aldrich's text, other texts published in children's magazines in the post-Civil War 1860s use the "faults" of young gentlemen to focus on the need for the larger regions of the North and South to learn to compromise in the aftermath of the "badness" of the Civil War. Aldrich's text and other serializations suggest that narrative compromise as a response to badness is critical to reconstructing boyhood that is both regional and national; this strategy of narrative compromise between the past and the present, between the North and the South, and between young and old citizens has influenced subsequent constructions of American boys as bad.
Reconstructing Boyhood in Our Young Folks
When read in conjunction with other Our Young Folks material, The Story of a Bad Boy demonstrates that, after the Civil War, serialized texts about prewar boyhoods defined peacetime boyhood and delineated proper responses to it. The periodical material surrounding Aldrich's precursor to other bad boy texts illustrates that male writers and the editors who chose to publish their stories use lives of pre-war boys to "reconstruct" (through reading material) post-war boyhoods. The Story of a Bad Boy shows how narrative interpretation locates compromises on the repercussions of sectional violence to make possible peaceful participation in reconstructed national citizenships. The mischievous bad boyhood that Aldrich's text describes mixes northern and southern responses to the "badness" of boyhood to narrate compromises between the two regional cultures; these regional compromises prepare boys to become citizens in a reconstructed nation.
The project of "reconstructing boyhood" that seems to be central to Our Young Folks in the direct aftermath of the war in some ways contradicts the earlier, pre-Reconstruction, abolitionist stance of the magazine. In a national context, the position of Our Young Folks during the early Reconstruction period parallels the position of Andrew Johnson, the president in charge of implementing Reconstruction policies established by Lincoln prior to his assassination. Johnson, from the South but a supporter of the Union, worked to provide pardons to supporters of the Confederate government with a speed that disturbed Union supporters who wanted retribution for what they defined as treason. In his State of the Union Address in 1867, Johnson draws the Southern States back into the United States by looking to the textual power of the Constitution and claiming that "the Union is not only undissolved, but indissoluble" (Stalcup 46). Johnson argues that the textual construction of the "Union" in the Constitution prevents it from ever having been dissolved.
After the Civil War, children's periodicals, along with other publications, participated in the reconstruction project. In a linguistic move similar to Johnson's claim that the textuality of the Constitution reifies the Union's stability, the title chosen for Our Young Folks, with "Our" as its opening word, suggests that the editors, backed by the consensus-seeking Congregationalist publishing house Ticknor and Fields, have formed a "union" with the magazine's young subscribers, who, according to signed letters from readers, come from a variety of regions and backgrounds. Letters from southern readers, carefully selected by the editors to print, emphasize readers' desires to be seen as members of the union and not as dangerous rebels while they simultaneously acknowledge the rebellious impulses still in existence in other children. One reader writes about herself and her "rebel" brothers: "I am a Southern girl, but you must not think any the worse of me for that, for I am not a rebel. I have five sisters and four brothers (two of them younger than I am), and they all are bitter against the North. I used to be before I came up here, but I have heard both sides now, and am as strong a Republican as anybody" (4.7 448). Although most letters are written from the cities on the eastern seaboard, this letter makes clear that periodicals provided young readers with a forum for writing to a larger national audience. The letter also indicates how familiarity with more than one region can influence political attitudes; these shifts in allegiances are part of the reconstruction project. The writer's changes in attitude after a move to the north mirror Tom's changes when he makes the journey to Rivermouth.
In addition to letters from readers, other material in Our Young Folks indicates that boyhoods were recollected and thereby reconstructed through discursive treatment of how North-South regional identities intersected and diverged in the pre-, mid-, and postwar years. Our Young Folks offers local constructions of boyhood national presence; its portable form gives these constructions influence among a variety of classes of readers. Some of the discussions of regional differences explore acceptable and unacceptable aspects of boy culture. In one such exploration, Aldrich's text opens with a suggestion that Tom Bailey's boyhood was defined by his being "A Northern man with Southern principles" (8). In an early address to the readers, the narrator Tom uses his biregional background to explain his reluctance to be sent north to school:
You see I was what is called "a Northern man with Southern principles." I had no recollection of New England; my earliest memories were connected with the South, with Aunt Chloe, my old negro nurse, and with the great ill-kept garden in the centre of which stood our house…. I knew I was born at the North, but hoped nobody would find it out. I looked upon the misfortune as something so shrouded by time and distance that may be [sic] nobody remembered it.
What does it mean to be a Northern man with Southern principles? The placement of this explanation early on in the serialization addresses regional identities and tensions without mentioning slavery. This silence about slavery is part of the reconstruction project; the focus on North and South shifts boyhood citizenship away from tags of slave, slave-owner, and abolitionist. Instead, Aldrich's text positions a boy in a situation that requires him to confront the biregional nature of his background and heritage, thus avoiding naming the inflammatory institution of slavery while gesturing toward it by using regional markers. The principles for boyhood that Our Young Folks promotes by printing this "Northern story with Southern principles" include recognizing the links between regions and badness in boyhood. The periodical employs the links in the service of what I term as the text's "reconstruction through narrative" project.
A better understanding of how the narrative reconstruction project works can be gained through an examination of the word "principles." Aldrich's text uses the word "principles" to describe culturally informed approaches to everyday situations. The term might also be read as signaling the kind of hegemonic values and actions that are usually so "naturalized" that participants cannot describe or locate the pressures to conform to a "whole way of life."11 In its self-aware naming of region, this early discussion of Tom's principles contains some counter-hegemonic pressure. This counter-hegemonic pressure recognizes the complex nature of boyhood not as a world apart but as that which is always joined with citizenship and the loyalties that shape it.12 At the same time, the lighthearted, dismissive tone of the surrounding narrative participates in the Reconstruction era's hegemonic moves to maintain United States' citizenship for white male citizens.
Remembering and Circulating Boyhoods from the Past
Examination of the surrounding serialized texts reveals that in the years immediately following the end of the war, Our Young Folks allotted space to other fiction and nonfiction that brought together both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces of reconstruction. These competing forces are seen in the periodical's publication of stories about antebellum childhoods; these stories about childhoods before the war seem to have successfully captured the interests of readers from a variety of regions. Texts built around remembered childhoods include Elijah Kellogg's Good Old Times; or, Grandfather's Struggles for a Homestead, which was serialized in 1867. Like The Story of a Bad Boy, this text uses stories of an older narrator's boyhood to show how territorial disputes over land ownership can end in peaceful home life that can be shared with grandchildren. Others that focus on past adventures and recollections of wildness (safely tamed in the narrator's present) include Round-the-World Joe (George Eager) and Cast Away in the Cold: An Old Man's Story of a Young Man's Adventures (Isaac I. Hayes).13 All of these texts focus on what younger generations can learn by looking back to the past boyhoods of grandfatherly figures. Made up of didacticisms and survival narratives, they actively reconstruct boyhood for the younger, post-war generations who, as they read Our Young Folks, contemplate manhood as free men without the damaging tragedy of slavery and also without the guidance of fathers/brothers who were lost in the Civil War.
Listening to grandfathers during the Reconstruction era and knowing what grandfathers knew became important for both literate and illiterate boys as the nation and the individual states debated how citizenship would be restructured and redefined to incorporate the "freedmen" into suffrage systems. While maintaining widely differing opinions about suffrage for emancipated slaves, Northerners and Southerners both agreed that any new suffrage laws needed to provide "grandfather clauses" so that white citizens who could not read or write would not lose their voting privileges.14 In Our Young Folks, the grandfathers' recollected pasts that provide boy readers with working knowledge of their histories, then, both sidestep and participate in current politics by exploring boyhoods or young manhoods that occurred forty years prior to the war.15
Some texts in Our Young Folks provide specific commentary on the power of periodicals to circulate ideas and construct citizenship norms. Around-the-World Joe combines commentary about the influence of periodicals at the same time it uses the recollected boyhood technique. The recollections given in Around-the-World Joe include stories of cultural practices the storyteller has observed on his travels, and these are used to promote in the listening boys an appreciation for their own culture. In one episode, Joe explains cannibalism and argues that it is important for the young listeners to be aware of the power of their own customs:
[I]t's all Tradition and the Custom of the Country, and education has nothing to do with it. If it was the fashion in this country to dine on one's neighbors, you'd be catching all the little children that strayed into the yard, and fattening them in coops; and the greediest cannibals in this land would be subscribers to the "Home Journal."
Joe's equation of subscription to the "Home Journal" with fashions of cannibals draws attention to frightening historical traditions in the United States. Joe's reference to capturing and fattening children obliquely hints at slavery as one such tradition and points to the work periodicals did to spread messages about both traditions and customs in ways that influenced the responses of the subscribers.
The fashion-based power of periodicals that Joe highlights also influences efforts to reconstruct national identity in the post-war years. Writing about the antebellum years in A Fictive People, Zboray argues that the sharing of periodicals intervened in the construction of national and regional identities: "The suppression of individuality in conformance with fictional social types became a mainstay of national cultural life as Americans increasingly read fiction and became themselves not just a little fictionalized" (121). The serialized production of texts like Around-the-World Joe and The Story of a Bad Boy encourages the kind of participatory self-construction Zboray claims was available before the war.16 The subscribers to Our Young Folks, invited by the title of the magazine to consider themselves members of a larger community, have the opportunity to interpret Tom's North-South-North citizenship shifts and to apply the interpretation to their own regionally influenced boyhoods.
Regional Boyhood and Regional Manhood
In The Story of a Bad Boy, the narrator explains without mentioning slavery that many of his regional principles are tied specifically to memories of his nurse. Tom's Aunt Chloe tells him, "Dar ain't no gentl'men in the Norf noway" (8). She also frightens him by saying, "If any of dem mean whites tries to git me away from marster, I's jes' gwine to knock 'em on de head wid a gourd" (8). The nurse/slave's understanding and dissemination of warning tales about Northern manhood and "mean" whites from the North shape Tom's views of regional citizenship. Tales about "mean" whites were used to prevent slaves from running away to the North. In the post-Civil War production context of the text, however, the focus on mean whites from the North also comments on the reconstruction citizenships of northern and southern men. The connotations of the word "mean" in the narrator's repetition of the nurse's assessment of the North include the cheapness, cheating, theft, and cruelty that were part of the reputation of the antebellum Yankee overseer and the northern principles of the postbellum carpet-baggers and scalawags.17 These ideas carry through the book; in a late episode, for example, the text describes an adult "mean white" from the North, a man named Conway, who is Tom's arch enemy in Rivermouth, in terms that reflect the narrator's ongoing bi-regional conflicts and the compromises that surround it:
Young Conway went into the grocery business with his ancient chum, Rodgers—RODGERS & CONWAY! I read the sign only last summer when I was down in Rivermouth, and had half a mind to pop into the shop and shake hands with him, and ask him if he wanted to fight. I contented myself, however, with flattening my nose against his dingy shop window, and beheld Conway, in red whiskers and blue overalls, weighing out sugar for a customer—giving him short weight, I would bet anything!
Here, the narrator Tom reacts to Conway's "meanness" with condescension. He does not want to shake hands with his old boyhood enemy, but instead puts his cheapness and red whiskers on display in a way that invites readers to respond with the same kind of smiling derision. The description of Conway is informed by southern principles that call into question the "short weight" citizenships offered by carpetbaggers to southern men after the Civil War. Provided by Reconstructionist intervention in southern states' governments and economies, this citizenship was characterized by the northern military rule established in the South in 1867 and by the Radical Reconstructionists' calls for the revocation of citizenship privileges of former Confederate officers.18 The text's description of Conway as stingy and greedy links him to descriptions of carpetbaggers and implicitly invites readers to avoid seeking similar "short-weight" profits.
Throughout the serialization, the text of The Story of a Bad Boy grapples with the mixture of Tom Bailey's northern manhood and southern principles as it moves its character from boyhood to manhood, and as it does so, positions readers to respond to southern encounters in similarly "principled" ways. Our Young Folks moves from its overtly abolitionist stance to a more complicated position that anticipates and responds to both Northern and Southern "principles" by mining the past for responses to the present. This mixture of regional influences combined with the production format of the text brings together hegemonic and counter-hegemonic cross-currents that complicate this text's and Our Young Folks' commentaries on American boyhood and its intersections with race, legislation, and rebellion.
One of this almost-all-white text's commentaries on regionally influenced race relations appears when Tom's immediate response to the news that he is to be sent north is to kick Sam, one of the young slaves who lives with Tom. Tom's action simultaneously combines the kind of "mean white" behavior Aunt Chloe seems to fear and Tom's "Southern principles." The illustration in the periodical version of the text seems to critique the violence by showing Sam facedown on the ground and Tom standing over him, looking unpleasant, but the text itself excuses the cruel, dehumanizing nature of Tom's response in a way that underscores the Southern principles of both The Story of a Bad Boy and Our Young Folks: their efforts to circulate reconciliatory, anti-activist responses to slavery and prejudice. The cruelty of the kick reflects Tom's unhealthy dependence on slaves, and this highlights one of the reasons why his father wants to send him North:
[W]hen my father proposed to take me North to be educated, I had my own peculiar views on the subject. I instantly kicked over the little negro boy who happened to be standing by me at the moment, and, stamping my foot violently on the floor of the piazza, declared that I would not be taken away to live among a lot of Yankees!
The narrator excuses Tom from the act of violence: "As for kicking little Sam—I always did that, more or less gently, when anything went wrong with me" (9). The older narrator's remembrance and interpretation of Tom's excuse for young readers emphasizes that the kick is not important in part because kicking Sam was something that Tom "always" did. The message to the previously abolitionist northern readers and to the southern subscribers is that the kick is just one of the "not [so …] very bad" specimens of mischief that they will encounter when reading the text. The "southern principle" that comes through here for northern white middle-class readers who face an influx of freed slaves into their communities is that violent treatment of persons of color is somehow natural—excusable because it has always been done.
The fact that Sam is only mentioned two other times in the text reinforces the white-centeredness that shapes the mischievous bad boyhood the rest of the text describes, a white-centeredness I would argue is infused with a peculiar mixture of northern and southern principles.19 The kick is a cruel, nonsensical display of anger, but is not designed to change the source of anger, the move North. Near the end of the text, the narration mentions Sam's status as a slave more overtly. (The opening episodes never mention that Chloe and Sam are, in fact, slaves.) His master moves Sam from Tom's father's home to a sugar cane plantation in Baton Rouge, and since Sam does not like this change, he runs away to Canada. The text's description of Sam's fate comes in the closing episodes when Tom's mother returns to Rivermouth:
Little black Sam, by the bye, had been taken by his master from my father's service ten months previously, and put on a sugar-plantation near Baton Rouge. Not relishing the change, Sam had run away, and by some mysterious agency got into Canada, from which place he had sent back several indecorous messages to his late owner…. How all these simple details interested me will be readily understood by any boy who has been long absent from home.
The narration dismisses Sam's life-changing decision to run away as "simple details," a description which provides a reconstructive "southern-principled" voiceover for the readers of Our Young Folks.
This episode shows Tom treating Sam as a thing—not a human being—and thereby demonstrates how his Southern principles are at work even in childhood. Aside from dismissing the kick, Aldrich's text does not linger on the issue of slavery or on how Sam's quest for manhood in Canada is as representative of boyhood at the time as Tom's quest for manhood in Rivermouth. The periodical neatly avoids the need to editorialize about the treatment since the text sets up the "Story" as a series of fictionalized memoirs rather than present day actions, but this early scene of self-centered badness provides convincing evidence of the dangerous effects and influences of slavery on boys who are slaves and boys who are free.
Once he leaves his slave-owning life behind and is settled in Rivermouth, Tom is inculcated with regional interpretations of national histories until his boyhood is "Americanized" enough so that he can become a man. One of the other implied reasons that Tom is sent away from the South is that he has not moved out of the dependent state of childhood. In American Manhood, a study of northeastern boyhood in the nineteenth century, E. Anthony Rotundo discusses the shift from childhood to boyhood. He argues that boys "became" boys when they moved out of the house where they stayed with their mothers and aunts and into the streets and the fields where they played with other boys and experienced what Rotundo calls "boy culture" (33). Tom's entry into the world of boyhood occurs when he joins other boys in Rivermouth. The missing elements in Tom's education are described in terms that focus on masculinity and the aspects of daily life that shape it:
Daily contact with boys who had not been brought up as gently as I worked an immediate and, in some respects, a beneficial change in my character. I had the nonsense taken out of me, as the saying is—some of the nonsense, at least. I became more manly and self-reliant. I discovered that the world was not created exclusively on my account. In New Orleans I labored under the delusion that it was.
The text implies that some of the "nonsense" that the text claims is taken out of Tom by his schooling at Temple Grammar School is the regional nonsense of slavery that allows him to use violence without reason and demand service from others. The not so bad, mischievous badness of boyhood that Tom learns in Rivermouth delineates his new citizenship and helps him move toward manhood.
In addition to emphasizing the need to move Tom North in order to improve the quality of his education and to take the "nonsense" out of him, the text also suggests through images of permanent markings that boys (in this case Tom) were in danger of being permanently marked by their environment—in ways that would limit the possibilities available to them. When Tom meets Sailor Ben on his voyage to Rivermouth, the text focuses on the permanent and simultaneously portable nature of Sailor Ben's tattoos. The narrator Tom describes Ben as a "perfect walking picture book" and he comments on the portability in the following way: "I imagine he was fond of drawings, and took this means of gratifying his artistic taste. It was certainly very ingenious and convenient. A portfolio might be displaced, or dropped overboard; but Sailor Ben had his pictures wherever he went" (21). This emphasis of the portability and convenience of some texts over others in a serialized text is significant, partly because portability was used to sell periodicals. I read the link between portable texts that can go anywhere and the story itself, as well as the surrounding narratives "told" by old men to young boys, as signaling a desire to make the boyhoods that these texts were recounting conveniently portable—able to move across the increasingly expanding American territories. The frame stories of the older narrators speaking to a younger audience also mimic the portable narrative of the oral history. The told story is another portable text, although it is not necessarily an illustrated one in the way that Sailor Ben's body is.
The text explains that in part, Ben's body, like the many serialized texts included in the 1867-1869 years of Our Young Folks, serves to commemorate past friendships and adventures, as well as past obligations.20 The text describes Tom's reaction to the commemorative nature of the tattoos in the following way:
The two hands on his breast, he informed me, were a tribute to the memory of a dead messmate from whom he had parted years ago—and surely a more touching tribute was never engraved on a tombstone. This caused me to think of my parting with old Aunt Chloe, and I told him I should take it as a great favor indeed if he would paint a pink hand and a black hand on my chest. He said the colors were pricked into the skin with needles, and that the operation was somewhat painful. I assured him, in an off-hand manner, that I didn't mind pain, and begged him to set to work at once.
The tattoo that Tom almost has permanently inscribed on his body consists of an image of two hands—for Tom, an image that supposedly will commemorate his love and devotion to Aunt Chloe, a woman his family kept as a slave. This image would also mark Tom with a commemoration of his drawn out relation with the world of childhood, which is marked by connections to women (mothers and nurses). In addition to leaving behind slavery, Tom's move North also forces him to leave his mother in order to become a boy.21 Tom's father prevents the tattoo, and thereafter keeps Tom away from Ben. While it very well may have represented his love, the tattoo that Tom's father prohibits would also have commemorated Tom's entanglement in the institution of slavery, an institution that Tom's father seeks to have his son escape by moving him North.
Recounting the Battles of Boyhood—Fighting for Citizenship, Retelling Citizenship
Upon entering the boy-making region of New England, Tom struggles to shed himself of the "markings" of the South.22 In Rivermouth, he lives with his grandfather and an old aunt, who is one of the few women who influence Tom in his new home. Her influence is limited, and the text constructs her as feeble and easily fooled by Tom's mischief. Tom is enrolled in school and finds that the community he has to work hardest to join is that of his peers. Although he was not tattooed on the ship, his enemies at the Temple Grammar School highlight Tom's regional displacement by insisting that he is mulatto—marked visibly with the race of the people he has been accustomed to keeping as slaves. While Tom, before his entry into Rivermouth, was comfortable enough with his close relationship to his father's slaves to want to be marked with a reminder of the familial nature of one slave-master relationship, he does not want to be accused of having actual blood ties to slaves. Mixed blood, and, I would argue, slavery's tendency to be conducive to the mixing, becomes the cause of a fight with Bill Conway that opens the way for Tom to belong in Rivermouth. The fight with Conway over North-South differences and over slavery speaks to the ways that the violence of the Civil War settled the Union—everyone belonged—without settling the differences.
The cause of the problem between Conway and Tom—race—becomes part of the common cause of Reconstruction; like Reconstruction's central project of writing citizenship legislation for freed slaves, Tom's fight with Conway is a project of citizenship. In part, Tom is goaded into the fight by Conway's constant references to Tom's regional affiliations. Tom fights with Conway, because while his narration claims that he loved his slaves, he cannot allow Conway to question his whiteness. Tom's strangely bifurcated position on race, which emerges as a result of Conway's comments, is one that is in line with the position of Our Young Folks. Comments on Reconstruction in the issues after the end of the war shift the early abolitionist stance slightly to protest the fact that any supporters of the Union ever meant to actually take slavery away from the slave states: the fight, they claim, was caused by Southern obstinacy—by Southern states' desires to expand slavery territory. The war has settled this difference, the editorial comments seem to say, and now subscribers and editors alike can get about the business of belonging and contributing to a unified nation. Written by an author with ties to the North and the South, the Conway episode in The Story of a Bad Boy illustrates the post-war desire to minimize conflict through narrative interpretation in order to bring previous rivals into a larger, more peaceful body of citizens. Tom establishes his boyhood citizenship first by fighting Conway and then joining the new community wholeheartedly.
Just as the post-war texts serialized in Our Young Folks contain scenes of fighting and then subsequent reconciliation, many of the late-twentieth-century manuals about boys use metaphors of war and violence to discuss the difficult transitions from child to boy and from boy to man. In Raising Cain and Real Boys, boys are described as being at war with themselves and with other boys who have been put into the same painful positions by larger cultural forces. In Christina Hoff Sommers' The War on Boys, references to war are even more explicit. Adults and specifically women have caused boys most of their problems. Most manuals end with reassurances that some violence and pain is inevitable and that boys will eventually make peace with manhood. In the "civil wars" of boyhood constructed by these manuals, boys are at war with themselves, with others who are also boys, or with adults who have the power to shape their boyhoods. These three "fronts" of boyhood are also present in The Story of a Bad Boy. In addition to the fight with Conway during which Tom has to come to terms with his mixed citizenship, another "war" in The Story of a Bad Boy echoes the final battles of the Civil War and stages for readers the same kind of losing battle that Confederate soldiers felt the need to fight. In "The Snow-Fort on Slatter's Hill," a battle begins between two groups of boys, significantly named "North Enders" and "South Enders," and finishes with the boys united against the members of the town watch in a battle the boys know they are destined to lose.
In many ways, the fight over Slatter's Hill parallels national arguments about the territorial nature of the Civil War and the laws that applied to the Confederate States. William Whiting, one of Lincoln's experts on the laws of international war, writes that the Civil War was not a war about overthrowing the government but rather a war about territory. According to Whiting's understanding of the laws of war, fighting over territory shifts the war from being "Civil"—in this case, a dispute over government—to being a foreign/international war over territory. This shift erases citizenship rights and negates the Constitutional contracts between the nation and the state.23 For a brief time, the feud over Slatter's Hill territory allows the boys of Rivermouth to create their own private "nation" and to subsequently divide it based on ownership and control of the fort. During this time, the feud minimizes the boys' citizenship state in connection to the town, and eventually this minimization of Rivermouth citizenship leads the North-Enders and the South-Enders to join their forces as they pursue a larger war with the men of the town.
Aldrich's text notes that the feud that this episode recounts escalates because of a territory dispute: "Great was the wrath of the South-Enders when they discovered that the North-Enders had thrown up a fort on the crown of Slatter's Hill" (139). Like the western territories that complicated the disputes of the Civil War, Slatter's Hill is unassigned, belonging neither to the South or North: "Slatter's Hill, or No-man's-land, as it was generally called, was a rise of ground covering, perhaps, an acre and a quarter, situated on an imaginary line, marking the boundary between the two districts" (140). In part, although the text claims ignorance of the reasons for the feud, other names besides "South" and "North" suggest that some of the differences are class based. The North-Enders call the South-Enders "Puddle-dockers" and "River-rats," names which hint that the livelihoods of the South-enders are tied to the physical labor of the port industries while the North-Enders are the sons of the owners of the ships, banks, and shops (141). The claiming of the unassigned territory by the already powerful North-Enders becomes ground for the ongoing feud to escalate into war.
The North-South war over the territory of the snow fort continues until the outside interference of the town watch unites the two sides in a few final battles that pitch the boys of Rivermouth against the men:
The watch were determined fellows, and charged the boys valiantly, driving them all into the fort, where we made common cause, fighting side by side like the best of friends. In vain the four guardians of the peace rushed up the hill, flourishing their clubs and calling upon us to surrender.
Eventually, the boys realize that they are fighting a losing battle. They come to terms with this realization with a final display of their rebellious spirit:
Perceiving that it was impossible with their small number to dislodge us, the watch sent for reinforcements. Their call was responded to, not only by the whole constabulary force (eight men), but by the numerous body of citizens, who had become alarmed at the prospect of a riot … So, after one grand farewell volley, we fled, sliding, jumping, rolling, tumbling down the quarry at the rear of the fort, and escaped without losing a man.
In its description of the capitulation at the battle of Slatter Hill, the text depicts boyhood as a battle that will always lose to manhood.24 This scene of the final volley illustrates that losing a rebellion or moving back into a law-abiding relationship with the men of the town does not have to be a scene of shame. For participants in the battle, the shape of the entire rebellion, not just the final retreat, provides fuel for the boyhood reconstruction project in which this text participates. The move to resolve North versus South differences with images of united boyhoods in this episode represents on a small scale the work the recollections-of-boyhood texts in Our Young Folks do to participate in the reconstruction effort.
In writing The Story of a Bad Boy, Aldrich dramatizes for his young readers the complexities of the Civil War and describes the intricate links between North and South. The best kinds of "bad" boys, that is the ones with the most citizenship potential, are connected to more than one region, marked with the differences, but finally connected to like-minded mischievous citizens in union against outside infiltrators. Aldrich's text uses his own mixed regional identity to involve boy readers and their adult counterparts as necessary participants in the miscegenating project of reconstruction—admitting to belonging, citizenship, and membership those that violence sought to prevent from entry.
Badness: The Key to Boyhood Clubs and Community Citizenship
In addition to reconstructing boyhood through meditations on the influences of large scale regions on small town boyhoods, Aldrich's text explores clubs as keys to developing "good" American boyhoods by suggesting that clubs can both contain and permit the sorts of rebellions that end up stabilizing larger civic bodies and economies. Part of being a boy in Rivermouth means joining in with the other boys in the community and participating willingly in whatever mischief they concoct. After participating in a Fourth of July bonfire, Tom becomes a member of the Rivermouth Centipedes, a club for boys who have proven that they belong to Rivermouth and are mischievous enough to survive battles with other boys. Club members also have to be courageous enough to challenge the adult citizens of the town by participating in elaborate pranks. Tom's entry into the Centipede club signals the boys' acceptance of him: "This was an honor to which I had long aspired, but being a new boy, I was not admitted to the fraternity until my character had fully developed itself" (100). His membership in the club marks him a member of the Rivermouth boyhood community rather than an outsider from Louisiana.
Several of the club's activities center around play/mischief-motivated interpretations of patriotic or American actions that challenge the authority of the adult members of the Rivermouth community:
[T]here was a tacit understanding among us that the Centipedes were to stand by one another on all occasions, though I don't remember that they did; but further than this we had no purpose, unless it was to accomplish as a body the same amount of mischief which we were sure to do as individuals.
When Tom is asked to join the Centipedes, he establishes his eligibility for the club by not questioning the suggested activity. After the bonfire, which is mischief approved by the town, the boys decide to set an old stagecoach on fire. Rivermouth boys are supposed to be "ripe for anything," and since this activity involves destruction of a Rivermouth citizen's property, participation in the burning gives Tom a chance to prove his willingness to belong (78). Significantly, the description of the stagecoach draws attention to the town's economic stability and the relation between tradition and change, both issues that intersect with what the recollections of a past boyhood serve to do in The Story of a Bad Boy:
When the railroad superseded that primitive mode of travel, the lumbering vehicle was rolled into the barn, and there it stayed. The stage-driver, after prophesying the immediate downfall of the nation, died of grief and apoplexy, and the old coach followed in his wake as fast as it could by quietly dropping to pieces. The barn had the reputation of being haunted …
The stagecoach, left behind by the railroad, haunts the barn until the town's young citizens come to burn away the remainder/reminder of the past: "‘The old trundle-cart isn't worth twenty-five cents,’ said Jack Harris, ‘and Ezra Wingate ought to thank us for getting the rubbish out of the way’" (78-79).25 The boys who are not "ripe for anything" are asked to forfeit their rights to discuss the incident—to silently step aside without protesting or tattling. If they speak, the implication is that they will no longer be considered members of the boyhood community. Together, the boys of Rivermouth take a grassroots action that ratifies the age of the train while simultaneously deciding which boys belong.
The mischief narrative about the resurrection of an 1812 cannon offers a final example of how texts about past rebellions can impart purpose to the project of boyhood and can repair through narration lives that are buried in the past:
These guns (‘old sogers’ the boys called them), had their story, like everything else in Rivermouth. When that everlasting last war—the war of 1812, I mean—came to an end, all the brigs, schooners, and barks fitted out at this port as privateers were as eager to get rid of their useless twelve-pounders and swivels as they had previously been to obtain them. Many of the pieces had cost large sums, and now they were little better than so much crude iron—not so good, in fact, for they were clumsy things to break up and melt over.
One Rivermouth man, the text explains, believes that the war will begin again soon, and he buys the cannons to make a future profit. When he dies, the can- nons are left behind in Rivermouth. In calling the cannons "old sogers," the text links the weapons to male bodies and in particular to the bodies of soldiers—like the guns, these bodies are worthless and impotent after the war. The text emphasizes the storytelling potential of the guns with language that personifies the cannons as silenced male bodies: "They were famous fellows in our eyes. What a racket they had made in the heyday of their unchastened youth! What stories they might tell now, if their puffy metallic lips could only speak! Once they were lively talkers enough; but there the grim seadogs lay, silent and forlorn in spite of all their former growlings" (205). The boys of Rivermouth decide to resurrect the "old sogers" that had helped the young "Sons of Liberty" defend themselves against the British fathers in the early years of the nation.26 If the snow fort on Slatter's Hill demonstrates that boys lose to men, the resurrection of the boyish nation's weapons of victory revisits this conclusion and suggests that remembering the past can alleviate present day losses. Tom's idea to "set one of the old sogers on his legs and serve him out a ration of gunpowder" brings the Centipede members together in an act that consists of a surprise attack by the boys against the adult male members of the town (206). In giving voice to the past, the boys recognize their own connectedness to the rebellious history of the port town and the nation while simultaneously displaying their potential power. When Tom Bailey and the other Centipedes draw lots to choose which one of them will light the fuse, the words printed on the slips claim manhood, not boyhood, as the status of the one chosen to complete the prank. Tom is chosen; his slip of paper reads, "Thou art the man" (211). Not only does Tom's prank provide him with secure status as a member of the Centipedes, but it also signals his advancement toward manhood, an advance that begins shortly after this prank is completed. His loyal citizenship in Rivermouth has prepared him to take on additional responsibilities associated with adult manhood.
Conclusions and Directions: Boy Citizenships, Serializations, and Badness
The Story of a Bad Boy remarks, after Tom survives the dangerous task of lighting the fuse that, "There is a special Providence that watches over idiots, drunken men, and boys" (212). Here, the text participates, in its tone of affectionate indulgence, in establishing, along with other texts that recollect boyhoods of the past, a kind of textual "providence" for American boys who will become American men. Our Young Folks and The Story of a Bad Boy give space to scenes that recount the ingenuity and rebelliousness of younger generations while acknowledging through their narrative frames that rebellious boys can become stable and productive citizens.
In its comparison of the "unmanly" badness of slavery to the healthily mischievous badness of mixed region boys, The Story of a Bad Boy contemplates the reconstructive changes that are necessary to reimagine citizenship in the post-war nation. These recountings provide significant records of boyhood citizenship. Although Aldrich's text does not explicitly map out plans to make the white boyhood citizenships it describes available to African-American boys fighting for citizenship rights, it does show Sam reading, writing, and escaping citizenship in the United States for better opportunities in Canada. In addition, the portability of the serialized form suggests that this text was read by more than the initial subscribers, allowing for the wide circulation of texts that recount the multiple struggles and multiple displays of badness that are necessary for citizenship to be established. The serialization of The Story of a Bad Boy shows Sam using reading and writing to mark freedom and the narrator Tom using recollection to reconstruct and trace the trajectory of his citizenship. The letters that Sam writes back from Canada, which are mentioned only briefly, nevertheless offer powerful, literate challenges to Tom's complacent and complicit citizenship in the pre-Emancipation United States. Readers facing the aftermath of the large scale rebellion of the war, an aftermath which left many fatherless, find textual reembodiments of American men and manhood that provide written guidelines for harnessing their own "badness" into successful local and national citizenship.
As this text recollects one New England boyhood, it provides for young readers powerful images of how the rebellion and violence of regional division can culminate in alliances that promote stable citizenships and allow for participation in renewed economies and governments. The moves made by the contributing authors of Our Young Folks to recollect where they had come from as boys participate in the work of Reconstruction in part because of the circulation of this magazine and the number of reprints of its best-known canonical text. The magazine as a whole and the text specifically meditate on surviving violence as a way of reassuring themselves and young readers that the regional reunions demanded by Reconstruction could be made possible through narrative recollection.
The narrative reconstruction of boyhood through recollections of past instances of mischief, violence, and rebellion firmly entrenches itself in post-war serializations for children. The bad boyhoods of the 1860s continue to inform constructions of boyhood in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, but each subsequent construction responds to local and particular understandings of and uses for boyhood. Contrary to the "boys will be boys" pleas of the help-for-boys non-fiction texts, boyhood does not always have the same meanings across time and space. The recent books about boys suggest that the problems of boyhood are based both on literary texts and on the presence of girls and women in economic and civic spaces to which they previously had not gained admittance. These narratives about boys have been compelling enough to gain national recognition in the media, and the totalizing stories they tell about the boyhoods of the present need to be challenged. Since some of these narratives draw from well-known literary representations of boys to make their cases about why boys are the way they are, one place to begin challenging the stories they tell is to examine literary representations of badness and literary representations of boys who do not "light out for the Territory" and instead work, play, and move toward manhood alongside women and girls. Meditating on the cultural impulses that lead to specific versions of boyhood can, I suggest, help to recover and contextualize old boyhoods and promote possibilities for new ones. It is my hope that these recovery and contextualization efforts will challenge current monolithic and sometimes powerfully misogynistic narratives of how boyhood citizenships become available.
1. Not all of these books about rehabilitating bad boys are by men. See, for example, Angela Phillips' 1994 The Trouble with Boys: A Wise and Sympathetic Guide to The Risky Business of Raising Sons or Christina Hoff Sommers' 2000 The War against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.
2. Kidd argues, usefully: "It is easy to criticize particular ideological positions along the biology-culture or nature-nurture divide; a greater challenge is to historicize those positions and to account for the ways in which they coexist, whether in harmony or in contradiction (or both)" (67).
3. In Stiffed, Susan Faludi interrogates the assumptions about inherently "bad" boys and asks about how United States culture operates on men: "What if we were to consider men as the subjects of their world, not just its authors?" (16).
4. In recent years, the discipline of children's literature has expanded the kinds of texts studied. See Beverly Lyon Clark and Margaret Higonnet's Girls, Boys, Books, Toys, which addresses both texts and popular culture, Clark's Regendering the School Story: Sassy Sissies and Tattling Tomboys as well as Claudia Nelson's Boys Will Be Girls and Invisible Men: Fatherhood in Victorian Periodicals. This last is one of a small handful of book length studies of children's literature that considers the cultural impact of periodicals. See also Kirsten Drotner's English Children and Their Magazines.
6. For the descriptions of citizenship, I draw on the material available in Our Young Folks and on historical documents. The idea of "light[ing] out for the Territory" which is explored most famously by Twain in Huckleberry Finn is used by Leslie Fiedler as a central concept in his discussions of American manhood in literature. His "grand narrative" about the American novel and the man/boy in the wilderness has been called into question, but this text continues to influence understandings of American boyhood. Children's literature has also shaped understandings of American boyhood, an idea which Anne Scott Macleod explores in American Childhood.
7. Bourdieu writes: "It is, no doubt, only by using the comparative method, which treats its object as a ‘particular case of the possible’, that one can hope to avoid unjustifiably universalizing the particular case" (Distinction xi).
8. See Joan Brest Friedberg's discussion of the magazine's history in R. Gordon Kelly's Children's Periodicals of the United States (329-341). Betty Lyon discusses Our Young Folks in her historical study of secular children's magazines. For more information on periodicals in the United States see History of American Magazines.
10. Albert E. Stone argues that "there is an especially close link between Tom Sawyer and his literary cousins: "Aldrich's Tom Bailey, Howe's Ned Westlock, Warner's John, Howells' ‘my boy,’" (63). Alice Jordan's From Rollo to Tom Sawyer examines literary connections in children's literature, and more recently, Anne Scott Macleod's American Childhood explores shifts in representations of American boyhood in children's literature. For more on the "boy book" genre in the United States see Marcia Jacobson's Being a Boy Again.
11. In Culture and Society Raymond Williams discusses the definition of culture as a "whole way of life" (xvi).
12. Here, I am drawing on Gramsci's work in The Prison Notebooks with the term hegemony to indicate that Tom's narration of his coerced move to the North and his subsequent embrace of Rivermouth life and culture demonstrate his consent to Northern rather than Southern hegemonies, but that elements of the South still appear.
13. Both of these begin serialization in 1867.
14. Carl Schurz, sent by Andrew Johnson in 1865 to gather information about the southern response to Reconstruction, records a Louisiana man's views on suffrage: "He declared himself ready to vote for an amendment to the constitution of his State bestowing the right of suffrage upon all male citizens without distinction of color who could furnish evidence of their ability to read and write, without, however, disenfranchising those who are now voters and are not able to fulfill that condition" (rpt. in Stalcup 55). C. Vann Woodward notes that laws such as the "‘understanding clause’ for illiterate whites and the ‘grandfather clause’ enfranchising all who had voted in 1857 as well as their sons and grandsons" were used to prevent disenfranchisement laws from affecting white voters.
15. Some of these frame stories focus on the Civil War. One such text, "The Turning of The Leaf," written in June 1865 by Our Young Folks editor John Townsend Trowbridge, takes a position that seeks to smooth over past conflicts. The older character, Uncle Rodman, argues that although many in the North were in favor of abolition, they were not in favor of war: "the most the Northern people expected to do, when they made Abraham Lincoln President, was to keep slavery out of the new States that were coming into the Union" (399). Uncle Rodman explains: "Unjust and unwise as it was to keep human beings in bondage, they did not feel that the law gave them any right to take slaves away from their masters by force." (399). Slaveholders spreading slavery into the new states is what Uncle Rodman cites as being one of the main causes of the war. He ends his history with an exhortation: "You especially, who are young, belong to the new era of justice and human brotherhood; and O let the fact inspire you now and henceforth with high aspirations, noble motives; and all generous thoughts and hopes!" (401). See Children's Periodicals of the United States for discussion of other treatments of the Civil War in Our Young Folks.
16. For other discussions of reading practices and constructions of national and local identities see Cathy N. Davidson's Revolution and the Word, David D. Hall's Cultures of Print and Susan Coultrap-McQuin's Doing Literary Business. Andie Tucher's Froth and Scum also provides an interesting assessment of the power of newspapers and illustrated magazines during the nineteenth century.
17. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 prevented members of the confederacy from voting and holding office.
18. The Wade-Davis Bill, which summarized the Radical Reconstruction Plan, asks for the following enactment: "No person who has held or exercised any office, civil or military (except offices merely ministerial and military offices below the grade of colonel), State or Confederate, under the usurping power, shall vote for or be a member of the legislature or governor" (rpt. in Stalcup 36).
19. In National Manhood, Dana Nelson discusses how whiteness and maleness were used to create bonds of citizenship in the United States. In my discussion, boyhood is constructed as white-centered when Sam's boyhood is marginalized so thoroughly. Toni Morrison also contemplates how images of whiteness have influenced canon choices in Playing in the Dark. See also David Roediger's discussions of whiteness as it influences class and citizenship in Toward the Abolition of Whiteness and The Wages of Whiteness.
20. Susan Bordo argues in her book about cultural constructions of the male body that "when we look at bodies (including our own in the mirror), we don't just see biological nature at work, but values and ideals, differences and similarities that culture has ‘written,’ so to speak, on those bodies" (26). Sailor Ben marks his body with a history of its forced docility and with marks of his own loyalty to other comrades. Tom's father interferes with Tom's desire to record the history of his Southern principles on his Northern body.
21. The late twentieth-century manuals about boyhood suggest problematically that boys are violent and bad and unable to empathize with others because mothers sever their ties with boys too quickly and send them to day-care, preschool, and team sports where they encounter all-boy worlds before they are prepared for them. Frequently, women's roles in boys lives are the sole focus of explanations of problems, while other factors are not considered. Tom's removal from his mother and his Aunt Chloe (and his childhood) provides one small link to the history behind badness being connected to removal from women.
22. Here, I am again thinking of Rotundo's idea that boys cross a physical boundary (sometimes the doorway, but in Tom's case, a major move) to leave childhood and enter into boyhood.
23. Whiting explains about the South's participation in establishing a territorial war:
claiming belligerent rights as an independent people alone could claim them, and offering to enter into treaties of alliance with foreign countries, and treaties of peace with ours—under these circumstances they were no longer merely insurgents and rebels, but became a belligerent public enemy…. It became a territorial war; that is to say, a war by all persons situated in the belligerent territory against the United States.
(rpt. in Stalcup 40)
Since this text is set in the late 1830s, the territorial disputes over Native American land rights can also be read as registering in this discussion of the dispute over boyhood territory. For a discussion of the Indian Removal Acts of the 1830s see Michael Paul Rogin's Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian.
24. The fort on Slatter's Hill becomes the kind of Foucauldian heterotopia that Kathleen Diffley writes about in "Home From the Theatre of War: The Southern Magazine and Recollections of the Civil War," an essay about post-war descriptions of Baltimore in magazine serializations: "Like other public sites during Reconstruction, [private homes] could … be cast as the imaginative spaces in which national identity was forged and might then be called heterotopias … everyday places that are charged with ideal purpose as private citizens are publicly bound to people they scarcely know" (191). For more of Diffley's work on Civil War narratives see "Where My Heart is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and National Stability from Fort Sumter to the Centennial." The war descriptions in the Slatter's Hill episode comment on regional and national links as they express both the border state between childhood and manhood in which the North-Enders and South-Enders reside and the delicate balance between war-peace territorial relations. The text shapes the Slatter's Hill fort into a spatial repository of boyhood and asks readers to imaginatively invest themselves in the extraordinary impact of the fort on Tom's understanding of boyhood. The "war story" of the fort on Slatter's Hill uses spatial recollection to indicate the tenuous nature of the Rivermouth boys' relationships to each other and to the adult members of the town and that the depiction of this tenuousness comments on the fragility of national and regional citizenships.
25. In some ways, the burning both resists and celebrates (or at least acknowledges) the past, which is what Aldrich's poetry also tended to do. Ferris Greenslet discusses how moving to New York as a young man allowed Thomas Bailey Aldrich to both escape from and connect with his New England literary "fathers."
26. See David Pugh's Sons of Liberty for a discussion of how Revolutionary heroes continued to shape views of masculinity (filtered through the lens of Americanness) throughout the nineteenth century.
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Arlene Plevin (essay date 2004)
SOURCE: Plevin, Arlene. "Still Putting Out ‘Fires’: Ranger Rick and Animal-Human Stewardship." In Wild Things: Children's Culture and Ecocriticism, edited by Sidney I. Dobrin and Kenneth B. Kidd, pp. 168-82. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 2004.
[In the following essay, Plevin casts the contemporary children's magazine Ranger Rick as a forerunner and advocate of modern ecocriticism.]
How we image a thing, true or false, affects our conduct toward it, the conduct of nations as well as persons.
Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination
A black rhinoceros, a roseate spoonbill, a European hare, a grass frog, and a fennec (small fox of North Africa): these are some of the faces of Ranger Rick magazine for the year 2000. This National Wildlife Federation publication has been offering its full-color cover shots of animal eyes and faces for thirty-four years, influencing millions of children aged seven to twelve—and their parents. The nation's oldest and largest nature and outdoor discovery magazine for children, Ranger Rick has a circulation of 525,000 with an estimated "pass-around" readership of 200,000 and more. These numbers suggest that at least three-quarters of a million people each month discover which animals like what habitat and food, what is possibly endangering their existence, and just what, for example, Scarlett Fox has to say about "Should I keep feeding birds after winter?" (March 2000, 38).
Scarlett Fox, Ranger Rick's sidekick and cohort, has been dispensing advice for approximately fifteen years. She is one of several animal characters who have introduced young children to the world and concerns of animals and insects. Like Ranger Rick, she has a voice—a column—and a mission. Her mission is similar to her compatriot's: to articulate a way of life that is less anthropocentric, or human-centered. Ranger Rick himself was originally created as a forest ranger and made his debut fighting a forest fire. As Gerry Bishop, who has worked with Ranger Rick magazine for thirty years, serving as editor for the past fifteen, explains: "As a ranger, he was the enforcer of good laws and regulations and good policy toward wildlife." Although that image, as Bishop puts it, kind of "dates the character," currently "Ranger Rick is the hero that leads the others to investigate an environmental problem and to sort of figure out what the solution might be." He is a kind of raccoon steward, working to put out fires when needed, but more likely to engage with complicated environmental degradation.
Ranger Rick's success is unquestionable, its popularity assured by older generations of readers who look forward to sharing the magazine and its cast of animal characters with their own children. The mix of full-color photographs, interactive exercises such as completing rhyming poems about baboons, and regular features, including "Reader Riddles" and "Ask Scarlett," is intriguing enough for most adults to read on their own—after they've shared it with their children. After all, there are stories about animal families, invitations to imagine oneself receiving "a big bear hug from a wild giant panda" ("Big Bear Cat," December 1999) and, for those who enjoy scatological humor, sections of "Animals Eat the Weirdest Stuff" (February 2000), with its vivid photographs of "poop tarts" (animals eating droppings of other creatures) and "eye sips" (moths and other insects that drink animals' tears and so on).
But what kind of interaction with the environment is Ranger Rick magazine encouraging? What kind of activism is created by its mix of talking animals of both genders, animals under stress from human encroachment, and animals portrayed as in need of human intervention? Whose culture is valorized, and how is Ranger Rick—published by one of the world's largest environmental groups (three million members)—disrupting what is usually considered fairly wasteful, the overall North American use of resources, arguably the dominant paradigm of its readers and their families?
Beginning with these questions, I suggest that Ranger Rick has been a forerunner of ecocriticism, anticipating and even directing, to some degree, some of that criticism's perceptions of humanism and stewardship. I argue that Ranger Rick uses animal "characters"—both its beloved cast and other anthropomorphized and personalized animals—to teach a less anthropocentric worldview (yes, ironically), and I discuss the magazine's recent shift in its narrative and representational style, which highlights its desire to be more accessible and current while criticizing resourcism and monumentitis, both ways of perceiving nature that is tied to human-defined use. Importantly, there are distinctions made in Ranger Rick between various levels of human resemblance and responsibility that make the magazine a complicated publication, reflecting changing attitudes toward humans' relationship with the world as it challenges sometimes unquestioned lifestyles.
Ranger Rick models a genre of modulated anthropocentric stewardship. This worldview places humans first, as determinants of meaning in the natural world (and in what survives) and espouses a role of caring for the earth. This is sometimes motivated by an ethic of all things deserving a place and space and sometimes by a human-centered value system, which places everything nonhuman as a resource for everything human. It is a worldview complicated by Ranger Rick's monthly creation of animals that speak and act, who are capable of affecting their environment in ways traditionally considered human. Interestingly, this reinforces a tenet of green ethics that is seldom considered: that the nonhuman can be valued. Ranger Rick, Scarlett Fox, and other characters emphasize that nonhuman presence in the realm of the interpretable; the usual boundary between nonhuman and human is dissolved in the wash of words. While the magazine's cover features a graphic of a paw print just below its title, it is human imprints of all sorts that determine meaning and value and, by ex- tension, existence. Ranger Rick's characters and columns negotiate a variety of terrains: introducing children to animals as creatures of feeling, motivation, agency, and thought, the magazine does more than sometimes dress them in clothing. Long before ecocriticism began to be discussed in the university as a way of looking at the connections between nature and culture, as a way of examining human and nonhuman relationships, Ranger Rick brought those concepts into conversation.
It is useful to consider what Lawrence Buell in The Environmental Imagination calls a "rough checklist of some of the ingredients that might be said to comprise an environmentally oriented work" (7). For Buell, drawing from Henry David Thoreau, the four points of an "environmentally oriented work" are:
- The nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history.
- The human interest is not understood to be the only legitimate interest.
- Human accountability to the environment is part of the text's ethical orientation.
- Some sense of the environment as a process rather than as a constant or given is at least implicit in the text.
As Buell's words suggest, the environment is not merely a setting or a stage. Humans are actors. To quote Shakespeare's As You Like It, we are "merely players," one among many. The world becomes larger than human measurement, embracing the nonvocal. Yet, humans are still the determinants of value: it is their "accountability to the environment" that is one of the ingredients of a "text's ethical orientation."
Ecocriticism, as understood by William Howarth in "Some Principles of Ecocriticsm," extends from Buell's working definition above and serves to both complicate and compromise the usual binary positioning of nature and culture. Typically set up as them (nonhuman) versus us (humans, with our signs of human culture), this binary is one of the unexamined assumptions of literature, our culture, and criticism. For Howarth, this points out that "although we cast nature and culture as opposites, in fact they constantly mingle" (69). Howarth also argues for more rigorous consideration of other boundaries, calling for what can be perceived as the in-depth knowledge from other disciplines, particularly science or, in Howarth's case, a more than glancing awareness of ecology and its principles. Ecocriticism "implies more ecological literacy than its advocates now possess." This is not merely an understanding of some ecological concepts, but a knowledge of the discipline that leads to environmental activism. Referring to David Murray, Howarth adds: "In the darker moments of history, ecology offers to culture an ethic for survival: land has a story of its own that cannot be effaced, but must be read and retold by honest writers" (76). Consequently, ecocriticism can remind us to read for that story; it is essential for our very existence, our "survival," in an ethical fashion. It is, as Howarth and others suggest, the domain of other voices, a place where humans can begin to question their positionality, their so-called awesomeness.
Ecocriticism's many purposes can be succinctly represented by Cheryll Glotfelty's introduction to The Ecocriticism Reader, where she notes: "Students taking literature and composition courses will be encouraged to think seriously about the relationship of humans to nature, about the ethical and aesthetic dilemmas posed by the environmental crisis, and about how language and literature transmit values with profound ecological implications" (xxv). As Scarlett Fox and Ranger Rick go about their adventures, joined at times by other characters from Deep Green Wood, their actions and words evoke a complicated, even confusing attitude toward the nonhuman world, the world beyond human bodies, the realm (supposedly) of environmental organizations.
Opening Ranger Rick magazine for the first time means getting past the cover. Most issues feature a full-frontal shot of an animal's face: the close-up shot of an arctic fox on the cover of the January 1998 Ranger Rick is typical. Looking more like a friendly puppy than a creature of the coldest weather, this fox gazes directly at the viewer, his or her pink tongue the only color against the white surrounding snow. The magazine's name, Ranger Rick, appears in a kind of pink-orange color akin to the fox's tongue, prominently centered in the largest font. The overall impression is one of welcome. Whether it is the two barking tree frogs balancing on top of one another, the arch of their mouths suggesting a smile (March 1999) or the snow-dusted face of a cougar shown in close-up detail (January 2000), Ranger Rick's covers offer an animal to be discovered, interrogated, and enjoyed. Even the bugs are gorgeous: the August 1998 issue features a large and appealingly lime-looking critter: a "spiky green caterpillar [who] has stopped nibbling a leaf to see who's taking its picture" (2). As the section "About the Front Cover" explains, the caterpillar will soon "spin a cocoon and begin changing into a big and beautiful polyphemus (pol-uh-FEE-mus) moth" (2). For those of us, adult or child alike, who stumble over scientific names, especially multisyllabic ones, there's help like that in every issue. This task of science—the proper naming of the domestic in our lives—is phonetically offered alongside a friendly image of a curious creature, who pauses while eating to see who's aiming a camera at them. Beginning on the cover, they oblige our gaze. Nature is brought up close and personal.
Pages 2-3 of every Ranger Rick magazine offer the table of contents and a large color photo spread. In the November 2000 issue, five nutria (large rodents that live near water, native to South America), caught in the act of snuggling down for a nap, "settle down" while one yawns largely, affording us a glimpse of what would be tonsils in humans. These five nutrias lead into an article on sleep and animals, which begins by defining sleep as "nature's ‘pause button’" and then includes both people and animals in the explanation (4). Sleep, we learn, is "a regular time of rest when people and many other animals tune out from the world around them. During sleep, the muscles relax. Breathing gets slower and so does the heartbeat." A photo of a hyena who has taken a moment to "kick back and reeeelax [sic]" includes the textual sound of sleep emanating from its mouth (5). "Z-z-z-z-z-z"s descending from larger- to smaller-sized font curve above his paws, which are folded on his belly. Positioned above and to the left of a photo of three plump baby wrens in "snuggle-heaven," the sleeping hyena is the picture of vulnerability. The layout brings these two disparate animals into view and invites readers to enter this usually unwitnessed world. The "z-z-z"s continue for four more pages; on the page following the wrens, they emanate from the mouth of a koala, his head cradled by two branches, while he sleeps oblivious to everything. As the photograph's caption explains: "A fork in the branches is a great place for this dozing koala to ‘hang out.’ A koala on the ground isn't very safe. But high up in a tree, it can rest easily" (7).
There is innocence and a bit of voyeurism in this and other such articles. Ranger Rick allows the young reader to experience animal vulnerability and human resemblance. Like people, animals sleep and dream. Relevant information about animals' sleep biology is offered, and animals from the common and harmless wren to the exotic and unfamiliar (perhaps a bit terrifying?) hyena snooze. Both adult and baby animals are depicted; they sleep soundly, no predators—human or otherwise—in sight. It is a disarmingly cozy and enticing scene: joining animals of all kinds (human, hyena, wren) in a common need. There is, of course, the implicit invitation to protect these animals who sleep so adorably in our presence.
Ranger Rick himself appears in the magazine's beginning, serving as a correspondent in the "Dear Ranger Rick" column, which typically follows the first picture-driven article. Drawn along with his furry friends and a usual stack of colored mail (or e-mails shown on computer screens), Rick wears his trademark ranger hat and answers questions. Various animal buddies appear with him, perched among the piles of mail, and help direct readers' attention to the themes of the correspondence. Rick typically addresses the readers, thanking them and acknowledging their concerns. He is receptive and informative.
This positioning was made more apparent in the November 2000 issue, where "Dear Ranger Rick" tackles the recent transformation of the "Adventures of Ranger Rick" from a narrative-driven, realistically drawn feature to a cartoon. In this issue, Rick responds to his repositioning as a comic strip character. Up until the March 2000 issue, the "Adventures of Ranger Rick" had been a four-page mostly textual narration of experiences such as journeying to the Everglades where "[t]he gang finds plenty of sun and surprises in the Florida Everglades" (February 2000, 16). In that particular and representative Ranger Rick adventure, Ranger Rick and friends were detailed drawings—their fins, fur and feathers distinct, more akin to illustrations in a child's storybook than a cartoon. There was a two-dimensionality about these "Adventures of Ranger Rick": not only were Scarlett Fox and Ranger Rick one to four inches high but they were surrounded by columns of text. A certain narrative quality permeated the "Adventures of Ranger Rick" of yore. The animals echoed human reactions: Boomer (the Badger) "grouched loudly," Punky (the Porcupine) "protested," and Scarlett's "good mood was beginning to fade." Here, as elsewhere in the magazine, the animals reacted as might a group of kids. They chanted "No more snow! Nothing but fun in the sun!" (16), and they "teased" and "snapped" at one another (17). If all of the animals appeared in one drawing, it tended to depict one aspect of the adventure, one "frame," so to speak.
In the March 2000 issue, however, Ranger Rick entered the realm of cartoons. The "Adventures of Ranger Rick" became "Ranger Rick's Adventures," with Adventures sprawling across the upper lefthand corner of the cartoon, welcoming and positioning adventure as prominent, with the size of the type and the shadow effect designed to provide depth and prominence. Signaling a change in presentation—and, I would suggest emphasis—"Ranger Rick's Adventures" repositions the ranger and his buddies as more contemporary and accessible.
In the September 2000 strip, Ranger Rick revisits the environmental version of the tortoise and the hare. In a story by Rhonda Lucas Donald, Becky the hare is racing Bosley, the box turtle. Wearing sweat-bands around her head and wrists and looking like a trim (human) athlete, Becky is determined to avoid temptation and win. Her jacket-clad coach cautions her, "No detours to eat clover or to take naps" (22). However, Becky does succumb to greener grass, so to speak, and pauses for a clover break, "a nibble—just to keep up my energy" (23). She immediately discovers trouble, a crate of box turtles who, sobbing, explain, "We've been caught by humans … and now we'll be taken away from our home forever!" Becky's widemouthed and wide-eyed stare indicate her immediate concern. She puts herself on the line, telling the panicky turtles, "I've got to get you out of here before those people see me!" "Those people"—a father and son wearing baseball hats and possibly sunglasses—are faceless and oblivious; they remain distant, rooting in the woods, searching for more profit from animal capture. While the cartoon animals tend to have eyes drawn very large, the humans—including the bulldozer driver on the cartoon's following page—have barely visible faces. This suggests the peoples' less than admirable position in this strip. As the narrative at the bottom of one frame makes clear: "The turtles didn't know it, but the man and boy were capturing them to sell as pets. What they DID know was that no turtle who had been caught in the past had ever come back!"
In fact, while the animals may not be physically harmed, killed, or used for medical purposes, their fate as pets is equally dire—and they know it, are frantic because of this knowledge. Removal from their home, their habitat, their community, both frightens them and propels Becky into a savior role, one that will seemingly cost her the race win she wants so badly. Critically, it is human voices that wake Becky from her clover-eating reverie: She was "about to chow down on some clover when she heard some human voices. First she froze" (23). This inaction is momentary. Human presence doesn't thwart Becky; she is drawn into saving those turtles against whom she is ostensibly competing. As she asks the box turtles to move to one side of the crate to enable her to free them, her challenger, Bosley Turtle, is making his way toward the finish line. Becky, however, takes the time to hide the turtles she has freed before running furiously toward the finish line, "hoping the turtles would be safe and that another turtle named Bosley hadn't already passed her" (24). As she races forward, Becky encounters other people-created disasters, among them a bulldozer pushing down trees and denuding the earth. Rescuing yet another turtle, Becky places him on her back, noting she will "try to find [him] a new home." Naturally, Bosley wins, but upon seeing Becky's hitchhiking turtle and hearing the story, he, recognizing Becky's sacrifice, forfeits his win and places the medal around Becky's neck, proclaiming, "[Y]ou've show there's more than one way to be a winner!" (25).
Becky is a winner, but this particular cartoon suggests that the animals are losing the environmental race in the long haul. Becky manages to rescue one crate of box turtles from a part of the human economics system, but their habitat, their ecological system, is still threatened by human greed. Becky's distressed cry, "They're wrecking Turtle Grove!" is in response to the bulldozer's claiming of land where animals once were, land that is "being taken over by people!" (24). The turtles are under siege and so, by extension, are all the animals who share their greenwood home. In the magazine, moreover, the various species function as a community: recognizing each other's vulnerability and heroism (all the while dressed like amateur human athletes). Unfortunately, they cannot fight technology, resist economic forces, or combat deadly human encroachment.
The "More Facts" box that follows the cartoon emphasizes their helplessness. It's a rather hard-hitting recitation of human abuse and box turtle woes. "Box turtles … lose their homes when people take over the land, and others are run over on highways or by off-road vehicles (ORVs) on trails … people often don't know the law—or they break it anyway. They may think that taking just a few turtles won't hurt anything. But they're wrong. If just one or two box turtles are taken from an area each year, the species may soon be wiped out from that area" (25). Ignorance is not an excuse—it kills turtles and harms the species into future generations. The most common rallying cry of the diverse environmental movement—that you can make a difference and that people should protect the environment for future generations—is employed for a powerful condemnation of thoughtless human behavior. Here it is behavior predicated on the desire to possess, to "own" a turtle as a pet. It is especially poignant in a magazine directed at children, who may have these lines read to them by an adult. As the shortest sentence "But they're wrong" in the "More Facts" box, its impact is heightened by its direct message, especially since it follows a narrative in which humans' treatment of animals has been shown to be harmful. While many Ranger Rick readers probably do have a pet, some creatures are off-limits, belonging in a habitat free from human encroachment and meddling. It's a sophisticated distinction, one that suggests that while animals might have humanlike characteristics, some are meant to be apart from human interference or domination.
What's most startling is that the problems created in this comic strip are solved for the moment by animals. The "More Facts" box suggests a way for humans to contribute to animal efforts, even to report to the authorities those who take turtles "from the wild [by writing] … down his or her car license plate number." (25). At this point, humans are positioned as secondary problem solvers, although this cartoon has done much to disrupt what David Ehrenfeld describes as the privilege of humanism. In The Arrogance of Humanism, published in 1978, Ehrenfeld suggests humanism is a religion in its own "right." He explains: "Humanists are fond of attacking religion for its untestable assumptions, but humanism contains untestable assumptions of its own…. If they occurred in others, humanists would call them superstitions, or, more politely, articles of faith" (16). For Ehrenfeld and others, humanism infiltrates most ways of thinking and being. While mostly discussing humanism in terms of Western philosophy and ways of knowing, Ehrenfeld states these "articles of faith" function as "assumptions in mathematical proofs, in short declarative sentences." For him, "[t]he principal humanist assumption … is very simple. It says: All problems are soluble … All problems are soluble by people." Humanism can be seen to position humans at the center of the universe, as the makers of meaning. It's important to note that while there is an "arrogance of the humanist faith in our abilities," humanism is not without merit (12). Ehrenfeld acknowledges that "belief in the nobility and value of humankind and a reasonable respect for our achievements and competences are also in humanism, and only a misanthrope would reject this aspect of it" (10). Consequently, it is "reasonable respect" for humanity's achievements along with a recognition of humanity's limits that is crucial. Yet humanism is an ideological framework that is seldom questioned; it is "the heart of our present world culture—we share its unseen assumptions of control" (20).
"Ranger Rick's Adventures" certainly disrupts the notion of humans as being the only problem solvers, often reminding readers that their adult/human lifestyles may have caused animals harm. The comic strip uses familiar and beloved animal figures to address complex environmental problems. The April 2000 "Ranger Rick's Adventures" further illustrates this strategy. From the beginning, the reader recognizes that this will not be a normal sightseeing tour—the first narrative frame announces: "California, here they come—the gang from deep green wood, that is. Ranger Rick Raccoon, Scarlett Fox, and Cubby Bear were enjoying some new sights in this big western state, but Boomer Badger had more than sightseeing on his mind" (25). Boomer Badger initially has panning for gold on his mind but rapidly discovers an undesirable feature of a local stream—dead fish. In this strip, the animal visitors discuss pesticides and particularly how "some of them harm other living things besides pests" (28). Traveling as tourists, they encounter the appearance of perfection—thick green grass—about which Ranger Rick warns: "There is definitely something strange about this lawn!" (26). Ranger Rick and his wild cohorts warn a lark about a "housecat," described as a "flea-bitten fur-bag," who's aiming right for her five lark babies. This reinforces a notion that human-owned animals should remain in the controlled human domestic sphere. That the mother lark is not as effective suggests the monstrous power of pesticides. Expressing gratitude to Ranger Rick and his friends for shooing the cat away from her nest, she explains: "Oh, thank you! I should've been more watchful. But I've been feeling so strange today" (28). The strangeness is due to the influence of prevalent pesticides, which "often wash off the land and into streams, lakes, and other bodies of water. There they can poison insects, fish, and other water animals, and the animals that eat these poisoned animals can also be harmed."
This particular strip echoes Rachel Carson's novel Silent Spring, with its opening fable depicting the horror of a world infused with toxins: "Everywhere was a shadow of death…. The people had done it themselves" (14). However, there is a difference, one that allows readers of both generations to move beyond the unexpected "apocalyptic rhetoric" (Plevin 254-55). There are enlightened people and consequently hope for the future. Set in California, this particular "Adventures of Ranger Rick" ends up praising and promoting organic farmers, who embody the "gold" that Boomer Badger is initially seeking. Tucked in the lower left corner of the last page of this "Adventures" strip, adjacent to the daunting collection of facts about pesticide damage, is literally the song of the lark, the note of hope, the gem left in the proverbial Pandora's box. "Guess what. I have some really good news!" the mother lark exclaims (28). "Here in California there are a lot of organic farmers that don't use pesticides or other poisonous chemicals on their crops!" Lest there be any doubt about this different economy, as Boomer walks off into the sunset, his shovel attached to his backpack, he praises this inversion: "Well, maybe this state has something going for it after all … even if there is no gold in sight!" California's gold still comes from the earth, but it is an earth not tampered with, an organic earth that still yields the food humans need. This time, however, California will also acknowledge animal needs as well and go "gold," or organic. Preserving California's reputation as a trendsetting state, this "Adventure" rehabilitates gold and returns to a cherished image of America's frontier days. It is a tonic to the rhetoric of toxic doom, to the images the cartoon has created of Boomer swimming in a stream and coming up, puzzled, his paws holding dead fish.
In this magazine, animals are repositioned as vulnerable and in need of human assistance. It's not just that their fate influences ours, but that we are joined together in an often toxic world. This position helps disrupt aspects of Western ways of thinking, Western philosophy. As Richard Sylvan and David Bennett in The Greening of Ethics note: "Throughout most of the brief history of Western philosophy, certain humans have been the sole objects of positive moral concern" (7). Yet, as Ranger Rick underscores, humans are not the only object, nor the only agent. This green ethic, which according to Sylvan and Bennett is new in the West, "is the serious contemplation of including the non-human world under the aegis of moral concern, or even more startlingly doing so, extending adequate ethical treatment to parts of it" (8). The "Adventures of Ranger Rick" map what environmental ethics might look like and why they are important. The magazine becomes a powerful tool for imagining another way of life, one that includes organic farming, for example, and other more responsible ways of interacting with the land.
In "Cleanup at Otter Creek," featured in the same issue, a group of children join adults in a day of volunteer effort "paddling downstream, picking up all kinds of trash" (16). Here both generations work to undo the mess others have made, creating a rhetoric of cross-generational action—of families both being affected and responding. A feature on humpback whales four pages later trades on their beauty, power, and pod relationships; Doug Perrine's photograph of a calf and mother is described as the humpback calf brushing "against the top of Mom's head—as if to say ‘hi’" (23). Information about the mammals' songs, family, physicality, and feeding habits are contextualized by the article's ending, which emphasizes rejuvenation: the whales, "once nearly killed off, seem to be making a good comeback!" (24). Although scientists are involved in the study of these huge animals, they are ancillary to the article and to the whales' survival. Here, as elsewhere in Ranger Rick, nature is protected because it is valuable to human life but also because it is valuable on its own terms. Protecting animals and improving the habitat are important above and beyond selfish humanism.
In "Whose Nature?: The Contested Moral Terrain of Ancient Forests," James D. Proctor notes: "Environmental philosophers have typically classified systems of environmental ethics … principally on the basis of the type of value conferred upon nature…. Intrinsic value in nature implies that its worth is independent of its utility to humans; instrumental value implies that its worth depends on its ability to serve a human end. ‘Is it good?’ is a question of intrinsic value; ‘What is it good for?’ is a question of instrumental value" (280-81). Proctor offers several other categories of environmental ethics, noting that the above system "leads to a similarly twofold schema of anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric ethics" (281). For Proctor, an anthropocentric ethic revolves around human desires—"where people value nature instrumentally, as a means to human material, aesthetic, or other ends"—whereas nonanthropocentric ethics are those where "people primarily value nature intrinsically, without reference to human ends." However, Proctor is cognizant of the motivation enmeshed in the later, emphasizing the primarily intrinsic aspect of value. Some environmental philosophers, according to Proctor, suggest anthropocentrism can be expressed as "resourcism, in which people value nature as a material resource, or as preservationism, in which nature's worth follows from its inspirational value." Of course, questions of cultural value complicate these definitions, pointing to, among other things, what has been suggested of John Muir and other environmentalists who valued the high points of nature—mountains, vistas, and other more overtly "loveable" sites of inspiration—devaluing swamps and other lowlands in what has been called monumentitis.
Ranger Rick avoids monumentitis and resourcism. In fact, it argues (often in a heavy-handed manner) that humans should question our use of resources, our own alleged needs. Attacking what some might consider a sacred cow—the sports utility vehicle or SUV—the June 2000 installment of "Ranger Rick's Adventures" takes Rick and Scarlett Fox "to check up on Rick's cool cousin, Radical Raccoon" (37) and highlights the "road hog" aspect of SUVs, concluding that people should "buy cars that get better gas mileage and don't pollute as much as SUVs do" (40). Should anyone miss the message, four of the cartoon's frames situated in the car dealership feature a big banner "Roadhogs," with a pig's face in the second "o." Here again is an animal out of its place, so to speak, symbolizing inappropriate resource use by humans and tapping into the typical hog/pig bias. Note that not all transportation is condemned, just the gas-guzzling, easy-to-tip-over kind. The strip ends with humans of all types demonstrating at the local city park alongside animals such as a seagull, bunny, and beaver. Their placards, "We need clean air to live," "Bicycle power," and "Clean Air," remind us of our collective needs.
Ranger Rick offers a sophisticated mix of photos, cyberactivities, information, how-to's, interactive games, and people profiles. Overall, young readers are imagined as inherently interested in the world around them, eager to understand animals (especially the "sexy" ones, like octopuses, panda bears, and giant Galapagos turtles), desirous of animal jokes (there's a "Critter Crackups" cartoon that usually anthropomorphizes animals), and ready to develop "appropriate" ecological concern. However, Ranger Rick doesn't shy away from complex issues or perspectives.
The overt linkage of humans and animals has been receiving more emphasis since the late 1990's in Ranger Rick. Earlier issues, to around the end of 1997, were less likely to bring together humans and animals on the cover. There's a kind of starkness about those issues' covers when compared with later ones. A gray wolf stares out from the December 1996 cover, the only text the magazine's identifying title and in smaller print the organization and the date. This format changed; in August 1999, for example, the magazine's title appeared in a font more akin to human handwriting, Tecton. This less polished font echoes children's print, and combined with the inked paw print resting over the "R" of Ranger Rick and the inclusion of article titles on the front, Ranger Rick illustrates not only its desire to be attractive on the newsstand (the magazine became available in newsstands in 1998) but also to more overtly link human and animal activity. The August 1999 cover even announces this with one article's title prominently displayed: "Eye to Eye with Animals."
It is this eye-to-eye positioning that promotes a form of identification, heightened by the articles and features. M. Jimmie Killingsworth and Jacqueline Palmer's pivotal book, Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America, offers another way of considering an aspect of what Ranger Rick magazine achieves. Killingsworth and Palmer note: "Environmentalism is an outgrowth of the general liberal temperament and ideology. Only recently—and with precious little success—have philosophers, green politicians, deep ecologists, and eco-anarchists sought to reach beyond this political framework to a new discourse and new forms of action" (41). As such, Ecospeak addresses some of the language and positioning that can account for the environmental movement's failure to build consensus, to "form adequate identifications" (7). It is with children, through a multitude of activities and a variety of scenarios that feature a threatened world, that Ranger Rick seeks to create such identifications, while asking children to consider the ideological framework of capitalism and humanism. From turtles shown as caught in the devastating aspects of economics to whales and other species being members of families, Ranger Rick readers are offered information on how others, including animals acting as humans, have made a difference, and they are encouraged to care beyond the boundaries of the magazine. Like the mix of species demonstrating for clean resources for all, Ranger Rick readers are invited to participate, invited to hope. They are invited to join Ranger Rick in putting out fires of all sorts, evolving with him into the more complex world of environmental stewardship, perceived as being for the good of all.
Bishop, Gerry. Telephone interview, December 11, 2000.
Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1962.
Ehrenfeld, David. The Arrogance of Humanism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Glotfelty, Cheryll. "Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis." In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996, xv-xxxvii.
Howarth, William. "Some Principles of Ecocriticsm." In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996, 69-91.
Killingsworth, M. Jimmie, and Jacqueline Palmer. Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.
Plevin, Arlene. "Green Guilt: An Effective Rhetoric or Rhetoric in Transition?" In Technical Communication, Deliberative Rhetoric, and Environmental Discourse: Connections and Directions. Ed. Nancy W. Coppola and Bill Karis. Stamford, Conn.: Ablex, 2000, 251-65.
Proctor, James D. "Whose Nature?: The Contested Moral Terrain of Ancient Forests." In Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Ed. William Cronon. London: Norton, 1996, 269-97.
Ranger Rick. Vienna, Va.: National Wildlife Federation, 1996-2000.
Sylvan, Richard, and David Bennett. The Greening of Ethics. Cambridge, England: White Horse; Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1994.
Lorinda Cohoon (essay date summer 2006)
SOURCE: Cohoon, Lorinda. "Festive Citizenships: Independence Celebrations in New England Children's Periodicals and Series Books." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 31, no. 2 (summer 2006): 132-53.
[In the following essay, Cohoon argues that eighteenth-century children's periodicals sought to guide the evolving sense of American independence among their young readers.]
An article titled "The Glorious Fourth" published in the Youth's Companion on June 29, 1854, describes
a scene in one of the streets of a large city on the Fourth of July; a day which all my readers know is set apart to commemorate the glorious occasion when the Declaration of the Independence of our country was made to all. That day, although many, many years have passed away, is still remembered, and various manifestations of joy are evidenced by the inhabitants of our towns, villages, and cities, upon its yearly return.
This article, like many children's texts published in the 1840s and 1850s, records the "various manifestations" that commemorate independence from England, including the carnivalesque parades and fireworks and other more dangerous pursuits. While the Fourth does not have the titillation of a freak show or the deliberately lowered inhibitions of Mardi Gras, it does have its carnival qualities. The Fourth supposedly celebrates the independence of all citizens of the United States, an independence that embraces the "world turned upside down" qualities of the carnival, but it simultaneously draws lines of belonging and contains revolutionary tendencies within the boundaries of the day itself. Through an examination of representations of Fourth of July celebrations in periodical literature and series books written for children during the 1840s and 1850s, this article suggests that literary Fourths construct "festive" citizenships; these citizenships delineate membership in the nation and also circumscribe the ways in which participation in the Fourth negotiates changes and challenges to citizenship.
Children's civic identity is shaped through repeated cultural rituals that are associated with freedom and independence, and adults rely on the culture surrounding festive scenes to construct citizenship for children. One of the most powerful cultural forms for both adult and child readers during the first half of the nineteenth century was the periodical, and it was this form that helped to promote the development of series books through the serialization of episodes that served as advertisements for the entire texts. While there are other discursive arenas that contain significant records of the cultural significance of the Fourth, this article focuses on periodicals as a particularly productive interpretive site because of the regularized relationship that their form establishes between editors, writers, and readers. Richard Brodhead has described how literary culture in the nineteenth century established a "disciplinary intimacy," which called on child readers to incorporate the lessons and punishments given to fictional characters. In children's periodicals this disciplinary nature is emphasized because editors select content with the child audience in mind ("Sparing the Rod" 70).1 In addition, editors of children's periodicals guide readers' responses more explicitly through inserted commentary and explanation than in periodicals for adults (see Brodhead, "Sparing the Rod"). There are connections between the regularized disciplinary power of the periodical, narratives about national citizenship that participate in the construction of children's subjectivities, and the ritualized, annual spectacle of the Fourth and its treatment in periodical literature. Following scholars such as Gillian Brown and Lauren Berlant who are interested in the connections between the child, race, and national identity, Caroline Levander argues that "depictions of the child consistently featured in popular narrative forms between the Revolutionary and Civil wars represent a primary, and increasingly urgent, national question of where freedom ends and slavery begins" (224). This study asks questions about the representations of citizenship that emerged in the popular forms of the children's periodical and series book and the ways these representations reinforce stratifications based on gender, class, race, and ethnicity when they are connected to a holiday that celebrates "freedom" and "independence." Emerging from and contributing to the growing body of scholarship that studies the connections between nation and constructions of masculinity, this article specifically explores the festive citizenships of boyhood and boys' participation in Fourth of July events.2 The festive citizenship tales found in children's periodicals and series books often connect public citizenship to gender roles, and the narratives focus more heavily on boyhood citizenships.3 Commentaries on local and national celebrations of citizenship shape and direct emerging adult male citizenships, reining in potentially "dangerous" tendencies and celebrating affiliations that mark the "good" citizen—behaviors that shift across time and region and demonstrate how literary culture contributes to citizenship.
The "festive" citizenships repeatedly constructed by children's texts indicate that at the national, regional, and local levels there have been ongoing cultural efforts to protect and regulate the ways in which independence is performed and experienced in the United States. As Lisa Lowe notes in Immigrant Acts, "Because culture is the contemporary repository of memory, of history, it is through culture, rather than government, that alternative forms of subjectivity, collectivity, and public life are imagined" (22).4 The idea that culture is a repository for public expressions of citizenship is complicated by Joseph Roach's argument that rituals, parades, and performances have played and continue to play significant parts in establishing narratives of national identity. My theory of periodicals as a site for regulating the performance of festive citizenship applies Lowe's ideas about culture and memory and Roach's discussion of annual rites as sites of remembrance and transformation.5 He suggests that annual rituals can be read as records of histories that challenge the dominant Anglo-American narratives, which tend to downplay the importance of the Caribbean diaspora and the slave trade to the colonies' revolt against the British.6 The parades and independence events recounted in northeastern children's periodicals uphold an Anglo-American version of independence, which focuses on the New England forefathers and the privileges their struggle granted to white, middle-class New England readers and limits references to other regions or economies. At the same time, some of the anxieties about the disruption and chaos white, middle-class children might witness at public gatherings and events hint at an awareness of the alternative citizenship histories Roach discusses. Articles from the religiously conservative Youth's Companion and Independence Day narratives from serializations of Jacob Abbott's Rollo at School provide examples of narrative explorations of boyhood citizenship published during the decades when the United States had been established as a nation but was constantly confronted by the complexities and contradictions of democratic citizenship.7
The Carnivalesque Structure of the Fourth
Celebrations of the Fourth began in Boston, and the holiday was established as a tradition in the state by 1783.8 By the 1840s, the Fourth was a part of the yearly calendar and was associated with specific traditions—especially speeches and militia exercises. The city, then, that served as a central site of uprising and struggle for the American Revolution became the point of origin for marking independence on a regular basis. The yearly commemoration contains potential rebellions by providing times and rituals for displays of independence. This pattern of release and containment has become a nationally celebrated ritual. Boston also served as a center for publication of the periodicals and series books discussed here, and the definitions of national identity prevalent in the city influenced the independence narratives produced for children.
Critics and philosophers have explored extensively how carnivals negotiate the dichotomy of freedom and constraint. As M. M. Bakhtin points out in The Dialogic Imagination, festivals offer time and space, a "chronotope," to enact impulses and behaviors that turn the world "upside-down" and have no regular place in the everyday world.9 As the national anthem of the United States suggests, independence is about double-checking on the iconic flag while the bombs burst in the air.10 The ritualistic "rights" of the Fourth, paraded each year, are exercised within the controlled frame of a specific day, and the brief time allocated to this celebration of independence creates a boundary that allows those with power—government agencies, wealthy citizens, capitalists with large workforces—to maintain their dominance. The Fourth, then, celebrates freedom while reinforcing the idea that freedom's privileges are most readily available to those who conform. Each year the citizens who participate in central celebrations are ones who have chosen to publicly signal their societal roles, their ability to belong, by joining specific groups and organizations. The use of the street as a space to signal belonging has been studied by scholars interested in the intersections between performance and national identity. Susan G. Davis, in Parades and Power, explains that parades demonstrate how those holding national and regional power attempt to control what might be considered a public space: "Because of the combined forces of commerce and the demand for order, open spaces have become much less lively milieux. Parades, as we know them today, give only a carefully prefabricated appearance of ties to genuine community life" (172-73).11 Thomas Spencer extends Susan Davis's work to ask questions about how records of parades and changing community responses to them might serve powerful historical purposes that promote specific views of leaders, cities, or nations. Articles published in periodicals for children suggest that in the northeast concerns about parades and demonstrations not being well-controlled and being open to public participation made them seem unsafe for children, and several articles address whether children should be exposed to public displays and discuss how belonging to organizations or participating in planned parades can provide safe outlets for children's expressions of festive citizenships.
Associative Periodicals, Cautionary Narratives, and Boyhood Citizenship
In his visits to the United States during the early nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans used memberships in their "associations" to create stable citizenships. Periodicals and series books have associative qualities that involve their young readers in shaping their own citizenships by inviting them to reflect on those citizenships depicted in the stories and articles. An article in the July 10, 1851, edition of the Youth's Companion titled "Give Your Child a Newspaper" suggests that the editors were aware of the powers of association that are part of reading:
A mind occupied becomes fortified against the ills of life, and is braced for an emergency. Children amused by reading or study, are of course more considerate and more easily governed. How many thoughtless young men have spent their earnings in a tavern or grogshop, who ought to have been reading? How many parents who have not spent twenty dollars for books for their families, would have given thousands to reclaim a son or daughter who had ignorantly and thoughtlessly fallen into temptation?
While this article discusses both boys and girls, it seems to focus more specifically on the dangers that are tied to boys not having proper materials for their leisure time—without newspapers, their citizenships might become defined by taverns and grogshops instead of "progress" and "advancement." This article exhorts parents to heed the idea that children who read are more thoughtful and considerate than those who do not. It suggests that the right kind of reading can lead to the right kinds of associations and manifestations of citizenships.
In many of the articles and serialized texts about the Fourth, men play central roles in the revelries while women caution boys and girls against festivities that might lead to dangerous or "unwholesome" situations. Some boys participate despite women's warnings, while other boys find ways to reshape their independence celebrations to please both themselves and adults. The celebrations of the Fourth that are recounted in the children's periodicals provide insights into how Fourth of July narratives constructed citizenship, and these early narratives offer a means of tracking changes in constructions of boyhood citizenship in later decades.12
Boyhood serves as an integral part of the "citizenship stories" related to Fourth of July celebrations; the fascination with boyhood citizenships evident in the periodicals complicates the Fourth of July representations that occur so regularly since the "sons" of the new nation must celebrate their forefathers' rebellions, but they must also comply with the laws and regulations of their towns and nation.13 In the 1840s and 1850s, children's articles, poems, and stories in periodicals reveal local and national anxieties about how narratives of independence were constructed during the United States' first half-century. These reports on independence celebrations highlight masculine contributions to the nation. Signaling how participants relate to the public assembled to celebrate the country, some accounts of celebrations especially highlight boys' future economic and civic roles within their local communities. Boys convey patriotism and citizenship through participation in celebra- tions and through public displays that invoke economic and civic contributions instead of ethnic or national heritages. Their participation in the celebrations makes it possible for them to emphasize their contributions to the citizenship fabric of the local organizations, towns, and cities and the nation.
A Youth's Companion Fourth
When articles from the Youth's Companion represent the traditions of the Fourth, they show the celebrations as causing intense anticipation, disruption in daily routines, and also danger. The Youth's Companion ran for over a hundred years; the early years of its publication (1827-1860) are considered to be much more religiously and politically conservative than the later ones. In the 1840s and 1850s, despite claims of nonsectarianism, editor Nathaniel Willis promoted viewpoints that were in line with his own orthodox Congregationalist beliefs. Articles that mention citizenship are focused on virtuous and stable expressions of individual and group civic identity.14 In a report titled "Sabbath School Celebration, July 4th," the safety and appropriateness of activities for children from a South Boston meetinghouse are recorded:
The children had provided themselves with four banners, on which were printed in large letters the following mottos. "Holiness to the Lord," "Hosanna to the Son of David," "Phillips Church Sabbath School, established Jan. 24, 1824," and on the other, "American Independence, 1840, Cold Water Army." A juvenile choir with sweet voices sang five appropriate hymns; prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Driver, and addresses were made by Rev. E. N. Satwell of Havre, France, and Rev. R. Turnbull of Boston. Most of the children wore a small pink ribbon with a vase of flowers and the date printed on it, as a badge, and several fine bouquets of flowers were placed in the church during the services, and distributed to the clergymen present at the close.
The record of this celebration suggests that for Sabbath Schools the Fourth is appropriately celebrated through display and public announcement—banners and news reports. In this example, banners play affiliation and identification roles in stories written for children. The banners hail God (two banners are devoted to this), American independence, and the pursuit of a civic ideal—a temperate citizenship. Since banners usually communicate a message from one group or person to another, it seems significant that the banners and display are not for those outside the Sabbath School but for the participants.15 These closed proclamations reinforce citizenship ideologies already held by the children who are participating.
The representations of independence that appear so regularly in children's texts produce and interrogate the citizenships available to adults and children in the United States. At one level, citizenship refers to the state of having access to the rights associated with national affiliation; of course, in the United States, the kinds of rights available vary depending on age, class, gender, race, and ethnicity. Significantly, citizenship does not always have to do with allegiance or loyalty; in the United States, for example, some citizens easily access privileges while denouncing laws or elected representatives. In Civic Ideals, Roger M. Smith argues that national citizenship definitions have always been contradictory: "Americans who revolted against England called themselves ‘citizens’ to emphasize that they were no longer subjects of the British crown, and that they were creating modern self-governing republics that recognized the equal rights of man. From early on, these causes led American judges and legislators to proclaim on occasion that American citizens were equal." (14)16 It is clear that the proclaimed "equalities" cannot be relied upon; the history of the United States indicates that citizenship rights were never meted out equally and that the rights, once given, can be suddenly removed or limited without warning, especially during national economic and military crises.17 Since citizenship privileges can be given and removed, it becomes important, especially for those citizens with more tenuous holds on the proclaimed equalities, to look and behave like model citizens.
The children described as participating in the "Sabbath School celebration" do seem to be model citizens. The report indicates the intended effects of the celebration and suggests that the participants had made model responses: "[t]he services were appropriate; the addresses interested the youthful audience very much, and the whole exercises were calculated to leave a pleasing and useful impression on the minds of all present" (42). The "calculated" planning of the event is designed to influence the child participants with "a pleasing and useful impression" (42). The flowers, speeches, and singing create, for the participants, a memory of a united body, in agreement about their reasons for gathering, and this "impression" is "calculated" to be "useful."
A related article on the same page, titled "Another Meeting on July 6th: Afflicting Event," explains that the "appropriate" Sabbath School celebration has ended in tragedy: "One of their number, a lad named Samuel Blasland, between 9 and 10 years old, who was with them in health on Saturday morning, and took an active part in the choir on that occasion, was killed that evening on the Free Bridge, by falling from an Omnibus, on which he was returning home" (42). The article exhorts the children to consider their own citizenships in light of his death:
This sudden death has a solemn voice to speak to all the readers of the Companion. One who lately loved to read it as well as any of you who now peruse this article, was in a moment hurried into eternity without any previous warning. Samuel had many serious thoughts, especially during the last few months, and was one of several boys in the school who sometimes met for prayer among themselves. He was a member of a Juvenile Missionary Society in the Sabbath School, and on the very morning of his death, he joined the "Cold Water Army." Children are you ready to die as suddenly as he died? In view of early death, "Wilt thou not from this time cry unto God, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?"
The article—part obituary, part cautionary tale—asks children to consider Samuel's serious citizenship, a seriousness that is tied to his religious beliefs and temperance pledges. Drawing on the suddenness of Samuel's death, the report impresses upon readers the significance of religious beliefs in shaping their own civic and religious subjectivities so that they too might be ready to leave the record of their citizenship behind for others to look to as an example.
Both pieces about the Fourth of July appear with another about the "Cold Water Army," complete with songs that can be sung during Cold Water gatherings. The report emphasizes the "mustering" power this group has to organize diverse groups of people in favor of a cause: "With banner and with badge we come, / An ARMY true and strong, / To fight against the hosts of Rum,— / And this shall be our song: / We love the clear Cold Water Springs, / Supplied by gentle showers; / We feel the strength cold water brings,— / ‘the victory is Ours’" (42). The songs, with their militaristic lyrics, are accompanied by a history of the movement and a catalog of the number of participants: "this movement in the Temperance cause began in the Grammar Schools. No. 5, consisting exclusively of children of Irish parents, mustered about 300 faithful and true soldiers in the procession…. Probably 3500 or 4000 persons were in the Grove…. We can but regard this movement with especial interest; and it does not require a very sanguine temperament to consider it the harbinger of a glorious day" (42). As this article emphasizes, festivities can serve to "muster" citizens; in this account, the stereotypically intemperate Irish are shown participating in a gathering for temperance. The article highlights the large numbers of children participating, indicating that the editors of the magazine envision in the temperance movement future citizenships that will not be limited by individual consumption of or trade in alcohol. The movement itself is celebrated as a "harbinger" of future citizenships, although it is unclear whether the author means earthly or celestial ones.
The three articles signal the Fourth as a time to celebrate and reflect on intersections between civic citizenships and a variety of other ones. In each case, the children "pledge" their citizenships or are asked to consider the citizenship of another child. The story of Samuel's death, complete with his meetings for prayer and his decision to take the temperance pledge, as well as the conclusion that the large gathering of the Cold Water Army is a "harbinger of a glorious day," provide evidence that the Youth's Companion promoted youth-initiated gatherings, if arranged around correct citizenship impulses, are signals of citizenship health. The banners that are part of the festive citizenships connect to public declarations or embodiments that can be recognized by others. In other words, out on the streets or abroad observers identify a person's affiliations—his/her multiple citizenships—through observation of dress, actions, mannerisms, and other culturally acquired details.18
Some periodical texts show adults participating in celebrations of the Fourth, and their celebrations, like those of the children, are connected to religious institutions and civic organizations. The title "The Fair, or Fourth of July," written by "Frances" (possibly Frances Osgood), explicitly connects the Fourth to the carnivalesque with its use of the word "fair," a word frequently used as a substitute for carnival in the United States. The article begins with a description of the anticipation felt for the celebration:
The 4th of July came at last, and the long anticipated fair. It was at our Town Hall. The day previous, had been spent, by the young ladies, (members of the Sewing Circle), in arranging their articles for sale, assisted by the male members, who prepared the tables, furnished trees, vines, evergreens, & c. to adorn the room. Then there were numerous little boys, who came to see, and learn how to manage such business, ready to run and do their errands.
The activities of the fair are divided by gender, and the organization of the booths seems to reinforce separate spheres ideology, with young ladies display- ing their domestic arts and boys learning to "manage such business" (43). The event provides time for adults to train girls in the arts of "arrangement" and boys in "managing." While the fair is a time for celebration, it also opens opportunities for training in future citizenships.
The purpose of this particular fair is to make money for a philanthropic society that helps "seamen." Because of their livelihood, these are citizens with a rather tenuous relationship to local and regional government. The organizers are outstanding members of society and therefore already well practiced in the art of making money. The fair then offers an opportunity to make money not only for diversion but also as an exercise in charity. The uses of the goods that have been made and displayed for sale shape and reinforce the festive citizenships of both girl and boy participants and reinforce the citizenship roles they will play in the everyday world:
In the center of the room, was another small table, attended by the President of the Society, and some official members. Upon this table were but three articles for sale. A very beautiful bunch of wax flowers, made by the Society, a cake containing a two dollar ring, and upon a small board, eighteen or twenty inches square, covered with moss, was a Log Cabin—cider barrel, and Tippecanoe Flag. The cabin was six or eight inches long, the little rabbits in the moss, two thirds of an inch, and all the other things which belonged to it in proportion. It was made, not to indicate the political sentiments of the Society, but to attract attention; and it succeeded well.
Like many articles in the Youth's Companion, this one denies that it has political undertones while simultaneously underscoring the inescapability of politics in the affairs of everyday life. The three articles, with their ties to current politics of the 1840s, indicate a fluency in national and local power structures, a fluency that renders political campaigns diminutive and capitalist fortune making analogous to eating sweet cake and chancing upon wealth. These images suggest that readers of the Youth's Companion might shape their own citizenships with a similar carefree ease while extending citizenship privileges to "unfortunate" classes, like "seamen" who struggle and work and still need the benevolence of money that has been raised at town hall fairs.
The town hall celebration, organized around creating desire to buy, is described as a happy occasion: "I have attended many kinds of Anniversaries, Conventions, and great celebrations of the 4th of July, and seen many tens of thousands around me many times; but never saw a more cheerful, smiling collection of people, than filled our Town Hall, on this 4th of July" ("The Fair" 44). In this celebration the number of sales and the artistry (not the politics) of the displays please all who attend. The only problem recorded in this account has to do with a near relative of the president finding the two dollar ring in the cake, which results in a few complaints that "it went to her by design" (44). The article does not explain how this is resolved; it only emphasizes the happiness and satisfaction that the celebration—with little boys and girls given tasks that keep them from mischief and train them for their adult citizenship roles—gives to all involved. Political differences are minimized in log cabin displays and pieces of cake, providing the effect of a unified, celebratory event that raises money: "Great, indeed, was the joy of the society, when they knew the amount of their money; but who can tell how much greater may be the joy of that neglected, but useful class of people the seamen, in consequence of these efforts. Who can tell how much it may improve their condition, or how much good it may accomplish in other lands, through their instrumentality" (44). The money provides the greatest marker of current and future citizenship to this celebration—it sweeps all other small disturbances away and offers a sign that the citizens are generous and conscious of both their rights to mark the occasion of independence and their responsibilities to the less fortunate.
The report of the town hall fair differs from other articles about the Fourth. Some articles for children reflect adult anxieties about patriotic rituals providing spaces for enactment of disruptive citizenships, and children are encouraged to express their festive citizenships in specific ways. Children, as "small" humans, do participate in smaller citizenship spheres, but their citizenships are manifested through relations with family members, friends, and peers at school. In her compelling study titled Dependent States, Karen Sánchez-Eppler calls for cultural studies to take a serious interest in children's subjectivities and their connections to national identity: "Children's dependent state embodies a mode of identity, of relation to family, institution, or nation, that may indeed offer a more accurate and productive model for social interaction than the ideal autonomous individual of liberalism's rights discourse ever has" (xxv).19 The "dependent state" that Sánchez-Eppler describes as she writes about children emerges in the brief pieces and partial narratives that make up the periodicals de- signed for children during the 1840s and 1850s. Editors manipulate children's views and encourage identification with particular ideological perspectives, making the periodicals a reflection of the "partial agency" that Sánchez-Eppler ascribes to children. The methods by which these points of partial agency are offered to children can be seen in directions that the periodicals offer readers regarding their behavior and movements on the days of the festivals. While some texts record plans for avoiding trouble on the Fourth ("Ordered, That to prevent accidents, and for the greater convenience of citizens and processions during the day, and of persons visiting the Common on the evening of the Fourth of July, 1848, the following arrangements are made"), other texts actively discourage children from participating in independence celebrations.20 If children do take part, they stay within specific parameters, usually some distance away from the carriages and crowds or the main events.
Jacob Abbott's Rollo at School and the Construction of Orderly Independence
In the 1830s the United States of America was still a very new nation, and texts for children suggest that awareness of the nation's beginnings influenced the representations of patriotic celebrations. In fact, in small towns across the eastern seaboard, men still gathered, much like the Revolutionary war minute-men, to practice military exercises. Regular military displays publicly reminded citizens that the revolution was one that occurred because of the determination of grassroots efforts of rebellious citizens to defy the authority of the British government. In accounts of gatherings that took place in the 1840s, town members reenact their part in independence. Jacob Abbott's texts for children, which were serialized in the Youth's Companion, contain commentaries on such drills.21 Child characters eagerly anticipate the exercises, but adults calmly note the dangers inherent in gathering crowds and the possibilities for mischief to occur. Episodes about patriotic exercises depict town members coming together to enact their collective citizenship privileges, but Abbott's discussions of the dangers of these events reveal anxieties about loss of individual citizenship privileges—the loss of freedom of movement and the possibility that instances of violence might occur. As we will see, child readers are invited to imagine patriotic festivities and to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of public display and personal safety.
Independence episodes written for children reflect national political struggles over slavery, territorial expansion, and treatment of Native Americans. The regular return to the subject of independence reveals the depth and complexity of contestation of citizenship laws. Articles repeatedly address the theft that can occur at public gatherings, and this brings to the fore the possibility that rights and property can be stolen. It was during the late 1830s and early 1840s that Americans were working to enact laws that made it legal for them to take the lands and lives of the indigenous peoples living on the continent of North America. The Indian Removal Acts were enacted over an extended period of time, and the government used the acts to forcibly remove and destroy Native American nations. The goal of these acts was to secure land, to "claim" it for white ownership. Children's periodicals hint at attitudes toward the Indian Removal Acts of the 1830s when they devote space to discussions of property and the "Destiny of the American Indians."22 As Caroline Levander has pointed out, the figure of the child in literature served as a representation of the nation, and racially marked children and those who are described as especially powerless and vulnerable metaphorically represented the nation's views on slaves, Native Americans, and also recent immigrants.
At the same time as articles focus on theft, the periodicals for children included many articles about property, focusing especially on how property can be claimed and how ownership can be proven. Frequently, these articles are published in the context of children's property disputes, but since the surrounding periodical context discusses U.S. history, the editorial ordering suggests that children should be made aware of their histories in ways that allow them to focus on their own public and private citizenships. In some ways, the historical tone of the articles about the American Revolution and the "removal" of the indigenous peoples distances the reading child from the relative immediacy of these events. This occurs especially when articles use the dialogue and quick action of realism to foreground stories about boys' citizenship and their participation in local events.
Descriptions of boys participating in celebratory events can be found in episodes from Jacob Abbott texts published in the Youth's Companion. Abbott writes about the commotion caused by militia exercises in serialized episodes from Rollo at School.23 These militia exercises remind participants of the American Revolution and the reasons for it, and they introduce young citizens to the idea of a small militia gaining power over the trained forces of the English Army. At the end of the military display, people of the town celebrate with the militia members, becom- ing in effect participants in a reenactment of rebellion. Abbott's text, though, discourages children from direct involvement in such raucous festivities, because, as the narratives point out, there are possibilities that the crowds, alcohol, and fireworks might become dangerous. In other words, even as these militia displays reenact the rebelliousness that helped to purchase freedom for citizens in the United States, they also display the potential loss of some privileges—freedom of movement, for example, if the crowd becomes riotous—and they remind citizens and citizens-in-training that the privileges they celebrate have the potential to be overturned by a small group of rebellious citizens. In the United States, the street and the town square have long been sites for displays of citizenship, and as Spencer notes in his study of the St. Louis Veiled Prophet Celebration, elites and those with power have struggled to maintain control of these sites and to establish rituals that maintain power and discourage the working class and immigrants from using the public spaces to display the more disruptive aspects of citizenship.24
Interestingly, newspaper accounts of Fourth of July activities published contemporaneously with Abbott's text show that speeches were given by women seeking an audience for their temperance movement and by African Americans arguing for Northern support of an abolitionist platform. One account records that some fifteen hundred men gathered to pledge temperance. The crowds that supported or protested these causes were not solely focused on the freedoms of white middle-class men in the way that the children's periodicals might first suggest. While all of the reasons for the anxiety are not entirely clear, these political activities result in articles that demonstrate such anxiety about crowds and gatherings. The repeated warnings about the Fourth seem to be invested in shaping complacent "status quo" citizenships that will not challenge existing social structures.
In episodes from Rollo at School, Rollo learns about public celebrations of freedom when he becomes a part of the town's common school, which is also attended by students less privileged than he is. Two students, Dovey, a wild and stubborn girl, and Julius, a sullen and inexplicably angry boy, disrupt the otherwise peaceful school with frequent mischief and rebellion. The danger of Dovey and Julius's forms of citizenship is highlighted during the town's preparation for militia exercises. In contrast, Rollo's citizenship privileges are showcased by his response to the public independence celebration. Rollo's loyalty and his patriotism, both revealed in his attitudes toward his father and other men, allow him to follow the rules and to save questions for later. He often puts his questions to his father, so that his understanding of the cultures in which he is able to practice his middle-class northeastern boyhood successfully extends from the local to the national levels—he knows how to behave at home, at school, and at holiday celebrations because he receives specific advice about how to conduct himself.
Rollo receives citizenship advice from his home when the children ask Miss Mary whether they will be given a holiday to watch the military training exercise on the commons. Rather than immediately offering her opinion, Miss Mary leads a discussion with the children:
Miss Mary called upon them one after another, and they told various things. One said that it was the Light Infantry that were going to train. Another said that he believed they were going to have a new uniform. Another said that his uncle Ephraim was going to train. Another said they were going to fire, & c. At last, all the children had told what they knew about it, and all sat down. Then Miss Mary asked all those to rise who knew whether any other schools were going to be dismissed for that day; but none of the children knew of any.
Miss Mary asks the children what they have heard their parents say about the upcoming training. Rollo says "My father does not like to have me go to training … [h]e is afraid I shall get hurt" (175). Lucy explains that her mother is uncertain whether school should be held that day: "My mother said … that perhaps there would be so many persons in the streets, that we could not go back and forth to school very well" (175). The children's comments confirm that many parents in the school are anxious about the crowded streets, the military display, and the children's potential involvement in it, and Miss Mary uses the "hearsay" to make her decision about how to proceed.
In a gesture that provides the kind of freedom and restraint that articles about patriotic celebrations seem to encourage, Miss Mary decides to hold a holiday on the school grounds: "On the whole, considering all the circumstances, I think we had better have a holiday. But I don't like to have you go to the training. It is a rude, noisy scene, where you will be very likely to get hurt. So I propose that you should all come and spend the holiday here. We will gather apples in the forenoon, and in the afternoon we will build a fire in the woods and roast some of them." (176). Her argument against the exercises is that the children might get hurt, and she also seems anxious that the "scene" will show the children "rude" and "noisy" behaviors that will harm them in some way—perhaps by setting examples that she does not want them to follow. If part of the "noise" of the scene will be political speeches and responses to them, it is interesting that Miss Mary's holiday does not include some kind of oratory that will provide an antidote to the styles of speech found at the training. Instead, the children's holiday is one planned around outdoor, physical activity.
Even as she provides a holiday, Miss Mary makes rules that will control the movements of the children during the training: "You must come in the morning, and stay all day. If any of you prefer to go to the training, and your parents are willing, you can go of course; or if your parents think it will not be safe for you to come here through the streets, then, of course, you will not come" (177). While attempting to control the children's interactions with the mobs and the "scene" of the patriotic military display, Miss Mary replicates within the school grounds some of the military aspects of the training (176). She builds a tent, divides the children into apple picking companies, and assigns commanders.
Ultimately, Miss Mary tells the children that it is up to their parents and themselves whether they will take the holiday on school grounds or whether they will stay home and/or attend the exercises. Rollo attends the school holiday, which is the correct choice, made evident by its contrast to that made by Julius, who chooses to roam the commons. Julius appears in several serialized episodes of Rollo at School as an example of a student who routinely indulges in undesirable behaviors, and in this episode he decides deliberately about the school holiday: "I shan't tell my father anything about it" (179). After Julius defies Miss Mary's request that the children ask their parents for guidance, he becomes even more of an outsider in the small world of the school, and the text highlights his behavior as a model of dangerous citizenship: "he grew worse and worse; more indolent and careless and pertinacious and stubborn" (197).25 Julius grows "worse and worse" and provides a model of negative citizenship in part because he is stubborn and careless. The ability to carefully consider the laws that must be followed is one of the key characteristics that Abbott's texts showcase as important to citizenship.
Although she is characterized as unruly, Dovey represents a more trainable, less dangerous, though still disruptive, type of citizen. She attends the patriotic exercises at school, and this choice hints at her citizenship potential: "Dovey improved very much too, though she did not get entirely free from her old habits" (197). Rollo, the text's privileged middle-class boy, learns adult codes and hears discussions of the reasons for adult organizations and in this way is able to live successfully in his citizenship circles.
During the celebration the children pick apples and play together, but there are no parades, and certainly no fireworks. The children who decide to participate in the safe school holiday are rewarded with their teacher's pleasure. Those who decide to join the fun and games on the street receive the disapproval of those who hold the power over them. A few of the children who participate in the school holiday witness the chaos on the street as they walk home with their teacher: "As they approached this turn, they heard the occasional firing of guns, and wild shouts, and a rattling of wagons and trampling of horses, and the atmosphere seemed half filled with dust and smoke. Lucy clung closer to Miss Mary's hand, and even Rollo was glad he was not any nearer the scene" (196). They see a "troop of boys coming at full speed, and with great noise, around a corner at some distance before them" (196). Rollo notices that the troop of boys is chasing another boy: "The other boys were armed with sticks, and were shouting, apparently in anger. In a moment Rollo perceived that the boy in front was Julius, and immediately supposed that he had got into some quarrel with the bad boys on the common" (196). The decision to participate in the more dangerous celebration of independence ultimately predicts which children become productive citizens within the society.
The militia display episode in Abbott's text illustrates what Roach describes as the contradictory purposes of public festivals, with one theory suggesting that festivals are "symbolic of a world that ought to be kept as it is" and another arguing that "festivals are themselves instruments of critique, redress, and transformation" (251). The parade, as one of the festive events that is part of the Fourth, invites a timed, planned uproar, and children, as spectators and sometime participants, are recipients of both the impulses to preserve history and to critique and transform it. Both adults and children can become agents of disruption during these festive events, but the paced, routed parades and displays carefully regulate the most unruly or potentially disruptive participants. In the 1840s, then, excitement about independence celebrations signals a level of patriotism that seems to mark the citizen, although the anticipation of the event does not always signal that the citizen will obey the rules. Those most able to manipulate the displays of independence and make them useful to their own worlds are those who understand the need for such celebrations. Like Rollo, these obedient citizens are able then to keep the celebrations in their proper place.
Belonging and Sacrificial Citizenships
By the 1850s, children's participation in independence celebrations was more established. The 1854 "Glorious Fourth" article mentioned at the opening of this article describes a parade of youths who have signed a temperance pledge: "they have bound themselves to abstain from the use of all liquors which will intoxicate. They are called the ‘Cadets of Temperance,’ and they are celebrating the day in a most becoming manner" (37). While the children this Companion essay lauds celebrate in a "most becoming manner," many celebrations of the Fourth continue to be described as full of potential for mischief or dangers. The treatments of independence celebrations connect to the political and historical contexts of this time. If the 1840s was a decade of growth, expansion, and agitation, the 1850s became a decade that defined and set boundaries of American citizenship. The U.S./Mexico war, which ended in 1848, resulted in a reorganization of American borders and also an anxiety about territory.26 Debates were held about western territories and which should be slave and which should be free. In 1854, a political party called the Know-Nothing Party emerged briefly; its central concern was nativism—controlling immigration and preventing foreign-born citizens from being elected to office.27 These national concerns about territory and about marking insiders and outsiders through careful legislation are also concerns in the children's periodical literature of this decade and are part of the rhetorics of citizenship that are offered to children.
Periodical literature published for children in the 1850s emphasizes sameness and control. Examples of the emphasis on conformity can be found in a July 3 issue of the Youth's Companion, which contains a brief "maxim" at the bottom of a page that has articles about a boy who is always neat, "at all times fit to be seen," ("Be Neat") and a "reformed drunkard" that states "A man's eccentricities are his faults" ("A Man's Eccentricities" 40). Within this culture that criticizes "eccentricities," those who are not members of a group are described as having the potential to damage their citizenships and those of others. The "Glorious Fourth" describing the "Cadets of Temperance" notes how much not belonging to the right groups or performing the proper actions can diminish the power of the citizen to live comfortably and achieve upward social mobility. It describes two girls who stand at the side of the temperance parade and notes the difference between their circumstances and those of the cadets: "oh! how much they wish that their brother, who so often has the sugar at the bottom of their father's glass given him, would join this happy company. Young as they are, how much they have suffered from the effects of that terrible alcohol, which breaks the hearts of so many wives and children" ("Glorious Fourth" 37). Their desires are granted, and at the end of the text not only their brother but also their father signs what is described as "the pledge, the glorious pledge" (37). The word "glorious" aligns the temperance pledge with the independence celebration so often described as the "glorious Fourth" and underscores the importance of belonging. The pledge leads the family to move from a "poor hovel" to a "pleasant home in a new cottage, under some charming elms" (37). The conclusion exhorts readers to think about how powerful their own citizenship choices might be: "How much even a little boy or girl may do; think of this, my young friends, and go and do likewise" (37).
This narrative provides a picture of the power of children's citizenship—the power of what Sánchez-Eppler notes is part of their "dependent states." The daughters' desperate prayers and desires for their brother and then their father to become temperate help convince first the brother and then the father to sign the pledge. Despite the fact that parents might not be making citizenship choices that mark their independence in the most productive way, periodical literature shows children using their reliance on unreliable citizens to persuade them to commit to new spheres of belonging. When the father and brother sign the pledge of temperance, their domestic life aligns with the lives of citizens who have already established that their celebrations of independence are orderly and controlled. As this article hints, part of the political struggle of the 1850s had to do with debates over which citizens, especially the recent immigrants and the potentially unruly, should have access to citizenship privileges. Depending on the activities and the memberships, festive boyhood citizenships can enhance or hamper insider status. They can also serve to maintain and display citizenship inequities that are already in place.
Implications of Festive Citizenships
As examples from the 1830s through the 1850s reveal, in the years leading up to the Civil War, children's periodicals and series books repeatedly return to American independence celebrations. Each return anxiously strives to regulate responses to this citizen-shaping holiday. Child characters, especially boys, are encouraged to make their participation in these celebrations those of stable and law-abiding citizens, but the parades, crowds, and riots associated with the celebrations serve as reminders of the disruptiveness with which their nation began. These measures of both participation and also caution, and the frequency of the return to episodes that focus on Independence Day or other patriotic celebrations, show that both independence and the means by which it was marked were used to classify citizens in ways that extended beyond the holiday to their everyday lives. The repeated episodes train children to consider how their participation in the appropriate celebrations of the "glorious Fourth" might mark them as stable and productive contributors to their communities and nation.
The festive citizenships then organize future citizens into recognizable contributors to the nation, to the region, and to the city or town. The festivities themselves mark citizens, young and old, clarifying status within the economic and legislative systems of power. By the 1840s, the citizens could look back at the nation's beginnings at the same time that this period marked a point of departure for a nation relatively secure in its identity as a sovereign nation, with power to expand to the west and south. The independence celebrations produce festive citizenships that provide young children with national narratives that make the embarkation upon expansionist endeavors possible. These festive citizenships, with their dangerous and patriotic possibilities, also model exclusionary practices that become by the 1860s and 1870s elements of post-bellum suffrage legislation and immigration policies. Even as permutations of festive citizenships develop, it is important to consider the function of books and articles that depict children participating in patriotic events since the early shaping of these citizenships suggests their profound and lasting effects on national, regional, and local politics and culture. Of course, celebrations are not the only times in which citizenships are put into place, but their yearly, regularly scheduled occurrences provide them with a memorable narrative power that adults have recognized and drawn on to make a path for certain children to gain full access to citizenship privileges while denying those privileges to others.
1. I gratefully acknowledge suggestions from two anonymous readers of this essay; their advice helped me to clarify my ideas about the disciplinary nature of the periodical and its connection to festive citizenship.
2. See, for example, Kenneth Kidd's Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale. I understand my work on boyhood and citizenship as linked to the project of feminism because understanding how the emphasis on boys' experiences defined citizenship can also expand knowledge about the girls whose citizenships were decentralized through this focus. In this article, I extend my previously published work on "types" of boys to investigate how annual rituals and festivities define citizenships and reinforce existing local, regional, and national hierarchies. See "Necessary Badness: Reconstructing Postbellum American Boyhood in Our Young Folks and The Story of a Bad Boy."
3. Articles in the Youth's Companion were read by both boys and girls, and some issues contain stories where girls are featured more prominently. More in-depth study of how literary culture shaped girls' national citizenships is required, and I am in the process of extending my study of boyhood festive citizenships to examine girls. Some of the Jacob Abbott examples show girls participating in the same celebrations as boys, but the girls frequently do not become as involved in the more dangerous aspects of the celebrations. 1850s books such as Warner's The Wide, Wide World show girls reading texts about the nation's founding fathers and applying lessons from these lives to their own.
4. Lowe argues that acknowledging culture's power can be a force for change: "This is not to argue that cultural struggle can ever be the exclusive site for practice; it is rather to argue that if the state suppresses dissent by governing subjects through rights, citizenship, and political representation, it is only through culture that we conceive and enact new subjects and practices in antagonism to the regulatory locus of the citizen-subject, by way of culture that we can question those modes of government" (22).
5. See David W. Blight's Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in the Jubilee for a discussion of Douglass's use of the "jubilee" of Emancipation in his speeches and writing before and after the Civil War—an example of another use of a festival or day of remembrance as a means of constructing national identity. Blight's Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory also provides an extensive discussion of how memory is shaped through the speeches and parades that commemorate significant national events.
6. See also Jill Lane's Blackface Cuba, 1840-1895, in which she argues that "blackface performance was a central vehicle for the expression of mestizaje as a national ideology" (3).
7. In researching this article, I examined issues of the Youth's Companion published between 1838 and 1854 and selected Fourth of July commentaries and articles. This article focuses on only a few examples and connects them to Jacob Abbott's independence episodes. This is, of course, a limited selection, and it would be worthwhile to examine how the Fourth is treated in other children's periodicals. I do think that the examples from Abbott are significant because of the wide circulation of his texts. Another example of an independence episode can be found in The Boat Club by William Taylor Adams. My research indicated that when articles noted the Fourth, the experiences of boys played a more significant role than those of girls. Therefore, this study is largely limited to periodical commentary that focuses on boys and boyhood citizenship, although part of what I suggest is that in the silences about girls' experiences of the Fourth there is an organizing of citizenship roles that occurs.
8. According to the Fourth of July Celebrations database (Heintze), "The first ‘official’ state celebration of the Fourth as recognized under resolve of a legislature occurred in Massachusetts in 1781. Boston was the first municipality (city/town) to officially designate July Fourth as a holiday, in 1783."
9. See especially "The Functions of the Rogue, Clown and Fool in the Novel" in The Dialogic Imagination (158-67).
11. Davis explains, "The collective uses of the streets and open spaces are now determined almost entirely by the interests of private enterprise" (172-73). When public spaces are used by the community, the uses are carefully managed. See also Lauren Berlant's discussion of planning and gay pride parades in The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: "the planned, distanced, and ultimately contained nature of the form offers only momentary displacement of heterosexual norms" (7).
12. During the 1860s and 1870s the focus on the dangers of the Fourth shifts, and boys' participation in such celebrations of citizenship is embraced, especially when boys design mischievous pranks that mirror the rebelliousness of the late-eighteenth-century revolutionaries. One example is Thomas Bailey Aldrich's Story of a Bad Boy. In this text Tom participates in a Fourth of July bonfire with the other boys of the town. He also plots to refurbish and fire cannons from the war of 1812, which have been silent for almost twenty years.
13. There are also narratives about girls' participations in the Fourth, and this is a subject for further study. Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins (1875), for example, shows Rose learning to become a healthy citizen by spending time with her seven boy cousins. In the Fourth of July episode published in this text, Rose marks the Fourth by trading places with her uncle's servant Phebe, a one-day inversion of class hierarchies. This episode also highlights the national origin of the family and juxtaposes their Scottish heritage with that of recent Chinese immigrants.
14. See David L. Greene's discussion of the periodical in R. Gordon Kelley's Children's Periodicals of the United States.
15. Labor historian David Roediger explores how adults used banners during independence celebrations in Wages of Whiteness:
Critically, white urban workers connected their freedom and their work. At the Independence Day celebration in 1788 of the ratification of the federal Constitution, parading Philadelphia craftsmen swelled with pride and linked their trades and political liberty. "By Unity We Support Society" punned the chairmakers' banner, while that of the hatters announced "With the Industry of the Beaver We Support Society." Old terms received new meanings and acquired wider currency to express pride and self-confidence. Mechanic had carried negative connotations before the revolutionary movement began, describing "low workmen" and "mean" or even "servile" workers. But, as Howard Rock put it, "For the mechanic, the Revolution catalyzed previous economic and political gains into a new and prideful sense of being active participants in the creation of a new republic."
The banners described in the above example suggest that even in their festive decorations, the workers proudly assent to being connected to their work. They declare their roles and their patriotic participation, but this identification simultaneously prevents them from becoming too unruly, lest they lose their means of livelihood as a result of indulging in too festive displays.
16. Smith explains,
so many Americans through so much of U.S. history have not possessed equal political rights that courts and executive officials have struggled to decide who was truly a citizen. They have responded at various times by legally dividing Americans into a bewildering range of categories, including not just birthright and naturalized citizens and state and U.S. citizens but also nonvoting citizens, "jurisdictional" citizens, "commercial" citizens, citizens subject to incarceration or deportation without due process owing to their race, denizens, U.S. nationals, and even colonial subjects. American citizenship, in short, has always been an intellectually puzzling, legally confused, politically charged and contested status.
17. The Chinese Exclusion Acts of the nineteenth century, the Mexican Deportation Acts of the early twentieth century, the Japanese internment policies, and the Patriot Acts provide examples.
18. See Raymond Williams's exploration of the uses and meanings of culture in Culture and Society.
19. Cultural historians and others have given attention to the connections between the child and the nation, but the last ten years have seen a substantial increase in attention to studies of childhood. Bernard Wishy's 1968 The Child and the Republic: The Dawn of Modern American Child Nurture provides an early example. See also Gail Schmunk Murray's American Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood and Anne Scott Macleod's American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.
20. Orders are from the Boston Daily Evening Transcript. The orders offer specific information about how and why traffic will be controlled during the celebrations: "Carriages will be excluded from Tremont, Park, Beacon, and Charles streets, while the Children's procession is passing" (1).
21. Abbott's Franconia books were widely read and circulated, and the boyhoods his series books construct influenced later writers of books about American boys. In Serialized Citizenships: Periodicals, Books, and American Boys, 1840-1911 (Scarecrow 2006), I discuss how Abbott's texts school boys in citizenship. I extend my argument here to consider how the time and space of an annual holiday open possibilities for boys to move outside their familiar citizenship patterns.
22. A title of an article in the Student and Schoolmate, a periodical that began publication in the 1850s and ran for the next two decades. In addition to articles that position child readers to align their political views of the racialized other with national policies, this periodical includes historical speeches and instructions about oratory along with advice about carriage of the body and hand gestures. Texts are supplied for oratorical performances, the kind of performances that occur during festive occasions such as the Fourth. The focus on political speeches suggests that boys, whether or not they had any future in politics, were taught to understand how careful oratory could persuade an audience.
23. I chose to discuss Abbott here because his texts were serialized in the Youth's Companion and also because they have been read as representative of the political and cultural middle ground of the 1830s and 1840s. Bernard Wishy notes, for example, that "nationally read writers as Mrs. Lydia Sigourney or Jacob Abbott usually had a Congregational or Presbyterian background. They refused to go as far toward religious heterodoxy as William Ellery Channing or Bronson Alcott but, nevertheless, they gradually abandoned much of the orthodoxy of their fathers" (21).
24. Spencer explains that the Veiled Prophet organization was formed in 1878 in response to a workers' strike and that members of the organization "considered themselves ‘guardians of tradition’ and viewed public celebrations as a means of educating their fellow citizens, especially members of the ethnic working class" (2).
25. In a property dispute that occurs within the school, Julius grabs a paper windmill that belongs to another boy. The other boy has told Julius that he must not touch it. Miss Mary claims that this is a case of robbery and therefore more serious than the other property disputes. She unequivocally gives the paper windmill back to the first boy.
26. See Howard Zinn's discussion of how the language used to describe the U.S./Mexico war focused on claiming property and redefining ownership.
27. The celebrations near Boston would have been interesting ones to have attended in 1854. According to the Fourth of July Celebrations database (Heintz), "Henry David Thoreau gives a ‘Slavery in Massachusetts’ oration at Framingham Grove, near Boston; in Farmingham, Mass., 600 abolitionists meet and watch William Lloyd Garrison burn printings of the Constitution of the U.S. and Fugitive Slave law, amid ‘applause and cries of shame.’" See also Goetsch and Hurm's The Fourth of July: Political Oratory and Literary Reactions, 1776-1876.
Abbott, Jacob. Rollo at School. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, 1838.
Adams, William Taylor. The Boat Club. Boston: Brown, Bazin, 1855.
Aldrich, Thomas Bailey. Story of a Bad Boy. 1867.
"Another Meeting on July 6th: Afflicting Event." Youth's Companion 14.11 (24 July 1840): 42.
Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin: U of Texas P, 1987.
"Be Neat." Youth's Companion 25.10 (3 July 1851): 40.
Berlant, Lauren. The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1997.
Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989.
———. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001.
Boston Daily Evening Transcript. 3 July 1848.
Brodhead, Richard. "Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in Antebellum America." Representations 21 (Winter 1988): 67-96.
Brown, Gillian. "Child's Play." Differences 11 (Fall 1999): 76-106.
Cohoon, Lorinda B. "Necessary Badness: Reconstructing Post-Bellum Boyhood Citizenships in Our Young Folks and The Story of a Bad Boy." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 29.1/2 (Spring/Summer 2004): 5-31.
———. Serialized Citizenships: Periodicals, Books, and American Boys, 1840-1911. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006.
Davis, Susan G. Parades and Power: Street Theater in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1986.
"The Fair, or Fourth of July." Youth's Companion 14.11 (24 July 1840): 43-44.
"Give Your Child a Newspaper." Youth's Companion 25.11 (10 July 1851): 44.
"The Glorious Fourth." Youth's Companion 28.10 (29 June 1854): 37.
Goetsch, Paul, and Gerd Hurm, eds. The Fourth of July: Political Oratory and Literary Reactions, 1776-1876. Tubingen: G. Narr, 1992.
Heintze, James R. Fourth of July Celebrations Database, 29 May 2006 ‹http://gurukul.american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm›.
Kelley, R. Gordon. Children's Periodicals of the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1984.
Kidd, Kenneth. Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2004.
Lane, Jill. Blackface Cuba, 1840-1895. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2005.
Levander, Caroline. "‘Letting Her White Progeny Offset Her Dark One’: The Child and the Racial Politics of Nation Making." American Literature 76 (June 2004). 221-46.
Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1996.
Macleod, Anne Scott. American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1994.
"A Man's Eccentricities are His Faults." Youth's Companion 25.10 (3 July 1851): 40.
Murray, Gail Schmunk. American Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood. New York: Twayne, 1998.
Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia UP, 1996.
Roediger, David R. Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. Rev. ed. New York and London: Verso, 1999.
"Sabbath School Celebration, July 4th." Youth's Companion 14.11 (24 July 1840): 42.
Sánchez-Eppler, Karen. Dependent States: The Child's Part in Nineteenth-Century American Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005.
Smith, Roger M. Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1997.
Spencer, Thomas M. The St. Louis Veiled Prophet Celebration: Power on Parade, 1877-1995. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2000.
Warner, Susan. The Wide, Wide World. 1850. New York: Feminist Press, 1987.
Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society. 1958. New York: Columbia UP, 1983.
Wishy, Bernard. The Child and the Republic: The Dawn of Modern American Child Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1968.
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. 1980. New York: Harper, 1995.
Martin Gardner (essay date 1990)
SOURCE: Gardner, Martin. "John Martin's Book: An Almost Forgotten Children's Magazine." Children's Literature 18 (1990): 145-59.
[In the following essay, Gardner offers a critical introduction to the early twentieth-century magazine for children John Martin's Book.]
A few thousand older Americans from middle and upper income families have fond memories of a monthly magazine to which their parents subscribed when they were very young. It was called John Martin's Book. You'll not find it mentioned in any history of children's literature, although five pages are devoted to it in Children's Periodicals in the United States, a valuable reference edited by R. Gordon Kelly (Greenwood, 1984). Even oldsters who read it sixty years ago, or had it read to them, can tell you nothing about John Martin or the history of his remarkable periodical, yet in its time it was the most entertaining magazine published in this country for boys and girls aged five to eight. In many ways it was a pioneering publication.
There have been more than four hundred periodicals in the United States for young people of varying ages. The first, Children's Magazine, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1789 and died three issues later. By far the most influential was St. Nicholas, founded in 1873 by Mary Mapes Dodge, who is best known for her novel Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates.1 The only child's magazine of comparable literary quality in the United States today is Cricket. A glance through any issue of St. Nicholas from its golden years shows that it was intended for readers older than eight. After 1900 it even began to run articles for parents, including interviews with William Gladstone, Thomas Hardy, William Dean Howells, Henry Ward Beecher, and other notables who had nothing to do with children's literature. After Miss Dodge's death in 1905, St. Nicholas fell to a succession of owners and editors before it expired in 1943 as a picture magazine sold in five-and-dime stores. During the first two decades of this century, older children could still obtain the famous Youth's Companion. American Boy and Boy's Life were also available for older boys, but there simply was no magazine of quality for very small children. Even the monthly Child Life appealed to youngsters over the age of eight.
It was into this vacuum that John Martin's Book (hereafter JMB) entered in 1913. The key to this magazine's success was the unfeigned delight taken by its publisher and editor, and by his associate George Carlson, artist and puzzle-maker, in the child's intellect and imagination. They deemed the ability to "play" with one's mind worthy of adult respect. In 1921 (I was seven and a subscriber) I wrote to Martin for his autograph. He responded with typical zest by saying he would rather send it to me than to a king. More than thirty years later, when I was a contributing editor for eight years to Humpty Dumpty's Magazine, my main task was inventing what I called "gimmick pages"—activity features that involved cutting, folding, writing on, and otherwise damaging pages. For each issue I also wrote a short story, designed to be read aloud by an adult, about the adventures of Humpty Dumpty Junior. Junior, a small egg, was the son of the magazine's supposed editor, Humpty himself. I also wrote for each issue a poem of moral advice spoken by Humpty Senior to his son.2 Memories of JMB were my inspiration for the activity features I created. I took up, so to speak, where Carlson left off. Years later, when I began collecting issues of JMB (many of which I had not seen as a child), I was amazed by how many of my ideas Carlson had anticipated. I became increasingly curious about both Martin and Carlson, a pair who had so early addressed themselves to the imaginative needs of very young children and had brought some of the best free-lance writers and artists of the day into the venture with them.
John Martin, I discovered to my surprise, was a pseudonym. His real name was Morgan von Roorbach Shepard. What little is known about his life comes entirely from two sources: an interview with Allan Harding in American Magazine (August 1925) and three pages by Martin himself in the July 1923 issue of JMB. Although Morgan was born in Brooklyn in 1865, his first nine years were spent in poverty on a plantation in Maryland. His mother had married at age sixteen. "She was my playmate, teacher, and mother—all in one," Martin told his interviewer.
She and I lived in a world of our own; a world where fact and fancy went hand in hand. For instance, in the yard there was a bird house, occupied by a colony of martins. To me they were as real as a human family…. My mother talked of them by name: John and Joan, Robin, Alice, and a dozen or so more. John was the leader bird, and their house was John Martin's House. When the birds would return to their home from mysterious flights, they brought back tales of adventure which Morgan's mother would tell her son. That was the way my mother taught me geography. Sometimes they were stories of animals and birds and fishes, and so I learned natural history. Or tales of heroes and people who had lived a long time ago, and that was my introduction to human history. And best of all, these magic martins were intimately acquainted with fairies, and not at all averse to letting me know their secrets.
Morgan had nothing to say about his father, and I have been unable to learn anything about him. The death of his "beautiful girl mother" (as Morgan called her in 1923) when he was nine was a crushing blow; in a sense he never got over it, or the abrupt changes it brought about. "For several miserable years I was in a boarding school where I was manhandled, bullied, and misguided almost beyond endurance. I was frail in body and sick at heart." Goaded by desperation, he would fight back with "blind fury," tossing books and bottles, overturning chairs and tables. Off he was packed to another boarding school where he was better treated, though his loneliness and unhappiness persisted. In 1881 the sixteen-year-old was "dumped out into the world." For a long time he made what he calls "a queer hash of it."
Morgan took off for South America but got no farther than Central America, where he found himself involved in a revolution. He took the side of the "outs" and for a while was active in their cause, though he does not disclose either the cause or the country. Details about this phase of his life are unknown; indeed, it is not even known whether we can trust everything Morgan told his interviewer. From Central America, Morgan went to California, where he made soap-box speeches "always against somebody or something that was ‘in’ at the time." Years later, he said, the child readers of his magazine cured him of "that particular sickness, just as they have cured me of bodily ills."
In California, Morgan moved restlessly from job to job. "I worked in mines, punched cattle, herded sheep, dragged a chain for a surveying party, oiled engines, picked grapes, and bucked wheat sacks in the wake of a harvesting machine. All this … hardened me outside, and maybe softened me inside." He was fired as a streetcar conductor for giving free rides to children. After a short stint as a newspaper reporter, he worked as a bank clerk for more than thirteen "interminable years." Morgan likened himself in this hated job to "a man pulling an oar in a slave galley." A nervous collapse ended this phase of his life.
In partnership with a book dealer Morgan then started a small publishing house in San Francisco but gave it up in 1904. After a period in Europe, draining the money he had saved, he returned to San Francisco, where he opened a business designing greeting cards. The Crocker Building, in which he had his office, was demolished by the great 1906 earthquake, and with it the business. Morgan thereupon moved to New York City.
While recovering from an operation on his leg (it had been severely injured when he tried to retrieve possessions from his office after the quake) Morgan began to write and sell poems to children's magazines. Ill-educated and unlucky, torn between rebelliousness and the need to earn a living, he found continuing pleasure in writing long letters to children. The letters were signed John Martin, and henceforth we will call him by that name. Like Lewis Carroll, who also wrote for children under a pseudonym, Martin had a mild talent for drawing; unlike Carroll, his love of children extended to both sexes, not just to little girls. His letters would swarm with funny little pictures that illustrated whimsical stories. When he was with children he liked to ask them to make squiggly lines on paper while he jiggled their elbow, then he would add more lines to create what he called a "quiz-wiz" animal. In the twenties, JMB would run quiz-wiz competitions, giving prizes to children who sent the funniest drawing of an animal based on a published wiggly line.
In 1908 Martin asked himself: why not turn my letters into a small monthly periodical? With the addresses of a few hundred mothers, many of them supplied by his sister in Orange, New Jersey (I do not know if he had other siblings), he began to solicit subscriptions. The first printed letter, handwritten and illustrated by Martin, went to four subscribers. Soon he was mailing out two thousand.
Printed on tinted paper that varied in color from letter to letter, the contents were intensely personal, loving, sentimental, informal, chatty, and pious. Each letter opened with "My Dear …" followed by a space in which Martin would add the child's name. "How do you do?" the first letter began. "I hope you are very well, and as happy as can be. My name is John Martin. I love little Boys and Girls and I play with them too. I have had quite a good many birthdays, but I never grow very old—my heart stayed young. I can run fast and if I tumble down I get up and laugh some."
One finds in these letters almost all the ingredients that would later go into JMB. There are sentimental poems and tales about the beauty of nature, fairies, pets, mermaids, and knights, all with a strong emphasis on love and religious faith. It must be admitted that Martin's verse was doggerel on a level below that of Edgar Guest, but a child could understand every word. God is often invoked, as in Martin's most frequently anthologized poem, "God's Dark," though seldom with reference to any particular faith.3 For moral instruction the letters introduced a family called the Chubbies, modeled on Gelett Burgess's popular books about a family called the Goops. The Goops were ill-mannered youngsters whose beastly habits were described in verse by Burgess, of purple-cow fame. By contrast, Martin's Chubbies were good, well-behaved, plump little children who became a staple feature of JMB. The following jingle by Martin, accompanying a picture in the August 1919 issue of moon-faced Chubbies going off to school, is typical:
The Chubbies love the life they live
And all the goodness in it,
And they are always punctual,
Exactly on the minute.
They never waste my time or yours
And make us wait or worry.
But still they don't get out of breath
With needless rush and hurry.
Martin's letters also anticipated the activity features that would play such a major role in JMB: secret codes, riddles, rebuses, puzzles, and pages to be folded or cut. A 1910 letter introduced what mathematicians call a dissection puzzle, so clever that it would be used scores of times in later years as an advertising premium. There are four polygonal shapes to be cut out and formed into a large T. "If you can do this puzzle in 10 minutes let me know," Martin wrote. He urged his readers to trace the shapes on transparent paper, paste them on white cardboard, and carefully cut them out. "Of course you can cut the pieces out of my letter, but that would make it all holey and raggerty and words on the other side of your puzzle page would be all gone…." This emphasis on the pleasure a child gets from mental effort was more than guesswork; Martin always kept in close touch with his readers. Throughout his years as editor of JMB he spent "working vacations," as he called them, on the beaches of Nantucket, where he sat under a large blue umbrella with the initials "J. M." on it. He liked to hide 500 Chinese coins in the sand, offering a prize to the child who found the most. He would give away 500 free tickets for ice-cream cones. "It isn't good sporting to ask for these tickets," he said in his 1925 interview. "Children are natural grafters, but they are better natural sports if you'll give them a chance. If a child asks for one, he doesn't get it. Five hundred goodly doings that are worth something get as many cone tickets out of me."
After four years of success, Martin changed the name of his periodical from John Martin's Letters to John Martin's Book. The first issue appeared late in 1912, published by John Martin's House, 5 West 39th Street, Manhattan. (A British edition was distributed by G. Bell and Sons.) Pre-1920 issues are now extremely rare. The earliest in my collection, October 1913, has 96 pages on heavy stock, without pagination. Beneath the title are the words "A magazine for little children." The price is 25 cents.4 The cover picture of Eeny, Meeny, Miny, and Mo is by Martin; beneath is the couplet:
All Life Is Full of Fun—Hurray!
Who Cares for Care? Let's Laugh and Play.
Those lines set the tone for all the later issues. No editor ever cared less about winning the praise of librarians. "Children want someone who will play with them," Martin said in his interview. "They want to play in their minds and their imaginations, just as my own wonderful mother played with me…. Most grown people have sat on their imaginations so long and so hard that they have crushed the life out of them. A child's beautiful world of Make-Believe is a place they don't even try to enter. Many children, knowing that average adults do not understand, live a whole secret existence in the world of Make-Believe. They are alone and unguided there. Yet it is the one realm where they can be most receptive and most responsive." Martin saw his readers not as romantic children trailing clouds of glory but as children whose secret world was a region that should be expanded by loving adults who could share it and direct it as his own mother had done.
The stories in the October 1913 issue range from realism to pure fantasy. Martin contributes an article that purports to be a letter from his dog Rubber, explaining how to tell what a dog is feeling by the postures and movements of its tail. This is followed by Martin's poem against cruelty to pets, and a decalogue of commandments on how to treat your dog. The issue reprints the T puzzle Martin had introduced three years earlier in one of his letters. Cut-outs such as this, which would become increasingly abundant in later years, show how little concern Martin had for library sales. No library wants a magazine that is likely to be mutilated, but Martin did not mind in the least. Nor did he seek income from advertising products he disliked. All the ads were written by Martin, or under his supervision, and in a way that made them seem like pages that were not advertising. He refused all ads for chewing gum, a habit he considered harmless but vulgar.
From the outset Martin had the able editorial assistance of Helene Jane Waldo, who remained with him until the magazine's final issue in 1933. JMB certainly did not compare with St. Nicholas in its number of famous writers, but there were a few: Thornton Burgess, author of many books of animal tales; Conrad Richter, a New Mexican novelist; and Grace Adele Pierce, whose book The Prairie Queen reprinted stories she wrote for JMB. We should realize, however, that famous authors seldom write for five-year-olds; contributors of fiction to JMB, though not distinguished, were probably as good as any available at the time for the magazine's age level.
The art work was on a higher level. Among the leading graphic artists who drew for JMB were the Gruelle brothers. Johnny Gruelle was the author and illustrator of the popular Raggedy Ann books, and his brother Justin contributed even more frequently to JMB, not only art but also stories and verse. Jack Yeats, brother of William Butler Yeats, wrote and illustrated pirate tales. William Wallace Denslow, best known for his color plates in the first edition of L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz, drew pictures for poems that appeared in the July and September 1915 and September 1916 issues.
Another frequent contributor to JMB, both as a writer and artist, was Frank Verbeck, who illustrated Baum's Magical Monarch of Mo. In the April 1927 issue Wanda Gag—she became famous the following year for her best-seller Millions of Cats—published a clever story, "Bunny's Funny Easter Eggs," in which italicized words were used for solving a crossword puzzle.
The most important artist associated with JMB was George Carlson, a prolific illustrator who had been trained at the New York Academy of Design. A list of his books would run to almost a hundred titles. Dozens of them were novelty paperbacks, many published by Platt and Munk. they included coloring books, paint-with-water books, connect-the-dots books, maze books, how-to-draw books, a series about Uncle Wiggily, and books of riddles, games, and crossword puzzles.
Carlson also drew for St. Nicholas, Youth's Companion, Judge, Scribner's Magazine, and other periodicals. He was responsible for many of the hidden-picture pages in Child Life, and for twelve years he was puzzle editor of the Girl Scouts' American Girl. He had a regular puzzle page in a comic book called Famous Funnies and contributed features to some forty issues of Jingle-Jangle Comics. The two published issues of his own Puzzle-Fun Comics (1946) are now extremely rare collector's items.5
Here is a partial list of the juvenile fiction he illustrated: Chandler Oakes's Toby Town; Gene Stone's June and the Owl and Adventures of Jane; Johanna Spyri's Toni the Little Woodcarver and Tiss, a Little Alpine Waif; John Martin's five Read Out Loud Books; J. L. Sherard's Blueberry Bear and Blueberry Bear's New Home; Mary Patterson's Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (retelling Washington Irving's stories); and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. In my opinion his most impressive work was the set of full-color plates tipped into Elizabeth Blanche Wade's novel The Magic Stone. Among the jackets he designed for adult novels was the jacket for the first edition of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, still seen today on hardcover editions. Twenty-two years younger than Martin, Carlson was 75 when he died in 1962.
When JMB was first started, Carlson was merely a friend of Martin's and an occasional illustrator for the magazine. Soon he became the magazine's most frequent cover artist, drawing more than fifty covers for the February 1918 issue. Carlson also created almost all the magazine's puzzles, activities, jokes, and riddles. He was responsible for an enormous variety of "gimmick" pages of a sort never before attempted in a child's magazine. There were pictures that turned into something else when you inverted the page. There were optical illusions, shaped poems, cut-outs that cast startling shadow pictures on the wall, stories with blanks in which children put their own adjectives. There were pictures that changed in funny ways when the page was folded and hundreds of cut-outs. Little doors would open, strips would slide back and forth through slots, disks pinned to a page would rotate to make amusing changes.
There were pictures with captions that could be read by holding the page to a mirror. There were instructions for folding origami animals and for making ink-blot pictures and simple cardboard or wooden toys. There were connect-the-dots, rebuses, anagrams, ciphers, puns, crossword puzzles, science experiments. Walter Gibson, who later wrote books about magic and created radio's famous mystery series about the Shadow, supplied mazes that formed animals when you drew the correct path.
My own favorite as a child was Carlson's monthly page called "Peter Puzzlemaker". Martin introduced the feature (October 1918) by saying that he sometimes had to tell Peter his puzzles were too hard. "We want our puzzles to be just hard enough to make you work over them, but easy enough to solve before you get fidgety and impatient." In addition to a simple puzzle, each picture contained a mistake that you tried to find before the next issue revealed it. The mistakes were amusing and clever: a keyhole upside down, tallow dripping upward on a candle, a rake's handle that went behind a fist instead of through it, a star inside a crescent moon, an extra finger on a hand, smoke and a weather vane showing the wind blowing opposite ways, a cat without whiskers, a book with its title on the back cover, and so on.
A collection of these puzzle pages were issued by John Martin's House in 1922 as Peter Puzzlemaker. Readers were asked to cut out a large paper padlock from page 7 and paste it over the edges of the answer section to prevent peeking. No better collection of puzzles for young children was ever published. Why has it never been reprinted? The material remains fresh, and even Carlson's cartoon style has a refreshingly quaint period quality. It is unobjectionable to today's children who, like children in all ages, are indifferent to fashionable art trends. If a reprint sold well, it could be followed by a dozen other books of later Peter Puzzlemaker pages.
Throughout its history John Martin's House published many hardcover volumes, notably a series called John Martin Big Books that reprinted stories and articles from the magazine. Activity features were also reprinted in hardcovers, impossible to find today because most of them were designed to be destroyed. Titles include The Fold-Up Book, The Jolly Book, Handy Hands Book, Something to Do Book, Some Fun to Make Book. A volume called The In-and-Out and Up-and-Down Book had holes in the pages, tiny doors that opened, and a text that ran down one page and up the other.
When Martin was interviewed in 1925 he said his magazine's circulation was 40,000. "I don't make money out of it. Most of my alleged salary as editor is turned back at the end of the year to help cover the customary deficit. I am the richest and happiest man on earth, however, for my ledgers show a big profit in joy giving and getting."
In July 1928 the format of JMB expanded from 7 1/4 by 9 inches to 9 by 12, and pagination was adopted for the first time. In 1932 Martin moved his cluttered office to Concord, New Hampshire, where his magazine expired the following year. A story in Time (August 1, 1932) entitled "Child-Man" had announced that magazine publisher George T. Delacorte, Jr., planned to issue a new publication called The Children's Magazine. It would be for readers aged five to eight, sell for ten cents in the Kresge and Kress chain-stores, and have John Martin as editor. I do not know if this magazine ever appeared, or if it did, whether any copies have survived. Time described Martin as "small, wiry, baldish" and a chain-smoker. "He speaks confusingly about himself as a dual personality: ‘altruist, idealist, and hardboiled, almost unmoral’" (Morgan Shepard).
John Martin died in 1947 at the Player's Club in New York City, of which he had long been a member. He was 82. An obituary in the New York Times disclosed that in 1900 he married Mary Elliott Putnam, who died in 1942. In spite of his often cloying sentimentalism, his pious doggerel, and his frequent "writing down" to readers, Martin had great insight into a small child's interests and sense of fun; above all, he had the wisdom to give his friend Carlson free rein. He had no children, except of course the scores of thousands who enjoyed his magazine, among whom I unashamedly count myself.
1. See Paul Rossa's article on St. Nicholas, "The Magazine That Taught Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Millay How to Write," in American Heritage, December 1985.
2. "Never Make Fun of a Turtle, My Son" (Simon and Schuster, 1969) was a collection of these poems, with Junior's name altered to Tom or Rose.
3. The poem can be found in God's Dark and Other Bedtime Verses and Stories (1927). Martin wrote at least two other books of verse: Aesop's Fables in Rhyme (1924) and A Jolly Big Alphabet (1913).
4. The imaginative format of this issue—large type, lots of "air" on the pages, no page numbers, and one-color overlays (the color varying from issue to issue)—remained unchanged until 1928, when the magazine went to an even larger size. No format could have been less like that of St. Nicholas, where the type became smaller, color was diminished, and photographs started to appear.
Susan R. Gannon (essay date 1997)
SOURCE: Gannon, Susan R. "‘The Best Magazine for Children of All Ages’: Cross-Editing St. Nicholas Magazine (1873-1905)." Children's Literature 25 (1997): 153-80.
[In the following essay, Gannon examines how St. Nicholas Magazine addressed both juvenile and adult readers, stating that the "significant secondary audience of adults—a key factor in the success of any literary magazine for children—raises a number of problems."]
The Children's Magazine: A "Space in Between"
In its "golden age" under the guidance of founding editor Mary Mapes Dodge, St. Nicholas Magazine was considered the finest literary magazine for children ever produced.1 Many would say it has yet to be surpassed. In her celebrated article "Children's Magazines," written for Roswell Smith of Scribner's Monthly just before she undertook her editorial duties on St. Nicholas, Dodge stressed the importance of measuring the contents of a publication to the child's needs. "A child's magazine is its pleasure-ground," she said. "Let there be no sermonizing … no wearisome spinning out of facts, no rattling of the dry bones of history." She expressed concern that "the little magazine-readers find what they look for and be able to pick up what they find." "Boulders," she said, "will not go into tiny baskets" (353). Yet there was always a fair amount of discreet sermonizing in St. Nicholas, and the magazine was, in fact, addressed not only to children but to a very important audience of adults.
This significant secondary audience of adults—a key factor in the success of any literary magazine for children—raises a number of problems. For one, the "adult" implied in the diverse fictions, features, and editorial projects of the magazine is as elusive an abstraction as the "child" to be found there. Such constructs conceal as much as they reveal of the complex motivations, ideological assumptions, and lived experience from which they arise. Jacqueline Rose has spoken eloquently about the way the enterprise of children's fiction "hangs on" "the impossible relation between adult and child," "setting up a world in which the adult comes first (author, maker, giver) and the child comes after (reader, product, receiver), but where neither of them enter the space in between" (1-2). The children's periodical—exemplified here by St. Nicholas—certainly shares that "impossibility" in the sense of being written and produced by adults for a primary and defining audience of children. But St. Nicholas was also for adults. And I think the magazine did offer its readers something of a "space in between," where differing—sometimes age-specific—visions of child-adult relations could be figured, tested, and vigorously discussed.
The care with which the magazine addressed its primary audience of children has been documented elsewhere.2 This paper explores less familiar territory: the way St. Nicholas catered to its significant secondary audience of adults and the importance of this audience as a presence in the magazine's reading environment. One popular strain of formula fiction that appears often in St. Nicholas—the fiction of benevolent intervention in which a caring adult rescues a dependent or needy child—will exemplify the way fiction in the magazine allowed adult and child read- ers to reflect on the issues of power and dependency so central to their relations. In terms of vocabulary, the presence of child role-models, illustration, and even many details of address, such stories look child-oriented. Yet they were constructed to offer the possibility of an alternative kind of reading for adults. I will examine a sampling of such stories, looking in some detail at two pieces written by Lucy G. Morse, whose work Dodge particularly admired. Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy became a best-selling novel perhaps in part because of the enthusiasm with which Dodge used her "pulpit" in St. Nicholas to promote it and to encourage a particular way of reading it. A study of Dodge's editorial handling of this novel will suggest the way young and old were drawn into a community of readers whose vivid responses to Burnett's novel raise compelling questions about the image of childhood it presented to them.
Editing St. Nicholas for the Adult Reader
In November 1873 the innovative magazine for adults, Scribner's Monthly, proclaimed the arrival of Scribner and Company's new magazine for children, St. Nicholas: "Whether we shall lead the little child, or the little child shall lead us, remains to be seen; but it will be pleasant to have him at our side, to watch his growth and development, and to minister, as we may, to his prosperity…. Wherever ‘Scribner’ goes, ‘St. Nicholas’ ought to go. They will be harmonious companions in the family, and the helpers of each other in the work of instruction, culture and entertainment" (Erisman 378). Having made clear that they envisioned America's premier magazine for children as family fare, the publishers sought testimonials from prominent educators, ministers, and men of letters endorsing the magazine as fine family reading, with something for everyone. Bayard Taylor reported that all the members of his "old homestead were charmed with the volume." Dr. R. Shelton MacKenzie, of the Philadelphia Press, admitted he had "found heaps of things in St. Nicholas" that he "had forgotten, had imperfectly known, or had been wholly ignorant of," so, he conceded, "I too, sit at the feet of Gamaliel." And Charles Dudley Warner vowed that "the best magazine for children of all ages" was actually even more entertaining for grown people than some of the quarterlies ("What Some Eminent Men Think of St. Nicholas" 1).
Adults were addressed unmistakably in much of the commercial and editorial advertising for the magazine. The ads for clothing, services, medicines, self-help projects, reading matter, and games suggest a readership presumed to be ambitious, hard-working, concerned about its health, interested in the liberal Christian press, well traveled, and often in a position to make decisions about the furnishing of schools, churches, and other institutions. The editorial advertising assumes adult readers will be civilized, literate, pious in a general way, and anxious to do all that might be possible to place children in their care in the best position to achieve security and success in a difficult world. "A Word to Subscribers" in one early issue proclaims the magazine's "necessity" "to every home-circle," noting the "healthy, earnest, and inspiriting occupation, the practical and hopeful views of life, the lessons in correct taste, the habits of inquiry and investigation, the awakening of new interest—in short, the varied instruction and pleasure afforded by St. Nicholas, all tending toward a thorough and general improvement" (2). Parents were told that the magazine presented the work of the finest authors and illustrators money could buy, and that its volumes represented the core of a fine home library. Editorial ads boasted of the "galaxy of eminent men and women" that St. Nicholas "by some hook or crook beguiled into writing for its lucky children" ("True Story," 7), including such luminaries of the adult literary world as Alcott, Twain, Burnett, Longfellow, Kipling, Whittier, Tennyson, and certainly a great many of the most popular writers for Scribner's Monthly (later the Century). And prominent illustrators of the day were said to have contributed pictures that were "often works of real art, not only as engravings, but as compositions of original design" ("True Story," 8).
Editorial comment in St. Nicholas, whether in Dodge's "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" column, the "Letter-Box," later book reviews, or the occasional note to readers, appeals to the adult, either directly, or "over the shoulder of" the child reader. When Dodge's son, James M. Dodge, spoke at commencement exercises of a school in Philadelphia, his address, "The Money Value of Training," was printed in St. Nicholas with an editorial commendation to the attention of "the older boy readers … and their parents" (57). Everywhere in the editorial departments there are humorous asides, jokes, and solemn nonsense that only an adult would be likely to "get." One hellishly hot August, for example, Dodge produced a solemn parody of her usually earnest "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" column for those who could enjoy it (the parents), and dismissed her young readers to run and play rather than bother to read it (St. Nicholas, Aug. 1875, 648-49). Often, information about books and services for children or about deserving charities would be di- rected to parents. If letters printed in the "Letter-Box" provided a group self-image for the juvenile readers (Gannon and Thompson 117-18), adults could share the contributions of like-minded parents and guardians who encouraged their children's critical thinking by discussing with them the magazine's contents. The letters from such ordinary caretakers were supplemented by communications from celebrities and experts in different fields, all written in the St. Nicholas mode—which was friendly, uncondescending, intelligent, and positive.
Dodge was aware that few editors succeeded at editing for parents and their children. She thought that most children's magazines were, if anything, too timidly edited "for the approval of fathers and mothers," the result being "a milk-and-water variety of the adult's periodical" (352). Dodge eliminated material she thought might be sectarian, politically divisive, or morally offensive to her readership (Gannon and Thompson 138-50). But her editorial policies were less stodgy than those of her editorial colleague at the Century, Richard Gilder, who was notorious as the editor who trimmed and polished Huckleberry Finn for his readers. Dodge was not prudish, and she often praised books she had cut for her own pages when they appeared, without those cuts, in hard covers. Like other magazine editors of her time and place, Dodge seemed to feel that she had entered into a sort of unspoken contract with her subscribers that whatever appeared under her aegis would be wholesome and improving. And she appreciated the risk that purchasers of St. Nicholas took when they bought a whole package of readings because it had her imprimatur. As another well-known editor of the period put it, "The buyer of a magazine buys a variety of literature. He may buy it for one thing, yet have another, for which he also pays, thrust upon him. The buyer of a book on the other hand knows—or should know—what he is getting in for" (Burlingame 83).
There is evidence that many contributors expected their work to be read by the young and the old. While writing Jack and Jill for Dodge, Louisa May Alcott confided to her, "Fathers & Mothers tell me they use my books as helps for themselves, so now & then I like to slip in a page for them, fresh from the experience of some other parent" (Alcott 237). John T. Trowbridge noted that he "was sometimes amused by hearing of a parent carrying home the periodical containing an installment of one of … [his] serials, and hiding it from the younger members of the household until he had enjoyed the first reading of the chapters." In fact, Trowbridge thought that "one secret of their success" was that his stories, "written ostensibly for the young, were intended for older readers as well" (My Own Story, 331). Realistic fiction like Trowbridge's sometimes needed to be cut in order to pass muster with the more censorious segment of the adult audience. Dodge's friend Lucy Morse felt it necessary to address the adult readership's possible alarm at their children's being exposed to the speech of the New York streets in her story "The Ash-Girl." She opened the story by telling young readers they were about to read a painful and possibly disturbing story about a girl who "saw a kind of life from which your parents would shield you with loving tenderness." Morse added, "I shall have to repeat the language she used, and perhaps, tell you of some of the things she saw and heard; but if you will read my story carefully to the end, I do not believe it will hurt you" (386). Working-class speech, immigrants' accented speech, or regional speech appear in much of the magazine's realistic fiction, and it is pretty clear that house standards simply required that such effects be toned down to a tolerable level. More problematic was colorful slang of the sort children might pick up and quote. This tended to be cut, when possible.3
Behavior that might offer a bad example to children was also censored. In the magazine's illustrations, Gellett Burgess's goops were not allowed to stick their tongues out, Twain's Huck and Tom could not go barefoot, and a maiden's skirts could not swirl immodestly above her ankles (Gannon and Thompson 138-41). Indeed, Dodge, like other editors of the period, was adept at deflecting attention from risky material by providing innocuous illustrations for it. For one Trowbridge serial she refused to allow a drunk scene to be illustrated and—over the author's protests—had his rough-and-tumble heroes depicted as fresh-faced innocents.4 Titles that might attract the wrong sort of attention from adult readers became anathema at St. Nick. When Frank Stockton offered her a series with the word pirate in its title, Dodge sweetly replied, "You will probably suggest a better title. You see we don't mind telling about Pirates … but to say ‘Pirate’ in one's title provokes the wrath of parents and guardians at the very outset of a serial's career. We have done it—but it is … hardly safe to do it again."5 A number of Dodge's letters from contributors explore alternatives to plot situations she had indicated might draw the wrath of parents. Thomas Nelson Page expressed concern that an incident in a story could be considered "contra bonos mores" by Dodge, and he offered to omit a potentially offensive word and have a character remove the bullets from a gun if that would mend matters.6
In a lightly fictionalized sermon on reading by S. S. Pratt called "A ‘Diet of Candy’ by the Mother of a ‘Devouring Reader,’" a boy who skims his monthly issue of St. Nick, reading only the "candy" or immediately appealing selections, is reminded of the excellent things he has skipped in the issue he has just "finished." The piece shows mothers how to guide their children's reading while subtly suggesting that an intelligent woman might also profit from reading St. Nicholas herself. Little Arthur's mother is "one of that army of busy mothers who spend the whole day working for home and children, and in the evening snatch a brief hour in which to feed their own hungry minds" (557). She reads history in her spare time and asks him to read a historical serial aloud to her, insisting, "I am as much interested in it as you" (557). She concludes her homily with a warning that "if you allow your love for stories full sway, it may entirely destroy your taste for anything else" (559) and compares Arthur's literary preferences to those of a woman she'd heard of who sent her daughter to the public library each week, telling her "to look into the book" and "if there are lots of ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs,’ I shall be sure to like it." The lesson on taste here is, as the crucial comparison suggests, not limited to children. But Dodge preferred to teach by indirection, and she advised readers that "it is by the subtle something which we call atmosphere, rather than by direct teaching, that the home molds a child. The chief business of a mother is to surround a child with beautiful influences."7 And how better to do that than by sharing the best of children's magazines with her offspring? In 1875, Mrs. J. G. Burnett offered mothers a Dickensian Christmas reverie in which, drowsing over her issue of St. Nick, the narrator is shown how a series of parents and parent-surrogates from various social backgrounds read the magazine with their charges. Like "A ‘Diet of Candy,’" this article is a kind of sermon for parents and caretakers on the importance of their role in mediating the cultural message of St. Nicholas. It is clear that the editors of the magazine saw the scene of its reception as an interaction between children and the significant nurturers in their lives—an interaction that replicated the lively multivoiced conversation about the contents of the journal found in its editorial departments and Letter-Box columns. The adult reader in pieces like those by Pratt and Burnett is offered an idealized self-image as a cultural gatekeeper on the model of Dodge herself. To borrow a phrase from Jacqueline Rose in which she describes the positioning of the child, this sort of article "draws in" the adult reader; it "secures, places, and frames" that reader as an enlightened agent of the magazine's editorial program (2).
When, at one point, little Arthur in "A ‘Diet of Candy’" reminded his mother of how she had sneaked off to enjoy St. Nicholas by herself, she laughed and said, "It was not generous I know, but that very act proves my high opinion of stories. They have their place in literature, and a noble one it is; not a serial in St. Nicholas but has some strong and true lesson within it; something that should make one better and purer" (559). But how exactly did St. Nicholas's fiction try to make its adult readers "better and purer"? Obviously, parents were urged "to feed their own hungry minds," to procure the best reading for their children and share it intelligently with them, but a major editorial aim in the selection of fiction, art, and poetry directed toward the adult audience in St. Nicholas was to stimulate in them attitudes toward children the editors thought desirable. Dodge used her pulpit in St. Nicholas effectively to publicize organized charities, but she looked to individual charity to provide much relief to marginal, dependent, and powerless children. So she put special stress on presenting children in a way that would appeal to adult sympathy. Very often, especially in the early days of the magazine, Dodge would supply a frontispiece with a picture of an attractive child together with an essay that would set the picture in heart-tugging context.8 And she published a great many poems and stories that seem to exist only to describe children as innocently touching parental sensibilities because of their weakness, tininess, and inability to speak correctly. Infants were described fondly as naughty little darlings, bewitching in a baby way ("Lolly Dinks's Doings" 190), who could give "a zest and charm" to life "beyond the power of any caterer" (Johnson 604) if they were allowed to lisp and dimple their ways into grown-up hearts. Dodge knew such saccharine material had limited appeal to other children, but she believed that adults wanted it and that it would motivate them to do good. In an unpublished letter Dodge wrote to Louise Chandler Moulton, which notes that Moulton's "Prince Oric"—a poem of pure, unadulterated baby worship—would soon be introduced to St. Nick's young readers, she assured Moulton that "if they do not quite understand the situation I feel sure their elders will."9
Formula Fiction Addressed to Adults
The great bulk of the short fiction in St. Nicholas was formulaic—repetitive in character, plot, and thematics. As R. Gordon Kelly has pointed out, such fiction expressed the anxieties of adults in a time of rapid social, technological, economic, and cultural change, and offered a variety of scenarios for resolv- ing tension and reaffirming "the values, expectations, assumptions, hero types, and needs" of the genteel elite who made up the pool of contributors, editors, and many of the subscribers of the magazine (Mother, 35). Formula fiction in St. Nicholas often addressed the passing on of values thematically, particularly in the form of stories in which an adult intervenes benevolently in a needy child's affairs. And many of these stories seem to have been addressed primarily to adults, though they were accessible to children.
Adult readers, as Peter Hunt has noted, "can never share the same background (in terms of reading and life experience) as children" and often have different purposes in reading (Hunt 46). Innocent and experienced readers are likely to understand these stories differently for "perceptions of narrative patterns, and much else, are based on an appeal to a common culture, and the culture of the primary readers of children's literature" is not the adult's (74). Reading such a formulaic story can be like looking at one of those pictures of duck/rabbit, old woman/young girl whose meaning depends on selective attention to certain visual signals and repression of others. Such a picture is susceptible to three quite different kinds of reading: either "trick image" may be seen as dominant, or the viewer may choose to look at the whole as a set of shapes, colors, and lines capable of being construed variously. An adult might be programmed by reading and life experience to see one of these stories as describing a benevolent "colonizing" project—what Kelly calls a "gentry mission"—in which a character effects the conversion of others to elite values, often with significant cultural consequences for both readers and those who were the objects of the gentry mission. A child, coming to the same reading, might recognize it as a familiar "Cinderella" story in which the protagonist's intrinsic merit is recognized and rewarded by those in power.
Of course, the critic who stands back from the formulaic story, resolutely determined to see neither duck nor rabbit, child nor crone, may be troubled by the flickering return of images that embody hidden and painful contradictions: children rescued miraculously from need are inducted into the very establishment that created their problems; the young learn to leverage their neediness into a powerful claim on their elders by a calculated presentation of their own "innocence." The critical viewer might even, for the briefest of moments, get a hint of the secret on which both versions of the story turn: that if children need adults, adults also need children—their cooperation, docility, and innocence, as well as their resistance, awkward questions, and waywardness.
Fred Erisman has quite properly described certain character "traits deemed important" in the great bulk of St. Nicholas's fiction. As he sees them, the youngsters in St. Nicholas "respect duty, keep an open mind, are unquestionably honest, are thrifty and industrious, and above all are unwaveringly self-reliant" (386). But in stories designed to arouse the humanitarian sympathies of the adult reader, such qualities may be more a matter of demonstrated potential than achievement. In order to make adult readers feel the urge to help, support, and reward young people, such stories tend to stress the helplessness of these promising children in the face of overwhelming problems. And the ante is raised by the children's innocent inability to understand the darker side of experience. There are a number of signals that such tales are directed primarily to adults and only secondarily to children. Children tend not to be the focal characters, and they do not say much. They are primarily acted upon rather than acting, and they don't determine the outcome of their experience. They are sometimes strikingly limited, babyish in their speech, and so forth. The adult response to the child's appeal is elaborated upon and carefully modeled for the reader. Frequently, such pieces use fairly adult vocabulary and sophisticated narrative techniques. And it is common that the stories turn on or end in a deliberate attempt to evoke a response (often tears) by an adult.
St. Nicholas had its own variation on the familiar Victorian "waif" story in which a poor child is rescued from cold, starvation, and exploitation. In these stories the child's support system has been lost or badly compromised. The child is often isolated, dirty, tired or ill, and barely able to communicate. Though religious motives are sometimes cited by the benefactors, the rescue that takes place is more likely to center on assimilation into a middle-class family than on a religious conversion. When the child is asked the inevitable question "What is your name?" the answer is often, "They call me … [an epithet, or ugly nickname]." At a key moment in the story, the child is often given a new or more presentable name.
"Patches" by Rosa Graham shows this sort of story in its simplest form. Here a little girl is peddling strawberries door to door. The woman of the house notices the child is starving, although the girl carries boxes of delicious berries. When Aunt Ruth realizes the child has resisted the tempting berries because to eat them would be dishonest, "a fountain" swells in her "kind heart" (774). She wastes no time, but bathes, feeds, reclothes, and adopts the child, pledg- ing to teach and love her. Aunt Ruth is rewarded eventually as little "Patches," rechristened "Mamie," grows up to be "an industrious little body" who tries "her best to lighten the labors of the good woman to whom she owed so much" (774).
In "The Kind Turkey-Man" by Sergent Flint, a little girl is walking along toward the city on a cold evening. She is picked up by a man taking his turkeys to market. She touches his heart with her story: she had been rejected by those to whose care her father had abandoned her and now was vaguely seeking a "cousin" in the city somewhere. The farmer leaves her at a marketplace and later sees her tempted to steal an apple, resisting the temptation, and collapsing from hunger. He takes her home to his wife, and in a move common in such stories, they adopt her to replace a little girl they have lost named, like the waif, Mary.
Two stories by Dodge's good friend, Lucy G. Morse, demonstrate the way the basic waif story could be elaborated upon. In "The Ash-Girl," an orphaned little beggar-girl—a real-life Cinderella who makes her living by picking over the ashes set out in the New York streets—decides to conduct a house-to-house search for a real mother. "Cathern" is turned away from door after door, but she finally sees a small coffin being carried out of a house, pushes her way past the servant at the door, and begs the grieving mother to adopt her. The first part of the story addresses child readers forcefully using Cathern as a focal character, and it develops in agonizing detail the thoughts, hopes, and fears of the little girl throughout her search, which is full of disappointments and dead ends. In the latter stages of the story, however, the "mother" she chooses, Mrs. Percy, becomes the focal character. Though she drew away and turned her face to the wall as the child's meaning dawned upon her, "when she turned again and saw the weak little frame trembling from head to foot, and heard her desolate cry, she suddenly knelt down, spread wide her arms, and cried: ‘Come, come to me! It is as if my child cried out to me from heaven! Put your little head, so, upon my breast, and I will be as true—as true a mother to you as I can’" (392). The major illustration for this story is of "Cathern and the Lady," but Cathern stands in shadow and the lady in the foreground, her face turned to the light, not yet able to look at the little girl. She seems just roused from her grief. The ragged child looks quite out of place in the gracious parlor filled with plants and flowers, lace curtains and fine carpets. She stares intently at Mrs. Percy, who seems still dazed and numb. Though Morse specifically addressed the story to children at the outset, its moral is perhaps as much aimed at mothers like Mrs. Percy as toward younger readers: "I hope rather it will make you think, when you see the little streetsweepers, beggars, or poor children, that there may be hidden away under all their rough exterior, tender, warm feelings, and hearts that are taught through suffering to be pure and true" (386).
But the sequel to "The Ash-Girl," "Cathern," seems predominantly addressed to mothers, especially at first, and thematically it is concerned with problematizing the process of mothering itself, as Mrs. Percy, for all her good intentions, proves to be not the perfect mother Cathern had dreamed of after all. "Cathern," published a year after the first story, shows that washing, feeding, clothing, and renaming a little vagrant is easier than teaching her to be a gracious, motherly person herself. Having impulsively promised to be a mother to the little girl, Mrs. Percy is unwilling to go back on her word, but for a time the child keeps opening up old wounds. A full appreciation of the story requires that the adult reader understand and sympathize with Mrs. Percy's feelings and see matters from her point of view. A now well-dressed and rosy "Kathleen" assumes she has indeed found a "real" mother who feels toward her as she had toward her own child, but the reader is meant to see clearly how poor a substitute she is for angelic little Mabel Percy. When Kathleen, still very much the street urchin, goes out for a walk with Mrs. Percy, she evens old scores with the neighborhood children, jostles a passerby, and pushes an innocent baby into the gutter. Mrs. Percy realizes that civilizing and educating Kathleen in her religious and social responsibilities will not be easy, but she commits herself to this transformative task.
In the latter stages of this story, the focus shifts to the child's perspective. By the end of the story, Kathleen, her conscience having been awakened, has taken on the toddler she had pushed as her own special charge and has committed herself to becoming the little girl's "mother." But her epiphany comes in the bittersweet moment when she realizes that Mrs. Percy is only "playing" mother to her in much the same way that Kathleen is "playing" mother to baby Trudy. The stubborn self-reliance and enterprise that had sent "Cathern" out onto the streets to search for a mother comes to "Kathleen's" aid as she tells herself that if worst comes to worst, and she ends up on the streets again, she can support "her" baby by going back to begging. She is sobered by her new understanding of her relation to Mrs. Percy, but she gains the strength to find both her place in the world and her mission, which will be to mother as many of the lost and homeless as she can. This sequel critiques and interprets the simplicities of the earlier story. Just as "The Ash-Girl" offered young readers a story of enterprise rewarded, an updated kind of Cinderella story, this one demonstrates and approves the change of heart experienced by a maturing Kathleen. But it also offers adults a feeling picture of both the appeal and the cost of undertaking the sort of gentry mission that seemed in the first story to be proposed as a simple solution to a child's problems. In particular, "Cathern" suggests the real difficulties such an acculturation project may face because "mother" and "child" must yet learn to speak a common language, and it recognizes the existence of some perhaps unresolvable tensions between them.
Sometimes the appealing qualities displayed by hapless children in St. Nicholas's stories are simply a readiness and ability to profit from cultural education, with the adult merely intervening to reward a display of taste or talent. In Washington Gladden's "Angel in an Ulster," a kindly gentleman observes two children wistfully standing in front of a poster advertising an oratorio they wish they could hear. Attracted by their display of aesthetic interest, he finds that their family has fallen on hard times, and they have had to give up concerts and even their monthly St. Nicholas magazine. Needless to say, he sees that they have a merry Christmas, showering them with gifts and goodies, including a subscription to their favorite magazine. In Charles Barnard's "Tommy the Soprano," the young hero wakes up one cold Christmas morning to find the fire out and his mother ill. He faints while singing a beautiful solo at church, and his talent and self-discipline draw the kind attention of the organist's wife. The outcome for him is a career, an income, and a new life (5).
As these stories and "The Ash-Girl" suggest, St. Nicholas's waif stories often implied that children who were helped to join the middle class would in turn benefit their kindly helpers and become part of the gentry mission themselves. And indeed, many of these stories are so constructed that although adults might be primarily addressed with a sentimental sermon on the need for reform and social intervention, children might find appealing the story itself, which is centered on the rise to happiness and power of a little, downtrodden victim who manages to manipulate the adult world by demonstrating just the right mixture of innocence, dependence, and aptness to learn appropriate cultural lessons. These children might particularly enjoy the frequent final hint that the assisted waif could one day become an adult empowered to help others.
The Case of Little Lord Fauntleroy
Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy presented a telling picture of the empowerment of the innocent child by a proper gentry upbringing. The story was popular with both adults and children, though it was perhaps primarily addressed to adults.10 But its picture of parent-child relations appealed very much to Dodge, a widow whose emotional life had long centered around her sons, and she saw the piece as sending an important and uplifting message to her child readers and their parents. She gave Burnett twice as much per printed page as other authors, saying "my heart goes out to the staunch, true-souled little fellow & I expect to have lots of fun with him."11 Against her principles, Dodge even extended the space she gave the serial when its author ran over her allotted limit because she found the little lord "so altogether charming that we shall not have the heart to ‘cut’ him appreciably. He is a child to love and remember all one's life."12 Dodge avidly promoted the serial, the novel when it appeared in hardcover, and the stageplay based on it, and she put her own editorial spin on the image of parent-child relations represented in all of them.
In the autumn of 1884, Burnett wrote to Dodge mentioning that she had been "possessed by a child's story" suggested by her intimate acquaintance with "a very beautiful engaging and ingenuous little American boy of English descent." She "kept thinking of the kind of charm his simple, quite graceful and unconscious little American freedoms would have for a certain class of magnificent but kindly potentates in England."13 Though she terms her novel "a child's story," it seems clear that even when describing its first conception Burnett consciously considered the way her situation would appeal to a certain adult audience. She says of the little boy, "He has great beauty and bravest affectionate little heart & the most bewitching gallant little way." "He is a child," she adds, "who has a gift for being adored." His appeal comes in part because he "knows of no barrier between himself and anything human."14 The point of the matter, confided Burnett to Dodge, was that Fauntleroy "does not know the subtle difference between dukes and corner groceryman but he is just as sweet & sympathetic and courteous in his small confiding way to one as to the other—It makes many pretty situations—he is so ignorant of grandeur but he has such a kind little heart."15
There is an appealing Cinderella story for children here, but though the vocabulary and syntax remain within the grasp of a younger reader, Cedric is rarely allowed to be a focal character for long, and Barbara Wall suggests that "one factor in the popularity of Little Lord Fauntleroy was undoubtedly that, although it could be called a children's story, it was not a story overtly addressed to children" (169). Cedric is usually seen from without, and he is doted upon incessantly by the narrative voice, as well as by almost all the adult characters in the story. There is also a subtler situation for adults to savor: the Earl of Dorincourt's gradual capitulation to his little grandson's goodness, innocence, and charm, and his reluctant acknowledgement that his daughter-in-law is, though American, a perfect lady and the admirable mother who has nurtured this paragon of a child. "The end is of course …," said Burnett, "that everyone is just a trifle kinder and happier for having known him—& his mother is as much appreciated as himself."16 That Cedric's mother also triumphs is in many ways a key element in the story, for her successful gentry mission makes her an idealized role model for mothers. Little Ceddie, as the reader is often told, has his mother's "great, clear, innocent eyes," eyes he uses to pressure the old Earl into doing what he innocently thinks is right (110).17 When the old Earl's sister, Lady Lorridaile, hears about Ceddie, she worries that he will be ruined, spoiled as his uncles had been "unless his mother is good enough and has a will of her own to help her take care of him" (148). Minna Tipton, the mother of the rival claimant to the title of Lord Fauntleroy, is, as the family lawyer observes, "evidently" "a person from the lower walks of life" (181). The rival mother has a "handsome, common face, a passionate temper, and a coarse, insolent manner." But Dearest, as Cedric calls her, and as even the Earl's servants observe, is "one o' the right sort, as any gentlemen 'ud reckinize with 'alf a heye" (180). Her "voice was very sweet, and her manner was very simple and dignified" (182). She was "unafraid of the Earl, and though she knew it a ‘magnificent thing to be the Earl of Dorincourt,’ she cared most that … [Cedric] should be what his father was—brave and just and true always" (183). Dearest is discreet and generous. She tells the Earl she knows Cedric loves him, and the Earl respects her for not telling the boy why she was not received at the castle. (The old Earl has refused to see her.) In the final analysis the real secret of Ceddie's success is shown to be "that he had lived near a kind and gentle heart, and had been taught to think kind thoughts always and to care for others. It is a very little thing, perhaps, but it is the best thing of all. He knew nothing of earls and castles. He was quite ignorant of all grand and splendid things. But he was always lovable because he was simple and loving. To be so is like being born a king" (204).
Jacqueline Rose sees children's literature as setting up "the child as an outsider to its own process," aiming, "unashamedly, to take the child in" (2), in order, Nodelman puts it, to persuade the child of an adult version of childhood (34). For Rose it is important to this project that "none of this appears explicitly inside the book itself, which works precisely to the extent that any question of who is talking to whom and why is totally erased" (2). But the children's literary periodical as an institution foregrounds the whole question of who is speaking to whom and why, and it frames episodes of a serial for its readers as contributions to an extended and multidirectional conversation. Reader responses selected for publication in a children's periodical may be part of a didactic project to "turn children from acceptable versions of childhood into the right sort of adults" (Nodelman 34), but as young writers to Dodge's "Letter-Box" complain, share creative misreadings, express starry-eyed admiration, ask blunt questions, and echo the grown-ups they respect, we are given a privileged look into the process by which young and old make and remake images of themselves and each other.
No sooner had Little Lord Fauntleroy begun to appear in St. Nicholas than letters began turning up in the "The Letter-Box" agonizing over how the serial would end, and begging Mrs. Burnett to be good to Cedric, let all go well, and make the story as long as possible. A child from Bangor, Maine, was sure that "when the grandpa sees Lord Fauntleroy's mother, he will like her, and have her come up and live with them" (L. C. B., SN 13.11 [Sept. 1886]: 877). Mary G., a more practical reader from Washington, D.C., thought the story St. Nick's best of the year, "only I did not like to have the new Lord Fauntleroy coming in to take his place. I hope Mrs. Burnett will have the Earl buy the new Lord Fauntleroy out" (SN 13.11 [Sept. 1886]: 876). Children and their parents were represented in the "Letter-Box" as reading the story and discussing it together: the children often took a proprietary interest in Cedric's pony and expressed concern about his mother's welfare, whereas the parents saw him as almost too good to live long. A family in Omaha agreed it was the most beautiful story they had ever read, and young Menie C. W. reported: Mother "thinks Cedric will die before the end, but I hope not" (SN 13.11 [Sept. 1886]: 876). Marguerite H., a well-read fourteen-year-old reader from Green- ville, South Carolina, said she thought Cedric "seems to be a second Paul Dombey, with his quaint, old-fashioned sayings. I hope he will not die shut up in the gloomy castle, with his cross old grandfather, away from the companionship of ‘Dearest’" (SN 13.9 [July 1886]: 715). And an eleven-year-old from Memphis gives us a picture of the way the reading of the story might have been moderated for young readers by the active forum of the whole family circle: E. P. P. writes, "I think Lord Fauntleroy is the sweetest little fellow I ever read about. Every time I get a new number of St. Nicholas, I sit down on the rug by mamma and read ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ out loud for mamma and my little sister to hear. Mamma and papa both like it ever so much" (SN 13.12 [Oct. 1886]: 954). Cedric's affection for his mother seems to have been understood sympathetically by the readers whose letters were selected for publication, who often expressed concern that she would be accepted and the family brought together. One twelve-year-old boy wrote, "I am so fond of my mother; so I must tell you how much we are pleased with ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ and his ‘Dearest’ mother" (SN 13.11 [Sept. 1886]: 877). The "we" here suggests that both mother and son saw their relationship in terms Burnett and Dodge would have understood.
Most of the enthusiasts for Cedric who wrote to St. Nicholas's "Letter-Box" were girls, some of whom—perhaps in response to the "adult" message in the story and the editorial support Dodge gave it—took a precociously maternal attitude toward Ceddie. A girl from California wrote, "Cedric reminds me of my little cousin Birdie (that is his pet name). One day his aunt (who is an artist) asked him if he did not want her to paint him. He said: ‘I had rather be as I are.’ He is nearly four years old" (SN 13.7 [May 1886]: 554). Though Cedric did have noble qualities that made him mature for his age (his honesty, courtesy, sense of social responsibility, and courage), it is not so much these that draw the approbation of the narrative voice in the novel, but rather his appearance, innocence, diminutiveness, and pert charm. The reader is told insistently about his "cheerful, fearless, quaint little way of making friends with people" (10), "his darling little face" (9), "his honest, simple little mind" (46), "the simple, natural kindliness in the little lad which made any words he uttered, however quaint and unexpected, sound pleasant and sincere" (102). It is not surprising that older teenagers enjoyed getting sentimental about Cedric. And Burnett had modeled this process for them within the story when the flirtatious Miss Vivian Herbert succumbs to Fauntleroy's charm (to the despair of all her grown-up beaux) at a party late in the book.
Eighteen-year-old "Yum Yum" of New York wrote in June 1886 (SN 13.8: 635) that she had "just fallen in love with ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy,’" adding, "I wish the ‘small boy’ of the present day would copy after him, but I fear that would be too ‘pretty a state of things’" (635). But of course a scruffy, ordinary little American boy's easy democratic manner with everyone would be no great matter. The poignancy of the circumstance depends on the narrator's convincing the reader that the child is actually superior to certain other humans, however adorably unaware of the fact he may be. Ceddie's innocent inability to understand the possible malice or self-interest of his elders might present "a pretty situation," but it offers a curious lesson to his agemates, for few of them old enough to read the book for themselves can have failed to grasp that to know as much as they already do about the wickedness of the world is to be situated, in Burnett's terms, firmly on the other side of innocence. A child might reasonably see the determination of "Cathern," the honesty of "Patches," or the commitment to high culture of the children in "Angel in an Ulster" as behavior to emulate, but neither the stunning beauty nor the unfeigned innocence of Ceddie are to be acquired by choice or effort.
Still, Dodge and many of her readers, both young and old, were convinced Fauntleroy was a perfect model for children and that his relationship with his mother offered a wonderful example to parents and children who read St. Nicholas together. Dodge commented in an editorial note in the "Letter-Box": "During the last few months, many of those who have been so deeply interested in ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ have formed their own eager opinions of just how that beautiful story could, would, or should end. But all such readers … will agree that in the concluding chapters, printed this month, Mrs. Burnett has anticipated or fully satisfied their desires" (SN 13.12 [Oct. 1886]: 954). In that same issue, in her "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" column, Dodge felt impelled for once to preach a sermon and announced that "the dear little Lord" would be her text. "In fact," she said, "he is the sermon, too. So I need say no more except to publicly announce from my pulpit, with all due solemnity, that he is a boy after your Jack's own heart. And to every youngster among you, dearly beloved, I say, ‘Earl or no Earl,—go thou and be like him!’" (SN 13.12 [Oct. 1886]: 954).
So eager was she to encourage what she saw as the missionary work Cedric Errol might do among the young that when the novel was adapted for the stage, Dodge went out of her way to include publicity pieces on the play as well as several articles on Elsie Leslie Lyde, the little girl who played Fauntleroy on the New York stage. She also printed numerous letters from children detailing the delights of the stage productions. A child from London who understood the importance of Dearest's ladylike restraint explained that there was an unauthorized stage adaptation "which was not at all nice, for it was not a bit like Mrs. Burnett's pretty story; for instance, in this play Mrs. Errol dresses up as a nurse and goes to the castle to see her boy in disguise. Isn't it horrid?" She saw the "proper" play, however, which Mrs. Burnett called "The Real Little Lord Fauntleroy" (SN 16.3 [Jan. 1889]: 238). When that play came to Boston, one young critic who had read the novel three times commented coolly: "I did not like it so well as the story. They left out the dinner party and Little Lord Fauntleroy didn't sit on a crackerbarrel, and didn't ride the pony, and there wasn't any dog" (SN 16.3 [Jan. 1889]: 237). But the little Bostonian was unusual; most writers were effusive in their praise and admiration, and some children even mentioned seeing the play more than once. Dodge herself saw the play at least twice, once when the young actor Tommy Russell played the part, and once when Elsie Lyde had the lead role.18 Like most commentators, Dodge preferred the ringleted, golden-haired Elsie, whose performance was thought to be more sensitive and moving than Tommy's.
St. Nicholas published a puff piece by Lucy C. Lillie on little Elsie Leslie Lyde, drawing upon materials supplied by Dodge. Elsie had been invited to Dodge's evening "at homes" on Central Park South, where she had met many writers and artists, including Reginald Birch, who illustrated Little Lord Fauntleroy. Elsie seems to have had an Alice Liddell-like charm for literary and artistic gentlemen. Among her admirers were such "trustable" grown-ups as the actor William Gillette, who wrote sentimental verse to her, and Mark Twain (407). Lillie's article is addressed to both children and parents because "many people in Elsie's audience—‘grown-ups’ as well as children—would like to know something of the home life and the surroundings of the dear little girl who is helping to make ‘Fauntleroy’ a classic with us" (408). The piece depicts Elsie as a sheltered, well brought-up, and unspoiled child who shared many of the virtues of Cedric Errol, and it suggests that she, too, might be seen as a role model by America's children. Several months after the piece was printed, Dodge printed a letter from a little southern girl named "Heatherbell," one of many letters Dodge said had been received in response to the article: "Dear St. Nicholas: Elsie Leslie Lyde's picture in the April number, 1889, was perfectly lovely! I looked at it and studied it for a long while. The expression is so gentle and child-like. She looks like a sweet dear little girl; and from what I have read of her, I think she would be a fair and true example for other children to follow. If we children could all be as simple, earnest, unaffected, and loving as Elsie is described to be, what a blissful and sweet little world the ‘child-world’ would be! Don't you think so, St. Nicholas? I have named my large French doll with long bright curly hair, Elsie Leslie Lyde" (SN 13.9 [July 1889]: 717).
This letter seems to have assimilated a sentimental adult attitude so completely as to sound very unchildlike, but if indeed it is a child's letter, Heatherbell seems to be recommending to other children what sounds strangely like the learning of a stage part. The engravings made from publicity photos of little Elsie Lyde to which Heatherbell gave such studied attention are indeed remarkable. Elsie was a pretty child, but the expression on her face is enigmatic. She looks slightly bored, guarded, yet fiercely attentive. Her eyes are those of a child "used to being watched," and to being the object of "someone else's contemplation" (Steedman 136). She is aware of her own power to compel admiring attention and perhaps just a little contemptuous of it.
Carolyn Steedman has suggested that "the movements, gestures, demeanour and voice of childhood were taught to generations of child performers" in the period, "who became liable to rejection and dismissal if their repertoire appeared studied or forced." The "charming artlessness" that so appealed to Dodge's set in little Elsie "could be learned too, and child stars of the second half of the nineteenth century were the ones who had studied the ‘quaint and pretty ways of childhood’ most assiduously" (147). The appeal of Elsie to intelligent, artistic adults emerges especially in a curious follow-up piece some time after her run as Fauntleroy was over. Elsie was playing in a dramatization of Twain's The Prince and the Pauper when her "trustable" admirers William Gillette and Mark Twain decided to embroider a pair of slippers for her. Twain wrote an amusing letter to Elsie for St. Nicholas about this project full of wisecracks and puns only an adult would be likely to understand. In reply, Elsie, who appears to have been a shrewd and funny little girl, wrote him a note asking him to sit down with her the next time he came to visit and please explain the big words. (Though St. Nicholas as a matter of policy corrected spelling and punctuation in children's letters to the "Letter-Box," they left Elsie's atrocious spelling alone, apparently considering it part of her charm.)19
There were no doubt some very young children who heard Cedric Errol's story without attending much to the insistent praise of his adorable ingenuousness because they were more interested in the pony, the dog, and the crackerbarrel. But Cedric's seems to have been a role many parents wanted their children to play, and St. Nicholas actively encouraged imitation of that "sweet child" whose life brought "to many who doubtless have battled more with the pride and evil and hard-heartedness of their own natures than they might care to admit" a "message of peace and good-will" (Lillie 403). Dodge herself told Burnett after seeing the play on New Year's Day, 1889: "The Play is doing a great missionary work, and I am delighted to see hosts of little folk attending the Sat. matinees. No intelligent child can see the play without being materially helped and elevated by it—It is one of the most wholesome and best influences of the day."20 It is apparent from their letters that some slightly older children responded to Cedric like fond and affectionately amused adults, whereas others seem to have been dazzled by his glamour and the success and approval he won from all and sundry. This latter group probably included some children sharp enough to notice that the appearance of innocence might be used to charm and please adults and to gain a good deal of interesting attention from them. But "conscious innocence" is always problematic, and the "knowing" ingenuousness of the child actor, while acceptable onstage, can be painful to contemplate in real life. Moreover, the pose can evoke suspicion and hostility when it does not ring true with a particular audience. When Burnett's novel became a best-seller, a "culture text" known in its outlines to many who never read it, and hence became subject to popular reinterpretation,21 the assessment of Fauntleroy's image was not invariably positive, especially among the young male population of America (though you would not have known this from the carefully managed contents of the "Letter-Box"). Many boys who had not read the story—and thus missed the chance to admire Cedric's democratic ways and solid "manly" virtues22—assumed he was soft and delicate, the foppish, wishy-washy "mama's boy" they thought they saw in Birch's illustrations. Popular cultural history of the period is rife with tales of misery endured by little American boys forced by well-meaning, sentimental mothers to wear long curls and velvet and lace suits in imitation of Fauntleroy as drawn by Birch and impersonated by Elsie Leslie Lyde. There is an archetypal story about a little New York boy togged out in the full gear and set upon by toughs who asked him, mockingly, who gave him the haircut. His answer apparently was a heartfelt, "My mother, God damn her!" (Downs 176).
Of course, some adults might have agreed with those hooligans. One adult reader of the novel in St. Nicholas was Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote to Dodge that he had read Fauntleroy with "indescribable amusement and delight" but added: "It is the most pickthank business to find fault with anything so daintily humorous and prettily pathetic; and yet I could wish the author had conceived the tale one touch more humanly: by making Fauntleroy this piece of sheer perfection she has missed the delicious scene-à-faire: the scene when the boy misbehaves, and our wicked earl becomes in turn his teacher in goodness. If you think the authoress would value the appreciation of a brother craftsman, it would be kind in you to communicate the news of my pleasure."23
Stevenson's faintly scornful description of the piece as "daintily humorous and prettily pathetic" perhaps expresses the same uneasiness those New York urchins felt at the idea of a boy set up to be such a "piece of sheer perfection." It is not surprising to see the creator of Alan Breck and Long John Silver suggest a more "human" reading of the situation in which an adult who is both good and bad intervenes to teach virtue to a realistically flawed child. But it is hard not to notice that Stevenson's adult experience of life and art prepare him as an experienced "craftsman" to shape his alternative plot along the lines of the formula fiction of benevolent adult intervention—the kind of fiction we have seen to be so appealing to adult readers of the magazine—albeit with his own twist.
The vogue for Elsie Lyde and for Fauntleroy in St. Nicholas shows with unusual clarity the extraordinary appeal to many adults—members of the editorial staff, contributors, and readers—of the image of the innocent child. James Kincaid has recently made some provocative suggestions about why and how adults of the Victorian period admired children, responded to them, and made major emotional investments in them. His comments on the way "the child" can be made to carry a wide variety of different meanings for adult audiences are particularly interesting. He argues that the "emptiness of the figure" lays particular claim to adult attention, and that "the vacuity of the child makes it available for centerings we do not want to announce openly" (79). (It is interesting to notice the tendency of adults as well as children to somehow want to rewrite Fauntleroy to their own tastes, and intriguing that the stage production offered in effect two Fauntleroys—one played by a husky boy, the other by a dainty girl.) Even for readers unwilling to follow Kincaid to conclusions he draws from these observations, the mass of his evidentiary detail raises questions about the purposes Elsie Lyde served in the imaginative lives of the older readers of St. Nicholas, questions that are not likely to have simple or unitary answers. Readers of Carolyn Steedman's Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1790-1930 may be persuaded to see St. Nick's golden-haired Elsie as an interesting example of popular personification, "that kind of active making of something out of ideas, information heard about or read, stories, realisations … summed up in the living child … there before your very eyes" to offer an emblem of the self and its history (170). What might adults entranced with child performers like Elsie have been seeking in their own pasts? Steedman sees in such behavior "a bid for recurrence, eternity, sameness" in the face of the evanescence of childhood, though this way of looking at the phenomenon also opens up more interesting questions than it answers (171).
Exploring the "Space in Between"
In the light of Jacqueline Rose's discussion of the "impossibility of children's fiction," Perry Nodelman suggests that these important questions be asked about children's literature: "What claims do specific texts make on the children who read them? How do they represent childhood for children, and why might they be representing it that way? What interest of adults might the representation be serving?" (34). I would add a few questions to the list, particularly with regard to the children's periodical: What claims do specific "children's" texts make on the adults who read them? How do they represent childhood for adults, and why? How do adults figure in the reading environment of the children's periodical?
This exploratory discussion suggests how some sources might begin to yield useful information about the claims St. Nicholas made on its adult readers. Editorial and commercial advertising, testimonials, reviews, and editorial correspondence have identified interests the magazine served for adults. Details of address, illustration practice, and articles directed toward making adults instruments of editorial policy reveal the ways in which the magazine tried to position its adult audience. My inquiry into the way childhood was represented for adults in St. Nicholas focuses on fictions of benevolent intervention and on the magazine's handling of the whole Fauntleroy phenomenon. But I have been able to scrutinize just one strain of formula fiction, one long serial together with its readers' response, and the way the magazine turned one living child into an icon of childhood. Alternative lines of inquiry might well have produced different insights. What do fictions of transgression and punishment say about the power relation between child and adult? What questions are raised by a serial about failed parenting? Elsie Lyde was not the only young protege of Dodge to be made into a personification of childhood for adults: What does the case of Helen Keller tell us?
Pursuing the question of how childhood was represented for adults in St. Nicholas is a fascinating but vexing business: fascinating because of the sheer abundance of data presented and the wide spectrum of attitudes reflected in it; vexing because so much of the basic groundwork on which modern scholarship relies—analytical bibliography, adequate indexing, effective content analysis—remains to be done on St. Nicholas. So much of the information we would like to have has yet to be accumulated, assimilated, and organized, let alone defined and subjected to "rising levels of generalization" (Wolff 127). Further, if Steedman and Kincaid are correct in suggesting that the reasons why childhood is represented as it is in children's literature lie in adults' unspoken needs, the evidence to be gathered from St. Nicholas needs to be set in a variety of appropriate psychological and historical contexts. How did real adult readers fill the "vacuity of the child," and why? What particular losses in their own lives might they have tried to recover by idealizing exemplary children? If we are to understand the role adults played in the reading environment offered by St. Nicholas, the reading history of the magazine needs to be investigated much more vigorously than it has been to date, and the adult role in it must be carefully theoretized.24 How did read-aloud sessions and intergenerational discussion affect the way children and adults read periodical fiction? How did "script" preferences of young and old reflect—and shape—editorial choices? Answering such questions is not an individual endeavor. Exploring the fascinating "space in between" that Dodge's "pleasure ground" offered children and adults clearly needs the organized, collaborative effort of many scholars. But though there is much to be done, as one pioneer investigator has put it, "the possibilities are tantalizing" (Myers 43).
Unpublished library holdings are quoted here with the kind permission of The Library of Congress (LC); the Donald and Robert M. Dodge Collection, Princeton University Library (D & RMD PUL); and the Wilkinson Collection, Princeton University Library (W PUL).
1. Until July 1881, the magazine's full title was St. Nicholas: Scribner's Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys; for the rest of Dodge's editorship, it was titled St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks. For convenience the magazine will be referred to as St. Nicholas and abbreviated in citations as SN.
2. See Gannon and Thompson, and Erisman.
3. For a detailed examination of an office memorandum concerning the need to cut improprieties in John Townsend Trowbridge's His One Fault and the cuts made when the novel was serialized, see Gannon and Thompson 142-45. For cuts made in Tom Sawyer Abroad see Firkins. But see also Gannon and Thompson 145-50.
4. John Townsend Trowbridge to Mary Mapes Dodge, 31 Mar. 1874, D & RMD PUL.
5. Mary Mapes Dodge to Stockton, 28 May 1897, D & RMD PUL, box 2, folder 73.
6. Thomas Nelson Page to Mary Mapes Dodge, 13 Oct. 1887, W PUL, box 2, folder 64.
8. Were the editors of St. Nicholas aware of the sexual subtext of much Victorian portraiture of children? That they might have had an inkling—at least about the sweetly submissive pictures of little girls in mob caps so popular in the 1870s—is suggested by their handling of a reproduction of Joshua Reynolds's portrait of Miss Penelope Boothby. This picture inspired Millais to paint "Cherry Ripe" (1879) and Lewis Carroll to produce a photograph of Xie Kitchin as Penelope Boothby, "anything but pure" (Mavor 165). Dodge used the picture as the frontispiece for the third volume and presented it with a commentary by Rebecca Harding Davis that frankly assumed adult readers would wonder how the "brilliant, wicked world" into which she had come had used the little girl. "Was she among the famous dazzling beauties whose history no child could read?" asked Davis. But she salvaged the picture's innocence for adult readers by a firm assurance that the real Penelope died at seven and "went home just as we see her, to the land where there are so many children, and where He who loves them best of all never leaves them" (1). See also Polhemus and Williams on the interpretation of such pictures.
9. Mary Mapes Dodge to Louise Chandler Moulton, 24 Jan. 1890, LC.
10. Barbara Wall notes that Burnett's earlier story for St. Nicholas, "Editha's Burglar," showed the author so "very aware of a potential adult audience that she is unable to adjust her tone for children or to direct address to them" (167). Wall sees Little Lord Fauntleroy, on the other hand, as "a book which fulfilled all the requirements for being popular with both children and adults" (167).
11. Mary Mapes Dodge to Frances Hodgson Burnett, 2 Apr. 1885, repr. Wright 145.
12. Mary Mapes Dodge to Frances Hodgson Burnett, 12 June 1885, repr. Wright 149.
13. Frances Hodgson Burnett to Mary Mapes Dodge, [autumn] 1884, repr. Wright 141.
14. Frances Hodgson Burnett to Mary Mapes Dodge, [autumn] 1884, repr. Wright 141.
15. Frances Hodgson Burnett to Mary Mapes Dodge, [autumn] 1884, repr. Wright 142.
16. Frances Hodgson Burnett to Mary Mapes Dodge, [autumn] 1884, repr. Wright 142.
17. Hollywood's casting of Mary Pickford in the roles of both mother and son in a 1921 silent film seems strangely apt, given the way the two characters are identified in the book. Claudia Nelson notes the way in which Fauntleroy's unspoken but effective criticism of his grandfather's values "as the criticism of male values from the standpoint of the woman—made Little Lord Fauntleroy … a best-seller" (19).
18. According to Elsie Lyde in an interview with Spencer Mapes, The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children insisted that there be another actor to spell her on certain matinee days. She did not seem convinced it was necessary.
19. "Writing," said Lucy C. Lillie, "is to her just what it was to dear Pet Marjorie [sic]: The ‘thoughts come, but the pen won't always work’" (410).
20. Mary Mapes Dodge to Frances Hodgson Burnett, 5 Jan. 1889, repr. Wright 167.
21. The concept of the culture text has been elaborated in Paul Davis's recent book on Dickens's A Christmas Carol. See also Paul B. Armstrong's treatment of the text as the creation of its readers.
22. See Claudia Nelson on the "manliness" of the idealized androgynous boy (1-5).
24. Theoretical approaches to periodical writing suggesting some of the complexities of the genre and the many ways it eludes editorial control include work by Beetham, Brake, and Pykett. See bibliographies in Drotner; Kelly, Children's Periodicals; Gannon and Thompson; and Myers. Work in this area is covered in Victorian Periodicals Review and American Periodicals. The Golden Age of St. Nicholas, 1873-1905, which is currently in preparation by Susan Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson, will cover reader interaction with the magazine, editing problems, and the magazine's handling of a number of contemporary issues.
Alcott, Louisa May. Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott. Ed. Joel Myerson and Daniel Shealy. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995.
Armstrong, Paul B. "The Conflict of Interpretations and the Limits of Pluralism." PMLA 98.3 (May 1983): 341-51.
"A Word to Subscribers." Editorial Advertising Supplement. SN 2.3 (Jan. 1875): 2.
Barnard, Charles. "Tommy the Soprano." SN 2.3 (Jan. 1875): 148-50.
Beetham, Margaret. "Open and Closed: The Periodical as Publishing Genre." Victorian Periodicals Review 22.3 (fall 1989): 96-100.
Brake, Laurel. Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender, & Literature in the Nineteenth Century. Houndmills, Eng.: Macmillan, 1994.
Burlingame, Roger. Of Making Many Books: A Hundred Years of Reading, Writing, and Publishing. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1946.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. Little Lord Fauntleroy. Afterword by Phyllis Bixler. New York: Signet/Penguin, 1992.
Burnett, Mrs. J. G. "Some Young Readers of St. Nicholas." SN 2.12 (Oct. 1875): 761-63.
Christ, Carol T., and John Jordan, eds. Victorian Literature and the Victorian Visual Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Clarke, William Fayal. "Fifty Years of St. Nicholas: A Brief Anniversary Compilation of Chronicle and Comment." SN 14.1 (Nov. 1876): 16-28.
Davis, Paul. The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
Davis, Rebecca Harding. "About the Painter of Little Penelope." SN 3.1 (Nov. 1875): 1-3.
Dodge, James M. "The Money Value of Training." SN 31.1 (Jan. 1903): 57-65.
Dodge, Mary Mapes. "Children's Magazines." Scribner's Monthly (July 1873): 352-54.
Downs, Robert B. Famous American Books. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.
Drotner, Kirsten. English Children and Their Magazines, 1751-1945. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
Erisman, Fred. "St. Nicholas." Children's Periodicals of the United States. Ed. R. Gordon Kelly. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1984. 377-88.
Firkins, Terry. "Textual Introduction." In Tom Sawyer: Tom Sawyer Abroad; Tom Sawyer, Detective, Vol. 4 of The Works of Mark Twain, ed. John C. Gerber, Paul Baender, and Terry Firkins. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
Flint, Sergent. "The Kind Turkey-Man." SN 3.5 (Mar. 1875): 14-16.
Gannon, Susan R., and Ruth Anne Thompson. Mary Mapes Dodge. New York: Twayne, 1992.
Gladden, Washington. "Angel in an Ulster." SN 9.2 (Dec. 1881): 106-14.
Graham, Rosa. "Patches." SN 4.12 (Oct. 1876): 774-76.
Hunt, Peter. Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.
John, Arthur. The Best Years of the "Century": Richard Watson Gilder, "Scribner's Monthly," and the "Century Magazine," 1870-1901. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981.
Johnson, Rossiter. "Little To-Bo." SN 16.8 (June 1889): 604.
Kelly, R. Gordon, ed. Children's Periodicals of the United States. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1974.
———. Mother Was a Lady: Self and Society in Selected American Children's Periodicals, 1865-1890. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1974.
Kincaid, James. Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. 1992. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Lillie, Lucy C. "‘Fauntleroy’ and Elsie Leslie Lyde." SN 16.6 (Apr. 1889): 403-13.
"Lolly Dinks's Doings." Review of Lolly Dinks's Doings by Elizabeth Stoddard. SN 2.3 (Jan. 1875): 190.
Mavor, Carol. "Dream Rushes: Lewis Carroll's Photographs of the Little Girl." In Nelson and Vallone.
Milliken, Elsie Leslie Lyde. Interview with Spencer Mapes, Jan. [1935?]. Donald and Robert M. Dodge Collection, Princeton University Library.
Morse, Lucy. "Cathern." SN 4.5 (Mar. 1877): 302-10.
———. "The Ash-Girl." SN 3.6 (Apr. 1876): 386-92.
Myers, Mitzi. "Sociologizing Juvenile Ephemera: Periodical Contradictions, Popular Literacy, Transhistorical Readers." Review of Kirsten Drotner, English Children and Their Magazines, 1751-1945. Children's Literature Association Quarterly 17.1 (spring 1992): 41-45.
Nelson, Claudia. Boys Will Be Girls: The Feminine Ethic and British Children's Fiction, 1817-1917. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
Nelson, Claudia, and Lynn Vallone. The Girl's Own: Cultural Histories of the American Girl, 1830-1915. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994.
Nodelman, Perry. "The Other: Orientalism, Colonialism, and Children's Literature." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 17.1 (spring 1992): 29-35.
Polhemus, Robert M. "John Millais's Children." In Christ and Jordan.
Pratt, S. S. "A ‘Diet of Candy’ by the Mother of a ‘Devouring Reader.’" SN 18.7 (May 1891): 557-59.
Pykett, Lyn. "Reading the Periodical Press: Text and Context." Victorian Periodicals Review 22.3 (fall 1989): 101-8.
Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan: Or The Impossibility of Children's Fiction. Rev. ed. Houndmills, Eng.: Macmillan, 1994.
Steedman, Carolyn. Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1930. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Trowbridge, John Townsend. His One Fault. SN 12:4-10, 133-35, 187-91, 272-78, 352-58, 413-18, 501-7, 590-96, 669-75, 767-[771,] 821-26, 905-9 (Nov. 1884-Oct. 1885).
———. My Own Story: With Recollections of Noted Persons. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903.
"The True Story of St. Nicholas." Editorial Advertising Supplement bound in St. Nicholas Editorial Supplement. SN 10.2 (1882-83), paginated 1-8 following p. 160. This supplement was located in the Bodleian Library copy of an edition specially prepared for the English market. Per. 2714 d. 27.
Twain, Mark, and Elsie Leslie Lyde. "A Wonderful Pair of Slippers." SN 17.4 (Feb. 1890): 309-13.
Wall, Barbara. The Narrator's Voice: The Dilemma of Children's Fiction. Houndmills, Eng.: Macmillan, 1991.
"What Some Eminent Men Think of St. Nicholas." Advertising Supplement bound in SN 2.3 (Jan. 1875): 1.
Williams, Leslie. "The Look of Little Girls: John Everett Millais and the Victorian Art Market." In Nelson and Vallone.
Wolff, Michael. "Damning the Golden Stream: Latest Thoughts on a Directory of Victorian Periodicals." Victorian Periodicals Review 22.3 (fall 1989): 126-29.
Wright, Catharine Morris. Lady of the Silver Skates: The Life and Correspondence of Mary Mapes Dodge. Jamestown, R.I.: Clingstone, 1979.
Kaye Adkins (essay date 2004)
SOURCE: Adkins, Kaye. "‘Foundation-Stones’: Natural History for Children in St. Nicholas Magazine." In Wild Things: Children's Culture and Ecocriticism, edited by Sidney I. Dobrin and Kenneth B. Kidd, pp. 31-47. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 2004.
[In the following essay, Adkins explores how St. Nicholas promoted the tenets of naturalism, arguing that, "St. Nicholas showed children how to observe nature, learn about it, and love it. It provided one of the ‘foundation-stones’ for public acceptance of preservation of the natural world."]
St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks was not the earliest magazine for children, but many critics have argued that it was the best in the nineteenth century. Parents and children apparently agreed: during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it was one of the most widely read and circulated children's magazines. The magazine was founded in 1873 along principles its editor, Mary Mapes Dodge, laid out in an article in Scribner's Monthly. St. Nicholas aimed to offer children a magazine that recognized their natural curiosity and intelligence and their special ways of learning about the world ("Children's Magazines" 352).
In a eulogy for Dodge that appeared in St. Nicholas in 1905, her assistant William Fayal Clarke remembered that Dodge had always loved writing. She was the daughter of James J. Mapes, an influential member of New England literary circles whose friends included Horace Greeley and William Cullen Bryant, and in her teens she had helped her father ("a scholar, and inventor, a scientist, and an author") with his essays and educational pamphlets (1060). To support herself and her sons after the death of her husband, Dodge began writing professionally, first publishing essays and stories for adults, then stories for children. In 1870, following the success of her children's book Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates, she became associate editor in charge of the juvenile department of Hearth and Home, a weekly family newspaper. Under her guidance, the department became a prominent feature of the paper, and circulation grew (Clarke 1063).
When the publishers of Scribner's decided to develop a magazine for children, they sought Dodge's advice. They wanted a children's periodical that would share Scribner's view that magazines were more than commercial ventures—they should improve society, provide moral and ethical guidance, and help the growing middle class, as well as immigrants, share the values of "patriotism, respect for the family, hard work, self-reliance, and social concern" in addition to connecting religion and science (Gannon and Thompson 104-5). They asked Dodge to send them a letter describing her vision of a children's periodical. As Dodge wrote the letter, it became a manifesto declaring children's preferences and needs in literature.
In the letter, which appeared in Scribner's in July 1873, Dodge argues that a good children's magazine should show its readers the world accurately, without distortions or heavy-handed moralizing. Children's magazines suffered because "we edit for the approval of fathers and mothers and endeavor to make the child's monthly a milk-and-water variety of the adult's periodical. But in fact the child's magazine needs to be stronger, truer, bolder, more uncompromising than the other" ("Children's Magazines" 352). Dodge believed that children were naturally curious and eager to learn, but that a magazine must be entertaining if children were to learn anything from it. In his eulogy for Dodge, Clarke remembered that she wanted "to make child-readers happy first, and through this happiness to lead them on to higher and nobler living,—this was her aim and work" (1060). Dodge declares that there should be "no sermonizing, no wearisome spinning out of facts, no rattling of the dry bones of history" (353). Instead, the "cheer" of a children's periodical "must be the cheer of birdsong, not of condescending editorial babble" (352). Dodge argues that children are as interested in the modern world as adults and need preparation for it, but they do not read and respond to information as adults do. They need to feel that they are in their own world, where they are free to find "odd bits and treasures" of information on their own (353). To this end, everything in a good children's magazine must be as accurate and realistic as possible. This means that "harsh cruel facts" must be presented truthfully, even as the emphasis remains on pleasant things (354). Dodge believed that children would welcome a magazine that was not condescending, that gave them credit for intelligence, wit, and imagination. She sums up her philosophy this way: "Wells and fountains there may be in the grounds [of the world of the young], but water must be drawn from the one in a right, trim, little bucket; and there must be no artificial coloring of the other, nor great show cards about it, saying, ‘Behold! a fountain!’ Let its flow and sparkle proclaim it" (354).
Scribner's publishers were so impressed by Dodge's philosophy and her work at Hearth and Home that they asked her to edit their new magazine. She chose the name St. Nicholas because, as she explained in the opening letter to her readers, the magazine would, like St. Nicholas himself, be "the especial friend of Young Americans," treating subjects "fair and square" and seeking to cast "a light upon the children's faces that lasts from year to year" ("Dear Girl and Boy" 1). Her philosophy, emphasizing a child's natural curiosity, had broad appeal: as St. Nicholas's circula- tion reached 70,000, but actual readership was much higher, as Dodge urged children, parents, and teachers to share the magazine.
As editor of St. Nicholas, Dodge exercised control over every aspect of the magazine, from layout to detailed planning of the contents to negotiating with authors and artists. The contributors St. Nicholas attracted include many of the most prominent authors of the nineteenth century—from both sides of the Atlantic. Through her own reputation and the reputation of the magazine itself, Dodge was able to convince writers like William Cullen Bryan, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Alfred Lord Tennyson to contribute. One of her policies was to serialize longer works over a year, so that when the bound annual volumes were sold for Christmas, they would contain at least one complete novel. These serials included Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy, and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad. Other authors for St. Nicholas included Theodore Roosevelt, Bret Harte, John Burroughs, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Jack London. Dodge also insisted on excellent illustrators—Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, and Frederick Remington were among the artists whose work she published. When Rudyard Kipling asked Dodge if he could write for the magazine, she replied, "Do you think you are equal to it?" He responded to the challenge with "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" and "Toomai of the Elephants," eventually contributing many other stories and poems.
Dodge realized that the success of the magazine would increase with the direct involvement of its young readers, so she invited their participation in puzzles and letter writing. Certificates and cash rewards for excellent writing were given to young contributors; Robert Benchley, Stephen and William Benét, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, Eudora Welty, E. B. White, and Rachel Carson are among those whose first published works appeared in St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas is noteworthy for its additions to the usual mix of stories, poems, and inspirational biographies. To prepare children for life in the modern world, each issue contained articles on travel, history, geography, biography, science, and practical matters. Natural history articles are prominent, in part because of Dodge's interest in natural history and in encouraging children to learn science through experience. Children are encouraged to be open to the world around them at all times and to find ways to enjoy nature.
The importance of experiencing the world, as opposed to merely reading about it, is emphasized by many writers. The nature essays of John Burroughs, for example, one of the most popular writers of the late nineteenth century, encouraged people to go on long rambles, and his articles on ornithology helped make bird-watching a popular hobby. In one article, Burroughs explains the importance of "Observing Little Things." He offers examples of the kind of observation that he wishes children to practice. Close observation can help children make connections and understand evolution. For example, Burroughs notes that the young of the bluebird have speckled breasts like those of the thrush, and its song is like that of the olive-backed thrush. From this, he suggests that the birds may be related. Burroughs was best known for his knowledge of birds, but to make his point about small details, "Observing Little Things" focuses on spiders. He describes his observations of the wolf spider and the sand spider and how they interact with their environment. He explains the precautions he takes to avoid being bitten; describes an experiment with a wolf spider he kept for a few days to see how it reacted to flies, wasps, and grasshoppers; and outlines how he studies the reactions of these small animals in their habitats. These examples make his point that much can be learned by observing the smallest things in nature. To illustrate that "hasty observations" can be misleading, he dispels the myth that the number of spider webs in the grass in the morning can be used to predict the weather. (It was popularly believed that many webs indicated coming good weather.) Burroughs points out that careful observation reveals that the number of webs does not change but the amount of dew on the webs, which makes them visible, does. He admonishes, "We all need to be on our guard against hasty observations and rash conclusions. Look again, and think again, before you make up your mind" (763). Close scientific study can help children learn the truth about nature.
In a later article about wildflowers, Burroughs gives other reasons for looking closely at the natural world: "Most young people find botany a dull study. So it is as taught from the text-books in the schools; but study it yourself in the fields and woods, and you will find it a source of perennial delight" ("Wildflowers" 583). Burroughs also suggests a practical reason for studying nature: "When one is stranded anywhere in the country in the season of flowers or birds, if he feels any interest in these things, he always has something ready at hand to fall back upon…. The te- dium of an eighty-mile drive which I lately took was greatly relieved by noting the various flowers by the roadside" (585).
Ernest E. Thompson contributed several articles to St. Nicholas. Thompson wrote and illustrated Wild Animals I Have Known and many similar books for children under the name Ernest Thompson Seton. A friend of Teddy Roosevelt, he founded the Woodcraft Indians, which became the model for the Boy Scouts. In a typical article, he encourages children to take up fly-fishing, especially for bass since they are more common than trout. The value of this activity for boys and girls (the illustration shows a girl fishing while boys stand by with a net) is partly in its enjoyment but even more in its opportunity for studying the habits of animals such as birds or muskrats ("Fly-Fishing" 787). Thompson encourages children to practice quiet, careful observation while they are fishing.
Thompson's "Tracks in the Snow" shows children how to learn about the lives of animals through indirect observation. He includes illustrations of tracks with explanations of what they are and what they mean, pointing out that they are "a record, not only of the animals, but of their actions" (339). For example, one set of tracks tells the story of a deer walking, pawing for acorns, and listening to sounds with one foot lifted. Another set reveals the rather dramatic tale of a hare running back and forth in panic and then being killed. The tracks indicate that the predator was an owl. More detective work reveals that the bird has settled on a nearby branch.
Articles by naturalists explain how children can become naturalists themselves, using observation as an important tool. In 1877, William Howitt, a British naturalist and explorer, published "A Letter to a Young Naturalist." At this time, "naturalists" gauged themselves by the number of specimens they had collected and preserved. The larger their collections, the better their skills. Children were usually limited to collecting butterflies and other insects. For many children, it could be difficult to amass the large collections of specimens that nineteenth-century naturalists did, but Howitt does not want this to discourage them. The true rewards of the study of nature are not physical specimens but "the consciousness of all the freshness, loveliness, and indescribable harmonies of the magnificent world in which God has given them places to live for our mutual pleasure and advantage" (155). Howitt encourages children to become amateur naturalists, arguing that the study of natural history does not require special training. "I do not make collections of any kind of natural history objects. If I can be called a naturalist at all, it must be a very natural one, for I never studied any branch of natural history in books, excepting botany, and only the botany of the British Isles" (154). But that study provides him healthy exercise and fresh air, as it does for children, while the ability to recognize British plants allows "a good guess" at foreign plants in his travels. He has made himself familiar with the appearance, habits, and songs of birds, a practice that children should adopt: "I never hear a song or a twitter of one, as I am walking, anywhere, but I recognize it as the voice of an old friend, to the great astonishment of my human friends. Such are the pleasures of an habitual intimacy with the works of God in their wonderful world." Perhaps for the benefit of parents and the goals of Scribner's, Howitt suggests that "in classifying and preserving … various specimens [children will] keep alive in [their hearts] all the poetry of nature connected with these innumerable and charming inventions of the Great Mechanist" (155).
Howitt's examples are drawn from all over the world, from South America and Australia as well as Europe. The treasures of nature are illustrated with a story of finding a nest of "splendid warblers" while looking for gold in South America. He and his companions are so entertained by the birds that they decide to wait until the young have left the nest rather than disturb it to dig for gold. When he returns to the site, someone else has been there and dug out sixteen pounds of gold, but Howitt writes that "we did not regret it, for [the birds] had given us more than the amount in amusement" (156). Following Dodge's emphasis on speaking directly to children instead of down to them, Howitt closes with the article with a direct appeal: "May you live, learn, enjoy, and make known much of the hidden knowledge of God's humble creatures.—Your friend, William Howitt" (157).
Mary Mapes Dodge did not intend for children to be merely passive observers of the world around them. She wanted to encourage their active curiosity and experimentation. She wanted them to feel comfortable asking questions. To encourage this, she worked with Harlan Ballard to found the Agassiz Association, announcing it in St. Nicholas in 1880. Named for Louis Agassiz, a well-known Harvard professor who popularized science through his lectures, the Agassiz Association offered a regular column in the magazine, a place for children to send questions about nature and to share their observations of the natural world. Local chapters of the association were set up all over the country and beyond, and by May 1883, the organization reported that it had five thousand members in places ranging from Brunswick, Maine, to Dallas, Texas, to Greeley, Colorado, to Valpariso, Chile. Experts, such as a botanist from Salt Lake City, a mineralogist from Webster Groves, Missouri, a zoologist from the American Museum of Natural History, and an entomologist from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, volunteered to answer children's questions in the feature. Readers were instructed in proper methods of collection and identification of specimens, and in how to set up experiments to answer questions like "Can insects hear?" ("Report" 558). The association is often mentioned in articles in the magazine, as when Ernest E. Thompson notes, "Those readers who are members of the Agassiz Association will have learned that no one can safely undertake to identify any strange bird or beast, without having it in hand to measure and to examine; but it must not therefore be forgotten that valuable knowledge may be acquired by watching the living creatures from a distance, by means of a telescope" ("Pintail" 826). The Agassiz Association eventually outgrew St. Nicholas and founded a publication of its own.
Of course, children did not have the far-reaching opportunities to make firsthand observations that adults did, and since Dodge's goal was to prepare them for life in the modern world, St. Nicholas includes articles about unfamiliar animals and plants. These articles are also models for the kind of work done by good naturalists. They are characterized by accuracy, detail, and appropriate use of scientific language. The descriptions of animals are written from observations of specimens in collections as well as from field observations of their behavior, while the illustrations of many of the exotic animals, such as manatees, aardvarks, and chimpanzees, are drawn from live models in the Central Park Zoo.
When children are introduced to unfamiliar animals such as the hornbill, care is given to provide accurate, scientific descriptions, making these clear to children. For example, describing the bird's most prominent feature, its bill, the author notes that "though seemingly heavy and unwieldy, the bill of the hornbill is very light, being composed of light cellular tissue, resembling in this respect the skull of the elephant; and the walls of thin bone are so fragile, that in dried specimens it may be crushed in the hand. The edge of the mandibles or beaks are very sharp, frequently breaking off and being renewed" (Beverly 151). Notice the use of language like "cellular tissue," the comparison to the elephant's skull, which had been described in a previous article, the description of study of a specimen (crushing the bill) and of the bird in nature (breaking off and renewing the beak). Writers are careful to separate fact from speculation; for example, the statement "It is said that the age of the bird may be ascertained from the wrinkles on its bill, as the age of a cow is sometimes told from the wrinkles of her horns" is clearly labeled as supposition, not fact.
Other articles describe animals that are common but often overlooked, like "The Water-Bear" or tardigrade. As with articles about larger animals, the article about the microscopic water bear is based entirely on observation. It opens with a description of how the author finds these creatures, making it clear that they are accessible to children. Once at a freshwater pond, "all that the successful hunter needs is a stout stick (a forked one is best), to pull the plants that harbor [the water bear] from the pond, and a supply of vials to hold the water and plants" (Treat 274). The author explains how to mount slides for observation of the animals and describes their appearance and behavior in detail. She includes one story that bears out John Burroughs's warnings about the importance of careful observations and avoiding hasty conclusions. She notes that water bears slip out of their skins as they outgrow them, but that she did not learn this immediately. "For a time I was completely puzzled on seeing these old dresses standing about as if inflated, and thought they must be skeletons—that the body had decomposed and left only the skin; but after awhile I caught one slipping out of his dress, and the mystery was explained." In keeping with the policy of accuracy and honesty, Treat admits that the illustration that accompanies the article is not completely accurate. "The portrait does not look quite natural; he would not keep still long enough to have his portrait taken, and so had to be held fast between two glasses, and this flattened him somewhat." Instead of "improving" the drawing to make it more lifelike, the author draws directly from observation, in the process showing children the problems a naturalist might encounter when studying microscopic life.
The natural history articles in St. Nicholas not only include detailed descriptions of animals and of how they interact with their environment, many of the articles go one step further to explain how animals adapt to their environments, drawing on Darwin's theories to explain how they are formed by their environments and to examine their place in the ecosystem. For example, the belted kingfisher is built "to be a fisherman," with small feet to perch on twigs that hang over water, a large heavy head that "serves to balance and carry him with great swiftness in his downward, arrow-like plunges," and a long, rough-edged bill that helps to hold fish (Smith 810). Another article describes how vireos in one area adapted a strategy of building nests in two levels to foil cowbirds. They would build their hanging nests, wait for the cowbird to lay its egg, and then build a second layer above the first in which to lay their own eggs ("Curious" 527). Several articles appear over the history of St. Nicholas that show how birds have adapted their nest building to industrialization and urbanization, with illustrations of nests in the trusses of bridges or on the ledges of buildings. While these sites might be unusual, they are also effective choices. "It is not always a mere whim that causes a pair of winged builders to violate the usual fashions of bird-architecture, or to select a site for their home that might well make respectable bird-society gossip and stare … the thing which made it peculiar, as bird's nests go, was the very thing that made is more safe or more comfortable than birds' nests usually are."
Occasionally, articles appear that describe entire ecosystems. For example, an early issue includes a description of the llanos of Venezuela. The article opens with a general description of the geography, the flora, and the fauna, followed by an in-depth discussion of the importance of the annual cycle of rain and drought in maintaining the geological and biological makeup of the region. The author notes that plants and animals have not only adapted to this cycle, but that they depend on it (Gale).
Throughout St. Nicholas, there is a sense that these articles could comprise a somewhat unsystematic course in natural history. References to other articles are common, sometimes indirectly, as we have already seen in the elephant skull illustration from the hornbill article. At other times, readers are directed to specific articles, as in an article about penguins of the antarctic that encourages children to refer to the previous month's article about auks of the arctic circle (Worstele). Especially noteworthy is a series of nineteen articles by William Temple Hornaday. Hornaday was well known as the director of the Bronx Zoo and for his many articles advocating preservation of wildlife. He has since been recognized for introducing the practice of displaying mounted specimens in groups, posed naturally (he became chief taxidermist for the Smithsonian). Quadrupeds of North America, which appeared from January 1894 through March 1896, was intended to be a thorough course in natural history for children.
The first article in the series, "A Bird's-Eye View of the Animal Kingdom," outlines his philosophy and goals; Hornaday opens the series with a discussion of the importance of an education in natural history and of learning how to observe and understand the world. He argues for the systematic study of zoology in the schools; without it, we lack understanding of "our neighbors … the other animals of the world" (231). Children lack this knowledge because "those whose business it is to publish magazines and books for the young have either forgotten or neglected to lay for them a series of foundation-stones on which they might build intelligently all the rest of their lives. The publishers of St. Nicholas have decided to do now what has been so long and so universally left undone." Hornaday aims to give children "a foundation on which they can build zoological knowledge with regularity and precision."
Hornaday is reacting to works like Alphonso Wood's First Lessons in Botany, published in 1856. Wood suggests that botany is an appropriate study for children because it is "gentle" and "involves no cruelty." At the same time, he urges teachers to use the study of botany to develop mental discipline. Wood emphasizes the memorization of appropriate scientific labels for plants and their parts as a way of training young minds in logic. This approach was still being encouraged in books like James Johonnot's Neighbors with Wings and Fins, a natural history published in 1888. Johonnot believes that the study of animals and birds is valuable for the "mental activity" it offers. He argues that children should learn about nature through a "mingling of science, story, and song" (6). Although Johonnot mentions science in his preface to teachers, the book's organization takes children from the familiar (chickens) to the exotic (peacocks) without much concern for how the animals are related. Other books that address natural history for children bury scientific information in animal stories, which often have an Aesop-like moral (Gatty, Hooker, and Kelly are examples). While Hornaday's series was meant to encourage children's curiosity, it was also designed to provide parents and teachers with a model of an appropriately challenging approach to educating children about the natural world.
In the familiar tone of St. Nicholas, Hornaday invites children into his imaginary study, pointing out the sign that hangs over the door (and is set off from the text by white space and a box): "All Jaw-Breaking Names Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here!" (231). Although he will introduce the notions of order, family, genus, and so on down to subspecies and will introduce children to the Latin nomenclature, he does this to explain how scientists communicate to each other about their subjects. He does not want to bore or intimidate his readers. He also suggests that a lack of knowledge is an opportunity to learn from others by welcoming the contributions of the best American museums, zoological gardens, artists, and engravers to his articles.
Through text and illustrations, the first article also offers an overview of the animal kingdom, so that future articles on quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and fishes of North America can be understood in their proper relationship to each other. Hornaday notes that the previous natural history articles in St. Nicholas have been informative; he often refers to them throughout the series. He sometimes refers to an earlier St. Nicholas piece by another writer, suggesting that it explains an animal so well that it would be a waste of time for him to do so. Excellent as the previous natural history articles have been, however, they have been presented as "miscellaneous studies" that suggest that the animal kingdom is "an animated crazy quilt" when it is, instead, "one long, unbroken chain, … the unity and beauty of which are seen to be most complete when you follow it up or down, link by link" (231). This understanding of the connections between all living things, including humans, is central to Hornaday's articles. These connections are depicted in a series of charts that begin by showing the relationship of natural history to other sciences and end with showing humankind's relationship to the other primates.
Throughout the series, Hornaday meticulously describes various species, including their physical appearance, habitats, diet, and behavior. He presents his observations and the observations of others, explains how those observations are made, and describes how specimens are taken. He often connects the physical development of an animal with its environment, as when he describes the armadillo. He points out that in the treeless areas where it lives, there is very little cover from its enemies, so it has developed a "suit of bony plate-armor" for protection ("Lowest" 424). Hornaday describes the stomach contents of a Bighorn sheep he killed ("Buffalo" 680) and the way an opossum plays dead ("Lowest" 428). The illustrations, drawn from specimens, show animals as they appear in life or show skeletons and skulls, and the articles are often accompanied by maps outlining an animal's range. Hornaday's goals in this series are to teach children to see the world around them and to show adults how to encourage children's natural curiosity to help them understand the natural world ("Lowest" 429).
Mary Mapes Dodge encouraged this understanding from the first issue of St. Nicholas. She felt that it was vital to provide children with a sense that they had the power to change the future and to provide them with the information about the world that they would need to improve it (Gannon and Thompson 155). Believing that responsible treatment of the natural world was an important part of the future, Dodge drew on her love of nature and her interest in natural history to publish works by highly regarded nature writers.
In the early years of the magazine, the natural history articles reflect traditional ways of appreciating nature and presenting it to children. Some of the articles about animals include moral lessons like those found in fables (one of the approaches to natural history that Hornaday decries at the beginning of his series). Including this kind of lesson in scientific articles can produce dissonance. For example, an 1874 article about manatees includes an accurate description of the animals, sketches taken from a specimen in the Central Park Zoo. However, the author is also careful to point out that manatees have "lovely traits of character." They use their "hands" to crawl on land, to hold their babies, and they help each other. Children can learn about cooperation and compassion from their example. "When a harpoon is thrown into one of the party, all the rest crowd around and try to pull it our or to bite off the rope that holds it" (Miller 201).
One value traditionally accorded to nature is as a resource. From the earliest explorations of the New World through the 1890 Census Bureau's declaration that the frontier was closed, settlers "rejected everything in nature that was not of immediate and practical use" (Huth 5). Some of this utilitarian value of nature also appears in early natural history articles in St. Nicholas. Plants like the date palm or the water chinquapin bean are described chiefly as sources of food and textiles or as building materials (Feudge; "Sacred Bean"). An early article about the zebra notes that although it is not very useful because it can't be tamed to the harness or saddle, it is beautiful in me- nageries ("Zebra" 9). Fish hawks are valued by farmers because it is believed that the "noble" fish-hawks help keep the "greedy" eagles from killing poultry (Ruff 81).
However, the natural history articles in St. Nicholas introduce readers to other ways in which nature is valuable, reflecting the thinking of preservationists. Nature is accorded an aesthetic value simply for its fascinating variety. This interest in all of nature is accompanied by calls for an ethical relationship with the natural world. Often reflecting the work of George Perkins Marsh, the earliest natural history articles regularly note the effect that humans have had on their environment. Marsh's Man and Nature, published in 1864, reversed contemporary geologists' and geographers' emphasis on how nature shapes humans. Marsh argues that physical nature does not have as great an impact on human society as human progress has on nature. He suggests that it was possible that humans could make earth uninhabitable through continued exploitation of natural resources. In St. Nicholas, concern for the human impact on nature often leads to calls for more ethical treatment of animals. The first issue includes a story about the practice of "robbing the roost"—knocking young passenger pigeons (squabs) to the ground from the nests so they can be caged and fattened. "So many of these birds are killed every year for the New York and other markets, that it seems as if they must gradually disappear" ("Passenger"). In 1873, when this article appeared, there was some question as to whether this could really happen, "but they multiply very fast and Audubon, the naturalist, thought that nothing but the destruction of our forests could lessen their number." The article leaves the reader with the feeling that although the possibility of extinction for the passenger pigeon is small, it does exist, and should be a concern.
An article in the second month's issue follows this topic with a much stronger argument for the conservation of birds. C. C. Haskins announces: "I have been thinking for a long time of writing a plea for a large family of our friends who are wantonly destroyed and abused by impulsive persons without good reason, and, very often, thoughtlessly" (72). Haskins is referring to birds—all birds "from the eagle and the vulture down to the tiniest hummingbird." Birds such as the sparrow, hawk, crow, and phoebe are described and their habits noted. Haskins describes why people object to them and kill them and explains that this is short-sighted because of the benefits they offer. Haskins, using the resources of St. Nicholas, proposes to "raise an army" in defense of all birds. Using example, argument, and information, enlisting the help of children (and their parents), Haskins hopes to change the treatment of birds, encouraging children to adopt this resolution:
Whereas—We, the youth of America, believing that the wanton destruction of wild birds is not only cruel and unwarranted, but is unnecessary, wrong and productive of mischief to vegetation as well as to morals, therefore,
Resolved—That we severally pledge ourselves to abstain from all such practices as shall tend to the destruction of wild birds; that we will use our best endeavors to induce others to do likewise, and that we will advocate the rights of birds at all proper times, encourage confidence in them, and recognize in them creations of the great Father, for the joy and good of mankind.
Haskins's call was successful, and the Bird Defenders was formed, with Dodge including the names of those who joined the organization and reporting its activities in subsequent issues of the magazine.
The ethical treatment of nature is a theme that appears throughout St. Nicholas. One article notes that wild birds do not make good pets and are difficult to rehabilitate, noting the death of a young fish hawk when the author tries to nurse it back to health after it breaks its wing (Ruff 80). Readers are warned about the danger to whole species; manatees, for example, although gentle and harmless, are in danger because they have "good meat on their bones; and men hunt them to get it for their own use" (Miller 201). Theodore Roosevelt explains the plight of the buffalo, even as he describes a hunting trip along the Brazos. While praising the experience as "healthy, as well as pleasant and exciting," he also notes that the vast herds have dwindled and are in danger; the southern herds have been destroyed because of hunting and encroachment (143). Writing just a few years after Roosevelt, William Temple Hornaday declares that "in a wild state, the American Bison, or Buffalo is practically, though not quite wholly, extinct" ("Buffalo" 674). Like other writers for St. Nicholas, he blames "man's inborn greed and destructiveness" but holds out hope for the future if "the boys of the rising generation [learn] more sense and more humanity in the preservation of our beasts and birds than we have yet shown; and the girls should stop wearing dead birds, and birds' wings right now!" (676). This philosophy is consistent with most of the natural history articles that appeared in St. Nicholas.
In the final article of his series, Hornaday laments that his natural history has not had much influence on science education: "It seems as if our high school boys and girls have time, place, and opportunity to learn something of everything save the living creatures that God has made so wonderfully, and put before us to teach us valuable lessons, supply our wants, or provoke us to industry. Will the time ever come when a little systematic knowledge of the inhabitants of this earth will be considered essential to every person who would consider himself fairly educated? Let us hope so" ("Lowest" 429). Hornaday's evaluation may have been too narrowly focused on the classroom, for his series was part of a growing understanding and appreciation of nature. By the 1890s, interest in the outdoors had encouraged wilderness camping, scouting, summer camps, and tourism to the American West. There was a proliferation of gardening clubs and birding societies. The parks and playground movements, with their emphasis on improving health through physical activities in fresh air, had gained wide support, and the preservationist movement, led by John Muir, was gaining recognition. St. Nicholas could not claim to be the only factor influencing this new appreciation of nature, but the adults of the 1890s had probably read the magazine as children and were probably reading it with their own children. St. Nicholas introduced children to influential voices for nature preservation, like Burroughs, Hornaday, Howitt, and Roosevelt. Through the natural history articles, St. Nicholas showed children how to observe nature, learn about it, and love it. It provided one of the "foundation-stones" for public acceptance of preservation of the natural world.
Beverly, Fred. "The Hornbill." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, January 1875, 151-52.
Burroughs, John. "Observing Little Things." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, August 1888, 763-65.
———. "A Talk about Wildflowers." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, September 1891, 581-86.
Clarke, William Fayal. "In Memory of Mary Mapes Dodge." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, October 1905, 1059-71.
"Curious Items about Birds." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, May 1883, 527-34.
[Dodge, Mary Mapes]. "Children's Magazines." Scribner's Monthly, July 1873, 352-54.
———. "Dear Girl and Boy." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, November 1873, 1.
Feudge, Fannie R. "The Date and Some Other Palms." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, December 1873, 60-62.
Gale, Ethel C. "Seas of Grass." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, December 1874, 77-78.
Gannon, Susan R., and Ruth Anne Thompson. Mary Mapes Dodge. New York: Twayne, 1992.
Gatty, Mrs. Alfred. Parables from Nature. London: George Bell & Sons, 1887.
Haskins, C. C. "For the Birds." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, December 1873, 72-74.
Hooker, Worthington. The Child's Book of Nature. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857.
Hornaday, William Temple. "A Bird's-Eye View of the Animal Kingdom." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, January 1894, 231-37.
———. "The Buffalo, Musk-ox, Mountain Sheep, and Mountain Goat." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, June 1895, 674-82.
———. "The Lowest of Our Quadrupeds." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, March 1896, 424-29.
Howitt, William. "A Letter to a Young Naturalist." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, January 1877: 154-57.
Huth, Hans. Nature and the American: Three Centuries of Changing Attitudes. Rev. ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.
Johonnot, James. Neighbors with Wings and Fins: And Some Others, for Young People. New York: D. Appleton, 1888.
Kelly, Meriba Ada Babcock. Leaves from Nature's Story Book. Boston: Educational Publishing, [c. 1893].
Marsh, George Perkins. Man and Nature: A Physical Geography. New York: Scribner, 1864.
Miller, Harriet M. "The Manatee." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, February 1874, 200-201.
"Passenger Pigeons." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, November 1873, 15.
"Report of the Agassiz Association." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, May 1883, 557-58.
Roosevelt, Theodore. "Buffalo Hunting." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, December 1889, 136-43.
Ruff, M. D. "Fish-Hawks and Their Nests." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, December 1873, 79-82.
"The Sacred Bean." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, December 1873, 92.
Smith, DeCost. "Halcyon Days and Halcyon Ways." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, September 1883, 810-12.
Thompson, Ernest E. "Fly-Fishing for Black Bass." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, June 1883, 784-87.
———. "The Pintail." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, September 1888, 826-27.
———. "Tracks in the Snow." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, March 1888, 338-41.
Treat, Mary. "The Water-Bear." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, March 1875, 274-75.
Wood, Alphonso. First Lessons in Botany: Designed for Common Schools in the United States. Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1856.
Worstele, Mary V. "Almost a Quadruped." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, April 1892, 386-88.
"The Zebra." St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, November 1873, 9-10.
Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Ekrich, Arthur A., Jr. Man and Nature in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.
Klassen, Kenneth. "The School of Nature: An Annotated Index of Writings on Nature in St. Nicholas Magazine during the Editorship of Mary Mapes Dodge, 1873-1905." Ph.D. diss., University of Kansas, 1989.
Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. 3d ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.
Roe, E. P. "Some Stories about ‘The California Lion.’" St. Nicholas: A Magazine for Young Folks, September 1888, 814-18.
Saler, Elizabeth C., and Edwin H. Cady. "The St. Nicholas and the Serious Artist." In Essays Mostly on Periodical Publishing in America: A Collection in Honor of Clarence Gohdes, ed. James Woodress. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1973, 163-70.
St. Nicholas Correspondence. De Grummond Collection, University of Southern Mississippi. http://www.lib.usm.edu (September 5, 2000).
Weiss, Erica E. Children's Periodicals in the United States during the Nineteenth Century and the Influence of Mary Mapes Dodge (fall 1999). Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings. http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu (September 5, 2000).
Suzanne Rahn (essay date 2004)
SOURCE: Rahn, Suzanne. "St. Nicholas and Its Friends: The Magazine-Child Relationship." In St. Nicholas, edited by Susan R. Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson, pp. 93-110. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004.
[In the following essay, Rahn reviews how St. Nicholas's relationship with its readers was fostered, in part, by published letters from its devout readership.]
As we read a book, we enter into a kind of dialogue with its author—more layered if we are listening to someone read the book aloud, but still essentially an intimate relationship with one person. Reading a magazine, on the other hand, is like entering a community which authors, editors, and subscribers inhabit to create the whole. This effect is intensified if the subscribers are able, usually through a "letters from our readers" department, to be aware of each other and hear each other's voices. In magazines for adults, the community is often a rather quarrelsome one, whose letters constantly correct, criticize, and argue with editors, authors, and each other. The communities of children's magazines, on the other hand, tend to be peaceful and friendly. Their letters mention favorite features of the magazine, state how long they have been subscribers, and introduce themselves to each other as fellow members of the community, after a fashion that has remained remarkably consistent over the last hundred years. The children who wrote to St. Nicholas Magazine in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s talked about their pets, their hobbies, their brothers and sisters, and where they lived; sometimes they described an interesting journey, a funny happening, or an exciting personal adventure. So do the children who write to Cricket Magazine today.
Of course, the letters published in the magazine do not necessarily represent the full range of letters received. For lack of space, only a fraction of these letters can be published, and an editor can choose those which most closely approximate an ideal type. In the beginning, she may even "prime the pump" a little by writing them herself, but this is at most a temporary expedient.1 Children are eager to have their letters published, and they naturally emulate those they see in the magazine. Unlike adult subscribers, they seldom blame the editor if their own letter is not chosen; they blame, if anyone, themselves. Not infrequently, one finds a letter in St. Nicholas, which mentions that its author has made previous unsuccessful attempts at publication; this time, perhaps, the letter will be "good enough to be printed." Thus, the editor of a children's magazine wields both direct and indirect influence over how subscribers present themselves to the magazine community—and even, perhaps, over how these children see themselves.
Much has been written of the outstanding ability of Mary Mapes Dodge, as editor, to get the best work from the best authors and illustrators of her time. But St. Nicholas owes its unquestioned preeminence as a children's magazine not only to the high quality of its text and illustrations, but to the intensity and loyalty of feeling it generated in young readers, notable even in an age so dependent on print for pleasure. Devotion to St. Nicholas often outlasted childhood and—as we see from the silent testimony of family sets extending over twenty or thirty years—spanned generations.2 Sheer quality of material and a keen editorial nose for "what's happening" are not enough to explain this deep and lasting appeal. There was also an unusually strong sense of community among the readers of St. Nicholas—a sense of belonging to something real and wonderful.
What kind of community was this and what did it mean to the children who belonged? And what did Mary Mapes Dodge do to create and sustain it? Two departments of St. Nicholas provide an answer: "The Letter-Box" with its letters from young readers, and the editorial page, "Jack-in-the-Pulpit."
To appreciate what Dodge did, consider the immediate predecessor of St. Nicholas. Our Young Folks, published from 1865 to 1873 by Ticknor and Fields, aimed, like St. Nicholas, for the best in American writing for children. It numbered among its authors some of the most illustrious names of its times. Shortly after St. Nicholas began publication in 1873, Scribner's purchased Our Young Folks and merged it with the newer periodical. This close relationship makes the dissimilarities all the more striking. From its earliest issues, St. Nicholas was more spacious and inviting in design, more handsomely and abundantly illustrated, and contained a greater variety of material. It reveals as well its generally higher quality and more innovative content—the difference between good and brilliant editing.
Our Young Folks had no separate editorial page; any editorial messages were incorporated in "Our Letter Box." From its beginnings in January 1866, this department consisted not of letters from readers, but of letters to them—and these were mainly letters of rejection. A department called "Round the Evening Lamp: A Treasury of Charades, Puzzles, Problems and Funny Things" published reader contributions and the editorial letters explained to would-be contributors why their efforts were unacceptable. For example:
W. Arthur D.: Rebus sketches are well enough in pencil. But your subjects do not quite come up to standard. And—let us whisper in your ear—you must look sharply to your spelling, which is faulty, both in your letter and your puzzles.
Tudor: You must learn the rules of composition—how to use capitals and all marks of punctuation, etc.—before what you write can be printed anywhere. Emma M. D.: Your little note is very pleasant to us, and we thank you for it; but we must put the little puzzle aside.
[2 (Mar. 1866): 12]
It is hard to imagine that W. Arthur, Tudor, or Emma could have enjoyed seeing their names in print in such a context, and one might wonder at the courage of the children who continued to send in puzzles and conundrums under these conditions.
With time "The Letter-Box" changed somewhat till by 1873 the contents were chiefly inquiries and answers. Letters were generally excerpted or summarized, and the editorial tone remained formal, uncompromising, and rather severe. Warmth of feeling entered only when the writer was a young invalid such as Daisy, who wrote to Our Young Folks:
I love you very much, and have loved you ever since you first came to me, six long years ago, to cheer, to help, and give me glimpses of the happy child-life I had lost. How many weary hours of suffering you have helped me through! And when I grew sad and lonely, longing to be one of the happy, healthy little girls I saw running past to school, instead of the little lame girl who had to lie all day on the bed by the window, I would take my last "Young Folks" from under the pillow, sure to find something comforting.
[8 (June 1872): 382]
The editor responded, "What you say of yourself is very touching; and when you speak of the comfort which Our Young Folks has afforded you in your suffering loneliness, that is a comfort to us, dear Daisy!" (382).
Readers of the magazine were children who had to work hard to win adult approval. Children were not encouraged to see their own lives as interesting, unless they were invalids, who were called "dear" and allowed to feel thoroughly sorry for themselves.
When these readers went to St. Nicholas, they found a very different world. On the first page of the first issue Mary Mapes Dodge greeted them with a cheery welcome:
Why, this is delightful. And how fresh, eager, and hearty you look! Glad to see us? Thank you. The same to you, and many happy returns. Well, well, we might have known it; we did know it, but we hardly thought it would be like this. Hurrah for dear St. Nicholas! He has made us friends in a moment.
[1 (Nov. 1873): 1]
And there was something even more unexpected—a page headed "Jack-in-the-Pulpit," with a funny little drawing of an odd figure emerging from a flower to address a group of children, animals, and fairy folk. "My name is Jack," it announced. "I am a green thing coming up as a flower, yet I know a great deal. For why? The birds come and tell me" (1 [Nov. 1873]: 46). Despite the "pulpit," "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" was not in the least like a sermon. It began each month with a cheerful greeting and was made up chiefly of droll bits of information—some on strange customs of foreign lands, some on coming features of the magazine, some on unusual plants and animals. Sometimes young or adult correspondents contributed an item; sometimes children were challenged with puzzling questions, the answers to which appeared in subsequent issues. Jack's voice is sprightly, vigorous, humorous, and friendly throughout.
The fiction is maintained that Jack is an actual Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower that grows in a meadow near a schoolhouse, where he can overhear conversations among the children or remarks from their teacher, the Little Schoolma'am. Another character who appeared in 1875, Silas Green, or Deacon Green, lived in "the red cottage across the road from the school-house" (3 [Nov 1875]: 54). The department sometimes contained snatches of the conversation between the Deacon and the Schoolma'am on a coming feature in St. Nicholas, or an argument over a question of fact—which Jack, of course, being a mere plant, does not presume to answer for them.
Who was Jack-in-the-Pulpit? His own answer is at once evasive and revealing:
Am I a real Jack-in-the-Pulpit? you have asked—a true plant, growing and preaching out in the sunshine? Well, perhaps no. Perhaps yes. This much is certain: I do live in the sunshine; I do try to grow; and I do love to talk to the boys and girls of St. Nicholas—to open their eyes and their minds by pointing out all sorts of queer truths here, there, and yonder—and to put into their hearts grateful, loving thoughts toward the Giver of all good.
So, my darlings, if you're satisfied with this explanation, I am.
[3 (Nov. 1875): 54]
William Fayal Clarke's memorial to Mary Mapes Dodge revealed the truth:
No mention of Mrs. Dodge's editorial life would be complete without reference to the department which was her own special joy and pride—though, all too modestly, she never even acknowledged its authorship…. It is no betrayal of a confidence, now, to reveal that Mrs. Dodge was herself "Jack-in-the-Pul-pit," "Deacon Green," and the "Little Schoolma'am" all in one.
[32 (Oct. 1905): 1065]
A novelist as well as an editor, Dodge found it natural to communicate through a whole cast of characters. The Little Schoolma'am seems to have represented her intellectual interests and the Deacon her ethical concerns; when something purely educational or a bit of moralizing was called for, they lent her the traditional authority of school and church. But Jack-in-the-Pulpit, her principal persona, despite his name, was not an authority figure at all. Who could be overawed by a wildflower, something even smaller and more helpless than a child? Through Jack, Dodge could talk to children, not as a teacher, mother, minister, or even editor, but as a friend—a fellow creature still "trying to grow" and as wide-eyed at the world's wonders as themselves. And through Jack, she could bring her storyteller's humor and imagination to the editorial page. In one column Jack advises his readers:
How to Get Cool
When the thermometer stands at 90 deg., my warm young friends, don't fume, nor fuss, nor fan yourselves into a blaze. No. Sit down in some quiet place and think only of cool things. Think of snow; think of ice; think of cold water trickling down your back. Think of holding a live eel in each hand. Imagine yourself under an icy shower-bath, or sitting at night-fall on top of an iceberg; then try to shiver. Do all this without once stirring from your position, and you'll get cool, or my name's not Jack.
[3 (Aug. 1876): 670]
He goes on to describe a cold sea full of floating icebergs. In an abrupt change of pace, he then quotes an English advertisement for "Dr. Ridge's Patent Food for Infants in Shilling Packets." Jack comments, "Infants must be pretty cheap on the other side of the ocean. Cheaper than chromos" (670). Jack could get away with such flights of fancy and impish humor; an editor could not.3
This created a community Dodge envisioned for St. Nicholas, one in which children would be first-class citizens. By minimizing her role, she allowed children a greater one. This is even clearer in "The Letter-Box" which appeared in 1894. It consisted at first of answers to readers' questions—generally not quoting the original letters—with some discouraging responses to children's attempts at verse. "Dear little Elaine!" Dodge exclaimed, "don't write verses yet, cleverly as you do them for one of your age" (1 [Mar. 1874]: 308). Dodge had a strong aversion to any kind of precocity or public self-display in children.4
Here there was already a change in tone; the editorial voice sounds less severe, more relaxed, more openly sympathetic to its audience than the voice of Our Young Folks. One example is the different responses given to the same question asked of both magazines: Will Brotherton and Oscaretta T. had read "The Owl and the Pussycat" and asked what a runcible spoon was. Our Young Folks responded:
"Runcible" is a nonsense word introduced in the nonsense poem for the comical effect of a well-sounding epithet, without any shadow of meaning.
[8 (Nov. 1872): 703]
This was St. Nicholas' answer:
Runcible spoons are not made now-a-days, so it is not to be wondered at that Oscaretta did not find the word in any modern dictionary. If our little friend only could find an encyclopedia that was published in the time when all these things happened—when Owls and Pussies, on their wedding tours, really sailed in pea-green boats "to the land where the Bong-tree grows,"—she would not long be kept in ignorance. But we'll whisper a word or two in Oscaretta's ear. There's a great big, big volume called Imagination; and in this volume, right among the R's she'll find "runcible;" and, perhaps, among the B's a perfect description of a Bong-tree. Why not?
[1 (May 1874): 436]
The St. Nicholas "Letter-Box" also encouraged greater reader participation. The second issue included an article, "For the Birds," by C. C. Haskins, which urged children to join a new organization called the Bird-defenders, one of the earliest wildlife preservation groups in America; "The Letter-Box" became the department which published the names and sometimes the letters of children pledging their support.5
Dodge also actively encouraged readers to answer each other's questions:
H. W. Carroll wishes to know who invented carpet-making; also, who invented oil-cloth making. Can any of our young readers answer the questions? [1 (June 1874): 499].
Who can tell a correspondent, J. H., why salt is used in freezing ice-cream?
[3 (Aug. 1876): 678]
Gradually letters from children filled a larger proportion of "The Letter-Box," and the editorial response a smaller one. St. Nicholas initiated a "Young Contributors' Department" with articles signed with initials only (3 [Jan. 1876]: 202), and although it did not last many months, the department helped shift the emphasis of "The Letter-Box" by leaving more room for personal letters rather than "contributions." The real turning point came in the spring when "The Letter-Box" included two letters with no questions to be answered, nor any "useful" information whatever (3 [Apr. 1876]: 404); and in May there were eleven such letters. A new pattern was established in which the children themselves, their opinions, personalities, their individual lives and circumstances, were more important than the objective information they had to offer or ask for.
This pattern was to continue for nearly thirty years. Oddly enough, while the abortive "Young Contributors' Department" had helped establish "The Letter-Box" as an independent feature, the St. Nicholas League, established in 1899, had the opposite effect. This featured competitions for monthly awards for the contributors in creative writing, graphic art, and photography. Its founder, Albert Bigelow Paine, was able to overcome Dodge's qualms in regard to child celebrity, and the unprecedented opportunities offered quickly made it one of the most popular departments in the magazine. Children's letters about the League were initially printed in the League's department, in effect siphoning off a great many letters that would normally have found their way into "The Letter-Box." The latter diminished in size and disappeared in November 1904 and reappeared briefly in January and March 1905. Although it was never again omitted from St. Nicholas, it never regained its pre-League length or importance.
While the St. Nicholas League was meant for children with talent and even professional ambitions, "The Letter-Box" embraced and reflected the entire St. Nicholas community, a wider-reaching and more varied community than is sometimes realized. It is generally assumed that St. Nicholas was a "gentry" magazine, designed for and read by upper middleclass children. Lower income families, it is argued, could not afford magazine subscriptions, particularly for magazines aimed at children.6 "The Letter-Box" suggests that St. Nicholas was intended for, and read by, a much larger audience than "gentry" children.
There were, to begin with, more ways than through subscriptions for children to become regular readers of St. Nicholas. Children circulated the issues among themselves. A ten-year subscriber, James Mason K., wrote: "I think if you could see the many invalids, country children longing for books, and friends away from home in the summer time, that have pored over our copies, you would realize what good service St. Nicholas has done for us" (14 [Mar. 1887]: 397). Schools, teachers, and public libraries also subscribed to St. Nicholas. A teacher submitting a list of Bird-defenders to "The Letter-Box" added, "I have kept St. Nicholas upon my desk in the school-room ever since it came out, and I find it a capital text-book" (1 [Oct. 1874]: 746). Jack London told the story of how, as a working-class high school dropout, he read a story in St. Nicholas in the Oakland Public Library that inspired him to become a writer.7 Sometimes a generous relative supplied a child or family with a subscription: one letter told of a large and financially straitened family in "a lonely country neighborhood in Virginia" who received a Christmas subscription from "an aunt in a distant city" (3 [Apr. 1876]: 404). In the 1880s an entire town subscribed to St. Nicholas. According to Charles Barnard in "A Town with a Saint," the will of a local manufacturer had established a fund to be used "for the benefit of all the people in the town" of North Easton, Massachusetts; its trustees spent part of the money on individual subscriptions for "every family where there are children" (10 [Mar. 1883]: 339).
Think of it! One copy for every family. The joyful news soon spreads, and the moment school is out there is a grand rush for the post-office. Three hundred boys and girls besiege it at once. The postmaster hands the magazines out as fast as possible, and before night every one is gone. Not one is left, you may be sure. That evening, the entire population begins to read St. Nicholas. Nobody knows when they get through, for father and mother and big brother want their turn.
Mary Mapes Dodge herself encouraged the circulation of St. Nicholas among children too poor to pay for their subscriptions. A "Letter-Box" response to Emma T. suggests that she and other children give their back numbers to "any boys and girls who are too poor to buy St. Nicholas … and tell them, when they have read them to pass them on to other boys and girls who may not have them." She also suggested sending back numbers to "some institution for poor or suffering children," such as Dr. Knight's Hospital for Crippled Children (3 [Dec. 1875]: 132). She had made it clear in an earlier issue that the St. Nicholas community was not restricted to children who could afford their own subscriptions:
Oriole: You and all the other young folks are welcome to write to the Letter-Box, whether subscribing to St. Nicholas or not. We look upon every boy and girl who can read English, or look at a picture, as belonging in some way to St. Nicholas. Yes, you may join the army of Bird-defenders, too, provided you are resolved to keep the requisite pledge, even though you never expect to buy a copy of the magazine.
[2 (Nov. 1874): 57]
Although the social class of the young correspondents is often not evident from what they say about themselves or their families, some letters
We are delighted to see many evidences that these pages are as thoroughly enjoyed by the children of the far West as by those nearer New York. Scores of our stoutest and most enthusiastic Birddefenders send their names from beyond the Mississippi, and the Letter-Box constantly testifies to the hearty interest of our far-away young friends. Therefore we fully appreciate an item in the Nebraska City News, which says: "One of the prettiest sights we have seen this year was that of a little girl, perched upon a hitching-post in Laramie Street, eagerly reading St. Nicholas by the light from one of the street-lamps."
[1 (Oct. 1874): 747]
A number of early letters came from army forts and Indian reservations on the American frontier.
By the 1880s St. Nicholas was extending its reach across the continent and into foreign lands as well. "The Letter-Box" included children's letters from France and England, in addition to Fort Apache in Arizona and the "piney woods" of Florida. "I write to tell you," said Nettie F. Little, "that we got a copy of the St. Nicholas in London, and, although it has a different cover, inside it is the same old friend that we have known so many years in America and hope soon to see again (9 [Dec. 1882]: 157). The English edition of St. Nicholas was eagerly greeted not only by young Americans abroad, but also by many English children who seemed to prefer it to their own native magazines. Letters also came from subscribers of other nationalities like Louisa H., who wrote from Stuttgart:
My Dear St. Nicholas: When my eldest sister was in America in 1887, she sent me St. Nicholas for a present, and since that time I enjoy your coming every month. As a little girl I learned how to read English in your stories "for very little folks," and now, as I am sixteen, I know how to read your beautiful stories all by myself. Though I am a German girl, I like the English stories much more than the German ones. I think no German story is as beautiful as your "Little Lord Fauntleroy," or your "Lady Jane."
[20 (Mar. 1893): 396]8
Another letter in the same issue from Morse D. in Mexico concludes, "I am a telegraph-operator for the Central and South American Company on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and am twelve years old" (396).
The November 1886 "Letter-Box" included letters from Maroussa, Russia (another "Little Lord Fauntleroy" fan), Katie in South Africa, Nina Louise on Maui in the "Sandwich Islands," Flossie and Erica in England, and Dorothy, an English girl on Poole Island off the coast of northern Australia (14 [Nov. 1886]: 77-78). The following May there were letters from children in Ontario, Kauai, Montpellier, Dresden, Cheshire, London and Wales, Louis in Paris, and Alfonso in Mexico City, who wrote: "I am farther south than that girl in Savannah, and I assure you that the Southern friends love dear St. Nicholas" (14 [May 18 87]: 556).
For American children abroad, St. Nicholas brought a bit of home, helped sustain their national identity, and kept them in touch with their own culture. For children from other countries it was a fascinating introduction to the American way of life and a means of learning English. From their letters, these children considered themselves members of the St. Nicholas community.
The magazine also reached out to children isolated in other ways. Not a few subscribers were invalids, bedridden, or physically disabled, who could not attend school and may have had few contacts outside the home. One early letter and the editorial comments reveal the same tendency to single out invalids for special, sentimental consideration that was observed in Our Young Folks. "A little lame boy" wrote saying he learned from St. Nicholas how to amuse himself by constructing miniature cities. Dodge comments: "Many of you have written welcome letters to St. Nicholas, telling of the pleasant work you have learned to do from directions given in these pages; but this sweet little note from a Boston boy pleases us most of all" (1 [Oct. 1874]: 746). Later letters from invalids, however, were printed without comment. Children with disabilities mentioned them simply and frankly, as part of the picture of their lives, and had a special reason for appreciating St. Nicholas:
Dear St. Nicholas: I am a sick little boy. I have been an invalid for almost a year, and am confined to my bed nearly all the time. My sister had to write this for me, as I am not able to write. The only thing I can do is read. We have taken St. Nicholas a long time. I can scarcely wait for it to come. My little baby brother thinks the "Brownies" is the nicest piece in the book, and we have to read it over and over again to him.
Your constant reader, Casper N.
[14 (May 1887): 554]
"The Letter-Box" reveals in letter after letter how many American children of this period lived in isolated circumstances—isolated, in many cases, not only from schools but from other children, for many reasons. Some lived at army forts: Mae G. wrote from Fort Apache, "We have no schools out here" (9 [Dec. 1881]: 157). Some families were settlers, not only on the Western frontier but in other parts of the country also. C. D. R. wrote from Florida:
St. Nicholas is sent to me as a Christmas present from a very kind auntie of mine. I don't know what I should do without it….The nearest little girl that I have to play with lives nearly two miles away, but I don't get very lonesome. I look forward with a great deal of pleasure to the day that brings St. Nicholas to me.
[9 (Dec. 1881): 157]
Some families were missionaries. "I am a little girl seven years old, and live alone with my father, who is a Baptist missionary," wrote Edwina S. from Mexico City (13 [July 1886]: 714). Many other families traveled or lived abroad for extended periods. "We have lived very little in America, as mama is obliged to travel for her health," wrote Sussette and Aggie (22 [July 1895]: 788). Some children were educated at home, like Marguerite H. of Greenville, South Carolina:
It seems to be the custom of your correspondents to give their ages and a minute description of their occupation, so I will follow. I am fourteen years old, and have never been to school a day in my life, my mother having always taught me at home until this year, when I have a tutor for Algebra and Latin. I continue the study of French with my mother, using Fasquelle's Grammar and reading a pretty story called "Le Petit Robinson de Paris," besides having lessons in English composition, geography, history, declamation, music and drawing.
[13 (July 1886): 715]
St. Nicholas connected these children to others and to a world otherwise beyond their reach. For rural children, especially, it could provide a source of knowledge and culture beyond what the local schools, if any, could provide. Letters like Casper's and C. D. R.'s are testimonials to its power, and the latter's "I don't know what I should do without it" is echoed again and again. Occasionally, as in the case of "the younger Mr. Harrison" of Fisk University, we learn a little more of what St. Nicholas could mean in the life of a disadvantaged child.
Another detailed and moving account comes by way of a former contributor of the 1870s, who wonders:
… whether boys and girls of the present time appreciate St. Nicholas as highly as the juveniles did twenty-five years ago. One of the boys of that time told his aunt the other day what this periodical was to him when he was a little country boy living on an isolated farm situated on the highest point of the State, having but little society, few books, and without a library, even of the Sunday-school sort in a primitive community. As a Christmas gift his aunt subscribed to St. Nicholas for him, as for three or four years he looked forward to the monthly feast of good things that never failed to come on time. The nearest post-office was four miles away, and if a neighbor going to the village did not bring him the precious parcel, he traveled eight miles to get it! After he had finished, his brothers enjoyed the undiminished feast, and then passed it along to other hungry boys who had no generous city aunt.
At length a time came when he waited in vain for dear St. Nicholas, and it was Christmas-time, too. Perhaps there was a delay of the mail. The snow was deep and heavy, and everything was snowed except the great high hill he lived upon. Christmas passed without its usual cheer; something very dear to the boy's heart was lacking, and, alas! The lack was never made up to him, though, encouraged by that same aunt, the country boy went to college and got his degree.
"Oh, my dear boy, why did you not write and tell me how much St. Nicholas was to you?" said the aunt after her nephew had told his story, the half of which has not been told here.
"I couldn't, I felt so wretched; I simply couldn't say anything of what I felt," he replied. Now, I hope that if there are any city aunts subscribing to St. Nicholas for their young country nephews they will keep up the subscription indefinitely and thereby escape the regret of
Annie E. De Friese
[32 (May 1905): 670]
Through "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" and "The Letter-Box," Mary Mapes Dodge shaped this far-flung community of readers. Just as her taste in writing and illustration and her concept of what childhood should be permeated the contents of St. Nicholas, so her editorial comments and selections for "The Letter-Box" gave the community its distinctive character and particularly strong appeal. Readers living in unusual and distant places had something of an "edge" in "The Letter-Box." Although St. Nicholas was published in New York City and had its largest circulation on the East Coast, it was the reverse of parochial in terms of readership. As one might expect from the author of Hans Brinker—the first American novel to take children inside a foreign culture—Dodge encouraged children from "beyond the Mississippi" and from other countries to feel themselves part of the St. Nicholas community. She also encouraged circulation of the magazine across social and economic boundaries. Nicholas, after all, was the patron saint of all children.
The cheerful, kindly, positive approach to life that characterized St. Nicholas as a whole was especially apparent in "Jack-in-the-Pulpit," and made itself felt in "The Letter-Box" as well. No negative letters ever appeared in the magazine, although it is unlikely that none were ever submitted. This selectivity may be regarded as a simple matter of self-interest. "The Letter-Box" helped set the characteristic tone of the magazine, and the steady stream of praise for St. Nicholas that runs through it was an effective form of advertising. Children must have suspected that saying something nice about St. Nicholas might help to get their letters printed. But the policy also helped give the community the pleasant, friendly atmosphere that was one of its attractions.
From the outset (and unlike the editors of Our Young Folks) Dodge also encouraged children to answer questions themselves rather than depending on her. Assisting her father with his agricultural experiments had given her a degree of scientific training unusual for a young woman of the 1840s, and she was fully aware of the importance of fresh ideas and first-hand investigation in an increasingly technological society. So she frequently included challenging questions in "Jack-in-the-Pulpit," or invited readers to try their hand at the questions sent to "The Letter-Box." She even suggested that there was not always a "right answer." She would set the Deacon arguing with the Little Schoolma'am, and when two readers sent in differing but equally plausible answers to a question, she would print them both. When Helen D. wrote to correct a statement in "Rhymes of the States" about the derivation of the name "Minnesota," she praised and thanked her "as a vigilant young correspondent, whose letter is certainly very convincing." At the same time, the editorial note points out "authorities differ, so that one may well doubt which is the true meaning, or whether the true meaning is known with certainty" (22 [July 1895]: 790). Children are encouraged to question what they read—even in St. Nicholas—and to recognize that the best authorities may not be certain of the truth.
"The Letter-Box" also occasionally contained letters from adults with information on specialized topics. The Agassiz Association, founded in 1880 for the study of natural history and sponsored by St. Nicholas, though primarily for children, had members of all ages: teachers, scientists, and other professionals who shared their expertise. Other movements sponsored or supported by the magazine, such as the Bird-defenders, money-raising for the Fresh Air Fund for children, organizing Christmas Clubs to give poor children a happier holiday, contributing to the Longfellow Memorial, encouraged children to assume a responsible and active role in the larger world.
As members of the St. Nicholas community, children saw themselves as mentally self-reliant and resourceful, capable of working with adults and each other toward common goals. And they were aware of being connected through St. Nicholas, however isolated they might be. Finally, and not least important, the children of the St. Nicholas community were encouraged to see themselves as lovable, not for any special talent or achievement, but for who they were. It is remarkable how often terms of endearment appear in "Jack-in-the Pulpit," how frequently readers are addressed as "my friends," "my chicks," and "my darlings." Despite their more formal tone, the editorial notes in "The Letter-Box" echo this affection and approval. When St. Nicholas sponsored a contest, extra pains were taken to prevent the losers from feeling too badly. Commenting on the results of a spelling competition, the Little Schoolma'am had praise for everyone:
Some of you have worked under disadvantages which would have discouraged many older heads, and all of you have shown a zeal and intelligence which make me the proudest and happiest little schoolma'am in the world…. In conclusion, with a full heart I thank you, one and all, parents and children, for your good letters and the hearty love you show for dear St. Nicholas.
[3 (July 1876): 466]
Deacon Green was even more tenderhearted when he announced the results of a competition to make a perfect copy of the Declaration of Independence:
The rest of the committee was enthusiastic over the correct and finely written copies, but somehow my heart went out to the blotted sheets whereon chubby little fingers toiled and blundered. While the four wiser ones were ecstatic over the neatness, skill and accuracy of hundreds of bright competitors, I sat wistfully holding the very worst Declaration of the lot, and, in imagination, wiping the tearful eyes of youngsters who couldn't possibly win a prize or get on the Roll of Honor.
[3 (Aug. 1876): 672]
Although this may sound sentimental to contemporary ears, it is unmistakably sincere. In every detail of St. Nicholas, we sense how much its founder cared about her "Jack and Jills."
It is no wonder that children loved, not the editor whose name they never saw, but "dear St. Nicholas." Children naturally responded to the openly expressed, unconditional love which valued them as individuals and respected their capabilities. Like the best mothers, St. Nicholas provided an environment that both nurtured the young and helped them grow. Its stories, articles, and illustrations, fine though they were, may not have meant so much to these nineteenth-century children as the sense that St. Nicholas gave them of who they were and the splendid community to which they belonged.
"It often seems to me," wrote one thoughtful "old boy" of eighteen to St. Nicholas, "as if you were the medium of feeling between all the boys and girls in the land. I wish you the friendship and love of all children everywhere" (11 [Feb. 1884]: 340).
1. Six months after the inauguration of St. Nicholas, Dodge was apologizing in "The Letter-Box" for her inability to reply to all the letters she received (1 [May 1874]: 437). A few months later she told "Oriole," "One entire number of the magazine scarcely would hold half the letters that come to us every month … " (2 [Nov. 1874]: 57).
2. One example of a long term relationship appears in this letter: "Dear St. Nicholas: Our family has taken you for a long time. My greatgrandmother (first), my grandmother (second), my mother (third), my uncle (fourth) and now myself (fifth) have been your subscribers, We have all certainly enjoyed you….Your interested reader, Mildred Fuller (age 11)" (43 [Feb. 1916]: 382).
3. As far as I know, Jack-in-the-Pulpit was the first of his kind. But the non-human editorial persona became almost a convention of American children's magazines. Jack and Jill had Finny, the office goldfish; Boys' Life has its wisecracking burro Pedro; Cricket features a full cast of mostly insect characters like Cricket, Old Cricket, and Ladybug.
4. In another instance, although Dodge printed the poem of "A Little Syracuse Girl," she prefaced it with "We are not fond of encouraging such literary ways in our little folk … " (1 [July 1874]: 560).
5. For more on the Bird-defenders, see my "Green Worlds for Children," The Lion and the Unicorn, 19 (Dec. 1995).
6. The subscription cost $3 a year.
7. Jack London's first published story appeared in St. Nicholas.
8. It was apparently not unusual for parents and teachers to use St. Nicholas as an aid to language learning. The letter from two boys in Montpellier begins: "Nearly two years ago our grandmamma, in America, sent us your magazine for Mamma to teach us English, for our lessons have all been in French and German, although we are little Americans" (14 [May 1887]: 555).
Fred Erisman (essay date 2004)
SOURCE: Erisman, Fred. "The Utopia of St. Nicholas: The Present as Prologue." In St. Nicholas, edited by Susan R. Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson, pp. 191-96. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004.
[In the following article, Erisman studies how St. Nicholas sought to present a pronounced set of ideals through featured works of nonfiction.]
When the publishers of Scribner's Monthly launched St. Nicholas Magazine in November 1873, their aim was clear. The newcomer, edited by Mary Mapes Dodge, was to be the qualitative equivalent of the adult magazine, conveying and reinforcing the values of its upper middle-class readers. The two were to be "harmonious companions in the family, and the helpers of each other in the work of instruction, culture and entertainment."1 This aim remained remarkably constant throughout the magazine's history. As late as 1923, it was restated thus:
[St. Nicholas] builds character; it fosters true manliness and womanliness through the doctrine of labor, courage, fortitude, self-respect, and the golden rule.
It keeps pace with the world and the important things that are going forward in it.
It prepares boys and girls for life as it is, and stimulates ambition for a life of usefulness and service to mankind.2
These are clearly extensions of the original goal. They are also something more.
In its goals lies much of the importance of St. Nicholas. The magazine consistently presents to its readers the basic ideals of middle-class America—a clear-cut sense of right and wrong, a regard for the Puritan work ethic, and a sense of personal responsibility. In doing so, it implies that these values are desirable and published between 1890 and 1910, both sides of this split appear. Throughout the years immediately prior to World War I, the magazine transmits, in its non-fiction, a sense of the technological competence necessary to prosper in an urban, mechanized world, even as it presents, in its fiction, the professed values of the middle-class world of the American dream. Taken together, the two groups of literature make up a singularly utopian body of writing as they equip young readers to survive in—and to improve—the world in which they find themselves.
The non-fiction of St. Nicholas poses and answers three didactic questions: "What is the world like?" "How does the world operate?" and "How can I best get along in the world?" The first of these is dealt with by descriptive articles embracing topics from matter-of-fact travel accounts to discussions of significant world events. Typical of these are Theodore Roosevelt's "Hero Tales of American History" (May-October 1895), Annie C. Kuiper's "Queen Wilhelmina's Lessons" (October 1903), and Bertha Runkle's "Child Life in China and Japan" (January 1905).
Two themes emerge from these articles: that the well-rounded person must have a general understanding of the world and its history, and that the individual can benefit from the examples of others. The examples, however, are inevitably couched in ideal terms. William Abbatt, citing Captain James Lawrence's dying injunction, "Don't give up the ship," goes on to suggest that persistence and optimism are qualities applicable to all facets of life: "[These words] are a good motto in every trouble of life. Don't give up the ship—don't despair, lose heart, surrender, but take courage, and, like General Grant, ‘Fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.’"3 What the individual learns from history are the lessons of courage, industry and fortitude. If he patterns himself upon these lessons, he will find himself attuned to the world in which he lives.
The second question, the "how" of the world, is answered by a host of scientific and technological articles. Representative of this are Lieutenant John M. Ellicott's history of explosives (July 1896); Tudor Jenks's "Mirrors of Air" (January 1897), on mirages; and George Ethelbert Walsh's "What a Lump of Coal Could Do" (October 1904). These articles, without exception, stress the importance of general knowledge in its own right, and man's ability to mold nature to his will through technology. Thus, Walsh's essay concludes:
The harnessing of the waves and wind for generating electric power, or the focusing of the sun's rays on a boiler … are but further illustrations of man's efforts to cast his burden of hard labor upon forces which are all around us, if we but know how to release and employ them. When some of the potential power of a pound of coal was first released and harnessed … a vital step in the progress of humanity and civilization was taken.4
The message is plain: precise knowledge of the world and the harnessing of its knowledge are among the keys to success.
The final question, "How can I best get along in the world?" is the subject of numerous practical articles, presenting to the reader of St. Nicholas his environment, the organization and operation of his culture, and assorted skills and accomplishments likely to be of use to him. Among these are Ernest Ingersoll's discussion of city-planning, "Reasoning Out a Metropolis" (January 1898); Cleveland Moffett's several articles on "Careers of Danger and Daring" (1901); and H. Irving Hancock's two-part article on jiu-jitsu, "Japanese Athletics for American Boys" (January-February 1904).
Despite all this practicality, though, professed American ideals appear, quietly but explicitly. Cleveland Moffett, after describing several technical and dangerous occupations, drives home the lesson: "These every-day heroes … may give us a bit of their spirit for our own lives, the brave and patient spirit that will keep us unflinchingly at the hard thing (whatever it be) until we have conquered it. And perhaps we too may feel impelled to cultivate … the habit of courage."5 Even if the life is that of the twentieth century, the ideals are those of an earlier, simpler America—courage, patience, and unquenchable fortitude.
Throughout the nonfiction of St. Nicholas, one finds a sense of learning about reality. Facts abound, presented without apology, to be appreciated for themselves. Beneath these facts, however, lies a humane, conservative world somewhat at odds with the practical world of reality. These worlds, the editors seem to say, exist concurrently; the ideals of the American dream are at least partially compatible with the facts of a technological society. Despite this compatibility, though, a division is clear. Bound by facts, the authors at times have to struggle to reconcile their ideal view with the real society of which they write. Significantly, no such struggle appears in the fiction. Here the authors, unfettered by the need to assimilate cold facts, are free to portray the ideal world.
In its way, the fiction of St. Nicholas is as unabashedly didactic as the nonfiction. Its primary purpose, to be sure, is entertainment. But even as it provides quality entertainment, the fiction also supplies cultural ideals, standards, and models to assist the young reader in directing his life. It reinforces at every turning the child's sense of his place and role in a middleclass world. Whatever the type of story being presented, the plot line is paralleled by a strong current of cultural indoctrination.
The first major class of fiction, that of fantasy and science fiction, is a mixed group. Like the nonfic- tional works, many of these stories glorify technical competence, as in Clement Fezandie's "Through the Earth" (January-April 1898), telling of a tunnel to the Antipodes. Others, however, move into the imaginative realm of fantasy and the supernatural. Regardless of the subject matter, though, the stories stress the familiar values of obedience, industry, and contentment, implying that these are the traits that make their imagined worlds attractive. Thus, for example, a boy who suddenly acquires magical powers finds that they bring him only grief. He surrenders them without regret, remarking afterward that "since then, I have never longed for anything that comes without effort—for whatever is worth having is worth working for."6
The second notable class of fiction, historical fiction, although somewhat restricted by its basis of fact, advances the same cultural attitudes. The stories are of a familiar type: a young person, aged between ten and eighteen, comes into contact with notable events or persons, and learns something of himself, his times, and the world. Typical are Roberta Nelson's "The Field of the Cloth of Gold" (January 1899), Annah Robinson Watson's "Eleanor's Colonel" (July 1900), and Gensai Murai's "‘Kibun Daizin,’ or ‘From Shark Boy to Merchant Prince’" (July-November 1904). The lessons taught by the stories, like the stories themselves, are familiar. Adherence to duty, for example, is highly regarded, as is self-reliance, in all its forms. Thus, the editors, introducing the story of a seventeenth century Japanese boy, remark: "The shrewdness and dauntless ambition of the young hero of this story will commend him to the admiration of American boys."7 Though the stories exist primarily to entertain, they obviously also teach, stressing the attitudes and ways of behavior professed by turn-of-the-century America.
The largest class of fiction in St. Nicholas is that dealing with ordinary persons under ordinary conditions, such as Carolyn Wells's "The Story of Betty" (January-October 1899), or Frances Courtenay Baylor's "In the Cavalry" (July 1903). In every case, the stories, through the actions and attitudes of a sympathetic central character, provide an example for the reader to follow. Ralph Cruger, for example, a city-bred sixteen-year-old, grows in wisdom under the guidance of his country cousin, Harry:
Each day was marked by some new experience, some new thing learned, some step forward toward manliness and self-reliance and self-control, frankness, and truth. Ralph, under the tutelage of Harry's constant example, had learned … to know that a quick hand and ready brain and fearlessness were things of steady value, and to have driven into him, so deeply that they were never uprooted, the old, old lessons that success comes only through repeated failure, and that he is thrice brave and thrice a conqueror who conquers self. He had good stuff in him, this boy, and the semi-rough life brought it out.8
The lessons of St. Nicholas are "the old, old lessons": they stress the importance of duty, industry, thrift, and self-reliance, arguing in the process that these are the major virtues. In doing so, the magazine perpetuates qualities that one of its authors admits are old; it presents them, however, not as museum pieces, but as viable standards, as valid in an urban setting as in a rural one, as valid in the twentieth century as in the eighteenth. In doing so, it creates a tantalizingly utopian situation.
Karl Mannheim, in Ideology and Utopia (1929) speaks of two kinds of "situationally transcendent ideas," which illuminate the utopianism of St. Nicholas. Ideologies, says Mannheim, are the ideas that, although never achieving realization, are the ones usually cited as the rules and values by which the society claims to live.9 Utopias, on the other hand, are those ideas that can potentially change the existing order: "When they pass over into conduct [they] tend to change it."10 This tension between ideology and utopia appears quite clearly in St. Nicholas.
The years during which the magazine was in its prime were years of social and technological change in which the American individual was asked to reconcile an increasingly impersonal, mechanized society with a system of values based upon individuality and open, decent personal relations. This change however is not apparent in the magazine. If one takes the contents of St. Nicholas at face value, one finds that they present a society in which man and machine live in harmony, a culture in which the comforts of the industrial era are complemented by the ideals of an earlier America. It is an interesting society, and an appealing one, but it is not the one in which the young readers of the magazine would find themselves as adults.
If St. Nicholas, despite its own professions, does not truly prepare its readers for "life as it is," it does equip them to change that life. Although the ideologies of middle-class America permeate the magazine, they are presented as workable ideals; the contrast between the real and the ideal is absent. Lacking a sense of this contrast, but finding in life that the con- trast exists (as would be inevitable for these children, who would come to maturity in the years following World War I), the child, as adult, might reasonably be expected to set out to change his life. The change, presumably, would be one enabling him to practice those ideals in the context of modern life. If effected, the change would indeed tend to shatter the prevailing order of things.
In its presentation of the compatibility of the modern world and traditional values, St. Nicholas is, in the best sense of the word, utopian. Implicitly and vaguely dissatisfied with the shifting present, it looks to the future, recognizing that change must come about through the individual. Recognizing further that the children of the present are the adults of the future, it presents to its readers the ideals of the past in the context of the present, giving them the means with which to change the future.
1. "St. Nicholas," Scribner's Monthly, 7 (Nov. 1873), 115.
2. "Fifty Years of St. Nicholas," St. Nicholas, 51 (Nov. 1923), 20. A thoughtful account of the magazine's history and stature appears in Florence Stanley Sturges, "The St. Nicholas Years," in The Hewins Lectures, 1947-1962, ed. Siri Andrews, (Boston: Horn Book, 1963), pp. 267-95.
3. William Abbatt, "The Chesapeake Mill," St. Nicholas, 24 (July 1897), 730.
4. George Ethelbert Walsh, "What a Lump of Coal Could Do," St. Nicholas, 31 (Oct. 1904), 1120.
5. Cleveland Moffett, "The Locomotive Engineer," St. Nicholas, 28 (Oct. 1901), 1068.
6. Tudor Jenks, "A Magician for One Day," St. Nicholas, 24 (Oct. 1897), 1016.
7. Gensai Murai, "‘Kibun Daizin,’ or ‘From Shark-Boy to Merchant Prince,’" St. Nicholas, 31 (July 1904), 777.
8. H. S. Canfield, "The Boys of the Rincon Ranch," St. Nicholas, 29 (Apr. 1902), 525.
10. Mannheim, p. 192.
James Marten (essay date March 1995)
SOURCE: Marten, James. "For the Good, the True, and the Beautiful: Northern Children's Magazines and the Civil War." Civil War History 41, no. 1 (March 1995): 57-75.
[In the following essay, Marten highlights how Northern-American periodicals for children sought to instill pro-Union beliefs in their readership through editorials, stories, and coverage of the Civil War.]
"What has been gained by all the fighting?" young William asks Uncle Rodman in a story from Our Young Folks in the summer of 1865. Uncle Rodman lays aside his newspaper, removes his spectacles, and solemnly tells William and his sister Susie, "I am very glad to hear you express a wish to know more about the conflict that is now closing. It has been the great event of this century, and you ought to have a clear general idea of its origin and results." Four years ago, "it was not to be expected that you should understand what so many grown people failed to appreciate. But you are older now, and the terrible meaning of the war is clearer to us all than it was then." The subsequent dialogue explains the folly of Southern secession and the righteousness of the Northern victory. Its certainty in the right of the Union cause, its emphasis on the evils of slavery and slaveholders, and the earnest romanticism of its patriotism reflect the attitudes developed in Civil Warera children's magazines.1
While the editors and writers of children's magazines did take on war-related topics, they continued to utilize formats and embrace assumptions that had shaped children's literature for decades. Stories and articles promoted the principles of hard work, obedience, generosity, humility, and piety; provided moral guidance and examples of the benefits of family cohesion and the consequences of the absence of such order; and furnished mild adventure stories, innocent entertainment, and instruction. The values thus expressed were valuable anytime, of course, but were absolutely necessary at times of crisis—especially during a war being fought to defend exactly those noble traits. Works of fiction and non-fiction alike—"the incidental work of leading British and American authors, and the major work of some incidental writers of Victorian prose and poetry," in the words of John Morton Blum—stressed character and framed the world in moral terms. E. Douglas Branch unsympathetically characterized the tone of much of prewar children's literature when he described the storytelling scenarios of Peter Parley (Samuel G. Goodrich) in his books on history, geography, and nature: "a kindly old gentleman, marvelously well-informed, talking to an inquisitive set of little prigs." Authors of stories and novels as well as schoolbooks for children combined a faith in virtue with the confidence in the American political and economic systems; patriotism and good deeds and hard work and unselfishness together would guarantee individual success and national honor.2 Much of the content of wartime children's periodicals reflected these antebellum concerns.
Yet they also moved from the antebellum reluctance to discuss politics, military affairs, and race relations in order to rally children to the Union war effort. Anne Scott MacLeod has shown that the "relentless moralizing" in children's literature between 1820 and 1860 tended to focus on self-improvement—especially temperance—and pacifism; the antislavery movement, on the other hand, was controversial. "Children's fiction was seldom chosen as a vehicle for the heavy burden of the national debate over slavery" because publishers simply could not afford to alienate important segments of the book-buying public. The dozens of best-selling books by Jacob Abbott "reflected little of that era's controversy or ferment for reform." When Abbott and others featured African Americans in their stories and novels, even the most sympathetic characters were burdened by stereotypes and by the condescension and patronizing attitudes of clearly more intelligent white characters. Surprisingly, perhaps, literature distributed by the American Sunday School Union avoided the issue of slavery. Children's magazines, according to John B. Crume, "asked no more of their … readers than that they behave themselves."3
The same caution applied to military subjects. As The Student and Schoolmate noted in August 1862, most Northerners had "only a few years ago … looked with a feeling bordering upon contempt on military matters." Public satire of military institutions prevailed; "a military company was senseless pageant to be enjoyed only by little boys and stupid men." It seemed that the militia system in Massachusetts would be abolished by public apathy, if not by law. The rebellion changed everything, however. "When Fort Sumter was bombarded, the military spirit rose to a tremendous pitch of enthusiasm," and society became more accepting of military uniforms and parades and training.4
Similarly, the war helped to transform periodical literature for children. Not only did children's magazines provide information about the war through accounts of battles and of life in the army, short biographies of leading generals and politicians, and entries on war-related trivia and statistics, but they also encouraged children to get involved in the Northern war effort by inspiring them with tales of bravery and patriotism, showing them how they could contribute to Union victory, and explaining the causes and history of the war in its political and moral contexts. The war furthered the transition in children's magazines described by R. Gordon Kelly, who argues that from their initial appearance in the 1780s through the 1840s, religious themes and imagery predominated over pleasure in the content of children's journals; by the 1860s, however, a "more relaxed attitude" had taken hold, with far less emphasis on conversion. After the Civil War, magazines dedicated themselves to "wholesome entertainment."5
The effects of the war on juvenile periodicals can be traced through six of the leading commercial magazines published in the North during and just after the war. Although they all shared similar goals and formats, subtle differences in tone differentiated them. Merry's Museum, which appeared under several names during its thirty-two-year career, was first published in 1841 and, during the war, was edited by John N. Stearns. Through columns like "Robert Merry's Chat with His Friends" and "Aunt Sue's Scrap-Bag," in which kindly advice was tendered and readers were encouraged to correspond with "Robert Merry" as well as with other readers, the Museum created a cozy, familiar community of readers who called themselves "cousins." (Other magazines also attempted to create such a sense of family, although less successfully; The Student and Schoolmate included a section called "The Teacher's Desk," while Our Young Folks called its games and correspondence section "Round the Evening Lamp.") Grace Greenwood's The Little Pilgrim, which came out in 1853 and lasted until 1868, took its name from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Published by Leander Lippincott—Greenwood was the pen name of his wife, Sara J. C. Lippincott—it emphasized, perhaps more than the other magazines, middle-class morality and piety. The Student and Schoolmate was the product of the 1855 merger between The Student and Young Tutor with the The Schoolmate, and it survived several more mergers and name changes after the Civil War before its demise in 1872. Its editor, Oliver Optic (William T. Adams), was a prolific writer of children's books who stressed a temperate life-style and unquestioning patriotism. Forrester's Playmate began publication in Boston in 1854 and went through several name changes—including Youth's Casket and Playmate—before merging with the Student and Schoolmate in 1867. It featured the fewest articles and stories on the war, although its "Chat with Readers and Correspondence" section frequently included editorial remarks or letters related to wartime issues. Ticknor and Fields began publishing Our Young Folks in January 1865; its trio of editors—J. T. Trowbridge, Lucy Larcom, and Gail Hamilton—were well-known children's authors, and their magazine, despite its relatively brief eight-year career, was the first of the great postwar children's periodicals. According to Richard L. Darling, Our Young Folks "set the standard" for the increasingly secular and entertaining magazines of the latter third of the nineteenth century. Finally, The Little Corporal appeared during the first summer after the war and lasted until its absorption by St. Nicholas in 1875; its mascot was a boy dressed in a Zouave uniform and brandishing a sword and a pike. Although its content resembled other children's magazines of the period, the tone of its first few volumes was decidedly militaristic. Its motto demonstrated the mingling of the traditional concerns of children's journals with the military metaphors of which its editors were fond: "Fighting against Wrong, and for The Good, the True and the Beautiful."6
These half-dozen magazines offered information, opinions, or war-related trivia in virtually every type of feature: short stories, nature sketches, travel articles, and "declamation" pieces, which in The Student and Schoolmate included symbols for the appropriate gestures and emphases. Words and picture games and songs often revolved around the war and Northern political principals. Illustrated rebuses asked readers to construct phrases based on a series of pictures or symbols that stood for words or sounds that, when combined, would phonetically create the correct answer. Some merely referred to images of battle: "Cannoneers delight in shooting their balls into the enemy's lines." Others were much more politically oriented: "We propose to make our flag shelter the oppressed wherever it waves," and "In the cause of Independence our forefathers sanctified their lives and fortunes. Let us aim to hand down to latest posterity the priceless heritage of the Union, cemented by their richest blood." Enigmas combined coded phrases with fill-in-the-blank questions on a wide variety of subjects, including the war: "They are for my Union though the last man should die," "Negro slavery is an institution the South did prize, Now dead and buried forever it lies," and "Secession rears its hideous, gory head, O'er fields of dying and the dead."7
The Little Corporal contained elaborate rebuses, called "picture stories," that often went on for several verses. One devoted half of its stanzas to the Civil War and challenged readers to deduce the following:
"They fall upon the falling South,
American eagle at the cannon's mouth; they rush upon the last redoubt.
The eagle grasps the flag about,
For Union and for victory!—The war is past—the fight is done—
The great rebellion overthrown!
The conquering eagle smooths her wings,
And safely back each hero brings,
To Union and to Liberty!"
The Student and Schoolmate offered similar activities as well as a song on the last page of each issue; many of the latter were patriotic hymns that heralded the United States as the God-chosen home of Freedom. A typical example, "A Song of Hope," referred to the conflict that continued to ravage "the land that God was keeping, / Freedom's hope and home to be." Lacking specific images of the war, it nevertheless confidently asserted that "the Lord is watching o'er us, / He will lead through strife to peace." A later offering, "On to Richmond!" proclaimed that
"Should coming days be dark and cold,
We will not sigh or murmur,
For Grant has said, with courage bold,
‘We'll fight them here all summer.’"
The children's magazines did not ignore humor; Our Young Folks punished its readers with war-related jokes like "Why should soldiers never meddle with nut-crackers? Because they make shells burst on the kernel (Colonel)." In an 1860s version of "Kids say the darndest things" The Little Pilgrim had a section called "Anecdotes and Sayings of Children," which sometimes included comments by three to six year olds on the war. A little girl who had skinned her head, knees, and arms in a fall looked sadly at her wounds and said to her mother, "Oh dear! what dreadful times these war times are!" Another, revealing a small cut on her hand, explained, "I been to war, and fell down on a bullet, and it bleeded." One youngster, browsing through the battle scenes—replete with dead soldiers—published in Harper's Weekly, said, "Isn't it a pity, mamma, that so many men were wasted?" A picture in the same magazine of the "Dead Drummer-boy" inspired militaristic Ed- die to declare that, when his father went to war, he would accompany him "as the Dead Drummer Boy."8
Oliver Optic's The Student and Schoolmate presented dozens of vignettes and statistics—often in a section called "Curious and Amusing"—that targeted children's insatiable appetite for war trivia. In January 1862, readers learned, for instance, that Gen. Nathaniel Banks's division had sent 98,000 letters during one two-month period and that the U.S. flag waved in a portion of every Rebel state except Alabama and Arkansas. Other entries informed children that the government paid sixteen dollars for each rifled musket it bought from the Springfield armory and that one young lady near Boston had already knitted one hundred pairs of mittens for soldiers during the first nine months of the war. In the spring of 1864, readers learned that the new commander of Union armies, General Grant, had been a wood-hauler only six years before. Brief entries told of children playing amidst the shelling of Vicksburg and of the scion of a wealthy New England family who walked seven miles each day as the mail-carrier for the 17th Connecticut.9
Two years into the war, Oliver Optic referred to the "cheap patriotism" reflected in the drum-beating and flag-waving of the early days of the war and applauded the deeper, more confident, and more sustained patriotism of both the army and the public. This seriousness was reflected in the scores of stories and articles that presented in a rather matter-of-fact way the nuts and bolts of life in the army and provided other war-related information of interest to their readers. Merry's Museum offered a biography of Gen. George B. McClellan late in 1861, as well as a description of common artillery pieces and their projectiles. Even "Aunt Sue" devoted a column of her "Scrap-Bag" to military insignia to help her readers "distinguish a Major-General from a First-Lieutenant and a Captain from a Corporal" and, later, described a line of battle. Charles C. Coffin offered readers of The Student and Schoolmate a series of "Letters from the Army" that provided matter-of-fact information about military matters. "A Walk Through the Camp" related methods of preparing and eating meals and warming tents and stressed the importance of soldiers of receiving and sending letters. "How an Army Lives" focused on foraging parties—which not only punished traitors but provided rations for soldiers—and on the "gay time" that followed the return of foragers to camp. "A Battle" described skirmish between a brigade or two of Confederates and Yankees in Virginia; although Coffin provides a few tactical details and two small maps, he emphasizes the confusion and violence witnessed by the common soldiers. He ends on an ominous note: "Perhaps, one of these days if the war should continue, you will be found in the ranks ready to do what you can for your country." Another series appeared in the same journal about two years later. Called "Campaigning," it began with several articles that discussed the differences between companies, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, and armies; another displayed the ways in which those units would be deployed in battle. Later entries offered more exciting fare—the adventures of a daring squad of Union soldiers.10
The juvenile press went far beyond providing minutiae about the war. Although it would be too much to argue that children's writers in the North actually encouraged underage boys to join the army, many stories portrayed the extent to which a few children displayed their loyalty to the Union. Several threw their protagonists—often twelve years old or less—into battles or other dangerous situations and ranged in length from a paragraph about a fourteen-year-old hero on the USS Cumberland to full-blown short stories and serials. In "The Little Prisoner," young James is finally allowed by his widowed mother to become a drummer boy of an Ohio regiment. He proves his mettle at the Battle of the Wilderness, where he is also bayonetted—not seriously—by a Rebel intent on robbing the body of a friend of his father's. A kindly black woman takes him to an abandoned plantation nearby where she nurses him back to health, reads the Bible with him, and tells him about her long-lost son, who had been "sold South" years before but miraculously appears just as James is captured by John Mosby's raiders. The author describes the famous partisan as "manly" but cautions that the "stormy, unbridled passions, and … cruel, inflexible disposition" ingrained in this slaveholder made him an oppressive commander and an unworthy enemy. Eventually, Mosby releases James, who returns home to his mother, revealing how "God dealt with a little boy who trusted in and prayed to him." A similar tale—purportedly a true story—has another twelve-year-old Yankee drummer boy, Robert, captured at the Battle of Chancellorsville, at which he cares for both wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. He encounters Robert E. Lee, who had "none of the smaller vices, but all of the larger ones; for he deliberately, basely, and under circumstances of unparalleled meanness, betrayed his country, and, long after all hope of success was lost, carried on a murderous war against his own race and kindred." Marse Robert treats the hero patronizingly and responds angrily when Robert declares, "I came out here, sir, to help fight the wicked men who are trying to destroy their country." Robert ends up in Libby Prison, where he survives a nasty fever, studies his lessons with a "good Colonel," and rediscovers one of the patients he had nursed during the battle, a seventeen-year-old Confederate who kindly helps him escape. This reversal of the magazine's usual presentation of Rebel perfidy is nevertheless true to form. Young, poor whites are not to blame for the carnage, at least in the war-stricken South presented in the juvenile press; "after all … it is true that the same humanity beats under a gray coat that beats under a blue one."11
A "Declamation" piece from The Student and Schoolmate portrayed a fifteen-year-old drummer boy who died from exposure the night after the battle at Fort Donelson. The six-stanza poem ended with the injunction,
"And there let him rest, on the battle-field fearful,
Where heroes, in thousands, repose at his side;
And we'll think on his doom with a feeling less tearful,
To know that for justice and freedom he died."
Another example of courageous piety was found in the fortitude of Eddy, a thirteen-year-old drummer boy at Gettysburg who loses his arm—enduring the amputation without chloroform—but proudly upholds a promise to his mother that he "wouldn't drink nor swear use tobacco nor play cards." He could never have kept that promise, he says, "if I hadn't known that ‘Jesus is my Captain.’" The editor of Forrester's Playmate encouraged "old Playmates" who had joined the army to report on their experiences. "I shouldn't like to know many are fighting in the rebel army, if there be possibly a single one," he cautioned, but he did "want to know how many there are in arms against rebellion and treason."12 A number of old "playmates," as well as former correspondents of Merry's Museum and The Student and Schoolmate, wrote of their army experiences.
Another major genre of stories and articles showed children of all ages actively participating in the war effort by acting out their more violent patriotic impulses, finding ways to support the troops or the families of soldiers, or taking on heavy responsibilities at home. In one common scenario, little boys drill with wooden swords and broomsticks and charge a group of girls who had giggled at their efforts. In a similar story, a score of boys struggle to organize their own company of Zouaves; in their case, battle is nearly joined with a competing company who fortunately retreat in the face of superior numbers. In both stories, the children strive for authenticity in their equipment, uniform, and military demeanor. Young ladies also get into the act, but in gender-appropriate ways. A little girl named Nelly, inspired by her wounded and convalescing brother's stories of the United States Sanitary Commission, resolves to create a hospital for various wounded animals; she is the nurse, while the gardener's son is the surgeon. She builds a tiny ambulance with the Sanitary Commission emblem on the side and proceeds to treat a fly trapped in a spider's web—she calls it "a black contraband"—and a gray snake, even though it is obviously a Rebel. Her efforts cheer her brother to recovery and convince other children in the neighborhood to refrain from hurting innocent animals in the future.13
Other stories not only encouraged children to support the war directly but also provided lessons in humility and generosity. Gertrude, "The Discontented Girl," agrees to "scrape lint" for bandages but spends most of her time playing with a neighbor's parrot and complaining about her burden; she produces very little lint. Edgar, her older brother, arrives and scolds her for her attitude. "You don't want to belong to the rebel side, do you?" he asks. She says no, of course, to which he replies, "When I hear you talk so, I feel very sorry, and I say to myself, ‘Gerty is a rebel, Gerty wants to secede.’" The parrot picks up the refrain and squawks the words to everyone who comes near, shaming Gerty into doing her duty. In "The Cloud with the Silver Lining," a little girl named Kate eagerly looks forward to attending a Sanitary Fair. When a downpour keeps her at home, she mopes around the house until a tiny beggar appears at the door. The daughter of a soldier killed in the war, all she has left to remember him is a uniform button. Kate and her mother give her food and clothing, and Kate presents her with the money she had saved to spend at the fair. A Sanitary Fair also enters into "The Two Christmas Evenings," by Lydia Marie Child, in which a family of well-off children receive Christmas presents with which they quickly become bored. Shamed into action by their father, they plan to give up their presents next year and to donate the money to the needy. This mushrooms into a series of performances (tableaux, speeches on liberty and patriotism) and sales of handicrafts that eventually raise two hundred dollars for the local orphan asylum and for books and toys for black children in South Carolina.14
One children's magazine, The Little Corporal, appeared as the result of the most ambitious effort by Northern children: raising money for soldiers by selling pictures of "Old Abe, the War Eagle," mascot of the 8th Wisconsin. Children could earn commissions in "The Army of the American Eagle" by selling postcard-sized reproductions of the famous bird; a dollar's worth of sales earned a corporal's commission, ten dollars a captain's, one hundred a colonel's, four hundred a major-general's and so on. By July 1865, ten thousand children from around the country had raised fifteen thousand dollars for the Northwestern Sanitary Fair. Alfred L. Sewell, the Chicago lawyer who had organized the campaign, was inspired by the "precious letters … sweet heart-words, and … earnest patriotism" of the legions of boys and girls who joined his army and began publishing The Little Corporal in July 1865. After the war, Sewell continued to encourage benevolence among his subscribers; he asked them to provide subscriptions for poor war orphans at the Soldier's Orphan Home in Madison, Wisconsin, and, later, to orphans around the country.15
In the fictional world of the Civil War home front, children contributed in more private ways, too. In "A Box for the Soldier," a family of children place carefully chosen presents in a package for their father in the army. Nuts and apples are gathered from a hill where they and their father had played; one son sends his favorite knife while another sends a crudely whittled gun, sword, and cannon; the older daughters knit mittens and socks, while the youngest sews a sleeping cap "to keep his precious head from the frosty ground." All of the items would establish a sentimental link between the father and each of his children along with easing his life in the army. Their grandmother provides the most meaningful present, however; she sends the family Bible to her son, "the very Bible his father read out of; the Bible I've read out of for fifty years; the Bible that he himself read out of when a child. No other is like it nor can be—to me and to him too. And he'll never want it more than now, when he's every day looking death so close in the face." "It seems to me," she concludes, "that God himself will go to my son, with that blessed book." The children solemnly and tearfully agree that "Grandmother has sent the best thing."16
Obviously, one prominent feature of life on the children's home front was the loss of loved ones. The deaths of fathers and brothers brought emotional and material burdens and often forced children to take on responsibilities normally filled by adults. "Renny's Uniform," which appeared in Merry's Museum, featured a young boy forced to break the news of his father's death to his mother. Dozens of other stories and poems echoed with the pathos of loss. "The Soldier's Baby" shows an infant sleeping as its mother weeps beside the cradle. "Death's cannon rattle" had claimed her husband and the baby's father. The author fails to provide a particularly uplifting ending:
The baby is sleeping,
Good angels are keeping
Watch over its bed.
Too young to know sorrow
Or life's woes to borrow,
Must learn some to-morrow,
Its father is dead
In "Home-News in Battle-Time," a "Declamation" piece published in Forrester's Playmate, a dying soldier begs a friend to read a letter received that day from home. It contained the usual news
"how baby … Had learned to walk; how Tom had won the prize
At school, last term; how he, the dear one, far away,
Was prayed for nightly; how, with straining eyes,
They waited his return, as for a festal day."
Apparently comforted with the letter's mundane familial news, when death came to the wounded soldier, he uttered "Good-night, my dears!"; his comrades buried the letter with him.17
"The Soldier's Little Boy" is not only the most maudlin example of a child filling an adult role, it also doubles the tragedy of wartime loss. The poem, which appeared in The Little Pilgrim in August 1863, depicted "little Willie" dying of an unnamed disease. "Who will care for you now, mother," he asks. The
pain of leaving you here alone
Is the sharpest pain I have;
For I know you will never smile again,
And no little boy will be nigh
To wipe the tears on your cheek away,
And whisper—"Dear mother, don't cry!"
Since his father's death at Antietam, "I did what I could … But my hands were young and weak." Despite his sorrow at leaving his mother alone, like a good Victorian Christian boy, he was
not afraid to die …
For the fear of death is past;
But mother—oh, mother, you must not grieve,
We'll meet again by and by—
Where every tear shall be wiped away—
Father, you, and I.
Equally tearful was the poem "The Soldier's Little Daughter," which told of a seven-year-old girl whose mother is dead, whose father is away in the army, and who is forced to beg from door to door. The narrator feeds her and brings her into his house; as she eats she asks plaintively, "And is it true as people say / That the war is ended—nearly?" Coincidentally, the samaritan reads from a newspaper a list of recent casualties, which, not surprisingly, includes the little girl's father. He breaks the news to the girl, takes her sobbing into his arms, and swears to bring her up as one of his own, to
Teach her to hold as sacred trust,
Her patriot father's doom;
Teach her to pray that from his dust
Freedom's fair flower may bloom.18
Less sensational was the serial "The House that Johnny Rented," which appeared in The Little Corporal during the first summer after the war. It told the story of the White family, whose minister father goes off to become a chaplain in the Union army, leaving the invalid mother and several children—including twelve-year-old Johnny—to fend for themselves. Forced to leave the parsonage in which they had lived for many years, Johnny finds the family a smaller but equally pleasant cottage to rent; there the children raise a garden, help their mother, fret about their father (who returns home on sick leave for a time), and help educate a contraband boy brought home by the Reverend White. The children are obedient and cheerful, they patriotically badmouth Confederate generals Lee and Beauregard, and they typically find that racial differences are less important than they previously thought.19
Finally, Northern juvenile magazines sought to instill an 1860s version of "political correctness" by defining Union War aims, establishing the centrality of slavery in causing the war, and recognizing the humanity of the former slaves. The Uncle Rodman who appeared in J. W. Trowbridge's "The Turning of the Leaf" summarized this political dogma: "In a word, children, slavery was the cause of the war; and God permitted the war in order that slavery might be destroyed." He goes on to stress the moderation of the Lincoln administration and intolerance of Southern slaveowners, who had "grown arrogant, conceited, overbearing … determined to destroy the government they could not control." Obviously, according to Uncle Rodham and dozens of other politically knowledgable characters in children's stories, "the rebellion was a stupendous piece of folly, as well as stupendous wickedness." The benefits of the American political system, argued Merry's Museum, made "rebellion in such a country as this … the highest of crimes, because without excuse, and we all fervently desire to see it put down by every means." From his "Teacher's Desk" in The Student and Schoolmate, Oliver Optic proclaimed after Lincoln's assassination, "What a glorious spectacle is presented to the civilized world in the simplicity yet perfection of our form of government," in which the humble rise to great power, meet unrivaled challenges, and then, when "withdrawn from mortal sight to higher duties above," be replaced by an equally humble but also equally qualified successor. Throughout the war, Optic had included "Declamation" pieces aimed at inspiring patriotism and support for the war effort among his readers. Most were excerpts from the speeches of prominent Americans; they included the famous Tennessee Unionist "Parson" Brownlow's rebuke of Southern secessionists, Massachusetts governor John Andrew's salute to "Our Heroic Dead," Gen. Benjamin F. Butler's soliloquy on "Loyalty," Edward Everett's oration at Gettysburg, Gen. George McClellan's speech at West Point, and even Alexander Stephens's impassioned argument against secession at the Georgia convention in January 1861.20
The Student and Schoolmate also published in each issue brief playlets, or "Dialogues," many of which dealt with patriotic and war themes. In August 1862 a satire of the sectional conflict appeared called "The Comedy of Secession." Set in the "Union Seminary" for girls, its main characters included "Madame Columbia," the principal, and "Madame Britannia, a neutral old Lady, fond of giving advice," "La Belle France, fascinating, but cautious," the "Goddess of Liberty, a popular belle," and a bevy of students with names like "Georgiana," "Mary Land," "Vermont," "Little Rhody," "K. Tucky," and so on. The scene opens with Madame Columbia complaining about the behavior of a half dozen young ladies who "have become exceedingly rebellious, and threaten to leave—secede, they call it—without reason or justice, and contrary to the wishes of their fathers and mothers." Another half dozen "are sulky and impertinent, and I don't know whether they will stand by the rules of the school or join the malcontents." Much of the play consists of Madame Columbia lecturing the wayward "young ladies" on their irresponsibility, the good the seminary has done for them, and the shame they will bring on their ancestors. Nevertheless, the girls begin planning their own school, the "Confederate Seminary," where "J. Davis" will be principal, "Beauregard" dancing master, and "Wigfall" chaplain. The rebels are interrupted in their plotting by Goddess Liberty, who Miss Caroline tries to convince to come over to their seminary. When Liberty asks why they are leaving, the latter replies, "Because our rights have been trampled upon." To which Liberty retorts, "Nonsense! You mean if you cannot be the greatest toad in the puddle, you will set the river on fire." Accusations fly, Madame Britannia and La Belle France try to pick a fight with Madame Columbia, and the "Northern" girls rally around their principal. Although eleven young ladies eventually exit in a huff, "Miss Tennie" returns after a severe "whipping" and the company closes by singing the "Star Spangled Banner."21
A dialogue more directly aimed at instilling a spirit of sacrifice appeared in November 1863, four months after the bloody draft riot in New York City. "Avoiding the Draft" displayed the untoward self-pity of a well-to-do woman contemplating the vulnerability of her beloved son Walter to the "dreadful draft." She is put to shame by her Irish washerwoman, Bridget, who asks for a day off in order to prepare her "old man" for his trip to the army. A family friend adds to her shame when he arrives with the news of his and Walter's "prize" in the draft lottery; "this is no time for men to fall back," he declares, "Think of the glorious victories we have gained, and how much depends upon the future." Mrs. Brown still resists, but in the face of Walter's enthusiasm, she finally consents to his going. "It is to be a great trial," she admits, "but I must bear it; go, and let your country never have reason to blush for you."22
A pep talk in the form of a poem appeared during the uncertain fall of 1864. Bayard Taylor's "Looking Back!" responded to Copperheads and other proponents of peace. "What! hoist the white flag when our triumph is nigh? … crouch before Treason? make Freedom a lie?" Appealing to the memories of the heroes and martyrs of the Union, Taylor concedes that cowardice and treason threatens the Old Union. Yet he concludes with the oath,
By the God of our Fathers! this shame we must share,
But it grows too debasing for freemen to bear,
And Washington, Jackson, will turn in their graves
When the Union shall rest on two races of slaves.23
Part of the Northern gospel argued that the South had gone to war at the instigation and in the best interest of only a few aristocratic slaveholders. J. W. Trowbridge's "The Turning of the Leaf" characterized Rebel leaders as "confident that they could override Northern freemen as they had so long overridden their black slaves," deceiving and misleading "the ignorant masses" into going to war under the banner of secession. Yet not all Southerners were so deluded; "there was a large class of loyal Unionists in the South, who loved the old government, and opposed secession," only to be driven from their homes and killed for their beliefs. Merry's Museum stressed the basic loyalty of most Southerners, who helped Yankees by nursing their wounds and aiding their escapes from Southern prisons. The single Rebel soldier whose background is described in a Museum war story is a victim of the tyrannical slaveocracy. Trowbridge played variations on his theme in a series of travelogues that appeared in Our Young Folks during the last months of the war and the two years that followed. The articles generally featured sites and battlefields in the South, but the first visit was to Camp Douglas, the Union prisoner-of-war camp in Chicago. The author guides the child "visitors" through the clean, orderly, well-managed camp, presenting the stern but fair commandant, the proficient guards, and the good-natured and healthy inmates. The most important political point—aside from contrasting the kind treatment of Confederate prisoners with the horrible treatment of Federal prisoners in the South—is that most of the men in the prison are delighted to be safely away from the war. They are well treated and many have taken the loyalty oath to the United States. In fact, most are actually very much like Northerners, "differing … only as they are warped by slavery or crushed by slaveholder." As many as a quarter of the prisoners had been forced into the Confederate army against their wills. The article ends with the conclusion of the war, but subsequent travelogues continued the theme of generally good-hearted Southerners led by a tiny coterie of slaveowners into a war few of them favored. Several travelogues by the same author offered similar accounts of Confederate cruelty toward Yankees and Southern Unionists combined with the realization that many—perhaps most—Southerners had only reluctantly supported the Confederacy and that they had suffered as well.24
Another important element in the political education of children was their introduction to the group over whom the war was being fought—Southern blacks. Several authors and correspondents combined their readers' politicization with an attempt to awaken their social responsibilities by describing the conditions and needs of refugee blacks in terms with which Northern white children could identify. G. N. Coan wrote of the thousands of freedmen crowding Norfolk, Virginia, in the spring of 1864, many of whom "are as white as any of you are, with blue eyes and straight hair, or pretty auburn ringlets." Color had not made them slaves, but the "African blood in their veins had doomed them to suffer the cruelty of the auction block" where "mothers and children [were] torn asunder by their cruel masters, never to see each others' faces again." The little ones among the freedmen love to go to school and learn quickly; "could you see their eyes sparkle and their faces shine with delight, as they sing their little songs (such as you sing), and hear them answer questions from the Bible, I am sure you would be delighted, and think they were anything but stupid." They constantly present their teachers with simple gifts and frequently express their love for President Lincoln and "Uncle Sam." The letter concludes with a request for help. "Now, dear children, can you not do something for these poor little ones? There are still hundreds of them who cannot go to school for want of comfortable or decent clothing: will you not send them some of your old dresses, quilts, sacks, or shoes, so that they may be able to go to school, and learn to read the word of God, and thus become good men and women?" Another appeal for aid in the Little Pilgrim assured readers that former slave children "love [the Little Pilgrim] and his pretty stories, very much" but also stressed that many of the recently freed blacks "are ignorant and debased." They needed help in the form of clothes, schools, books; the correspondent urged friends of the Little Pilgrim to "whisper a sweet, pleading whisper in the ear of each and every dear friend … to send all they can spare," convince rich parents or uncles or aunts to send money, and to contribute toy and candy money to the cause of the freed children.25
Christie Pearl's "The Contraband" offered a fictional account of children who not only respond to a newspaper's call for clothing for the freed slaves but also find that there are wrong and right ways of demonstrating concern for the less fortunate. At first, the half-dozen or so children of a solidly upper-middleclass family treat the call for aid flippantly, eagerly casting off clothes that are too small, too ugly, too impractical to keep. Along the way, they imagine the improbable and entertaining sight of the contrabands wearing the "dickeys" and bracelets and old hats they plan to pack into the barrel and rejoice that by clearing out their closets of unwanted clothing they will be able to buy new wardrobes. Their father interrupts the fun with "a loud ‘Ahem!’" and asks sternly, "are there any things there that you want or need?" When they reply that there is not, he lectures them, "Then you have not given properly. Your clothes may keep the ‘contrabands’ warm, but they will bring no additional warmth to your own hearts. You must make sacrifices in order to reap the benefit of giving." Promptly and properly chagrined, the children repack the aid barrel with warm, practical clothes—some of them the children's favorites—as well as a doll and a top. A note attached to the former reads, "My dear little ‘Contraband’:—Whoever you may be, we send you our doll with all her clothes. If she don't keep you warm outside, she'll make you as heart warm, we guess."26
The images of blacks as rather pitiable creatures was also reflected in the words of a little girl reported by her mother to The Little Pilgrim. The daughter, after hearing about some "very poor and distressed … colored children" living nearby, pleaded in her prayers, "Oh God, you have made these poor children black, and now will you please make white people kind to them." More heart warming, perhaps, was "Christmas, After All," which also featured well-off children achieving a high, if rather smug, level of selflessness. Unable to come up with a "grand" way to celebrate Christmas, the children listen to a story from their African American servant, Aunt Thula, who tells them about her daughter Peely, now a grown woman of thirty-five, who was supposed to be freed when her master died. After his death, however, his heirs moved many of the slaves they inherited to Tennessee, including Peely. The children pool their resources and give Thula enough money to buy her daughter out of slavery. On Christmas day, the nuts and candy they find in their stockings taste better knowing Peely was no longer a slave; pleased with herself, one girl declares, "It was a good Christmas, because it wasn't a selfish Christmas."27
While most references to African-Americans were to the unfortunate but enthusiastic contrabands, a story that appeared in Forrester's Playmate in early 1864 actually relates an incident between the narrator and a free black living in the North. One evening while playing, the narrator and several of his "playfellows" begin harassing Jim Dick, a young black boy playing with them, by calling him "‘negro,’ ‘blackamoor,’ and other ill names." Jim leaves the group, "very much hurt at our conduct." Nevertheless, when the narrator asks to borrow Jim's ice skates a few days later, Jim lends them willingly. When the white boy returns the skates, he finds Jim sitting before his Bible, "with tears in his eyes." He then "kindly and meekly" says, "Do not call me blackamoor again." Although it took place a number of years before the war, the narrator remembers that "these words went to my heart; I burst into tears, and from that time I resolved I would never again be guilty of abusing a poor black." Many lessons could be learned from this little vignette, the author argued; do not use insulting names or mock others; have a forgiving spirit and control your anger; and "do not undervalue any for the color of skin, or the shape of their bodies, or the poverty of their condition, for we are as God made us." "Black George" struck a similar note. It tells of the author's girlhood friend George, a young black living in New York many years before. One day, his white guardian—who had purchased the boy, freed him, and sent him to school—spots him scrubbing his skin raw with soap and sand. "Oh, sir!" George exclaims, "the black wont come off! What did God make me so for?" Mr. Rich assures the distressed little boy, "God did make you so, and whatever He has made is good. You need never be ashamed of your skin, for God loves you just as well as though it were white, and we shall love you, too, if you are a good boy." Just to make sure readers got the message of racial sensitivity, the last line intones "Children, never call a black boy a ‘nigger’ again." Our Young Folks told of a slave boy named "Dog Carlos" who, fed up with abuse from his younger master Harry and threatened with a whipping when he is caught coming out of a forbidden prayer meeting, runs away and joins Sherman's men as they march through the area. The author gently reminds his readers that they must not judge Harry too harshly, "or plume yourself as being so much better, unless you are quite certain that, if you had a boy or a dog all to yourself, and were sure that papa and mamma would either know nothing or say nothing about it, you would not cuff and strike him when you were very much out of humor, as I have seen certain little Northerners do to their brothers, and sisters, and pets."28
Occasionally, very different images of freedom appeared. Stories in Merry's Museum tended to portray black characters as stereotypes, complete with nearly incomprehensible dialects, and as vehicles for providing comic relief. A story from the Little Pilgrim provides a reminder of the standards of grateful obedience expected of children—especially recently freed slaves. A little boy calling himself George Washington had attached himself to an army unit stationed at City Point, Virginia. The soldiers gave him clothes, dressed him up, and gave him a job helping the cook. They also made him something of a pet as well as the object of practical jokes, such as painting his face as he slept. The author, apparently rather puzzled that such treatment was not acceptable to young George, reports that he was a "good boy" for a while but soon got "lazy" and began stealing and was sent out of camp. "Had he been a good little contraband," the narrator concludes sternly, "he would have had a good home."29
It is impossible, of course, to trace the effects of juvenile magazines on the political development of Civil War-era children. Subscription lists have vanished and virtually no memoirist refers to having read any of the periodicals mentioned above. Yet thousands of children did read these magazines, and, if political scientists who study the politicization of children are correct, they internalized at least some of the values and ideas that were promoted in the stories and poems and games and editorials of their youth. John Morton Blum suggests that Our Young Folks—and, by extension, other children's periodicals—" gave direction and possibly also courage to children, whatever their place of residence, who did their reading in New England's lingering twilight." It transmitted New England culture in particular and American culture in general to the generation that came of age after 1880, providing not only a complement to their formal education but also socialization and politicization to American values and assumptions.30
One reader of such magazines was young Theodore Roosevelt, who, although he was less than three when the Civil War began, was swept up in the war, playing a game he called "Running the Blockade" and wearing his own colorful Zouave uniform. Driven by his poor health as a youngster, by his father's decision to hire a substitute to take his place in the army, by the exploits of Southern uncles and other relatives in the war, and by his later acquaintance with many of the leading generals of the Union armies, Theodore came to see war as a noble enterprise, as an opportunity for glory and as the vehicle for personal, moral reformation. He hated cowardice, loved the "strenuous life," and admired military discipline and military leaders.31 The entire era of the Civil War and Reconstruction had an extraordinary impact on Roosevelt's character and interests and view of the world, but it must not be overlooked that among young Theodore's favorite reading material was the magazine Our Young Folks. Few other connections between wartime experiences and postwar attitudes can be so directly established, much less attributed to children's reading habits. Yet magazines like Roosevelt's childhood favorite surely played an important role in the incorporation of children into the world wrought by civil war. Applying familiar themes and formulae to exciting and frighting new situations, they helped explain the war—its causes, its conduct, and its ultimate meaning—to the sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters of the Northern soldiers fighting it.32
1. J. T. Trowbridge, "The Turning of the Leaf," Our Young Folks 1 (June 1865): 399.
2. John Morton Blum, ed., Yesterday's Children: An Authology Compiled from the Pages of Our Young Folks, 1865-1873 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959), xiii; E. Douglas Branch, The Sentimental Years, 1836-1860 (1934; reprint, New York: Hill and Wang, 1965), 312; J. Merton Englad, "The Democratic Faith in American Schoolbooks 1783-1860," American Quarterly 15 (Summer 1963): 191-99; Carol Billman, "McGuffey's Readers and Alger's Fiction: The Gospel of Virtue According to Popular Children's Literature," Journal of Popular Culture 11 (Winter 1977): 614-19; John H. Westerhoff III, McGuffey and His Readers: Piety, Morality, and Education in Nineteenth-Century America (Nashville: Abingdon, 1978); John G. Cawelti, Apostles of the Self-Made Man (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press 1965), 104-8.
3. Anne Scott MacLeod, A Moral Tale: Children's Fiction and American Culture, 1820-1860 (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1975), 104-16; Mary E. Quinlivan, "Race Relations in the Antebellum Children's Literature of Jacob Abbott," Journal of Popular Culture 16 (Summer 1982): 27-36; Donnarae C. MacCann, "The White Supremacy Myth in Juvenile Books About Blacks, 1830-1900" (Ph.D. diss., University of Iowa, 1988), 48-125; Anne M. Boylan, Sunday School: The Formation of an American Institution, 1790-1880 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988), 85; John B. Crume, "Children's Magazines, 1826-1857," Journal of Popular Culture 6 (Spring 1973): 698-707. See also John C. Crandell, "Patriotism and Humanitarian Reform in Children's Literature, 1825-1860," American Quarterly 21 (Spring 1969): 3-22.
4. "The Implements of War," The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Aug. 1862): 253-57.
5. R. Gordon Kelly, Mother Was a Lady: Self and Society in Selected American Children's Periodicals, 1865-1890 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974), 4.
6. For an excellent analysis of this durable children's magazine, see Patricia Ann Pflieger, "A Visit to Merry's Museum; or, Social Values in a Nineteenth-Century American Periodical for Children" (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1987). R. Gordon Kelly, ed. Children's Periodicals of the United States (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984), 285-91, 427-35, 329-41, 277-82; Richard L. Darling, The Rise of Children's Book Reviewing in America, 1865-1881 (New York: R. W. Bowker, 1968), 44.
7.Our Young Folks 1 (Apr. 1865): 287, 285; ibid. (Feb. 1865): 151; ibid. (May 1865): 350-51.
8.The Little Corporal 4 (May 1867): 80; Mrs. M. B. C. Slade, "A Song of Hope," The Student and Schoolmate 13 (Jan. 1864): 32; L. Adams, "On to Richmond!" ibid. 14 (Aug. 1864): 64; "Round the Evening Lamp," Our Young Folks 1 (Feb. 1865): 151; The Little Pilgrim 8 (Dec. 1861): 163; ibid. 10 (July 1863): 97; ibid. 9 (Jan. 1862): 13; ibid. 10 (Aug. 1863): 111.
9.The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Jan. 1862): 35; ibid. 11 (Feb. 1862): 71; ibid. 13 (Mar. 1864): 95; ibid. 12 (Oct. 1863): 312; ibid. 12 (Mar. 1863): 85.
10. "Teacher's Desk," ibid. 12 (June 1863): 189; "Major Gen. George B. McClellan," Merry's Museum 11 (Nov. 1861): 115-16; Wilforley, "A Summer Trip Eastward," ibid. (Dec. 1861): 138-41; "Aunt Sue's Scrap-Bag," ibid. 11 (Oct. 1861): 117; "Aunt Sue's Scrap-Bag," ibid. 12 (Sept. 1862): 88-89; Charles C. Coffin, "Letters from the Army," The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Feb. 1862): 55-58; ibid. (Mar. 1862): 90-93; ibid. (Jan. 1862): 16-19; "Campaigning," ibid. 14 (July 1864): 21-22; ibid. (Aug. 1864): 47-48; ibid. (Oct. 1864): 108-10; ibid. (Dec. 1864): 175-78; ibid. 15 (Feb. 1865): 39-42; ibid. (Apr. 1865): 117-18.
11. Ibid. 11 (June 1862): 211; Our Young Folks (Jan. 1865): 33-37; ibid. (Apr. 1865): 240-44; ibid. (May 1865): 327-39; ibid. (July 1865): 462-65; ibid. (Sept. 1865): 600-608.
12. J. C. Hagen, "The Drummer-Boy of Fort Donelson," The Student and Schoolmate 12 (Sept. 1863): 278-279; Cousin Mabelle, "The Drummer Boy at Gettysburg," The Little Corporal 1 (Nov. 1865): 67-68; Forrester's Playmate 22 (Feb. 1864): 160.
13. Christie Pearl, "The Fort and How it was Taken," The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Aug. 1862): 273-74; "The Yankee Zouaves: A Story for Boys," The Little Pilgrim 9 (Oct. 1862): 133-34; Louisa May Alcott, "Nelly's Hospital," Our Young Folks 1 (Apr. 1865): 267-77.
14. "The Discontented Girl," The Little Pilgrim 9 (Nov. 1862): 150-51; Our Young Folks 1 (Dec. 1865): 557-61; ibid. 2 (Jan. 1866): 2-13.
15.The Little Corporal 1 (July 1865): 1-3. A more detailed account of "Old Abe's" career and of the fund-raising campaign appeared in "The Veteran Eagle and what the Children Did," The Little Corporal 3 (Dec. 1866): 88-90. See also "The Veteran Eagle," Our Young Folks 2 (Oct. 1866): 616-22; The Little Corporal 2 (Feb. 1866): 30; "Soldiers' Orphans and the Poor: A Proposition," ibid. 4 (Jan. 1867): 13.
16. Mrs. Phebe H. Phelps, "A Box for the Soldier," The Student and Schoolmate 13 (Mar. 1864): 71-74. In "The Clouds that Rained Gold" (The Little Corporal 3 [Sept. 1866]: 37-38) children were warned that it was well and good to scrape lint of knit stockings for the soldiers as long as they also performed their normal duties around the household.
17. Pflieger, "A Visit to Merry's Museum," 147; C. Chauncey Burr, "The Soldier's Baby," The Student and Schoolmate 12 (Aug. 1863): 239; "Home-News in Battle-Time," Forrester's Playmate 23 (July 1864): 120.
18. Holly Clyde. "The Soldier's Little Boy," The Little Pilgrim 10 (Aug. 1863): 110; "The Soldier's Little Daughter," The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Apr. 1862): 131.
19. Emily Huntington Miller, "The House that Johnny Rented," The Little Corporal 1 (July 1865): 7-9; ibid. (Aug. 1865): 19-21; ibid. (Sept. 1865): 42-45.
20. Trowbridge, "Turning of the Leaf," 399; "The Home Society," Merry's Museum 45 (June 1863): 164-65, quoted in Pfleiger, "A Visit to Merry's Museum," 190; "Teacher's Desk," The Student and Schoolmate, 15 (June 1865): 190; ibid. 11 (Dec. 1862): 422-23; ibid. 12 (Feb. 1863): 56-57; ibid. (July 1863): 215-16; ibid. 13 (Mar. 1864): 88-89; ibid. 14 (Sept. 1864): 85-86; ibid. (Dec. 1864): 182-84.
21. "The Comedy of Secession," The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Aug. 1862): 279-28; ibid. (Sept. 1862): 314-19.
22. "Avoiding the Draft," ibid. 12 (Nov. 1863): 346-48.
23. Bayard Taylor, "Looking Back!" Forrester's Playmate 23 (Sept. 1864): 181.
24. Trowbridge, "The Turning of the Leaf," 400; "Left on the Field," Merry's Museum 50 (Oct. 1865): 99; ibid. (Nov. 1865): 136, in Pfleiger, "A Visit to Merry's Museum," 191; "A Visit to Camp Douglas," Our Young Folks 1 (Apr. 1865): 252-60; ibid. (May 1865): 291-300; ibid. (June 1865): 357-60; "Battle-Field of Fredericksburg," ibid. 2 (Mar. 1866): 163-70; "Richmond Prisons," ibid. 2 (Apr. 1866): 298-304; "A Tennessee Farm-House," ibid. 2 (June 1866): 370-76. Trowbridge also published a book for adults describing his travels in the South, The South: A Tour of its Battle-fields and Ruined Cities (Hartford: Stebbuis, 1866).
25. G. N. Coan, "Correspondence," Little Pilgrim 11 (June 1864): 81-82; Clara C. Clark, "An Appeal," ibid 9 (July 1862): 93.
26. Christie Pearl, "The Contraband," The Student and Schoolmate 11 (Feb. 1862): 45-48.
27. Anecdotes and Sayings of Children," The Little Pilgrim 9 (Sept. 1862): 125; "Christmas, After All," ibid. 9 (Apr. 1862): 50-52.
28. "Jim Dick; or the Best Revenge," Forrester's Playmate 23 (May 1864): 45-46; "Black George," The Little Pilgrim 9 (June 1862): 80; "Dog Carlos," Our Young Folks 1 (Oct. 1865): 644-51. For Jacob Abbott's treatment of sympathetic black characters—in which young African Americans persevere in the face of discrimination and name calling—see Quinlivan, "Race Relations in the Antebellum Children's Literature of Jacob Abbott," 27-36.
29. Pfleiger, "A Visit to Merry's Museum," 185-87; "The Little Contraband," The Little Pilgrim 13 (Feb. 1866): 18.
30. R. W. Connell, The Child's Construction of Politics (Melbourne: Melbourne Univ. Press, 1970), 43-49: Fred I. Greenstein, Children and Politics (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1965), 71-72; Blum, Yesterday's Children, xv.
31. Kathleen Dalton, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of War," Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal 7 (Fall 19481): 6-12.
32. Far fewer children's magazines appeared in the Confederacy than in the Union states. Shortages of paper and printing facilities and a deteriorating economic situation plagued Southern publishers throughout the war. As a result, only a few issues of a handful of Southern magazines survive to the present. Nevertheless, they complement Northern magazines in their presentation of patriotic narratives and images. The two longest-running periodicals were the Child's Index and the Deaf Mute Casket. Samuel Boykin published the former as a hard-shell Baptist Sunday school paper, while the North Carolina Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind published the latter. Other short-lived publications included the Children's Guide, a Methodist Sunday school paper, and the Child's Banner, another religious publication out of Salisbury, North Carolina. Although their religious content was more prominent than in typical Northern magazines, they, too, provided stories and articles that explained the war to children and showed the ways that children were involved in the war. See Sarah Law Kennerly, "Confederate Juvenile Imprints: Children's Books and Periodicals Published in the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1956), 250-312.
Andrea McKenzie (essay date April 2007)
SOURCE: McKenzie, Andrea. "The Children's Crusade: American Children Writing War." Lion and the Unicorn 31, no. 2 (April 2007): 87-102.
[In the following essay, McKenzie examines how children respond to war through their correspondence with St. Nicholas Magazine during periods of conflict.]
Pierre Bourdieu speaks of "rites of institution," arguing that such rites create a divide that "passes unnoticed" between those who are subject to the rite and those who are not, thus creating a "hidden set of individuals in relation to which the instituted group is defined" (118). During the First World War, the most significant rite of passage was the soldiers' experience of the front lines. Following Bourdieu, this rite positions all those who could not enter the firing lines as a lesser or hidden group in relation to the soldiers. Noncombatants, including women and children, lacked authority in relation to the male soldier. This lack of authority has resonance with what Margaret Higonnet terms "civilian propaganda set against soldiers' truth" (209), something still evident in war and postwar literature and scholarship. In this way, soldiers' experiences become the legitimate measure of truth against which all other narratives are discounted as less valid. Women's and children's voices, then, are thus positioned as the "lesser" voices of war because of their assumed lack of knowledge about frontline experiences of war. A similar discounting of children's literature has also occurred. Perry Nodelman, for instance, argues that problematic "attitudes towards childhood" and "children's literature" have led to a defining of childhood as "primarily a matter of being less: less experienced, less knowledgeable, less reasonable, less responsible, less capable" than adults (3) (emphasis in original). Yet the children who lived through the First World War, like all others who endured its transformations, had to make sense and meaning out of the events that occurred, and if they lived through it, had to deal with war's aftermath.1 For many, the war left sharp memories that lasted a lifetime. The voices of children writing during the war are only now being heard. What were these children writing about their experience of the First World War?
Studies of children's wartime literature tend to focus on what adults were writing for children. These studies are significant, because they offer an adult conception of children's roles in the war; however, they omit children's responses. Mary Cadogan and Patricia Craig, for instance, studying British fiction written for boys and girls, conclude that "girls were simply encouraged to worship the male heroes at the front, and to knit comforts for them" (58), while the war provided "a ready-made heroic setting for authors to exploit" in boys' fiction (71). More recently, Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis have acknowledged children as legitimate war participants by including excerpts from the diaries of two children in their collection of nontraditional wartime voices. These diaries demonstrate the complex responses of children to the war and how location and circumstance shape their narratives. This inclusion in Palmer and Wallis' multi-faceted collection points to a growing branch of war studies that needs expansion: the impact and influence of the First World War on children. The lack of authority assigned to children's voices and the time elapsed since the war makes children's private war narratives, such as diaries and letters, difficult to find. St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folk, one of the foremost American children's magazines of its day, provides a rich site for studying public war narratives written for and by children. St. Nicholas included fiction and nonfiction, mostly written by adults for children. Two features did, however, offer children opportunities to express their views: the Letter-box, which included readers' letters from around the world; and the St. Nicholas League, eight pages of children's writing, drawing, and photography done for monthly competitions. This popular feature was unique to the magazine—its main American rival, The Youth's Companion, offered no such outlet. St. Nicholas' readers became its writers, children who strove for the honor of seeing their work in print.
Unlike diaries, which are "written without hindsight, often on the same day and in the same place as the events happened" (Palmer and Wallis xv), the St. Nicholas children's writings and illustrations were crafted for publication, and so were written for both editor and peers. This rarely studied population of mostly American children presents many short war narratives from different locations and circumstances. Because the United States remained neutral until April 1917, the magazine provides a unique opportunity of examining the shift between observing a distant war and participating in it, and of exploring how editor, readers, and writers dealt with questions about the nature of perceived childhood and the changes caused by the war. In this article, I trace the changes that took place in both the magazine's adult-authored pages and the child-authored St. Nicholas League and Letter-box pages as America moved from neutral observer to active participant. In particular, I explore St. Nicholas' editorial policies about the war and children's influence on—and responses to—these policies as the magazine shifted its stance from war as distant to a war fought "not merely to defend our beloved land in a war that has been forced upon us, but … for liberty itself" (Clarke 1917, 771-72). From innocents who must be protected and guarded, the readers of St. Nicholas were placed at the forefront of the battle. They became a "Children's Army," expected to save the world for democracy, yet positioned as the paramount reason for fighting. How did children respond to the bombardment of materials aimed at them? How did children cope with the war's events, and what lasting influence did the discourse of war have on them? Finally, how did children shape these shifting attitudes toward war?
A Distant War
St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks published such authors as Louisa May Alcott, Rudyard Kipling, and Frances Hodgson Burnett in its heyday. The magazine's ideals were established by its first editor, Mary Mapes Dodge, in 1873, and carried on faithfully by William Fayal Clarke, her longtime assistant and successor, until 1927. Dodge described the ideal children's magazine as:
a pleasure-ground where butterflies flit gayly hither and thither; where flowers quietly spread their bloom; where wind and sunshine play freaks of light and shadow; but where toads hop quickly out of sight and snakes dare not show themselves at all.
The "toads" that "hop quickly out of sight" are the occasional "[h]arsh cruel facts" that must "sometimes" be included (17). Unlike toads, however, these facts "must march forward boldly, say what they have to say, and go" (17). The metaphor is slightly mixed, but Dodge's intent was to create an Edenic space where the "snakes" of immorality and vulgarity do not transgress. Unpleasant events must be clearly, succinctly presented so that readers understand their import, but do not linger there. In this (sexless) Eden, children would learn and develop, but Dodge insisted that teaching be done in a lively manner that engaged readers and avoided "preachy piety" (Gannon 2004, 33). The St. Nicholas League pages were, by 1914, an integral showcase of the magazine's ideals. Mere publication was considered a high honor; entries of exceptional merit won silver badges, with writers who won a second time winning gold badges. Each month, Clarke set competition topics in verse, prose, drawing, and photography (Rahn 136). The list of badge winners is remarkable: E. B. White, Stephen Vincent Benét, Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
League competition entries had to reflect the idealism of the magazine and its editor to win publication. "Cynicism," as Suzanne Rahn comments in her study of the League's prewar years, "towards country—or indeed, toward anything—was nonexistent" (134). This idealism is apparent in the way that the prewar St. Nicholas treated war. Marilynn Strasser Olson contends that St. Nicholas' stories and biographies did not focus on militarism, but on patriotism, courage, and "the virtue of self-sacrifice," the "test of character" in the young soldier's "courage in facing death and his self-sacrifice in giving his life" (245). Susan Gannon's study of heroism in St. Nicholas up to 1914 contends that "questions of dependency versus autonomy are central." Readers are "invite[d] to think about … unsettling questions" (2005, 187) and "to work through problems presented by the call to heroic action" (196). The question of "autonomy versus dependence" that Gannon identifies in war fiction (187), however, is prevalent throughout St. Nicholas: biographies, serial fiction, nonfiction and short fiction feature creative, clever children rewarded for resolving moral dilemmas, financial problems, and rescue scenarios, usually without adult assistance. The St. Nicholas League embodied these ideals, for it stipulated that winning competition entries must be created without adult help, and creativity and cleverness were, of course, rewarded. While war in history and fiction became a means of celebrating America's traditions of liberty and progress through individual heroes and heroines, the First World War was initially not mentioned in St. Nicholas. Clarke decided that the war, like Dodge's "snakes," would disrupt St. Nicholas' Eden: no adult writer was allowed to directly mention the war until well into 1915.
Coupled with this hiatus, the one adult indirect mention of the war demonstrates Clarke's beliefs about the "nature" of childhood. The magazine used notions of pleasure in November 1914 to both literally and metaphorically cloak the war. "The ‘St. Nicholas’ Doll" took up two pages of the Letter-box with a photograph and description of a specially designed doll, which the magazine auctioned at a bazaar to raise money for the Red Cross. The war is tucked away between dashes, in the midst of cascading subordinate clauses, as though it is a momentary interruption to the peaceful flow of events:
As you may have heard, there was held at Newport Rhode Island, late last August, a bazaar for the benefit of the Red Cross fund—upon which there is such a heavy call in these heartbreaking, soul-stirring days—and it popped into the head of one of the grown-up members of our family, who was working heart and soul for this great cause, that our dear Saint would certainly want to lend a helping hand.
(Clarke 1914, 93)
Here the reason for the "heavy call" on the Red Cross is cleverly avoided, and the writer guards his younger readers from it, focusing attention instead on the doll, the "pleasant happening" that heads the column. The greeting to his "family of Boys, Girls, and Grownups all over the world" emphasizes unity in a time of conflict (Clarke 1914, 93). This theme of family is carried out in his description of the artists and designers who have worked cooperatively to design the doll's clothing and accessories to represent the global ideals of St. Nicholas. The magazine thus sets up play, pleasure, and creativity as childhood's center, with the war as oblique, transient, and peripheral. America's roles were to serve as a neutral observer, a reliever of suffering, and a peacemaker in the global "family" of nations.
The child writers to St. Nicholas were, however, intrigued by the war. The League pages and Letter-box were placed at the back of the magazine, and were thus in layout peripheral to the main pages that contained the adult writing. Children's mention of the war, then, was confined to the periphery of the magazine in adult eyes, though the children themselves often disrupted the designed sequence and read the League pages and Letter-box before the main pages (Rahn 122). As early as October 1914, war had become part of foreign readers' lives: writing from Marlborough, England, Bonnie Soames said that "We see aeroplanes quite often here: they come over from Salisbury Plain, where the army flying schools are" (1149). Soames, however, is an observer, like her American counterparts; the war has not yet become central to her life. By 1915, however, foreign writers describe transformed landscapes. Eleanor Hebblethwaite contrasts her formerly "quiet little" English village to its wartime version: "You see, hear, and speak of nothing but the war. Nobody sings or whistles anything but national anthems or war songs…. All the shops are full of war telegrams, maps, or photographs, favors, badges, and flags" (380). Sensory, emotional and physical landscapes are war-dominated, with no diversion or escape. Hebblethwaite uses "you," as though to bring her reader into the landscape. Dorothy Catt, also writing from England, places herself in the war's center: "Even as I write this letter I hear the steady tramp, tramp of feet—the sound of the recruits marching. These men are being trained, and, when they are ready, they will go and take their places on the battlefield, to fight for their country" (573). Catt's action-oriented narrative follows recruits from training to battleground to the hospitals; however, although "there are a great many wounded soldiers here," they are "mostly Belgians," not British, and the wounded soldiers sit on sunny balconies, where they "smile at the passers-by. They look very happy" (573-74). The outcome of battle and wounds is not suffering, but happiness and smiles.
In a striking parallel, Margaret Juers' letter from Austria two months later echoes Hebblethwaite's and Catt's involvement, but from the other side of the battle lines:
In Vienna, every one thinks only about the war. We saw the soldiers going away every day at the beginning and the trains from the Tyrol were all decorated with flowers from the high Alps … the soldiers sang as they passed…. I go with my mother to the hospitals sometimes to take things to the wounded soldiers. They look very happy, not at all as if they had been shot.
Like Hebblethwaite, "everyone" in Juers' city thinks only about the war, and so the two countries are equal in this respect. Juers, however, is a war worker. Whereas Catt does not herself play an active part, Juers enters the hospitals to help the soldiers. Notably, like Catt's Belgian equivalents, Juers' Austrian soldiers are happy, both when they leave for the war and when they are wounded. She, however, is aware of the contrast between their suffering and their emotions as Catt is not. By publishing letters from countries on opposite sides of the war, the magazine maintains its neutrality, while satisfying readers' curiosity about it. Noticeable features of these children's letters include suffering as peripheral, patriotism (on both sides), and the war as a "foreign" landscape in the tradition of prewar letters, which had described an unusual custom, culture, or landmark in another country. War becomes a real curiosity, but confined to "abroad," with the mention of suffering alleviated by the wounded soldiers' happiness.
Juers appears to be Austrian as "two [of her] uncles are officers in the Austrian army," and so the magazine appears to offer a position of neutrality that welcomes letters from any member of the global St. Nicholas family (1915b, 765). However, on the following page, a poem by Juers is published that exalts the "star-spangled" banner over the flags of the warring nations. The American flag "waves in light of peace," "Looks sadly at the turmoil / And begs that it may cease" (1915a, 766). Juers has encapsulated St. Nicholas' stance in her poem: the suffering of war, America as peacemaker and observer, and the progress (through making peace) that will add luster to that flag. Juers thus becomes an unexpected messenger from the Axis countries, identifying with America and her desire for peace. The poetry competition subject in December 1914 (entries to be published in April 1915) was "A Song of Peace," a title that emphasized the Christmas season of peace and good will. For St. Nicholas, if war is a moral dilemma, then the appropriate way to resolve it (and be published) is to adhere to America's role as peacemaker. In response, child writers depicted the war as "grievous" (Kite 557), "cruel" (Johnson 560), or "dark" (Dickson 561), followed by a cry for peace in raised, idealistic language. Peace is associated with God's "will" (Johnson 560) and with "light" (Dickson 561). The nations at war are depicted as straying from God's will and the unspoken implication is that America, a peaceful nation, follows God's teachings and is therefore exalted over the warring nations, just as the American flag in Juers's poem floats above those of the countries at war. While Gannon noted that the children in the prewar St. Nicholas fiction often transgressed against parental codes (2005, 187), in the context of real war, children were depicting combatants as transgressing against God the Father's code.
The magazine would not set a similar competition for many months, demonstrating ambivalence about the war and its function within the ethos of the magazine. Young writers who cleverly subverted innocuous competition titles to relate them to war were occasionally published, but their entries had to contain unusual merit or creativity: Katherine Van R. Holste turned "My Happiest Fourth" into a passionate cry for "world patriotism … sung by all races," asking, "Why need there be war?" Her entry is unique because she twists "patriotism" to mean global loyalty, not American loyalty, an unusual theme for a month that celebrated American independence (859). In August, no less than three readers' poems on "The Harvest" of war merited publication, though only one of them won a badge. Llewellyn A. Wilcox's gold badge-winning entry introduces war's suffering to the magazine by depicting fields "white with bleaching bones," an image of death redeemed by having "the God who rules on high … requite them all" (946), regardless of nationality. The chivalric editorial policy was undercut when the publication of the Bryce Report on Belgian atrocities coincided with the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915. Over a hundred American passengers, including women and children, were drowned, and the impact of these shocking events was heightened by an organized British propaganda campaign (Buitenhuis 29). Significantly, the magazine silenced its young writers by publishing no League entries about the war from September to December 1915.2
The magazine instead directed children how to think about the war by confining it to a new current events department. "The Watch Tower" debuted in September 1915 and immediately distanced the cataclysm by calling it "The Great War in Europe" (Forman 964). S. E. Forman spent one paragraph describing the combatants' positions, then a full column on the costs of the war: $20 billion, "millions of … widows," "millions of … orphans," and "hundreds of towns and cities … laid in ruin;" "Death, debt, and devastation—these have always been the price paid for war" (965). Real human suffering—the destruction of families and homes, the safe centers of children's Edenic worlds—is substituted for the heroism and courage of fictional war stories. While children no longer had the cost of war hidden, the grim depiction in the magazine both distanced the war from their own homes and warned against its entry therein. The magazine's policy, then, both opened the war to children's gaze and simultaneously silenced their opinions about it. The children, however, refused to be silenced. The independence of thought that was the hallmark of the fiction published in St. Nicholas led young writers to bombard the League with entries about the war. After several beleaguered months, the magazine was forced to accede and Clarke acknowledged this readers' revolution in the Christmas 1915 League editorial:
[I]t is to the credit of many League members … that in the midst of the peace and prosperity of our favored land they did not forget how sad a Christmas this … must be in so many countries beyond the seas…. For those … whose stories and verses were based upon … the great war, we wish to record a word of sincere commendation; and if most of their offerings were too sad for these pages, they were at least in the same strain as the ‘Christmas Bells’ of a favorite American poet.
The war overseas is distanced here, and the "too sad … offerings" are exalted by raising them to Longfellow's status, yet are also displaced from the League pages. Through Longfellow's words, Clarke tells his readers that the bells of peace will conquer; they should, like Longfellow's narrator, turn to peace instead of listening to the guns of war.
The child writers did, however, negotiate a small space for themselves, for Clarke allowed one or two entries about war to be published per month. His fear was that readers would become so caught up in the war that they could not escape from it: "In these days of war and rumors of war, the LEAGUE pages are like a green oasis in a desert—a place of repose where you may forget for a time the turmoil and tragic events of the great world" (1916, 736). In another concession to readers, St. Nicholas began to publish more fiction and articles about the war: a short serial, for instance, "Saved by a Camera," in which two young Americans foolishly enter the war zone (in a transgression of parental orders) and are threatened with death as spies. Chance, not creativity, saves them, although they do demonstrate courage and loyalty to each other in facing potential death (Clark 428-35). The war did result in some adolescent cynicism in the magazine. In one remarkable League poem, Max Stolz celebrates American ideals in his first stanza, but then excoriates the modern world for the rising number of "War Babies," equates "poison gas" with "murder," scorns President Wilson's "scraps of paper" (his famous notes) and condemns Zeppelin raids, then sardonically urges readers to "Rejoice, each voice, and hymns compose, each pen!" to celebrate modern times (758). Other child writers transgressed the boundaries of neutrality by moving from periphery to battle zone on the Allied side. In the limited space they are given, the children led the magazine into the war zone by exalting heroism and self-sacrifice, the same ideals that the prewar St. Nicholas had emphasized, and so could not now reject. Tudor Gairdner won a silver badge for his true story of heroism under fire: his cousin, a doctor and captain in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, won the Victoria Cross for protecting wounded men at the risk of his own life (858). In the same month, Lois Meier's "A Brave Deed" celebrates a French general whose son volunteers for a dangerous mission, focusing not on the son, but on the father's sacrifice in letting his son go (855). This tale is a harbinger of many more that celebrate America's bonds with France.
In another shift, even the youngest writers show growing knowledge of the soldiers' role in killing and being killed. Nine-year-old Helen Koch described a captured French pilot who was forced at pistol-point to fly a German over the French lines to obtain information about troop positions. The French pilot, safely strapped into the plane, "looped-the-loop;" the German fell out of the plane "and was dashed to pieces when he struck the ground." Having rid himself of his captor, the French aviator was "greeted … kindly" because of his "brave and daring act," which "saved himself and also his country" (374). Koch's tale justifies the violent death of an enemy as both necessary and clever. Whereas Koch omits the German's fear and pain, gold badge-winning Helen Palmer's "The Snow-Storm" presents a vivid picture of death's demands, which she uses to elevate the heroism of self-sacrifice. Kervyn, a young "member of that loyal handful heroically defending Belgium," guards a camp set amidst "temporary graves, each surmounted by a rude cross … [and] shattered cannon." Despite his own "terror," he unhesitatingly sacrifices himself when the Germans attack through the snow, dying with a "shrill, agonized scream" that rouses the camp as much as his warning pistol shot (471). Similarly, the young poets lead America into the war in "A Marching Song." Beatrice Caldwell narrates the French defense of the Marne, drawing readers in as participants by using the voice of the soldiers: "We appeal to the Highest—O Father of Nations! / Onward to victory, onward to Thee!" (371). Helen Ward brings the war to America, depicting soldiers "marching through our street" and "past our door," celebrating "the flag" for which the soldiers are marching: "For that flag many a soldier will die" (372). Christina Phelps writes of the Revolutionary War and of the soldiers saving "our bleeding country from slavery and woe," but ties past to present by using the rhetoric and sentiments that have been used to glorify the past war and are already being used to justify the present one: "For we're marching, marching, marching for life and liberty; / For we're marching, marching, marching on to war!" (376). The readers of St. Nicholas were therefore successful in a limited way. Their own work, despite the limited space granted to war-related entries, was "marching" the magazine and America inexorably into the war. The children's voices show a growing partisanship and romantic acceptance of self-sacrificing death as the price of heroism. President Wilson had not yet embraced war—but the children writers of St. Nicholas clearly had.
From Pleasure-Garden to War-Zone
When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the magazine seemed to hesitate again, as it had done when the war had begun, about mentioning it. No special notice was taken of America's entry into war, and this lukewarm response resulted in what must have been indignant and overwhelming requests and remonstrations from children. In July 1917, St. Nicholas burst into self-defensive patriotism, its leading headline blazoning, "FOR COUNTRY AND FOR LIBERTY, PATRIOTIC SERVICE FOR AMERICAN BOYS AND GIRLS." For two full pages, Clarke defended his magazine's patriotism in his editorial. He went on to recruit children into active participation in this "vast conflagration … which has well-nigh set all the world on fire" (1917, 772). In an important movement, responsibility for the war is shifted directly onto children's shoulders: "This war, as all boys and girls should know, is peculiarly their war—a war waged for the sake of the years to come…. [T]heir older brothers are going forth to battle … to make this country and the world a better place to live in for those who are the children of to-day" (1917, 772). The war is introduced into the previously sacrosanct home, extended outward to America, and through imposing American ideals of democracy and liberty, to a saved world. By 1918, St. Nicholas had become a war zone with little escape or diversion. Images of disciplined children marching and suffering children in Europe bombard the reader, a reminder that American children should work for victory to avoid European children's fate. Even small children had their territory invaded: "Little Patriots," after explaining that "soldiers" and "sailors" are fighting "for you and me," tells readers that "Uncle Sam needs little folk / As well as all the rest" (Cooke 121). America is fighting for its children, and even the smallest must work for the war because of the sacrifice the fighters are making.
These changes demonstrate a fundamental transformation in defining childhood. The driving foci of nonfiction articles in the magazine became group discipline as a tool to socialize the individual, and education about available war work organizations. Children were exhorted to sacrifice individuality for the group and pleasure for work; in essence, to take on the previous "adult" role of responsible worker. The balance of power was also disrupted. Children were encouraged to be aggressively and consciously persuasive, an army of recruiting agents who could shame slackers into participating. Estelle, for example, transforms her indifferent family and town through her "ardent patriotism," which persuades her "lazy" brother into farm work, her father to lead the Liberty Bond drive, and her mother to practice food conservation (Anon 26). Similarly, Betty, in a story titled "Jo-An of Ark" by George Merrick Mullett, sacrifices her beloved doll for the war, thus persuading a reluctant mother to allow her son to enlist (292-97). In late 1914, the St. Nicholas doll had symbolized unity, neutrality, and relief for suffering; in 1917 and 1918, dolls and toys have become weapons of war wielded by small hands. The magazine's rhetoric often stopped short of inciting hatred toward the enemy, but toward the end of the war, this boundary, too, is elided by Florence Partello Stuart in a lead article. "The Modern Crusader" uses religion to cast the German army as a legitimate target for a "holy crusade." The Allies are equated with Christianity, and the enemy with the bestial "infidel," a "savage animal escape[d] from its cage" leaving "destruction and disaster in its path," having "degraded and defiled everything we hold sacred" (580). Children, in response, should join disciplined organizations to uphold Christian ideals and win the war because the Germans' behavior places them outside humanity. Two serial stories that ran in late 1918 and 1919, George Ethelbert Walsh's "The Boy Vigilantes of Belgium," and Emilie Benson Knipe and Alden Arthur Knipe's "Vive la France!" also introduce flagrant examples of inflammatory rhetoric. The dying grandfather in "Vive la France!" tells his granddaughter that "[t]he Germans are barbarians" and exhorts her to "[t]each [the children] that the Germans are not as other people…. Let them never forget it" (806). In both stories, adolescents are bereft of parents and guardians by the Germans, and their oppressive, brutal behavior justifies children's (and, by extension, the Allied) retaliatory behavior.
How did children respond to this presentation of war and the propaganda about Germans as presented in St. Nicholas? The answer is complicated by the hier- archy of winners and their placement in the League pages. In November 1917, for instance, Mary M. Kern's gold badge-winning photograph depicts a group of little girls "Doing Their Bit" by earnestly knitting, with a Red Cross flag prominent (86). Despite a range of creative entries, groups are privileged over individuals and patriotic symbols like flags and uniforms over their lack. War work is mandatory. Yet children's writings indicate deliberate choice: their narratives about war create individuals who display the same qualities valued in prewar war fiction: heroism, courage, self-sacrifice, and independent thought. Carol Crowe, aged ten, for instance, wrote of a little French girl, her father killed in battle, who "longs for riches that I might show my love for my country!" When fighting occurs near her village, Crowe's heroine, Marie Reine, "crept close to the firing line" and discovered that the French soldiers were "faint and thirsty." All day, she "carried water to the thirsty, the tired, the wounded, and the dying … oblivious to the deadly fire of the guns." The girl falls asleep, "little realizing" that her small task had helped the army to drive out the enemy (90). This story exemplifies children's responses to the war: Reine's dilemma is to find a way to help her country; water-carrying is an everyday task made dangerous by circumstance, but in this small way, she contributes to the overall victory, although she is not aware of her contribution. Crowe's lesson is clear: children should contribute to the war effort in small ways because if each individual does the task at hand, through self-sacrifice, risk, and succoring others, victory will occur. Crowe, like her fellow child writers, focused on one patriotic individual, not on a group, and her story idealizes unconscious child heroism. Children also presented characters that have since become recognized as mythic figures in the First World War: the brave soldier wounded in action; the mother sacrificing her son for the good of country. A third theme, not as well known, focuses on American children making small sacrifices: substituting work or war effort for pleasure; finding or earning money, then buying war savings stamps instead of candy or fireworks. Moral dilemmas are presented—to sacrifice self, to deal with grief, to substitute duty for pleasure—but are always resolved by deciding to contribute to the war effort and ultimately, to victory and freedom. Significantly, many stories find a place in war for children to make a difference.
Children also choose to include or omit negative rhetoric about the enemy. Only one child in the League entries for September and October 1918 uses inflammatory rhetoric: in this poem by Alice Palmer, the German eagle represents "Autocracy and cruelty" versus the American eagle, which represents "Freedom and Democracy" (1052). Inflammatory fiction seems to be more persuasive than nonfiction, for more negative rhetoric is apparent in 1919, after "Vive la France!" began running, than in 1918. However, despite having their "pleasure-ground" turned into a propagandist war-zone, the majority of child writers omit negative propaganda, privileging more traditionally heroic qualities in their narratives. Another significant dilemma children face is the personal grief and loss caused by the war. Elinor Goldmark's silver badge-winning "A Battle in the Clouds," for instance, tells of a young girl mastering a "storm" of grief and sending her brother off to the war with a smile, an experience that many children must have had (1048). Twelve-year-old Virginia Boswell Smith echoes this theme of conquering sorrow to present a brave face, but gives a more specific way of coping. Smith is overcome by "days of grief," and the "[s]orrow and pain" caused by the "war-clouds." She has put away the "idle joys of yesterday," but her "tears" have caused her "vision" to clear: she looks to "God" with "thanks for blessings;" her "heart, in spite of grief and care, is singing in the rain" (1047). Her theme is common in readers' entries: war is disruptive and difficult, causing grief and loss, but courage, cheerfulness, faith, and hope all form the path to victory. The children who had previously led St. Nicholas into the war zone enthusiastically accepted the magazine's patriotism and their own participation, but most choose to follow St. Nicholas' prewar ideals. That is, the children envisioned heroic individuals who sacrifice themselves for the causes of war.
The Children's War
The child writers of St. Nicholas have, consciously or unconsciously, crafted war as the way of life, with fitness for life's tasks attained through working for victory, the ultimate goal. In this shift, the children emulated their elders: dilemmas and choices were invariably resolved by contributing, practically or emotionally, to victory. The "war" that these children wrote is not, however, quite the same war as that war written about by the editor of St. Nicholas or by its adult contributors. The children's war celebrated individual effort, courage, self-sacrifice, and patriotism, but had less space for the name-calling and group discipline extolled by the adults. Victory, for children, lay in honor and the individual. The prewar ideal of an ordeal successfully won and rewarded through principle, perseverance, and intelligence remained steadfast and unchanged. Victory is "the pinnacle" for which children strive (Levy 850). Peter Hunt claims that "[a]t the centre of its nature, children's literature is a negotiation (or a struggle) between author, material, and audience, a negotiation that is far more complex, more delicate and more extreme than the similar negotiations that go on … where writers and readers are (supposedly) peers" (10). St. Nicholas became a site where these negotiations were visible; where children show themselves as expert readers who do listen to their editor, adult authors, and peers, yet influence them by selectively writing their chosen versions of the war and their place in it. Children do "work through problems presented by the call to heroic action" (Gannon 2005, 196), but perceive their own participation as personal, individual, and do-able: carrying water to soldiers; sending a brother to war with a smile; imagining self-sacrificing soldiers and mothers; meeting care and grief with cheerfulness; buying a war stamp instead of fireworks. The children writers of St. Nicholas created their own versions of the "unsettling questions" that their war experience presented (Gannon 2005, 187). Although some of these dilemmas do echo questions asked in the main pages of St. Nicholas, the children presented themselves as capable, experienced, and self-sacrificing. Far from being "less experienced, less knowledgeable, less reasonable, less responsible, less capable" than adults (Nodelman 3), these children, through their independent choices, created a version of the war in which children are knowledgeable and active participants who learn, work, make difficult decisions, and contribute to the ultimate victory. For these children, this is their war.
1. Clare Leighton, writing many decades afterwards about her experiences as an adolescent in Britain during the First World War, recalled that "It is strange how vividly a visual memory can be stamped into the soft wax of the very young. The impression is deep and hardens over the years, never to be softened and erased by time. So it is to this day the sound of a bugle or even the sight of a uniform can frighten me" (9).
2. The winning entries for September would have been chosen in May or June.
Anon. "Thanksgiving à la Hoover." St. Nicholas. 45.1 (Nov. 1918): 26-29.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Language and Symbolic Power. Ed. John B. Thompson. Trans. Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1991.
Buitenhuis, Peter. The Great War of Words: British, American and Canadian Propaganda and Fiction, 1914-1933. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 1987.
Cadogan, Mary, and Patricia Craig. Women and Children First: The Fiction of Two World Wars. London: Gollancz, 1978.
Caldwell, Beatrice. "A Marching Song." St. Nicholas 44.4 (Feb. 1917): 371.
Catt, Dorothy. Letter. St. Nicholas 42.6 (Apr. 1915): 573-74.
Clark, Felicia Buttz. "Saved by a Camera." St. Nicholas. 43.3-5 (Jan.-March 1916): 195-205; 310-16; 428-35.
Clarke, William Fayal. "The ‘St. Nicholas’ Doll." St. Nicholas 42.1 (Nov. 1914): 93.
———. "The St. Nicholas League." St. Nicholas 43.2 (Dec. 1915): 176.
———. "The St. Nicholas League." St. Nicholas 43.8 (June 1916): 736.
———. "For Country and for Liberty: Patriotic Service for American Boys and Girls." St. Nicholas 44.9 (July 1917): 771-72.
Cooke, Edna A. "Little Patriots." St. Nicholas. 45.2 (Dec. 1917): 121.
Crowe, Carol. "The Story of a Patriot." St. Nicholas. 45.1 (Nov. 1917): 90.
Dickson, Josephine. "A Song of Peace." St. Nicholas. 42.6 (Apr. 1915): 561.
Dodge, Mary Mapes. "Children's Magazines." 1873. St. Nicholas and Mary Mapes Dodge: The Legacy of a Children's Magazine Editor, 1873-1905. Ed. Susan Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson. London: McFarland, 2004. 13-17.
Forman, S. E. "The Great War in Europe." St. Nicholas 42.11 (Sept. 1915): 964-65.
Gairdner, Tudor. "A Brave Deed." St. Nicholas 43.9 (July 1916): 858.
Gannon, Susan. "Fair Ideals and Heavy Responsibility: The Editing of St. Nicholas Magazine." St. Nicholas and Mary Mapes Dodge: The Legacy of a Children's Magazine Editor, 1873-1905. Ed. Susan Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson. London: McFarland, 2004. 27-53.
———. "Heroism Reconsidered: Negotiating Autonomy in St. Nicholas Magazine (1873-1914)." Culturing the Child, 1690-1914. Ed. Donelle Ruwe. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2005. 179-98.
Goldmark, Elinor. "A Battle in the Clouds." St. Nicholas. 45.11 (Sept. 1918): 1048.
Hebblethwaite, Eleanor. Letter. St. Nicholas. 42.4 (Feb. 1915): 380.
Higonnet, Margaret. "All Quiet in No Women's Land." Gendering War Talk. Ed. Miriam Cooke and Angela Woollacott. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. 205-26.
Holste, Katharine Van R. "My Happiest Fourth." St. Nicholas. 42.9 (July 1915): 859.
Hunt, Peter. "The Knowledge: What Do You Need to Know to Know Children's Literature?" New Voices in Children's Literature Criticism. Ed. Sebastien Chapleau. London: Pied Piper, 2004. 10-18.
Johnson, Eleanor. "A Song of Peace." St. Nicholas. 42.6 (Apr. 1915): 560.
Juers, Margaret. "The Flag." St. Nicholas. 42.8 (June 1915a): 766.
———. Letter. St. Nicholas. 42.8 (June 1915b): 765-66.
Kern, Mary M. "Doing Their Bit." St. Nicholas. 45.1 (Nov. 1917): 86.
Kite, Florence Lauer. "On the European War—A Prayer for Peace." St. Nicholas. 42.6 (Apr. 1915): 557.
Koch, Helen A. "A Great Idea." St. Nicholas. 44.4 (Feb. 1917): 374.
Knipe, Emilie Benson, and Alden Arthur Knipe. "‘Vive la France!’: A Narrative Founded on the Diary of Jeannette de Martigny." St. Nicholas. 46 (Nov. 1918-Oct. 1919): 2-11; 129-35; 233-40; 327-35; 429-37; 517-23; 702-08; 802-07; 900-07; 994-1001; 1108-16.
Leighton, Clare. Preface. Chronicle of Youth: War Diary, 1913-1917. By Vera Brittain. Glasgow: Fontana, 1982.
Levy, Dorothy. "The Pinnacle." St. Nicholas. 41.9 (July 1914): 850.
Meier, Lois. "A Brave Deed." St. Nicholas. 43.9 (July 1916): 855.
Mullett, George Merrick. "Jo-An of Ark." St. Nicholas. 45.4 (Feb. 1918): 292-97.
Nodelman, Perry. Preface. New Voices in Children's Literature Criticism. Ed. Sebastien Chapleau. London: Pied Piper, 2004. 3-9.
Olson, Marilynn Strasser. "‘When Did Youth Ever Neglect to Bow Before Glory?’ St. Nicholas and War." St. Nicholas and Mary Mapes Dodge: The Legacy of a Children's Magazine Editor, 1873-1905. Ed. Susan Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson. London: McFarland, 2004. 243-75.
Palmer, Alice. "A Battle in the Clouds." St. Nicholas. 45.11 (Sept. 1918): 1052.
Palmer, Helen. "The Snow-Storm." St. Nicholas. 44.5 (Mar. 1917): 471.
Palmer, Svetlana, and Sarah Wallis, eds. Intimate Voices from the First World War. New York: W. Morrow, 2003.
Phelps, Christina. "A Marching Song." St. Nicholas. 44.4 (Feb. 1917): 376.
Rahn, Suzanne. "In the Century's First Springtime: Albert Bigelow Paine and the St. Nicholas League." St. Nicholas and Mary Mapes Dodge: The Legacy of a Children's Magazine Editor, 1873-1905. Ed. Susan Gannon, Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson. London: McFarland, 2004. 119-42.
Smith, Virginia Boswell. "A-Singing in the Rain." St. Nicholas. 45.11 (Sept. 1918): 1047.
Soames, Bonnie. Letter. St. Nicholas. 41.12 (Oct. 1914): 1149.
Stolz, Max. "In Days of Old." St. Nicholas. 43.8 (June 1916): 758.
Stuart, Florence Partello. "The Modern Crusader." St. Nicholas. 45.7 (May 1918): 579-82.
Ward, Helen. "A Marching Song." St. Nicholas League. 44.4 (Feb. 1917): 372.
Walsh, George Ethelbert. "The Boy Vigilantes of Belgium." St. Nicholas. 46 Part I.2-6 (Dec. 1918-Apr. 1919: 162-70; 254-60; 346-53; 448-54; 543-50.
Wilcox, Llewellyn A. "The Harvest." St. Nicholas. 42.10 (Aug. 1915): 946.
Bottigheimer, Ruth B. "Fairy Tales, Telemachus, and Young Misses Magazine: Moderns, Ancients, Gender, and Eighteenth-Century Children's Book Publishing." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 28, no. 3 (fall 2003): 171-75.
Outlines eighteenth-century textual conflicts in children's periodicals between advocates of classic works and advocates of more contemporary fairy tales.
Carus, Marianne. "Children's Magazines." In International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, edited by Peter Hunt and Sheila Ray, pp. 443-57. London, England: Routledge, 1996.
Highlights the publishing history of several international children's periodicals.
Kelly, R. Gordon. "Publishing: The Institutional Matrix." In Mother Was a Lady: Self and Society in Selected American Children's Periodicals, 1865-1890, pp. 3-31. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974.
Describes the evolution of children's periodicals throughout the nineteenth century.
Marten, James. Lessons of War: The Civil War in Children's Magazines, Wilmington, Del.: SR Books, 1999, 259 p.
Describes, through an examination of stories and letters from children's periodicals published during the Civil War, how American children were influenced to view the conflict.
Nimon, Maureen. "From Faith to Good Fellowship: Sunday School Magazines in the Late Nineteenth Century." Children's Literature in Education 19, no. 4 (December 1988): 242-51.
Study of late nineteenth-century Australian Sunday School periodicals.
Raabe, Wesley. "The Text of ‘Eli's Education’: From Manuscript to St. Nicholas Magazine." Children's Literature 34 (2006): 161-85.
Textual analysis of the editorial process involved with the publication of Louisa May Alcott's short story "Eli's Education" in St. Nicholas Magazine.