Pinky Pie

Life’s little blue instruction books & Me

Posted on: May 6, 2011

“We know the past through memory and records. The present is made manifest by means of our sense. What of the future? Let us consider some of the question that people ask about the morrow or the next week. Will stocks – or some particular stock  – rise or fall? Will John Jones, who is in the hospital for an operation, recover or die? Will it rain on the day of the picnic? How long will Harry Doe live? … Will the world come to an end in the year 2000?” – from What You Should Know about Fortune Telling by Leo Markun

These, my friends, are the questions of our time, although I’m not sure what that time because there is no copyright date for What You Should Know about Fortune Telling, which is Little Blue Book No. 845.

I discovered these little staple-bound books that were published for decades in the 20th century to fit in a “workingman’s pocket.” The Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company of Girard, Kansas, sold 300 million of these little books for a nickel and later a dime by mail order. There were more than 2,000 titles eventually, including works of Ibsen and Shakespeare.

I discovered them Wednesday at a bookstore that we visited. I had maybe fifty to choose from, but I narrowed it down to four – paying a buck each.

One that caught my eye was The Open Shop: A Defense of Union Labor, which is Little Blue Book No. 845 by Clarence Darrow. Yes, that Clarence Darrow, the defense attorney in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Coming from Wisconsin, it seemed perfect for our labor craziness. Wrote Darrow:

“No one claims that all trade unionists are wise or even honest, much less that they have not made endless mistakes in the past and will not continue to err while time shall last. Neither is trade unionism an ideal institution. It was evolved to serve a purpose and to perform a duty in the upward march of the human race.”

After reading this post, you might think another of the Little Blue Books I bought would be helpful – Punctuation Self Taught, which is Little Blue Book No. 683 by Lloyd E. Smith.

“Most of the punctuation marks used in the writing of English are so small that people are likely to fall into the sad error of regarding them lightly. Periods and commas, especially, are no more than mere dots on the paper – it would seem, indeed, that the eye could scarcely notice them in its rapid scanning of the printed page. Yet leave punctuation marks out altogether, and they are no sooner gone than missed. The eye doesn’t take conscious notice of them, but they aid the eye materially.”

Here’s my question, Lloyd E. Smith: Should you have put a hyphen between Self and Taught. But to answer that question more fully, Smith writes a hyphen is an accessory to spelling more than a mark of punctuation. Its role is to indicate a break in a word and for compound words. If I want more information, he suggested I go to his book, Spelling Self Taught, Little Blue Book No. 681.

I did get the Dry-Law Debate, Little Blue Book No. 1256 by Clarence Darrow and Wayne B. Wheeler. It had a copyright date of 1927. Wheeler, counsel for the National Anti-Saloon League argued for prohibition while that free-spirited Darrow argued against it.

“How can the prohibition or the decreased use of liquor be detrimental to the public welfare? The worst that can be said against prohibition is that it doe not completely prohibit, that there are still people who drink liquor, and that all of the eveils [sic] are not eliminated. The remedy is not the open the floodgates and drench people in alcohol, but to enforce the laws better and urge obedience to the laws enacted to promote the general welfare instead of lawlessness.” – Wheeler.

Is there any reader of current history, is there any man who knows anything about the feeling of the people of the United States, who doesn’t know there has been an enormous change in public opinion since that prohibition law has been tried? It has made hypocrites, perjurers, bribe-takers, informers and it appeals to everything that is the lowest in man. It is the accursed thing in every human relation, and to say that this country, strong and great, cannot get rid of it because of the constitutional amendment, where 6,000,000 people keep it on the books, is to say we are a nation of blooming idiots weaklings. ” – Darrow.

I just wish Darrow had said what he really felt about prohibition.

I am sure you are wondering how the author on the booklet on fortune telling felt about the subject of that little blue book. You could either get the book or have your palms read. But I’ll summarize:

“There must be something in fortune telling, some of my readers may still believe. Yes, a certain amount of charlatanry and fraud, a large residue of ancient and medieval superstition, a great deal of folly.

I will read my future this way: I will search for more of these Little Blue Books. I can use these instruction books in life.

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