Agents Wanted

Main content

Agents Wanted

Subscription Publishing in America

"Agents Wanted"

"Agents Wanted"

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Variant Formats

Variant Formats

"How to Sell"

"How to Sell"

"What to Sell"

"What to Sell"

Targeting Different Audiences

Targeting Different Audiences

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

The Life of the Book Agent

The Life of the Book Agent

Drawing of a sales agent. The background shows advertisements, possibly from the Agents’ Herald.

Introduction

Nineteenth-century America saw the rise of a new kind of subscription publishing and a new approach to marketing. Once a relatively genteel means of seeking financial support for an expensive publication project with uncertain sales prospects, subscription bookselling expanded during the nineteenth century into a door-to-door solicitation of commitments to purchase particular titles not just prior to publication, as had been the case with earlier subscription ventures, but at any point in the publication process. This uniquely American publishing phenomenon grew out of a confluence of economic circumstances and opportunities. Through the eighteenth century, bookselling, printing, and publishing had not been clearly distinguished from each other. In the early part of the nineteenth century, however, publishers came to dominate both printers and booksellers by their ability to capitalize the entire book trade. Mainstream publishers generally viewed themselves as engaged primarily in the production of books and not mere commodities, yet they were affected by the same social and economic pressures that affected the country as a whole.

A period of brisk expansion and change, the nineteenth century saw the population of the country shift westward, away from previous centers of publishing and distribution. Upwardly mobile Americans viewed literacy, through which they learned about the wider world and developed as individuals and citizens, as essential to their mobility. Moreover, a developing American identity required nurture. Works by American authors which spoke on American themes and to American concerns could easily be marketed, publishers hoped, to such an audience. Improvements in transportation and print technology accompanied these social and cultural changes over the course of the century, making all types of reading matter increasingly quicker and cheaper to produce and distribute. Economies of scale, made possible by new printing technologies, in conjunction with cheaper paper and binding materials, greatly reduced the costs of producing large and inexpensive editions of books. Stereotyped plates both reduced the expense of reprinting and allowed for the distribution of plates to all parts of the country. New and cheaper methods of illustration increased their use in all forms of print, making them more appealing to prospective customers.

All of these factors supported the viability of publishing as an industry. Recognizing the existence of new opportunities, savvy capitalists were eager to exploit what they saw as largely untapped markets hungry-even if they had not yet realized it-for books, magazines, and newspapers. They transformed and refined subscription publishing into a mechanism to reach this audience. Subscription publishers regarded books as merchandise to be produced, advertised, and sold like any other product. The works they sold dealt with popular subjects and were meant to have wide appeal. They bypassed the passive marketing of their books through booksellers, located mainly in the larger towns and cities and unavailable to or unused by the vast majority of Americans at that time, and went directly to the public with their product. Employing book agents, whose sole job was to sell their work, they supplied them with the apparatus-incomplete copies of the prospective work, referred to as canvassing books-and taught them the sales techniques needed to sell their books. In this way subscription publishers resembled many other American entrepreneurs of the time whose agents sought to convince the public of the desirability of their products. Over time, subscription publishing became a successful and profitable part of the publishing industry. Established mainstream publishers, and even some department stores, proceeded to get in the act by starting their own subscription publishing departments.

This exhibition explores what has long been a relatively unknown and inadequately documented aspect of the American publishing industry in the nineteenth century. The resources of the Zinman Collection, a small portion of which is seen here, will assist scholars in reassessing the story of this industry's growth and of its significance in American life.

Lynne Farrington
Curator of Printed Books

Variant Formats

While most canvassing books closely resemble each other, publishers did develop variant formats for their prospectuses. Sample books lacking blank subscription pages are the most notable. They were used in conjunction with separate order books to create a canvassing outfit. Sample books are still used today to solicit subscriptions for certain types of publications, notably medical textbooks and expensive art books. Other variants include different types of combination outfits, which advertise more than one title, and outfits which were sent directly to potential subscribers. 

"How to Sell"

An increasingly wary public pushed book canvassers to adopt increasingly sophisticated door-to-door selling techniques. Whether in response to frustrated agents, unable to sell books, or to soft sales, publishers supplied their agents with general technique manuals as well as brochures containing detailed "patter," or speeches, for selling particular titles. Publishers also went to great lengths to obtain testimonials, or recommendations, for their works, and printed these as well. These, in combination with visually exciting covers, popular writers, and scintillating topics, helped make sales easier for prospecting agents. 

Targeting Different Audiences

Publishers originally aimed their products at the widest possible audience. Eventually, however, they recognized numerous narrowly-defined "specialty" audiences whose common interests and concerns might profitably be addressed: women (specifically their health and welfare); children (those not yet ready for more mature works); African American community (focusing on their accomplishments); recent immigrants (those who did not yet speak the language or were still in the process of assimilation); and specific localities (especially places known to be interested in documenting their present and their past). In these and other ways publishers began to experiment with highly segmented, defined markets, looking ahead to the sophisticated demographically-based marketing techniques usually associated with later twentieth-century American business practices. 

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Canvassing books—also referred to in the literature as prospectuses, specimen books, and salemen's dummies—and canvassing outfits, which consist of canvassing books and supplemental materials, were supplied by publishers and used by book agents, or canvassers, to solicit subscriptions. Most canvassing books are basically similar in format. However, they evolved into more elaborate variations on a theme. 

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

Two precursors to subscription publishing come together in nineteenth century America. The first, chapbooks, were cheaply printed works with crude images and paper covers sold door to door. The second were works written by authors for an economically privileged audience. Well-to-do patrons, to whom such works might be dedicated, or subscribers who paid in advance for the opportunity to acquire a work: such an audience was able to make a publisher's investment secure even before a book was printed and sold.

Subscription publishing became an accepted method of publication during the seventeenth century. As a way of acknowledging subscribers, authors included printed lists of subscribers in the work, often at the beginning, in place of or in addition to a dedication. The works typically sold by subscription in the seventeenth century were atlases, geographies, and histories, especially Bible histories. But important works of English literature were also published in this manner. Among them was, for example, the first illustrated edition of Milton's Paradise Lost, published by the great London publisher, Jacob Tonson in 1688. Its subscriber list names more than five hundred prominent individuals.

By the end of the eighteenth century, however, a variety of abuses had led to decline in the subscription method of publishing in England. During the nineteenth century, the old forms of subscription publishing gave way in America to new a form, which joined together the roles of publisher and peddler. 

"What to Sell"

In the early part of the nineteenth century, subscription publishers concentrated on history and religion, especially biographies of sacred, clerical, and historical figures. However, by the 1850s, topics of contemporary interest begin to dominate their lists. By the1860s, the Civil War had become all engrossing. Abbott's 1862 History of the Civil War in America is only one of many such titles printed during and after the war. It continued to be a popular subject for subscription publishers well into the twentieth century. Subscription publishing slowed during the Civil War, but flourished in the years directly following it. Publishers adapted subscription sales to many new subject matters the proliferation of books devoted to the Civil War threatened to saturate their markets.

By the late 1860s, a variety of books--on topics such as New York City, farming, and eminent men and women--had entered the mix. The 1870s saw renewed interest in the American West and foreign lands. Literature and contemporary events became a sizable portion of the titles published for subscription sales. The field explodes in the 1880s and 1890s with numerous works targeted at women on topics such as health, domestic life, and etiquette, and at children. Campaign biographies and election guides sold by subscription only were popular during this period, as well. Most works were sold as single volumes, although publishers advertise increasing numbers of sets, especially of literature and reference works.

By the twentieth century, the world of subscription publishing had changed its focus. Popular and sensational works intended for the general public gave way to those with an educational emphasis. Subscription publishing closely identified itself with the new educational movement in this country, which sought to expand the types of reading materials available to students. Most subscription publishers of this period concentrated on a single genre: encyclopedias; sets of literature (for children or adults); professional publications (law and medical books); expensive, limited editions of art and literature; technical and vocational manuals. Some publishers, of course, continued to publish popular works, histories, and Bibles, much as they had done before.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

"Agents Wanted"

Today, we are most likely to first become aware of subscription publishing from statements on title pages alerting readers that the book they hold is for sale "by subscription only" or from the ubiquitous "agents wanted" notices in newspapers and periodicals of the period. Publishers who wished to sell books by subscription needed first to hire agents, or "salespeople," to canvass, or "sell," their works. To find agents, they used advertisements in local newspapers and national periodicals, and later in trade publications, direct mailings, handbills and broadsides, and word of mouth. Sometimes publishers even sought agents in the canvassing books themselves or in the complete works that subscribers purchased. Publishers wrote advertisements encouraging individuals to take the plunge using the same techniques of persuasion they would subsequently encourage their agents to employ in selling their works.

Fig. 1: This canvassing book seeks both subscribers and canvassers, as can be seen from this advertisement for agents. While such extensive advertisements are rare, the announcement "Agents Wanted" or "Agents Needed" often appears at the bottom of the title pages of both canvassing books and the actual subscription books themselves. The Connecticut publisher who, during the Civil War, reprinted this popular military memoir, first published in 1823, seeks "energetic and reliable men . . . to circulate our publications in all parts of 'The Union.'"

Fig. 2: Not a canvassing book but the work as sold to subscribers, Sense in the Kitchen includes an advertisement soliciting agents. The publishers sought their agents among the population who had actually purchased or otherwise seen a copy of Adam's work.

Fig. 3: Seeking agents to canvass their books, publishers employed a variety of techniques to locate prospects. These included direct payments or a percentage of profits to those who supplied them with names. These arrangements usually provided that no money would change hands until the prospect actually took up the profession for a designated amount of time or earned a certain amount of money. This advertisement seeks "Special Agents" to submit the names of other potential agents, promising riches to be gained through the aggregation of ten percent of each agent's proceeds. To encourage only serious prospects, the "Special Agent" is required to send ten cents to cover the postage for sending the outfit to each name submitted.

Fig. 4: Publishers also sought agents through direct solicitation. This letter seeks "Traveling General Agents" to "select and appoint agents to handle our publications." Unlike appointed agents, who canvassed for subscriptions and were paid only in commissions, Traveling General Agents received both salary and expenses. However, before "securing the General Agency," a candidate had to spend two to three weeks actually canvassing, achieve at least thirty-five to forty sales, and pay twenty-seven cents postage for the canvassing outfit. These requirements were obviously the publisher's way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fig. 5: Publishers considered the holiday season an ideal time to bring out new books, especially those that could be given as gifts to children and young people. It was also, by analogy, an ideal time to canvass, and to seek new canvassers. This recruiting poster encourages prospective canvassers by tying the two essential elements, books and money, together visually. "Any person of average ability who follows our directions can make money, and make it honorably, giving full value for every dollar received." Who could readily resist such rhetoric?

Fig. 6: This advertisement seeks particular kinds of people who, it explains, would make ideal agents for this publication. Teachers, ministers, students, ladies, and farmers are among those regarded as appropriate sales personnel. The publisher claims that they will be able to work during their spare time, support their education, pay down their mortgage, or use this job as a stepping stone to something better. All the prospect needs in order to succeed is "a moderate share of Pluck and Push."

Fig. 7: This circular emphasizes that it should be kept private, perhaps to keep prospects from deconstructing the argument by discussing its merits and defects with others. Rather than assigning agents to a specific territory, the "New Plan" advertised here requires agents to "buy" a territory to canvass. Territories cost anything from ten to one hundred dollars, or even more. The argument is that the agent becomes a publisher, investing in a territory, and that profit potentials are greatly increased since agents pay only for a book's manufacturing cost. Knowing-as we do now-that many, and perhaps the majority, of agents never earned a cent, or even went into debt, from canvassing, the proposal seems a questionable investment. The "New Plan" does not seem to have been successful. Later advertisements for agents often emphasize that agents need not commit their own capital.

Fig. 8: The Agent's Herald was directed specifically at agents and agent wannabes. Published on South Eighth Street in Philadelphia from 1877 to the late 1890s by Lum Smith, it advertised a range of items to be canvassed, from books and magazines to pant stretchers and electric belts. Smith's ethics may not have been entirely pure. He supposedly threatened manufacturers and publishers unwilling to advertise in The Agent's Herald with bad press. But he also fought on behalf of agents, advocated free trade among the states and territories, and published important legal opinions that affected the ability of agents to practice their profession.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

The Life of the Book Agent

Most people found lives as book agents to be nasty, brutal, and short: the field was not one at which many people kept plugging away for many years. However, an exceptional few found their natural talents to lie in this direction and were able to become extremely successful at canvassing. Both types of agents wrote about their experiences in diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and even fictional accounts. So did such writers as Horatio Alger and Ellis Parker Butler, who had never been book agents themselves. Sometimes, too--and in all genres--the line between fact and fiction was not clearly drawn. 

Fig. 1: 

Frank Kelley kept this manuscript diary, with numerous illustrations, documenting his experiences canvassing in Maine during one week in 1894. A couple of days of rainy weather at the end of the week provided Kelley with the time to make this book--which he did using wrapping paper--and to begin writing his diary. He titles his drawing of himself trying to sell a copy of his book, Plain Home Talk, to a stern-faced woman standing in her doorway, "A discouraged agent." It is remarkably similar to the frontispiece to Alger's novel, The Young Book Agent, published a decade later. Kelley recounts the events of that day:

"The forenoon was very cloudy and there seemed to be such positive indication of rain that I decided that I would not, as I had planned[,] go to Jonesport to canvass, but at noon the weather cleared so, that the day might not be wholly lost, I decided to canvass the people at the Basin and with what luck may be guessed by the illustration on the preceding page I was unable to secure a single subscriber either at the Basin or on Crowley's island which I canvassed after doing the Basin."

Fig. 2 - Fig. 4:

In the preface to this novel, published in 1905--when attitudes to book agents had clearly changed--the author reminds his readers that while "[i]t is the custom of many persons in ordinary life to sneer at a book agent and show him scant courtesy, forgetting that the agent's business is a perfectly legitimate one and that he is therefore entitled to due respect so long as he does that which is proper and gentlemanly." The hero, Frank Hardy, is from the Philadelphia area, and it is in Philadelphia that part of the story is set. The book chronicles the typical "Horatio Alger"-like rise to success of plucky young working boys. While its title page attributes the work to Horatio Alger, Jr., The Young Book Agent was actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, one of eleven titles completed by his syndicate after Alger's death. Stratemeyer would later recycle the hero's name--Frank Hardy--and his physical characteristics--"a tall, good-natured looking boy of sixteen, with dark eyes and dark, curly hair"--in the Hardy Boys series, which he and his syndicate began producing in 1927.

Fig 5:

The hero of this humorous and entertaining novel, Eliph' Hewlitt, is a travelling book agent seeking love while he sells Jarby's Encylopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, Comprising Useful Information on One Thousand and One Subjects, Including A History of The World, the Lives of All Famous Men, Quotations From The World's Great Authors, One Thousand and One Recipes, Et Cetera. The one book every household should own, it is "an entire library in one book, arranged and indexed by the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One dollar down and one dollar a month until paid." Eliph's spiel sounds very much like those found in publishers' "how to sell" brochures, including even references to the content of specific pages. Contemplating making love to a young woman he has met, Eliph' continues to use the language of canvassing as he meditates upon his situation:

"Lovely, but she will not suit. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge and compendium of literature, science and art, but she is not the edition I can afford. She is gilt-edged and morocco bound, and an ornament to any parlor, but I can't afford her. My style is cloth, good substantial cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid. As I might say."

In fact, he cannot do anything without making a sales pitch for the book.

Fig. 6 - Fig. 7: 

This anecdotal, autobiographical work records the daily ups and downs book agents faced as they attempted to do their job. For every single highly successful book agent, dozens more failed. Of these, many, like Lindley, quit worse off financially than when they had begun, having spent whatever funds they had on room, board, and travel, not to mention the very outfit they were canvassing.

Fig. 8: 

This early autobiography of a female book agent--of which there were many over the years--was first published in 1868 and reprinted many times in the years that followed. Dumond reflects upon her difficult life as a book agent, recalling, for example, an occasion when she had to pawn all her possessions in order to pay for room and board while canvassing for elusive subscribers. It is not clear whether this is a true autobiography, or rather Nelles's fictional account of her life, written to serve as an example to other young women. Some of her other fictional works, including those which appeared around the same time as this "autobiography," concern temperance and salvation.

Fig. 9: 

Mortimer represents this as the work of Captain Durand, who, we are told, "will tell of his experiences in the book business, in his own way, I merely being the editor." This declaration mirrors that in the author's previous book, The Dawn, also autobiographical in form, which was taken by the public to be Mortimer's own story. He vehemently denied that he was telling his own story in such works, but--as is also true of other book agents' autobiographies--the relationship between autobiography and fiction in Mortimer's work is ultimately unclear. Mortimer's own face, not that of Captain Durand, shows up as the frontispiece, which may be a hint.

Fig. 10 - Fig. 11:

The Book Agent is a fiction that takes an autobiographical form for purposes of humorous satire. It presents its reader with "a series of literary etchings on the landscapes of humanity" by Joshua Wright, Book Agent. According to the "editor," Wright originally attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to combine "the Functions of Author, Publisher, and Vendor in One Person"--a jibe at those book agents who tried to create their own monopolies in the business. Now he has bequeathed his memoirs to "whomever these presents may come." The frontispiece, shown here, illustrates the "extraordinary dream" of Joshua Wright, a dream, or rather nightmare, in which he is chased by a mad horse-- reminiscent of being chased by an irate subscriber.

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

"Damn Those Book Canvassers"

Book agents-subscription publishing in general-would eventually lose public confidence for a variety of reasons:

  • a barrage of agents at the door proved annoying to many people;
  • over time books sold by subscription came to seem of poor quality: their paper was cheap and their bindings shoddy; old works were endlessly reissued with new titles; information was out of date; authors were hacks;
  • the price of subscription books often exceeded that of a good copy at a bookstore;
  • gluts of books on timely topics competed with each other and over-saturated the market;
  • publishers and agents misrepresented their works, using the names of eminent individuals on title pages and in related advertisements without authorization; faking testimonials; and titling works in ways designed to confuse the public.

Numerous condemnations of agents appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books. All reinforced the public's tendency to stereotype agents. Although these condemnations did not gain real force until the late nineteenth century, such critiques had already appeared in the first half of the century. Newspaper vignettes exhibited in this case, most dating from before the Civil War, show the prevalence of marketing techniques, codified in the advisory handbooks publishers printed and distributed to their agents, that many customers ultimately found objectionable.

In spite of the abuses, canvassers brought books to parts of the country where bookstores did not exist and where much of the population was barely literate. Some estimates assign canvassers responsibility for two-thirds of book sales from 1870-1900. That significant figure makes them important agents not only for the publishers whose products they hawked but also for the spread of literacy and print culture in America. Since the titles sold by subscription publishers were overwhelmingly written by American authors for American audiences focused on American topics, subscription publishing came to play an important role in the development of an American culture. The book agent may have been a mere travelling salesman, and not always a particularly savory specimen of the kind, at last. Nonetheless, just such agents helped define who we are and what we think through the books they placed on American shelves.

Fig. 1: 
As early as 1836 book agents were sufficiently common to generate this tale of a clergyman caught in a particularly persistent book agent's web. Early condemnation focuses more on the agents than on the publishers who sent them out into the field.

Fig. 2: Another Lowell newspaper article illustrates the determination of book "peddlers," another way of referring to book agents. Reprinted from the Louisiana Conservator, the story reveals the difficulty of extricating oneself from a book agent's grasp. Among the magical powers ascribed to the agent is the ability to "make you subscribe for a forthcoming work before you know it, even while you are determined to eschew the pedler and his works."

Fig. 3: This article on book agents admits that book agents are "a very respectable class of the business community, almost as important, we will venture to suppose, as books themselves." It then relates the monitory experiences of one gentleman who, pursued by them again and again, has come to dread their appearance. He even attempts to escape whenever he notices their approach.

Fig. 4: This letter, addressed to the Editors of the Free Press by a writer in Louisa County, Iowa, decries the multitude of canvassers. They sell

"So many things a person don't really need: -stencil plates, jewelry, liquid to plate your spoons yourself, medicines of different kinds, notions, books of every description, corsets, (ah me, I'll tell you in confidence dear Free Press, I bought one of those once, and found afterward, I had paid nearly double the retail price at the stores.)"

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: One of the strongest condemnations of book agents and other canvassers is found in the 1879 edition of Bates Harrington's book on the subject. A detailed and scathing account of specific individuals and schemes, with names and locations delineated, Harrington reveals the "tricks of the trade. " He even reprints an entire general instruction manual, Success in Canvassing, directed specifically at book agents. By 1890, when the work was republished, the publisher-perhaps for protection against lawsuits-changed the names of individuals and businesses so that they could no longer be identified. The section titled "Thompson & Everts" has become in 1890 "A Company Formed." "Capt. T. H. Thompson" is, by 1890, "Mr. A;" his partner, "Maj. L. H. Everts," has become "Mr. B."

Fig. 7: Joslin's book is open to an anecdote that illustrates the difficulty book agents encountered in selling books to the general public. The unfortunate agent, canvassing a book of philosophy entitled Lives of Eminent Philosophers, unlikely to be of much interest to the general public, uses every technique he knows to impress the German tailor on whom he has called. However, once the tailor hears the price, he cries out:

"Zwelve dollars for der pook! Zwelve dollars und he has noddings about der war, und no fun in him, nor say noddings how to get glean cloze! What do you take me for, mister? Go right away mit dat pook, or I call der bolice und haf you locked up pooty quick."

Fig. 8: By 1898, subscription publishing had become a wellestablished part of the book trade and was no longer viewed, as in the early days, as an aberration, damaging to regular bookstores, and possibly even putting them out of business. The article chronicles abuses in the industry but also recognizes its merits in bringing the book to the "sparsely-inhabited districts of the Wild West."

Fig. 9: These pages from Reed's Encyclopedia are of some short discussions towards of back meant to justify the subscription publishing business against articles and books that condemn the practice. Publishers reacted in different ways to growing criticism of their industry. Some developed detailed and convincing spiels to respond to the common negative reactions encountered by canvassers. At first glance, these discussions seem intended for the agent. A careful reading indicates that potential subscribers were also meant to read these printed justifications.

Fig. 10: 

Clark, a Congregational minister and founder of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, was also a newspaper editor and the author of over three dozen titles. The letters collected here were originally written for the Golden Rule, a religious weekly that became the organ of his Christian Endeavor movement. The letters are all penned by a fictional Mr. Mossback, described in "An Introductory Note" as "an aged and garrulous old man, . . . a harmless old pastor." Among the letters are a number of extremely humorous criticisms on the various "types" the pastor has observed and encountered in his working life. Mr. Mossback commends "some unrecognized saints," among whom-- surprisingly?--he includes book agents. True, Mossback admits, the agent

"may deserve some of the opprobrium that is cast upon him, for his persistence in the sale of his wares is not always of the gentle and winning variety, but after all we are inclined to consider him one of the benefactors of humanity."

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Early Examples

Fig. 1: This early canvassing book is extremely simple, consisting of the title page, a few sample pages of text, some with illustrations, and blank subscription pages. The only binding choice is shown here, gilt stamped on the front with identifying information and, on the back, a design for the completed book. The publisher is clearly using the front cover to advertise the illustrator of this work, F. O. C. Darley.

Fig. 2: This slim volume consists of the title page and sample illustrations but no sample text, a broadside advertisement, and subscription pages. The publisher has also included a sheet, attached to the front free endpaper, enumerating his rules and justifying the cost of the book. In addition, a blank "Certificate of Agency" and some "testimonials" (the equivalent of modern "blurbs") have also been pasted in the front of the book.

Fig. 3 - Fig. 7: These four copies of the same canvassing book, with minor differences, illustrate the typical canvassing book. The basic components are-

Fig. 3 - Variant bindings, here represented by their spines

Fig. 4 - Title page (in facsimile), including the notice that the work is "Sold by Subscription Only"

Fig. 5 - Sample text and illustrations

Fig. 6 - Testimonials

Fig. 7 - Broadside advertisement and subscription pages

"How to Sell"

General "How to Sell"

Fig. 1: Pamphlets intended to educate book agents in the manner and process of selling books through canvassing speak, for instance, of the virtues of subscription books. "Almost invariably . . . works of solid information," they circulate "principally among that class who seldom or never enter a bookstore, who live remote from cities, and who . . . would be destitute entirely of the wisdom which their pages impart." They describe techniques for obtaining subscriptions, telling the agent to "first make . . . the acquaintance of a few of the leading men and induce . . . them to subscribe, which he can easily do, if his book is worthy, and he has the right social and persuasive qualities." The agent must "paint vividly upon the imagination an impression that the book is of a deeply interesting character, and filled with useful information." Standard salesmanship, this pamphlet advises "a pleasant manner of approaching men," never losing one's temper, and perseverance and system, "going at it as . . . [at] a day's work, losing no time." Agents learn that "[h]undreds of persons will subscribe when books are presented to them at home, who never would think of purchasing at a regular bookstore." The virtues of subscription over direct sales, "because most persons are more ready to engage to pay the money at a future time for an article than to purchase it now," lead to advice to "rely principally on men of moderate means and small libraries . . . and especially upon mechanics and the farming population." Women--"the ladies"--"will often buy when the men will not, and indeed, it is often the case, that a . . . lady takes more interest in books than her husband."

Fig. 2: This early book of advice consists essentially of ten rules that successful book agents should follow. First and foremost is to pay close attention to one's external appearance and manner. The author entered the "profession" in 1851 "more as a means of mental and bodily exercise than as a lucrative pursuit." He claims to have been so successful that he feels obliged to share his insights with other prospective book agents. Stoops went on to compile and publish Gems of Poetry: Containing a Collection of Popular Parlor Ballads, and the Business Cards of the Leading Hotels and Mercantile Firms in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a single work which clearly joins together business and pleasure.

Fig. 3: This little pamphlet provides the harried book agent with specific speeches to use in answering a variety of objections.

"How to Sell"

General "How to Sell"

Fig. 1: Pamphlets intended to educate book agents in the manner and process of selling books through canvassing speak, for instance, of the virtues of subscription books. "Almost invariably . . . works of solid information," they circulate "principally among that class who seldom or never enter a bookstore, who live remote from cities, and who . . . would be destitute entirely of the wisdom which their pages impart." They describe techniques for obtaining subscriptions, telling the agent to "first make . . . the acquaintance of a few of the leading men and induce . . . them to subscribe, which he can easily do, if his book is worthy, and he has the right social and persuasive qualities." The agent must "paint vividly upon the imagination an impression that the book is of a deeply interesting character, and filled with useful information." Standard salesmanship, this pamphlet advises "a pleasant manner of approaching men," never losing one's temper, and perseverance and system, "going at it as . . . [at] a day's work, losing no time." Agents learn that "[h]undreds of persons will subscribe when books are presented to them at home, who never would think of purchasing at a regular bookstore." The virtues of subscription over direct sales, "because most persons are more ready to engage to pay the money at a future time for an article than to purchase it now," lead to advice to "rely principally on men of moderate means and small libraries . . . and especially upon mechanics and the farming population." Women--"the ladies"--"will often buy when the men will not, and indeed, it is often the case, that a . . . lady takes more interest in books than her husband."

Fig. 2: This early book of advice consists essentially of ten rules that successful book agents should follow. First and foremost is to pay close attention to one's external appearance and manner. The author entered the "profession" in 1851 "more as a means of mental and bodily exercise than as a lucrative pursuit." He claims to have been so successful that he feels obliged to share his insights with other prospective book agents. Stoops went on to compile and publish Gems of Poetry: Containing a Collection of Popular Parlor Ballads, and the Business Cards of the Leading Hotels and Mercantile Firms in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a single work which clearly joins together business and pleasure.

Fig. 3: This little pamphlet provides the harried book agent with specific speeches to use in answering a variety of objections.

"How to Sell"

General "How to Sell"

Fig. 1: Pamphlets intended to educate book agents in the manner and process of selling books through canvassing speak, for instance, of the virtues of subscription books. "Almost invariably . . . works of solid information," they circulate "principally among that class who seldom or never enter a bookstore, who live remote from cities, and who . . . would be destitute entirely of the wisdom which their pages impart." They describe techniques for obtaining subscriptions, telling the agent to "first make . . . the acquaintance of a few of the leading men and induce . . . them to subscribe, which he can easily do, if his book is worthy, and he has the right social and persuasive qualities." The agent must "paint vividly upon the imagination an impression that the book is of a deeply interesting character, and filled with useful information." Standard salesmanship, this pamphlet advises "a pleasant manner of approaching men," never losing one's temper, and perseverance and system, "going at it as . . . [at] a day's work, losing no time." Agents learn that "[h]undreds of persons will subscribe when books are presented to them at home, who never would think of purchasing at a regular bookstore." The virtues of subscription over direct sales, "because most persons are more ready to engage to pay the money at a future time for an article than to purchase it now," lead to advice to "rely principally on men of moderate means and small libraries . . . and especially upon mechanics and the farming population." Women--"the ladies"--"will often buy when the men will not, and indeed, it is often the case, that a . . . lady takes more interest in books than her husband."

Fig. 2: This early book of advice consists essentially of ten rules that successful book agents should follow. First and foremost is to pay close attention to one's external appearance and manner. The author entered the "profession" in 1851 "more as a means of mental and bodily exercise than as a lucrative pursuit." He claims to have been so successful that he feels obliged to share his insights with other prospective book agents. Stoops went on to compile and publish Gems of Poetry: Containing a Collection of Popular Parlor Ballads, and the Business Cards of the Leading Hotels and Mercantile Firms in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a single work which clearly joins together business and pleasure.

Fig. 3: This little pamphlet provides the harried book agent with specific speeches to use in answering a variety of objections.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

"What to Sell"

Knowledge and Self-Improvement

Fig. 1: This handbook for farmers contains manikins, or cut-outs, showing the anatomical parts of the horse and the cow. Its publisher promotes it as "scientific, practical, simple, authentic and up-to-date." The predominantly rural nature of the United States at this time gave such books a large potential audience. This example contains handwritten testimonials from local leaders and the names, addresses, and binding choices of sixty subscribers, none of whom chose the most expensive binding.

Fig. 2: This circular advertises an elocution and recitation book, of which there are many in the Zinman Collection. They generally consist of compilations of readings and recitations containing something for everyone and every situation. Such anthologies brought together a variety of short pieces for literary recitations, a common form of community entertainment before radio and television. The Standard American Speaker also offers instruction in physical culture, gesture, and breathing. Purporting to address amateurs, the book can claim to be an invaluable addition to any home, school, Sunday school, etc. The many illustrations are intended to complement the text by offering visual clues on how to present oneself during recitations.

Fig. 3: Part cookbook, part moral advisor, part medical handbook, and heavily practical throughout, Dr. Chase's compendia claimed to contain just about everything a nineteenthcentury householder needed to know in order to survive. In fact, Dr. Chase's and the Bible were the two books most frequently carried across the country by the pioneers. Dr. Chase's was also sold in German translation, of which sample pages are included in this canvassing book, as savvy publishers were aware that many of these pioneers were recent immigrants whose only language was German.

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5: "A Book no Woman Can Afford to Be Without," its prospectus declares, Cramp's Institute Cook Book "Makes Meals Better--Makes Housework Easier--Makes Cost of Living Less." Although this canvasser's book seems in every way to be a typical example flogging a particular title, its actual purpose appears to be to sell membership in the International Institute, Department of Domestic Science. The cookbook, merely an added incentive to join the Institute, comes free to all members, who will also--supposedly--"have the further privilege of receiving advice on all questions of Household Management and Domestic Economy from the experts employed by the Institute." A well-documented fraudulent trade practice of certain disreputable subscription publishers was the offer of membership in nonexistent societies, clubs, and other organizations in connection with the sale of books. Whether or not the International Institute was legitimate is, at this date, hard to guess. But it certainly seems no more than a ploy to sell this cookbook, also published under various other titles, among them The Winston Cook Book,The Universal Cook Book, and the White Ribbon Cook Book, by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and other subscription publishers across the country. The Institute's address, 1008 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is next door to Winston, at 1010 Arch Street.

Fig. 6: Heron's Dainty Work fed the burgeoning interest of women in domestic refinements that create a more pleasant home environment while claiming to encourage both tastefulness and economy. Heron also suggested ways in which women might use their talents to provide income for themselves and their families.

Fig. 7: Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen are a residue of subscription publishing that continued well into the second half of the twentieth century. Many people can still recall their visits. Encyclopedias, a mainstay of subscription publishers, appeared in many varieties. Some were general. Others like the Encyclopedia of Health and Home: A Domestic Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness were dedicated to specific topics. Other encyclopedias targeted students, farmers, homeowners, and instructors in etiquette and manners. In fact, encyclopedias covered so vast a range of topics and appeared for so many years that they clearly were a successful format. Confronted by a need for many books on a topic, as opposed to only one that promised everything known about it, prospective customers usually opted for the one: "economy" was the key to their success.

Fig. 8: Some books dealt specifically with women's health issues . Many other household manuals also included medical receipts. But general medical books outnumber the rest, as the more than two dozen included in the Zinman Collection suggest. Reed's Encyclopedia, full of pithy advice and straightforward remedies, is, according to its publisher, "Thorough and Exhaustive, and Adapted to the Easy Apprehension of All Classes." Unlike other medical books on the market, which supposedly present remedies that only a physician can administer, this one claims to present information of use to the layman.

Fig. 9: Thayer, a clergyman and teacher, was the prolific author of many inspirational books for children and adults. A few were sold by subscription. Numerous later works promised to reveal the secrets of success: Men That Win; Women That Win; Ethics of SuccessThe Way to Succeed. Thayer obviously found an audience eager for guideposts on the road to achievement of their goals and exploited that topic again and again. Appropriately, the prospectus to this work proclaims that this is the ultimate book on the topic.

This, the latest and greatest work of a renowned author, is an Encyclopedia of character traits, exhaustive, thorough, and touching every phase of aspiring success. It is religious, historic, biographic, philosophic, and anecdotal, ... every chapter being a shining link in the brilliant chain of success.

Variant Formats

Partial Sample Book

This sample book consists only of specimen pages and plates. Unlike canvassing books, and even many sample books, which have only representative pages and plates, this specimen is complete up to page 144, where it simply stops. Anticipating the end of the Civil War, the publishers were attempting to be among the first to profit from it. According to them, "Volume II will be published so soon as practicable after the close of the War, and in all respects will be fully equal to Vol. I." This specimen, intended for magazine and newspaper editors, was an attempt to solicit favorable notices even before publication. The publisher also produced a distinct canvassing book for this title, to be used by book agents soliciting subscriptions. The back of the wrappers, announcing that the work will be "sold exclusively by subscription," provides a price list for the work and advertises for agents to sell it.

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

Subscription Publishing of Expensive Works In England

Fig. 1: Some authorities claim this work, a polyglot dictionary, is the first use of subscription publication in England. Tired of dealing with his fickle patron, the author asked the public to underwrite the book's costs by subscribing to the work prior to publication.

Fig. 2: By the eighteenth century, more and more popular works were published by subscription. This is one of several copies of Camilla that belonged to the Duchess of York, a subscriber, along with Jane Austen, Edmund Burke, Maria Edgeworth, and David Hume. The subscriber's list consumes thirty-eight pages. One can be certain that it was poured over by those whose names were, and were not, included, whether or not one was actually interested in reading the novel. In many cases, those seeking to move up the social ladder, and with sufficient resources at their disposal, would willingly subscribe to a publication just to see their name in proximity with royalty and other illustrious persons of the age.

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

Subscription Publishing of Expensive Works In England

Fig. 1: Some authorities claim this work, a polyglot dictionary, is the first use of subscription publication in England. Tired of dealing with his fickle patron, the author asked the public to underwrite the book's costs by subscribing to the work prior to publication.

Fig. 2: By the eighteenth century, more and more popular works were published by subscription. This is one of several copies of Camilla that belonged to the Duchess of York, a subscriber, along with Jane Austen, Edmund Burke, Maria Edgeworth, and David Hume. The subscriber's list consumes thirty-eight pages. One can be certain that it was poured over by those whose names were, and were not, included, whether or not one was actually interested in reading the novel. In many cases, those seeking to move up the social ladder, and with sufficient resources at their disposal, would willingly subscribe to a publication just to see their name in proximity with royalty and other illustrious persons of the age.

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

Targeting Different Audiences

Women and Children

Fig. 1 - Fig. 3: Clearly, women were the audience for this particular work. Its associated "how to sell" pamphlet even assumes the book's agents to be women. The agent is warned to make certain that the work is not mistaken for a "medical book," which would dampen sales, but one that concerns "practical obstetrics," previously unavailable for purchase. Fitted into a pocket in the back of the canvassing book is a booklet of obstetric illustrations, separately printed so to be safe from a child's prying eyes.

"A Confidential Talk With Our Agents on How to Sell Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty" is a pamphlet loosely enclosed; "Obstetrics (Or the Treatment of Pregnancy) Scientifically Illustrated" is a pamphlet for the purchaser, not the agent, and is enclosed in a pocket in the volume's back cover

Fig. 4: Rayne's book of encouraging advice for women reflects its period, when many women were seeking and finding employment outside the family farm or business. Evidently, her book found a following. One copy in the Zinman Collection contains the names of one hundred and ten subscribers, all of them women.

Fig. 5 - Fig. 6: Stowe's sketches, based on scriptural, historical, and legendary sources, was one of the best selling subscription books J. B. Ford published. In fact, once Stowe had added her titles to its list, the publisher, which had brought out books by various Beechers, advertised itself as "Printers and Publishers to the Beecher Family." The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and her literary and religious writer-relatives constituted, all by themselves, a kind of "sub-market." Years later, when the market for Women in Sacred History seemed exhausted, Stowe condensed it. Renamed Bible Heroines, the book had a second life in the bookstores. The chromolithographs of the various heroines, based on paintings by notable artists, are all gathered at the beginning of this canvassing book. They would have been a major selling point, emphasized in the sales pitch to all interested parties.

Fig. 7: Northrop reflects a modern sensibility towards children's literature, replacing purely didactic works with those that seek to make learning enjoyable. He writes that "[t]o afford entertainment and instruction to the young is always a pleasure. Their eyes and ears are open; they are eager for new thoughts and new scenes; their minds are on the wing, ready to visit every clime; and none appreciate as they do the marvels of the world." His work gathers poetry, stories, and tales of nature and history, all embellished with numerous illustrations.

Fig. 8: Palmer Cox, an extremely popular writer of children's literature, was best known for The Brownies. Wee, fairy-like creatures that resembled little garden gnomes, his anthropomorphic creations received critical acclaim, as evidenced by the commendations printed in the canvassing book. The National Baptistproclaimed it "pure and healthful, besides being charmingly interesting and amusing." This example is one of only a few canvassing books in the Zinman Collection intended to sell only one children's title. Its publisher also issued this title as a set of "three volumes for the convenience of purchasers." The covers shown here are the covers for two of the volumes.

Fig. 9: Combination canvassing books were used primarily to sell children's books. Appearing first in the 1890s, they continued well into the twentieth century. The range of ages and subjects covered by these books permitted them to contain something for just about any child, and occasionally for adults, as well. They often appear to have been marketed during the holiday season; some publishers even refer to them in their prospectuses as "holiday books." Some titles might have made for interesting children's reading. Others, however, obviously reflect the kinds of books that adults consider to be appropriate for youngsters. Books published for children by the various Bible publishing houses look likely to have been exceedingly dull.

The canvasser's volumes also contains subscription materials for Great American Men and Women for Little American Boys and Girls; Jesse Hurlbut, Stories from the Old and New Testaments; Charles Morris, Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years; and The Standard Library of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement

"How to Sell"

"How to Sell" Specific Texts

These brochures were included as part of the canvassing outfits for each of the books to which they refer. Written specifically for the works being canvassed, they provide both text and stage directions for selling that title. They are similar to the sales speech slips often bound into the actual canvassing book for the agent to memorize and then discard. The presentation, or "Description," is for the canvassing book, or "Prospectus," only. Agents are warned not to use it with the complete work. Interestingly, these brochures contain no reference to the publisher or anything else that would identify them if lost or misplaced. However, both of them look very similar and may have originated with the firm of Fairbanks, Palmer, and Company, of New York and Chicago.

"How to Sell"

"How to Sell" Specific Texts

These brochures were included as part of the canvassing outfits for each of the books to which they refer. Written specifically for the works being canvassed, they provide both text and stage directions for selling that title. They are similar to the sales speech slips often bound into the actual canvassing book for the agent to memorize and then discard. The presentation, or "Description," is for the canvassing book, or "Prospectus," only. Agents are warned not to use it with the complete work. Interestingly, these brochures contain no reference to the publisher or anything else that would identify them if lost or misplaced. However, both of them look very similar and may have originated with the firm of Fairbanks, Palmer, and Company, of New York and Chicago.

Targeting Different Audiences

African Americans, Recent Immigrants, and Specific Localities

Fig. 1: This important and influential work was regularly reissued in revised and enlarged editions through the 1920s. Attributed to Crogman and different collaborators, it was also published under the title The Colored American.

Fig. 2: The Civil War spawned an enormous number of books on every aspect of the war. The Black Phalanx chronicles the contributions of African Americans to both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It would have been of interest to and found an enormous following among the many African American veterans of the Civil War. While the title page gives the publisher as Winter & Company, the copyright belongs to the American Publishing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, publishers of Mark Twain.

Fig. 3: This enlarged version of Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom--originally published in 1847 as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave--was one of a number of autobiographies of prominent African Americans to be published as subscription books in the years after the Civil War. Such books appealed to changed attitudes about and new interest in the lives and works of those who played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The prospectus for Douglass's Life and Times compares the work to Stowe's enormously popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing for the even greater appeal of its more realistic portrayal of slavery (an "intensely absorbing" topic). Such works found an audience both in the African American community and beyond. This subscription book contains the names of sixty-six subscribers from Ohio.

Fig. 4: This is the earliest history of the Civil War in the Zinman Collection and maybe the earliest such history published for subscription sales. It appeared not only in English but also in German. The prospectus for the German translation, which appears in the canvassing book for the English edition, is seen here. Many immigrants in the United States at this time had German as their only language. Subscription publishers regarded them as but another audience for their products.

Fig. 5: During the later nineteenth century, many Eastern European Jews made their way to this country. This extensive Encyclopedia appears aimed primarily at recent immigrants and their families, offering them a printed testament to their heritage. Apparently secure about the book's primary audience, the publisher appeals for subscribers first to Christians and only then to Jews.

Fig. 6: Maps, atlases, and state and county histories were popular subscription works from the 1850s to the1870s, by which time publishers felt they had exhausted their audience. The systematic mapping of localities began around 1850 with the invention of an odometer which could be wheeled across the countryside to determine distances accurately. Ultimately it served the more important role of exciting interest among locals about a work in progress and became a prelude to selling subscriptions. Maps were succeeded by atlases--maps cut up and bound for ease of use. County and state histories often included images of specific farms and businesses as an inducement to sales. This particular example is paperbound, most likely to save money, and includes examples of the spines printed on the inside of the paper cover to show binding types. The back cover contains a list of "25 Reasons Why The History Of Pennsylvania Should Go Into Every Home In The State."

Targeting Different Audiences

African Americans, Recent Immigrants, and Specific Localities

Fig. 1: This important and influential work was regularly reissued in revised and enlarged editions through the 1920s. Attributed to Crogman and different collaborators, it was also published under the title The Colored American.

Fig. 2: The Civil War spawned an enormous number of books on every aspect of the war. The Black Phalanx chronicles the contributions of African Americans to both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It would have been of interest to and found an enormous following among the many African American veterans of the Civil War. While the title page gives the publisher as Winter & Company, the copyright belongs to the American Publishing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, publishers of Mark Twain.

Fig. 3: This enlarged version of Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom--originally published in 1847 as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave--was one of a number of autobiographies of prominent African Americans to be published as subscription books in the years after the Civil War. Such books appealed to changed attitudes about and new interest in the lives and works of those who played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The prospectus for Douglass's Life and Times compares the work to Stowe's enormously popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing for the even greater appeal of its more realistic portrayal of slavery (an "intensely absorbing" topic). Such works found an audience both in the African American community and beyond. This subscription book contains the names of sixty-six subscribers from Ohio.

Fig. 4: This is the earliest history of the Civil War in the Zinman Collection and maybe the earliest such history published for subscription sales. It appeared not only in English but also in German. The prospectus for the German translation, which appears in the canvassing book for the English edition, is seen here. Many immigrants in the United States at this time had German as their only language. Subscription publishers regarded them as but another audience for their products.

Fig. 5: During the later nineteenth century, many Eastern European Jews made their way to this country. This extensive Encyclopedia appears aimed primarily at recent immigrants and their families, offering them a printed testament to their heritage. Apparently secure about the book's primary audience, the publisher appeals for subscribers first to Christians and only then to Jews.

Fig. 6: Maps, atlases, and state and county histories were popular subscription works from the 1850s to the1870s, by which time publishers felt they had exhausted their audience. The systematic mapping of localities began around 1850 with the invention of an odometer which could be wheeled across the countryside to determine distances accurately. Ultimately it served the more important role of exciting interest among locals about a work in progress and became a prelude to selling subscriptions. Maps were succeeded by atlases--maps cut up and bound for ease of use. County and state histories often included images of specific farms and businesses as an inducement to sales. This particular example is paperbound, most likely to save money, and includes examples of the spines printed on the inside of the paper cover to show binding types. The back cover contains a list of "25 Reasons Why The History Of Pennsylvania Should Go Into Every Home In The State."

Targeting Different Audiences

African Americans, Recent Immigrants, and Specific Localities

Fig. 1: This important and influential work was regularly reissued in revised and enlarged editions through the 1920s. Attributed to Crogman and different collaborators, it was also published under the title The Colored American.

Fig. 2: The Civil War spawned an enormous number of books on every aspect of the war. The Black Phalanx chronicles the contributions of African Americans to both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It would have been of interest to and found an enormous following among the many African American veterans of the Civil War. While the title page gives the publisher as Winter & Company, the copyright belongs to the American Publishing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, publishers of Mark Twain.

Fig. 3: This enlarged version of Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom--originally published in 1847 as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave--was one of a number of autobiographies of prominent African Americans to be published as subscription books in the years after the Civil War. Such books appealed to changed attitudes about and new interest in the lives and works of those who played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The prospectus for Douglass's Life and Times compares the work to Stowe's enormously popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing for the even greater appeal of its more realistic portrayal of slavery (an "intensely absorbing" topic). Such works found an audience both in the African American community and beyond. This subscription book contains the names of sixty-six subscribers from Ohio.

Fig. 4: This is the earliest history of the Civil War in the Zinman Collection and maybe the earliest such history published for subscription sales. It appeared not only in English but also in German. The prospectus for the German translation, which appears in the canvassing book for the English edition, is seen here. Many immigrants in the United States at this time had German as their only language. Subscription publishers regarded them as but another audience for their products.

Fig. 5: During the later nineteenth century, many Eastern European Jews made their way to this country. This extensive Encyclopedia appears aimed primarily at recent immigrants and their families, offering them a printed testament to their heritage. Apparently secure about the book's primary audience, the publisher appeals for subscribers first to Christians and only then to Jews.

Fig. 6: Maps, atlases, and state and county histories were popular subscription works from the 1850s to the1870s, by which time publishers felt they had exhausted their audience. The systematic mapping of localities began around 1850 with the invention of an odometer which could be wheeled across the countryside to determine distances accurately. Ultimately it served the more important role of exciting interest among locals about a work in progress and became a prelude to selling subscriptions. Maps were succeeded by atlases--maps cut up and bound for ease of use. County and state histories often included images of specific farms and businesses as an inducement to sales. This particular example is paperbound, most likely to save money, and includes examples of the spines printed on the inside of the paper cover to show binding types. The back cover contains a list of "25 Reasons Why The History Of Pennsylvania Should Go Into Every Home In The State."

Targeting Different Audiences

African Americans, Recent Immigrants, and Specific Localities

Fig. 1: This important and influential work was regularly reissued in revised and enlarged editions through the 1920s. Attributed to Crogman and different collaborators, it was also published under the title The Colored American.

Fig. 2: The Civil War spawned an enormous number of books on every aspect of the war. The Black Phalanx chronicles the contributions of African Americans to both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It would have been of interest to and found an enormous following among the many African American veterans of the Civil War. While the title page gives the publisher as Winter & Company, the copyright belongs to the American Publishing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, publishers of Mark Twain.

Fig. 3: This enlarged version of Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom--originally published in 1847 as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave--was one of a number of autobiographies of prominent African Americans to be published as subscription books in the years after the Civil War. Such books appealed to changed attitudes about and new interest in the lives and works of those who played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The prospectus for Douglass's Life and Times compares the work to Stowe's enormously popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing for the even greater appeal of its more realistic portrayal of slavery (an "intensely absorbing" topic). Such works found an audience both in the African American community and beyond. This subscription book contains the names of sixty-six subscribers from Ohio.

Fig. 4: This is the earliest history of the Civil War in the Zinman Collection and maybe the earliest such history published for subscription sales. It appeared not only in English but also in German. The prospectus for the German translation, which appears in the canvassing book for the English edition, is seen here. Many immigrants in the United States at this time had German as their only language. Subscription publishers regarded them as but another audience for their products.

Fig. 5: During the later nineteenth century, many Eastern European Jews made their way to this country. This extensive Encyclopedia appears aimed primarily at recent immigrants and their families, offering them a printed testament to their heritage. Apparently secure about the book's primary audience, the publisher appeals for subscribers first to Christians and only then to Jews.

Fig. 6: Maps, atlases, and state and county histories were popular subscription works from the 1850s to the1870s, by which time publishers felt they had exhausted their audience. The systematic mapping of localities began around 1850 with the invention of an odometer which could be wheeled across the countryside to determine distances accurately. Ultimately it served the more important role of exciting interest among locals about a work in progress and became a prelude to selling subscriptions. Maps were succeeded by atlases--maps cut up and bound for ease of use. County and state histories often included images of specific farms and businesses as an inducement to sales. This particular example is paperbound, most likely to save money, and includes examples of the spines printed on the inside of the paper cover to show binding types. The back cover contains a list of "25 Reasons Why The History Of Pennsylvania Should Go Into Every Home In The State."

Targeting Different Audiences

African Americans, Recent Immigrants, and Specific Localities

Fig. 1: This important and influential work was regularly reissued in revised and enlarged editions through the 1920s. Attributed to Crogman and different collaborators, it was also published under the title The Colored American.

Fig. 2: The Civil War spawned an enormous number of books on every aspect of the war. The Black Phalanx chronicles the contributions of African Americans to both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It would have been of interest to and found an enormous following among the many African American veterans of the Civil War. While the title page gives the publisher as Winter & Company, the copyright belongs to the American Publishing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, publishers of Mark Twain.

Fig. 3: This enlarged version of Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom--originally published in 1847 as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave--was one of a number of autobiographies of prominent African Americans to be published as subscription books in the years after the Civil War. Such books appealed to changed attitudes about and new interest in the lives and works of those who played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The prospectus for Douglass's Life and Times compares the work to Stowe's enormously popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing for the even greater appeal of its more realistic portrayal of slavery (an "intensely absorbing" topic). Such works found an audience both in the African American community and beyond. This subscription book contains the names of sixty-six subscribers from Ohio.

Fig. 4: This is the earliest history of the Civil War in the Zinman Collection and maybe the earliest such history published for subscription sales. It appeared not only in English but also in German. The prospectus for the German translation, which appears in the canvassing book for the English edition, is seen here. Many immigrants in the United States at this time had German as their only language. Subscription publishers regarded them as but another audience for their products.

Fig. 5: During the later nineteenth century, many Eastern European Jews made their way to this country. This extensive Encyclopedia appears aimed primarily at recent immigrants and their families, offering them a printed testament to their heritage. Apparently secure about the book's primary audience, the publisher appeals for subscribers first to Christians and only then to Jews.

Fig. 6: Maps, atlases, and state and county histories were popular subscription works from the 1850s to the1870s, by which time publishers felt they had exhausted their audience. The systematic mapping of localities began around 1850 with the invention of an odometer which could be wheeled across the countryside to determine distances accurately. Ultimately it served the more important role of exciting interest among locals about a work in progress and became a prelude to selling subscriptions. Maps were succeeded by atlases--maps cut up and bound for ease of use. County and state histories often included images of specific farms and businesses as an inducement to sales. This particular example is paperbound, most likely to save money, and includes examples of the spines printed on the inside of the paper cover to show binding types. The back cover contains a list of "25 Reasons Why The History Of Pennsylvania Should Go Into Every Home In The State."

Targeting Different Audiences

African Americans, Recent Immigrants, and Specific Localities

Fig. 1: This important and influential work was regularly reissued in revised and enlarged editions through the 1920s. Attributed to Crogman and different collaborators, it was also published under the title The Colored American.

Fig. 2: The Civil War spawned an enormous number of books on every aspect of the war. The Black Phalanx chronicles the contributions of African Americans to both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It would have been of interest to and found an enormous following among the many African American veterans of the Civil War. While the title page gives the publisher as Winter & Company, the copyright belongs to the American Publishing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, publishers of Mark Twain.

Fig. 3: This enlarged version of Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom--originally published in 1847 as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave--was one of a number of autobiographies of prominent African Americans to be published as subscription books in the years after the Civil War. Such books appealed to changed attitudes about and new interest in the lives and works of those who played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The prospectus for Douglass's Life and Times compares the work to Stowe's enormously popular Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing for the even greater appeal of its more realistic portrayal of slavery (an "intensely absorbing" topic). Such works found an audience both in the African American community and beyond. This subscription book contains the names of sixty-six subscribers from Ohio.

Fig. 4: This is the earliest history of the Civil War in the Zinman Collection and maybe the earliest such history published for subscription sales. It appeared not only in English but also in German. The prospectus for the German translation, which appears in the canvassing book for the English edition, is seen here. Many immigrants in the United States at this time had German as their only language. Subscription publishers regarded them as but another audience for their products.

Fig. 5: During the later nineteenth century, many Eastern European Jews made their way to this country. This extensive Encyclopedia appears aimed primarily at recent immigrants and their families, offering them a printed testament to their heritage. Apparently secure about the book's primary audience, the publisher appeals for subscribers first to Christians and only then to Jews.

Fig. 6: Maps, atlases, and state and county histories were popular subscription works from the 1850s to the1870s, by which time publishers felt they had exhausted their audience. The systematic mapping of localities began around 1850 with the invention of an odometer which could be wheeled across the countryside to determine distances accurately. Ultimately it served the more important role of exciting interest among locals about a work in progress and became a prelude to selling subscriptions. Maps were succeeded by atlases--maps cut up and bound for ease of use. County and state histories often included images of specific farms and businesses as an inducement to sales. This particular example is paperbound, most likely to save money, and includes examples of the spines printed on the inside of the paper cover to show binding types. The back cover contains a list of "25 Reasons Why The History Of Pennsylvania Should Go Into Every Home In The State."

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Anatomy and Evolution of Canvassing Outfits

Complete Canvassing Outfit

This canvassing outfit is unusual in still including the loose materials that originally accompanied it.

Much of this material was intended for the perusal or use of agents, to assist them in their work. Such slips as the "Certificate of Agreement" were intended to be completed and left with the subscriber.

Fig. 2: A broadside advertisement for the work (on pink paper)

Fig. 3: "The Unprecedented Success of the 'People's Companion to the Bible,'" a broadside advertisement seeking agents (on blue paper)

Fig. 4: "A Good Word for Book Agents," by William C. Wilkinson, with "The Successful Agent," a pamphlet justifying subscription publishing and giving general advise to book agents

Fig. 5: "How to Sell Books." Pamphlet giving general advise to book agents

Fig 6: "How to Make Canvassing a Success," a circular of pointers to agents

Fig. 7: "Making Work Agreeable" a circular to inspire agents

Fig. 8: An order blank, John C. Winston

Fig. 9: A form seeking prospective book agents (on yellow paper)

Fig 10: The "Agent's Weekly Report"

Fig. 11: A "Certificate of Agreement;" forms such as these were completed and left with the purchaser as a way of reminding them of their obligation

Fig. 12: "We Pay Freight and More Besides," an advertisement aimed at agents.

Fig. 13: The book itself also includes sales speech slips, often printed on pink paper and sometimes referred to as "pink slips," which provided the agent with material to use in describing the merits of each part of the particular work at hand. Typically found in canvassing outfits, but missing from this one, are the printed testimonials.

Variant Formats

Complete Sample Book

This sample book-stamped "Sample" on the front cover-is complete. While it contains no subscription conditions or blank pages on which to list subscriptions, it does contain a sample alternative binding style. The agent using this book must have had an order book to take down subscription details.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

"What to Sell"

Culture and Religion

Fig. 1: Bryant's anthology, a compilation of familiar works, enjoyed immense popularity as a subscription book, perhaps because of its reputation as a useful reference work, perhaps because of its editor's literary reputation. In this copy, the subscription leaves are completely filled with the names of wealthy New Yorkers, many with Wall Street addresses, who have ordered the most expensive edition for fifteen dollars each. The agent whose canvassing book this is obviously thought sufficiently highly of this work, or perhaps was simply trying to impress his clientele, to have his personal information, "W.W. Linfield / Agent / New York," stamped in gilt on the cover.

Fig. 2: Twain was by far the most famous author to exploit subscription publication. A Connecticut Yankee was the second of Twain's works to be published by his nephew's firm. Most of Twain's early works had been published by the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose fortunes became closely tied to Twain's.

Fig. 3: Many of the American "literary" authors in the Zinman Collection are still well known: e.g., Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and Whitman. Popular writers were also (perhaps more expectably?) sold by subscription, among them Lafcadio Hearn, S. Weir Mitchell, Booth Tarkington, and the author of this work, David Ross Locke, better known under his pseudonym as Petroleum V. Nasby. Locke was one of the most powerful political satirists of his day. In Petroleum V. Nasby, he caricatured the Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the South during the Civil War. The Struggles compiles letters by Nasby that had originally been published in the various newspapers that Locke edited. Here, they are joined by a "dedikashun," "prefis," and introduction.

Fig. 4: English as well as American authors were published through subscription. This canvasser's sample contains text pages and illustrations for a large paper edition of Thackery's Works, to be published in a "limited edition" of 1,000 numbered copies, supposedly making it an exclusive and desirable set. The publisher, Estes & Lauriat, was known for well-edited and well-printed sets of European classics that filled a demand in well-to-do households and libraries previously been met only by European imports. Estes & Lauriat products contrasted with most such American editions of works by foreign authors. Usually inferior productions based on mediocre foreign editions and shoddy translations, printed on cheap paper, and distinguished only by detailed illustrations and elaborate but weak bindings, they were meant to appeal to the eye rather than to the mind.

Fig. 5: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is only one of the world's fairs represented in the Zinman Collection. Other works commemorate the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial and the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. This work focuses on one aspect of the 1893 Exposition, but--like other such publications-- opened up the world and its fairs to those unable to experience their diversity firsthand.

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7: Extremely popular, this work was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century by both regular and subscription publishers. The Confidential Circular to Agents that Wm. Garretson and Company published for agents of their new and improved edition of this work, sold in the late 1860s and early 1870s, claims that

"this is one of the best works to sell now before the American people, and our agents have found it such. One sold fifty-seven in three days; another lady agent sold twenty-six the first day and a half; . . . [o]ld experienced agents acknowledge it to be one of the best books to sell they ever saw."

Fig. 8: Popular contemporary religious figures were ideal candidates for biographies. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a popular American evangelist, practiced an unconventional preaching style contemporaries called "acrobatic preaching." His highly theatrical and physically intense sermons elicited an emotional response from his audience. Sunday, a prominent figure on the itinerant preaching circuit, could attract over 10,000 people to his meetings.

Sunday was no fan of higher education, but, according to Ellis, "the greatest day in his crowded life was the thirtieth of March, 1914, which he spent with the students of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia." The "how to sell" brochure attached to this copy of the canvassing book contains many recommendations, including one from Edgar Fahs Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fig. 9: Family Bibles were, from early on, an especially lucrative part of the subscription book trade. The April 2, 1898 issue of Publisher's Weekly notes that "[n]ine-tenths of all large family Bibles are sold through canvassers." In addition to full-plate illustrations and maps, Bible history, indexes of Bible passages and dictionaries of the Bible, family Bibles contained special pages for recording births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Some, such as this one, even contained album pages in which to insert photographs of family members. The bindings were elaborate, meant to impress visitors.

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

Subscription Publishing of Expensive Works In America

In the early eighteenth century, subscriptions begins to be used in the colonies (which had less disposable income than the mother country) as a way of underwriting the production of books that, in England, would have been published simply as part of the trade. Benjamin Franklin's father, Josiah, and his brother James, are among those listed as subscribers to this work.

"How to Sell"

"How to Sell" the Binding

This advertisement is aimed at convincing book agents to sell a specific kind of binding material. The advertisement claims "universal demand" for and "greater satisfaction" from Texoderm bindings. The primary reason agents would have touted it, of course, is because Texoderm bindings yield them "a larger profit."

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

England and Europe/America Chapmen, Peddlers, and Specifically Book Peddlers

These chapbooks exemplify the type of material sold by chapmen-peddlers or itinerant merchants who traveled from place to place hawking their wares. Some of these vendors included books among their varied inventory. Others sold books exclusively. Small, lightweight, and cheap, chapbooks were immensely popular. By the nineteenth century, some were even sold with color illustrations. However, unlike hand-colored illustrations in expensive books, watercolors here were quickly brushed on the pages, with little attention to lines and borders. Like the primers used by schoolchildren, chapbooks were printed in thousands of copies, but are now quite rare. Most were literally read to death, as the condition of this copy of The History of Tom Thumb illustrates.

A Brief History of Subscription Publishing

England and Europe/America Chapmen, Peddlers, and Specifically Book Peddlers

These chapbooks exemplify the type of material sold by chapmen-peddlers or itinerant merchants who traveled from place to place hawking their wares. Some of these vendors included books among their varied inventory. Others sold books exclusively. Small, lightweight, and cheap, chapbooks were immensely popular. By the nineteenth century, some were even sold with color illustrations. However, unlike hand-colored illustrations in expensive books, watercolors here were quickly brushed on the pages, with little attention to lines and borders. Like the primers used by schoolchildren, chapbooks were printed in thousands of copies, but are now quite rare. Most were literally read to death, as the condition of this copy of The History of Tom Thumb illustrates.

Variant Formats

Order Book

This order book contains a one-page prospectus for the work and sixty-three blue subscription leaves. An order book was often used in conjunction with a sample book, which would give the prospective subscriber some idea of what he or she was buying. However, the publisher may have printed up order books for Kane's work prior to printing any of it, possibly to see how many advance subscriptions it could obtain. George Childs, in his Recollections, recounts using what was either a sample book or a canvassing book to sell Arctic Explorations. This indicates that more than an order book existed for this work, although it does not clarify the ways in which these two related sales props were used.

"What to Sell"

The World - Past & Present, Near & Far

Fig. 1: This election guide is for the 1896 elections, in which William McKinley, running against the eloquent William Jennings Bryan, became the first president since 1872 to receive a popular majority. Campaign biographies and election guides were published by subscription publishers for every presidential election from 1880-1912. The collection contains multiple examples-- sometimes as many as eight or ten--of most of these titles. Their proliferation shows that, while a subject was of current interest, publishers engaged in a brief but intense effort to profit from it.

Fig. 2: Histories were a popular subject for subscription publishers. This centennial history, one of many published in 1876 and 1877, contains numerous illustrations, color charts, and maps, and was surely sold as an essential addition to any American home. Its prospectus claimed that

"Never has there been published a book so rich in historical incident, so instructive in its method of presentation, and so brilliant and fascinating in its narrative; and never has there been a time, when it was so necessary that the American citizen should look back and trace the progress of his Country, from its early, humble beginnings, to its present proud position among the foremost nations of the World."

Fig. 3: One of the most spectacular of nineteenth-century American publishing ventures, Grant's Memoirs was published by Mark Twain, who had originally established The Charles L. Webster Company with his nephew Ch