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Lunch » Tags » Book » Reviews » The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After » User review

An exhilarative peep into the process of Americanization.

  • May 11, 2013
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In 1920, the former editor of the Ladies' Home Journal, Edward Bok, published his fascinating memoir, an exceptionally well-written book through which he candidly yet eloquently recounted the step-by-step process of his 'Americanization' from penurious immigrant Dutch boy to affluent pioneering American editor and philanthropist; hence, it is not a surprise that the work secured for its author both the coveted 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography as well as the Gold Medal of the Academy of Political and Social Sciences. Succinctly written using the third person narrative format, the book chronicles the humble beginnings of Edward Bok from when he was a child in Helder, Netherlands to how he and his family-like many immigrants of the time-fled to the United States as a result of the 'technological order' that brought about a wave of new opportunities. But it would not be in the world of hard-core industry where he would make his name; when Edward Bok left the Netherlands in 1870, he had but three things to sustain him: his family, his meager belongings and some advice from his Dutch grandmother-"...make you the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been in it." {P. xxi} Through the acts of frugality, laborious toil, absorption of American ideals and visions of a better life, Edward Bok slowly rose above the unbending economic classicism that unfortunately soldified the roots of many families as well as their descendents into harsh blue-collar drudgery. Though he never received a collegiate education, because he quit quite early, his leaving school was not the limitation of his intellectual instruction. Life was, in fact, the expansion of it, for it led him to acquire his learning in a most unorthodox fashion. For people who never receive an education, there is, for the most part, a hidden kernel of regret that sometimes becomes everlastingly needling and tragically overwhelming. As that is the con, the pro would be that they would be liberated from the arrogant pretentiousness and bemused condescension that a liberal education can sometimed imbue in one who is well learned. Neither of the above plagued Edward Bok. To quench his insatiable thirst for knowledge about what the essence of success was, he wrote to men and women of eminence, asking them not merely for their signature, but for a piece of wisdom, advice. And many-including Henry Ward Beecher, Louisa May Alcott, Samuel Clemens, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, among others-did not hesitate in the least to proffer advice. What began as a simple inquiry into success, ended as a voluminous mass of autographs and lettes that revealed the most intimate thoughts and beliefs of some of the greatest historical figures in American history, of which no dollar value could ever be placed. Through this inquist, Edward Bok not only found connections and valued friendships, but he whetted his editing and writing prowess, innate abilities that later led him to work for Henry Holt & Company, Charles Scribner's Sons and The Brooklyn Magazine (as editor); it too led him to establish The Bok Syndicate Press and eventually assume the helm, for thirty years, of the Ladies' Home Journal as editor and then vice president of the Curtis Publishing Company-which owned the magazine. While in command of the LHJ, he cultivated it into a powerhouse that brought about meaningful modifications to the United States, i.e. the better-babies movement, the teaching of social hygiene to youths of both sexes, the beautification of American cities (of which Lynn, Massachusetts was a part), the improving of home architecture and railroad cars, and most importantly, the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Acts by Congress. It was in America where he was able to prove himself: "As the world stands to-day, no nation offers opportunity in the degree that America does...the United States offers, as does no other nation, a limitless opportunity: here a man can go as far as his abilities will carry him...America can graft such a wealth of inspiration , so high a national idealism, so great an opportunity for the highest endeavor, as to make him the fortunate man on the earth today." {P. 448} Durng the latter stages of Bok's life when he established the $100,000 American Peace Award, he did it because America gave him a second chance to work and prove himself, which is not always easy to come by. He did not adhere to the writings of Herbert Spencer, William Graham Sumner or Russell Cornwell, men with timeworn values who espoused the 'lordly' dogmas of Social Darwinism and the Gospel of Wealth-the former being "An ideology based upon the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, justifying the concentration of wealth and lack of governmental protection of the weak through the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest" while ther latter was a belief "that God ordains certain people to amass money and use it to further God's purpose; it justified the concentration of wealth as long as the rich used their money responsibly." {P. 485 of America And It's Peoples: A Mosaic in the Making} Edward Bok clung to no person and no 'chic' belief, simply his faith, his industriousness and to humanity specifically. We need more Edward Boks in the world!
An exhilarative peep into the process of Americanization.

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review by . February 27, 2002
In 1920, the former editor of the Ladies' Home Journal, Edward Bok, published his fascinating memoir, an exceptionally well-written book through which he candidly yet eloquently recounted the step-by-step process of his 'Americanization' from penurious immigrant Dutch boy to affluent pioneering American editor and philanthropist; hence, it is not a surprise that the work secured for its author both the coveted 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography as well as the Gold Medal of the Academy …
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Originally published in 1920. This volume from the Cornell University Library's print collections was scanned on an APT BookScan and converted to JPG 2000 format by Kirtas Technologies. All titles scanned cover to cover and pages may include marks notations and other marginalia present in the original volume.--This text refers to thePaperbackedition.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0837155096
ISBN-13: 978-0837155098
Author: Edward William Bok
Publisher: Greenwood Pub Group

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