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A Tale of a Tub

[Chapter 19 from The Natural History of Nonsense, by Bergen Evans, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., pp. 258-75. Copyright 1946 by Bergen Evans.]

In the New York Evening Mail for December 28, 1917, Mr. H. L. Mencken diverted himself by greeting what he called "A Neglected Anniversary." On that day seventy-five years before, he averred, one Adam Thompson, an adventurous cotton broker in Cincinnati, had created quite a splash by lowering his naked form into the first bathtub installed in America. His act had precipitated a storm of protest. Bathing was universally condemned as an affectation and a menace to health and morals. Medical societies expressed their disapprobation, state legislatures imposed prohibitive taxes to prevent the custom from spreading, and the city of Boston--then as now zealous to protect its citizens from harmful contacts--passed a special ordinance forbidding it. There was strong public resentment when President Fillmore had a tub installed in the White House, but ultimately his example carried the day and bathing came to be tolerated if not practiced by our grandfathers.

This story, in its author's words, "of spoofing all compact," was "a tissue of heavy absurdities, all of them deliberate and most of them obvious," but it was seized upon with avidity by all sorts of people and related as one of the most sacred facts of our history. Quacks used it as evidence of the stupidity of doctors. Doctors used it as proof of medical progress. Bathtub manufacturers used it as proof of their foresight, and assorted reformers used it as proof of the public's lack of it. Editors used it as proof of their own knowledge. It appeared as a contribution to public welfare in thick government bulletins. The standard reference works incorporated it. It was solemnly repeated by master thinkers, including the president of the American Geographical Society and the Commissioner of Health for the City of New York. Dr. Hans Zinsser communicated it to his readers as one of the esoteric facts of medical annals, and Alexander Woollcott shared it with the radio public as one of those quaint bits of lore with which his whimsical mind was so richly stored.1

By 1926 Mencken, "having undergone a spiritual rebirth and put off sin," felt that the joke had gone far enough. He confessed publicly that his story had been a hoax and pointed out what he felt should have warned the critical reader against accepting it as a fact. His confession was printed in thirty newspapers "with a combined circulation, according to their sworn claim, of more than 250,000,000," and the gullibility of the public (which had consisted largely in believing these same papers) received many an editorial rebuke.

But the original yarn would not die. Within a month of its exposure it was being reprinted in the very papers that had carried the confession. Mencken printed a second confession, but that too was swept aside. His bathtub had become a juggernaut that was not to be stopped by so slight an impediment as the truth. Congressmen had vouched for it, preachers had woven it into their homilies, and professors had rewritten their textbooks to include it. What chance had the mere disavowal of one whom they regarded as a notorious buffoon against the affirmations of such ponderous respectability?2

And so the tale of his tub goes on. Not a week passes but it is repeated in the press or from the pulpit. Mencken has tried once or twice again to undo the damage, but he has been called a meddler and a liar for his pains and has withdrawn from the unequal struggle. The story has taken its place in our national mythology beside Washington's cherry tree and Lincoln's conversion. It is now above argument and beyond evidence. Five minutes in any library would be enough to refute it, but it has ceased to be a question of fact and has become an article of faith.

Certain reasons for this are fairly obvious. It is one of those stories--like the theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare--that make their narrators seem very learned without putting them to the trouble of having to acquire knowledge. It has earned many an easy dollar for sage and commentator and has added enough "fresh material" to textbooks to justify forcing a new edition on the students.

But such temporary individual advantages would not fully account for its vitality. Better canards have been shorter lived. The bathtub story plainly touches something deep in our national psyche, and if we could know why it has spread so vigorously we might know a great deal more about vulgar errors.

One element in its success is that it supports the great idea of progress and particularly the American conviction that progress is to be measured by the increase of material conveniences and creature comforts, an idea that is very important in our national life. An insistent and expensive advertising campaign has connected it with the calendar; the average American is apparently convinced that all mechanical contrivances automatically improve every three hundred and sixty-five days, and under the spell of this delusion he has bought hundreds of millions of cars and radios and refrigerators that he did not need, to the profit of those who fostered the delusion.

The idea of progress is one of our great national investments. The amount of money spent in the schools, in the newspapers, and on the radio to protect it exceeds computation. It is part and parcel of "boosting," of that mass optimism which has made us, for good and evil, what we are today. Nothing is more treasonable to the basic American spirit than to doubt that we have improved and are improving--every day and in every way.

And, for reasons that the social historian can perhaps explain, the bathtub has become a special symbol not only of our material progress but of our spiritual progress as well. For we set great store by things of the spirit. Nothing is more warmly rejoiced in than our superiority to the grimy Europeans in the matter of bathtubs. Cleanliness is far ahead of godliness. State that a man mistreats his bathtub and--as far as most well-to-do Americans are concerned--you have put him beyond the pale of consideration. No argument against public housing has been used more consistently and, one suspects, more effectively than the assertion that even if you give bathtubs to the poor they will only dump coal in them. To point out that most housing projects are centrally heated and supplied with gas and electricity, so that their occupants have no need of coal, is to earn the reproach of being frivolous. It is absolutely "known" that all occupants of housing projects put coal in their bathtubs. And their so doing indicates such depravity that to build houses for them is practically contributing to moral delinquency. The poor have been weighed in the bathtub and found wanting.

It begins to be a little clearer why Mencken's hoax has flourished so. It flatters provincial smugness. It implies that comfortable folk did not come by their comforts without a struggle. They deserve what they have. After all, they pioneered with running hot water. They are heroes, with their thick mats and heavy towels. Their scented soap was gained only through foresight and endurance.

A similar myth, which has had a smaller circulation but has done fairly well promises to do better, is that the umbrella is a recent innovation and that early users had to brave public scorn before they could persuade their obtuse fellows to follow their example. One of our largest life insurance companies informs the public in an advertisement that when umbrellas were first introduced they were attacked as a "rediculos effemenacy," and were generally accepted "only when physicians urged their use 'to keep off vertigoes, sore eyes and fevers.' " The Encyclopædia Britannica, which seems to have taken its information from The Dictionary of National Biography, says that Jonas Hanway "is said to have been the first Londoner habitually to carry an umbrella, and he lived to triumph over all the hackney coachmen who tried to hoot and hustle him down."

Here, again, we have the idea of progress, and here again the glorification of Milquetoast, a suggestion--not inappropriate for a life insurance company--that there is something brave in seeking your own comfort. Policy holders must all have moments of wondering whether they are not perhaps being a little timid about life, and it must be a great satisfaction to learn that they are in a heroic tradition. The only thing wrong with the analogy, however, is that it is based on error. Umbrellas had been in general use for a hundred and fifty years before the scene depicted in the advertisement, long before Jonas Hanway was born, and for anything we know those who carried them were regarded then as they are now--with envy when it was raining and contempt when it was not.3

Mere mistakes in point of fact, however, do not in themselves make vulgar errors. They are often the starting point, but the fallacy is always the product of certain processes in popular thinking: of arguing from negatives and analogies, of making false generalizations, of worshipping coincidence, of taking rhetoric for fact, of never questioning or even perceiving the underlying conceptions that make for prejudice, and, above all, of a romantic delight in the wonderful for its own sake. And once made, the error, as has been suggested, is likely to owe its vitality to intellectual currents and social forces with which, superficially regarded, it has no seeming connection.

Popular logic is Erewhonian logic. Whereas the trained mind accords belief to plausible evidence only and grants a possibility solely on the basis of a sound inference from established facts, the untrained mind insists that a proposition must be true if it cannot bedisproved. "You can't prove it isn't so!" is as good as Q.E.D. in folk logic--as though it were necessary to submit a piece of the moon to chemical analysis before you could be sure that it was not made of green cheese.

Analogical argument--the inferring of a further degree of resemblance from an observed degree--is one of the greatest pitfalls of popular thinking. In medicine it formerly led to what was known as the doctrine of signatures, by which walnuts were prescribed for brain troubles because walnut meats look something like miniature brains, foxes' lungs were prescribed for asthma because foxes were thought to have unusual respiratory powers, and bear's grease was rubbed on the head for baldness because bears have hairy coats. Hundreds of futile remedies were based on such false analogies, and they have not all been cleared off druggists' shelves yet, though the survivors are no doubt "scientifically" prepared and packaged.

Nor was this form of reasoning confined to medicine. It invaded every department of life. It led our grandfathers to wear red flannel underwear because heat is associated with the color of fire. It endowed various gems with properties suggested by their colors, and it has led modem telepathists to insist that the radio justifies their metaphysical assumptions.

Many popular fallacies are rooted in verbal confusions. How few people who dismiss unwelcome evidence by saying that "the exception proves the rule" have any idea of what the saying actually means, and how fewer still have any idea of what they mean by using it! So enmeshed is error in words that a whole new science, semantics, has sprung up which offers, with little danger of being challenged, to produce the millennium just as soon as people know for sure what they are talking about. But since much of the vagueness and confusion is in the words themselves, since all words are in a sense abstractions, the semanticists will probably not get anywhere until (as Swift suggested two hundred years ago) they abandon language altogether and carry about with them the objects to which they wish to allude. This solution of the problems of logic, however, raises even greater problems in logistics and so may fail for lack of a proper trial.

The common mind is intensely literal. The public loves rhetoric, yet it is continually taking rhetoric for fact, often with far-reaching and unpleasant consequences. It would be impossible to estimate, for example, how many lives have been blighted and how much human misery has been augmented by the concept of "blood" as a transmitter of heredity. Yet the term is merely a trope. It has no reality whatever.

The power of this tendency to create myths has recently been demonstrated in the famous assurance that "there are no atheists in foxholes." As nearly as the origin of the formula can be traced, it was first uttered by Lieutenant-Colonel Warren J. Clear in a story of Bataan's final weeks, delivered during the "Army Hour" program over the NBC Red Network in 1942. Colonel Clear attributed the immortal observation to an unnamed sergeant who had shared a foxhole with him during a Japanese bombing raid. No pretense was made that there had been an official catechism of every man or that the sergeant was a trained theologian. It was simply meant to be an emphatic way of saying that all men in the moment of peril seek the support of religion.

Whether they do or not is as much a question as whether it is creditable to religion to claim that they do, but neither question was widely agitated. As far as the populace was concerned the rhetorical flourish was a military fact, and as far as the papers were concerned it was always news, however frequently repeated. At first it was only the foxholes of Bataan that were distinguished for their conversional powers, but as the war spread the mana was found in any sheltering declivity, and the trenches of Port Moresby and Guadalcanal delivered their quota of converts. There was no reason, of course, why Divine favor should be confined to the infantry, and other branches of the services were soon touched with similar grace. By December 1943, according to an article in the Reader's Digest, atheists had been pretty well cleaned out of cockpits (where God, it will be remembered, had been retained in the inferior position of co-pilot); and Rickenbacker's celestial seagull drove them even from rubber rafts. A few skeptics may have gone on lurking in the glory holes of the Merchant Marine, but their enlightenment merely awaited the first torpedo.4

There were, of course, dissenting voices. Poon Lim, a Chinese steward, who existed for one hundred and thirty-three days alone on a raft in the South Atlantic, stated, on being rescued, that nothing in the experience had led him to believe in a merciful Providence, even though he too had had a seagull. But then he was a heathen to begin with.

The American Association for the Advancement of Atheism felt that the phrase was a reflection on the patriotism of their members and did their best to refute it. They managed to find at least one sturdy doubter in the army who had had his dog tag stamped "Atheist"; but unfortunately, though he had once been run over by a tank, he had never been in a foxhole, and hence could not technically qualify. A better candidate, whom the A.A.A.A. overlooked, was E. J. Kahn, Jr., who in one of his articles in the New Yorker confessed that he was not a religious man and in another that he had dived into a latrine trench when Jap planes were overhead. Of course an unbeliever in a latrine is not exactly an atheist in a foxhole, but the faithful would probably have been willing to accept it as a reasonable facsimile.5

Not that it would have done the Association any good to have found a whole regiment of atheists encamped in a thousand foxholes--as they probably could, had they gone to our Russian allies for assistance. The phrase was intended to confirm prejudice, not to describe combat conditions, and prejudice is not open to conviction.

On the other hand, fortunately, it is not very convincing either. Prejudices are never shaken by counterprejudices because we never perceive our prejudices to be such. We take them either for reasoned conclusions or for revealed truths, and the most serious prejudices of all, those that affect our thinking most, are generally below the level of consciousness. We think within the framework of concepts of which we are often unaware. Our most earnest thoughts are sometimes shaped by our absurdest delusions. We see what we want to see, and observation conforms to hypothesis. Thus it has been suggested that Darwin's theory of sexual selection was owing not to his observations as a naturalist but to his convictions as a gentleman that certain courtesies were due a lady, though five minutes spent in watching chickens ought to have dispelled the assumption that Nature shared his code.

The manner in which our thinking is shaped by our unconscious attitudes and assumptions is strikingly illustrated by our reference to China and Japan as "the East," when in America they would be more properly described as "the West." Of course they are east if you go far enough, but by that logic Chicago is east of New York. The real explanation is that we are Europe-minded--or more specifically, England-minded. And still more striking is it that Japan, at least, also conceives of herself as the East. She too is Europe-minded, and probably just as unconsciously so. Yet her flag shows her point of view. The menace of the Rising Sun was lost on our complacent fathers, who failed to observe its implication--namely that Japan conceived of herself as a new power, of unparalleled brilliance and glory, rising on the European horizon.

The popular mind, irrational and prejudiced, makes some effort to examine evidence, but it has very little knowledge of the true nature of what it is looking for or of the forces at work to frustrate and confuse it in its search. It generalizes from exceptions, and from a mass of experience selects only those elements that confirm its preconceptions--without the faintest awareness of what it is doing. Most of what is called thinking--even up to and including much of what goes on in the brains of college faculties--is actually a seeking for confirmation of previous convictions. The true scientific spirit that leads men to be particularly suspicious of all beliefs they hold dear is utterly incomprehensible to most people. To the naïve, skepticism often seems malicious perversity: only "some secret enemy in the inward degenerate nature of man," said Topsell, could lead anyone to doubt the existence of the unicorn.

And in the eternal search for verification of supernaturalism which engrosses so much of popular "philosophy," nothing passes for more cogent evidence than coincidence. The marveling over unexpected juxtapositions is at once the mark and the diversion of banal minds, and most of them do not require very remarkable happenings to constitute coincidences. Those who for lack of knowledge or imagination expect nothing out of the ordinary are always encountering the unexpected. One of the commonest of "coincidences," as Professor Jastrow has pointed out, is the crossing of letters in the mail. It happens a thousand times a day, yet thousands of men and women whip themselves into amazement every time it happens. As far as they are concerned, it is complete and final proof of the supernatural, whether it be telepathy or Divine guidance or merely soul calling to soul. There it is, sealed, stamped, and delivered. Yet of all human happenings, what is more likely than that lovers or relatives should simultaneously decide to write to each other?

The wonder of most coincidence is subjective. As far as sheer unlikelihood goes, an unsolicited advertisement in the mail is a greater marvel than a letter from someone to whom we have just written. But since we have no emotional interest in the advertisement we rarely meditate upon the "miracle" of its arrival, and, even where some occurrence is unusual enough to justify comment, a desire to exalt ourselves or a complete preoccupation with our own affairs usually prevents us from evaluating its true nature. That the working of the law of averages has no effect whatever on individual instances is a fact that even trained observers sometimes seem reluctant to face. The chances against almost anything's happening just the way it did are almost infinite, and it is very easy to see marvels if you are looking for them. It has been estimated, for example, that a bridge hand consisting of all the spades in the pack can be expected, according to the law of averages, only once in approximately eight hundred billion deals. Apprised of this, any man dealt such a hand could very easily permit himself to be awestruck, and it would be impossible to convince him that there was nothing remarkable about the and except that it happened to be a desirable one--since exactly the same odds prevail for any hand whatever.6

Attempts to point this out, however, would probably be met with resentment, since they would detract from the importance of the individual concerned. He would prefer, most likely, to go on believing that the normal order of things had been suspended for his advantage. For the popular love of the marvelous is, at bottom, egotism. That is why it is so easy to encourage it, as the popular press does, inflating every commonplace into a wonder or manufacturing marvels outright. Half the "miracles" of modern times are pure journalistic fabrications. The success they can achieve was shown in November 1929, when the Boston Globe sent a million and a quarter people stampeding into the cemetery at Malden, Massachusetts, by playing up sensational "cures" that were said to have taken place there. A hysterical woman who had been unable to walk for a year, although her hospital record showed no organic trouble, leaped with joy under the healing influence of the flashbulbs. A blind boy was said to have regained his sight; his own pathetic insistence that he was no better was suppressed, despite his father's indignant efforts to get the papers to retract the story of his "cure." Crippled children were stripped of their braces and photographed quickly before they sprawled, crying, in the mud. Meanwhile extras sold like hot cakes and the Mayor knelt in reverence for the rotogravure.7

Deliberate misrepresentations and creations of the incidents they "report" are a staple activity of all but half a dozen papers and news magazines in the country. Consider the unwearied zeal with which they have labored to sustain "the curse of Tut-ankh-amen." No one in any remote way connected with the discovery or opening of the tomb can die, at any age whatever, but his death is seen as the working of the "curse." Edgar Wallace, writing in McCall's Magazine, said that the very day the tomb was opened a cobra ate the chief explorer's canary, and, from that day to this, Egyptian vengeance has stalked the entire party. In the papers, that is. As a matter of prosaic record, the members of the expedition seem to have enjoyed remarkable health and to have been blessed with longevity far beyond actuarial expectancy.

The retelling of the myth, of course, has earned many a penny and added to the success of many a raconteur. People dearly love the old lies, while truth, as Milton said, "never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth."

Irrationality must come close to being the largest single vested interest in the world. It has a dozen service stations in every town. There are twenty-five thousand practicing astrologers in America who disseminate their lore through a hundred daily columns, fifteen monthly, and two annual publications--and this does not include the half-dozen "confidential" news letters that keep business executives so consistently misinformed about the future. It is even said that there is a movement on foot to have a Federal astrologer appointed as an officer of the government, and, considering the official recognition given to other forms of superstition, the movement may succeed.8

But astrologers and crystal gazers are not alone. More men than Bertrand Russell's "bishops and bookies" live off, the irrational hopes of mankind. Journalists, stockbrokers, realtors, advertisers, lawyers, professors, promoters, doctors, druggists, and politicians also derive a part of their income from the same source. In fact, everyone in our society not directly engaged in the production and distribution of necessities, transportation, artistic creation, elementary teaching, or the maintenance of public order, to some extent, and more or less consciously, preys upon ignorance and delusion.

A great deal of this exploitation is open and shameless. The supply house, for example, that sold nearly half a million steel-jacketed Testaments and prayer books, at exorbitant prices, to the pathetic and gullible relatives, of service men, with the vague assurance that they were "capable of deflecting bullets," was, as the Federal Trade Commission implied, obtaining money under false pretenses. The metal shields, for all the "God Bless You" stamped on them and the sacred literature under them, would, if struck by a bullet, produce almost certainly fatal wounds.

There is a lot of this sort of thing going on, and those who practice it in a small way frequently end up in jail. But those who practice it in a big way frequently end up in Who's Who and The Social Register. They are our prophets and publicists. They do not actually do the stealing; they supply the sanctions for those who do, and they function chiefly by sonorously repeating clichés. They do not have to prove that this or that proposed reform is wrong; all they have to do is to say that "soft living weakens a nation." They do not labor to defend racial discrimination; they support "innate differences."

One of their most effective catchwords of late has been "science." "Scientists say," or "Scientists agree," or "Science has proved" is a formula of incantation that is thought to place any statement that follows it above critical examination. They love to recall the doubt and scorn that were heaped on scientists in an earlier day, not as a rebuke to those particular doubters--they are still doing a brisk business at the old stands--but as a rebuke to doubt itself.

For the thing they must defend is not this or that belief, but the spirit of credulity. To this end they propagate a vague sort of supernaturalism. They have no profound religious beliefs. Most of them, indeed, would deride their own metaphysical professions if they were presented to them in any but the accustomed phrases; but they are convinced that such beliefs are "good for the people," and they repel any specific questioning of any specific belief as "bad taste." They seem to assume that there is some abstraction called "religion" which is apart from any particular religious belief, yet which is of so sacred a nature that it throws a taboo of silence over all religions. Religion, they say, is a subject that "one doesn't discuss"--though truly religious people do not agree with them.

No error is harmless. "Men rest not in false apprehensions without absurd and inconsequent deductions." Some of the deductions seem inconsequential as well as inconsequent, but in their larger aspects they are not. It cannot do much harm to believe that hair turns white over night, or that birds live a happy family life, or that orientals have slanting eyes; but it can do a great deal of harm to be ignorant of physiology or zoology or anthropology, and the harm that may result from forming an opinion without evidence, or from distorting evidence to support an opinion, is incalculable.

Obscurantism and tyranny go together as naturally as skepticism and democracy. It is very convenient for anyone who profits by the docility of the masses to have them believe that they are not the masters of their fate and that the evils they must endure are beyond human control. It was not surprising to find the author of Man the Unknown collaborating with the Nazis. The mist of mysticism has always provided good cover for those who do not want their actions too closely looked into.

From the time of the Peasants' Rebellion on, all true democratic movements have been branded as anti-religious. In part this has been an effort to discredit them, and in part it has been a perception that democracy is essentially antiauthoritarian--that it not only demands the right but imposes the responsibility of thinking for ourselves. And belief is the antithesis to thinking. A refusal to come to an unjustified conclusion is an element of an honest man's religion. To him the call to blind faith is really a call to barbarism and slavery. In being asked to believe without evidence, he is being asked to abdicate his integrity. Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt. The civilized man has a moral obligation to be skeptical, to demand the credentials of all statements that claim to be facts. An honorable man will not be bullied by a hypothesis. For in the last analysis all tyranny rests on fraud, on getting someone to accept false assumptions, and any man who for one moment abandons or suspends the questioning spirit has for that moment betrayed humanity.


  1. H. L. Mencken: "Hymn to the Truth," Prejudices. Sixth Series (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; 1927), pp. 194-201. See also Vilhjalmur Stefansson: Adventures in Error (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company; 1936), Chapter 8; and Curtis D. MacDougall:Hoaxes (New York: The Macmillan Company; 1941), pp. 302-09.

  2. See Mencken's article above.

  3. For the National Life Insurance Company's advertisement, see Life, January 29, 1945, p. 2.

    The Encyclopædia Britannica, 14th ed., 1943 revision, vol. 11, p. 166; The Dictionary of National Biography, vol. VIII, p. 1197. 

    < >"The tuck'd-up semstress walks with hasty strides 
    While streams run down her oil'd umbrella's sides."
    --Jonathan Swift, Description of a City Shower (1710)

    It will be remembered that an umbrella was of the first convenience of civilization that Robinson Crusoe made for himself.

  4. See the Reader's Digest, December 1943, pp. 26-28.

    Spectacular conversions in times of stress are claimed not only for the common man but for the hero. Thus Lincoln was said to have been converted on the battlefield of Gettysburg, though the widow of Henry Ward Beecher insisted that Brooklyn was the locale of, and the battle of Bull Run the motivation for, this alleged illumination. See Lloyd Lewis: Myths after Lincoln (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company; 1940), pp. 382-85.

  5. For Poon Lim, see the New York Times, May 25, 1943, p. 12. For a similar stalwart, James Whyte, see the Times, London, February 1, 1943, p. 3 and February 2, 1943, p. 3.

    For the soldier who had his identification disk stamped "Atheist," see The Truth Seeker, January 1945, p. 13.

    For E. J. Kahn's disavowal of religious fervor, see the New Yorker, May 8, 1943, p. 53. For his leaping into the latrine, see the same publication, February 20, 1943, p. 34. Note that the disavowal of faith postdates the latrine.

  6. See E. C. Kellogg: "New Evidence (?) for 'Extra-Sensory Perception,'" Scientific Monthly, vol. 45, 1937, pp. 331-41.

    "Dr. Beattie observe, as something remarkable which had happened to him, that he had chanced to see both No. 1, and No. 1000, of the hackney-coaches, the first and the last; 'Why Sir, (said Johnson,) there is an equal chance for one's seeing those two numbers as any other two.'" 
    --Boswell's Johnson (Oxford: The Clarendon Press [Powell's revision of the Hill ed.], 1934), vol. IV, p. 330.

  7. See Gardner Jackson: "'Miracles' at Malden," the Nation, December 4, 1929, pp. 662-64. And see Time, November 25, 1929, p. 18; the New Republic, December 4, 1929, pp. 38-40; the Literary Digest, December 7, 1929, pp. 22-23; the Atlantic Monthly, April 1930, pp. 537-45. H. L. Mencken speaks of the "vast and militant ignorance, the widespread and fathomless prejudice against intelligence, that makes American journalism so pathetically feeble and vulgar, and so generally disreputable."--"Journalism in America," Prejudices. Sixth Series (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; 1927), p. 15.

  8. For the clairvoyant nature of confidential business news letters, see Dixon Wecter: "How Much News in a News Letter?" the Atlantic Monthly, March 1945, pp. 43-49. For the demand for a Federal astrologer, see the New Yorker, May 12, 1945, p. 18.

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