ALTGELD OF ILLINOIS
By Waldo R. Browne
Published by B. W. Huebsch, Inc., 116 West 13th Street, New York City.
To the Subscribers to the Fund in Aid of the Publication of a Biography of John P. Altgeld by Waldo R. Browne, of Wyoming, New York.
In consequence of a circular letter from me, dated September 20, 1921, and addressed to friends of the late John P. Altgeld, a Fund in aid of the publication of an Altgeld biography, to be written by Waldo R. Browne, was created. The object of this Fund having been accomplished, I now submit to the subscribers my final report as trustee.
Under the title of "Altgeld of Illinois," Mr. Browne completed his manuscript in February of this year, as may be seen from his report to me which I here quote in full:
"Dear Mr. Post: --
"My work on the Altgeld biography is at last completed, and the book is to be published this coming Spring by B. W. Huebsch, Inc., of New York. It will make a volume of about 400 pages, to sell (probably) at $3.
"I suppose no one other than you and I could ever realize the difficulties under which this work, first projected nearly eight years ago, has been carried on. Those difficulties have been in part financial, and in part inherent in the nature of the task itself. Of course the effort is out of all proportion to the result, but that is due mainly to the peculiar conditions which have attended the work from the beginning.
"On the financial side, the income which I have received in connection with this work is as follows:
"My actual cash expenditures in the course of the work amount to $905.15. This sum, deducted from the above total of receipts, leaves a net income of $4528.98. I shall be under a further expense of about $400 for complimentary [page 2] copies of the book to be sent to those who have contributed to the biography fund. In addition, I must also guarantee the expenses involved in printing and publishing the book. Under my arrangement with the publisher, I shall receive a royalty of ten per cent on the sales of the book; but the income from this source is purely a speculative factor at this time.
"In reporting the above facts to those who have contributed to the Altgeld biography fund, I should like to suggest that you urge the contributors to do all in their power to promote the circulation of the book. I have no selfish purpose in this suggestion. My feeling is simply that this biography of Altgeld has been realized by a large common sacrifice on the part of all connected with the enterprise, and this sacrifice will be in large part wasted if the book is read by only a few persons who are already devoted admirers of Altgeld. Every effort should be made to reach the general public, the many thousands of those who either know nothing about Altgeld or know him only as he was pictured in the newspaper lies and slanders of his time. In this effort those who appear on your list of contributors can be of very great service, if they will cooperate in certain plans which the publisher of the volume will suggest to them.
"In closing, I should like to say a word of appreciation of the part you have played in this enterprise. For several years you have given freely of your time and thought without compensation of any sort; you have been patient and hopeful and forbearing in the face of many difficulties and many delays; and you have earned a debt of gratitude which ought to be generously recognized by all who have had any part or association in the effort that has made this biography possible.
"W. R. Browne."
The circumstances under which Mr. Browne's work was begun have been explained in previous letters to subscribers to the Fund. Inasmuch, however, as those letters have not reached all the subscribers and may not have been preserved by many of the others, a repetition will probably be welcomed in this final report.
The nucleus for the Fund was provided by the late Joseph Martin of Chicago. Mr. Martin had long been the Secretary and the moving spirit of the "John P. Altgeld Memorial Association." He was devoted to the purification and preservation of Altgeld's memory, and after the dedication of the Gutzum Borglum statue of Altgeld in Lincoln Park, for which Mr. Martin had worked for years, it was his most cherished wish to have an adequate biography of the Governor prepared and published -- a permanent record of Altgeld's life and work, and an explanation of his official acts that would nullify the calumnies so liberally heaped about this loyal official's name. Finding it impossible, because of failing [page 3] health, to carry through that project in his lifetime, Mr. Martin left a legacy in his will for the purpose.
Two thousand dollars was not much for such a purpose, but it was a large share of what Martin had. This sum he left to Waldo R. Browne and myself jointly for "printing and publishing" the biography. As I felt that so important a biogrpahy would be too far out of my line, and as I knew Mr. Browne, son of the founder of "The Dial" at Chicago who wrote the intense study of Altgeld which first appeared in an English magazine and dealt intelligently and justly with Altgeld at a time when he was under heavy fire, -- to be thoroughly competent, I asked him to take over the responsibility of preparation, and the legacy with it, offering to assist in ant collateral way without compensation.
The work would have been done long ago but for the fact that some of the relatives of Martin, indifferent to his devotion to Altgeld's memory, contested his will. After extended litigation a compromise was made. Meanwhile, I had renounced as a legatee, so as to qualify as a witness, thereby formally confirming the arrangement which I had already made informally with Browne.
The compromise arrangement left Mr. Browne with securities that have realized an aggregate of $1720.63, an amount obviously inadequate for the work. Special research, high grade clerical assistance, [traveling] expenses, etc. would alone have cost nearly the net amount of the legacy, regardless of publication expenses and compensation for the literary labor.
Notwithstanding these adverse circumstances I felt that Martin's cherished plans for putting Altgeld right in the estimation of the world through a book worthy a place in public libraries and historical collections, should not be abandoned. There was need for such a book, not only as a personal biography and tribute, but still more important, to straighten out some of the angles of American history. I therefore addressed my appeal of September 20, 1921, for funds to carry Martin's public spirited project through.
Further solicitations in connection with reports of progress were made through my letters of October 30, 1921, December 19, 1921, September 13 and September 14, 1922, and December 31, 1922. In the report of December 31, 1922, just noted, I enclose to each subscriber then on the list the substance of a contract with Mr. Browne which I had made as trustee and under which he was then at work upon the biography. It was to the following effect: [page 4]
"Mr. Browne is to prepare a biography of John P. Altgeld (an ordinary octavo volume of not less than 250 pages), to find a reputable publisher, to supervise the details of publication in suitable and creditable form and to assist the publisher in its distribution and sale. The expense of printing and publishing is to be paid by him out of the Martin legacy, he to retain any surplus on account of compensation for his publication service. I am to pay him by way of compensation for preparing the manuscript the full amount of the contributions on an installment basis as follows: $550 on February 1, 1922; $250 on March 1st, 1922; and the remainder in hand on May 1st, 1922. Any subsequent contributions are to be paid to him as received.
"One complimentary copy of the book is to be forwarded by Mr. Browne to each contributor.
"The copyright and other proprietary interests are to be in Mr. Browne's name and all royalties or other income from the publication are to go to him unless they exceed $6,500 within three years, in which case he is to refund out of any further income to the contributors in proportion to their contributions."
Mr. Browne's completed manuscript, written pursuant to the above contract, went to the publishing house of B. W. Huebsch, Inc. (116 West 13th Street, New York City) in February last. It was accepted for Spring publication. As soon as it appears, every subscriber to the Fund will receive from the publisher one copy (under arrangement between the publishing house and Mr. Browne), in compliance with the contract abstracted above. Should any subscriber named in the list below fail to receive a copy the failure will be due to an oversight which the publisher will correct promptly upon being notified of it. Should any subscriber fail to find his name in the list below, the error (if it prove to be one) will be corrected upon notice to me.
Reporting now the financial features of my trusteeship, I submit the following alphabetical list of Subscribers to the Fund, along with the contribution received from each to wit:
Forward, $295. [page 5]
Eames, Charles R., Elgin, Ill. ... 5.
Forward. $ 1340.10 [page 6]
Ickes, Anna W., Winnetka, Ill. ... 10.
Johnson, G. J., 417 Thomas St., Grand Rapids, Mich. ... 5.
Forward, $2200.10 [page7]
Forward, $3264.10 [page 8]
The EXPENDITURES and RECEIPTS summarize as follows:
In making my present report I am able to assure the contributors to the Altgeld Biography Fund that Mr. Browne has written for them a book to the production of which they may well be proud to have contributed. As I took no part in its authorship beyond delivering to Mr. Browne such appropriate data as I happened to possess and he asked for, and knew nothing whatever of the merits of his manuscript until I read the galley proofs a few days ago, I feel that I can testify simply as a reader, without any of the bias or mental confusion that might naturally result from participation in a literary task so difficult. As the story of a tragical human experience, "Altgeld of Illinois" [page 9] seizes upon a reader's imagination and holds it to the climax. It does so as no life story less dramatic than Governor Altgeld's could, either in fiction, which this book is not, or in a simple, straightforward and convincing narrative, which most emphatically it is. I am pleased to have been able to do my share (and I am sure that every contributor to the Fund will have a kindred feeling when he gets and reads his copy) in producing so interesting, able and valuable an addition to the literature of our time. Though the scenes are set in a day and the principal character is a person that surface-skippers may regard as out of date, the story deals vividly with social, business and political environments that have come down to the present time -- environments from which we cannot emerge until men of the Altgeld time and type are applauded as pioneers of a civilization toward which the good and the wise fervently hope the world is moving.
I join heartily and urgently in seconding Mr. Browne's suggestion that every effort be made to reach the general public with this book, so that the thousands upon thousands who either know nothing of Altgeld of Illinois, or know him "only as he was featured in the newspaper lies and slanders of his time," may come to recognize in him one of the brave men who were to recent generations what the martyrs of earlier generations were to those soul-testing times. To that end I recommend sympathetic consideration of any suggestions the publisher may make.
Respectfully submitted to the Subscribers to the Altgeld Biography Fund.
Louis F. Post [signed]
Louis F. Post, Trustee.