One Thing Leads to Another
I stumbled on this interesting book illustrated by Margaret Bourke-White that was published in 1936. Of course it triggered more research, which I’ll encapsulate here.
I didn’t realize until today that Bourke-White published her first book in 1931, Eyes on Russia. It seems that there was a follow-up in 1932, Men and Machines in Russia. Evidently Argus Publishing put out a package containing two portfolios of the Russian photographs in 1934, and in that same year she illustrated a book by dog fancier Albert Payson Terhune called The Book of Sunnybank. I haven’t seen these yet. One Thing Leads to Another, published in 1936— just before the explosion of photo-text combinations she produced— was written by Fred C. Kelly.
One Thing Leads to Another is a love song to intelligent investment strategies, and chemical waste. Kelly’s first book seems to have been Human Nature in Business: How to Capitalize your Everyday Habits and Characteristics published in 1920, followed by The Wisdom of Laziness in 1924 and You and Your Dog in 1926. There seems to be something about dogs going on. A web search suggests that Kelly is most popular for his biographies of the Wright Brothers and George Ade from the 1940s, but the most interesting thing to me was the publication of Why You Win or Lose: The Psychology of Speculation in 1930. It seems to have been republished in 1962, and is currently being resold with a slightly different title: How Shrewd Speculators Win: A Guide to Behaviour When the Market Rises. The table of contents seems to match the first title better:
Introduction - The Crowd Is Always Wrong
- Luring the Crowd Astray
- Gathering Misinformation
- Wise Men Avoid Chance
- Forming Your Opinions
- Judging Market Action
- Catching an Advance by the Tail
- Selling Climaxes
- Playing Current Psychology
- Dullards as Money Makers
- SureThing Gamblers
- Illusions about Prices
- Getting Ready for a Rising Market
- Making Paper Profit Real
- A Dozen Rules
What is interesting about this is the accent on manipulating the crowd of investors— it matches the rising tide of “public relations” of the time. One Thing Leads to Another is a fluffy P.R. piece about the Commercial Solvents Company. The rhetoric is filled with the trope of trash turned to gold, of industrial waste products turned to productive uses, and above all to success success success! Bourke-White’s industrial photographs are featured in two-page spreads that bleed fully to the edges.
The climax (I rather like the idea of selling them) is this:
We have seen enough in the previous chapters of the unfolding of Commercial Solvents as a growing institution to know that a chief characteristic of this company is its disposition and ability to link itself to with the future rather than the past. At no time has it relied on previous achievements to insure prosperity in the years ahead. Each year has seen new developments and while all these have been logical, many of these have been unexpected. If we attempt to forecast from them what has gone before, all we can prove is that future directions and activities are unpredictable.
This much, however, is certain: Commercial Solvents is well to the fore in the chemical industry, an industry which may be expected to play a more important part than almost any other in penetrating the unknown. (97)
While I can see that solvents are quite useful in penetrating the unknown, the “new developments” were almost entirely new forms of industrial waste. The point of the book seems to be that chemical waste can be a really good thing. Kelly’s exercise in crowd manipulation seems to have been far more productive than his Southern brethren’s.