Is the creation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the greatest marketing campaign of all-time?


While the story itself was written by one man, Robert May, the tale was created and popularized expressly for Montgomery Ward retail stores.  May, who worked for Montgomery Ward as a copywriter, turned out this tale for the retail chain as a way for the company to save money on holiday promotional materials.  Montgomery Ward had been producing holiday coloring books to hand out to children at Christmas, and the original story seemed to be a great way to create a promotional theme that could extend beyond the mundane gesture of a coloring book.  Little did anyone at Ward’s know that Rudolph (almost Reginald incidentally) would outlast every single store in their retail empire.

A few fun facts:

1)  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally published by Montgomery Ward in 1939.

2)  Montgomery Ward gave the rights to the story to the author as they agreed with him that he deserved the money for it although he created the story while in their employ and under their direction.

3)  May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the famous song of the same title.

4)  The song version of the tale was passed over by several artists and was made a hit in 1949 by Gene Autry.

5)  May based Rudolph and his famous nose on his own experiences as a youth, coupled with a proverbial nod to “The Ugly Duckling.”

First Issue Points for the original 1939 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:

*Back cover states “Montgomery Ward Wishes you a Merry Christmas – This book is yours, with our compliments”

*Title page reads “Copyright, 1939, By Montgomery Ward & Co.”

*Elves must be helping to pack the sleigh on page six.


*The plane on page nine has only THREE propellers.


By Mike Cotter, Director of Operations


Can You Get Your Message to Garcia?

“Let me not die ingloriously and without struggle, but let me first do some great things that shall be told among men thereafter.”

~Hector, in Homer’s Iliad

We, as Americans, have a rich tradition of honoring bravery and sacrifice.  On Veteran’s Day, a couple of days ago, millions of “thank you for your service” posts swirled around Facebook. For those of us who served, this day reminds us that bravery and sacrifice are important traits that make us who we are today.


Perhaps no American story best underscores the commitment of bravery and sacrifice than “A Letter to Garcia,” a short essay written by Elbert Hubbard about an important military mission undertaken on the eve of the Spanish-American War.


After the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, President McKinley delivered his “war message” to Congress, and received approval to invade the Spanish colony of Cuba. Seeking to establish communication with rebel forces in Cuba, McKinley sent a young infantry officer Lt. Andrew Rowan, to establish contact with Guerilla Commander General Garcia.


“A Message to Garcia” is a celebration of the chutzpah of a soldier who is given an important assignment and accomplishes his mission in the face of danger and uncertainty. Without trepidation or objection, he “gets the job done.”  The brief story, reprinted thousands of times by churches, business leaders, and organizations, has become an object lesson for accepting personal responsibility despite the odds or conditions.


“A Letter to Garcia” appeared in the same month as the first installment of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and describes the journey of a man into a hostile environment who carries out a mission with competence, poise, and determination. Both Conrad’s fictional Marlowe and Hubbard’s Rowan remind us that we must adapt to unfavorable circumstances and maintain our sense of mission without negotiating outcomes or questioning the wisdom of our superiors. Conversely, as leaders, we must provide clear instructions and trust those to whom the responsibility is given to execute the orders with intelligence, audacity, and resolve.

The universality of “A Message to Garcia” is that the pursuit of higher, altruistic goals shapes our character and our journeys, whether in the jungle or the workplace.

by Randall Bedwell

Ghost Brothers of Dark County

Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County

Ghost Brothers of Dark County

Last month I attended the Nashville showing of Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County, which was performed at The Ryman. Ghost Brothers is a musical, written by Stephen King, with music by John Mellencamp. This project was conceived by Mellencamp and is 13 years in the making. T-Bone Burnett added his talents by producing the music and soundtrack. The show is traveling through Mellencamp’s native Midwest and also through the South, this fall.

The musical centers around a family of brothers over two generations. The brothers are vastly different and a hatred develops due, in many ways, to their competitive nature. We learn that the brothers father also had two male siblings that were exactly the same way. It is those two boys, who came to a tragic end, who haunt the family cabin and where most of the action of the musical takes place. We are shown the parallels of both generations and it seems inevitable that the two sons will follow down the same path as their Uncles. The father might be able to save his family by stopping his own sons from repeating the past, but in order to do that he must overcome his own demons and a secret he has held since he was a boy.

The musical focuses on the motives of men and the force that free will or determinism has over all of us. The dark side of our nature is depicted by a rogue who is in the truest sense the “Satan,” or The Adversary. It is our pride much like that of our Western concept of Lucifer, that influences and feeds the darkness in all of us. As the story unfolds, the conflict between our dual natures and how this manifests itself in our relationships becomes the backdrop of as King says, “A story as old as time.” The story of brother against brother. The spirits of the elder brothers are present to witness their own tragedy retold in the lives of their nephews. Will history repeat itself or can the younger brothers overcome fate? In Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County, King has created an interesting mixture of Gothic literature, Southernized in the Mississippi Delta, with the themes of a Shakespearean tragedy.

By Keith Wallace


A JFK Hunt – First Edition Points for ‘Profiles in Courage’

kennedyyoungestpresidentWhile out on a book hunt earlier this week, I happened upon a fabulous little book on JFK published in 1961.  The book is titled “John Fitzgerald Kennedy:  Youngest President” and was written by Edward R. Sammis.  While books and ephemera from Kennedy’s run for presidency and his first year in office are not unusual, it was a great find in my opinion.  As a collector, one of the best things about the book-hunt is the joy of finding something that I have never seen before.  I have dealt in Kennedy books for nearly a decade and I have never actually had this one in my collection.  My investment price of 50 cents has already paid off as I now know what a cool little publication this really is.  After returning home with my discovery, I couldn’t help but think about what it takes to get my “book buy” fix.  As this scenario illustrates, the “fix” is not in locating a book of significant monetary value, it is located a book that strikes us on a personal level.  Unlike other obsessions, the buy-in is all over the map.  My single purchase record is significantly higher, but 50 cents is all you need on rare occasion.

When it comes to Kennedy, always keep your eyes peeled for ‘Profiles in Courage’

‘Profiles in Courage’ was published by Harper and Brothers in 1956.  This was a breakout book for then Senator Kennedy and is most certainly the one that Presidential book collectors MUST have.  The book won the Pulitzer in 1957 and holds a special place in the hearts of anyone from Leiper’s Fork (the village where our shop is) as one of the eight United States Senators detailed by Kennedy in the book is Thomas Hart Benton.  The remains of Benton’s Tennessee home are less than a quarter mile from our shop and the town actually used to bear the name Bentontown.  ‘Profiles in Courage’ essentially lays out Kennedy’s thoughts on courage in the United States Senate and was his personal homage to eight men who he felt put their beliefs to the ultimate test without regard to politics or political affiliation.  We handed out copies of the Jefferson Bible to incoming Congressmen  until the mid 1950’s (as detailed in an earlier blog), but maybe we should be handing out Profile in Courage these days…

How to identify the First Edition, First Printing of ‘Profiles in Courage’:



TITLE:  Profiles in Courage

PUBLISHER:  Harper and Brothers

YEAR:  1956




NOTE:  Copies of this book can be found out there on demand, but condition is key.

By Mike Cotter, Director of Operations


Picking Our Lives

yardsale1At the recent Leiper’s Fork Flea Market, Yeoman’s In the Fork set up a booth and, for three days, engaged with others who share an active, aesthetic appreciation of all things ephemeral and seemingly worthless.

mikewolfe2We were honored by the presence of Mike Wolfe, the American Picker, who quietly slipped between booths, looking not just for value, but meaning in seemingly worthless items that still resonated with the spirit of the maker’s hands and heart.

We carefully observed Wolfe’s “picking” methodologies. He was able to look beyond the yielding gray of weathered wood and rusted tools to find a utilitarian aesthetic in the simplicity of the flea market and value where others could not.

yardsale2In an age where we “distress” clothing and furniture to give it a “vintage” look, recognizing the extinguished gloss of what once sparkled allows us to find our own selves through pieces of history. And by understanding that beauty is fleeting and simplicity lodges in our collective soul, we are able to cobble together a mosaic of our lives that has otherwise been lost to modernity and Pottery Barn.

by Randall Bedwell


A PSA: Mind your “e-manners”

Man-yelling-at-computer-EditedMost of us, I believe, put great value in being respectful to others. Yeah, we all may lose our cool at times and unless we are adept at a form of Buddhism or something like that, we may even cause strife and anxiety in the lives of others, often people we care about the most deeply. With the fast-paced tempo of what we call civilization, it is somewhat surprising humans aren’t even more frustrated and angry than we already are. I tend to believe that deep down, most of us are inherently good. While goodness is a relative term and the argument for or against subjective morality is an interesting debate, we all have to admit that on some level we all engage in social contracts with one another. It is through cooperation and agreed upon terms and laws and ways of living that we are, ironically perhaps, more efficient as a group. We’ve certainly had a lot of practice as evolutionary psychology and biology suggests.

It’s with this backdrop that I wanted to bring up an issue I think we all have either been a part of in some manner or just witnessed as an observer: the disrespect people are so willing to dish out on the internet to other people. I’m sure this phrase is already taken, but the description that came to my mind of the phenomenon is “bad e-manners.” If you want to see an example of it, go to the Facebook page or the Twitter account of a famous person and just start reading the comments left to them under their posts. Or go to Yahoo and randomly pick a news story and read the comments. It’s as if this idea of anonymity is somehow taken as a license to be the most terrible person you can be with your written words. And it goes beyond anonymity as people who show their real name and their real photo do the exact same thing. No wonder that cyber bullying is such a huge concern, especially among youth, who are still very fragile and whose social standing among their peers is vitally important to them.

YellingMy reason for bringing up this topic has to do, in large part, with my observation of society at a macro level. The other reason is due to the fact that I have experienced this a few times on a micro level over the last few weeks at the bookshop. Online customers, who misunderstand a policy, suspect the worst in others and assume the worst in all things, can be a source of great consternation. I’m sure all of you reading this can relate to that in some way, so in no way do I want to come across as whining. I just notice things and try to point them out in the hope that doing so can lead to a continual social conversation.

ShangriLa_detail2My hope, as a guy who tries to be a faithful optimist, is that we as a society can figure this one out and we can all help one another to change this behavior. It’s so much easier to be negative, unfair or cruel to someone who you can’t see at the time you hit “send.” Will Rogers could have been peering into the future when he said “I never met a man I didn’t like.” But, no, he was simply recognizing something that has been with us always. We are a social animal and yet, we have not, nor will we likely ever, perfect that elusive skill of total harmony. But, then again, some people aren’t deserving of being liked. Respected, perhaps, but not liked, and then we all know people either personally or historically, that we simply cannot bring ourselves to respect. I think this is a part of our nature and I am not sure we should desire to shed that nature. I guess my hope is that we can learn to engage in debate and civility with one another and drop all the vitriol. Yeah, I know the quest for Shangri-la is likely simply a Jungian archetype for a yearning for a connection with nature, but it is nice to think about a social Shangri-la, nevertheless.

By Keith Wallace



IMG_2503Being from a small town in Tennessee, you might expect that I would be very familiar with the illicit little leaf known as tobacco.  Tobacco was not only the source of revenue for the farmer, our town and our state, but was a source of pride in our community.  We talked about whose land grew tobacco the best and who could really roll the best homemade cigars while enjoying the shade of the carport just after a cutting.  As a youth, the thought of smoking one of those hand-rolled beauties was nearly as hallucinogenic as the thought of dating the prom queen.  Tobacco was the weed from which our lives stemmed.  Tobacco was the vehicle used to enrich the folks in the community whom we looked up to.  The tobacco farm owners always had the largest spreads, the shiniest new tractors and the cars that seemed to stretch the limits of what a youth’s imagination could handle.

IMG_2505Throughout the course of my life, I have laid witness to the tobacco plant and the true demise of this profitable little sprout.  Most of us have seen the commercials, heard the doctors and witnessed the damage it causes to those who have used it.  Maybe because I am a southerner and maybe just because I am more in tune with it these days, I know that I have seen more than one suffer from various degrees of physical and psychological torture at the hands of smoking, chewing and snorting (I think they do that at least…).

IMG_2507On a recent visit to a family reunion, I was amazed to discover that my great, great aunt was still a smoker.  This sweet lady must be in her early nineties and she is still enjoying the supposed pleasures derived from the “forbidden fruit.”  The question that follows for someone who has never bothered to ask is naturally that of how you started.  The answer shocked me so much that I felt the need to share it with all of you.

IMG_2504My great, great aunt did not start smoking until she was in her early 40′s.  As if this isn’t amazing enough, she started so that she would have the right to take the extra break at the local ACME boot factory where she worked that was offered to smokers.  Only the smokers at the factory were offered an extra break during the morning shift as I understand it.  In other words, all others were essentially penalized for not smoking by having to stay on the assembly line.  They should be satisfied with their 30 minute lunch and the ten minute afternoon break.  Only smokers were awarded the privilege of getting an extra ten minute “smoke” break at 9:00am.

IMG_2508How the tide has turned.  Hope you enjoy a few visual reminders of the power of tobacco and it’s one-time hold on America.

By Mike Cotter, Director of Operations



A little rant on the power of the open shop and the future of collecting…

(Inspired by reading the great advertisement from Kelly Kinzle Antiques in the most recent Maine Antiques Digest.)

KellyKinzleThe South is known for shrimp and grits.  The South’s known for biscuits, church crossings and front porch Saturday nights.  We are not always at the top of the cranial ladder when one thinks about the great bookstores we long to linger in.  As a bookseller, it won’t be difficult for you to believe that I have lingered in my fair share.  Quite a few shops with some assemblage of the words “USED”, “RARE”, “ANTIQUARIAN” and “BOOKS” have played host to me over the years.

Frontporchswing2013We at Yeoman’s hoped and dreamed of creating a rare book haven in the woods.  An island of collectible books for those stuck in the ocean of paperbacks, strip mall newspaper vending machines and the Wal-Mart book-buying limitations that the world has resided itself to.  If all physical books will be purchased on the internet in the future, how does one keep a real bookstore open to the public by utilizing the wireless devil?  And for that matter, should we even try?

Collecting books is social.  Collecting anything is social.  That answer is clear to us.  We must continue to encourage the passerby to stop in.  The most satisfying of moments comes when you spot someone taken aback by something they had never even thought to collect, but now find enviably cool.

keyboard2013Why aren’t more of us using online social to finance the physical arena that most of us say we will miss when it’s gone?  While many have tried to solve the conundrum, the proper mix of online and in person is not an easy equation to crack.  After setting the goal of opening a real store that would offer classes, advice and a handshake, the goal that must follow is to keep it open.  I believe that we (Yeoman’s) are very fortunate, but the work is most certainly the secret behind any physical shop.  It  seems that most bookstores are so busy complaining about how bad the book business is that they haven’t really stopped to think about the fact that they are really just ticked off that someone online (Amazon or the like) figured out how to offer better service to the public.  Stop complaining and start selling!  Stop focusing on handbags and focus on the handshake.  Say thanks to folks who still believe that the real deal is important enough to save.  Using online social and sales to drive folks to your store and/or a show can work!  Together, the bookish collectors of the world will always have a place to go to for advice, learn about upcoming bookfairs, talk, share and lust over the long lost treasure that slipped from our grasp…

(PS to Kelly – Thanks for giving us permission to share your advertisement.  If your plan was to catch some attention with your heartfelt words – IT WORKED!  You got my attention and I hope this helps you get much more…)

By Mike Cotter, Director of Operations


Discovering the Jefferson Bible

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know”

-President Thomas Jefferson.

At age 77 and living at Monticello in retirement following his two terms as President, Jefferson completed a project he had long planned and long discussed with others. In 1820, he assembled what he titled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Using cut out excerpts from the Four Gospels of the New Testament, he stuck them into a bound blank book with compensating guards. Jefferson arranged the text to tell a chronological and edited story of Jesus’ life and moral philosophy.


djb2Professionally bound in rich Morocco leather with gold tooling, this volume—8.25 inches by 5 inches—was not printed but rather constructed more like a scrapbook. Jefferson cut selected passages from printed New Testaments in four languages and glued them onto the front and back of blank folios with stub guards, in four columns to allow easy comparisons between the translations.

djb3Jefferson’s goal in creating this volume was to distill Jesus’ ethical teachings, which he believed provided “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” Jefferson fashioned this volume for his own reading and reflection. It was a personal exercise in understanding Jesus’ teachings. The resulting work represented a meeting of Enlightenment thinking, Christian tradition and American Revolutionary thought, as imagined by one of the great thinkers of the era.

djb4Jefferson never published his book, rather intending it to be private reading material and not for a larger audience. He considered his and others’ religious beliefs a private matter that should not be subjected to public scrutiny or government regulation.

 The book stayed in Jefferson’s family until the Smithsonian’s librarian purchased it from Carolina Randolph, Jefferson’s great-granddaughter, in 1895. By an act of Congress in 1904, lithographic reproductions of the volume were created for distribution to members of Congress. Once these copies were distributed, no other facsimiles were made.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is currently performing a specialized conservation treatment to ensure the long-term preservation of Thomas Jefferson’s bible, a small handmade book that provides an intimate view of Jefferson’s private religious and moral philosophy.

After nearly 200 years, the book has become fragile. Because of its age and the glue used to adhere the cuttings to the blank paper, the pages were extremely stiff and inflexible, and its tight binding led to cracking and some tearing of the pages, making the book too fragile to display.

Conservation treatment was required to re-establish use and to ensure its long-term preservation. The treatment was to clean and stabilize the book, mend damaged pages and rebind the folios into Jefferson’s original cover.

djb5This allows the museum to once again safely display the book and provides access for scholarly research to this historic treasure. In addition, the team has constructed a custom protective enclosure to house the bible for long-term storage.

 Special thanks to Richard Norman with Bookbinder Digest ( for photographs and background on the Jefferson Bible.


Gone with the Wind – ISSUE POINTS FOR THE FIRST EDITION and a little extra…

I knew that I was going to get a few responses when I said that ‘Gone with the Wind’ was in need of a revamp of some sort a few blogs back. I didn’t realize the degree of fervor that still exists out there over this classic book and the film.One of my metric points for measuring a piece of literature from a collectible standpoint has always been its saturation into other forms of media.We all know that ‘Gone with the Wind’ stirred the reading public when it was released in 1936, but where does it stand today stacked up against a plethora of worthy literary outings of the late 20th and early 21st century?

gwtw1The book did translate to the big screen in a first-class way, but should this film be thought of the same way as another that was shot with the technology that exists today?My opinion has always been no for the most part.The more recent the film adaptation, the larger the excitement and fan adoration.I suppose that exceptions must be made…While I believe that ‘Gone with the Wind’ is well suited for a revamp and/or media blitz of some sort if it is to continue to draw fans and collectors in this century, there are most certainly those who believe we should simply attempt to enhance and use of this pivotal piece of American literature (as well as the film) as it stands.Would the ticket-buying public head out in droves to see the original Selznick classic at a Carmike this weekend?I find this a stretch, but I can see the merit in simply trying to preserve the classic and not monkey with it…After all, the latest version of Gatsby didn’t speak to the world with the same voice as the Redford version. The result of this revamp on Gatsby probably just solidifies my respect for the original.I would venture to say that I am not alone here.

gwtw2I suppose that it simply comes down to the motivation and inspiration for the book.Margaret Mitchell spun us all a tale that centers around one of the most important events in American history.Will the Civil War in America be discussed by collectors, fans, teachers, students and soldiers in the coming millennium. You bet it will! Is this good for the collectible versions of the book? You bet it is!One thing’s for sure – with a screening of the original 1939 version, every theater that participates can surely sell a ton of Coca-Cola and popcorn considering you’ve got a run time of just under FOUR hours!


Gone with the Wind

* Macmillan Publishing (New York)

* Copyright page must state “May, 1936″ with no additional printing dates after this statement

* Original grey cloth boards

* Dust-Jacket must retain the original price of $3.00 on the bottom corner of the inside front flap

* Dust-Jacket must list ‘Gone with the Wind’ in the second column under the Macmillan Spring Novels heading on the back panel