[Between 2009 and 2011, I maintained a TypePad blog, “More Fiends,” intended to update my book Baseball Fiends and Flying Machines. Those posts can still be found in the archive.org Wayback Machine, but I stopped updating that site in 2011. Because this WordPress site promotes and updates all my books, I’d like to republish some of those earlier posts.]
Anyone who glances at a bibliography of Alfred W. Lawson’s books will note that he penned both Fifty Speeches and 100 Great Speeches, published about a decade apart. One might assume that the latter title is just an expanded version of the earlier; and in one sense, that is true. The bulk of the text of both works are reprints of the editorials from Lawson’s newsheet, the Benefactor. Fifty Speeches includes vol. 1 and vol. 2 (to number 23) of the Benefactor, arranged in consecutive order. 100 Great Speeches includes numbers from vols. 1-3, but are not in consecutive order.
Both books are folio size (in the loose sense of that term), with the binding measuring 17″ x 11″. The earlier work has 175 pages; the latter has 232. Lawson obviously devoted great attention to the details of both publications, but the similarities end there. Fifty Speeches is the rarer, more interesting work, brimming with content found in no
other Lawson titles. It is the most complete document archive of Lawson’s 1930’s social movement, the Direct Credits Society.
Unlike most of Lawson’s works, Fifty Speeches does not contain a lengthy autobiographical section on Lawson’s life accomplishments. Instead, the first 63 pages are photos of Direct Credits Society parades, group photos, and individual “officer” portraits. If there was ever a doubt that the DCS was a genuine popular movement, these photos dispel that notion. Most of the group photos and individual photos list members by name–something rarely seen except in the very earliest DCS newspapers.
On page 63, you can even see the young mother of A. W. Lawson’s two children, E. Hosta.
In the years between the publication of the two books, the DCS movement lost its impetus and fell victim to internal dissension and scandal. Several of the officers depicted in Fifty Speeches were later accused of adulterous relationships; a few of the photos show people who later disagreed with certain actions that Lawson took (especially in regard to support of War Bonds). Lawson himself wanted to deflect the attention drawn his relationship with Hosta (and other young women in the DCS office staff?).
For these reasons, Lawson did not keep Fifty Speeches in print. He did not suppress its dissemination (in fact, Fifty Speeches is one of the titles sold in an ad found in 100 Great Speeches on page 224), but unlike his other works, massive printings did not keep it in stock beyond the 1940s.
Collecting Lawsoniana or studying the DCS? Fifty Speeches is essential!