Many readers of Beverly of Graustark developed ideas about George Barr
McCutcheon that were far from accurate. Because McCutcheon had written
about royalty in an exotic far off kingdom, it was thought that he must
also live a life very similar to those of his characters. The characters
of the Graustark novels in many cases were believed to be real, but
mostly, so naive were many of his readers that they thought Graustark
was a real place and many times they thought that McCutcheon could
provide them with travel directions and advice. This can be evidenced in
an article appearing the Literary Digest. "Graustark and its capital
city, Edelweiss, had been made so real by their creator that many a
reader was convinced of their actual existence ... eight tenths of his
[McCutcheon's] letters from strangers were written in the belief that
these places had actual existence." (1928, 51). An even more astounding
occurrence was that some readers, "asserted or suggested relationships
with the royal families of Graustark or the adjacent States, or with the
American heroes and heroines." (1928, 51). The romantic novel often
caused a blurring between reality and fantasy. The reality of
McCutcheon was that he was a quiet man who was often described as a
workaholic. He was such a prolific writer that he wouldn't have had the
time to spend leisurely hours with royalty even if he knew any. Perhaps
most ironic of all, McCutcheon had only been to Europe once in his life
and this was late in his life. (See image 1 in supplementary materials
for a photograph of George Barr McCutcheon.)
The impetus for the romantic novel started at the turn of the century
when America was immersed in the Industrial Revolution. Mass production
had created a rapid paced environment and a plethora of new and improved
products. With this came a dreary sameness and lack of creativity in
goods and services. At the same time, due to the success of the
Industrial Revolution, the United States was enjoying a period of peace
and prosperity. Regarding foreign relations, "America was prospering and
was looking inward, not outward to the rest of the world. American
turned a blind eye to international issues and adopted an isolationist
stance" (Knight 1955, 53). The reaction against the ordinary, and also a
lack of knowledge and concern for international issues, Americans
adopted escapist, make-believe fiction as its first choice of reading
material. Namely, this was historical and romantic novels. The
historical novel was "a revolt against democracy, against the routine
and commonplacenes of everyday living in the crowd, against
standardization of house and clothes and furnishings, against the tame
and mediocre (Knight 1955, 126).
Advertisers were quick to pick up on this trend toward romantic and
historic novels and placed advertisements in literary journals as
sources that underscored the romantic content of these novels.
Primarily, they emphasized the appeal of the exotic far away setting
with beautiful heroines, dashing heroes and romantic landscapes. For
example, an advertisement in Publisher's Weekly advertised Sarah Orne
Jewett's The Tory Lover with the following lines, "the Tory Lover
[is]...a noble character, while Mary Hamilton herself is one of the most
attractive heroines in modern fiction." In Publisher's Weekly, The Black
Douglas is described as "romantic Scottish scenes and the beautiful
women who loved the warrior earl are depicted in the author's best
manner."The appeal of things exotic and romantic became such a boon that
advertisements for cruise ships and travel books appeared along-side
advertisements for romantic novels. It often had an effect of blurring
the lines between reality and fantasy. For example, an advertisement in
the Bookman Advertiser for Canadian Pacific Cruise Ships has a picture
of a large cruise ship superimposed with a smaller romantic looking mast
ship from the 17th century. Another example of this is an ad placed in
the Bookman Advertiser by the Penn Publishing Company for travel books.
The ad reads "Why do people travel? Why do people read books of travel?
To see and learn of unusual places...To find a strange city is an
unforgettable thrill." Christmas brought even more romantic
advertisements. For example, the book Maurine was advertised in the
Literary Digest. Maurine was an assortment of things romantic. It was a
narrative poem that featured photographs of models "selected for
individual fitness for the character represented...[The] photographers
took their views in the very locality in which the scenes of the story
are laid." (See images 5 in Supplementary Materials for Maurine ad.)
Amidst this bluster of romantic intrigue, the Graustark novels fit in
quite well. Judging from the number of copies sold, 315,000 (Tebbel,
1975 233) and the number of new editions printed from the original
publisher, 1904, 1905 and 1906, Beverly of Graustark remained quite
popular for a number of years after its publication. It continued to
enjoy new editions from other publishers into the 1920's. Beverly of
Graustark was one of McCutcheon's hottest sellers. (See UVA web site
below in sources.) It ranked #6 out of all of the bestsellers in 1904.
McCutcheon was only to do better with Jane Cable, which ranked #5 in
Beverly of Graustark was also made into a play entitled Beverly; a Play
in Four Acts. This play was not successful and had little to no effect
on the sale of the book. However, in 1926 Metro-Goldwyn released the
film Beverly of Graustark. This film enjoyed modest success and spurred
the reprint of Beverly of Graustark in 1926 as a photo edition. Overall,
Beverly of Graustark was very much like other books of this era. For
example, the top three books in 1904 were all historic/romantic novels
and included Winston Churchill's The Crossing; Ellen Glasgow's The
Deliverance and Katherine Cecil Thurston's The Masquerader.
In examining Graustark, which was published by H.S. Stone, and Beverly
of Graustark, which was published by Dodd, Mead and Company, one can see
how different publishers chose to advertise which gives some insight
into their publishing philosophy and outlook.
H.S. Stone Company was founded in 1893 by Herbert Stuart Stone and
Hannibal Ingalls Kimball, Jr. and lasted until 1905. Stone and Kimball
met at Cambridge and decided to become partners. Kimball was mainly
interested in marketing and advertising while Stone was interested in
reseaching books to select for publication. It was said of Stone that
"few other young publishers had ever presented such a prestigious roster
of authors as an initial offering, and they came on the heels of First
Editions, which had been an important book in directing the attention of
American Collectors anew to native literature" (Tebbel 1975, 432). In
1896, the partnership between Stone and Kimball dissolved and Stone took
over the business in its entirety. In 1899, Stone began selling
different types of books that were not part of his line in the past.
Instead of the classics, he branched out to sell popular fiction and
magazines. During this period of time, Stone's brother Melville was the
company's Advertiser. By 1903, the company was in serious distress as
Stone lost many of his accounts. By 1905 the company folded.
When Graustark was published, the H.S. Stone and Company
took a sedate, business-like approach that was primarily aimed at
booksellers. The overwhelming majority of ads that I surveyed were aimed
at booksellers and only one was aimed at readers urging them to inquire
about the book with the bookseller. (Also see image 4 Supplementary
Materials.) The rest of the ads were speaking directly to the
bookseller. For example, one ad reads, "Some have bought one copy at a
time, and others have bought 5,000 at a time. But the majority have
reordered even those who bought 5,000." Another ad lists the rising
orders per month for one bookseller and another ad makes a direct sales
pitch with abrupt, business-like language. "It is worth pushing and we
are going to push it. We don't ask the trade to buy the book in
quantities before we have made a demand for it. But we do wish the trade
to have samples of it, so that the customers need not be turned away.
Every copy you sell will sell five more copies for you. It's that kind
of book. Every customer you turn away will mean that you lose the sale
of five books and perhaps more." This approach must have been quite
successful, as McCutcheon was an unknown author at this time and
Graustark became a best seller. Yet, as McCutcheon went on to write more
novels, he chose to publish with Dodd, Mead and Company where he thought
he could do even better.
Dodd, Mead and Company published Beverly of Graustark. Moses Dodd
founded this company. In 1870, his son Frank took over the business with
his cousin, Edward S. Mead. At one point, the firm was surviving on the
sale of one book. Dodd decided to issue this high selling book by Martha
Finley entitled, Elsie Dinsmore in two parts. Word of mouth got out and
the book became even more popular. Dodd's energy and innovative ideas
proved him to be a good businessman. Mead specialized in writing adult
and children's books on colonial history. He also worked with enhancing
the appearance of books by introducing colored ink stamping on the
covers. Mead's personality was quite different from Dodd's, much like
the partnership between Stone and Kimball. Both of these combinations
worked well while thy lasted. Dodd, Mead & Company focussed most on
starting innovative projects and successfully tapping into the market in
ways that had not yet been tried. With Dodd's business sense and Mead's
understanding of history and artistry, they built a very profitable
Dodd, Mead and Company used advertisements that were mostly aimed at the
mass reading public and emphasized the popularity of the book with lines
such as, "The book seems to have taken everywhere, and with everyone;
proven by the fact that we are unable to supply the demand." and "This
is the book everyone is talking about" (also see image 2 in the
Supplementary Material). Another tactic used by the company to sell
books was to use glowing reviews of the book in their advertising. For
example, Dodd, Mead & Company place an ad in Publisher's Weekly with
four rave reviews for Beverly of Graustark in a row. One reviewer
gushed, "Mr. McCutcheon has written a powerful romance one that will
hold the interest of even the most base reader rigidly fixed until the
last chapter has been eagerly, feverishly read. Those who neglect this
opportunity to know Beverly are unconsciously depriving themselves of
several hours of the keenest delight that can be imaged." The idea
behind this type of advertisement was to create an environment of
excitement and a feeling that one must run out to grab this absorbing
and wonderful book before all the copies are sold. The combination of
the McCutcheon name and the exciting advertising seemed to do the trick
as Beverly of Graustark also became a best seller.
American National Biography. Ed. Garraty & Carnes, v.15: New York,
Oxford University Press, 1999.
Knight, Grant C. The Strenuous Age in American Literature. North
Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1954.
Lazarus, A.L. "George Barr McCutcheon: Youth & Drama." Biography,
Summer, 1981, 208.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. V.XIV: New York, James
T. White & Company, 1910.
The New York Times. Oct. 24, 1928. 1.
McCutcheon, George Barr. "Christmas in Graustark." The Bookman, 60:4.
Dec. 1924, 404.
Tebbel, John. The History of the Book Publishing in the United States,
v. I, II & III. New York & London: R.R. Bowker, 1975.
Tebbel, John. Under the Covers: the Rise & Transformation of American
Book Publishing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Personal Glimpses "Buying a Ticket to Graustark." The Literary Digest.
Nov 17, 1928. 51.
P799 Dec 1901
P801 Dec 1901
The Publisher's Weekly
P798, Mar. 16, 1901.
P915, Mar. 30, 1901.
P1353 Jun 1, 1901.
P376 & 1545 Sept. 7, 1901.
P740, Oct 5, 1901.
P950, Oct. 22, 1901.
P843, Oct 8, 1904.
P1053 Nov 5, 1904.
P142, Nov 12, 1904.
P1186, Nov 19, 1904.
P1495, Dec 3, 1904.
P1634, Dec. 17, 1904.
University of Virginia English Department