January 23, 2011

The Organization and Administration of the Union Army

January 24 Update - Mr. Robert A. Clark, current publisher of the Arthur H. Clark Company graciously replied to my email query from yesterday regarding the initial print run for this title. He states that the work was published in an edition of 750 copies. Further, he writes that "Many of the Clark Company’s catalogs stated that only 475 sets were printed, but all our publication records show that 750 sets were delivered by the bindery." Either way, that's a fairly small number. When you factor in all the sets that may have been lost or sullied over time, coupled with all of those that are/were in public libraries, it's easy to see why fine copies of this book are very collectible.

Today’s post is about an older but still important work titled The Organization and Administration of the Union Army 1861-1865, which explains how the Union army evolved from a small peacetime force into a potent military machine approaching one million men by the time the Civil War ended in 1865. It was written by Professor Fred Albert Shannon (1893-1963) and published as a two-volume work in 1928 by the Arthur H. Clark Company of Cleveland, Ohio at a then-whopping list price of $25. As you can see by this inflation calculator, $25 then equals $310 today! Nevertheless, the work’s impact and importance was such that it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1929.

The books’ primary focus was on the evolution of northern military policy regarding the enlistment and recruitment processes of the army. Shannon also discussed the inter-actions and relationships between the national and state governments in dealing with the problems and solutions pertaining to recruiting, training, equipping, and supplying the soldiers. The author relied heavily on a detailed analysis of census data for much of his conclusions. (As a sidebar, Shannon devoted an entire chapter to what he termed “The Slacker Problem,” which discussed the “skedaddlers” and others who avoided voluntary enlistment or the draft at all costs. I humorously thought “slacker” was a more contemporary term, but was obviously in use eighty-five years ago with the same meaning as today.)

Though definitely a scholarly work, the book nonetheless has an easy to read feel to it. Not surprising, for in the research for this post, I learned that one biographer described how Shannon strove to write history from the perspective of an average American. Shannon believed in common man values as the primary shaper of the United States and as such, held the wealthy in low regard. His interest in this topic first began as a student at Indiana University. After graduation, Shannon taught history at Iowa Wesleyan College for several years starting in 1919. Upon earning his doctorate in 1924, Shannon became an assistant professor of history at Iowa State Teachers College. In 1926 he was appointed associate professor of history at the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science where he became a specialist in American social and economic history during the Civil War and antebellum periods.

First editions of this two-volume set are bound in dark blue cloth with gilt lettering and trim on the spine. The top edges of the pages are also in gold gilt, which seems to have been the Clark Company’s standard format, for as one admirer of the press wrote in 1963, “…the handsome octavo volumes with the ivory-laid, deckle-edged, uncut pages and the distinctive gold bands and prominent lettering on the spine have long been recognizable on library shelves as ‘Clark books’.” This definitely would have been considered a “fine press” work from back in the day. Like Neale books, the Arthur H. Clark Company also seems to be collected in its own right as a specialty publisher of western Americana, as the existence of this 1993 bibliography attests. The Arthur H. Clark Co. still exists today as an imprint of the University of Oklahoma Press. As for this specific book, the title and copyright pages should have matching 1928 dates in order to confirm first edition status. As you can see from ABE, first edition sets of this work that are not library discards and in solid condition tend to command prices in the $300 range.


Robert A. Clark said...

Thanks to Paul Taylor for recognizing the fine work Shannon performed in preparing this work over eight decades ago. The publisher still appreciates good reviews after all these years.
Robert Clark, Arthur H. Clark Co.

Paul Taylor said...

Robert -- Thank you for helping us collectors out with the mundane data we're constantly looking for!


Drew@CWBA said...

They still uphold the old tradition and print their books in navy blue cloth with gilt lettering. I've acquired a number of the more titles. There is something neat about their look and feel.

Paul Taylor said...

I know what you mean, Drew. "Old school craftsmanship."