David Harum

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David Harum; A Story of American Life is a best-selling novel of 1899 whose principal legacy is the colloquial use of the term horse trading .

A bestseller is, usually, a book that is included on a list of top-selling or frequently-borrowed titles, normally based on publishing industry and book trade figures and library circulation statistics; such lists may be published by newspapers, magazines, or book store chains. Some lists are broken down into classifications and specialties. An author may also be referred to as a bestseller if their work often appears in this category. Well-known bestseller lists in the U.S. are published by Publishers Weekly, USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Most of these lists track book sales from national and independent bookstores, as well as sales from major internet retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

In linguistics, colloquialism is vernacular language including everyday language, everyday speech, common parlance, informal language, colloquial language, general parlance, and common expressions. It is the most used linguistic variety of a language, the language normally used in conversation and other informal communication.

Horse trading

Horse trading, in its literal sense, refers to the buying and selling of horses, also called "horse dealing.” Due to the difficulties in evaluating the merits of a horse offered for sale, the sale of horses offered great opportunities for dishonesty, leading to use of the term horse trading to refer to complex bargaining or other transactions, such as political vote trading. It was expected that horse sellers would capitalize on these opportunities and so those who dealt in horses gained a reputation for underhanded business practices.


Literary significance and criticism

Written by retired Syracuse, New York banker Edward Noyes Westcott, the work was rejected by six publishers before being accepted for publication by D. Appleton & Company. Published in the fall of 1898, some six months after the author's death, it sold an impressive 400,000 copies during the following year. [1] Although the book contains the mandatory love story, the character and philosophy of the title character, small town banker and horse trader David Harum, expressed in the dialect of 19th-century rural central New York is the focus of the book. [2]

Syracuse, New York City in New York, United States

Syracuse is a city in and the county seat of Onondaga County, New York, in the United States. It is the fifth-most populous city in the state of New York following New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, and Yonkers.

Edward Noyes Westcott American banker

Edward Noyes Westcott was an American banker and writer.

D. Appleton & Company publishing company

D. Appleton & Company was an American company founded by Daniel Appleton, who opened a general store which included books. He published his first book in 1831. The company's publications gradually extended over the entire field of literature. It issued the works of contemporary scientists at moderate prices, for example, Herbert Spencer, John Tyndall, Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin, etc. Medical books formed a special department, and books in the Spanish language for the South American market were a specialty which the firm made its own. In belles lettres and American history, it had a strong list of names among its authors.

The main appeal of the work seems to have been to businessmen, attracted by its approval of a much more relaxed code of business ethics than was presented in most novels of the time. [3] Harum was an inveterate horse-trader and considered engaging in the dubious practices long associated with this activity as morally justified by the expectation that similar practices would be employed by his adversary. In principle, he contended that this made horse-trading quite different from other lines of business, yet in practice most business dealings seemed to him to be a species of horse trading, justifying considerable deviation from conventional standards of probity.

The fact that these sentiments were placed in the mouth of an elderly country banker—on the face of it, a clear spokesman for "traditional values"—was particularly appealing in that it made these business ethics appear a reflection of the practices of shrewd businessmen through the ages rather than an indicator of moral degeneration. [4] Harum's version of the Golden Rule -- Do unto the other feller the way he'd like to do unto you, an' do it fust.—was widely quoted, [5] and the term horse trading came into use as an approbatory term for what others would deem ethically dubious business practices.[ citation needed ]

The success of the book led to the identification of some of its characters with living persons; the late author's sister felt compelled on that account to write to Publishers Weekly , declaring that while the character of David Harum himself might be called a "composite", all the others were entirely fictitious. [6] The concession concerning the main character was a necessary one: the resemblance of the fictitious David Harum, banker and horse trader from the (also fictitious) central New York village of Homeville, and the real David Hannum, banker and horse trader from the (real) central New York village of Homer was too great to deny. [7] Hannum is perhaps better remembered for his role in the Cardiff Giant hoax.

<i>Publishers Weekly</i>

Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, "The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling". With 51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews.

Homer (village), New York Village in New York, United States

Homer is a village in Cortland County, New York, United States. The population was 3,291 at the 2010 census. The village name is derived from the surrounding town, which was named after the poet Homer.

Cardiff Giant nineteenth century US hoax

The Cardiff Giant was one of the most famous hoaxes in American history. It was a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) purported "petrified man" uncovered on October 16, 1869, by workers digging a well behind the barn of William C. "Stub" Newell in Cardiff, New York. Both it and an unauthorized copy made by P.T. Barnum are still being displayed.


William H. Crane as David Harum in 1903 theatrical adaptation William H. Crane as "David Harum".jpg
William H. Crane as David Harum in 1903 theatrical adaptation

The undramatic character of the book's action was something of an impediment to its adaptation to the stage, but its popularity insured that an attempt would be made. The result was a quite serviceable star vehicle for veteran comic actor William H. Crane—so much so that Crane became largely identified with the role. [8] In 1915, Famous Players made a film adaptation of the play, again featuring Crane. [9]

William H. Crane American actor

William Henry Crane was an American actor.

Famous Players Film Company film company founded in 1912 by Adolph Zukor in partnership with the Jadeja Motion Pictures and Frohman brothers

The Famous Players Film Company or Celebrated Players was a film company founded in 1912 by Adolph Zukor in partnership with the Frohman brothers, the powerful New York City theatre impresarios. Discussions to form the company were held at The Lambs, the famous theater club where Charles and Daniel Frohman were members. The company advertised "Famous Players in Famous Plays" and its first release was the French film Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth (1912) starring Sarah Bernhardt and Lou Tellegen. Its first actual production was The Count of Monte Cristo, directed by Edwin S. Porter and starring James O'Neill, the father of dramatist Eugene O'Neill. The company established a studio at 221 West 26th Street in Manhattan that today is Chelsea Studios.

<i>David Harum</i> (1915 film) 1915 American silent film written and directed by Allan Dwan

David Harum is a 1915 American silent comedy-drama romance film written and directed by Allan Dwan, produced by Famous Players Film Company and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is based on the 1899 novel of the same name by Edward Noyes Westcott and the 1900 Broadway play based on the novel, starring William H. Crane. Crane agreed to star in the film only if the film was written exactly as the play. David Harum is the only film of Dwan's for Famous Players that still survives. A print is preserved at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York and the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.

In 1934, the story was again adapted to the screen, this time as a vehicle for Will Rogers. [10] This film was successful at the box office. [11]

In 1936, David Harum became a radio serial, which was broadcast until 1951. These later adaptations owed little more than incidentals to the book; rather they used the story as a vehicle for presenting a more generic version of the cracker-barrel philosopher. In one respect the radio show however was true to Harum's business philosophy—the program had a reputation for being particularly aggressive in using the story line to push its sponsors' premium offers.[ citation needed ]

Ice cream

A David Harum is also a kind of ice cream sundae named for the character in the book. It consists of vanilla ice cream, crushed strawberry, crushed pineapple, whipped cream, and a cherry. [12]

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  1. Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography Vol. 7, page 279, New York, D. Appleton & Company, 1901.
  2. A synopsis may be found in the Library of the World's Best Literature Vol. XXX, p.569, Charles Dudley Warner, editor, New York, J. A. Hill & Company, (c) 1902. The New York Times book review is here.
  3. A correspondent to the New York Times pointed out that the book's appeal to businessmen might account, in part, for the novels large sales, noting that such men "buy what they read; they do not borrow books like women or people of limited income."
  4. See "David Harum" in Fame and Fiction by E. A. Bennett, [London], Grant Richards, 1901, especially pages 188-189.
  5. A notable example of the use of the maxim was by the Bisbee Daily Review on the day after the Bisbee Deportation, online here.
  6. Publishers' Weekly Vol. LV, No. 1425 (May 20, '99), online here.
  7. See The Real David Harum by Arthur T. Vance, New York, The Baker and Taylor Company, (c) 1900.
  8. Plays of the Present by John Bouvé Clapp and Edwin Francis Edgett, New York, The Dunlap Society, 1902, gives a contemporary view here. The Internet Broadway Database summarizes the play's Broadway history here. The New York Times review is here. The Christmas Story from David Harum , New York, D. Appleton and Company, 1900, contains illustrations based on the play. William Winter's The Wallet of Time, Volume Two , New York, Moffat, Yard and Company, 1913, gives a more critical retrospective here.
  9. The Internet Movie Database details are here. This text of the book contains stills from the picture.
  10. The Internet Movie Database details are here.
  11. Churchill, Douglas W. The Year in Hollywood: 1934 May Be Remembered as the Beginning of the Sweetness-and-Light Era (gate locked); New York Times [New York, N.Y] 30 Dec 1934: X5. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  12. Knight Seccaspina, Linda. "What Was the David Harum Ice Cream Sundae Sold in Lanark County?". lindaseccaspina. Retrieved 1 January 2019.