Edward Bok

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Edward Bok
Edward Bok circa 1918.jpg
Bok circa 1918
BornEduard Willem Gerard Cesar Hidde Bok
(1863-10-09)October 9, 1863
Den Helder, Netherlands
DiedJanuary 9, 1930(1930-01-09) (aged 66)
OccupationEditor and author
Notable worksSuccessward, The Young Man in Business, The Young Man & The Church
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize
Spouse Mary Louise Curtis

Edward William Bok (born Eduard Willem Gerard Cesar Hidde Bok [1] ) (October 9, 1863 – January 9, 1930) [1] was a Dutch-born American editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He was editor of the Ladies' Home Journal for 30 years (1889-1919). Bok is credited with coining the term living room as the name for a room of a house that had commonly been called the parlor or drawing room . He also created Bok Tower Gardens in central Florida.

Pulitzer Prize U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.

<i>Ladies Home Journal</i> American magazine

Ladies' Home Journal is an American magazine published by the Meredith Corporation. It was first published on February 16, 1883, and eventually became one of the leading women's magazines of the 20th century in the United States. From 1891 it was published in Philadelphia by the Curtis Publishing Company. In 1903, it was the first American magazine to reach one million subscribers.

A neologism is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often driven by changes in culture and technology, and may be directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. In the process of language formation, neologisms are more mature than protologisms.


Life and career

Bok was born in Den Helder, Netherlands. At the age of six, he immigrated to Brooklyn, New York. In Brooklyn he washed the windows of a bakery shop after school to help support his family. His people were so poor that in addition he used to go out in the street with a basket every day and collect stray bits of coal that had fallen in the gutter where the coal wagons had delivered fuel. [2]

Den Helder Municipality in North Holland, Netherlands

Den Helder is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Den Helder occupies the northernmost point of the North Holland peninsula. It is home to the country's main naval base. From here the Royal TESO ferryboat service operates the transportation link between Den Helder and the nearby Dutch Wadden island of Texel to the north.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands, sometimes informally called Holland, is a country located in Northwestern Europe with some overseas territories in the Caribbean. In Europe, it consists of 12 provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with those countries and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian. In the northern parts of the country, Low German is also spoken.

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is a borough of New York City, coterminous with Kings County, in the U.S. state of New York, the most populous county in the state, and the second-most densely populated county in the United States. It is New York City's most populous borough, with an estimated 2,504,700 residents in 2010. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island.

In 1882 Edward Bok began work with Henry Holt and Company. In 1884 he became involved with Charles Scribner's Sons, where he eventually became its advertising manager. From 1884 until 1887 Bok was the editor of The Brooklyn Magazine, and in 1886 he founded the Bok Syndicate Press.[ citation needed ]

Henry Holt and Company is an American book publishing company based in New York City. One of the oldest publishers in the United States, it was founded in 1866 by Henry Holt and Frederick Leypoldt. Currently, the company publishes in the fields of American and international fiction, biography, history and politics, science, psychology, and health, as well as books for children's literature. In the US, it operates under Macmillan Publishers.

Charles Scribners Sons American publisher

Charles Scribner's Sons, or simply Scribner's or Scribner, is an American publisher based in New York City, known for publishing American authors including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Stephen King, Robert A. Heinlein, Thomas Wolfe, George Santayana, John Clellon Holmes, Don DeLillo, and Edith Wharton.

After moving to Philadelphia in 1889, he obtained the editorship of Ladies Home Journal when its founder and editor Louisa Knapp Curtis stepped down to a less intense role at the popular, nationally circulated publication. It was published by Cyrus Curtis, who had an established publishing empire that included many newspapers and magazines.[ citation needed ]

Louisa Knapp Curtis American writer

Louisa Knapp Curtis, sometimes known only as Louisa Knapp, was the author of a column, and later, the separate supplement included with the magazine, Tribune and Farmer, that in 1883 would become a separate magazine, the Ladies' Home Journal, which is still published.

In 1896 Bok married Mary L. Curtis, the daughter of Louisa and Cyrus Curtis. [3] She shared her family's interest in music, cultural activities, and philanthropy and was very active in social circles. Shortly before his marriage, he published an advice book for young men. He noted among other things, that "A man who truly loves his mother, wife, sister or sweetheart never tells a story which lowers her sex in the eyes of others." [4] During his editorship, the Journal became the first magazine in the world to have one million subscribers and it became very influential among readers by featuring informative and progressive ideas in its articles. [5] The magazine focused upon the social issues of the day. The mother of H.L. Mencken was one of those busy and amiable housewives who read Edward Bok's Ladies' Home Journal year after passing year. When Bok's autobiography, The Americanization of Edward Bok, appeared in 1920, he reviewed it with an interest based on long acquaintance with the magazine. Mencken observed that Bok showed an irrepressible interest in things artistic:

Philanthropy means the love of humanity. A conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life", which combines an original humanistic tradition with a social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century. The definition also serves to contrast philanthropy with business endeavors, which are private initiatives for private good, e.g., focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.

When he looked at the houses in which his subscribers lived, their drab hideousness made him sick. When he went inside and contemplated the lambrequins, the gilded cattails, the Rogers groups, the wax fruit under glass domes, the emblazoned seashells from Asbury Park, the family Bible on the marble-topped center-table, the crayon enlargements of Uncle Richard and Aunt Sue, the square pianos, the Brussels carpets, the grained woodwork—when his eyes alighted upon such things, his soul revolted, and at once his moral enthusiasm incited him to attempt a reform. The result was a long series of Ladies' Home Journal crusades against the hideousness of the national scene in domestic architecture, in house furnishing, in dress, in town buildings, in advertising. Bok flung himself headlong into his campaigns, and practically every one of them succeeded. ... If there were gratitude in the land, there would be a monument to him in every town in the Republic. He has been, aesthetically, probably the most useful citizen that ever breathed its muggy air. [6]

The Journal also became the first magazine to refuse patent medicine advertisements. [7] In 1919, after thirty years at the journal, Bok retired.[ citation needed ]

In 1923 Bok proposed the American Peace Award. [8]

Where Edward Bok is Happiest: In His Garden, published in his 1922 autobiography. Date and place are uncertain. BokGarden.png
Where Edward Bok is Happiest: In His Garden, published in his 1922 autobiography. Date and place are uncertain.

In 1924 Mary Louise Bok founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, which she dedicated to her father, Cyrus Curtis, and in 1927, the Boks embarked upon the construction of Bok Tower Gardens, near their winter home in Mountain Lake Estates, Lake Wales, Florida, which was dedicated on February 1, 1929, by the president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. Bok Tower sometimes is called a sanctuary and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark. Bok is used as an example in Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. [10]

Bok died on January 9, 1930, in Lake Wales, Florida, within sight of his beloved Singing Tower. [11] Two of his grandsons are Derek Bok and Gordon Bok.

Bok and American domestic architecture

Edward Bok with dogs EdwardBok1919.jpg
Edward Bok with dogs

In 1895, Bok began publishing in Ladies Home Journal plans for building houses which were affordable for the American middle class from $1,500 to $5,000 and made full specifications with regional prices available by mail for $5. Later, Bok and the Journal became a major force in promoting the "bungalow", a style of residence which derived from India. Plans for these houses cost as little as a dollar, and the 1 12-story dwelling, some as small as 800 square feet, soon became a dominant form of new domestic architecture in the country. [12]

Some architects complained that by making building plans available on a mass basis, Bok was usurping their prerogatives, and some, such as Stanford White openly discouraged him although White would later come around, writing

I believe that Edward Bok has more completely influenced American domestic architecture for the better than any man in this generation. When he began ... I refused to cooperate with him. If Bok would come to me now, I would not only make plans for him, but I would waive my fee for them in retribution for my early mistake. [12]

Bok is credited with coining the term living room as the name for room of a house that was commonly called a parlor or drawing room . This room had traditionally been used only on Sundays or for formal occasions such as the displaying of deceased family members before burial; it was the buffer zone between the public sphere and the private one of the rest of the house. Bok believed it was foolish to create an expensively furnished room that was rarely used, and promoted the new name to encourage families to use the room in their daily lives. He wrote, "We have what is called a 'drawing room'. Just whom or what it 'draws' I have never been able to see unless it draws attention to too much money and no taste ..." [13]

Bok's overall concern was to preserve his socially conservative vision of the ideal American household, with the wife as homemaker and child-rearer, and the children raised in a healthy, natural setting, close to the soil. To this end, he promoted the suburbs as the best place for well-balanced domestic life. [12]

Theodore Roosevelt said about Bok:

[He] is the only man I ever heard of who changed, for the better, the architecture of an entire nation, and he did it so quickly and effectively that we didn't know it was begun before it was finished. [12]

Awards and honors

Bok's 1920 autobiography The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years Later [14] won the Gold Medal of the Academy of Political and Social Science and the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.


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Bok Tower Gardens is a contemplative garden, and bird sanctuary located north of Lake Wales, Florida, United States. It consists of a 250-acre (100 ha) garden, the 205-foot (62 m) tall Singing Tower with its carillon bells, Pine Ridge Trail, Pinewood Estate, and a visitor center. The tower is built upon Iron Mountain, one of the highest points of peninsular Florida, estimated to be 295 feet (90 m) above sea level. It is a National Historic Landmark that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nationally significant for its association with Edward W. Bok and its designers.

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{{Infobox NRHP

| name = Mountain Lake Estates Historic District | nrhp_type = hd | nocat = yes  | image = Mountain Lake Estates Entrance Bok Tower view 2008 December.jpg | caption = entrance to Mountain Lake Estates, with Bok Tower in distance | location = Lake Wales, Florida | coordinates = 27°56′9.6″N81°34′58.8″W
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  1. 1 2 "Edward Bok". Internet Accuracy Project. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  2. Edward William Bok (1915). Why I Believe In Poverty. Curtis Publishing Company. pp. 6–9. LAGE-4427767.
  3. Hamersly, Lewis R. (1904). Who's who in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries. L.R. Hamersly & Co. p. 66.
  4. P. 142 of Successward: A Young Man's Book for Young Men, by Edward William Bok, 1895
  5. "Bok, Edward. 1921. The Americanization of Edward Bok".
  6. Mencken, H. L. "The Incomparable Bok", Smart Set (January 1921), pp. 140-142. Review of The Americanization of Edward Bok (New York: Scribner, 1920)
  7. Bok, Edward William (1921). "Cleaning Up the Patent-Medicine and Other Evils". The Americanization of Edward Bok.
  8. "American Peace Award".
  9. following P.450 of The Americanization of Edward Bok
  10. He appears in Part Two, Chapter 4 ("How to Become a Good Conversationalist").
  11. Gardens, Bok Tower. "Edward Bok - Author & Philanthropist - Bok Tower Gardens".
  12. 1 2 3 4 Jackson, Kenneth T. (1985), Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States , New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN   0-19-504983-7 , p.186
  13. Anonymous. "The Living Room is Born". Ladies Home Journal . 125 (6): 12.
  14. "Bok, Edward. 1921. The Americanization of Edward Bok".

Further reading