Helen Woodward (b. 1882 - d. 1969), one of the earliest and most successful female advertising writers in America, wrote an advertising campaign for the uniform edition of Mark Twain's works for Harper and Brothers. Woodward described herself, "I am a woman, I am a Jew, and I am a radical." (Woodward, 1926).
Helen Rosen Woodward
Harvey Out and Brainard In
At the time Samuel Clemens died at sunset on April 21, 1910 twelve different uniform edition sets of his works had been published, including the red cloth Author's National Edition, a $25 set sold through newspapers and magazines on an installment plan. According to George Harvey, Harper and Brothers had paid Clemens and his heirs $314,300 between 1903 and November 1914 (Exman, p. 192). Under Harvey's administration, Harper and Brothers had also undertaken to issue yet another uniform edition of Mark Twain's works in 1915 called the Limp Leather Edition which sold concurrently with the red cloth Author's National Edition 25-volume set. While Harper and Brothers had provided a good income to Clemens with exclusive publishing contracts, Harvey had still been unable to reduce the company's indebtedness to an acceptable level. Harper and Brothers was still heavily in debt to J. P. Morgan. On May 17, 1915 Colonel George Harvey resigned from Harper and Brothers. According to biographer Eugene Exman, "Few publishers have had the Harvey ability for doing most things exceedingly well -- except the sticky and vexatious job of paying off a debt" (Exman, p. 208).
One of the most useful business practices implemented under Harvey's leadership was the establishing of codes for printing plates. The Harper codes which consist of two letters printed on the copyright page of Harper books after 1912 are extremely useful to today's book collectors in determining the age of Harper's editions. While the codes do not indicate the date a book was printed, they do indicate the earliest usage of a particular printing plate.
Key to Harper's Printing Codes
First letter is month: A= January, B=February, C=March, D=April, E=May, F=June, G=July, H=August, I=September; The list skips J. K=October, L=November, M=December.
M=1912; N=1913; O=1914; P=1915; Q=1916; R=1917; S=1918; T=1919; U=1920; V=1921; W=1922; X=1923; Y=1924; Z=1925; A=1926; B=1927; C=1928; D=1929; E=1930; F=1931; G=1932; H=1933; I=1934; K=1935; L=1936
Clinton Tyler Brainard
|After his resignation, George Harvey was replaced by Clinton Tyler Brainard (b. 1865 - d. 1935), an 1890 Harvard graduate. Brainard had held the position of treasurer of Harper and Brothers since 1915. He was promoted to company president and held that position from 1918-1924.|
Brainard had practiced law in Nebraska and Colorado and had been president of the McClure newspaper syndicate as well as a former editor of the Washington Herald. The early part of Brainard's career had been spent in writing advertising copy for Wanamaker's department store and he was later associated with Merrill and Baker, publishers of Ridpath's History of the World which was sold on the installment plan. Brainard had written much of the advertising copy for Ridpath's History of the World. Brainard's chief strength at Harper's was in book merchandising and his considerable knowledge of popular authors and their works, including the subscription set of Mark Twain's works that could be marketed on the installment plan through newspapers and magazines.
Early Career of Helen Rosen Woodward
Helen Rosen Woodward was one of the most successful female writers of advertising copy in the United States. Born into what she later described as "clean, hard, cold poverty" she had struggled to work her way up from stenographer to advertising executive. She, like Brainard, had spent the early part of her career working at Merrill and Baker publishers. She was later employed at Woman's Home Companion and while there was asked to develop an advertising campaign in 1911 for the Review of Reviews, a company that had obtained the rights to publish a 10-volume set of Mathew Brady's Civil War pictures called The Photographic History of the Civil War. The advertising budget for the Brady project was $350,000 and her advertising sold hundreds of thousands of sets on the installment plan.
In 1913 Helen Rosen married William Edward Woodward, a writer and journalist more commonly known as W. E. Woodward. W. E. Woodward had established his own advertising agency and for a time employed the future best selling author Sinclair Lewis as editor at $60 a week. In 1916 Woodward closed his advertising business and accepted a position as promotions manager for Hearst newspapers.
Helen Woodward's next successful advertising project for Review of Reviews was in publicizing a 12-volume uniform edition of O. Henry's works. Rather than tell book buyers they should buy books simply because an author was successful, Woodward believed that an ad should tell buyers what was inside the book and stress content over bindings. According to Woodward, "I tried in my advertising to arouse curiosity first, or love, or fear, or ambition" (Woodward, 1921). Woodward estimated that Review of Reviews spent half a million dollars on one of her ads for the O. Henry edition. With two such successful advertising campaigns to her credit, it is little wonder that Clinton Brainard hired Woodward to advertise the sale of Mark Twain's works on the installment plan.
Woodward's Ad Campaigns for Mark Twain's Uniform Editions
The September 30, 1916 edition of Publishers' Weekly (p. 1113) reported that Harper and Brothers planned to spend an additional $50,000 over a six month period on advertising Mark Twain's works, especially the Author's National Edition. The campaign was to begin with a full page ad in the Saturday Evening Post of October 7, 1916.
In her autobiography Through Many Windows, Woodward summed up her philosophy for writing advertising copy for books sold by mail order:
The books must be sold by the tens of thousands, or better still by the hundreds of thousands. To do that, it is necessary to force the sale; to be so persuasive in advertising that you induce people to buy your books who had had no interest in them before. This is difficult -- there is no harder advertising job. Consider for yourself -- everybody has endless demands on his money (if he has unlimited money he doesn't buy sets of books on installments). To make him buy your books you must persuade him that he wants them more than something else he wanted the day before (Woodward, 1926, pp. 274-75).
The fall 1916 advertising campaign featured ads for the Author's National Edition bound in green cloth and it was conducted as the United States became embroiled in World War I. Woodward felt that plot in Mark Twain's works was secondary to his spirit and she endeavored to bring a feeling of youth into the ads. A double page ad in Saturday Evening Post could cost as much as $15,000. Harper began with a single page ad on October 7, 1916. Over the next four years, Helen Woodward's ads for Mark Twain's works appeared in: American Angler, American Review of Reviews, Association Men, Atlantic Monthly, Cosmopolitan, Current Opinion, Daughters of the American Revolution, Everybody's Magazine, The Green Book, Harper's Magazine, The Independent, International Studio, Iowa Alumnus, Literary Digest, Medicine and Surgery, The Menorah Journal, National Geographic, Missionary Review of the World, National Geographic, New Outlook, The New York Times, Outing, Outlook, The Public, Santa Fe Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, Smart Set, St. Nicholas, Theatre Magazine, and World's Work. In her memoir titled The Lady Persuaders, Woodward revealed:
Oddly, I never tried at that time to get the women's magazines to give us publicity for the books of Mark Twain or O. Henry. This would have been far too remote for the women's magazines, since many of their readers considered these two writers "not quite nice" (Woodward, 1960, pp. 9-10.)
The magazine ads provided readers with a coupon that could be clipped and returned to Harper and Brothers requesting a set of books on the installment plan of purchase. The mail-in coupon had been developed by advertising executive Ralph Tilton in 1899 to sell the Century Dictionary. The coupons featured a code for date and the name of the publication in which it had appeared that allowed publishers to gauge the effectiveness of each advertisement. Studying the advertising copy that appeared in the ads from 1916 to 1920 provides a map of changes that Harper was making to the Author's National Edition in both price increases and design.
According to Woodward, her "Hello, Huck" ad was the most successful of the dozens developed for the Mark Twain ad campaign. All of her ads expressed the urgency to order quickly before the price was increased or the sale discontinued.
Ad from Smart Set, December 1916
Woodward's ad titled "He walked with Kings" was later praised in the October 1919 issue of Atlantic Monthly for its "cadence" and "atmosphere of loftiness." It was the first ad for the green cloth set of the Author's National Edition that ran in the Saturday Evening Post on October 7, 1916. The ad featured the barefooted Sam Clemens as a boy that had been drawn by illustrator Edmund Franklin Ward for the November 1915 St. Nicholas installment of Albert Bigelow Paine's "The Boy's Life of Mark Twain." According to Woodward, "Quite unconsciously I treated Mark Twain as a serious writer, because he was one to me. But we decided later that that attitude had helped the sale. It is impossible to sell a humorist as such in a set of books" (Woodward, 1926, p. 282).
"He walked with Kings" appeared December 3, 1916 in The New York Times book section but the ad was later deemed to be too serious for war time readers.
This ad appeared in the June 1918 issue of American Review of Reviews and was designed to appeal to the need of the American citizens for a diversion from war news. This ad was also rated a success by Woodward.
In August 1918 Robert Burdick wrote in Printers' Ink:
People are getting so much serious reading and war stories on the front pages of their daily papers that they are not strongly aroused by heavy preachment or tearful tales in the book advertising columns. They want diversion; and the copy that promises this is more apt to appeal.
And that is why "Hey, Tom!" pulls better than "He Walked with Kings." Even the excellent and lovable picture of Mark Twain which illustrated the latter copy (the one in which he seemed, inadvertently, to be choking a kitten) cannot measure up to the dripping, skinny youngster waist-deep in the old swimming hole (Burdick, p. 52).
The advertising copy from Harper ads for Mark Twain's works were deemed so successful that samples of them appeared as training material in the following books: Teacher's Key to Gregg Speed Studies (Gregg Publishing 1917), Business English (Business Training Corporation, 1916), and How to Write Business Letters (A. W. Shaw Company, 1916).
In her autobiography Woodward wrote of her disillusion with Hannibal, Missouri which she visited to obtain inspiration for her Mark Twain ads:
I once made a dutiful visit to Hannibal, Missouri, to find the place where Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer had played. All I saw was a most ordinary little dry-goods box of a house. For a while this visit made it impossible for me to write any Mark Twain copy at all. Until that time I had seen Hannibal through Mark Twain's eyes; then I saw it through eyes affected by a long dirty trip in a day coach with spitting farmers, a dreadful hotel, and an attack of ptomaine poisoning.
Visiting the birthplaces of great authors or the homes of their characters -- that is something for unimaginative minds to do, minds that have not built for themselves a painting, something not of boards and bricks, but built of the soul. (Woodward, 1926, p. 299).
Helen Woodward's role in maintaining Mark Twain's popularity with the American public during the first World War cannot be overstated. From 1916 to 1920 her advertisements appeared in national publications promising comfort and diversion from the serious issues of a world at war with itself. Harper and Brothers sold thousands of sets of the Author's National Edition on the installment plan. To see more of Woodward's ads, see Author's National Edition - 1916 - 1921 (green cloth bindings). Woodward died September 5, 1969. Her funeral services were held at the Peabody Home, 1000 Pelham Parkway, Bronx, New York. Most short biographies or references to her have mistakenly listed her year of death as 1960.
Harper Sales and More Options
In addition to the green cloth Author's National Edition, Harper also provided a more expensive set of the Author's National Edition bound in red half leather. This binding option was advertised in the fine print at the bottom of the ads for the lesser priced green cloth set as early as the fall of 1917. In 1920 Harper advertised a set of Author's National Edition bound in black half leather with silk finished cloth sides, gold lettering and gilt tops.
In 1919 sales of Mark Twain's works generated an estimated $100,000 from sales of the Author's National Edition (approximately 10,000 sets at the 40% commission level) for Mark Twain's estate. [Harper historian Eugene Exman mistakenly credits this royalty to the Hillcrest Edition, (Exman, p. 211).] However, in spite of the success of the Mark Twain subscription book sales, Harper and Brothers still labored under a monumental debt of over a million dollars to the J. P. Morgan company. Clinton Brainard had been no more successful in getting out from under it than George Harvey. It was not long before changes were implemented that effected the handling of future uniform editions of Mark Twain's works.
In order to fully understand the changes that were being made and that would continue to be made to the uniform editions of Mark Twain's works that were first issued in 1899, it is best to examine the initial 25 volumes that the first sets included.
Burdick, R. L. "Human Interest in Mail-Order Advertising," Printer's Ink, Vol. 104, 22 August 1918, p. 45-52.
"C. T. Brainard Dies; Head of Syndicate," The New York Times, 4 September 1935, p. 19.
"Deaths," The New York Times, 9 September 1969, p. 47.
Exman, Eugene. The House of Harper: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Publishing. (Harper and Row, 1967).
Fox, Stephen. The Mirror Makers: A History of American Advertising and Its Creators. (William Morrow, 1984).
Shuler, Marjorie. "Of Books and Ads and Stepping-Stones" The Woman Citizen, 5 November 1921, p. 11, 17.
Rasmussen, R. Kent. Critical Companion to Mark Twain, Volumes I and II. (Facts on File, 2007).
"W. E. Woodward, Biographer, Dies," The New York Times, 30 September 1950, p. 12.
Woodward, Helen. The Lady Persuaders. (Ivan Oblensky, Inc., 1960).
_____. "Remarks on Book Advertising," The Publishers' Weekly, 14 February 1920, p. 494-95.
_____.Through Many Windows. (Harper and Brothers, 1926).