Kenneth Roberts on Immigration: An Unflattering Opinion Reflected in Today’s Political Landscape

The cover of "Europe's Morning After", 1921 1st ed. Courtesy of Townsend Books.

The cover of “Europe’s Morning After”, 1921 1st ed. Courtesy of Townsend Books.

One thing I enjoy about running this site is coming across current websites and blogs that interact with Kenneth Roberts. Though Roberts is no longer in the mainstream, there still exists a loyal following of Roberts and his works. For the most part, any mention of Kenneth Roberts is favorable, particularly toward his more well-known novels. (I’ve tried to share any favorable mentions of Kenneth Roberts. I’ve recently begun a Twitter feed that posts to the Kenneth Roberts Website Facebook page where I share recent findings. I find this easier than posting them as a blog post.) However, not all mentions of Roberts are favorable. In fact, one area in which Roberts is frequently discusses is that of immigration.

Before Roberts began his work as a novelist, he worked for for The Saturday Evening Post (primarily) as a correspondent. Though Roberts penned many essays for The Post, what he is primarily remembered for is his work on immigration reform. The Post‘s audience consisted primarily of white, middle-class, conservative readers, and one area of concern among this group was the influx of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Roberts viewed these immigrants as “worthless” and a bane to society. For Roberts and those of like-mind, it was those of the Nordic race who had contributed the most to populating young America.  In an effort to influence public opinion and government policy about immigration reform, Roberts devoted several essays to the call for tighter restrictions for immigration. We can still read Roberts’ Post work on immigration in Europe’s Morning After and Why Europe Leaves Home, two collections of his Post essays.

Facsimile of the dust jacket for "Why Europe Leaves Home". Courtesy of Facsimile Dust Jackets, LLC.

Facsimile of the dust jacket for “Why Europe Leaves Home”. Courtesy of Facsimile Dust Jackets, LLC.

For those today who study the history of immigration to America, and those who study current attitudes toward and policy for immigration, Kenneth Roberts is viewed as the spokesperson of past and present fears of conservative Americans toward a more open immigration policy. In fact, Ronald Bailey in “Silly panic: The fuss over a ‘minority white’ nation” (2012) claims that Roberts’ Europe’s Morning After influenced Congress, in part, the 1924 Immigration Act “to change the national origins formula, limiting the annual number of immigrants to two percent of the number of people from any country who were already resident here based on their numbers in the 1890 Census” (Bailey, 2012). Bailey is not alone is making this claim; indeed, Roberts’ influence in writing predated his work as a novelist; it began long before as a correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post (I hope to write another post or two on other works written about Roberts and his work on immigration).

Roberts’ opinions regarding immigrants reflect a growing trend among some Americans, particularly those among Trump’s supporters. With the recent tragedies at the hands of ISIS, and President Obama’s recent attempts to address illegal immigration in America, the attitudes of the early twentieth century (as illustrated in Roberts) are alive and well nearly one hundred years later.

This image is the cover of the Post edition containing Roberts' article titled "Scraps from a Wanderer's Notebook" - a collection of thoughts from his travels in Eastern Europe. Courtesy of The Fiction Mags Index.

This image is the cover of the Post edition containing Roberts’ article titled “Scraps from a Wanderer’s Notebook” – a collection of thoughts from his travels in Eastern Europe. Courtesy of The Fiction Mags Index.

What is the purpose of this post? Why bring up this unflattering picture of Kenneth Roberts? For this post in particular, I want to open the discussion on the one area of Roberts’ work with which I do not agree. I admire Roberts’ ability to write, his wit and sarcasm, and his love and loyalty for his home state and country. However, I find his views on race objectionable. Though there are those today who hold to similar views as Roberts, the tone and tenor of our society for the most part has significantly changed such that there is greater sensitivity and understanding toward issues of race.

As such, how are we to understand Kenneth Roberts – the man and the author? Does his view on race dictate how we view his novels? Are we to respect him less as a person? These questions – among others – are ones that I’ve had to struggle with as a fan of Kenneth Roberts. For a time, I just sat on the issue, unsure of what to do. However, as we inch closer to the 2016 presidential election, the hot topic of immigration will continue to garner more and more attention. As such, more will be written on the issue or immigration (and race), with more references to Kenneth Roberts’ and his influence on early twentieth century immigration policy. I feel, then, that it’s time for us to wrestle with Roberts’ stance on race and immigration, and how it plays into his overall body of work.

I should say now that I do believe it is possible to appreciate Kenneth Roberts as a man and author in spite of his views on race and immigration. While there are various reasons for this, I think one key factor is that Roberts was a product of his time and culture. Though his views on race and immigration are (to me) objectionable, it is anachronistic to condemn him in light of today’s sensibilities and standards. This is not to justify Roberts’ views; rather, it’s saying that we can accept a person despite their flaws. For instance, I strongly disagree with Sam Harris on a number of issues; however, I appreciate his honesty, his clarity, and his desire to pursue truth. I respect Harris as a person while simultaneously object to a number of his views. In this light, I believe we can approach Roberts in the same way. (I think it is fair to say that we approach nearly everyone we know in this manner. It’s rare to agree with someone in every single area. There are those with whom you agree with more than others, but on some level we respect others for who they are in spite of certain areas of disagreement. There is a question, though: at what point do you disassociate from someone due to their views? This question, I believe, goes well beyond the scope of this website for it is philosophical and theological in nature. But, in light of the topic of this post, it is one we must all reflect upon and come to a conclusion consistent with one’s worldview.)


Kenneth Roberts in the Saturday Evening Post: “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes” – Part III

Kenneth Roberts’ “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes” (Saturday Evening Post 208:52, 6/27/36) is a fun read (Roberts’ classic humor is on full display) and an insightful look into Roberts’ tastes and personality. Admittedly, however, the article comes across as a random diatribe against sophisticated girls. Why would Roberts write such an article, and the Post feature the title and Roberts’ name prominently on the issues’ cover? Without any knowledge of the purpose behind Roberts’ article, one can easily dismiss “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes” as typical Roberts cantankerousness. The featured opinion piece is nothing more than an old, well-to-do author complaining about one aspect of the changing times. And to be fair, such an assessment would be accurate if there was no insight into the why behind Roberts’ penning a piece on sophisticated ladies.

Thankfully, page 104 of the 6/27/1936 issue of Saturday Evening Post provides readers with the very purpose why Roberts enlightened Post readers about the true meaning of sophistication. In an issue of the Saturday Evening Post prior to 6/27/36, an anonymous writer penned an article titled “Why I Like Men With Money.” The article drew the ire of many readers, resulting in “several hundred” letters to the editor complaining about Ms. Anonymous’ article (“Keeping Posted,” Saturday Evening Post 208: 52, 6/27/36, p. 104). One reader from Huntington, NY wrote: “The author of the article I Like Men With Money knew what she was doing when she did not sign her name…Who does she think she is, anyway–Queen Marie?” (104).

The Post responded to the reader’s letter, claiming that many were in agreement with him; the editors just thought it would be good for Post readers to meet one of the people as described in the article. They closed their letter by promising an article from the other side of the picture in an article to be titled as “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes.” Because of the reference to Queen Marie (I’m not familiar with this reference), the Post wrote Ms. Anonymous in an effort to clear up supposedly derogatory reference. Eventually, the comment from the reader from Huntington, NY drew the author of the contentious article from the shroud of anonymity into the hot spotlight of criticism. She sent a tersely worded wire to the Post granting her permission for the Post to reveal her name, refusing to be said of her that she was a “sissy” and signed her name to the wire as Alice-Leone Moats (104). (The writer of “Keeping Posted,” after quoting the wire in full, adds – as an indication of Ms. Moats’ character – that the “wire was sent collect” (104).

The stakes raised, the editors of the Post sought to assign an author to the future article “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes.”  Their guidelines for such an author were that the article had to be “written by (1) a man (2) a man who has been around (3) a man who carries his silver in a change purse. Adding (1), (2), and (3) gave us (6), or Kenneth Roberts” (104). (Great humor in this one statement). Thus, it was “into the middle of this situation, redolent with recrimination, defiance and invitations to torture, we lured the innocent Mr. Roberts” (104). After obtaining Roberts’ services, the editors were satisfied…to a point. Closing the piece, the writer dreams of a meeting between Moats and Roberts…a meeting in “New York. A little dinner, a show—” (104).

Kenneth Roberts in the Saturday Evening Post: “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes” – Part II

IMG_1804[1]Anyone familiar with Kenneth Roberts knows the reputation he had of being a crotchety man. In the forward to The Kenneth Roberts Reader, Ben Ames Williams recollects stories that highlight Roberts’ curmudgeony personality. If one were to think, however, that Roberts’ contemporaries misunderstood him or were perhaps a bit too sensitive, Roberts sets the record straight in the opening sentence of his June 27, 1936 article in the Saturday Evening Post titled “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes.”  With a penchant for getting straight to the point, Roberts begins by stating “As I grow older and more crotchety, I find myself becoming more and more intolerant of persons impossible of thinking straight, talking sensibly or behaving normally” (10). And with that opening salvo, Roberts provides his readers with a torrent of rapid-fire complaints about the day in which he lived.

Roberts’ dislikes ranges from over-paid actresses and under-paid authors to double-speaking politicians; from a public who idealized the founding fathers of America to “society columns which tend to glorify  the activities of young gentlemen and young ladies whose greatest contribution to the welfare of mankind seems to be a mild interest in motoring, cocktail drinking and divorce” (10).  Roberts’ dislikes include novices who view themselves as better writers than those of classical literature, and people who ignorantly champion a political ideal.

Yet, in 1936, nothing matched Roberts’ growing dislike of “the appearance and ideas of the annoyed-looking girls who sit behind the steering wheels of automobiles during the summer months and drive around the country with a contemptuous and careless air” (10). These girls, as Roberts understands it, portray an air of “sophistication,” and it is the desire for sophistication that “is at the bottom of much of the imbecility that is apparently permeating the United States of America and other nations with such rapidity” (10).

Roberts’ Encounter with Sophisticated Girls

"A group of sophisticated young things undertook to enlighten me." Saturday Evening Post 208:52 (6/27/36), p. 10.

“A group of sophisticated young things undertook to enlighten me.” Saturday Evening Post 208:52 (6/27/36), p. 10.

To illustrate his growing annoyance with sophisticated girls, Roberts recounts a visit he had with twelve sorority girls at a Mid-Western college in America. These ladies considered themselves “more sophisticated…and superior to” the undergraduates of surrounding colleges, and during this visit, they sought to enlighten Roberts about what it meant to be sophisticated.

Through his wit and sarcasm, Kenneth Roberts portrays his conversation with the sorority girls as a microcosm of the culture at large. Each girl prided themselves on being the “mental cream of the university,” with one being well-read in the New York Times, with another who mastered golf such that “she had achieved something which eludes many male mental giants–she played regularly in the low eighties” (10). Another sorority sister was an able poet, while another “held the undergraduate dating championship,” having had no less than four dates a day during her senior year (10).

When asked to define “sophistication,” the university’s cream of the crop provided rather empty, flimsy answers. For one, sophistication meant being well-dressed; that is, a sophisticated girl wears “gloves and a hat to classes, and carry a handbag. She must wear spectator sport clothes to football games in the autumn and active sport clothes in the spring” (10).

The poet defined sophistication as having the right social contacts. Yet, to obtain such contacts, one must dress and act in a sophisticated manner (11).

Baffled by what he had heard up, Roberts hypothesizes that the girls’ use of the word “sophisticated” and his own use of that same word were different. To help him understand what they meant by “sophisticated,” Roberts asked that they explain what they meant by “sophisticated men” (11).  The answers given were just as empty. A sophisticated man was one had “been places and done things” (11); one who knew “how to speak to a waiter so the waiter doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable” and “order a dinner without making you feel embarrassed” (11); he is one who is “seen everywhere” and is known by everyone, is mature, and is well-dressed (11). Further, a sophisticated man is one who can hold his liquor well.

One “fluffy blonde” stated that a sophisticated man was an “exhibitionist”; that is, one who didn’ t play chess or weird “things like that” (11). Finally, according to the poet, a sophisticated man “knows what to do and when to do it” (11).

The Real Definition of Sophistication

For Roberts, he didn’t have the heart to tell them what sophistication really meant. Citing the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, Roberts informs his readers that “sophistication” (and the verb “to sophisticate”) has five meanings, which include ideas such as fallacy, sophistry, to mislead, “to deprive of simplicity,” and to deceive (11). Based upon this more substantive definition, Roberts concludes that when the young sorority girls he met with–and all others like them–talk about sophisticated men, they are actually referring to “young men who mislead; who are specious–who are in a word, bogus” (11). To admire something that is sophisticated is to admire something that is not genuine and not worth having (11).

The Object of Roberts’ Ire

"The sophisticated admirer of rich men explained her system of winning over a reluctant male to her taste in foods and wine" Saturday Evening Post 208:52 (6/27/36), p. 11

“The sophisticated admirer of rich men explained her system of winning over a reluctant male to her taste in foods and wine” Saturday Evening Post 208:52 (6/27/36), p. 11

The remainder of Roberts’ article is a response to an article written by a young, sophisticated lady (more on this in another post) who boldly claimed that she was interested only in men who had “the assurance, ease and arrogance that only money can give” (11).  Roberts’ questions such qualities, for it defines a “pretty poor specimen” (11).

Further, the young lady characterized the sophisticated man as one who was desired by other women, and one who “dares to break an engagement at the last moment if he is offered an opportunity to participate in something more interesting” (84). For Roberts, such characteristics fail to describe successful men, for they have not the time to be paraded around to be admired by other women, and they would not be successful if they made the habit of breaking commitments (84).

Much more can be said about Roberts summary of this young lady’s admiration of men with money–their affinity for first-class entertainment and an aversion to anything less; their knowledge of the finest wines–yet to do so would make an already long post longer.   He mentions, though, that her “philosophy of life” failed to “mention anything as stupid as books” (84 – classic Roberts’ sarcasm!). However, if she were to pine about books as she did food, wines, dress and money, Roberts was sure that she would prefer the “moment’s best seller to a cheap edition of one of Jane Austen’s novels” (84).

Sherry: A Case Study

According to Roberts, what the young sorority girls and the sophisticated author aimed for – a knowledge of the finer things of life – could not be attained by reading the latest social columns or best-sellers. Rather, it takes a lifetime to be an expert in something.

Roberts illustrates his point by sharing about his fondness of sherry. Yet, for a time, the amount of sherry he drank would not qualify him as an expert in the drink. This was driven home by a visit he made to a sherry-exporting firm in Spain. Here he was shown how sherry was made, stored, drawn, and packaged. The sampling room exposed Roberts to numerous kinds of sherry, whose consistency, color, and flavor varied based upon how they were made and how long they were stored (among other factors).

Despite everything he learned in his visit, Roberts acknowledges that he still lacks the extensive knowledge about sherry that would make him an expert. In fact, he confesses: “I still know very little about sherry” (86).

The sophisticated young girls of his day pretended to have extensive knowledge about wines, current events, etc. That which they portray (and I’m sure Roberts would say this of “sophisticated” men) is only a facade; they are misled into thinking they know more than they really do. For Roberts, he “can’t get along with girls whose tastes aren’t simple – chiefly because [he has] found their beliefs so irritatingly dishonest” (87).  He concludes

The reasoning of the ladies who like men with money is too intricate, too irritating, for me. I prefer girls who think more accurately; who are sufficiently unspoiled to understand the beauty and good taste of simplicity” (87).

***Updated 7/12/14 1:30 am – Corrected “Ben Ames” to “Ben Ames Williams”

Kenneth Roberts in the Saturday Evening Post: “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes”


“The Saturday Evening Post,” June 27, 1936 edition.


Finding a Kenneth Roberts book presents a challenge for his fans in the 21st century. Though some publishers have published reprints of his more well-known works (Northwest Passage and Arundel, for instance), the bulk of Roberts’ published works can be found only on dusty bookshelves of antique stores, used bookstores, or flea markets. Even then, one mostly finds a greater number of reader club editions or reprints as opposed to first editions or copies of his lesser-known works (Trending Into Maine; Florida Loafing; Good Maine Food, etc.). Thus, the hunt for Kenneth Roberts’ books is either frustrating (good finds are few and far between) or rewarding (an unexpected find or a successful buy after a long hunt).

I experienced an exhilarating find a couple of days ago while on vacation in my hometown in the great state of Louisiana. My wife and I were in the antique district of town (while my parents watch our girls, giving my wife and I the freedom to take our time!) when I visited a shop known for carrying copies of The Saturday Evening Post. Before I continue, allow me to make a brief aside here…in addition to finding first editions or rare copies of Roberts’ books, finding any copies of The Saturday Evening Post can be difficult. Roberts wrote quite a bit for the Post, but my searches have found that most shops carry old copies of Life, but very little by way of the Post.  Another annoyance. I digress.

As I searched through the collection of Saturday Evening Post copies – all from 1936 – I stumbled across an issue from June 27, 1936 (pictured). Lo and behold, Kenneth Roberts’ piece was the featured article. To make my day even better, the store owner had a 50% sale on all Post issues. I excitedly rummaged through the remaining issues hoping to find more featuring Roberts, but had only found the one (one unfortunate reason for this is that the store owner had every issue individually sealed in a plastic cover, so I could not look through each issue to see if any of them contained smaller works by Roberts). Nevertheless, I was very excited for this most excellent find!

Roberts’ featured piece is titled “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes.” Now, I don’t consider myself an expert of Kenneth Roberts, but in all the years that I’ve been searching for anything Roberts and all the reading that I’ve done on him, I never recall coming across this particular title. So, in addition to finding a Saturday Evening Post containing a piece from Roberts, I also found something that I had never read of Roberts! Double win!

Roberts’ “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes” is a reaction piece to the “sophisticated” girls of the 1930s – pretentious, “high-maintenance” women. Written in classic-Roberts style, Roberts questions whether these particular women even truly know what “sophistication” is, painting them in an unfavorable light. Roberts’ personality is on full display in this piece as he leaves no one in doubt of his opinions and preferences.

Before one can write of “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes” as “typical Roberts cantankerousness,” the June 27, 1936 issue of the Post provides on the very last page an explanation behind the purpose for Roberts’ piece. One discovers that Roberts did not just decide to write his piece merely to voice his complaints; rather, he wrote in response to a piece by a “sophisticated” woman in a previous Post issue.

So, what will follow in the next few days is a summary of Roberts’ “I Like Girls With Simple Tastes,” followed by a post providing the reasons behind this piece. Stay posted!

Kenneth Roberts in Current News: “Locke’s Mills” in The Bethel Citizen

Bethel, Maine

Bethel, Maine

Today’s “Kenneth Roberts in Current News” comes from The Bethel Citizen and a piece titled “Locke’s Mills” by Betsey Foster in which, it appears, Ms. Foster provides tidbits of news from the surrounding area.  In today’s piece, Ms. Foster makes mention of Kenneth Roberts.  What I found interesting about Ms. Foster’s piece is that Kenneth Roberts would visit a local farm of a friend to do some of his writing for the Post.

Kenneth Roberts, author of the novels “Arundel,” “Rabble in Arms,” “Northwest Passage” and more, came to an old farm in Ketchum to write his columns for The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. As the story goes, Roberts’ friends, who owned the farm, would drag him up here from Kennebunk, Maine, for a “sobering” few days so he could get the article written.

I find such tidbits of information fascinating, as it gives us a glimpse into the goings on of Kenneth Roberts – stuff you won’t find in scholarly works or biographical works.

Kenneth Roberts in Scholarly Work

To continue my excitement from last night, in addition to finding the book on dowsing in which the author spent an entire chapter on Kenneth Roberts and Henry Gross, I also came across a scholarly article written by Sylvia Whitman titled “The West of a Down Easterner: Kenneth Roberts and The Saturday Evening Post, 1924-1928” from The Journal of the West.  This find has opened up yet another vein of study of Kenneth Roberts – particularly Kenneth Roberts the man.  Though I’ll be saving my critique of Ms. Whitman’s article for a future post, I want to point out how well-written and well-researched her article is; the footnotes alone will give me plenty of material to write on in future posts.

The point of this post is to point out the fact that there is scholarly work done on Kenneth Roberts, and it’s there for the picking.  I don’t know how easy it will be to access some of these works (some works are dissertations and/or theses), but I am going to do my best to get my hands on these works!

In regards to Ms. Whitman, her article I mentioned above appeared in 1992.  She has a rather extensive CV, and has recently written a new novel.  What I find interesting about her in regards to this website is that, according to the short bio at the end of  “The West of a Down Easterner,” 1) her grandfather was Robert Choate – a good friend of Roberts, and 2) Ms. Whitman wrote her Master’s thesis on Kenneth Roberts and the Saturday Evening Post.   Most Kenneth Roberts’ fans (including myself) are mostly familiar with his historical-fiction novels; Ms. Whitma’s works, and those of others, help to provide a more complete picture of Kenneth Roberts the man.  I truly look forward to reading more from Ms. Whitman.

In the meantime, I want to provide a short bibliography of scholarly work done on Roberts – works of Ms. Whitman herself and those she references in her article (in no particular order or style; this is rather informal).  I do plan on doing a more formal bibliography soon.

Whitman, S. S. (1992). The west of a down easterner: Kenneth Roberts and The Saturday Evening Post, 1924-1928. Journal Of The West, 31(1), 88-97.

Hoffman, G. F. (1979). Ethnic prejudice and racial ideology in the immigration articles of kenneth L. roberts. Michigan State University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 95-95 p. Retrieved from (302937060).

Jeffery, Benjamin Miles, “The Saturday Evening Post Short Story in the Nineteen-Twenties,” diss., University of Texas, 1966 (footnote 8 in Ms. Whitman’s article).

Kitch, John Ira, “From History to Fiction: Kenneth Roberts As an Historical Novelist,” diss., University of Illinois, Urbana, 1965 (footnote 12 in Ms. Whitman’s article).

Cary, Richard, “Roberts and Lorimer: The First Decade,” Colby Library Quarterly, 6(Sept. 1962).


A Blast From the Past: Milwaukee Journal on “Lydia Bailey”

I continue to enjoy perusing Google’s news archives, and today I want to share with you a book review of Lydia Bailey by H. Russell Austin in the January 5, 1947 edition of the Milwaukee Journal.  Though Roberts is virtually unknown today, there were several decades in the early- to mid-20th century in which his works were eagerly read and anticipated.  Like any great author, not all of his works received the acclaim of reviewers, which is the case of Lydia Bailey in the Milwaukee Journal.

Austin opens up his review with a glowing compliment of Roberts’ status as a writer: “This perplexing book [Lydia Bailey] – the fruit of six years’ research and writing by one of our best historical novelists.”  Yet, despite this, Austin’s praise of Roberts, he says of Lydia Bailey: “It would be pleasant to add to this list of distinctions that ‘Lydia Bailey’ is one of Roberts’ best works and a great novel – but that would not be true.”

Austin supports his claim regarding Lydia Bailey by pointing out what he feels is the “central defect” – “in straining at the gnats of historical detail, [Roberts] has swallowed many camels, absurdities of plot and inconsistencies of character.”    He questions the believability of Albion Hamlin’s falling in love with Lydia Bailey just by seeing her portrait in someone’s home in Boston; what makes this scenario more unlikely is that Bailey is believed to be dead at the time Hamlin sees her portrait.  Austin points out other questionable aspects of Lydia Bailey: Hamlin’s bitterness toward his fiancee; Hamlin’s lobbying in Washington even though he’d previously been thrown in prison for contempt of court; and Bailey’s and Hamlin’s ability to command a brig on the Mediterranean despite their seemingly lack of experience.  He closes this section with “The list of lesser improbabilities is of wearying length.”

Despite Austin’s perceived weaknesses of Lydia Bailey, he points out the value of the novel – its detail on Toussaint L’Ouverture, the voodoo practices in Haiti and the farming techniques in Tripoli, and other historical nuggets.  Lastly, Austin closes with “You will also absorb some of Mr. Roberts’ excellent moral preaching on racial tolerance, national integrity, and the evil of consistency – a vice from which the author of this book seems marvelously free.”

[I find this last quote quite interesting considering Roberts’ quote in 1931  in the Post about Mexican immigrants. See my post on this issue.]

Unfortunately, I must agree with Austin’s assessment of Lydia Bailey; of his works, this is my least favorite of Roberts’ novels.  I feel that the romance aspect of the novel is rather far-fetched and strained, which unfortunately overshadows the otherwise excellent historical aspect of the novel.  Yet, no one ever bats .1000, even the great ones.

Kenneth Roberts: A Blast From the Past – St. Petersburg Times

Google News Archive is a treasure trove of old newspaper articles on Kenneth Roberts.  I found an interesting article from the St. Petersburg (FL) Times dated October 21, 1925.  At this time of Roberts’ career, he was a known writer for the Saturday Evening Post at this time, but had not as of yet made his name known for his historical fiction (Arundel was first published in 1929).

In an article titled “Kenneth Roberts Gathers Facts and Figures While Touring State for Post,” the Times presents a short blurb on Roberts’ stay in St. Petersburg.  Apparently, the town was excited that a Post writer would visit their town on a fact-gathering trip.  Unfortunately, Roberts provided little in terms of quotes or information for the paper.  The Times opens the article with:

A strong desire not to talk and an equally strong desire to find out as much about St. Petersburg and Florida in general as possible characterized the attitude of Kenneth L. Roberts, staff writer for the Saturday Evening Post, who left St. Petersburg Monday afternoon after a brief visit to the Sunshine City.

Roberts had little to say to the Times about his visit:

Mr. Roberts had little to say with regard to his impressions of the state and the Sunshine City.  Instead he seemed pointedly intent upon gathering as much information as possible from every source, with regard to living expenses in the state, hotel rates and prices of everything.

Apparently, Roberts had little to say to the Times.  I think these two paragraphs illustrate well the temperament of Kenneth Roberts – he was a man who, when working, did not want to be distracted with frivolities and other distractions.

One must admire the tenacity of the reporter, for the article goes on to mention the type of information Roberts was after while in St. Petersburg.  The reporter’s source? Mr. Dennis, the manager of the Princess Martha hotel.  Mr. Dennis divulges the vital information Roberts was after (information that “Mr. Roberts appeared eager to grasp”): the price of milk, eggs, beef and sugar.

Either the Times hit a slow news day, or they were eager to get anything on the visit of a well-known Post writer.  The article ends with a note of excitement:

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts left the hotel for Sarasota Monday afternoon with the expressed intention of returning to St. Petersburg within a short time during their travels through the state, and Mr. Robert’s investigation of the “Florida situation.”

Did You Know: K.R. the Playright

Did you know that Kenneth Roberts co-authored a play titled “The Brotherhood of Man: A One Act Drama?”    According to Jack Bales, biographer of Kenneth Roberts, the play first appeared “in the Saturday Evening Post for August 30, 1919.”  He co-authored the play with Robert Garland, a fellow army comrade.  The play was republished by Samuel French, Inc. in 1934 (information provided by Jack Bales).

Kenneth Roberts on Mexicans – An Unflattering View of K.R. the Man

I came across a blog today (Making History Podcast: The Blog) that referenced Kenneth Roberts and his Post days in a post that seeks to show that “xenophobic and racist tirade[s]” against Mexicans is not a new issue (the reason for this post is Jay Severin – a shockjock – (never heard of him) and his recent dismissal from a radio show for his comments on Mexicans.  The author(s) of this post reference a quote made by Roberts in one of his articles for the Post:

And here is what Saturday Evening Post columnist Kenneth Roberts said, not last week but in 1931: “They are the criminal Mexicans, worthless in labor and always a social problem. They are also chronic beggars and sizzling with disease. This class should never pass the immigration officers on the border.”

They conclude their reference to K.R. with: “We are now, just as then, in the throes of an economic crisis where anxieties become attacks and the targets prove to be the nation’s most vulnerable populations.”

Roberts’ comment aside, I don’t think the analogy between Severin’s comment and Roberts’ comment is that relevant of an analogy.  The link the authors see is that Severin made his comment in a time of dire economic straits, a growing Hispanic population in America and during the middle of an outbreak of a Mexico-born virus.   The authors seem to pick Roberts’ comments in part because of the time he wrote it – 1931, the year the Great Depression began (but was the quote written before or after Black Friday?  They do not say, nor do they reference what edition of the Post in which the quote appears).  The authors do not, however, make any other connection to Severins’ comment and context.  Despite similar vitriol in the two quotes, Roberts’ comment is not necessarily a result of the economic crisis of his time, for it could be just a prejudiced comment made by a very opinionated man – a comment that would have been made no matter what state the economy was in.  Roberts just happens to express a similar view to that of Severin, which is more than likely just coincidental.

Nonetheless, this quote gives a rather unflattering glimpse of Kenneth Roberts – a man known for his being very opinionated.

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