Samuel Strauss, Critic of "Consumptionism"

Samuel Strauss (1870-1953), whose family had established itself in the dry-goods and millinery business in Iowa, turned instead to a career in journalism. From 1902 to 1910, he was publisher of The New York Globe. Then, for several years leading up to 1916, he was treasurer of the New York Times. In 1917, he left Manhattan with his family for Katonah, New York, a Westchester suburban "village." There, from April 1917 until June 1925, he wrote and published his own weekly periodical, named The Villager.

In the farewell issue (not included in this collection) of his idiosyncratic "gadfly" publication, Strauss noted, "In no wise did we intend this title [of the magazine] as an expression of ruralities. . . . We intended . . . to suggest a journalism which was by nature small-staffed and apart from the city. . . . It seemed reasonable to us that if a journalist cut loose and stood a little off -- mentally, not just necessarily geographically off -- he could see some facts . . . which the fellows in the midst of the play cannot see" (June 6, 1925, p. 143). Selections in Coolidge-Consumerism from The Villager for 1923-1925 present Strauss' observations on President Coolidge and the consumer economy, shopping and holidays, department stores, and Henry Ford.

From time to time, Strauss also published essays of personal reflection in The Atlantic Monthly, essays which routinely appeared, in pride of place, as the first pages of the issue. The November 1924 issue of The Atlantic Monthly carried Strauss' signature essay, "'Things Are in the Saddle.'" Following nineteenth century American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose ode he quotes, Strauss contemplates the empire of "things" and the ethics of "consumptionism" he felt had overtaken the country. He defines "consumptionism" as "the science of compelling men to use more and more things."

Strauss was of the opinion that, despite their differences, both capitalism and socialism were moving society in the same damnable direction, in a competition to see "which can ensure the distribution of the most goods to the people." (INTRO NOTE Critiques)

In 1927, The Atlantic Monthly described The Villager, two years after it ceased publication, as a "journal of personal philosophy extraordinary in the freshness of its observation." And public relations counsel Edward L. Bernays paid tribute to Strauss' influence in the Bernays Typescript on the Importance of Samuel Strauss: "1924 - Private Life".


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