Category Archives: Misc. Items from the Web

“GET IT AND HOLD IT” July 3rd, 1931

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Mason City Globe Gazette (Mason City, Iowa) Jul 3, 1931


The philosophy of the man in the street is “get it and hold it,” in the belief of Benjamin de Casseres, poet and ironic philosopher, who says that after all this may be the most workable system for those to whom abstract theories are no more than the “Einstein theory to a gnat on a derby.” The article is one of a series on “what’s going on in the world today.”

(Copyright 1931, by the Associated Press.)

NEW YORK, July 3. (AP) — Philosophy — which is, literally, the love of wisdom but which is in reality the art or science of explaining the how and why of things — has never had much of a vogue in America. Today less so than ever for the American  cares very little about the how and why of things. His one question is: Will it work out?

He doesn’t philosophize on the current depression of his jobless condition or the contraction in stock values. He is not concerned, if he is a wet, how prohibition came on us. Nor will he take any steps, either personally or thru his legislative representatives, to prevent future moves of a like nature. He philosophizes thus: Here it is. Let’s dodge it if we can’t get out of it.

Philosophy In Way.

This attitude is, I suppose, a philosophy in a way — a lazy, do-nothing, good natured philosophy founded on the ineradicable and inherent optimism of the expansive soul who calls the state in which he happens to be born “God’s own country” and who believes “everything always comes out right in the end.”

That’s the philosophy, anyhow, of the man in the street. Of abstract thot he has not a glimmer. Theories of the universe, psychological problems and philosophical aphorisms and rules are no more to him than the Einstein theory to a gnat on a derby. His “wisdom” is “get it and hold it.” And I’m not sure that it isn’t the profoundest, the only and most workable system of philosophy so long as the world is peopled by practical, down-to-the-ground beings.

Boast Two Men.

In the regions of pure philosophical thot we boast of two men who have profoundly affected thot in Europe — Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James and one political philosopher whose influence has been universal, Thomas Jefferson.

Emerson and Jefferson, both advocates of extreme and aggressive individualism, and, theoretically at least, idealist — anarchists, are as dead in the country of their birth, so far as the public go, as prohibition in Hoboken. We move toward the standardization and destruction of all individual rights into pure capitalistic bolshevism, in which moloch-state becomes the absorber and keeper of all personal values.

Fits America.

William James, who gave us the philosophy of pragmatism — or what have you? — comes nearer to the ideal American philosopher, fits more neatly into the American character, than either Emerson or Jefferson.

Pragmatism is really a great and universal individual philosophy which makes the workableness — or “cash-down value,” as James calls it — of a thing the criterion of its truthfulness. He is, in a manner, the enemy of abstract thot. His antithesis is Remy de Gourmont, who said, “thots are to be thot, not acted.”

Does Not Exist.

Philosophy in the grand sense in American does not exist today. There is no love of thot for the pure gymnastic of cerebration. No one cares a hen’s molar about why anything happened or whether it will happen again.

All I can see ahead in America is Karl Marx, who was neither a philosopher nor a thinker, but a sensational utopist with a diabolical scheme for extinguishing the individual.

After all, what is wisdom? I think it is just to stand aside and watch the show. I, who am a philosopher, get a great kick out of it.

Short biography of DeC’s love “Bio”…

From “Biography of the Mack Families as Compiled by Marguerite Olds Year of 1968”, the accuracy of it has not been verified, though there are some obvious errors at least typographically):

“Adella Mary Terrill was born on May 4, 1875 at Mankato, Blue Earth Reservation, Minnesota. She received her elementary education in Mankato, and went with her sister Sadie to Pueblo, Colorado to help her stepsister Matilda Provost in running her rooming house and dining room. Here she met Harry C. Homes her first husband with whom she lived for many hears in Tonepah, Nevada. Harry Jones was both a writer and a promoter and it was on one of his business trips to New York to obtain financing for a silver mine promotion that Adella met Benjamin DeCasseres which
caused the start of many letters passing between them, and finally caused the divorce of Harry Jones and Adella. It was fourteen years that they sent love letters to each other but did now see one another. Adella was a selfish but loveable woman.

In one of her letters to her sister, she said that she had no more love now for her mother than she had when a child. Just a kindly feeling toward her. She said that
her mother had no conception of truth or of beauty of the lofty things that dwell deep with you. This letter was written in 1906. She was left alone much of the time during her marriage with Harry Jones, and she vented some of her feelings in her letters to Benjamin DeCasseres. Mr. Jones finally gave her up in 1919, when Adella received her divorce from him. She made life miserable for Harry, as she was so in love Benjamin. In one of her letters from Harry before the divorce, he spoke of being very sad, but if she really wanted a divorce he would give her permission to get it, which
she did immediately.

She married Benjamin DeCasseres, who was born on April 3, 1873 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was educated in the public schools there. He left school at the age of thirteen to work on the Philadelphia newspapers. He became a poet, and author, a columnist, and an editorial writer for the Mirror in the years between 1892 and 1899, when he went to New York to work for the New York Sun, and four years
later with the Herald. He contributed to the Cosmopolitan, Metropolitan, Life, Judge, American, Mercury, and many others. He became a noted dramatic critic and his writings appeared in Arts and Decorations and the Motion Picture Herald and
Screenland. He also was on the editorial staff from 1919 to 1923 of Famous Player, Loskey, and Universal Pictures. He died on September 7, 1945, and Adelle (Bio, the nickname that Benjamin gave her) died in 1964 in Tucson, Arizona, where had moved to at the death of her husband. Adelle willed all of her personal and household affects to the Rockton Township Historical Society to be used to the best of their advantage. As far as we know, Adelle had no children by either of her husbands.”

Nikola Tesla’s Letter to Benjamin DeCasseres

On November 11th, 1931 Nikola tesla wrote a letter in response to Benjamin DeCasseres.

“Your letter of the 7th inst. found me engaged in very pressing work otherwise I would not have been so tardy in assuring you that I shall look with pleasure to a meeting at mutual convenience. I have no knowledge of Miss Clive beyond that conveyed by her frequent letters which reflects unusual intelligence as well as erratic character. She is strangely infatuated and lives in an illusion which I have never had the heart to shatter as it seems to make her happy.”


A Fourth Dimensional Mind

A lot of DeCasseres own material is in pamphlet/booklet form. This is a small booklet that appears to be an article about DeC, with the following description as being sold from a Judaica website:

Decasseres, Benjamin) Rudens, S. P. BENJAMIN DECASSERES; A FOURTH DIMENSIONAL MIND… No Place, No Publisher (The Author?), 1928. 1st Edition (?). Paper Wrappers, Very Good Condition; 16mo; 12 pages; 22 cm. Pocket-sized reprint from the Reflex, December, 1927. Author was at the time Assistant Director of the Jewish People’s Institute in Chicago. DeCasseres was a Philadelphia-born Sephardic writer and essayist (1873-1945) (AMR-27-41) (ID #6885) $30.00.


Looking at the style of the booklet, it’s probable that DeCasseres reprinted the article himself, as it is similar in format to some of his other booklets.

Reflex” was a Jewish journal and “is, according to editorial announcement, to be dedicated to “critical opinion and the secular interest of the Jewish people.” The article appeared in Volume 1 no. 6 (1927).

Reflex was edited by Samuel Max Melamed who “took deep and active interest in Zionism, and was Chairman of the Central Zionist Committee of Chicago. Samuel wrote extensively in Hebrew, German, Yiddish, and English on problems of Jewish nationalism, sociology, and philosophy.”

This is the same S.M. Melamed (can there be more than one?) who wrote a book titled “Spinoza and Buddha: Visions of a Dead God” that DeCasseres wrote the booklet “Spinoza Agains the Rabbis” in response to. In “Against the Rabbis” DeC says:

“As this essay is an investigation of the competence or incompetence of the logician, the scholar, the research man to pass judgement on or to expound genius, I have chosen (Melamed’s book) as the best sample of such an undertaking.”

The rest of that essay is less than kind to Melamed.

Ben DeC – Actor?

It seems that Benjamin DeCasseres was on the silver screen! It also seems that it’s one of the lost films of the silent era as well… the magazine “The Fourth Estate” of November 4th, 1922, reports on DeC getting the offer to play the role of a newspaper editor in the movie “Anna Ascends”.

From Wikipedia:
Anna Ascends is a 1922 American silent romantic drama film directed by Victor Fleming, and based on the play of the same title by Henry Chapman Ford. Alice Brady reprises her starring role from the 1920 Broadway play of the same name. The film is largely lost, with only a six-minute fragment still in existence.”

The website SilentEra has a small still from the film:
AnnaAscends1922-01Could that be DeC all the way in the back by the candlesticks? It looks like his hair…

Either way, here is the article:
Fourth Estate

Gay Book

This is the first issue of Gay Book Magazine (January, 1933), a ‘sophisticated’ men’s magazine published by Narrative Publishers.  This magazine published fiction (“Hard to Please” by Brooks Sandborn; “Under the Cap and Bells” by Tiffany Thayer; “Illusion” by Jack Woodford), articles (“A Woman for President!” by Benjamin DeCasseres; “Why Do You Lie?” by Edmond Vance Cooke), and regular features on life in New York and Paris, Sports, Books, and Theater.  This issue includes two 8-page sections printing tinted b&w photos, generally of beautiful, provocatively-clad women.  The front cover art is by North Stuart; in addition to b&w illustrations by Stuart and others, there is a full-page ‘frontispiece’ illustration in full color on high grade white paper by Earle Bergey.  This copy is in remarkable condition; there is some rubbing to the covers’ edges, with a very little wear at the head and foot of the spine panel; the front cover is dented directly over the lower binding staple, and there is a pinhead-sized perforation there; the white-space on the rear cover displays some light foxing, and there is a small area of discoloration adjacent to the spine; the text pages are gently tanned, with a darker shading along the lower edges; the paper is quite supple; I’ve seen no folds, tears or writing.  This clean and flat copy of a ‘first issue’ is in very good/near fine condition, and, as such, a genuine rarity.  This magazine will be packed carefully and shipped via insured US Priority Mail.  Thanks for looking.

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Bio of Spinoza Owned by DeCasseres

Up for auction is the FIRST EDITION of a work published on the 250th anniversary of the death of the 17th century Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, entitled THE OLDEST BIOGRAPHY OF SPINOZA edited with Translation, Introduction, Annotations, Etc., by A. Wolf. Published by Lincoln MacVeagh at the Dial Press in New York in 1927. The work contains both the French and English translations of THE LIFE OF THE LATE MR. DE SPINOSA, an early 18th century work of uncertain authorship, begun just after the death of the philosopher. 196 pages. Includes photographic illustrations of the manuscript, the house in which Spinoza died, and much more. Book bound in original navy blue cloth with gilt-stamped title on spine. Book in GOOD condition, but appears to be missing frontispiece of Spinoza. A former owner has underlined some passages in pencil, and there is a bit of occasional smudging from that. Book used to belong to Benjamin de Casseres, a prolific author and journalist of the early 20th century; his signature is on the flyleaf. A solid copy. Good luck!


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Lord Dunsany inscription to DeCasseres



Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (24 July 1878 – 25 October 1957) was an Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work, mostly in fantasy, published under the name Lord Dunsany. More than eighty books of his work were published, and his oeuvre includes many hundreds of published short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays…..