Access the full text.
Sign up today, get DeepDyve free for 14 days.
“How Would You Like to Go to Africa?” beckoned a headline in Boys’ Life, the official Boy Scouts of America magazine, in March of 1928.1 George Palmer Putnam, a noted New York publisher and publicist, Honorary Scout, and sometime explorer, was looking for new authors for his “Boys’ Books by Boys” series, in which young adventurers wrote accounts of their travels for juvenile audiences. After sorting through some two hundred applications, a selection committee made up of Putnam, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and Chief Scout Executive James E. West had found their young men.2 That summer, three talented Eagle Scouts—Robert Dick Douglas Jr., David R. Martin Jr., and Douglas Oliver—would accompany celebrity explorers Martin and Osa Johnson on safari in Kenya and British-administered Tanganyika, and in October the boys appeared as the authors of Three Boy Scouts in Africa.3 The book was a roaring success, selling around 125,000 copies in less than a year.4 It even had a special school edition, as well as translations into French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish, Czech, and Hungarian. Putnam stood at the helm of a commercial sensation—and it was hardly his first. A masterful media operator, he was fascinated by the exciting business of expeditions. He was born to a prominent New York publishing family in 1887, and after “Harvard had endured [him] for a time,” he went west for more education and adventure.5 He worked in Oregon, served in the military, and after the First World War ventured back to New York to take up the family business. Putnam’s focus was exploration and adventure books, and he scored a coup in 1927 by securing Charles Lindbergh’s “We,” which sold some 650,000 copies.6 He also led his own expeditions to the Arctic, and, in 1928, looking for “a girl to fly the Atlantic,” he found Amelia Earhart, whom he would later marry.7 The Boys’ Books by Boys series began in 1925 with a book by Putnam’s own son, and over the next decade it would grow to over twenty youth-authored titles. Its premise was deceptively simple: the publisher would arrange for a charismatic young traveler to make an interesting voyage—safely overseen by adults—and write it up for juvenile readers. Several were bestsellers, and most were accompanied by extensive promotion in the form of lectures, autograph sessions, and puff pieces in newspapers and magazines such as Boys’ Life. Though they likely had some editorial treatment, the books were sufficiently inconsistent and unpolished to suggest that the young explorers, ranging in age from about ten to twenty-one, were the primary authors—though some scholars have suspected ghostwriters.8 One of the Three Boy Scouts in Africa defended his authorship, writing in his memoir, “I have looked at my diary and compared it with our book, and I honestly do not believe that any substantial rewriting took place.”9 The true dynamics of collaboration and interplay between authors and editors may be impossible to reconstruct fully, but audiences delighted in the idea of young Americans venturing into the wider world. This essay analyzes the content and context of the Boys’ Books by Boys series—with particular attention to major expeditions outside the United States’ borders—in order to elucidate the relationship between young people, exploration, and the popular press in interwar America. David Goes Voyaging (1925), documenting David Binney Putnam’s trip with the famous naturalist William Beebe, was the first book in the series, and the young author followed up with David Goes to Greenland (1926) and David Goes to Baffin Land (1927), recounting expeditions that his publisher father led himself.10 These initial texts solidified George Palmer Putnam’s confidence in the series’ salability among American youth and beyond; David Goes to Greenland, for example, was soon available in German, Dutch, Afrikaans, and Danish, and later Icelandic and Lithuanian. The expeditions also helped propel the publisher to the prestigious office of Honorary Scout, granted to “those men who were exploring in this generation the few strongholds of the world still left unscouted,” and who were able to “capture the imagination of boys and stimulate their enthusiasm for the outdoor program of the Boy Scouts of America.”11 Putnam also ensured that Scouting would become a recurring presence in his series, targeting a market of some 625,000 registered boys, as well as many more former Scouts and approving Scout leaders.12 As the Johnsons’ young guests were collecting material for Three Boys Scouts in Africa, another call for Boy Scout explorers appeared in Boys’ Life, this time recruiting an older boy to accompany famed aviator and Honorary Scout Richard E. Byrd on an Antarctic expedition of nearly two years, in which Byrd was to fly across the South Pole.13 The winning candidate, nineteen-year-old Eagle Scout and Sea Scout Paul Siple, was an instant celebrity. Fifteen thousand copies of his book, A Boy Scout with Byrd (1931), sold out in weeks, and the text eventually appeared in at least eight printings and five languages.14 Putnam even experimented with a pair of books by Girl Scouts, though they received only a fraction of the publicity of the other Boys’ Books by Boys.15 The first two sections of this article situate the Boys’ Books by Boys in the larger historiography of American imperialism, race, and youth, arguing that the books exemplified a new, transnational, and territorially flexible frontier mythology for the interwar American imagination. In places such as eastern Africa, territorial gains were beside the point, and Americans instead achieved symbolic conquest through science, technology, and know-how. Boys were also central sites in which Americans could imagine and nurture their national future, and the Boys’ Books by Boys demonstrate that this future included seeing the world as an American play space. In what I term “ludic imperialism,” the authors and their promoters cultivated physical strength and ability that could offset concerns about degeneracy and shore up national and racial identity and pride, while the country they represented could exercise an innocent, inoffensive, and indeed global presence and authority. The new frontiers of interwar exploration were meant to be healthy, exciting, and eminently marketable, and the final section of this article considers who was served by this popular recreational enactment of American authority. In books, newspapers, photographs, and commercial motion pictures, the young adventurers were presented as models of a capable and confident American citizenship that was democratic and accessible to all boys—at least, all white boys. But for Putnam, “modern exploring” was both “the greatest fun in the world” and “largely a matter of business.”16 Priced at $1.75, these bestsellers were hardly cheap, and this profitable vision of national ability, power, and play was financed by an elite circle of the nation’s richest and most culturally influential men, including publishers, intellectuals, and industrialists. These expeditions offered a new iteration of an older tradition of imperial power and expansion: working in a transnational and largely extra-governmental capacity, the boys and their sponsors substituted formal conquest and territorial gains with exclusive play and lucrative publicity. The business of expansion and development that had supposedly defined the westward frontier was replaced by the business of consumption and entertainment. The mythology remained available to all, but the Boys’ Books by Boys and their ludic empire were fundamentally sites for the coalescence and exercise of domestic and capitalist power, sociability, and influence, a project that had room for only select young leaders. Young People in the World Though the United States has often—though not uniformly—been characterized as “isolationist” in the 1920s and 1930s, the country remained economically, culturally, and intellectually engaged with the world, and exploration was big business in the interwar period.17 Putnam stood out in front with offerings such as William Beebe’s The Arcturus Adventure (1926), Martin Johnson’s Lion: African Adventure with the King of Beasts (1929), and Richard Byrd’s Little America: Aerial Exploration in the Antarctic, the Flight to the South Pole (1930). The period also witnessed a flurry of juvenile travel writers, including Kennett Rawson, the Abbe siblings, Judy Acheson, and Romer Grey, and by arranging for a “boy's-eye view” of various high-profile expeditions, Putnam opened another avenue for his company’s business.18 He could also satisfy teachers and librarians with the promise of educational content beyond the exploits of Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys. The children’s market was so lucrative that Putnam even published juvenile biographies of Johnson, Byrd, and sea captain Bob Bartlett, authored by one of his most dependable writers, Fitzhugh Green.19 Whether as junior adventurers and authors, objects of adult idealism, or simply fans, young people were thoroughly implicated in America’s pursuit of the world. Scholars are also increasingly interested in how young Americans and their organizations operated in and perceived the larger world in the twentieth century.20 A number of studies have focused on children in the postwar period, tracing their political value as peacemakers and malleable subjects, as well as their occasional tendency to go off-script.21 The Boys’ Books by Boys, which modeled energetic and responsible masculinity for young readers, echo the issue of malleable subjects. They also recall the role of institutions such as boarding schools in training privileged young men in ideals of physical fitness, public service, and heroism in the opening decades of the twentieth century, which proved foundational for Cold War foreign policy, as documented by Robert Dean.22 Several of Putnam’s juvenile authors went to such institutions: junior mountaineer Bradford Washburn attended Groton, while David Binney Putnam was a student at Hotchkiss, both elite schools in New England. The Boy Scouts, a kind of mass-market venue for similar values, have also drawn the attention of historians of international relations. Mischa Honeck, for example, has proposed the term “boyification” to describe the Anglo-American Boy Scouts’ intergenerational dialectic, which allowed imperialist men to recapture the innocence and promise of youth even as they expanded their reach and asserted their supremacy with new colonial Scout troops and hierarchic jamborees.23 Honeck, importantly, draws on Bradley Deane’s work on British literature and culture to describe a new “imperial play ethic” that allowed Scouting’s masculine games of self-fashioning to cloak the power of dominance.24 “Imperialism” is also open to new applications as a category of analysis, a heuristic for understanding “ways of seeing” and internalized assumptions about human difference, “physical and cultural essence,” and “construction of the feminine and masculine.” Paul Kramer helpfully defines the imperial as “a dimension of power in which asymmetries in the scale of political action, regimes of spatial ordering, and modes of exceptionalizing difference enable and produce relations of hierarchy, discipline, dispassion, extraction, and exploitation.”25 Children in particular had a substantial role to play in these processes. As consumers of books, articles, and films about the world, they were “agents of empire” in the early twentieth century, engrossed in the transnational business, science, and popular culture that complemented and competed with the United States’ more official expansionary and diplomatic exertions.26 As the Boys’ Books by Boys uniquely demonstrate, boys were also travelers and authors, re-producing and reinforcing these imperial ways of seeing. Indeed, unlike the youth movements documented by other scholars, this series and its authors showed only passing interest in diplomacy or international cooperation; The Scout Jamboree Book (1930), authored by fifteen American Scouts, is the chief exception. The boys more often assumed what might be called an imperial attitude, characterized—to use Kramer’s categories—by their participation in ordering, their sense of racial and cultural hierarchy, and their easy exploitation of the world in pursuit of excitement, entertainment, and education. If Honeck’s Boy Scouts were enmeshed in empire, then the authors of the Boys’ Books by Boys could occupy a somewhat different cultural space. While possessed of imperial rights, they showed little interest in taking on any complicated imperial wrongs. They rarely tried to civilize others, possess landscapes, or found new Scout troops to press the edges of civilization. Instead, their ludic brand of imperialism treated geography and difference as things to be enjoyed, resources to gratify the United States’ recreational pleasures, assure its racial superiority, and feed its insatiable appetite for profit. In embarking on these adventures, and in selling them to audiences back home and beyond, they taught young readers that the world was a place for their country’s thrilling knowledge-making, entertaining escapades, and commercialized reading fun. Whether in the American West—as in books about the Oregon Trail or National Parks such as Mesa Verde—or further afield, the Boys’ Books by Boys’ brand of ludic imperialism was also a unique interwar version of the American obsession with the frontier, which showed few signs of fading even over thirty years after the Census Office reported that the nation’s unsettled area had “been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line.”27 This comment had been the starting point for historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous 1893 meditation on the frontier’s significance in American history.28 The successive frontiers of westward expansion, he argued, were forges for national character and democracy, from which men continually re-emerged as rugged, pragmatic, and individualist Americans. In the depressed and tumultuous 1890s, Turner’s thesis appealed to familiar icons and ideals of American citizenship, and was shot through with nostalgia.29 The fact of the frontier was already being replaced by its mythology, as Americans went looking for new spaces to perform this ideal of regeneration, to escape overcivilization and reclaim masculine strength. Indeed, not unlike Turner’s conception of the frontier, psychologist G. Stanley Hall’s popular early twentieth-century theory of recapitulation argued that children moved through evolutionary stages before finally reaching their (white) race’s birthright of civilized adulthood; “the child and the race are each keys to the other,” he wrote.30 Organizations like the YMCA and the Playground Association of America used supervised recreation and play to help boys express their instincts and facilitate movement to white masculine adulthood, while the Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, offered a site for the safe and accessible performance of both pioneer virtues and more modern values.31 All aimed to provide a foundation for the nation’s future and deter boys from the delinquency and truancy that constituted the period’s all-consuming “boy problem.” Though the nuances of Hall’s theory would fade, the value of play as a key aspect of white masculine energy and a tonic against racial degeneracy continued into the 1920s and 1930s; even adults might indulge in a little boyish fun to help combat disorienting changes in the industrial economy, women’s growing participation in civic life, surging immigration, and Harlem’s worrying renaissance.32 Hall’s ideas were hardly isolated to adolescent development; as Robert Vitalis has shown, his racial theories contributed to the nascent field of international relations.33 With their playful, yet uniformly white, clean-cut, and reliable authors, the Boys’ Books by Boys were emblems for a kind of shoring-up of American racial and cultural superiority against the threatening world described by bestselling authors like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard. Putnam knew Grant through his work on several committees of the New York Zoological Society, of which Grant was president. Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (1916), the “Ur-text of modern American nativism,” emphasized the domineering and individualistic “Nordic” race’s contributions to American achievement, and Grant also wrote the introduction to his protégé Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1921).34 Stoddard argued that the strapping Nordic race, so essential for the country’s frontier achievements, suffered particularly in the absence of “good food, fresh air, and exercise.”35 He also pressed for eugenics and immigration control to counteract “racial impoverishment,” and, after the 1924 Immigration Act, called for the protection of a white American identity and a sharp color line.36 Bolstered by such panegyrics to the American race’s past triumphs, the idea of the frontier—though not unchallenged—remained in intellectual and popular vogue into the 1920s and 1930s, offering a possible antidote both to the excesses of the 1920s and the Depression of the 1930s.37 In a speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America in 1930, President Herbert Hoover identified the American boy as both “primitive animal” and “the hope of our Nation.” He needed guidance in health, education, and morality in order to contribute to the republic as a good and service-minded citizen. The Boy Scouts provided such formation, Hoover argued, in opening “the portals to adventure and constructive joy by reviving the lore of the frontier and the campfire.”38 The frontier, that edge of empire, which Turner called “the meeting point between savagery and civilization,” remained a site of enriching play, but American boys were not to forget their grander purpose.39 Knights, pioneers, and political leaders, rather than indigenous peoples, were increasingly the Boy Scouts’ models of American character, particularly during and after the First World War, while racial others were often reduced to objects of scientific interest.40 What Hoover did not mention, however, were the new and frequently transnational spaces in which this lore and these goals could be carried out. As the Boys’ Books by Boys illustrate, the frontier no longer needed to be the American wilderness. Boy Scout runners-up from the Johnson competition may have spent a nostalgic summer on the Lincoln Highway in an automobile designed to look like a covered wagon, but Putnam also had young authors deployed to eastern Africa, Antarctica, Canada, and the West Indies.41 While avoiding messy territorial designs, the boys pursued an American nostalgia for primitive spaces and embodied a consumable American power on a global scale. Frontiers continued to forge character, but they were frontiers for exploration and entertainment, not the real work of settlement; they conveyed popular impressions of an exotic world that could be opened, studied, and most importantly enjoyed by willful, humorous, and technologically empowered American boys and men—who could also deny explicitly imperialistic intent. “[C]reating new empires is not his business,” wrote the New York Sun of the American explorer of the 1920s.42 The United States was instead possessed of a “ludic empire”: any land or sea or sky seemed already to be theirs, free for fun and play, a geographical and cultural space in which perils were cast as masculinizing “thrills” and even edifying scientific work was also a chance for saleable adventure. Hoover also failed to mention that not only the Boy Scouts, but also their sometime publisher partners, had adopted highly sophisticated tools of media, mass culture, and business to sell this ludic brand of imperialism.43 The virtue and power of American explorers was, in the end, a means to the production of profitable entertainment. Managed by Putnam, the young authors ultimately had one all-important responsibility: to sell books, a role that sets them apart from the movements documented by other scholars. New tools of exploration, such as airplanes, cameras, motion pictures, and radios, which confirmed the white race’s supposed propensity for technological sophistication, helped immensely.44 They were indices of progress, to be sure, but even more importantly they opened fresh frontiers and made the cultural products of this quasi-conquest easy for Americans to consume, bringing exploration-as-entertainment to its peak. Audiences scarcely needed to read between the lines to recognize that these latter-day frontiers were sites less of hardy individualism or potentially troubling expansion than of pleasurable amusement. But the high financial stakes of these enterprises also make it difficult to separate the boys’ agency and opinions from those of their adult handlers. The archival record shows that they were selected for beliefs and behaviors that would helpfully alternate between American mastery and American innocence, and would make them welcome participants in their sponsors’ elite circles. With their formulaic narratives and controlled press tours, they stuck to the script and were co-producers of a narrative of spontaneous boyhood charm and ability that, at its core, existed to affirm the business and social interests of those who backed them. Frontiers of Science and Sport Putnam started his publishing career in Oregon, producing a newspaper and authoring entertaining accounts of western life, but he wrote that he was sometimes “sorry for myself because I had not been in on the making of the ‘real west,’ in those roaring days of Bret Harte heroes and Remington cowboys.”45 Knowing he was not alone, he hitched his new series to this popular frontier nostalgia, and to one of the largest organizations that pedaled it: the Boy Scouts of America. The Boys’ Books by Boys and their attendant press were rich with interlocking allusions to both. Before leaving for Africa, for example, the three Eagle Scouts stopped at the Boy Scout Trading Post in New York City. “This is a unique store,” they explained, “made to look as nearly as possible like an old trading post on the western frontier.” The fittings were of rough hickory and the walls were paneled with logs so as to resemble a protective stockade.46 As the boys prepared to face a new land of supposedly savage people and beasts, their adventure was framed as a continuation of earlier American conquest. Polar exploration, such as Byrd’s attempt to fly across the South Pole or the two Putnam-led expeditions to the seas around Greenland and Baffin Island, evoked similar analogies to the American frontier. The Paramount picture, With Byrd at the South Pole (1930), filmed during Siple’s trip, explicitly emphasized that the men were “[c]hallenging the last frontier,” an evocative analogy for Americans, even if settlement was never reasonably intended to follow.47 Siple included extensive descriptions of Antarctica’s awesome, empty landscapes, and newspapers fawned over Siple’s manly pioneer traits; his attempt to train sled dogs, for example, elicited a comparison to an Alaskan “sourdough,” whom Grant had been keen to point to as an ideal of the “Nordic” type.48 Publicity articles—many of which were likely placed by Putnam himself—were similarly smitten with Carl Dunrad, a Montana cowboy and “expert roper” hired for the Greenland expedition. He dressed in full cowboy regalia for the expedition’s send-off, and newspapers made much of his goal to “rope a musk oxen,” applying the familiar skills of the American West to the alien North.49 In the end, Dunrad got a pair of live polar bears, new additions for the New York Zoological Society, bridging the gap between frontier nostalgia and its modern scientific manifestations.50 At the same time, the young adventurers—along with their expeditions’ leaders, publicists, and reviewers—were also keen to position their journeys in a longer history of exploration, as well as technological and scientific ability. Many reviewers were attracted to the endpapers in David Goes to Greenland, for example, which were illustrated with whimsical maps of the expeditions’ routes. Drawn by Don Dickerman, they proffered an anachronistic geographic imaginary in which national borders were more or less irrelevant, and the land was instead marked with cheery sketches of the expeditions’ most memorable adventures. Using William Rankin’s formulation of territory as “a distinct form of power created through geographic knowledge,” the world became the Americans’ potential territory, a playground for the legendary fun of cowboys, snowshoeing, and shipwreck.51 The map also referenced earlier explorers like Robert Peary and Adolphus Greely, as well as Santa Claus and Jack Frost, so the voyages seemed to take place in a world out of time, where men might retrace their heroes’ routes through ungoverned spaces and push fun into the realm of fantasy play. Such ideas were not unique to the Arctic. David played at pirates on Beebe’s expedition, and many newspapers suggested that the Scouts’ journey to Africa would lead them among jungles, lions, and tigers, mysterious and dangerous lands of imperial exploration and conquest. “They Tread the Trail that Stanley Trod,” read a caption in the Christian Science Monitor, announcing that the three Boys Scouts had joined the Johnsons in Nairobi. However, their route differed substantially from Stanley’s, and they had used a colonial railway to get there.52 In their annual report, the Boy Scouts claimed that the Byrd Expedition, with its cartographic and scientific goals, was “being conducted by the United States for the benefit not of our country alone but of the entire world.”53 Disciplined work by Siple, who was particularly attractive to Byrd because of his scientific training, seemed to confirm this.54 The Scout praised the international cooperation at Little America and busied himself mounting specimens, mapping the southern stars, and taking depth soundings, casting the Americans’ presence as virtuous and unthreatening.55 In fact, there was little doubt that these scientific endeavors were also serving the United States, and particularly the Americans’ frontier psyche. To document a foreign landscape was also to dominate it, and a review of David Goes Voyaging remarked that being a scientist is “really not a bad ambition for an adventurous boy who knows that cowboys and Indian fighters are going out of style.”56 A journalist similarly reported on Byrd’s “conquest of the South Pole by airplane,” even if this conquest was more a matter of technology than of territory.57 Seductive new machines created new frontiers only to vanquish them, generating a modern iteration of white Americans’ self-image of the individual conquering hero.58 Byrd’s trip was a paean to aviation, while the three Boy Scouts, passing through France en route to Africa, paused appreciatively at the spot where Lindbergh landed after his extraordinary transatlantic flight, subtly likening their own adventure to that of an earlier Eagle Scout.59 The nationalistic language of frontier conquest was so powerful that young fans often read the expeditions as extensions of American power. One wrote to Byrd, “I am very much interested in the discovery of new land for the United States.”60 Many more wrote of their passion for aviation and saw exploration as a way of achieving something as individuals, as well as for their country. It was only a short step to military might: a number of boys, knowing they were unlikely to join Byrd on his expedition, wrote of their intent to enter the U.S. Naval Academy instead. These frontiers were not only sites for national triumph: communication technologies also turned them into sites of edifying entertainment. When With Byrd at the South Pole proclaimed the construction of “[t]he first city in the Antarctic, complete with its tall radio towers and half-buried houses—Little America!” the radio towers simply heightened the settlement’s thoroughly colonialist appellation, and modern technology allowed all Americans to share in the expedition’s progress.61 The Johnsons similarly turned Africa into mass-market images, books, and films, while Putnam planned to set up a radio broadcast from New York to Pond Inlet, so that his own voice might be heard thousands of miles to the north.62 In the ludic empire, foreign territories were for Americans to consume and American media to reach. The Greenland expedition enjoyed a group viewing of the hit movie Nanook of the North (1922) on their ship and set up a small theatre to screen films of indigenous Arctic hunters and South Sea life to the locals, who reportedly found the reels very entertaining. Even “primitive” peoples were now implicated in the popular consumption of “primitive” ways of life.63 Thus, the Boys’ Books by Boys and their commentators did not so much deny conquest and empire as reframe them as the work of making Earth’s corners visible, legible, and traversable through science and technology. But the work of knowledge-making also left ample room for spontaneous and unrestricted play, implicit evidence of the wealth, power, and ease that was the birthright of the American man, and an opportunity—following Hall’s and Stoddard’s theories—to cultivate his white vigor. This play most commonly took the form of hunting, a scientific activity that doubled as pursuit of a more primitive, masculinizing way of life. Though Johnson mentioned the importance of government efforts to regulate hunting, he also satisfied exploration fantasies in declaring that “[c]ertainly no human being of modern times ever saw more game.”64 Each of the three Boy Scouts was also expected to shoot a lion. The originator of the idea is unclear; perhaps they were inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s 1909–1910 safari, which had greatly bolstered public interest in Africa and lion-hunting.65 Regardless, neither the boys nor the Johnsons seemed to relish the activity. Scout Law, in fact, decreed that a Scout should be “a friend to animals,” but big game hunting made for excellent publicity, and each boy’s achievement of the trophy was telegraphed home to eager newspaper editors.66 Although gratuitous killing troubled conservationists, Johnson justified the decision by scaling up the savagery, stating that “we and the officials of British East [Africa] must adjust our philosophy to meet the murderous propensities of the big cats.” Lions, as he described it, might spend their lives butchering innocent wild game and the occasional human. “So it is not a cruel act to kill a lion, though I can never bring myself to believe in slaughtering them in great numbers the way some sportsmen have.”67 Striking the ostensibly rational balance between masculine courage, imperial play, and civilized conservation, Johnson’s explanation permitted the boys to carry out the classic conquest for the delight of American audiences, and one of the Scouts even tried sportingly to hunt with a bow and arrow. Articles quoted the boys’ expressions of enthusiasm, and when Dick Douglas was invited to lecture on the Chautauqua circuit, his speech’s evocative title was “Hunting Lions in Darkest Africa.”68 Yet Americans were not to mistake this sport for the real burdens of colonialism. Ludic imperialism tempered violence with quotes about “fun,” and even in dangerous moments the adventure was narrated as a lighthearted thrill. The boys also asserted their preference for bloodless visual conquest through science, technology, and popular media.69 As Johnson wrote, “their secret attitude toward the killing business was revealed when Dick handed the rifle back to Osa and said: ‘Well, that’s over with. Now we can photograph in peace!’”70 These feelings, too, had a public purpose: even as they rearticulated American triumph and white racial ability, the Boy Scouts could deny aggressive intent. However, in their eagerness to imagine the corners of the world as their ludic empire—empty and ungoverned spaces for play and frontier-style fun—the Americans occasionally ran into serious conflict. George Palmer Putnam, for one, found himself in hot water after the publication of David Goes to Baffin Land. The Canadian government granted the publisher a permit to take twenty bird specimens, and when the party crossed back into the United States at the end of their journey, Putnam declared only one blue goose skin. David’s book, however, narrated extensive shooting of both game and birds, including caribou and ptarmigan, for food as well as specimens, and at rates so high that sport must have been an additional motive. The U.S. State Department got involved, and Putnam tried to defend himself by claiming, as a journalist explained, that he “saw that the natives of Baffin Island shot when and where they pleased.” He was unaware, however, that Canada’s northern indigenous peoples had special exemptions from Dominion game laws.71 Northern Canada was far from a lawless frontier, and nostalgic American play had its limits. Indeed, in his Greenland book, David demonstrated that he was already aware of overhunting both by expeditions and indigenous peoples equipped with firearms. “[A]fter a while, I suppose, the game will be all gone just as it is in most of our own west,” he wrote, suggesting the inevitability of losing this frontier, too.72 Occasionally the books used such moments of dissonance—in which visions of untrammeled freedom and virgin fun were complicated—for humor, or to critique other countries’ imperial management. The Americans’ attempts at native skills like kayaking were sometimes comically inadequate, for example, although these missteps, especially in the name of play, never compromised the whites’ overall superiority. In another vein, David commented on the negative impact of Canadian “‘store’ food” on indigenous peoples, such that “the crowd I saw seemed sort of puny and soft compared with the fine husky fellows we had been seeing on the other side of Baffin Bay,” seemingly reinforcing the fragility of racial fitness.73 Siple was similarly unimpressed with the Europeanized Pacific. The South Sea Islands were popularly known as beautiful and uninhibited sites of sensuality and pleasure, but insects and vermin, the absence of picturesque thatched huts, and unhygienic Tahitians disappointed him. Of the latter, he wrote, “it is quite evident that at one time they must have been a splendid race; but since the coming of the white man they have degenerated to a pitiful degree. The much talked-of and supposedly beautiful hulu [sic] maidens were really flabby, flatfaced individuals as a general rule, and wore shapeless dresses made from gaudily printed cotton material.”74 Prue Ahrens, Lamont Lindstrom, and Fiona Paisley label such positions the “doubled worldview of progressive liberalism,” which allowed Americans to consume difference and even contribute to its destruction while being “self-appointed authorities on the negative impacts of progress.”75 David’s and Siple’s critiques, however, also stressed the Americans’ new desire for frontier pursuits without lasting responsibility. If the white man came with a cost, imperial designs might best be limited to the ludic empire’s edifying science and victorious fun. Africa brought up a different specter for white writers and explorers, this time of foreboding landscapes and alien peoples, evidence of the deepening international color line that historian Matthew Guterl identifies in the 1920s.76 Racial difference was a kind of frontier for the white Americans to test, but the Boy Scouts assumed superiority with a playful attitude. They teased their guides by challenging them to various calisthenics, and Johnson emphasized that “our black porters had the time of their lives. They seemed to understand the Boy Scouts and the Boy Scouts certainly understood the natives,” a comment that suggested the natural overlap between evolutionarily incomplete boys and races. “It seemed to me that there was never an hour went by that the whole camp did not break out into roars of laughter over some new trick that our tireless young visitors had pulled off.”77 The characters could be almost vaudevillian. They included Bucari, “a perfect African gentleman,” and Ponda-Ponda, a tramp-like figure with raggedy clothes whose “main purpose in life seemed to be to talk all the time.”78 The Americans, however, ran the game, and they could turn easily on the Africans to assert their position in the hierarchy: a group of Maasai men, for example, painted with mud, “resembled a bunch of little boys trying to play cannibal,” as the young authors put it.79 The boys tossed peanuts at Mogo, another servant, as if he were a zoo animal, and—more as a matter of amusement than education—dressed him as a Scout, taking a photo that appeared in Three Boy Scouts in Africa.80 The Americans never questioned their superiority and control, even in play, and Osa Johnson declared that the porters were awed by the three boys, as “there was no native feat of skill at which the youngsters did not prove more proficient than the native himself.”81 Yet such superiority, grounded in many of the same prejudices that animated American racial politics, was not always well received by foreign audiences. A French review was wry in its assessment that these young Yankees did not pray, but never missed a chance to mock the beliefs of their black servants.82 Boy Scout leaders, American journalists, and the Johnsons themselves projected their fantasies of race and nation onto the Scout visitors: “Three more polite, clean and clear thinking boys could not have been sent. They … have left a fine impression of the real American boy,” wrote Johnson, who added elsewhere that he had never “been more proud of [his] country” than upon seeing the three descend from the train.83 The boys, too, understood that they carried the promise of American civilization; they were representatives of the United States’ position in and to the world, and contributors to their country’s racial and national self-identity. In his memoir, Douglas recounted meeting a Scottish man en route to Africa. He explained that he always wore a tuxedo to dinner, believing the white European ought to maintain a symbol of his “position in life.” Douglas, whom the other boys—and even the Africans—occasionally teased for his fastidious grooming, stressed the impression the man’s comments made on him.84 Scouting’s emphasis on self-sufficiency, however, did result in at least one moment of ambivalence. On their first night in the Johnsons’ camp, the boys began, like any well-trained Scouts, to gather wood and to build a fire. By evoking a kind of continuity with indigeneity, woodcraft had long been a useful way of symbolically tempering the violence of imperialism.85 But the boys’ hosts insisted that they let their African guides do the work. Johnson recalled a mentality established by their British colonial precursors, who all but institutionalized recreational hunting with native guides, when he explained, “You are in Africa now. The White Man hunts and travels and explores while the native does the camp work.”86 The boys raised only modest objections, not on the grounds of inequality, but rather because allowing others to set up their camp went against Scouting’s emphasis on industry and readiness, as well as the kind of physical activity that was supposed to obviate racial degeneracy: “Doug said he didn’t feel right because if he did not do something to keep in condition he would have an awful let-down when he reached home. But Dave and Dick both enjoyed it. They figured that it would probably be the only time in their lives when they had to do nothing at all.”87 The Scouts learned that allowing the African “boys,” as the Johnsons called their adult porters, to do the work left them free, ironically, to indulge their primitive instincts through hunting. The three young authors evidently embodied an ideal combination of cheerful play, impressive outdoorsmanship, and physical fitness, “the Highest Type of American Boyhood,” as one newspaper reporter expressed it.88 As such, they reinforced the lessons of the physical culture movement that many American boys had already profoundly internalized. In the Progressive Era, physical fitness, moral righteousness, and white racial preservation were tightly interlaced, and even in the late 1920s, adolescents writing to Byrd in hopes of joining his expedition not uncommonly referenced their height and weight. One eager boy even provided his chest measurements on inhalation and exhalation, while another expressed his fear of turning pale and pot-bellied like the men with whom he worked.89 David’s height was often emphasized, and the Scouts’ bodies were also a matter of some strategy for the expeditions’ managers, who sought model boys of exemplary masculine ability who would appeal to parents, teachers, and young people themselves. The Life Extension Institute vetted all of the Johnson and Byrd expedition candidates, and the latter were further examined at the National Training School for Scout Executives (where they also took the Army Alpha Intelligence Test).90 Siple, their final choice, fulfilled his potential, emerging as a paragon of vigorous masculine citizenship who could offset any contemporary social anxieties. “He went South with us as a Boy Scout—but he took his place as a man,” commented Byrd, and to the media this manliness was most evident in Siple’s body, honed by hard work, boxing, and calisthenics.91 Reporters tracked his weight gain, height, and rugged tan, which seemed to demonstrate the value of Scouting and outdoor activity in making boys into civilized men who could meet any physical or mental challenge. The attention paid to Siple’s vigor, as well as his “wide, boyish smile,” testified to ludic imperialism’s seductive ability to confirm the Americans’ superior national character and competence.92 Even though Siple was older and serious-minded, and his expedition more dangerous than the other boys’, he was physical proof that Antarctica was now a relatively comfortable space of frontier play in which even wintery peril left men not hardened and thin, but robust and optimistic. An American brand of symbolic conquest was built not on pain and sacrifice, but pleasure and ease in foreign territories, facilitated by the promises of modern technology, rational planning, and racial superiority. As one reviewer of David Goes to Greenland put it, “[s]urely man is well on his way to conquer [sic] the Arctic regions when they have become a Summer playground for boys! What would Peary and Greely and their companions have said had they been told that in a few years after their heroic adventures and herculean toils boys in their early teens would be making Summer cruises far into the Arctic and returning, well fed and happy, enthusiastic about their experience?”93 Not only was exploration fit for domestic consumption; as other scholars have noted, exploration itself had been domesticated.94 Radio allowed Siple to exchange a few words with his mother, an event that was heavily publicized in American newspapers.95 David called William Beebe “Uncle Will,” and the media were fascinated by the many women on board the Arcturus expedition, even as Beebe and Putnam’s private correspondence testified that they would have preferred to “suppress” some of the “feminine element” in the publicity.96 Dorothy Binney Putnam, David’s mother, came along too, while Osa Johnson baked celebratory pies for her three teenaged Scouts. The boys shared happily in these domestic moments and brought a gentle, almost nurturing quality to the same lands in which they enacted their sporting fantasies, as keen to help an injured baby impala, for example, as to kill an adult one.97 Even playing with the African men presented a comfortable—but no less commanding—alternative to violence. While Scouting sometimes claimed a goal of international brotherhood and world citizenship, the activities highlighted in the Boys’ Books by Boys were more often an indirect testament to a supposedly virtuous and innocent American power, a power sufficient to permit its confident and capable young people free run of the globe, and to show as much to readers at home.98 The Boys’ Books by Boys recovered innate and intuitive masculinity, along with a naïveté that granted Americans moral license to explore foreign spaces. This license seems to have been tacitly accepted by other nations, whose reviewers tended to emphasize the books’ focus on natural beauty, adventure, and masculine comradeship rather than concerns about American expansionism.99 Blending nostalgia for frontier manliness and primitive spaces, white civility, and an ideal of selfless and authoritative science, theirs was a playful and unassuming conquest for public satisfaction and private profit. “A swell chance to have a very good time” For boy (and no doubt a few girl) readers, the Boys’ Books by Boys presented American exploration and conquest, and the future of the American race, in democratic and masculine terms. The foreword to David Goes to Greenland stressed that David was “not a paragon. He’s just plain B-O-Y,” while his book might prove “good tonic for the youngsters who … ought to be out getting their hands dirty, their muscles hard and their minds cleaned out with the honest experiences of the sea and far places.”100 In the foreword to David Goes to Baffin Land, Fitzhugh Green remarked even more explicitly that “the same happy healthy life outdoors is open to every boy these days if only he learns to understand something of the rocks and plants and animals all about him … [T]omorrow you and David and the rest of you young fellows have got to run this big country of ours. And you won’t run it right if you don’t learn to think straight and act quickly.”101 Whether a boy went on expeditions like David or simply read about them, interest in the outdoors would have a bracing effect and stimulate him toward active adult citizenship; the world was his to lead. The appendix to Siple’s book similarly listed the features that had qualified the young man for Byrd’s expedition, which included good character in keeping with Scout principles, physical health, camping experience, merit badges for skill in such fields as Pioneering and Seamanship, and solid performance at school; though there were African American Boy Scouts, his whiteness presumably went without saying. West contended that “every boy can … develop such characteristics [so] that he will be prepared when his opportunities come,” and Siple similarly repeated the universal value of Scout training and physical conditioning in his interviews.102 This democratic potential was significant in 1920s America: following the Immigration Act, consolidating a unified and vigorous white American identity was a major goal for commentators like Stoddard, and it was every boy’s potential duty to contribute to this national strengthening.103 Rapid economic growth also fueled a myth that self-motivation was enough to ensure success; explorers like Johnson, born to an ordinary family in Kansas, were often typecast in this way.104 In reality, however, these expeditions were far from democratic, and this accessible vision of imperialism and nostalgia for primitive spaces was facilitated not only by technological achievements, but also by industrial civilization’s monetary riches. Exploration was deeply rooted in a mutually reinforcing relationship with the commercial press, as well as elite scientific societies. Wealthy citizens bankrolled most voyages, and Putnam, who put his family’s publishing house into the business of exploration, approached each expedition as a commercial venture, calculating its odds for economic success. Putnam garnered his best business opportunities by strategically situating himself at the fountainhead of legitimate scientific exploration. At the New York Zoological Society, he sat on the Arcturus Expedition Committee, which supervised Beebe’s trip, as well as the Publicity Committee.105 A charismatic naturalist and talented writer, Beebe was a star for the society, and industrialist Henry D. Whiton, as well as utilities magnate Harrison Williams, both on the society’s executive committee, were some of his principal patrons. Putnam managed much of Beebe’s press, selling his articles to various magazines and, of course, publishing his book. When it came to his own Arctic expeditions, Putnam lined up an assortment of sponsors: George Washington coffee, Remington rifles, Armour meat, and Eveready batteries were conspicuously mentioned in David’s books, while David, along with fellow boy author Deric Nusbaum, appeared in advertisements for Daisy Air Rifles.106 Byrd’s expedition, however, was by far the largest economic enterprise. Putnam wrote in his memoir, “[w]ithout question, the biggest figure in the business of adventuring is Admiral Byrd … [who was credited with the remark] ‘I’ve put exploration into Big Business.’ He did. In the lush years, big business men loved Dick.” Courting donors from his organizational headquarters in the elite Biltmore Hotel in New York, Byrd raised over $800,000 in cash alone, with $108,000 from Wall Street’s Charles V. Bob and substantial sums from John D. Rockefeller and Edsel Ford. “Mountain ranges, ships, new lands, planes are named for benefactors in the modern technique of exploration, and everyone is happy,” continued Putnam. “It is good business, both ways.”107 Rockefeller, for one, was rewarded with Antarctica’s Rockefeller Mountains. There were limits to the business, though. Putnam alienated Byrd by suggesting that donors deserved something financial in return; expeditioning, he wrote, “was the only business in the world where the other fellow put up all the money and the expeditioner kept all the profits.”108 Still, many, Putnam included, made dividends indirectly through publicity, publications, and advertising, which resulted in some good jokes in An Arctic Rodeo, Daniel Streeter’s record of Putnam’s Greenland expedition for adult readers: “George [Palmer Putnam] would have stopped in the middle of a rotten plank over a chasm a hundred feet deep to broadcast his reactions to a waiting world.”109 As the boys’ playfulness indicates, these expeditions were also, unmistakably, meant to be fun. Putnam declared that most expedition leaders “went forth, I believe, not primarily as the shining phrase has it, ‘to contribute to the sum total of human knowledge,’ but because it was a swell chance to have a very good time.”110 Despite explorers’ lofty claims and strategic alliances, science was often an afterthought. Byrd announced his expedition’s research program less than a week before the first ship departed, and a number of scholars have pointed out that the Johnsons allied with the American Museum of Natural History primarily to secure funding and buttress their films’ claims to authenticity and respectability.111 Putnam described the arrangement of his Greenland trip—for which he too partnered with the American Museum of Natural History—as perfect for “humans who like to pry beyond new horizons, are judiciously entertained by the thought of getting away from home, and who are constituted so that the bright prize of bringing back the bacon of new knowledge, lulls any conscience that needs lulling.”112 Indeed, the group’s “extra-scientific” activities, as he called them, included improvised games of tennis and bagging walrus with bow and arrow. Even naturalist William Beebe’s trip had its share of fun. David reported extensively on artist Don Dickerman’s pirate antics, while privately Putnam wrote “I wish to heavens I was along” and referred to Dorothy’s and David’s presence as “joyriding.”113 Science could fund initiatives that were as much a matter of recreation as knowledge creation, and readers were occasionally let in on the joke. “The Professors” were the butt of much humor in Arctic Rodeo, and the scientific work of casting bottles into the sea to track currents or typing the blood of indigenous peoples was comically self-serious.114 A ludic empire was better reading than a real one. Most of the Boys’ books, claiming an edifying purpose, balanced scientific virtue with boyish play, and left much of the sociability unprinted. But there are hints, both in the published works and private correspondence, of the deep and exclusive networks of wealth, influence, and friendship that supported these American ventures. New York’s most prominent men (and indeed, women) were eager to hunt with both camera and gun, and Putnam’s Baffin Island expedition was stacked with youth from Yale and Columbia, while both it and the Greenland expedition used the elegant American Yacht Club at Rye as their main port. They held great launch parties, and returning from Greenland Putnam’s ship was greeted by a bevy of noted scientists and expeditioners, including American Geographical Society director Isaiah Bowman and the president of the Explorers Club; Putnam himself was the prestigious Club’s vice-president by the early 1930s.115 Some of this sociability could go to extremes: ethnographer Knud Ramussen, Captain Bob Bartlett, and David Binney Putnam launched their books with a special meal imported from their Arctic trip, which included polar bear roast and walrus steak.116 Young people, and Scouts in particular, were not only significant in the discourse of interwar American citizenship and masculinity—they were also embedded in these networks of sociability, and they were potentially profitable to the cultural and economic elite. It was Putnam who suggested that the Johnsons bring Scouts on safari, and it was no accident that the title slide of the couple’s film Across the World with Mr. and Mrs. Martin Johnson included prominent attention to the “Three Boy Scouts in Africa.”117 As Douglas explained, “Johnson would get some human interest material for his films, and … the boys could write a book about it.”118 The Scouts would attract new audiences and give the expedition a higher purpose, modeling capable and responsible boyhood and increasing juvenile interest in science and exploration. The boys, for their part, would get a rare chance to be travelers and authors. The novelty of young travelers made them natural magnets for attention, and Putnam took advantage by setting up publicity stunts and promoting the Boys’ Books by Boys through a variety of media. He arranged for the three Boy Scouts to meet the American ambassador to France, First World War Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch, several movie actors, and boxer Gene Tunney en route to Africa. Reports of these encounters in American newspapers kept public interest simmering through to their book’s publication.119 Filmmaker Ernest Schoedsack accompanied Beebe, with an additional request from Putnam to help provide “fine personal informal pictures” for David’s book, and the reels from Putnam’s Arctic expeditions had a prominent place on lecture and book tours.120 Cross-promotion was another strategy. Putnam combined promotions for David and Amelia Earhart, for example, and he also arranged for David to exchange artifacts with another young author in McCreery’s book department.121 Some reviewers, to be sure, found Putnam’s gimmicks transparent: a review of the Johnsons’ film opined that “[t]he only silly shots concern some Boy Scouts who join the party for no apparent reason.”122 But not all audiences agreed, and the Scouts were feted in their hometowns. The Atlanta Constitution published Doug Oliver’s personal views of his journey, while a Boy Scout Jamboree, parade, and citywide holiday awaited Siple on his return to Erie, Pennsylvania.123 The very decision to select the Scouts using contests was meant to increase popular engagement, and with so much attention—and money—at stake, Putnam and the Boy Scouts of America needed to be sure they were selecting the best possible boys. The finalists’ trips to New York were heavily publicized, and the candidates were put through a battery of tests and evaluations not only of their physical fitness and outdoor skills, but also their poise, confidence, likeability, and capacity to handle the requirements of business, publicity, and sociability that were so central to the expeditions’ popularity and success. The seven finalists for the Johnson expedition, for example, stayed at the homes of Putnam, West, and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, and the three men then met to discuss their impressions.124 Douglas later recalled that he was aware that “[e]ach of the committee was watching our demeanor and our reactions on all of these activities, and after about four days, we were all put in separate hotel rooms with a stack of paper and many pencils, with the instructions to write about three thousand words on ‘My Trip To New York.’”125 The final selections were as much as matter of strategy as merit: Putnam initially planned for only two Scouts to accompany the Johnsons, and he publicly credited the decision to add a third to some additional funding from the French Line shipping company and attorney David T. Layman Jr.126 But internal correspondence reveals the real reason: “Unfortunately the two topmost boys were both from the South, and that made it necessary to arrange for a third boy to go in order that we might include representation from another section of the country.”127 Yankee buy-in was essential for both the Boy Scouts of America and Putnam’s publicity machine. Siple and his five competitors were similarly tested in the highest echelons of New York cultural life. Entrepreneur, landowner, and Honorary Chairman of the Boy Scouts Barron Collier, on whose yacht both Scout executives and Byrd were known to socialize, interviewed the prospects, as did some of the organization’s and expedition’s most distinguished members.128 The boys also lunched with John H. Finley, associate editor of the New York Times, who gave them a personal tour of the newspaper plant. Finley was especially invested in the selection: he was Chairman of the Boy Scouts’ Committee on Education, and the Times would be providing extensive reports on the expedition.129 An articulate, pleasant, and saleable boy was in everyone’s best interests. While the other candidates were critiqued for being too confident, sly, diffident, or stoop-shouldered, or for responding to a superior with the word “yop” in public, Siple was encouragingly sincere, respectful, persevering, and adaptable.130 His astounding sixty merit badges, Sea Scout credentials, and intent to “devote his life to boy scout work” also made him an attractive ambassador.131 It would pay off. Putnam featured Siple alongside Byrd, for example, at an extravagant luncheon for fifty on the expedition’s return; Earhart, Mr. and Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt, and Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Reid were among the other celebrities present.132 While the books presented the Boys and their expeditions as democratic, the highest circles of American power in fact admitted only the select few. The idea of ludic imperialism may have been accessible to all, but the ludic empire itself belonged to the sociable elite. Publicly, Putnam made some attempt to play down the boys’ position as commodities in a larger project of business and publicity. David had supposedly taken the initiative, for example, of co-sponsoring the three boys’ trip to Africa. But presenting the boys as too noble, too capable, also came at some cost. A French review pointed out their “irreproachable morality,” and at least one American reviewer found their adventures a bit dull.133 In this tightly controlled world of publicity and prestige, the boys’ true feelings and agency were sometimes conspicuously missing, their personalities merging into a mass of appreciative adventure. Their boyish humor was itself a marketing opportunity, and the young authors’ own desires taken for granted or even ignored. Putnam’s description of David’s involvement, for example, had little to do with the boy himself: “I have set my heart on David doing a little book,” he wrote to Beebe, “What could be more fun than a little book called ‘David Goes Exploring’ with a dozen brief chapters by a twelve year old, written for children, and telling the story of what he sees and does.”134 Elsewhere, he spoke of the books as an attempt to teach his son to be something other than an “inarticulate business man,” and he was confident that any other boy might similarly be taught to express himself well without becoming “a prig, a braggart or a bookworm.”135 David did not particularly care for writing, but with Putnam’s guiding hand, he was being groomed for civic leadership, and to be a model for his nation’s future. Even after the Great Depression gripped America, expeditions offered, as Boy Scout founding father Daniel Carter Beard wrote to Byrd, “an effective rejoiner [sic] to the pessimistic propaganda … proclaiming the decadence of the old fashioned American spirit of patriotism, self-sacrifice, achievement and adventure,” ideals not far off what Stoddard described in his racial narratives of American history.136 A Swedish review was right when it pointed out that the idea of selecting a boy by competition, particularly one who was unafraid to describe himself as “physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight,” was a thoroughly American thing to do.137 The Boys’ Books by Boys not only reproduced a narrative of American exceptionalism—manifested through the innocence and promise of vigorous, active white American boyhood—they were also a tool of legitimacy and a saleable commodity in a larger project of business and recreation. There is an irony, then, to ludic imperialism: this spontaneous American play was called into strategic service, furthering grander goals of private profit and public citizenship. The Boys’ Books by Boys were scripts for ideal Americans, models for young people and a way to appease adults anxious about the nation’s future. But that is not to say that their authors, who were chosen in large part because they already hewed so closely to these scripts, could not enjoy and benefit from the process. Their books testify to real enthusiasm, and their lives to some lasting opportunities. David Binney Putnam made another trip to Labrador and Greenland, which resulted in David Sails the Viking Trail (1931), though reviewers had less patience for the maturing author, noting that “[o]ther boys of eighteen have had more adventures than this rather plain tale.”138 He learned to fly planes, and after serving as a pilot in the Second World War, he became a real estate developer. Siple, once just a Scout from Erie, earned a PhD and made an influential career out of Antarctic exploration. Robert Dick Douglas Jr. travelled to Alaska for A Boy Scout in the Grizzly Country (1929) and In the Land of the Thunder Mountains (1932), tales of masculine frontier adventure. He continued to socialize with Putnam, went to law school, and was still occasionally called upon to lecture to groups about his trip to Africa, which he credited with making him a comfortable public speaker.139 David Martin Jr. wrote A Boy Scout with the “Sea Devil” (1930), a race through romantic azure seas complete with a visit with Beebe in Bermuda, while Douglas Oliver authored A Boy Scout in the Grand Cavern (1930), which took him to New Mexico; he would go on to become a noted anthropologist. Though undoubtedly cogs in Putnam’s exploration machine, the boys were also granted rare opportunities for adventure, sociability, and success. The Boys’ Books by Boys finally tapered off in the early 1930s. The death of George Palmer Putnam’s uncle—the publishing company’s patriarch—in 1930 led to a reorganization of the business; the Depression decreased available funding; the boys matured; and the Second World War finally put an end to luxury expeditions.140 But for their brief reign, the books and their ludic imperialism presented the world as an open American playground, a place of spontaneous fun and more substantial cultural work. They fostered an ideology of innocent American power, achievement, and recreation, and offered alternative and transnational frontiers to encourage vigorous American masculinity and a strong national future. Boys were the perfect vessels for this activity. Their earnest adventures testified to a twentieth-century exploration made easy—and saleable—through technological advancement and popular publicity, and to a form of American power and citizenship that could advertise itself as democratic, even as it selected and groomed boys to serve the country’s most powerful business and cultural interests. With their youthful appeal and money-making popularity both at home and abroad, the Boys’ Books by Boys and the young authors they so carefully cultivated were emblematic of their country—a country that imagined itself entitled to use the world for its profitable play. Footnotes I am grateful for funding from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Government of Alberta, and Yale University. I am also indebted to the kind staff at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program, Ohio State University; the National Scouting Museum Archives; the Library of Congress; and Princeton University Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. My thanks to Jenifer Van Vleck and my fellow students in “Research on the United States and the World” (Yale University, Fall 2015) for their helpful feedback. 1 “How Would You Like to Go to Africa?,” Boys’ Life 18, no. 3 (March 1928): 43. 2 “Three Scouts for Martin Johnson Safari in Africa,” Scouting 16, no. 6 (June 1928): 15. 3 Robert Dick Douglas Jr., David R. Martin Jr., and Douglas L. Oliver, Three Boy Scouts in Africa: On Safari with Martin Johnson (New York, 1928). 4 Robert Dick Douglas Jr., The Best 90 Years of My Life (Greensboro, NC, 2003), 63. 5 George Palmer Putnam, Wide Margins: A Publisher’s Autobiography (New York, 1942), 49. 6 Charles A. Lindbergh, “We” (New York, 1927); Putnam, Wide Margins, 233. 7 Putnam, Wide Margins, 294. 8 Pascal James Imperato and Eleanor M. Imperato, They Married Adventure: The Wandering Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson (New Brunswick, NJ, 1992), 154; Lamont Lindstrom, “On Safari with Martin and Osa Johnson,” in Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology, and Popular Culture, ed. Joshua A. Bell, Alison K. Brown, and Robert J. Gordon (Washington, DC, 2013), 149; Prue Ahrens, Lamont Lindstrom, and Fiona Paisley, Across the World with the Johnsons: Visual Culture and American Empire in the Twentieth Century (Farnham, UK, 2013), 145. 9 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 63. 10 David Binney Putnam, David Goes Voyaging (New York, 1925), David Goes to Greenland (New York, 1926), and David Goes to Baffin Land (New York, 1927). 11 Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, “Scouts on Safari,” Boys’ Life 18, no. 7 (July 1928): 26; “A New Class of Membership,” Scouting 15, no. 6 (June 1927): 11. 12 Nineteenth Annual Report of the Boy Scouts of America, 1928, House Document No. 2, 71st Cong., 1st Sess. (Washington, DC, 1929), 2. See also Mischa Honeck, Our Frontier is the World: The Boy Scouts in the Age of American Ascendancy (Ithaca, NY, 2018), esp. chap. 2, which appeared while this article was in press. 13 “Do You Want to Go with Byrd to the Antarctic?,” Boys’ Life 18, no. 7 (July 1928): 9. 14 Paul Siple, A Boy Scout With Byrd (New York, 1931); Lisle A. Rose, Explorer: The Life of Richard E. Byrd (Columbia, MO, 2008), 290; Eugene Rodgers, Beyond the Barrier: The Story of Byrd’s First Expedition to Antarctica (Annapolis, MD, 1990), 266. 15 Alison Barstow Murphy, Every Which Way in Ireland (New York, 1930); Mary Remsen North, Down the Colorado (New York, 1930). 16 Putnam, Wide Margins, 216–17. 17 Bear F. Braumoeller, “The Myth of American Isolationism,” Foreign Policy Analysis 6 (2010): 349–71; Benjamin D. Rhodes, United States Foreign Policy in the Interwar Period, 1918–1941: The Golden Age of American Diplomatic and Military Complacency (Westport, CT, 2001), 45. 18 Kennett Longley Rawson, A Boy’s-Eye View of the Arctic (New York, 1926); Patience Abbe, Richard Abbe, and John Abbe, Around the World in Eleven Years (New York, 1936), Of All Places! (New York, 1937), and No Place Like Home (New York, 1940); Judy Acheson, Judy in Constantinople (New York, 1930) and Young America Looks at Russia (New York, 1932); Romer Grey, The Cruise of the “Fisherman”: Adventures in Southern Seas (New York, 1929) and The “Fisherman” Under the Southern Cross: A Story of Adventure in New Zealand (New York, 1930). 19 Fitzhugh Green, Martin Johnson: Lion Hunter (New York, 1928), Dick Byrd: Air Explorer (New York, 1928), and Bob Bartlett: Master Mariner (New York, 1929). 20 For example, “Special Forum,” Diplomatic History 38, no. 2 (2014): 233–98; Jennifer Helgren, American Girls and Global Responsibility: A New Relation to the World during the Early Cold War (New Brunswick, NJ, 2017); Julia F. Irwin, “Teaching ‘Americanism with a World Perspective’: The Junior Red Cross in the U.S. Schools from 1917 to the 1920s,” History of Education Quarterly 53, no. 3 (2013): 255–79; Diana Selig, “World Friendship: Children, Parents, and Peace Education in America between the Wars,” in Children and War: A Historical Anthology, ed. James Marten (New York, 2002), 135–46; Emily Swafford, “The Challenge and Promise of Girl Scout Internationalism: From Progressive-Era Roots to Cold War Fruit,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 55 (2014): 105–24. 21 Marcia Chatelain, “International Sisterhood: Cold War Girl Scouts Encounter the World,” Diplomatic History 38, no. 2 (2014): 261–70; Sara Fieldston, Raising the World: Child Welfare in the American Century (Cambridge, MA, 2015); Jennifer Helgren, “‘“Homemaker” Can Include the World’: Female Citizenship and Internationalism in the Postwar Camp Fire Girls,” in Girlhood: A Global History, ed. Jennifer Helgren and Colleen A. Vasconcellos (New Brunswick, NJ, 2010), 304–22. 22 Robert D. Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (Amherst, MA, 2001). 23 Mischa Honeck, “The Power of Innocence: Anglo-American Scouting and the Boyification of Empire,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 42 (2016): S441–66. See also Mischa Honeck, “An Empire of Youth: American Boy Scouts in the World, 1910–1960,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 52 (2013): 95–112; and Robert H. MacDonald, Sons of the Empire: The Frontier and the Boy Scout Movement, 1890–1918 (Toronto, 1993). 24 Honeck, “Power of Innocence,” 448; Bradley Deane, Masculinity and the New Imperialism: Rewriting Manhood in British Popular Literature, 1870–1914 (New York, 2014), 88 and 98. 25 Paul A. Kramer, “Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” American Historical Review 116, no. 5 (2011): 1349–50. 26 Kristin Hoganson, “The Imperial Politics of Globavore Consumption in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” in A Destiny of Choice? New Directions in American Consumer History, ed. David Blanke and David Steigerwald (Lanham, MD, 2013), 15. 27 Clinton S. Martin, ed., Boy Scouts and the Oregon Trail, 1830–1930 (New York, 1930); Deric Nusbaum, Deric in Mesa Verde (New York, 1926); Department of the Interior: Census Office, “Progress of the Nation,” in Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part 1—Population (Washington, DC, 1892), xlviii. 28 Frederick J. Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1893, Senate Mis. Doc. No. 104, 53rd Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington, DC, 1894): 199. 29 Howard I. Kushner, “The Persistence of the ‘Frontier Thesis’ in America: Gender, Myth, and Self-Destruction,” Canadian Review of American Studies 22, supplement 1 (1992): 53–82. 30 G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence, vol. 1 (New York, 1904), viii; David I. Macleod, Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870–1920 (Madison, WI, 1983), 102–3; Gail Bederman, Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917 (Chicago, IL, 1995). 31 Benjamin G. Rader, “The Recapitulation Theory of Play: Motor Behaviour, Moral Reflexes and Manly Attitudes in Urban America, 1880–1920,” in Manliness and Morality: Middle-Class Masculinity in Britain and America, 1800–1940, ed. J. A. Mangan and James Walvin (New York, 1987), 123–34; Macleod, Building Character; Benjamin René Jordan, Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America: Citizenship, Race, and the Environment, 1910–1930 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2016). 32 Gaylyn Studlar, This Mad Masquerade: Stardom and Masculinity in the Jazz Age (New York, 1996), 10–89. 33 Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Ithaca, NY, 2015), 50–51. 34 Matthew Pratt Guterl, The Color of Race in America, 1900–1940 (Cambridge, MA, 2001), 8; Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race; or, The Racial Basis of European History (New York, 1916). 35 Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (New York, 1921), 164. 36 Lothrop Stoddard, The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man (New York, 1922), 19, and Re-forging America: The Story of Our Nationhood (New York, 1927). 37 Lucy Lockwood Hazard, The Frontier in American Literature (New York, 1927); Archer Butler Hulbert, Frontiers: The Genius of American Nationality (Boston, MA, 1929); Curtis Nettels, “Frederick Jackson Turner and the New Deal,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 17, no. 3 (1934): 257–65; William Cronon, “Revisiting the Vanishing Frontier: The Legacy of Frederick Jackson Turner,” Western Historical Quarterly 18, no. 2 (1987): 157–76; Catherine Gouge, “The American Frontier: History, Rhetoric, Concept,” Americana 6, no. 1 (2007); Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (1973; New York, 1984), 27–38; Gerald D. Nash, Creating the West: Historical Interpretations, 1890–1990 (Albuquerque, NM, 1991). 38 Herbert Hoover, “Address Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America,” March 10, 1930, in The American Presidency Project, ed. Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, accessed August 7, 2017, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=22545. 39 Turner, “Significance,” 200. 40 Joel A. Purkiss, “Strategic Imaginings: White Masculinities and Their Idealized Others in British and U.S. Boy Scout Handbooks, 1908–1948” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2005), chaps. 3 and 4. 41 “Publicity Department,” Nineteenth Annual Report, 154; Robert Carver North, Bob North by Canoe and Portage (New York, 1928); Halsey Oakley Fuller, Halsey in the West Indies (New York, 1928). 42 “An Age of Discovery,” New York Sun, March 7, 1925, 12. 43 John Calvin Phillips, “Selling America: The Boy Scouts of America in the Progressive Era, 1910–1921” (MA Thesis, University of Maine, 2001). 44 Guterl, Color of Race, 57. 45 George Palmer Putnam, In the Oregon Country: Out-doors in Oregon, Washington, and California (New York, 1915), The Smiting of the Rock: A Tale of Oregon (New York, 1918), Wide Margins, 76. 46 Douglas, Martin, and Oliver, Three Boy Scouts, xxiv. 47 Jesse L. Lasky and Adolph Zukor (producers), With Byrd at the South Pole (Paramount, 1930). 48 “Byrd Praises Boy Scout,” New York Times, March 15, 1930, 5; Grant, Passing of the Great Race, 41. 49 “Museum Voyagers Sail for the Arctic,” New York Times, June 21, 1926, 1. 50 “Boy of 13 Covers 8500 Miles Upon His Trip to Greenland,” Boston Daily Globe, January 10, 1927, 5. 51 William Rankin, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century (Chicago, IL, 2016), 4. 52 “Three Boy Scouts Head Into Africa,” Christian Science Monitor, July 14, 1928, 1. 53 James E. West, “Report of the Chief Scout Executive,” Nineteenth Annual Report, 13. 54 Letter from Richard E. Byrd to Paul A. Siple, August 15, 1928, folder 1196, box 27, Papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program, Ohio State University (hereafter Byrd Papers). 55 Siple, A Boy Scout with Byrd, 95. 56 R. L. Duffus, “Aboard the Arcturus,” New York Times, November 1, 1925, X19. 57 “Navy Head Extols Byrd in Broadcast,” New York Times, December 15, 1929, 26. 58 Jenifer Van Vleck, Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendancy (Cambridge, MA, 2013), 6–7. 59 Douglas, Martin, and Oliver, Three Boy Scouts, 9. 60 Letter from James H. Krott to Richard E. Byrd, June 25, 1928, folder 4430, box 118, Byrd Papers. 61 Lasky and Zukor, With Byrd at the South Pole. 62 Ahrens, Lindstrom, and Paisley, Across; Gregg Mitman, Reel Nature: America’s Romance with Wildlife on Film (Cambridge, MA, 1999), chap. 2; Putnam, David Goes to Greenland, 153. 63 Putnam, David Goes to Greenland, 25, 39. 64 Martin Johnson, “Boy Scouts Show Craft in Africa,” New York Times, October 21, 1928, 140; Letter from Martin Johnson to James E. West, August 18, 1928, in “Publisher’s Note,” Three Boy Scouts in Africa, xiii. 65 Guterl, Color of Race, 26. 66 “The Scout Law,” in Nineteenth Annual Report, 5. 67 Martin Johnson, Lion: African Adventure with the King of Beasts (New York, 1929), 234–35; Ahrens, Lindstrom, and Paisley, Across, 129. 68 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 87. 69 “Hunting Lions is Lots of Fun, Say Boy Scouts,” New York Herald Tribune, September 20, 1928, 25. 70 Johnson, Lion, 241. 71 “Writings by Boy, 14, Stir Diplomatic Row,” Washington Post, November 11, 1928, 15. 72 Putnam, David Goes to Greenland, 133. 73 Ibid., 148. 74 Siple, A Boy Scout with Byrd, 17. 75 Ahrens, Lindstrom, and Paisley, Across, 4. 76 Guterl, Color of Race, 59. 77 Johnson, Lion, 247; Ahrens, Lindstrom, and Paisley, Across, esp. 40–46 and 136. 78 Douglas, Martin, and Oliver, Three Boy Scouts, 52–53. 79 Ibid., 50. 80 Johnson, Lion, 247; Douglas, Martin, and Oliver, Three Boy Scouts, facing 68. 81 Osa Johnson, I Married Adventure: The Lives and Adventures of Martin and Osa Johnson (Philadelphia, PA, 1940), 317. 82 “Les romans,” Revue des lectures 17 (1929): 796. 83 Letter from Johnson to West, August 18, 1928, xiv; Martin Johnson, “Boy Scouts Introduced to Big Game,” The Sun, December 15, 1929, AT10. 84 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 56, 61. 85 Shari M. Huhndorf, Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination (Ithaca, NY, 2001), 76. 86 Johnson, Lion, 233. 87 Douglas, Martin, and Oliver, Three Boy Scouts, 26–27. 88 “Three Boy Scouts Head Into Africa,” 1. 89 Letter from Jim Tompkins to Richard E. Byrd, February 1, 1928, and letter from Rudolph Patzert to Richard E. Byrd, August 10, 1928, folder 4430, box 118, Byrd Papers. 90 “Three Scouts for Martin Johnson Safari in Africa,” 15; James E. West, “Appendix: The Selection of a Boy Scout for the Byrd Antarctic Expedition,” in A Boy Scout with Byrd, 161–62. 91 Richard E. Byrd, foreword to A Boy Scout with Byrd, iii; Paul Siple, “Boy Scout Says He Weighed 210 Pounds in Antarctic,” Boston Globe, June 29, 1930, A44. 92 “One of Dressiest is Siple, Boy Scout,” New York Times, June 20, 1930, 6. 93 “David Makes Another Voyage,” New York Times, November 21, 1926, BR3. 94 Ahrens, Lindstrom, and Paisley, Across the World, 16 and chap. 3. 95 “Distance No Barrier,” The Sun [New York], April 28, 1929, 63. 96 Letter from George Palmer Putnam to William Beebe, April 17, 1925, page 2, folder 7, box 16, William Beebe Papers, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library (hereafter Beebe Papers). 97 Douglas, Martin, and Oliver, Three Boy Scouts in Africa, 109. 98 For example, “Boy Scouts Hold a World Jamboree,” Scouting 17, no. 9 (September 1929): 287. 99 For example, F. N., review of Mit Byrd zum Südpol, Der Schweizer Geograph 10 (1933): 136. 100 Robert A. Bartlett, foreword to David Goes to Greenland, vii–viii. 101 Fitzhugh Green, foreword to David Goes to Baffin Land, 9–10. 102 West, “Appendix,” 164. 103 Stoddard, Re-forging America. 104 Robert J. Gordon, introduction to Tarzan Was an Eco-Tourist … and Other Tales in the Anthropology of Adventure, ed. Luis A. Vivanco and Robert J. Gordon (New York, 2006), 16. 105 New York Zoological Society, Thirtieth Annual Report (New York, 1926), xv. 106 Daisy Manufacturing Company, “David Takes his Daisy to Baffin Land—!,” Boys’ Life 18, no. 3 (March 1928): 2. 107 Putnam, Wide Margins, 220. 108 Ibid., 222. 109 Daniel W. Streeter, An Arctic Rodeo (New York, 1929), 229. 110 Putnam, Wide Margins, 217. 111 “Byrd’s Aides Tell Research Program,” New York Times, August 22, 1928, 12; Imperato and Imperato, They Married Adventure, 114; Ahrens, Lindstrom, and Paisley, Across, 55. 112 Putnam, Wide Margins, 253. 113 Letter from George Palmer Putnam to William Beebe, April 14, 1925, page 2, folder 7, box 16, Beebe Papers. 114 Streeter, Arctic Rodeo, 61 and 97. 115 “Putnam Arctic Party Greeted at Rye Yacht Club,” New York Herald Tribune, October 3, 1926, 14. 116 Putnam, Wide Margins, 230. 117 J. Leo Meehan (producer), Across the World with Mr. and Mrs. Martin Johnson (1929). 118 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 53. 119 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 55. 120 Letter from George Palmer Putnam to William Beebe, March 17, 1925, page 3, folder 7, box 16, Beebe Papers. 121 “The Halle Bros. Co. Presents Today Amelia Earhart,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 22, 1928, 2; “Two Boy Authors, 13, Here for a ‘Trade,’” New York Times, November 26, 1926, 9. 122 “The New Pictures,” Time 15, no. 5 (February 3, 1930): 58; also quoted in Lindstrom, “On Safari,” 148. 123 “Douglas Oliver Will Write Adventures for Constitution,” Atlanta Constitution, June 10, 1928; “Welcome for Siple Prepared in Erie,” New York Times, December 15, 1929, N6. 124 Letter from James E. West to Richard E. Byrd, August 6, 1928, file 1204, box 27, Byrd Papers. 125 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 55. 126 “Pick Three Safari Scouts,” New York Times, May 22, 1928, 26. 127 Letter from West to Byrd, August 6, 1928. 128 Letter from Arthur W. Procter to Richard E. Byrd, May 16, 1927, folder 1195, box 27, Byrd Papers; West, “Appendix,” 161. 129 West, “Appendix,” 162. 130 Notes from Malcolm C. Douglass to James West, August 18, 1928, file 1204, box 27, Byrd Papers. 131 Letter from Byrd to Siple, August 15, 1928. 132 “Only Penguins Cold to Byrd at Putnam Fete,” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 12, 1930, 6. 133 “Les romans,” 796; Review of Three Boy Scouts in Africa, Journal of Education 110, no. 9 (1929): 223. 134 Letter from Putnam to Beebe, March 17, 1925, page 3. 135 “Boy Must Know How to Express Himself,” Boston Daily Globe, April 10, 1927, C7. 136 Letter from Daniel Carter Beard to Richard E. Byrd, 2 June 1930, box 28, Daniel Carter Beard Papers, MSS12161, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC. 137 Siple, quoted in West, “Appendix,” 157–58; C. S., review of Med Byrd till sydpolen. En scout på upptäcktsfärd, Biblioteksbladet (1932): 300–1. 138 David Binney Putnam, David Sails the Viking Trail (New York, 1931); Ernestine Evans, review of David Sails the Viking Trail, New York Herald Tribune, July 10, 1932, I5. 139 Douglas, Best 90 Years, 134, 63. 140 Putnam, Wide Margins, 217, 300. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Diplomatic History – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2019
Access the full text.
Sign up today, get DeepDyve free for 14 days.