Der Tag (Mencken Day) 2014

Mencken Day 2014 will be held September 13, 2014, at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD.

10:30 AM: Mencken Society Annual Meeting with guest speaker Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. Marion’s latest book is H. L. Mencken: The Days Trilogy, Expanded Edition (The Library of America, 2014).

2:00 PM: The 2014 Mencken Memorial Lecture: “H. L. Mencken: Racist or Civil Rights Champion?”, presented by Larry S. Gibson, professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law. Mr Gibson is the author of Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice (Prometheus Books, 2012)

Reception and book signing immediately following in the Poe Room.

10AM—5:00PM: The Mencken Room is open to the public.

6:00PM—9:00PM: Saturday Night Club (for Mencken Society Members only), 10 West Hamilton St.


The Library of America will be releasing a new edition of the Days books, edited by the incomparable Marion E. Rodgers: “Mencken continued to add to them after publication, annotating and expanding each volume in type- scripts sealed to the public for twenty-five years after his death. Until now, most of this material—often more frank and unvarnished than the original Days books—has never been published. Containing nearly 200 pages of previously unseen writing, and illustrated with photographs from Mencken’s archives, many taken by Mencken himself, this expanded and definitive edition of the Days trilogy is a cause for celebration.” H. L. Mencken: The Days Trilogy, Expanded Edition (Library of America #257) be released September 25, 2014.

Calvin K. Kobsa, 1927-2014

Society member Calvin Kern Kobsa died at the age of eighty-six at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson on May 10, 2014.

Calvin, the son of Charles J. Kobsa, a piano maker and tuner, and Marie Kern Kobsa, was born in Baltimore July 31, 1927. He was graduated from Polytechnic Institute and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. After serving in the Coast Guard, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade, he established his own architectural firm in 1960. He performed both residential and commercial work but his specialty was historic properties. A personal interest of his was old motion-picture theaters.

He was always in a good humor, always ready with an anecdote, and always ready to assist. He drew and painted and possessed the Baltimorean’s love of his City and also the Baltimorean’s love of reminiscing about the “old days”

In addition to being a member of the Society, Calvin was also a member of the Friends of the H. L. Mencken House. For the latter organization he produced a set of valuable architectural plans with detailed annotations directing how the Mencken House should be renovated. For several years would set up his boyhood model train set at the House during the annual Christmastime open house.

Calvin Kern Kobsa is interred in the Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery, Owings Mills, Baltimore County, MD.

Ninth Annual Mencken Grave-site Memorial Service, 2014-01-26 (Sun)


The 9th Annual Mencken Grave-site Memorial Service will be held Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM at the Mencken family plot in Loudon Park Cemetery. Signs will point the way to the grave-site.

After the brief (less than 10 minutes) ceremony, attendees are invited to Spirits West Country Club, 2601 Wilkens Ave.

Loudon Park Cemetery: enter at 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD 21229. Note: the Frederick Ave entrance is closed. Enter through the Wilkens Ave entrance.

Location of grave: N 39° 16.693′ W 76° 40.683′ (39.278217°, -76.678050°)

For GPS users: Google maps recognizes geographic coordinates and knows the cemetery’s roads. It does assume that the Frederick Ave entrance is open. The Frederick Ave entrance is closed. Split your trip into two parts: leg 1 will be from your origin to 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD; leg 2 will be 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD to 39.278217, -76.678050.

Spirits West Country Club: 2601 Wilkens Ave (Cor. Millington Ave), Baltimore, MD 21223. (Make a left turn from Loudon Park onto Wilkens Ave. and drive 1.6 miles. Spirits West will be on your right at the end of Baltimores’s longest block of row houses and across the way from St Benedict’s Church.)

A video of the 2013 service is posted on Youtube.

Mencken's Grave-site

Map to Mencken’s Grave-site

Bodine’s Industry: The Dignity of Work

Seventy prints of images showing people at work taken by A. Aubrey Bodine, Mr Mencken’s professional colleague, will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI) from October 15, 2013 to February 6, 2014.

On November 7, 2013 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, Jennifer Bodine, Aubrey Bodine’s daughter, will present a lecture and book signing of her latest book Bodine’s Industry: The Dignity of Work. Admission is $12 for members of the BMI, $15 for non-members.

The BMI at 1415 Key Highway, Baltimore, is open Tuesday–Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Note that the museum is closed Monday). Parking is free.

We leave Mr Mencken to have the last words on work:

“The most steadily attractive of all human qualities is competence. One invariably admires a man who is good at his trade, whatever it must be — who understands its technic thoroughly, and surmounts its difficulties with ease, and gets substantial rewards for his labors, and is envied by his rivals.” (HLM, Minority Report)

“The only sort of man who is really worth hell room [is] the man who practices some useful trade in a competent manner, makes a decent living at it, pays his own way, and asks only to be let alone.” (HLM, Minority Report)

Update: Mencken Oktoberfest at the Goethe Institut Is Now Free

The lecture and showing of Inherit the Wind at the Goethe-Institut are now free of charge but there will be no buffet and no Oktoberfest beer. Lunch may be had at any of the nearby restaurants. We hope to see you on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 10:30 am.

The registration deadline has been extended to October 24, 2013. Please email your reservations to Erica Joyce or call 703-237-0858.

The Goethe-Institut Washington is at 812 7th St NW. Some nearby places to have lunch are:

RFD Washington, 810 7th St, NW

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant, 808 7th St, NW

Nando’s Peri-Peri (Portugese Chicken), 819 7th St, NW ‎(across the street from RFD Washington)

Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th St, NW

Oktoberfest With A Menckenian Flavor

Problem: Your appetite for bratwurst and sauerbraten is getting sated but you still want to celebrate Oktoberfest.

Solution: Enjoy a day of Mencken at the American Goethe Society of Washington, D.C. with an entertaining lecture (in English) by the renown Mencken scholar Marion Elizabeth Rodgers and a showing of the film Inherit the Wind (1960).

We have no doubt that Mr Mencken would have approved of the fine not-your-usual-Oktoberfest-luncheon with Oktoberfest beer which will be served before the showing of the film.

The Menckenian faithful may wish to re-read “The Hills of Zion” (A Mencken Chrestomathy). A worthwhile contrary view of the Scopes Trial is Mencken’s Mendacity at the Scopes Trial.

What: Lecture and film showing

When: Saturday, October 26, 2013 10:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where: The Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001


10:30am —11:00am Coffee / Registration
11:00am —12:00noon Lecture and Discussion
12:15pm — 1:15pm Oktoberfest Luncheon (includes Oktoberfest beer)
1:30pm — 3:30pm Showing of Inherit the Wind (1960), based on the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. (Gene Kelly, as “E. K. Hornbeck”, quite effectively plays the Mencken character.)

Cost: $40.00 (which includes morning coffee, lecture, German lunch, and film).

Please register no later than October 19, 2013.

Please send your reservation (with name, address, and if you would, your email and phone number) and check in the amount of $40 per person payable to the American Goethe Society, to:

American Goethe Society
Oktoberfest 2013
P.O. Box 6632
McLean, Va. 22106-6632

Mr Mencken Recommends … Dragon’s Blood

There is a nice illustrated version of Henry Milner Rideout’s Dragon’s Blood (Houghton-Mifflin, 1909) available from Project Gutenberg.

From Smart Set 28(3):153-160 (1909-07) [546 words]:

[Dragon’s Blood is] a novel of great merit and greater promise. A hundred journeyman fictioneers might have imagined the story it tells, but a distressingly small number, even among the aristocrats of the craft, could have told it so well.

This, as you will observe, is a reversal of the usual order of affairs. Your typical American novelist, particularly if he be as young as Mr. Rideout, starts out with an ingenious and astonishing plot, and ends with a commonplace story. Having worked out no philosophy of life he is unable to interpret his own fable, and so it becomes a mere anecdote. Having no understanding of causes, motives and mental processes, he is unable to see behind the actual acts of his characters, and so they become mere actors. Mr. Rideout is not of that school. He has the larger vision. He sees that an act is of vastly less significance than its cause; that a man cannot be described save in terms of his environment. In a word, he gets beneath the surface of things. His picture is not that of a clawhammer coat making love to a décolleté gown, but that of a human being striving against fate.

In its externals, Mr. Rideout’s story is a somewhat noisy melodrama. A half-dozen white men and three women, marooned in a God-forsaken Chinese town, are attacked by fanatics and have to fight their way out. They are of widely varying types. One is a silly American missionary—the cause of all the row. Another is his wife—fat, useless and almost yearning for martyrdom. Another is a stolid trader; another is his dubious wife, and yet another is a British outcast with the morals of a horse thief and the courage of a Hugh de Vermandois. Finally, there is Rudolph Hackh—not the hero of the tale, but its Hamlet.

There are all sorts of turbulent doings. The Chinese advance with stinkpot and cannon and try to explode a mine. There are sorties by night and battles by day; men fall and graves are dug; mysterious messengers come and go; the Hugh de Vermandois sallies forth alone and seeks to penetrate the hostile councils; there is even a preposterous duel. But these things are but incidents in the real story, which has its concern with the soul of Hackh. He goes in a somewhat callow youth, oppressed by romance and ready to follow the skirt of a pretty woman to the devil. He comes out a man, every inch of him, with the poise of maturity and experience. Something of Old China’s immemorial calm has been fastened upon him. His blood is still German, but his philosophy has a flavor of the Chinese.

Mr. Rideout’s methods remind one, more than once, of Joseph Conrad. He has not a little of Conrad’s romanticism, and now and then there is a suggestion of Conrad’s uncanny skill at achieving atmosphere. The China that he draws seems as real as the brooding jungle that swallowed Kaspar Almayer. And his view of the eternal mystery of life is essentially that of the great Anglo-Pole. He has still a long and weary road to travel before he may come to Conrad’s high place, but he is headed in the right direction.

* * *


Henry Milner Rideout (1877-1922).

Hugh I of Vermandois (1057 – October 18, 1101), “called Magnus or the Great, was a younger son of Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev and younger brother of Philip I. He was in his own right Count of Vermandois, but an ineffectual leader and soldier, great only in his boasting.”

Stinkpot, a 19th century Chinese incendiary weapon made of an “an earthenware vessel filled with [gun]powder, sulphur, etc.” which is thrown down onto enemy vessels.

Kaspar Almayer is a Dutch trader in Borneo who appears in Joseph Conrad’s first novel, Almayer’s Folly (1895).

Mencken Day 2013

Mencken Day 2013 will be held on September 7, 2013 at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St, Baltimore, MD.


10:30 a.m. — Mencken Society annual meeting

1:30 p.m. — The 2013 Mencken Memorial Lecture — “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug Cocaine” by Dr. Howard Markel. Guest appearance by H. L. Mencken.

Dr. Markel is the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and a professor of psychiatry, public health, history and pediatrics. He has been a regular contributor for National Public Radio’s Science Friday. Dr. Markel’s most recent book is An Anatomy of Addiction. Of particular interest to Menckenphiles is his book, written with Frank A. Oski, The H. L. Mencken Baby Book.

A reception and book signing will follow in the Poe Room.

The Mencken Room is open to the public from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

New exhibits: “H. L. Mencken and Dr. Louis Cheslock (1898-1981)”, “Mencken and Arthur J. Gutman: 1911-2012” and “Mencken and Anthony Turano: 1893-1991.”

Arthur J. Gutman was a collector of Menckeniana and a former Treasurer and President of the Mencken Society.

Anthony Turano, an Italian-American lawyer who practiced in Reno Nevada, made many contributions to the The American Mercury. A noteworthy contribution was his “The speech of Little Italy” which appeared in the July 1932 issue. Like Mencken, he was enchanted by language and possessed a Menckenian repository of words. “Because of my early habit of looking up every unfamiliar word in a battered copy of Webster, my vocabulary became so top-heavy that my supply of words was far in excess of my ideas.”