Cover image for Perfect sowing : reflections of a bookman
Perfect sowing : reflections of a bookman
Regnery, Henry, 1912-1996.
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Wilmington, Del. : ISI Books, [1999]

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xxvii, 394 pages : portrait (frontispiece) ; 22 cm
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Z473.R43 R44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Henry Regbery was one of the unsung heroes of the last half-century of American cultural life. While Regnery is principally known as the groundbreaking publisher of some of the most important authors of modern times--such as William F. Buckley, Jr., Russell Kirk, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Whittaker Chambers--this most recent collection of his writings demonstrates the author ranks highly among the most insightful conservative minds.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Regnery (1912^-96) was the independent publisher behind the post^-World War II revival of conservatism. He came to publishing rather accidentally, as he recounts in one of these articles, speeches, and reviews concerned with culture, not politics. Oddly, the two autobiographical essays that begin the book are less interesting than the others, which are equally personal but about books, writers, and publishing. Regnery's assessments of persons he knew--English novelist and painter Wyndham Lewis, South African poet Roy Campbell, German journalist-editor Paul Scheffer, historian of ideas Russell Kirk, author and recanting Communist Whittaker Chambers--are affectionate as well as acute, some of the best reading here (intriguingly, Campbell, as Regnery portrays him, seems to have been the real he-man Hemingway). Virtually as good are the three pieces on publishing, especially since they directly follow "Peddling the Goods," Regnery's trenchant perspective on the Book-of-the-Month Club. Everything in the collection is well written, and nearly everything is flavorful, as appreciable for its literacy and craft as for its information. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Drawn largely from his own journal, Modern Age, these essays by conservative Chicago publisher Regnery, who died in 1996, concentrate mainly on favorite authors from the political right, like Russell Kirk, Wyndham Lewis, Roy Campbell, Whittaker Chambers and Freda Utley. But he devotes not only an essay but many scattershot references in other pieces as well to FDR, whom Regnery considered the scourge of the centuryÄnot only the author of the 1930s economic morass and the man who opened Washington to the Communist underground, but also a foolish intervener into wars with Germany and Japan, and the inventor of the unconditional surrender doctrine that forestalled a negotiated peace. In one essay, Regnery celebrates the Chicago visionary architect of the skyscraper, Louis Sullivan, while in another he deplores the waste of genius in the career of University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins. In the end, Regnery's main enemy is nothing less than liberalism itself, and this book will therefore find few nonpartisan readers. The liberal, Regnery writes, "does not accept man as God made him, the human condition as it is, nor society as it has come down to us." So consistent was Regnery in his views that this collection could serve as a handbook for conservative speechwriters. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



I have said, take no thought of the harvest, but only of perfect sowing. --T. S. Eliot, The Rock Chapter One William H. Regnery: An Account of My Family My father, William Henry Regnery, was born on a farm in Wisconsin near a small place named Cleveland and not too far from Sheboygan, only a few miles, therefore, from Lake Michigan. His father, also William but baptized Wilhelm, was born in Germany in a wine-growing village, Ensch, on the Mosel River, a few miles below the old Roman city of Trier. The name Regnery--it is often spelled Regneri--occurs frequently in that area. The German writer Stephen Andres once told me that about a fifth of the population of Schweich, a larger town near Ensch where he was born, had the name Regnery when he was growing up, but that is probably an exaggeration. A historian at the University of Bonn, where I spent two years, thought that the name may have come from the French speaking part of Belgium and was brought to Schweich following the Thirty Years War when Belgian iron workers were induced to come to Schweich, which had a tradition for iron working going back to Roman days, to replace the much depleted population, but a bearer of the name told our son Alfred that it was brought to Trier by an Italian who worked in the court of the Elector. Who knows? The name also occurs in France and Holland. My grandfather's mother's name was Maria Katherina Otten; she came from a small place, Oberofflingen, in the Eifel, the hilly, picturesque forested area north of the Mosel and west of the Rhine whose inhabitants must work hard to wrest a living from the stubborn soil. If there is a streak of stubbornness in our family, as some who have married us maintain, it very likely comes from our Mosel and Eifel ancestors who had to be stubborn to survive. An Otten uncle of my great-grandmother established a fund, which probably still exists, for the education of a member of the family for the priesthood.     My grandfather, so members of the family in Ensch told me, was what on the Mosel is called a Kuefer , a man who makes and takes care of wine barrels and looks after the making of the wine. My father told me that his father first came to this country in the 1860s with a French friend to buy oak for making wine barrels, good oak having become scarce in Europe. He had gone back by the time of the Franco-Prussian War and consequently spent some time in the military, but whether he saw any action I do not know. In any case, he came to this country again following the war, with what specific purpose in mind, if any, I have no idea, nor do I know what brought him to the small community in Wisconsin where he met my grandmother, except that there seems to have been a family connection, since her mother's name was Johanna Otten Jung. Dorothy Regnery believes that my father's parents may have been first cousins, but this we have been unable to verify. They were married November 7, 1876, in St. Wendel's Church in Cleveland, Wisconsin, "in the presence," as it states on the certificate of marriage, "of Francis and Angela Jung," the brother and sister of the bride.     Following their marriage, my father told me, his parents made a trip to Germany, on which occasion, I would suppose, they visited relatives. My father, in any case, remembered his mother's description of Cologne. They also visited the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, and following all this, settled on a farm not far from that of my grandmother's family, whether supplied by them or not I do not know, where my father was born on October 12, 1877, although the baptismal certificate shows October 11. Her family, I understand, did not approve of the marriage, which may have contributed to my grandfather's decision to move on to Iowa about a year after my father was born, but the fact that the railroad had recently been finished and that other Germans from the same area had bought farms in that part of Iowa may also have played a part in his decision. He seems, in any case, to have been one of those people who find it difficult to settle down, who find the grass always greener on the other side of the fence. My mother, who didn't approve of him any more than did, apparently, my grandmother's family, once told me that he was a good story-teller and could be very entertaining, but this was about as far as she was willing to go in his favor.     My grandmother, whose name is shown on her certificate of marriage as Anna Jung, although I remember my father as having said it was Johanna, was born on or near the Wisconsin farm where my father was born. Her family came from Freudenburg in the Saar valley, a few miles south of Trier. Her father and grandfather were cabinet makers, and either one or both were involved in the anti-Prussian disturbances of 1848, in consequence of which one or both fled to England. The Rheinland had become a part of Prussia in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, having been previously ruled for many centuries by the Electors, who were also Bishops, of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier. The rather relaxed, easy-going administration of the Bishop Electors was far more suited to the Rhenish temperament than the strict, efficient rule of the Prussian Kings, of which the disturbances of 1848 were one result and the emigration of many Germans besides my grandmother's family another--to be called up for military service on the Mosel was called zu den Preussen zu gehen . Following the general amnesty the Jungs sold their property and migrated to Wisconsin; why Wisconsin I do not know, except that others from the vicinity of Trier had settled there--a nearby village is named Mosel--and several other of the early families of the area came from Freudenburg. My grandmother's father was named Wilhelm and his father Johann, names farther back than that Dorothy has not yet been able to discover. My father often told me the stories he had heard as a boy from his mother of the back-breaking labor involved in getting established in a new, unsettled country, of how they cleared the land by day and sawed lumber for their buildings in the evening, using a pit saw, one man standing on top of the log and another, at the other end of the saw, in a pit below. It was a hard life, but they brought up numerous children, and my great-grandmother, whom my mother once spoke of as having visited our family in Hinsdale, lived to be 86. She died before I was born, but I do remember the visit of an uncle of my father from that part of the family, Uncle Henry, for whom I was named. I once asked one of my father's sisters, Aunt Kate, who had known some of those from that part of the family, whether we still had any relatives around Sheboygan. "Relatives!" she said, "They all had eight or ten children. There must be hundreds."     My grandparents, as I have said, left Wisconsin when my father was only a year old and moved to Iowa, to a forty-acre farm about three miles from St. Lucas, a strong, German Catholic community in Fayette County. Their farm was in Winneshiek County, but in the parish of St. Luke's Church. Whatever my grandfather may have inherited from his family--on the Mosel I was told that they were "rich," a very relative term, needless to say--he must have spent on his travels and taking his new bride to Germany, because when they bought the farm on November 8, 1878, for $500 from George Kruse, an 1848 German who had a store in St. Lucas, they had to borrow $400. Two additional loans are recorded, one for $100 in January 1881 and a further loan for $100 in September 1887. The second loan may indicate some sort of crisis, because the farm was sold in the same month, on September 27, 1887, to their neighbors and the godparents of two of their children, John Paptis Blong, for $950. Whether they left the farm immediately or a year or two later I do not know, but whenever it was, they went to Kansas City, and, according to my Aunt Kate, by wagon. All this must have been a traumatic experience for the family, and for none, I am sure, more than for my grandmother. There was not only the loss of the farm and the support of neighbors, but leaving a close, homogeneous community of which they were a part, for a strange city and a life they were completely unprepared for, and by this time there were six children.     My grandfather, my father always said, was no farmer, and the skill he had acquired on the Mosel in the making and care of wine barrels and of wine was not of much use in Wisconsin and Iowa. In the meantime he had learned the trade of stone mason; the farm, from what my father told me, seems to have been largely a subsistence operation and provided most of their needs, so that whatever cash they had must have come from my grandfather's work as a stone mason, which meant that he was often away. The burden of the family and of much of the farm, therefore, was borne by my grandmother, who, in addition, brought six children into the world while they were there. Judging from her picture, she was rather slight, not at all the robust German Bauerin , farm wife, one might imagine.     My father often spoke about those years on the farm as a happy time of his life. I well remember his accounts of how they made their own soap, using animal fat and lye extracted from ashes made from old leather, of making yeast, of spinning wool--there was a hand weaver in the neighborhood who wove it into cloth for them--of growing and gathering their own vegetable seeds, of drying fruit and curing meat. He had a remarkable memory, and could describe every detail of the processes involved in these various operations. He would also describe the peddlers who would come by with great packs on their backs, bringing needles, thread and other useful things which were not otherwise readily available. The peddlers were always welcome, he said, not only for what they brought, but for the stories they told. If we would complain about walking to school in the cold, he would describe walking the three miles to and from school in the bitter winter weather, sometimes in blinding snowstorms. I also remember his description of a drought, when they had to go for miles by wagon to get water for themselves and the stock. It was not an easy life, but he was able to make me appreciate their feeling of satisfaction and contentment when preparations for winter were complete. All this, together with the closeness of the community, with the parish church at its center, makes me realize all the more what the loss of the farm must have meant to them, and especially to his mother. Why the family went to Kansas City I never knew. My Aunt Kate once told me that she thought her father had intended to go to Oklahoma, which was opened for settlement in 1889, but as she put it, "had lost his nerve." The journey to Kansas City may, therefore, have been with this ultimate destination in mind.     My father could only have been eleven or twelve when they left the farm, depending on how long they may have stayed on it following its sale, at which time he was just ten. The only formal education he ever had, or at least talked about, was in St. Lucas at the Catholic parochial school, which was conducted by an order of Franciscan Sisters whose Mother Convent is in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He often spoke of the St. Lucas school, of the firm but understanding discipline of the sisters, of how they began the teaching of arithmetic using acorns in a box of sand to demonstrate adding and subtracting and taught the geography of the United States with the aid of a railroad map. Their equipment was doubtless of the simplest, but they must have been dedicated teachers and, judging from my father, they produced results. The teaching in the morning, my father said, was in English, and in the afternoon in German. As limited as my father's formal education was, he used English correctly and well, could express himself effectively and clearly, had beautiful handwriting, and spoke good German. We all drove out to St. Lucas in 1919 for a visit; it must have been in the early spring because I can still remember the muddy roads. The sister who had taught my father was still there, and although she had not seen him since he was a boy of eleven or twelve, she instantly recognized him. I was with my father at the time, a small boy of seven, but I clearly remember how touched he was when he saw his old teacher and was recognized by her.     To help support the family, my father went to work soon after they arrived in Kansas City, which would mean that he could not have been more than twelve or thirteen. His first job was in what was called a "fancy" grocery which was operated by a Scot named White, whom my father often spoke of, and always with gratitude and respect. Mr. White must have taken a particular interest in my father and been of great help to him during those difficult years; I remember his picture in my father's office. After several years in the grocery store my father decided the time had come to find something that offered a more promising future. When he set out to look for a different job, he and a friend who was in the same situation found two possibilities, one at the Kansas City Star and the other in the wholesale firm of William Volker & Company. They flipped a coin to determine which boy would apply for which job; my father's friend went to the paper and later, I was told, became its owner. William Volker & Company, on the other hand, determined my father's career for the rest of his life, and he had a decided influence on the firm.     The twelve years or so my father lived in Kansas City were not a happy time of his life. On top of the loss of the farm and the long hours of work as a young boy, his mother and a sister Anna died three years after they arrived, which must have been a terrible blow to him. His mother had had nine children in all, of whom five, besides my father, lived to maturity, Nicholas, Katherine, Josephine, Frank, and Jennie. Because he stayed home from work at the time of his mother's death, he lost his job--he could only have been about fourteen--but he soon got it back again. Before he was twenty, my father was a disciplined, mature man, the head of the family and its chief support. He had friends, some of them for the rest of his life, and spoke of bicycle trips in the country around Kansas City and of amusing incidents at work, but he never spoke of Kansas City with much affection; the happy memories of his childhood and boyhood were always of the farm and St. Lucas, doubtless because they were associated with his mother.     While my father had little opportunity for formal education, he had an excellent mind and a wonderfully retentive memory, and used every opportunity to develop his faculties and to improve himself. He soon began buying books, which was at a time when every penny counted. Some of these I remember--his well-worn set of Stevenson, which we also all enjoyed, a good edition of Shakespeare, which he knew well, an Encyclopedia Britannica, and a Webster's dictionary, of which he had read the history of the English language, a subject which always interested him. He told me from memory, never forgetting a detail, such stories as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe long before I read them myself; he also enjoyed telling fairy stories, which he had doubtless learned from his mother or father. One I particularly liked had to do with St. Peter, who had given a blacksmith, as a reward for a kindness, a leather bag which anyone had to get into who was ordered to do so by its owner. The blacksmith first used it to punish some bad boys who had been stealing his apples, but the climax of the story involved the punishment of a devil, who, after trying to tempt the blacksmith, was ordered into his bag and then pounded on his anvil with a big hammer with such vigor that one of his horns was broken off. Hearing that story, I could always vividly picture this scene in my imagination. My father once spoke of how much he as a young man had enjoyed Cornhill , the English literary magazine of that period; it was doubtless there that he first read Stevenson, whom he always greatly admired and recommended to us.     My mother was born Frances Susan Thrasher on October 19, 1876, in Atchison, Kansas. She later gave the year of her birth as 1877, whether in error, or to make it coincide with that of my father I do not know. She was the youngest, by a number of years, of four children; from all accounts, it was a close, affectionate family. One of her brothers, our Uncle Jim, went to Fort Worth, Texas, and did well in real estate, but had no children; the other, Uncle Walter, worked for the post office and had two daughters, Ruth and Eve. I remember Uncle Walter as a kindly, jovial man, full of amusing stories, and an excellent billiard player--he always enjoyed my father's billiard table when they came to visit us. My mother's sister Harriet, whom we called Aunt Nellie, was a widow by the time I new her, and had two children, Alberta and Rolland. Her daughter Alberta married my father's younger brother Frank. Aunt Nellie eventually moved to California where she was able to indulge in her passion for the theater--she loved Shakespeare, from whom she could recite passages by the yard. She would visit us from time to time, and I am sure helped my mother to get through more than one of the inevitable crises involved in bringing up a family.     My mother was rather short, enormously energetic, always said that she had never been sick in her life, which I think was probably quite true, had a quick sense of humor, flashing black eyes, and very definite opinions. She was wonderfully honest and outspoken. My sister enjoyed telling the story of a visit by my mother to the local doctor. We were having dinner, my mother at one end of the table and my father at the other, with the five children distributed in between. My mother remarked that she had been to see Dr. Scott that day for a "checkup." "What did he say?" my father asked. "Well," my mother said, "he took one look at the scale and said `My God.'" She always had a hearty appetite, and as she grew older did get rather heavy--my sister used to say, "fashionably plump." At one point she decided to lose weight, and attempted to do so by taking enormously long walks--when she did anything, she did it all the way--with the result that her appetite became better than ever, with the inevitable consequence.     My mother graduated from high school in Kansas City, a fact of which she was quite proud--most young girls in those days did not go to high school. Her diploma hung for years in her bedroom. Some time later she also went to work for the William Volker Company, as a secretary, she said, although I must say that she was a terrible typist--either standards for typists weren't so high in those days, or bringing up five children and running a large house caused her to lose her skill. So, in the Volker Company in about the year of 1900 there were my mother, an attractive, lively young woman in the office, and my father in charge of the window shade department and about to be sent to Chicago to look after Mr. Volker's interests in a new business, the Western Shade Cloth Company, for which he had supplied the capital and was doubtless the largest customer.     Mr. Volker sent my father to Chicago in November, 1902, to look after his interests in the Western Shade Cloth Company. My parents were married the following year in Kansas City, on June 30, 1903, by my mother's Methodist minister. My father had been brought up a Catholic, but agreed when they were married that their children would not be brought up as Catholics; my mother, at that point, was decidedly anti-Roman, but ten years or so before she died became a Catholic, went to Mass every day, and insisted that my father go on Sunday. When she did anything she went the whole way, whether Catholic or anti-Catholic. As children we were sent to the Episcopal Church, which, I suppose, was regarded more or less as a half-way point between my mother's Methodist and my father's Catholic upbringing, but neither, probably for fear of disturbing the other, took an active part in any church. This, I think, was a sacrifice for both and for my mother a source of sorrow, because she was, at heart, a deeply religious person, which is doubtless the reason for her unrestrained eventual acceptance of Catholicism. My father, for his part, always remained loyal to the Catholic Church and grateful for what the church had done for him. He was a generous supporter, all his life, of many Catholic institutions.     My father, who had been working since he was thirteen or fourteen, must not have looked particularly robust when they were married, because my mother once remarked that her mother, when she decided to marry him, asked, "Why do you want to marry that German? You will be a widow by the time you are thirty-five." They went immediately to Chicago following their marriage and set up housekeeping in an apartment--my mother always referred to it as a "flat"--at 4160 Ellis Avenue on the south side of Chicago. My oldest brother, William, was born there, but before he was two they moved to Hinsdale, into a house my father had had built. The day they moved into that well-built but modest house on the north side of Hickory Street between Grant and Vine in Hinsdale, my mother always said, was one of the happiest and proudest moments of his life. To have his own family in his own house represented a great achievement for him. They lived there from 1904 to 1913; three of their children were born there, my sister Mary Louise in 1906, my brother Frederick in 1908, and I in 1912. There was another boy between Fred and me who died in infancy.     My parents always spoke of those first years of their marriage as a particularly happy time of their lives. Children arrived at regular intervals, they were both strong and vigorous, they had congenial neighbors, and being able to meet the challenge of establishing a family and building up a new business was satisfying to both of them. My father worked hard: he not only had the responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the firm, but did much of the selling besides, which involved frequent trips to St. Louis, which was then a center for wholesale dry goods houses, but also to New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, Buffalo and I don't know where else. I remember my mother's account of an incident from those years. My oldest brother must have been about four and my sister two. It was a fine summer day and my father had been away, so my mother took the children and walked down to meet him coming up from the train. A peach tree they had planted had produced its first peach; she put it into the stroller, along with my sister, to surprise him. When she met him, however, and reached down to get it she found only the stone, and my sister's face covered with peach. "She always did like peaches," she would add when she told this story.     It was a good start, those first years on Hickory Street, for a marriage which lasted for more than fifty years. There were rocky times, as there often are in any human relationship, but they surmounted them, and when my father died my mother died just eight days later, although she seemed perfectly well at the time--she simply couldn't face life without him.     The Western Shade Cloth Company was founded in 1897 on the second floor of rented space on the Fulton Street Market. The original capital was supplied by William Volker: $20,000 on February 13, 1897, $10,000 on July 21, 1898, and $70,000 on May 15, 1902. There were three men in charge of the operation, A. Abele of the office, Jacob Yandall of manufacturing, and S. Kempner of sales; Mr. Volker transferred $3,000 of his stock to each of these three. The sole product, in the beginning, was handmade shade cloth, which was made by stretching bleached cotton cloth on long wooden frames, sixty yards in length, applying a glue sizing and then oil paint, both operations with long brushes, by hand. By the time my father arrived from Kansas City, the firm had moved into its own building, which was demolished a few years ago, at the southwest corner of 21st Street and Jefferson.     A year or two before he died, my father reconstructed the balance sheet of the company from the old ledger as of the day he started to work for the Western Shade Cloth Company, November 8, 1902. At that time the company had a net worth of $142,000, of which $100,000 was capital and $42,000 surplus. There was a mortgage of $45,000 on the real estate, but otherwise no debt. On March 31, 1954, shortly after my father's death, at which time my brother William was president of the company, total assets were $25,500,000 and net worth $14,700,000 in addition to which there were reserves of $1,725,000. There was no debt except an issue of long-term debentures, all held by stockholders of the company. My father would have been the last person to exhibit the increase in the worth of the company he directed as a measure of the success of his life--there are other measures for that, and by them he would also come out very well--but such a comparison is a good measure of his success in business. He always took pride in the fact that the company had a strong balance sheet. He never liked to borrow money, and very rarely did. "If you don't borrow money," he used to say, "you will never have to face bankruptcy."     When the two older members of the firm retired, which was fairly soon, my father bought their stock, with money borrowed from Mr. Volker, and was soon actively in charge of the business. There were problems, capital was short and competition keen, but the firm prospered. At first, muslin was bought from New England mills and bleached by others, but bleaching facilities were soon added and then the equipment acquired to manufacture other types of cloth than "hand made." About 1912, Mr. Kempner, after a dispute with Mr. Volker about the division of profits, decided to sell out; my father, again with money borrowed from Mr. Volker, bought his stock, making him the majority stockholder. After running his own business for a year or two--the manufacture of shoe lasts--Mr. Kempner invited my father to have lunch with him, which they did periodically in any case. After describing the troubles he was running into, he said, very solemnly as my father told the story, "Vill, I can only make money with you." Mr. Kempner was one of the few people who ever called my father by his first name. Mr. Kempner was a talented man and provided the substance of numerous amusing stories which were often recounted in the evenings at dinner, but he needed such a man as my father to give him direction and to keep him out of trouble. He was a Polish Jew, but his father decided, Mr. Kempner once told me, that he wanted his son to be a German and sent him to Breslau to be educated. He loved to eat, the richer the food the better, took no more exercise than absolutely necessary, broke all the rules of health--but neither smoked nor drank to excess--and lived, and was active, well into his eighties. He was still in the business in 1941 when I went into it.     It was soon agreed that Mr. Kempner would come back to the firm, to build up the division which was later to be called industrial fabrics. The same equipment used to manufacture shade cloth could also be used to produce such fabrics as book-binding cloth, tag cloth, label cloth, tracing cloth, sign cloth and much else; this was Mr. Kempner's domain, and he was very effective and successful. We became one of the principal manufacturers of book cloth and now are one of the only two left in the country. A fabric which became an important part of our business was rubber holland--we still make it, but in smaller quantities than at one time, which is used as an inter-leafing material in the manufacture of rubber. It is made of print cloth, which, after the necessary coating has been applied, which includes starch, is calendered to give it a hard, glossy finish. In the twenties we made millions of yards of what was called "box-stay," a starch-filled cloth used to reinforce the corners of shipping cartons.     One of our salesmen told me an amusing story involving Mr. Kempner and our largest customer for box-stay. This man was a Scotsman, and rather formal. He called one day to ask Mr. Kempner to come to his office for an important transaction. Mr. Kempner didn't hurry, being well aware of the importance of maintaining appearance, and had himself, with a young salesman, driven over in his elegant Packard by his long-time chauffeur, Leo. After they had settled themselves in the office of the head of the firm, the latter made a little speech, expressing his appreciation for the contribution of Mr. Kempner and the Western Shade Cloth Company to the success of his firm, and then handed Mr. Kempner an order for one million yards of box-stay, the largest order, by far, he had ever placed. Mr. Kempner took the order, looked at it rather disdainfully, and proceeded to tear it up, remarking in the meantime that he wouldn't use it in his bathroom, or words to that effect. His customer, needless to say, was furious, called him various names and then ordered him out of the office, with instructions never to return. Mr. Kempner managed to calm things down--he was used to this sort of thing--and by the time the smoke had cleared the order was re-written, but this time without the various specifications that had been added to the original, which was the purpose of the whole performance. Mr. Kempner was a good salesman, but hardly a conventional one. The first time he called on a potential customer he made a practice of deliberately provoking an argument, which, under his management, could get quite heated, relying on his skill to smooth things over; in this way, he said, a customer never forgot him, which I am sure was quite true.     My father enjoyed telling the story of his first trip to New York. The company had accumulated a fairly large stock of "seconds"--made-up shades which were not of first quality--and having heard of a firm in New York, Weiss & Klau, which made a practice of buying such merchandise, he decided to go to see them. It was one of those old-fashioned firms, he said, with several men sitting around who seemed to have nothing much else to do but to pass the time of day. He introduced himself and asked for Mr. Weiss. "He just stepped out," one of them said (my father later learned that Mr. Weiss had been dead for at least five years), but they were cordial, welcomed him to New York, and invited him to use their place of business as an office while he was there. When my father showed them his list of seconds, they studied it carefully and then told him, rather regretfully it seemed, that they really had no use for his merchandise, but urged him to come back when he was next in New York and repeated their invitation to use their place of business as a center when he was in town. My father thanked them and started to walk out. They rushed after him, he said, their mouths literally watering for his seconds. With the experience he had had dealing with all kinds of people, beginning at the age of fourteen in a high-quality grocery store, he had a wonderful ability to size up whomever he had to deal with and to respond accordingly. (Continues...) Copyright (c) 1999 ISI Books. All rights reserved.