Samuel Johnson WOTD: UMBREL

UMBREL (UMBRE’L) UMBRELLA (UMBRE’LLA) n.s.[from umbra, Lat.] A skreen used in hot countries to keep off the sun, and in others to bear off the rain.

I can carry your umbrella, and fan your ladyship. Dryden.

Good housewivesDefended by th’ umbrella’s oily shed,Safe through the wet on clinking pattens tread. Gay.


Nimble’s Publishing Heritage: William F. Zimmerman of A.C. McClurg & Co.

P.S. There are three incredible twists at the end. Read all the way through!

Although everyone calls me Fred, my full name is actually William Frederick Zimmerman, and I am at least the sixth William Zimmerman in a row. The first that we know of was born in Prussia in 1811 and emigrated to the United States in the 1850’s, where he started in Pennsylvania and settled in Chicago. According to the 1870 Census, he was a gardener who owned a house worth $2500, which sounds a bit out of proportion; perhaps he came to the States with some property.  His son, William Frederick Zimmerman, was born in Berlin in 1849 and wound up in Chicago with his father, where he joined the book and stationary house of Jansen, McClurg & Co.

A.C. McClurg & Co. traces its origins to Chicago’s oldest book and stationery store which was founded in 1844. The young Alexander C. McClurg went to work for the company, then known as S. C. Griggs, in 1859. McClurg resumed working for Griggs after returning from the Civil War with the rank of general. S.C. Griggs lost all its contents in a fire in 1868. But when the store was completely destroyed by the great Chicago Fire of 1871, Griggs decided to sell his share of the company to E. L. Jansen, A. C. McClurg and F. B. Smith. Jansen, McClurg & Co. was established in 1872. The business flourished and in 1873 published its first title, Landscape Architecture by H. W. S. Cleveland. By 1880 McClurg’s ranked as one of the country’s largest book distributors. In addition to its wholesale book business, McClurg supplied to small-town retailers throughout the West and Midwest a variety of merchandise, including “blank books and tablets, stationery, typewriter paper and supplies, hair and tooth brushes, druggists’ sundries, pocketbooks, pipes, pocket cutlery, etc.”

Although the book distribution component of the company was more successful than its publishing side, General McClurg felt secure enough to start publishing the monthly literary magazine the Dial in 1880 and continued to do so until 1892. It was during this period that George Millard created the rare book section that became known as the “Saints and Sinners Corner.” In 1886 the company changed its name to A.C. McClurg & Co.

By 1897 William Zimmerman was established as a leading light of the Publishers, Newsdealers and Stationers of Chicago, and spoke at their annual meeting that year.

His topic was “The Bookseller and His Duty to the Public.”

When the firm’s premises were destroyed by fire in 1899, General McClurg decided to reorganize as a corporation with shares sold to employees, including William F. Zimmerman.


Zimmerman was in charge of the wholesale stationery department.  Admittedly, not the most fascinating area of publishing.

McClurg died soon thereafter in 1901

[and William F. Zimmerman seized power by dint of being a hard worker and an exacting creditor.]
One notable title published in Zimmerman’s tenure was a memoir by Clarence Darrow called FARMINGTON after his home town.  My great-grandfather remembered seeing a thank-you letter to his father from Darrow.

According to the Chicago Tribune of January 18, 1903, McClurg sold a boatload of Bibles:


Zimmerman celebrated his 30th anniversary at McClurg in 1909:


He held the throne until 1911:

[In] 1914 the firm negotiated what turned out to be its most profitable publication, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. McClurg & Co. went on to publish 10 more Tarzan titles. Eventually Burroughs set up his own company to deal with all iterations of his famous character.

History of the editions of Tarzan of the Apes.

At the moment of McClurg’s greatest triumph, Zimmerman’s life was struck by tragedy.


William F. Zimmerman of Chicago Is Expected to Reach Des Moines This Morning

William F. Zimmerman, vice president of the A. C. McClurg & Co publishing firm and father of Herbert Zimmerman, the former Ames student who was killed by a train here Thursday night, is expected to arrivein Des Moines today to take charge of the body. The young man's identity was established yesterday by President Tt. A. Pearson of the state college. The body is being held in Dunn's undertaking rooms awaiting the father's arrival. Police department detectives are convinced there was no foul play in Zimmerman's death.

The death was banner news in the Chicago Tribune of April 11, 1914.

Sat, Apr 11, 1914 – 4 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) ·

Herbert’s older brother William was  my great-grandfather, who became Assistant Secretary of the Interior for FDR. I never met him, although I did meet Hilmar, who lived in the Chicago area, in my teens.  My son is Parker William Zimmerman.

Herbert’s death was so troubling that according to the Des Moines Register of April 16, 1914, the elder Zimmerman hired a private detective.

An inquest was held.

Later that fall, my great-great-grand father established a fund to honor his son at Iowa State University.

It was increased to $200 by 1917.

From the son of a gardener, a humble book clerk, to president of Chicago’s leading publisher, to a father crushed by grief: a remarkable life in letters.

P.P.S. — from Professor Jeffery Iles at Iowa State University’s Department of Horticulture:

I am pleased to report that the Zimmerman Memorial Award ($50) is still presented annually to a deserving student majoring in horticulture.  As of today, the cash balance in the account was $1,738.94, and at the rate of $50/year, we should be able to continue distributing this award for many years to come.  Since its inception, the Zimmerman Award has benefited just over 100 undergraduate students.  Quite an impressive track record!

Of course, additional contributions can be made to the fund to either (1) insure its viability well into the future, or (2) increase the amount given annually.

On behalf of the ISU Department of Horticulture, I want to thank you and the Zimmerman family for helping support so many of our deserving students.

Samuel Johnson WOTD: UPRIGHTLY @davidpriess

I have a little script that sends me a random definition from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary every day. Today’s was very apropos.

UPRIGHTLY (U’PRIGHTLY) adv.[from upright.] 1. Perpendicularly to the horizon. 2. Honestly; without deviation from the right.

Men by nature apter to rage than deceit; not greatly ambitious, more than to be well and uprightly dealt with. Sidney.

Princes in judgment, and their delegate judges, must judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, without any personal consideration. Taylor.

To live uprightly then is sure the best,To save ourselves, and not to damn the rest. Dryden.

Backseat driving Samuel Johnson: LIFT

Today’s Dose of Samuel Johnson

LIFT (LIFT) n.s.[from the verb. ]The act of lifting; the manner of lifting.

In the lift of the feet, when a man goeth up the hill, the weight of the body beareth most upon the knees. Bacon.

Ouch. Boring example.

In races, it is not the large stride, or high lift, that makes the speed. Bacon’sEssays.

Incorrect. See: Usain Bolt.

The goat gives the fox a lift, and out he springs. L’Estr.

Vivid! Best sentence of the three.

2.[In Scottish.]The sky: for in a starry night they say, How clear the lift is?

Excellent. I need to work this one in!

3. Effect; struggle. Dead lift is an effort to raise what with the whole force cannot be moved; and figuratively any state of impotence and inability.


Myself and Trulla made a shift To help him out at a dead lift. Hudibras,p. i.

Who the heck is Hudibras.

Mr. Doctor had puzzled his brains In making a ballad, but was at a stand.For you freely must own, you were at a dead lift. S wift.

“You were at a dead lift” is a nice alternative to “you were at an impasse” or “you were at a standstill”.

4. Lift, in Scotland, denotes a load or surcharge of any thing; as also, if one be disguised much with liquor, they say, He has got a great lift.


5. Lifts of a sail are ropes to raise or lower them at pleasure.

Samuel Johnson WOTD: PROBOSCIS

PROBOSCIS (PROBO’SCIS) n.s.[proboscis, Lat.]A snout; the trunk of an elephant; but it is used also for the same part in every creature, that bears any resemblance thereunto.

The elephant wreath’d to make them sport His lithe proboscis. Milton.

Your poem sunk, And sent in quires to line a trunk:If still you be dispos’d to rhyme, Go try your hand a second time. Swift.5.  [Trompe, Fr.]The proboscis of an elephant, or other animal.

It hath a rose-shaped flower, consisting of several leaves, which are placed circularly; out of whose cup arises the pointal, ending in a proboscis, which afterwards turns to a roundish fruit, which is channelled, generally umbellated, and consisting of five cells, which are commonly full of small seeds. Miller.

Adobe acquires Magento

I’m deep in both Adobe and Magento worlds, but don’t see how this helps me much in either capacity.

Adobe plans to create a new system to support online entrepreneurship, the company said in a statement.

Adobe Creative products can help Magento look better, but Flash can only make it more insecure, and Adobe’s onerous DRM can only make Magento harder to use for customers.


Samuel Johnson WOTD is SWEARER (with bonus: OBTEST)

SWEARER (SWE’ARER) n.s.[from swear.] A wretch who obtests the great name wantonly and profanely.

And must they all be hang’d that swear and lie? ———— Every one. ———— Who must hang them? ———— Why, the honest men. —— Then the liars and swearers are fools; for there are liars and swearers enow to beat the honest men and hang them up.Shak.

Take not his name, who made thy mouth, in vain:It gets thee nothing, and hath no excuse: Lust and wine plead a pleasure, avarice a gain; But the cheap swearer through his open sluice Lets his soul run for nought. Herbert.

Of all men a philosopher should be no swearer; for an oath, which is the end of controversies in law, cannot determine any here, where reason only must induce. Brown.

It is the opinion of our most refined swearers, that the same oath or curse cannot, consistently with true politeness, be repeated above nine times in the same company by the same person. Swift’s Polite Conversation.