More Nimble heritage: the A.C. McClurg building, 1899

My great-great-great-great-grandfather, William F. Zimmerman, worked for A.C. McClurg as a senior vice president when the publishing company built this headquarters in 1899.  It still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The McClurg Building is a historic skyscraper in the Loop community area of ChicagoIllinois. The building was built in 1899 and designed by Chicago school architects Holabird & Roche. At nine stories tall and 80 feet (24 m) by 150 feet (46 m) at its base, the building is one of the smallest skyscrapers in Chicago. The building’s Wabash Street facade has 9,000 square feet (840 m2) of windows bordered by terra cotta piers and spandrels; the amount of window space was necessitated by the absence of windows on the sides of the building. The A.C. McClurg publishing company was the building’s main occupant and gave the building its name.[2]

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.

FATHER OF TRAIN VICTIM WILL CLAIM BODY TODAY 

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) · Newspapers.com

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.

Why The EU Sucks

I just had to update WordPress to 4.9.6 and create a privacy policy page solely to satisfy the unelected bureaucrats who created the GDPR as part of their never-ceasing effort to micromanage the existence of 28 hapless European countries.

Kudos to WordPress, though, for making the update automatic and timely, and providing suggested text for a GDPR-compliant privacy page.

Nimble author Graeme Davis receives Dennison grant

Nimble author Graeme Davis has been awarded a Dennison Research Grant in connection with the Blick Mead Stonehenge excavation.

 The research funds are a benefaction by economist Prof Stanley Dennison (1912-1992). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_R…@UniOfBuckingham

One of Nimble’s most prolific and competent authors with a dazzling range of interests and contributions in both popular and high culture.

Graeme Davis
Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

$16.32
Author:

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' provides an insightful commentary which takes readers through the novel. It looks at such areas as literary quality, character analysis and plot analysis, while showing that the novel is contextualised within the British culture which informs it. The...

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THE LOST SYMBOL – Found: Unauthorized Analysis of Dan Brown’s Novel

THE LOST SYMBOL – Found: Unauthorized Analysis of Dan Brown’s Novel

Author:

From the Introduction: The Lost Symbol contains a big surprise. Not only is the lost symbol found within the context of the novel, but according to Dan Brown this lost symbol is out there for every one of us to find for ourselves. This is a book which he wants to have real impact on our lives. For...

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Nimble Books, the leading publisher of books about torpedo boats …

I learned today that my great uncle Chester served on PT boats during World War II. This was an unexpected bit of synchronicity as my company Nimble Books has the distinction of being one of the leading publishers of books about torpedo boats, PT boats, and motor torpedo boats (MTBs), with 27 titles in print at Amazon and on my website.

I loved this little market for quite a while, but eventually felt I had done all I could do for  a niche audience that is graying and tends to be a bit contentious.  There are no new torpedo boats, and although there have been quite a few missile boats built in the postwar era, they never had quite the  flair of MTBs, and have become less and less survivable in an era of abundant fixed and rotary wing craft and guided missiles.

I still have two beautiful illustrations of torpedo boats by the late Joe Hinds hanging in my living room.

Joe Hinds

 

The Old Testament as the divinely inspired Firefly

I’ve been listening to the Old Testament as I drive to work these days and am working through Isaiah right now.  The titular character, like many other key OT figures, is a prophet commenting on the life and times of his nation and culture.  Thinking like a publisher, it occurred to me that if you think of the 66 books of the Bible as nonfiction backlist, they are the divinely inspired version of “Firefly,”  i.e. a high-quality and popular series that produced way too few episodes.

At an average of roughly 1-4 books per generation, the ~70 generations between 70 AD and today could support as many as 280 additional books of the Bible, each telling the history of a nation or set of nations over a generation or  two.  The implied author would be a prophetic persona, the style Biblical, probably more like NIV than KJV.  Many challenges and opportunities in this approach.  For  example, how about a New Apocryphica covering the years 1776 to 1815?  A clever author could use this as a platform to comment about the history of the entire world, Napoleon, China, Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and all.

All Nimble books now available in online store

I’ve finished updating the Nimble Books online bookstore and all 317 Nimble published books are now available once again.

Classic Bookstore

This is referred to as the “Classic Bookstore” to distinguish from the “Algorithmic Bookstore”, which is coming soon.

Two limitations that I mean to remove in future:

  1. the store currently presents print and Kindle editions on separate pages.
  2. I have not yet added category & genre filters. So, if you are looking for a particular book, use the “search” bar. 

article about Nimble Books in Italian

I missed this when it first came out in 2015.  A good article — understands what I was trying to achieve with PageKicker (and am once again!).  Italian (Google Translate is available).

L’algoritmo nel libro

Orientato invece al “market research” è l’algoritmo di cui si avvale W.Frederick Zimmerman – tecnologo, avvocato ed ora anche editore – ideatore della piattaforma Nimble Books. Su questa piattaforma i sistemi AI lavorano soprattutto in funzione pre-pubblicazione, rastrellando in rete tutte le informazioni rilevanti per il progetto editoriale: l’originalità rispetto alle tendenze di mercato, l’adesione o meno dell’argomento con i contemporanei gusti del pubblico ecc. Insomma, per l’algoritmo di Zimmerman la priorità è comprendere – il più rapidamente possibile– quale potrebbe essere il “miglior libro potenziale del momento” da pubblicare prima che qualcun altro se ne accorga. È evidente, che il “core” di Nimble Books non è la scrittura automatica di un testo, ma la fase che la precede, ovvero quel processo in grado di fornire – dopo messo insieme tutti i pezzi giusti –  all’editore la soluzione di un difficilissimo puzzle:  veder finalmente apparire la sagoma di un best seller.

Aspetto interessante è che la soluzione scelta da Nimble Books propone un modello dove l’algoritmo non vuole sostituire tout court il fattore umano, ma opera a fianco ad esso integrandolo ed incrementandolo

Instead oriented to “market research” is the algorithm used by W.Frederick Zimmerman – technologist, lawyer and now also editor – creator of the Nimble Books platform. On this platform AI systems mainly work in pre-publication function, raking all the information relevant to the publishing project online: the originality with respect to market trends, the adhesion or not of the subject with the contemporary tastes of the public etc. . In short, for Zimmerman’s algorithm the priority is to understand – as quickly as possible – what could be the “best potential book of the moment” to be published before someone else realizes it. It is evident that the “core” of Nimble Books is not the automatic writing of a text, but the phase that precedes it, or that process that can provide – after put together all the right pieces – the editor the solution of a difficult puzzle: finally see the shape of a best seller.

Interestingly, the solution chosen by Nimble Books proposes a model where the algorithm does not want to replace the human factor tout court, but works alongside it, integrating it and increasing it.