Baltimore Evening Sun (26 July 1911): 6.


From the atelier of the Greater Baltimore Committee--the official style or designation of the boomers who now sweat to save us—comes a poem from which I extract the following affecting strophes:

Do you know there’s lots of people, Settin’ round in every town, Growlin’ like a broody chicken, Knockin’ every good thing down? Don’t you be that kind of cattle, ’Cause they ain’t no use on earth; You just be a booster rooster, Crow and boost for all you’re worth.

Accompanying the poeml, which is too long to print in full, come the following observations in prose:

The fellow who wrote this must have had in mind the ravings of the monomaniac, the weird dreams of the somnambulist, the brainstorm outbursts of the heat sufferer, the imaginative victim of all ills and, having no cure for any, the man who best enjoys himself among his friends in the graveyard, and the plain, old dyspeptic, grouchy, brain-cobwebbed-with-sixteenth-century ideas town knocker. * * * So, grabbing his facile pen in hand and inspired with the thought, “duty calls me to save this man from the paresis octupus before it has sunk its awful fangs to a depth beyond human power to extract,” he relieved his brain of the above production.

And then the personal, the direct, the sorrowing, the evangelical touch:

Right he is, Henry! Shake off the shackles of pessimism and be a booster rooster!

So I am, boys—a boomer like the rest of you! But there are boomers and boomers--and we happen to belong to different and antagonistic lodges.

The lodge to which Mr. Quarles, Mr. Sener and the rest of those eloquent fellows belong is one which holds that the highest aim of civilization is to sell goods and that the best way to sell goods is to mount a soapbox and make loud and cacophonous sounds. But the lodge to which I belong, and to which (strange as it may seem) many other Baltimoreans belong, is one which holds that the highest aim of civilization is to make human life agreeable, and that the best way to make life agreeable is to perform a constant walloping upon those things which tend to make it disagreeable--for example, over-fragrant Back Basins, dirty alleys, noisy rabble-rousers, typhoid fever, militant morality, machine politics, bad food, ignorant reformers and idiotic laws. In brief, the one scheme of things is a branch of the New Thought, while the other trusts to surgery. Cut off the bunion and the patient will be able to dance! Sweet words will never help him!

At the moment, of course, the New Thought triumphs. The gentlemen officially told off to boom us are frank devotees not only of the Hopkins-place ocentric theory of the universe but also of the doctrine that things are to be had by howling for them--that mind has some occult influence over matter--that sane human beings buy their victuals and their lingerie not so much where the market is cheapest as where the noise is loudest. Hence the present demand that every citizen become a booster and the present waste of time and money upon See America First conventions, trips to Washington to bore the President and other such futilities.

Wherefore and by reason of which bitter slings sometimes wound the boomers. Those slings are slung, not because the slingers are opposed to progress or because they hate the boomers but because they doubt that progress is to be made in the way the boomers recommend. When a man sets himself up as a professional boomer he acquires thereby not only certain privileges, but also certain responsibilities. The public is willing enough to have him boom away and even to grant that booming to a highly honorable calling; but if, perchance, he makes himself ridiculous, and the town with him, then he must expect to raise guffaws in which resentment is as conspicuous as mere amusement.

In other words, a boomer is a public officer, albeit he has elected himself, and as a public officer he is accountable for his acts. That Superintendent of Public Buildings who once painted the City Hall bronzes green was roundly berated for his stupidity despite the fact that his intentions were the best imaginable. And in the same way that boomer of Baltimore who came into our midst and began business by proposing a massmeeting of school children was also soundly berated, not because anyone thought that his intentions were evil, but because many persons, not obviously insane, thought that his plan was silly, futile and, to risk a pun, childish.

Against booming of such vapid and ding-dong character there stands not only the instinctive common sense of intelligent men but also the alternative theory--to wit, the theory that what Baltimore needs most in not a great accession of new Baltimoreans, but an improvement in the condition of those already here--not a mere increase in quantity, but an advance in quality--not more jobbing houses and sweatshops, but corner streets and alleys, a less odoriferous harbor, more civilized laws, better drinking water, better schools, fewer slums and a lower death rate.

It is difficult, of course, to convince a man obsessed by trafficking that trafficking is not the whole end and aim of man--and yet it isn’t. Suppose it were possible, by boomiferous fiat, to establish 20 new jobbing houses in Baltimore tomorrow, and suppose that each gave employment to 100 persons. That would mean the addition of 2,000 more jobbing-house employees and their 6,000 or 8,000 dependents to the city’s population. According to Jacob Epstein, the Baltimore jobbing house employee, striking an average between high and low, gets $13 a week! Certainly, no reasonable man will maintain that the addition of 2,000 $13 bread-winners and taxpayers would do us much good. Such fellows could not pay for parks and schools; they could not raise families; they could not aid in the slightest is making the Baltimore of today a better Baltimore tomorrow.

But the boomers argue that such criticism is merely destructive--that it offers no alternative remedy. The answer to that is twofold. In the first place, it may be argued quite soundly that Baltimore is not actually starving to death today—that it scarcely deserves the tears the boomers shed upon it. And in the second place, it may be argued quite sanely that if we clean up our town, if we make it more attractive than it is today, and, if possible, more attractive to the better sort of people than any other town, then that better sort of people will be tempted to move here and to displace other and less desirable sorts, and our population, even if it shows no increase whatever in mere numbers, will at least show an improvement in quality, which is, at bottom, the only sort of improvement worth talking about.