National Home Library Foundation (Washington DC, US)
Series dates: 1935-1955
Size: 4″ x 6.5″
The National Home Library (and its paperback companion series, the Jacket Library) are unusual in that they were published by “a non-profit organization sponsored by a group of noted authors and educators. Its purpose is to bring within the reach of everyone the best that has been thought and said” (from back of 1935 title dust jacket). The books were .25 cents (compare to the Modern Library at the time, which was .95 cents). In addition, the Foundation sponsored a radio show, “The American Fireside” Sunday evenings on NBC where books in the series were discussed.
The National Home Library Foundation still exists. Its history is documented on its web pages:
“The National Home Library Foundation was incorporated in 1932 under the laws of the District of Columbia. The founder, Sherman F. Mittell, declared: ‘The particular business and objects of this corporation are to promote and inculcate in more people the desire to read good literature; to make home libraries more easily available to great numbers of our population; to urge the reading of good literature through printed announcements, radio broadcasts and newspapers; and to these ends to provide for the delivery and holding of lectures, exhibits, public meetings, classes and conferences, calculated to advance the cause of education and promote the general culture of the nation.’ In keeping with these purposes, the Foundation over the next several years, under a Board of Trustees headed by Mr. Mittell, published and distributed books of wide interest at nominal prices. The foundation also sponsored distinguished authors and public figures in so-called “Fireside Talks” on the NBC network, and in other lectures. In 2013, the Foundation celebrated the 50th anniversary of its renewed mission. To date, the Foundation has given away more than $3,000,000.00.”
The first 13 titles in the hardcover “home library” series were published in 1935. One way costs were kept down was by using donated plates. For example, four titles used the plates of discontinued titles from the Modern Library:
Ellis: The New Spirit (1935)
Flaubert: Salammbo (1935)
France: The Queen Pedauque (1935)
Paine: Selections from the Writings of Paine (1935)
Jackets are specific to individual titles. A description of the book and price (.25 cents) is on the front jacket flap.
A description of the Foundation and the series is included on the back of the jacket. A coupon for ordering copies is the back flap of the jacket.
Bindings are cloth with black stamping. A “NHL” logo is stamped on the front of the book.
Copies of the series were distributed freely for promotion. A slip in one of the 1935 titles came with one of these promotional copies.
Title pages indicate the book title, author, series, publisher and (in most cases) the date of publication.
Additional jackets for the first 13 titles are shown below.
The series expanded to include 30 serially numbered books (although one, #20, was seemingly never published. see scan below), the last published in 1937. Titles continued to be published by the Foundation, many in the same size and format, but did not necessarily include the series designation (they were, then, simply publications of the Foundation). An attempt at a list of National Home Library Series and Foundation publications is below.
Additional dust jackets from post 1935 titles in the series:
Non-fiction titles were common among the later titles in the series.
A list of titles in the National Home Library series is below. After the first 30 titles, which had serial numbers (at least on the jacket advertisements) titles were no longer explicitly part of a “library” but rather publications from the National Home Library Foundation. The list excludes Jacket Library (paperback) titles, although a few titles issued in paperback may be on the list below (in particular, among the titles published without a serial number in 1937 or later).
First Published in 1935
#1. Leo Tolstoy, Tales by Leo Tolstoy
#2 Anatole France, The Queen Pedauque
#3 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
#4 Gustave Flaubert, Salammbo
#5 Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
#6 Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
#7 William Shakespeare, Hamlet
#8 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life
#9 Rudyard Kipling, Tales by Rudyard Kipling
#10 Havelock Ellis, The New Spirit
#11 Thomas Paine, Writings of Thomas Paine
#12 Mary Mapes Dodge, Hans Brinker
#13 Winslow and Brougham, Money and its Power
#14 David Cushman Coyle, Brass Tacks
First Published in 1936
#15 John W. Studebaker, Plain Talk
#16 Arthur E. Morgan, The Long Road
#17 Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Her Son’s Wife
#18 A.T. Mason, Brandeis and the Modern State
#19 H.G. Moulton, Income and Economic Progress
#20 (no title issued)
#21 David Cushman Coyle, Uncommon Sense
#22 William E. Borah, Bedrock
#23 (published in 1937, see below)
#24 The Odyssey of Homer
#25 Goldmark & Brandeis, Democracy in Denmark, Part 1: Democracy In Action
#26 C.A. Beard, Jefferson, Corporations & the Constitution
#27 Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
#28 Joy Elmer Morgan, Horace Mann: His Ideas and Ideals
#29 H.D. Lloyd, Wealth Against Commonwealth
(no serial number) Anton Heinrich Hollmann, Democracy in Denmark. Pt. 2: The Folk High School
First Published in 1937
#23 John Keats, Complete Poetical Works
#30 David Cushman Coyle, Age Without Fear
David Cushman Coyle, Why Pay Taxes?
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol in Prose
George Hervey Hallett & Clarence Gilbert Hoag, Proportional Representation
Stephen Raushenbush & Joan (Burns) Raushenbush, War Madness
First Published in 1938
E.A. Filene, Speaking of Change
Donald Slesinger, Next Steps Forward
Henry A. Wallace, Paths to Plenty
First Published in 1940
James McEntee, Now They Are Men; The Story of the CCC
James Myers, Do You Know Labor?
David Cushman Coyle, Our Forests
Gerhard Alden Gesell, Protecting Your Dollars
Rufus Gunn King, You and I
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Our Democracy In Action
George Frederick Rowe & Sherman Fabian Mittell, The Common Defense
Harry Slattery & Sherman Fabian Mittell, Rural America Lights Up
Henry A. Wallace, The Price of Freedom
Marion Foster Washburne, A Search for a Happy Country
Wendell L. Willkie, Free Enterprise
First Published in 1941
David Cushman Coyle, America
Albert Jay Nock, Jefferson
In 1941 the Federal Trade Association ruled against the American Home Library Foundation as a fake non-profit organization engaged in false advertising in order to sell books and sets of encyclopedias. This “foundation” was crafted to sound like the National Home Library Foundation, but was really a cover for the The Spencer Press / Consolidated Book Publishers, Inc. of Chicago, who, among other things, published the Spencer Library. More information on this incident can be found in the entry for that series.
A bit of series ephemera came from the copy of Coyle’s Why Pay Taxes? (1937). An envelope with the transcript of US Representative Jerry Voorhis’ comments on the series entered into the record on August 17, 1937. The envelope is below, with both sides of the transcript included in the envelope.