160 Miles of Words pt. 2

1945_07_21--009-160 Miles of Words

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST July 28, 1945 H. L. cheek BALTIMORE SUN Mencken took his tongue from his long enough to write for Britannica. PRESS ASSOC' The E. B. paid G. B. S. its regular two cents a word—$68.50 for an article on socialism. CULVER The late Lon Chaney, Hollywood genius in makeup, was a Britannica contributor. 160 Miles of Words By WARN ER 0 LIVI V.: R II yORTUNES had been made and lost in the publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica when the book was taken over in 1920 by Sears, Roebuck & Company because of Julius Rosenwald's desire to preserve it for the. English-speaking world. In 1932, Sears, Roebuck gave its then secretary and treasurer, E. Harrison Powell, the assignment of taking over the Britannica and putting it on a sound financial basis— if he could, for already Sears had spooned several million dollars into the financially ailing Britannica without any notable results. Like most successful American businessmen, Mr. Powell had come up the business escalator from scratch. A native of a small Ohio town, he had attended the University of Chicago, played semipro football and been advertising manager for Sears, Roebuck. Powell started one of Chicago's radio stations, WLS—which originally stood for World's Largest Store—and designed and built the first building without windows for display at the Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair. A quiet-spoken man—though he insists he can bellow like a foghorn—keen-eyed and deeply interested Older than the USA—and almost as widely known—the Encyclopaedia Britannica contains much of the learning and lore man has accumulated . . . including the art of jujitsu and how to butcher a hog. in many things, he eschews political arguments because they usually get nowhere and are, he feels, a waste of energy. A fine photographer, he does his own developing and printing. He also paints, dabbles in architecture, and designed and built a servpntless ranch house in Colorado and a wing of his home in Winnetka. When Powell took over the Britannica, he knew it was a sound and salable commodity, that there was a need as well as a market for it. The fact remained that it wasn't paying its way. Powell determined to make two far-reaching changes. One was to institute direct instead of mail-order sales. The other was to abandon the plan of bringing out new editions of the Britannica spaced at intervals of years and to substitute for it a revised printing once or twice a year. At the time Powell took over, so completely was the Britannica committed to mail-order sales that there were hardly a dozen outside salesmen in the organization. Half of these were in New York. Powell started from scratch to build an outside sales organization and establish branch sales offices in key cities of the country Sales began to go up. But strange letters of complaint also began to come into the Britannica home offices in Chicago. Being inexperienced in the field of direct sales, Powell had hired a number of men known to the trade as "old book" salesmen. These were oldtimers, some of them trained and skilled in all the shyster tricks of bookselling. One of their favorite methods was the give-away, or "you-have-been-selected" trick. They would visit a prospect and tell him: "The Encyclopaedia Britannica is initiating a new advertising campaign, and as one of the most prominent citizens of your community, we have selected you to receive a set of the Britannica free—absolutely without any cost to you." This is almost sure-fire. Rare, indeed, is the man who cannot find some rational justification in his heart for being considered one of the most prominent citizens of his community. When a prospect would modestly tell the salesman that he was not a prominent citizen and ask why he had been selected, the wily salesman had little trouble in overcoming his scruples of modesty. (Continued on Page 85) L. C. Schoenewald, who cut his selling teeth on pianos, is now the E. B.'s sales manager. Walter Yust, the Britannica's tall, slim, quiet-spoken editor, who took over in 1937. ALLISON-LIGHTHALL PHOTOS E. H. Powell, former Sears, Roebuck executive, made the book stand on its own big feet.


1945_07_21--009-160 Miles of Words
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