Archive for July, 2016

Summer Beaches: Sylvia Beach

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

This week we remember Sylvia Beach (1887-1962).


Beach’s legendary English-language Parisian bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a home away from home for the great American and English expat writers during the era of the great American and English expat writer.

From 1919 to 1941, Beach offered support, encouragement, and even lodging and money to Parisian-based English-language writers in need of those things. Acclaimed French authors André Gide and Paul Valéry also spent time at the store.

Sylvia Beach was an expat herself. Born Nancy Woodbridge Beach in Baltimore, she moved to France as a child when her father was appointed an assistant minister at the American Church in Paris. Years later, Beach fell in love with Adrienne Monnier, the owner of a Parisian bookstore and lending library that promoted the avant-garde writing of the day. Inspired by this achievement – Monnier was among the first French women to open a bookstore – Beach founded Shakespeare and Company, which quickly flourished.

Beach appears in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. He wrote: “no one that I ever knew was nicer to me.” He also said that she had great legs. Writers.

Besides providing encouragement and friendship, Beach went to great lengths to support a few choice authors. When James Joyce couldn’t get Ulysses published due to its “obscene” content, Beach undertook the publication of the first English-language edition. She continued to stand by Joyce through this difficult time, though she nearly went bankrupt and ended up losing a fortune on Ulysses.

Times got even harder when the Second World War broke out. When Beach refused to sell her last copy of Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer, she was forced to hide her collection and close her store. Later she was arrested by the Nazis and spent six months in an internment camp. Although Hemingway personally “liberated” the shop in 1944, Beach was never able to get the money together to reopen.

The current Shakespeare and Company is actually Le Mistral, the bookstore George Whitman opened in 1951. With Sylvia Beach’s blessing, Whitman remained his shop in tribute after she died. To this day, Whitman’s Shakespeare and Company provides a home away from home, support, and even a place to sleep, for ex-pat writers.

Joyce, by the way, did fine. Random House eventually paid him a $45,000 advance for Ulysses. He made a fortune, not a dime of which he shared with Sylvia Beach. Writers.

Summer Beaches: The Victor Hugo of the North

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

This week we remember Rex Beach (1877-1949).


As a young man, Rex Beach joined the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska, and like most prospectors, he was unsuccessful.

Beach turned his experience into a best-selling novel called “The Spoilers,” which was adapted into a play and turned into a Hollywood movie five times. Beach wrote many other successful novels and plays, several of them set in the Alaskan wilds. In his time Beach was dubbed the “Victor Hugo of the North,” although his novels are generally thought of as poor cousins of Jack London stories. (Jack London was already was the Jack London of the North so that nickname wouldn’t have worked for Beach.)

After his time in Alaska, Beach became a member of the American water polo team and competed at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Once again, gold eluded Rex Beach, but this time it wasn’t a total bust. His team took home the silver medal.

Summer Beaches: Moses Yale Beach

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

This week we remember Moses Yale Beach (1800-1868).


Moses Beach was the father of another of our famous Beaches, and the apple didn’t fall far from this inventor and publisher.

Beach had some successes and failures as an inventor. He tried to create a gunpowder engine to propel balloons (failure) and invented a rag-cutting machine for paper mills (success, but he neglected to apply for a patent until it was too late, so he didn’t make any money from it).

Beach was more successful as a publisher. He bought the New York Sun in 1838 and threw himself into its fierce competition with the New York Herald. The Sun kept carrier pigeons atop its building to get news faster than other papers, and the legendary publishing stunt the “Great Moon Hoax” happened under Beach’s watch, as did Edgar Allan Poe’s follow up, the “Ballon Hoax“.

Beach started the first European edition of an American paper (American Sun), and was so well-known and respected that James K. Polk sent him to negotiate a peace with Mexico. Peace negotiations didn’t go well, but on the plus side, the Sun got to cover the Mexican War. It was during the Mexican War that Beach made one of his lasting contributions to American journalism. Covering the Mexican War was expensive, and Beach wanted to find a way for journalists to share resources. He gathered the publishers of the five major New York City newspapers in his office for a meeting, and the Associated Press was born.

Summer Beaches: Edward L. Beach, Jr.

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

It’s Summertime! What better time of year to celebrate famous Beaches?

This week we remember Edward L. Beach, Jr. (1918-2002).


Edward “Ned” Beach was a decorated submarine officer who served in the Battle of Midway in WWII, and after the war, served as the naval aide to President Eisenhower.

Beach also was a best-selling author. His first novel, Run Silent, Run Deep, became a movie starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. However, like many authors, Beach was unhappy with the movie adaptation of his book. He wrote many more novels, as well as books on naval history, two memoirs, and numerous articles and book reviews on naval, military, and political subjects.

Though he achieved fame and popularity as a writer, Beach’s most remarkable achievement was his command of the nuclear submarine USS Triton, which he led on the first-ever circumnavigation of the earth by submarine. That’s a 41,000-mile voyage – 84 days without surfacing!