Edward William Bok > The Americanization of Edward Bok > Page 256



Edward William Bok (1863–1930). The Americanization of Edward Bok. 1921.

Page 256

sections, and often adjacent to the most important municipal buildings and parks. It was decided to select a dozen cities, pick out the most flagrant instances of spots which were not only an eyesore and a disgrace from a municipal standpoint, but a menace to health and meant a depreciation of real-estate value.

Lynn, Massachusetts, was the initial city chosen, a number of photographs were taken, and the first of a series of “Dirty Cities” was begun in the magazine. The effect was instantaneous. The people of Lynn rose in protest, and the municipal authorities threatened suit against the magazine; the local newspapers were virulent in their attacks. Without warning, they argued, Bok had held up their city to disgrace before the entire country; the attack was unwarranted; in bad taste; every citizen in Lynn should thereafter cease to buy the magazine, and so the criticisms ran. In answer Bok merely pointed to the photographs; to the fact that the camera could not lie, and that if he had misrepresented conditions he was ready to make amends.

Of course the facts could not be gainsaid; local pride was aroused, and as a result not only were the advertised “dirty spots” cleaned up, but the municipal authorities went out and hunted around for other spots in the city, not knowing what other photographs Bok might have had taken.

Trenton, New Jersey, was the next example, and the same storm of public resentment broke loose—with exactly the same beneficial results in the end to the city. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was the third one of America’s “dirty cities.” Here public anger rose particularly



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