Bok Is Back

Americans have no taste, but I'll change that!
Americans have no taste, but I’ll change that!

“When he looked at the houses in which his subscribers lived, their drab hideousness made him sick. When he went inside and contemplated the lambrequins, the gilded cattails, the Rogers groups, the wax fruit under glass domes, the emblazoned seashells from Asbury Park, the family Bible on the marble-topped center-table, the crayon enlargements of Uncle Richard and Aunt Sue, the square pianos, the Brussels carpets, the grained woodwork—when his eyes alighted upon such things, his soul revolted, and at once his moral enthusiasm incited him to attempt a reform. The result was a long series of Ladies’ Home Journal crusades against the hideousness of the national scene – in domestic architecture, in house furnishing, in dress, in town buildings, in advertising. Bok flung himself headlong into his campaigns, and practically every one of them succeeded. … If there were gratitude in the land, there would be a monument to him in every town in the Republic. He has been, aesthetically, probably the most useful citizen that ever breathed its muggy air.”  H.L. Mencken said of Ladies’ Home Journal editor Edward Bok. Wikipedia

Sure he was contemptuous of American style, housing and in the end, most women, but he had a heart. The kind of heart that believes that with one more philanthropic endeavor and a little tweaking of the common man’s tendency towards mediocrity, the world will be a better place. If only grand gardens and church bells brought moral uplift! If only Americans read better books! If only a few finely written human words could bring world peace! But it was not to be. The 20th century, even with the bungalow, was a disaster.

Edward Bok may not have saved America from itself–though he did convince people that the bungalow design in housing originally from India was the height of solid taste and he did leave us with what looks to be a heavenly spot in Florida! Check it out.

10 responses to “Bok Is Back”

      • I liked them when I was in my teens. Then I moved on to lifestyle mags like Country Living. But there’s something very seductive about all the consumer items on every page. I found they bred disappointment in my pretty great life. The “mom” magazines always annoyed me. I didn’t want info about how to please my husband (it was usually wrong) or how to be with my kids—I had my own way.


    • Yes, I lived in Brooklyn for a while and my absolute favorite place was Prospect Park–I think it’s more charming than Central Park. I can’t imagine designing a naturalistic looking park–it’s a real talent. I remember taking a nature class there where we all learned to eat things that grew in the wild. You never know who’s touched leaves last in a public park . . .


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