Sunday, January 7, 2007

Monday Jan 7

On my way from work Rabi
Davedel Horowitz from Meletz escorted
my home all the way from the
K.H. office.

Heard Mr. Bock the donor
of the $100.000 peace prize
explain the theory, I do not fully
agree with him as I believe in
Americas full participation in
the league of Nations.
I heard the above talk on the radio.
Universal peace in my
opinion is possible only
when the U.S. will officially
enroll as a member of the
League and exert its influence
upon the nations


Matt's Notes

The "Bock" Papa refers to is Edward William Bok, famed both for transforming Ladies Home Journal from an obscure publication into a national powerhouse and for transforming himself from an unknown Dutch immigrant into a wealthy and prominent Progressivist. Some time after retiring from publishing, Bok funded a $100,000 open competition to find a plan for world peace, and promised to push the winning plan through Congress. This caused quite a stir. Over 22,000 Americans submitted plans, and the winner, Charles Herbert Levermore, achieved some degree of fame, but in the end the whole effort never amounted to much.

When Papa tuned into WEAF on January 7, he heard Bok outline the winning plan, which called for greater U.S. participation in the World Court but fell short of endorsing U.S. membership in the League of Nations. Papa would have favored an active U.S. foreign policy -- America's "influence upon the nations" was essential to world peace, as he notes, but his beloved Zionist cause needed it even more. America's navel-gazing in the 1920's must have frustrated him, hence his ultimate disappointment with Bok's suggestions.

One thing I like about Papa's diary is what it reveals about the popular culture of the day, or at least what someone of his background and tastes would have picked up on. With only a small page available to record the day's events he chose to write about Bok's radio address, so the Bok Peace Prize must have been as widely discussed as a typical Britney underwear incident is today. By 1930, Time magazine would describe it in Bok's obituary merely as a "prize of $100,000 for the best essay on how to achieve International peace" -- a kind understatement of what a high profile disappointment the Peace Plan really was. But, Bok's life story was an inspiration to many, his autobiography won a Pulitzer Prize and he was a legend in the publishing industry, so I'll avoid knocking his Peace Prize just because I'd never heard of him.

I'd also never heard of Rabbi Davidel Horowitz, which attests more to my ignorance of the Zionist movement (not for the last time, I'm sure) than his actual degree of notoriety. There's a good chance Papa is talking about David Horowitz, a prominent young Zionist of his day who went on to found a scholarly organization called United Israel World Union. If so, Papa must have been thrilled as they walked the lower East Side, perhaps wrapped in long coats but certainly oblivious to the cold as they talked, young and insistent, of changing the world.



WEAF was the American Telephone and Telegraph radio station in New York. An innovator in technical, programming and advertising operations, it would become part of NBC in 1926.


Additional references for this post:

- "Peace Plan", Time, 1/14/24 (and search the Time archive for more on Edward Bok).
- "The Peace Plan" (editorial) The New York Times, 1/7/24 (subscription required; PDF).
- "BOK PEACE PLAN STIRS WIDE INTEREST; FIGHT OVER IT BEGINS; Founder and Many Others Appeal by Radio for Approval", The New York Times, 1/8/24 (subscription required; PDF; search The New York Times archive for more on Edward Bok).
- Edward Bok biography on Wikipedia
- David Horowitz obituary at United Israel World Union Web site
- WEAF history at

1 comment:

  1. Amazing how some things change. You may not have heard of Bok, but portions of his autobiography were including in the reading books for junior high school students during the 1950's.