Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A “Direct Actionist” Goes to City Hall

Now that Samuel W. Bean and his sweetheart, Maud Woodworth, were married in late January, 1921, how did life turn out for them? After all, both were recent graduates of the California School for the Deaf and Blind. Sam had been honored with several newspaper reports of his talent as a recently-published poet. Even their wedding sparked headlines across the country. Did they really find that their dreams would come true? Was it possible for a blind and deaf man to make his way amidst the challenges of “modern” life in the 1920s—and support a family as well?

As determined as Sam was—he certainly talked a good talk—I must confess I had my doubts about how forgiving competitive American society might have been in the face of the type of challenges ahead of him.

However, I underestimated the power of Sam’s positive thinking. He certainly wasn’t one to give up easily.

Not long after the Beans’ wedding in January, a brief newspaper report in the Oakland Tribune revealed the types of roadblocks Sam was having to maneuver in his quest, like any other young man of the time, to bring home a solid paycheck.

The Oakland Tribune dubbed Sam’s approach “a straight-from-the-shoulder way of putting his book of poems before the public.” Those poems, as the July 19, 1921, article explained, “created considerable interest among the reviewers when they appeared a few months ago.”

According to the Tribune, “Several of the reviewers predicted a brilliant future for the greatly handicapped author.”

So what happened? Evidently, despite the buzz over the newly-issued volume, “book dealers…failed to do much with the production.”

I am wondering if Sam Bean had actually self-published the poetry book. There is no mention that I can find of any publisher carrying the title. Of course, without means of distribution, sales of the self-published volume would be quite limited. Unless….

With his characteristic pluck, Sam evidently decided to shoulder the responsibility for distribution, himself. According to the Tribune article, Sam “decided to go directly to the reading public with his wares.”

Of course, there was still a barrier to instituting such a plan: cities evidently had laws limiting door-to-door sales, which was the very mode Sam intended to employ. His “straight-from-the-shoulder” approach, apparently, had to be coupled with a petition to City Hall. In each of the cities in which Sam intended to sell his wares, “he has secured permission from the city councils to make a house-to-house canvass.”

And how would a blind and deaf salesman make his door-to-door rounds? He would be accompanied by his bride, who also now acted as his sales agent.

With a good natured determination radiating from Sam’s approach, it is no wonder the Tribune commented on his behalf,
Bean is a direct actionist despite the triple handicap which would cause most men to give up in complete despair….he will start out to let the world know what he is capable of doing.


  1. He was one determined guy! I simply have to admire that!

    1. From what I see from your recent blog post, Iggy, you are one determined guy, too! That kind of perseverance is indeed inspiring!

  2. He went out to the world instead of waiting for the world to come to him. What a valuable lesson for all of us.

    1. We have so many tools, now, to help us get out in that world. Can you imagine what it must have been like, back then, to get out and try to spread the word about what you've created? In my starving student days, I took a job as telephone solicitor. I think I lasted three days...maybe. Door to door? I couldn't hack it! And I can see. And hear.

  3. Replies
    1. Not only determined, but cheerful...even after what surely followed. After all, who likes a door to door salesman?!

      I never had the opportunity to meet Sam, but from everything I've read about him, he must have been quite an inspiration. What an outlook on life--especially a life like his!

  4. I did not know that some cities had laws limiting door-to-door sales. We certainly don't have such laws here in CT, as far as I can tell. i'm waiting to see how much Sam could earn this way. I don't know what book dealers were like, back in the 1920s . . . maybe there were only a few major ones, so that even with good reviews people couldn't really sell their books without an agent and a marketing plan.

    Just the effort of selling one's book door-to-door sounds heroic to me. Maybe that's just me.

    1. Mariann, it certainly was a brave move on Sam's part, considering all the additional obstacles he had to overcome.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...