Mad Men and Miss Manners: A Hoover Christmas Carol

By Thomas F. Schwartz

Bruce Barton, Bohemian Grove, ca. 1947.
Bruce Barton, Bohemian Grove, ca. 1947.

Bruce Barton is not a familiar name to most people but they certainly know some of his iconic brands such as Betty Crocker.  Barton was a principal in the advertising agency Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.  The writer/director Matthew Weiner used the advertising industry as a model for his 2007 show “Mad Men.”  Barton also wrote a number of best-selling books.  The most successful was The Man Nobody Knows (1925).  An advocate for individual success and a boaster of American business, Barton portrayed Jesus Christ as the “founder of modern business.”  He was able to take “twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.”  Barton’s father was the famed Congregational minister William Eleazar Barton, who authored several important books on Abraham Lincoln.

A loyal Republican, Barton both served in the United States House of Representatives as well as befriending party leaders such as Herbert Hoover.  In a letter dated December 17, 1946, Barton writes:

“Dear Chief,

We gave up Christmas cards some years ago when the list became too long, and this is the first Christmas note I have written in 1946, and may be the only one.

I just want to tell you again how much Esther and I admire you as America’s Number One citizen, and how proud we are to be counted among your friends.”

Hoover always observing the civil courtesy of responding to letters replied:

“My dear Bruce,

I would be glad if the nation would adopt your formula.  It would save my being polite several thousand times.

Anyway, I deliver to you wishes for a happier New Year.”

It comes as no surprise that Hoover never adopted that Barton formula.  He continued to send short letters of congratulations and thanks, a policy later advocated by Miss Manners.

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