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February 1: The Book-of-the-Month Club

February 1, 2013

Harry Scherman, a writer and advertising specialist who launched the Book-of-the-Month Club in 1926 with a $40,000 investment, was born on this date in 1887. The Club's first offering was Lolly Willowes, a first novel by British poet Sylvia Townsend Warner, which was soon followed by Edna Ferber's Showboat. Within a year the Club had over $1 million in sales. Scherman had already successfully created and sold "The Little Leather Library," reprints of the classics bound in a soft simulated leather cover, in partnership with Maxwell Sackheim, a Russian Jewish emigrant. They added Robert Haas, a publisher, to their partnership to create BOMC, basing their merchandising idea on the fact that there were more post offices in America than book stores. Scherman also wrote The Promises Men Live By (1938), a work of economics. He died in 1969, after establishing a foundation that has given away more than $100 million in grants.

"By 1926, [Scherman] was generally admitted to be one of the few authentic geniuses in the relatively unexplored field of selling by direct mail." —Merle Miller