"Charles F. Heartman and The Book Farm"
Charles F. Heartman (1883-1953) was a German émigré who began collecting books at an early age and, as an adult, became a book dealer, editor, and publisher. He owned book stores in New York and later moved to New Jersey where he hosted book auctions at his home. Mr. Heartman edited the magazines The American Collector and The American Book Collector, published bibliographies and reprints as part of his Heartman Historical Series, and produced catalogs for his auctions and mail-order business. He developed an interest in African Americana and built an important collection of documents, pamphlets and other materials, parts of which are now preserved in academic libraries at Xavier University and Texas Southern.
In 1935, Charles relocated with his wife and daughter to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was during this time that Heartman decided to act on an idea that had been on his mind for many years. He wanted to create a Utopian colony comprised of artists and intellectuals and placed an ad in one of his magazines inviting participation. After receiving letters of interest filled with questions about the particulars, Charles wrote a blanket reply as a circular addressed to the "Utopia Correspondents" explaining his thinking on the matter. He hoped to gather "a group of congenial souls for the purpose of solving the ever increasing economic problem and bring about more time for leisure." Heartman believed that the economic condition of the country was too unstable, and the "mob movements all over the world would have to burn themselves out." The individual was helpless against such forces.
The only way out, as I see it, is to turn our back to the present needlessly complicated social and economic structure and retire to a farm of say 500 acres (larger later on) which could support as many families or single persons as could conveniently be assembled there. Here a group might set up a small community which would give individual freedom and at the same time make food and shelter possible without too great an effort and certainly without the tremendous complications in which everybody is today involved and without being for one moment sure what will happen next.
Heartman purchased land in 1936 near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, situated about 100 miles north of New Orleans, and called the 400 acre area The Book Farm. He described the farm as having living quarters for the Heartmans, several buildings, a brook and a swimming hole, pecan trees, and its own power plant. 100 acres were already under cultivation. Although there were a “surprising number of applications" to his Utopian colony at first, interest appeared to wane once folks received the circular mentioned above. Heartman suspected the lack of follow-up was related to the initial investment of $1000. The colony never materialized.
Heartman continued living and working in Mississippi publishing catalogs, bibliographies, reprints and checklists and incorporated into his imprint The Book Farm, Hattiesburg, Mississippi from 1936-1945. What Constitutes a Confederate Imprint? : Preliminary Suggestions for Bibliographers and Catalogers (1939) and Mississippi: A Geographic, Statistic, Topographic Sketch for Immigrants and Friends of Geography and Ethnology (1941) and many other titles were published at The Book Farm until 1945, when he and his wife relocated to The Beauvoir Community in Biloxi, MS. The last imprints with The Book Farm designation were published in New Braunfels, TX from 1947 until 1951, when the Heartmans returned to New Orleans and started The Southern Library Service. Heartman passed away in 1953.
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For more information about Charles Heartman:
Heartman Papers, McCain Library & Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. The finding aid includes a list of books related to Heartman housed in the McCain and Cook Libraries.
Text for this "Item of the Month" prepared by Peggy Price.