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Not the Dayton Cox, the Cincinnati Cox

It seems churlish, now that the Library of America has brought out the complete Mencken Prejudices in two handsome volumes, to raise a complaint about the apparatus, especially since the notes are so helpful in identifying figures who have dropped into obscurity. But I believe I have found a mistake.

The passage “They chortled and read on when Aldrich, Boss Cox, Gas Addicks, John D. Rockefeller and the other bugaboos of the time were belabored every month ...” in “The American Magazine” is linked to a note that identifies “Boss Cox” as James Middleton Cox, the newspaper publisher from Dayton, Ohio, and 1920 Democratic presidential candidate.

Surely this gloss, which numbers figures such as Nelson Aldrich and John Edward Addicks in a context of political corruption, should instead identify a different Ohioan, George Cox of Cincinnati, familiarly known as “Boss Cox.” He was a conventional big-city political boss, flourishing in an atmosphere of graft and patronage from the mid-1880s until his fall from power in 1911. He was attacked by Lincoln Steffens and other muckrakers of the age.

James Middleton Cox, by contrast, was a reformer.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:50 AM | | Comments (4)


Too bad Boss Cox (either one of them) didn't win. Might have spared us from the "Ohio Gang" of Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal which has become a classic how-to for all future political corruption.

Do the new volumes contain the original 1920s essays, or the later revisions for the Chrestomathy and other collections?

The texts are from the corrected second printings of the first editions of the six series, of 1919, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1926, and 1927. The editor is Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, the author of Mencken: The American Iconoclast.

A tweet today from @LibraryAmerica: "Thanks for the catch (re: Cox). We don't know how that happened, but we'll fix it in the next printing."

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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