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Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/74

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CHAPTER IV


Through Politics to Journalism.—1856-7


ON applying at the store of the booksellers, at that time the leading firm in the trade in the Northwest, I was taken to the partner in charge of the subscription department. He was a gentleman in speech and manner. He took my measure at once as a youthful enthusiast with a lively imagination and but little judgment. He did not at all urge me on, but spoke very disinterestedly of the uncertainties of the canvassing business; but he failed to sober me. I told him rather proudly that I had been in the business before and knew what special capacities it required, and that I possessed them. He said, finally, that as I insisted upon it, he would be glad to let me make a trial. There would not be much risk in it for me, as I need buy only one copy of the work at a discount. He would assign me to an entirely unexplored and very promising field, the city of Milwaukee. I was to be allowed a commission of thirty-three per cent. on all subscriptions obtained. Being provided with a full equipment of subscription-books and circulars, I lost no time in starting for the scene of my future operations.

Milwaukee has always been an almost German city. In 1856, the preponderance of the German element was even greater than at present; in fact, its Americanization, which has in the meantime progressed very rapidly, had then hardly begun. It was known among German-Americans as “Deutsch-Athen,” and, comparatively speaking, deserved the name. There was a large number of educated and accomplished men among my countrymen, and in them the love of music and histrionic art was very marked. Under

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