Jim Jam Jems
Thursday, January 3, 2013
On this date in 1912, the first publication of what would become a very well-known editorial magazine was put out in Bismarck: the Jim Jam Jems. The Bismarck Tribune reported that the “unique” magazine immediately “became a sensation,” and no wonder … the magazine provided commentary on political actions and decisions, using sensationalism, propaganda, humor and satire. Mostly textual, each issue ran around 60 pages, delivering what its author believed the subtitle promised: “A Volley of Truth.” In fact, the first issue’s cover featured a guillotine, and stated: “In olden times they guillotined man for telling the truth; now they simply bring more witnesses to prove that he lied.”
The Jim Jam Jems were published anonymously, leading many to wonder who could have written it. The author claimed to be travelling “incog,” and took up the name of Jim Jam Junior. However, there were suspicions right away that the author was none other than Sam H. Clark, who had published the Minot Daily Reporter and was once a state publicity agent for North Dakota. Those familiar with his editorials were confident…and they were correct.
Clark did indeed write the somewhat incendiary commentary of the Jim Jam Jems, and he did so for more than a decade. All topics were fair game, and they ran the gamut, covering prostitution, the war with Mexico, and abortion. He and fellow publisher C.H. Crockard were even indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Fargo for sending “obscene and immoral” reading material through interstate mail.
In 1922, Clark published a book about the Federal Reserve under Jim Jam Junior’s name entitled “The Federal Reserve Monster.” He left Jim Jam Jems behind in 1929, although during the thirties, he published another editorial newsmagazine entitled “Red Ink.”
After that first issue of the Jim Jam Jems, the Tribune reported that Jim Jam Junior, as yet unknown, “has wielded a facile pen, he has at times used very plain and exceedingly strong language; his comment is pointed, and rather too expressive in places. But withal, Jim Jam Jems is a very readable publication and will doubtless find a ready market. The initial number has certainly created much comment and there was a general rush for the news stands…by those who had heard of the booklet.”
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Bismarck Daily Tribune, January 4, 1912, p1 and 8
Dakota Datebook “Jim Jam Jems” by Tessa Sandstrom, published Thursday, November 9, 2006