Dakota Datebook

Jim Jam Jems

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Sometimes the truth hurts, and even offends, but that didn’t stop Sam Clark and C.H. Crockard, publishers of Jim Jam Jems from writing the truth in a blatant manner. The magazine’s forward warned of the material enclosed in Jim Jam Jems’s colorful cover: “Here in the confines of this little booklet, we can say that which appeals to us, without fear of the result….Here we will let our imagination run riot;…we intend to write just whatever we damn please and say just as much….Kind reader have a care; if you are one of those ‘holier-than-thou’ individuals who dislike plain unvarnished truth, then delve no farther into this volume, for what is written here may shock your immortal soul, may shatter your faith in humanity and forever damn you–damn you.”

The publication was widely read, but at least one “holier-than-thou” individual delved too deep. Today in 1912, Clark and Crockard were indicted by the federal grand jury in Fargo for sending “obscene and immoral” reading matter in interstate mail. Meanwhile, newsdealers throughout the state and in Minneapolis and St. Paul were also being arrested for selling the publication. Jim Jam Jems, however, continued “selling like hot-cakes,” and Clark and Crockard continued publishing the booklet throughout the trials.

Clark and Crockard contended the guilty conviction. The publishers insisted that the publication was in no way obscene and even helped bring several people to justice through exposure in the magazine. Their mission, they said, “was the cleaning up of some of the filthiness existing in the country.” For them, the magazine was just political and social commentary. Their commentary, however, often turned to those in charge, whether it was the church or political officials. To the state, however, the publication was obscene, and the District Attorney’s intention was to protect the home by putting the publishers out of business.

One of the articles considered most lewd and obscene was titled “Chicken-chasing,” and was read at one of the trials. This article attacked the position girls and young women are put in by society and government because of a lack of laws. The article defined chicken-chasing as a man’s pursuit after a young and gullible girl, and stated:

In most states, the age of consent is fixed by statute at 14 to 16 years. Can you imagine a little girl 14 or even 16 years of age as the legal custodian to her person? Most girls at this age are hardly able to properly make their trundle bed or dress their dolly, and yet they are ‘legally’ of sufficient age to dispose of their virtue to the first brute that happens along with the consummate nerve enough to accomplish seduction. A woman is not considered legally old enough or wise enough to exercise control over property until she is 21; she is legally of age at 18; she is legal prey for man’s bestiality at 14 to 16!…The laws which invoke a simple change of ‘bastardy’ against the brute who seduces a young girl–just so she be of legal age–and the professional ‘chicken-chasers’ are the two greatest factors in the wholesale ruination of little girls. But the men who make the laws and the men who are supposed to enforce them are too often ‘chicken-chasers’ themselves, and it seems that it is a hard matter to change the existing conditions.

With those final sentences, one must wonder who the District Attorney was really trying to protect: the home, or the officials in the church, court, and state.

For the next five years, Clark and Crockard contended the conviction, and the trials often flopped back and forth between guilty and not guilty. The legal battle finally ended December 1917 when they were found guilty.

Jim Jam Jems continued to circulate, however, and Clark and Crockard retained the colorful voice in later issues. Clark later moved to Minneapolis, and began taking on other endeavors. He spent less time on the publication, and the August 1929 issue was the last of Jim Jam Jems.

By Tessa Sandstrom

“Publishers of JJJ indicted by Grand Jury,” Ward County Independent. Nov. 14, 1912.
“Will have hard time to convict ‘JJJ’,” Ward County Independent. Nov. 21, 1912: 1.
“Sam Clark, colorful ND writer, dies,” Bismarck Tribune. Dec. 21, 1944: 1.
Clark Sam, General Reference File. State Archives.
Jim Jam Jems collection. State Archives.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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