Let’s kick off the show with the most widely-circulated colorful book – the yellow pages. You don’t ever hear, “I’m in the book” anymore and our fingers don’t “do the walking” as much as they do the swiping these days. Considering that there have probably been more phone books in print than any other publication in the history of the world, this represents a large cultural shift in a relatively short amount of time. The first phone directory was created in 1878 on a single piece of cardboard, with fifty listings, and it didn’t have any numbers. It only listed the names of the businesses that had a telephone, since human operators connected all calls and the average person needed to be taught to use their newfangled telephone.
A directory of 248 listings was created in Britain in 1880. It’s said that in 1883, a printer in Cheyenne, Wyoming ran out of white paper while printing telephone directories and used yellow paper instead. For whatever reason, the practice stuck. Early phone books included directions on how to use the telephone, since people were prone to talk, or yell, into the wrong part. The telephone also taught us to greet people with “hello.” “Hello” existed in English for hundreds of years, but it was always used in the exclamatory sense of “Hello, what have we here?” Originally, Alexander Graham Bell wanted people to say “Ahoy.” That’s probably why the nonspecifically ancient Mr. Burns on The Simpsons answers the telephone with “Ahoy-hoy.” For an item that was once absolutely ubiquitous, it’s surprisingly hard to find early examples. There was not compelling reason to retain them from year to year and phone companies would pick up last year’s when they brought you this year’s edition. People may wish their grandparents had held on to theirs – One of the earliest phone books sold at Christie’s auction house for $170,000.
Interestingly, whereas big companies usually patent, trademark and copyright every little thing they create AT&T didn’t apply for intellectual property protection for the phrase “yellow pages” or the original walking fingers logo, which was created by a New England artist in 1962. That means other publishers may use them freely. In many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, “Yellow Pages,” or the local translation, *are registered trademarks, though the owner varies from country to country, usually the main national telephone company. Speaking of intellectual property rights, in 1991, the Supreme Court declared that directory listings could not be copyrighted because the mere accumulation of information required to creative expression.
Apart from the obvious color and the fact that one is business and the other is people, an important distinction between the yellow pages and the white pages is that Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows for any publishes who wants to to print the yellow pages, though the white pages can only come from the phone company. So in some areas, you might get half a dozen different yellow pages each year. The Yellow pages is a 14 or 15 billion dollar a year industry, which is why people are still very interested in printing it. There are 540 million directories printed in the United States each year. That’s 1.7 directories per person, assuming just over 300 million people living in the US. The average yellow pages book weighs 3.62 pounds. Multiply that by the 540 million directories printed each year and you get 2 BILLION pounds of paper. It takes 24 fully developed trees to make a ton of paper. So you’re looking at 23 million trees each year being cut down to make these books. Most publishers have recycling programs, but almost none have an opt-out, or better yet an opt-in, program. Though the physical books are falling out of use, the yellow pages are still profitable thanks to shifting to online advertising. and are not dying anytime soon. Personally, the only people I know who use phone book and don’t also have AARP cards are sideshow strongmen. Phone books are surprisingly easy to tear in half if you fan the pages out a little first.
“The Poky Little Puppy,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “Scruffy The Tugboat,” and “Mother Goose” don’t have colors in their names, but they’re all golden. These beloved titles were part of a line called Little Golden Books created in 1942 through a partnership between the New York publishing firm Simon & Schuster, the Artists and Writers Guild, and the Western Printing and Lithographing Company. In the early 1940s, children’s books cost the equivalent of $30, a price that was too steep for many people. But George Duplaix, who led the Artists and Writers Guild at the time, wanted to make reading more accessible. He set out to develop lavishly illustrated and sturdy children’s books that would be affordable to most families with young children. The group decided to publish twelve titles for simultaneous release in what was to be called the Little Golden Books Series. Each book would have 42 pages, 28 printed in two-color, and 14 in four-color. The books would be staple-bound. The group originally discussed a 50-cent price for the books, but Western did not want to compete with other 50-cent books already on the market. The group calculated that if the print run for each title was 50,000 copies instead of 25,000, the books could affordably be sold for 25 cents each, roughly equivalent to their price now.
The first Little Golden Books published were “Three Little Kittens,” “The Little Red Hen” and “The Alphabet from A to Z.” Early LGB editors spent time working with educators and psychologists to determine what children cared about and which story lines would appeal to the largest number of readers. The books reflected a shift in thinking about how, where, and what children should read, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which hosted an exhibit about the Little Golden Books in 2013 and 2014. “When the Little Golden Books were launched […] they changed publishing history,” according to Penguin Random House, which publishes the books now. “For the first time, children’s books were high quality and low priced. They were available to almost all children, not just a privileged few.”
The books were designed to be sold in places children and families already shopped, such as department stores and drugstores. A small town may not have a bookstore, but it would have a five-and-dime. Consumer recognition was also an objective of the books’ easily identifiable design. “With very few exceptions, there were no author or illustrator credits listed on the covers, so that the image drew one’s full attention,” Children’s literature historian Leonard S. Marcus reports in his book Golden Legacy. “And there was, of course, the distinctive gold binding, and a trim size designed to feel comfortable in a child’s hands. Little Golden Books was an early example of branding in children’s books, and it was done very well.” Five months after they launched, the publisher had printed 1.5 million copies. These books were so successful that Simon & Schuster decided to launch a new division called Sandpiper Press, which George Duplaix to be the new division’s leader.
Of the dozen titles that debuted list in 1942, only Janette Sebring Lowrey’s The Poky Little Puppy was an original story; the rest were classic tales and rhymes easily recognizable to parents. “The Poky Little Puppy” is an all-time classic, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide in dozens of languages. It’s not only the best-selling Little Golden Books title, it’s cited as the best-selling children’s hardcover book of all time. My personal favorite was The Monster At the End of this Book, starring Grover from Sesame Street. If I ever break down and start doing video, you’ll see a Super Grover plush supervising my desk.
Over 1,400 titles have been published, including tie-ins with pop culture, like Star Wars and Barbie and even Bible stories. The price of the Little Golden Books titles rose with inflation through the years($0.29 in 1962, $0.59 in 1977, $0.99 in 1986 and so on), and they currently sell for $3-5, depending on where you shop. That’s the price new, of course. There’s also a lucrative seller’s market for first editions and other rare versions. A 1942 version of “Mother Goose” with the original dust jacket can be yours from a specialty bookseller for the low, low price of $1,375.
One color gets a trifecta of books on today’s list, from a censorship manual to a lifesaving travel guide to a future dictator’s manifesto. These are a few of the green books, which we’ll take in chronological order, beginning with a book that begins, “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.” This was The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide first published in 1936. It provided listings of hotels, guest houses, service stations, drug stores, taverns, barber shops, and restaurants that would serve and be safe for African American travelers. The “Green Book” focused on segregationist strongholds like Alabama and Mississippi, but its coverage extended from Connecticut to California, any place where its readers might face prejudice or danger because of their race. With Jim Crow still looming over much of the country, a motto on the guide’s cover also doubled as a warning: “Carry your Green Book with you—You may need it.”
Rates of car ownership had exploded after World War II, but the lure of interstate travel, the great American road trip, was also fraught with risk for African Americans. “Whites Only” policies meant that black travelers often couldn’t find safe places to eat and sleep. Many black travelers packed all the food they thought they were need, for fear of being unable to find a restaurant to serve them, as well as being prepared to sleep in their car every night. So-called “Sundown Towns”—municipalities that banned blacks after dark—were scattered across the country. First published in 1936, the Green Book was the brainchild of a Harlem-based postal carrier named Victor Hugo *Green, who took inspiration for similar guides already available for Jewish travelers. Like most Africans Americans in the mid-20th century, Green had grown weary of the discrimination blacks faced whenever they ventured outside their neighborhoods. The first edition only covered hotels and restaurants in the New York area, but Green soon expanded its scope, using fellow postal carriers as scouts and paying cash to readers who sent in useful information. By the early 1940s, the Green Book boasted thousands of listings across the country, all of them either black-owned or verified to be integrated.
In cities with no black-friendly hotels, the book often listed the addresses of homeowners who were willing to rent rooms, a sort of early Airbnb. “The ‘Green Book’ was the bible of every Negro highway traveler in the 1950s and early 1960s,” wrote Earl Hutchinson Sr. in his memoir ‘A Colored Man’s Journey Through 20th Century Segregated America.’ “You literally didn’t dare leave home without it.” Thanks to a sponsorship deal with Standard Oil, the Green Book was available for purchase at Esso gas stations across the country. Though largely unknown to whites, it eventually sold upwards of 15,000 copies per year. Later editions included information on airline and cruise ship journeys to places like Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. In offering advice to its readers, the Green Book adopted a pleasant and encouraging tone. It usually avoided discussing racism in explicit terms, with one article simply noting that “the Negro travelers’ inconveniences are many.” In one of its last editions in 1963-64, it included a special “Your Rights, Briefly Speaking” feature that listed state laws related to discrimination in travel accommodations. “The Negro is only demanding what everyone else wants,” the article stressed, “what is guaranteed all citizens by the Constitution of the United States.”
Victor Hugo Green did not live to see his book become obsolete as he’d hoped, passing away in 1960. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act finally banned racial segregation in restaurants, theaters, hotels, parks and other public places. Just two years later, the Green Book quietly ceased publication.
[ ] is 1949’s BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide For Writers and Producers, commonly referred to as The Green Book detailed what was then permissible as comedy material, but even as it tried to police comedian, which is never advisable, its bureaucratic tone and outlandish restrictions became comedy fodder in and of itself. It was a confidential document and was kept under lock and key, although a fair amount of what it contained would be issued as memos, inadvertently tipping their hand. The green book was created after an incident in 1944, when the great star of variety, Max Miller, master of double entendre, told an unscripted joke about a mountain pass, a girl and a blocked passage, and found himself banned from the airwaves for five years.
Among jokes banned were those concerning lavatories, effeminacy in men, immorality of any kind, suggestive references to honeymoon couples, chambermaids, and the vulgar use of words such as “basket”. You may remember from episode 42 on British comedy that basket means a man’s trouser bulge in the secret gay slang language of Polari. Jokes that required a regional accent to make an innocuous statement sound dirty were right out. For example, making “winter draws on” sound like “with her drawers on” was forbidden under the prohibition against mentioning ladies undergarments. You couldn’t even say “fig leaves” in reference to the bathing suit area.
Many of the guidelines comply with modern notions of political correctness. No offence was to be given to other races. Derogatory references to “the working class,” solicitors (i.e. lawyers), and miners, specifically were out. Seemingly ahead of their time, the n-word was banned, and yet the phrase “Nigger Minstrels” was still tolerated. Some of the rules were quite specific. If a comedian wished to impersonate a real person, that person’s permission was required. If he or she was dead, permission from the person’s relatives was necessary. You could only make a scant few jokes about drinking in any given program and “remarks such as one for the road’ are inadmissible on road safety grounds”. The document also advised: Extreme care should be taken in dealing with references to or jokes about prenatal influences. The most specific of all was probably the banning of *any reference to The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, the last in a line of noble Irish chieftains, or jokes about his name, after he lodged complaints.
It has been said, though, that for as strict as the rules were, they weren’t followed to the letter. If they had been, some of the most popular comedies, like Beyond our Ken, Till Death Us Do Part, Steptoe and Son, would never have been aired. It also unintentionally helped sharpen the writers’ skills at crafting innuendos, having set them a challenge to get their jokes on their air.
Less amusing than even the worst British comedy — and I say this knowing full well someone thought it would be a good idea to make a sitcom about Hitler and his Jewish neighbors called Heil, Honey, I’m Home — was the green book of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. First published in 1975, six years after Gaddafi seized power in al-Fateh Revolution, the book, actually entitled Al-Kitab -al-Akhdar, was “intended to be read for all people.” This was not a suggestion.
Some scholars have compared the Green Book’s political and economic ideology to Rousseau, Mao and Marx; there are precious few external sources cited in the book, not even religious texts. “Most analyses of the Green Book emphasize Qaddafi’s many digressions and penchant for stating the obvious, like his proclamation that “woman is a female and man is a male,” says NY Times reporter Mohamad Bazzi. While not really presenting a coherent worldview. the Green Book does have its own peculiar logic: a mixture of utopian socialism, Arab nationalism and the Third World revolutionary ideology that was in vogue at the time it was written, in a tone and style similar to classical Arabic literature. On the subject of gender, Gaddafi said that a man is aggressive by nature and “a woman is tender; a woman weeps easily and is easily frightened.” Which makes his retinue of 40 virgin female bodyguards seem odd, as well as his decisions to arm the women of Tripoli and send them on military training exercises as the civil war escalated.
The Green Book was actually two volumes. In the first, “The Solution of the Problem of Democracy,” Gaddafi promised to rescue the world from the failures of Western democracy and Communism. His “Third Universal Theory” would usher in an era of mass democracy in which people would rule themselves directly, without elections, political parties and parliamentary representation. That sounds nice until you remember all the people protesting *his government who were killed. The second volume offers “The Solution of the Economic Problem,” a jumble of quasi-socialist ideals and capitalist notions. In some parts, Qaddafi appears to be a class-conscious self-help guru: “There are no wage-workers in the socialist society, only partners.” In other sections, he exalts property ownership: “There is no freedom for a man who lives in another’s house, whether he pays rent or not.” Gaddafi also exalted Bedouin and traditional tribal cultures, believing, as 14th century philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote, that sedentary people were weak and inferior to nomadic people.
Though Gaddafi spoke out against compulsory education, Libyan children spent two hours a week studying the book as part of their curriculum. Extracts were broadcast every day on television and radio. Slogans from the book were plastered on billboards and painted on buildings in Libya. The World Center for the Study and Research of the Green Book had a staff of more than 100 and branches around the world. Through the ‘80s and ’90s, the center had a multimillion-dollar annual budget, to translate the book into more than 30 languages, host international conferences, and fund nearly 140 studies and scholarly papers on Gaddafi’s theories. When Benghazi fell to rebel control at the beginning of the Libyan conflict, the Center was one of the first buildings to be attacked. According to Al Jazeera many copies of the book were burned during the conflict and now booksellers can’t even give copies away.
Bonus fact: there are over 100 different acceptable ways to spell Muammar Gaddafi, which I wish I could have convinced my spell-check of while writing this segment.
Color-coded mandatory reading was also part of The Cultural Revolution in China. The Little Red Book – or, to give its full title, Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong – contains 267 aphorisms from the Communist Chinese leader, covering subjects such as class struggle, “correcting mistaken ideas” and the “mass line”, a key tenet of Mao Zedong Thought. Included is Mao’s famous remark that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. It was widely circulated in China and around the world during the infamous Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Originally produced in 1964 by the People’s Liberation Army, it soon became a key feature of the Chairman’s cult of personality. The Ministry of Culture aimed to distribute a copy to every Chinese citizen and hundreds of new printing houses were built in order to achieve this. By the time the Chinese Communist Party finally ordered a halt to the printing of the book in February 1979, at least one billion official copies had already been printed. Some estimates put the total as high as five billion copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular publications of the twentieth century.
The book was the brainchild of Lin Biao, a decorated general of of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. He was Mao’s right-hand man… for about a year. People didn’t last long in the job before dying or disappearing. Hoping to further his own political ambitions, Biao asked the staff of the People’s Liberation Army Daily to compile a small collection of Mao’s quotations. Once the book was approved, a free copy be issued to every soldier, most of whom, like their fellow citizens, had little education and found it difficult to read Mao’s long-form writings.
The aphorisms were offered without context and strung together without much regard for chronology: if it was Mao’s thought, it *must be coherent, went the editorial idea. It soon became a political bible and a source of spiritual inspiration. Every person in China had at least one copy, and its reading and recital became a daily ritual.
During the 1960s, the book was the single most visible icon in mainland China, even more visible than the image of the Chairman himself. In posters and pictures created by Communist Party of China’s propaganda artists, nearly every painted figured, whether smiling or looking determined, was seen with a copy of the book in his or her hand. The book was used during the Cultural Revolution not simply to streamline ideology and ideological uniformity, but as a weapon to be used against perceived “class enemies” or “counter-revolutionaries.” Owning and knowing the book “became a way of surviving”, says Daniel Leese, professor of modern Chinese history and politics at the University of Freiburg. Paramilitary “Red Guards,” usually student, mobilised by Mao to purify the Communist Party would check whether those suspected of bourgeois tendencies were carrying it or whether they could quote from it. Red Guard would also use the book to accuse their own teachers and, eventually each other, of betraying Maoist values.
Millions of copies have published in translation and sold abroad. It was taken up by Western groups like the Black Panthers and was copies and passed around in the Warsaw Pact nations, when the USSR’s split from China ensured it would be banned. After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, the importance of the book waned considerably, as did the value of Mao’s quotations. Today in China, the book Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung is mostly a piece of nostalgia, available for purchase at tourist destinations. Various editions are popular with some collectors, and rare and unusual printings command extremely high prices. There was even a spike in sale in the UK in 2015 when a member of parliament used it as a prop in a speech.
For this segue,I wanted to reference web series cum Netflix show Red Vs Blue, but I wasn’t sure how many people would get it, then I decided to do it anyway. “Your armor is pink.” “It’s not pink. It’s light-ish red.” “Guess what. They already have a color for light-ish red. Know what it’s called? Pink.” The Financial Times (FT) is an English-language international daily newspaper owned by Nikkei Inc, headquartered in London, with a special emphasis on business and economic news. The FT was launched as the London Financial Guide in January 1888, describing itself as the friend of “The Honest Financier, the Bona Fide Investor, the Respectable Broker, the Genuine Director, and the Legitimate Speculator.” Its only rival was the slightly older and more daring Financial News. On 2 January 1893, the FT began printing on light salmon-pink paper to distinguish it from the Financial News. David Kynaston wrote in the book “The Financial Times, a Centenary History” that it grew progressively pinker over the years. “As far as one can tell the FT for quite a long time from 1893 had a slight pinkish tint to its pages rather than rejoicing in that bold salmon pink with which we are now familiar.” But color experts politely disagree about the actual color. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said The Financial Times is actually “bisque.” She said it was a wise choice because its shade is considered a “ ‘tactile’ color — one that invites touch” and “a warm, welcoming, nurturing color.”
And that’s where we run out of ideas, at least for today. I’ll leave you with some purple prose, which is to say the 1964 booklet “Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida,” known as the Purple Pamphlet, which was indeed purple in color. It was published by a Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, right after they fired nearly 40 professors and deans from Florida universities and revoked the licenses of over 70 public school teachers for being “suspected homosexuals.” This so-called cautionary guide, which was intended for “every individual concerned with the moral climate of the state” and complete with photos of men in flagrante delicto, was as ironically homoerotic as a things could be.