A Review of Forbes' "Little Bits about Big Men"
Published June 28, 2022
“Beyond being its author, I disclaim all responsibility for this book. The many scores of squibs in it—as well as hundreds of others—were jotted down by me over a series of years, without thought of publishing them in a volume. My colleagues of FORBES Magazine are the guilty ones. Blame them if you don't find here anything of interest."
B. C. Forbes’ "Introduction," Little Bits about Big Men
A Review of Forbes' Little Bits about Big Men by B. C. Forbes
- Reviews of the Day: 1940
- Interesting Insights from Little Bits about Big Men
- This Author’s Perceptions of Little Bits about Big Men
Reviews of the Day: 1940
There were quite a few reviews for a book that appears to have been released without much editing or additional journalistic effort that would be expected judging from B. C. Forbes’ previous works.
Here are a few:
Here are a few:
“In these days when bureaucrats seek to reduce the realities of business life to barren statistics, Mr. Forbes book [Little Bits about Big Men], which clothes business leaders with the traits of individuality, is a timely antidote.”
M. S. Rukeyser, The San Francisco Examiner, October 1940
“Within these pages the reader meets literally all sorts and conditions of well-known people. … Wendell L. Willkie is described as a ‘great big, overgrown boy.’ … Frank A. Munsey seated on a kind of throne. … This is a book that will delight and instruct the reader, and also provide some verbal ammunition for speakers of various sorts. Many of the characterizations in the book are so helpful [as] to make us understand the real nature of certain noted people.”
“Scanning New Books,” The Sunday Argus-Leader, October 1940
“In thirty years, B. C. Forbes met almost everybody you ever hear of. … He spins yarns about Coolidge, Hoover, Ford, Gandhi, Will Rogers … J. P. Morgan … all the headliners of today. These anecdotes, based on personal contact with these men, often reveal more of the man himself than you get in a whole volume about him.”
Benjamin DeCasseres, “March of Events,” The Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, December 1940
Interesting Insights from Little Bits about Big Men
These are some of the “little” bits of insight presented of the “big” men called out in Forbes’ book. These insights are compilations of multiple “bits” presented throughout the book. Being able to search an electronic version made possible what wasn’t possible eight decades ago.
These are quotes that I discovered that would have met B. C. Forbes’ criteria from his introduction: inspire broad sympathies, charity towards all, and a philosophical mode of life.
On Frank W. Woolworth
“Frank W. Woolworth liked to strike Napoleonic poses—his office was rich in Napoleon relics. But it didn't prove difficult to get inside this stern, ostentatious, regal shell. Once he unbent, he gave me a candid, unflattering account of his early career, picturing himself not only as a yokel but a numbskull, bounced from his first job because of incompetence.
In reality, Woolworth was a likable fellow, retaining an unusual measure of boyishness. … [the secretary once] explained that Mr. Woolworth was a finicky, explosive, testy taskmaster.
On Calvin Coolidge
“His nearest Presidential prototype was Abraham Lincoln. Cal had Abe's rustic aura, Abe's simplicity and terseness of speech, Abe's understanding of human nature, and, above all, Abe's keen sense of humor. … Coolidge’s trait was thriftiness. Under the surface, he had a delightful boyish strain. … [unfortunately] … the Presidency lost all its appeal when his younger son died.”
On James (Jim) Farley
“Jim Farley is held in high esteem because of his forthrightness. … He exercises the human touch more assiduously than any other man in public life. … an amazing memory, matching that of the late James J. Hill.”
On George Eastman
“The life and death of George Eastman should serve as a reminder that business success is not the be-all and end-all of human existence.” [read this for background on George Eastman and Thomas J. Watson Sr.]
This Author’s Perceptions of Little Bits about Big Men
This is an interesting read, and I would agree with several of the reviews: This is not a book that one reads in a single sitting; It is a book that documents that leaders—like the rest of us—have strengths, weaknesses, quirks and idiosyncrasies; and, yes, excerpts from this book will show up in my articles—as some of the tidbits are fascinating. The reader finds many of the same character traits in leaders as in followers—if we, as followers, are honest and admit it: likable, boyish and finicky; explosive and testy; kindly, considerate, and polite; modest, industrious and frugal; conservative and liberal.
Although, it is not on par with B. C. Forbes previous works that I have read and reviewed, it is still a worthwhile read, especially if an individual desires a larger context for understanding that even the top leaders in business, politics and the military … are human beings too.
I appreciated the last sentence in the book which is a common theme that Mr. Forbes articulates in many of his articles:
“No, my fellow mortals, success doesn't have to be spelled $UCCE$$.”
FORBES Magazine ran a feature for several years entitled “Little Bits about Big Men."