By Vince Fitzpatrick, Curator of the H.L. Mencken Collection
Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.
— H.L. Mencken
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), a talented and prolific journalist known fondly as the Sage of Baltimore, had a long and friendly relationship with the Enoch Pratt Free
Library . As a child, he used the branch that was once located at Hollins and Calhoun Street.
As an adult, he often visited the Central
branch. Later in life he generously donated a collection of books from his personal library, as well as his letters, photographs, drafts, and other memorabilia. This is the most complete and important Mencken
collection in the world.
Mencken Day will be held this year on Saturday, September 8 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m at the Central Library. Each year for over forty years the Enoch Pratt Free Library has offered events and exhibits featuring Mencken's work and stories of his life.
Mencken Society Annual Meeting
Wheeler Auditorium, 10:15am
Dr. H. George Hahn, Chair of the English Department at Towson University, will deliver a talk to the Mencken Society entitled "The Campus Trials of Mencken's Satire." The Mencken Society, founded in 1976, has done much to help keep Mencken's flame alive.
Mencken Memorial Lecture
Wheeler Auditorium 2:30 p.m.
Dr. Richard Schrader, a professor emeritus at Boston College, will deliver a lecture entitled "The Scopes Trial: How the Letter Kills". Mencken's writing on the Scopes trial may well have been his most important work as a journalist. It is, beyond argument, some of his most controversial commentary. He was reviled as the devil incarnate and revered as a champion of free speech.
Dr. Schrader follows in a long line of distinguished speakers including such figures as William Manchester, Alistair Cooke, James T. Farrell and Murray Kempton.
A reception in the Poe Room will follow Dr. Schrader's talk.
Pratt Chat recently feature and article by Menckenian editor Jackie Watts about Mencken's coverage of the Scope's trial.
The current Mencken Room, which opened in November, 2003, houses three permanent exhibits:
- "The Mencken Room"
- "Mencken and Schattenstein" (in 1927, Nikol Schattenstein painted the famous Mencken portrait which graces the room's east wall)
- "Sara Powell Haardt Mencken: 1898-1935"
Three additional exhibits will be mounted in the Humanities corridor on the third floor.
- "Mencken and Charles A. Fecher, 1917-2012"
- "Mencken and S. L. Harrison, 1930-2012"
- "Mencken and Max Brodel, 1870-1941" Curated by David Donovan of the Library's Fine Arts Department, an expert on Mencken and music.
The library also has Mencken online, all the time.
With the deaths of Mr. Fecher and Dr. Harrison this year, the Mencken community suffered considerable losses, and condolences are offered to family, friends, and colleagues.