Rolf Potts and the Henry Ford of Literature

Philadelphia Weekly
November 10, 2011

For those who closely follow the international travel and budget backpacking scenes, author and freelance writer Rolf Potts is often viewed as the movement's messiah. In his first best-selling book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, Potts laid out an easy-to-follow yet philosophically deep approach to achieving the travel dreams so many of us assume we have neither the time or money for. Tonight Potts shares the little-known story of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, a prolific and visionary entrepreneur who was commonly referred to as the "Henry Ford of Literature." Throughout his career, the Philadelphia-born Haldeman-Julius published roughly 300 million copies of his pocket-sized "Little Blue Books," which were sold through the mail for mere pennies. According to Potts, who's spending the year in West Philly as UPenn’s current ArtsEdge resident, Haldeman-Julius essentially foreshadowed today’s information superhighway with his controversial booklets, which covered everything from feminism and sexuality to philosophy and religion. And although the Little Blue Books have since become hard-to-find collector's items, a limited number of free copies will be given away during tonight's program.