Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


HIS NAME conjures up an image of a horseman pointing the way across a western landscape. But in fact, Fremont Rider’s main claim to fame lies in a less adventurous direction, library science.


Arthur Fremont Rider, 1885 – 1962, American writer, editor, inventor, librarian. Image digitized by Google from his book Are the Dead Alive?

Nonetheless, Rider had ambitions both in professional and personal life that leave a legacy, particularly to those who collect old guidebooks. Rider Press editions of guides to New York City, Bermuda, Washington, D.C., New England, California, Florida and the West Indies were called “American Baedekers,” or so read their prefaces written under the general editorship of Fremont Rider himself.

Like Baedeker’s guidebooks (, the Rider series has historical, travel, hotel and restaurant information, plus maps and building plans. In fact, the Rider guides offer more details of a touristic nature than the Baedekers of the era.

For instance, in the Theatres and Music Halls portion of the 1923 Rider’s New York City, there’s an inside tip on attending the Metropolitan Opera: “Nowhere else can a stranger in New York see such a gathering of the foremost representatives of the city’s wealth and fashion as on any of the regular subscription nights at the Metropolitan (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). A list of the subscribers to the boxes is printed in the program, facilitating identification.”

In the 1925 Rider’s California, the option is cited of regular “auto stage service” provided by Crown Stage Lines traveling between Los Angeles to Santa Ana in Orange County. “The stage route passes through Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Tustin. The whole distance is over hard-surfaced roads and much of it is within sight of the ocean.”

This last ocean view is a bit of an exaggeration. Accuracy returns with “From Irvine and El Toro, a pleasant excursion may be made through a canyon to Laguna Beach (pop. 316), a favorite resort for California artists.” The drive down Laguna Canyon Road continues to be pleasant.

Unlike Baedeker’s, which eschewed advertising of any sort, part of the charm of Rider’s are its Trade Announcements taking up as much as 48 pages of a typical 600-page guidebook.


Brandstatter’s advertisement. Image from Rider’s California.

I confess I never visited Brandstatter’s Café Montmartre, “Bohemia at it’s [sic] best.” Adolph “Eddie” Brandstatter’s Los Angeles hot spots in the 1920s and 1930s included this place as well as Sardi’s.

Because of the nature of our nation’s capital, Rider’s Washington (no D.C. deemed necessary in the title) would offer useful information even today. A lot of monuments, museums and public buildings in 1924 are still worth a visit.

As a professional librarian, Rider gives the Library of Congress 34 pages of details. In 1924, the Library resided in a single building of Italian Renaissance style, “admittedly one of the most artistic structures in America.” Originally, in 1802, the collection contained “12 folios, 164 quartos, 581 octavos, 7 duodecimos, and 9 maps.” It has grown significantly since then.


Plans for the Library of Congress, second floor above, first floor below. Images from Rider’s Washington.


Also, though the term was far in the future, the concept of big data got his attention. In 1944, Rider wrote The Scholar and the Future of the Research Library, in which he posited that research libraries were doubling in size every 16 years. See “Data Mining,”, for the latest on this trend.

To accommodate the proliferation, Rider invented the microcard. It was smaller than a post card, 3 x 5 in., with catalog information on its front and as many as 250 pages microprinted on its back. Not to be confused with microfiche (which used film, not cards), both concepts exploited the emerging technology of microimaging.


Microcards. Image from

Film being cheaper than paper at the time, cost considerations gave microfiche a victory over microcard. And, of course, digital storage beat them both silly.

Along similar lines, digital searches have lessened the utility of another Rider infatuation, the Dewey Decimal Classification of library materials. Briefly, Melvil Dewey, 1851 – 1931, devised a system that identified specific topics by expanded decimal notation. For instance, the Wikipedia example is 500 (Natural science and mathematics), 510 (Mathematics), 516 (Geometry), 516.3 (Analytic geometry), 516.37 (Metric differential geometries), 516.375 (Finsler geometry).

Dewey was Rider’s mentor, teacher, hero and uncle-in-law, twice. In 1908, Rider married one of Dewey’s nieces. A year after she died in 1950, he married a Dewey grandniece.

On another personal note, Rider had an early interest in psychical research. In 1909 he wrote Are the Dead Alive?: The Problem of Physical Research that the World’s Leading Scientists are Trying to Solve, and the Progress They Have Made. If this tickles your fancy, see ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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