Sunday, August 08, 2010

International Correspondence School (1)

(circa 1910, Admin Bldg of Int'l. Corespondence School, Scranton)

Sometime in January 1908, Lovecraft discovered the International Correspondence Courses of Scranton, PA. In October 1891, the Colliery Engineer School of Mines began a correspondence school in mine technology, that rapidly expanded due to an enormous demand. By Lovecraft's era, vast numbers of students were devouring the books and courses. Upwards of $10,000 a year in postage was being used - in the days of 3 cent stamps!

This was a very serious endeavor, and a large, mature staff was fully occupied in mailings, and grading. One might compare the mail art institute that cartoonist Charles Schultz submitted to, and then worked for - which was often a crude and sham deal for students.

With a certificate from this school, HPL could easily have obtained a job. He had significant family connections in 1910 (Theodore W Phillips was gone, but TWP II was still quite vigorous and rented his house on Angell Street). Providence had numerous chemical factories, and a management job would not have been out of the question for Whipple Phillips' grandson.

Recently we saw where a date could be placed on Lovecraft contracting measles: 15-30 January 1910. His weight loss of 54 pounds was probably contributable by contracting brochio-pnemonia, and diarrhea from either influenza (the flu) or even some edyema. Edyema is less likely, as an operation to resect ribs, or to insert through incision bismuth paste would have been necessary. We can likely presume measles, pneumonia, and diarrhea. A bout of about 30 days would easily have had him lose in excess of 30% body mass. A recovery time of at least 30 days was necessary. In addition, he had recovered to see Halley's comet on or about 26 may 1910.

Early January a 10 day incubation period.
mid-late January measles, progressively worse.
Late February, disease bottoms out.
Late March, eating and drinking recovery.
Most of April to recover strength, rejoice, and making plans to resume the correspondence courses.

What happened?

He relates that organic chemistry, specifically Benzene and aromatic chemistry bested him.

The text book he used, or one like it, still exists on Google Books. Benzene begins on or about page 100, roughly half way through organic chemistry. It seems he stopped dead on that spot - whether because of his illness, or after it.

Instead, he seems to have begun to write his own textbook, of sorts. Following the proposed timeline, this dates to 3rd quarter of 1910. We give credit that HPL gave up High School, and did not attend college. He might not have even begun his correspondence course work until early 1909.

If this was, indeed, Volume 4 in a series, HPL starting in early 1909 would have taken one book per "semester" to be at Volume 4 for Summer 1910.

The textbook can be found clicking here.

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