Commies everywhere!

I’ve just discovered the literary works of Mildred Houghton Comfort, a woman who wrote a number of biographies of Important Men of American Capitalism, back in the good old days of the 1950s. William L. Knight, Industrialist. Walt Disney, Master of Fantasy. John Foster Dulles, Peacemaker. Little Punk, the Baby Elephant. She was a prolific supporter of the conservative status quo.

These aren’t exactly popular books any more, but you can still find a few old used copies for sale. She also wrote J. Edgar Hoover, Modern Knight Errant, and there are a few pages from that scanned and available on the interwebs. It’s horrifying.


Disclaimer: I was born in the 1950s, but I was tiny and innocent and unaware and had no idea what was going on. I became conscious in the late 1960s, a much more copacetic decade. This kind of crap was more the product of The Greatest Generation, which I’ve heard was perfect and admirable in all ways, unlike all other generations of Americans.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Ms Houghton Comfort, other than when she lived: 1886-. That emptiness after the en dash is rather disquieting, and lacking in closure.


  1. says

    I’m so glad that it’s only “almost” all honest ‘Merkns who seem to want a God on top of them.
    I suppose it depends on what you mean by “honest”.

  2. dianne says

    That emptiness after the en dash is rather disquieting, and lacking in closure.

    It probably just indicates that she’s a quasi-vampiric being who lives off of the suffering of humans and is therefore alive and well. Nothing creepy at all.

  3. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Mildred Houghton Comfort died in Orange County, Florida on February 20, 1976. Source: Florida Death Index.

  4. says

    A Mildred H. Comfort, born 11 December 1886, lived in MInnesota at least from 1920 to 1950, and died in Florida 20 February 1976.

  5. dianne says

    Well, so they say, but have you seen the death certificate? Are you sure it’s not faked?

  6. says

    From The New Orleans of Fiction: A Research Guide by James A Kaser:

    Comfort, Mildred Houghton (December 11, 1886–February, 1976)

    Born Mildred Houghton Bergemann in Winona, Minn., Comfort was the wife of lawyer Hollis Murdock Comfort (1885–1937). A graduate of Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.) (BS, 1908), Comfort taught school for six years in towns located in Minnesota and South Dakota and began writing books for children in 1932. Over a career spanning over forty years she published thirty-five books, including several biographies, some works of historical fiction, and a number of adventure stories.

  7. mbrysonb says

    It was a time of paranoia and incoherence (like the present, I’m afraid)– I remember Lilian Lieber, aurthor of The Education of T.C. Mits (and an introduction to special relativity; a school teacher, she also taught my PhD advisor, as I later discovered when editing his autobiography) arguing that it’s not “logical” to allow communists to use free speech to undermine or destroy democracy… So much for the bill of rights– no one suspected of opposing it can be allowed the rights it guarantees to all. Funny how the right seems to think of rights as being for them and only for them.

  8. says

    I remember the 1950s red scare very vividly. This kind of rhetoric was everywhere — Mildred Houghton Comfort’s declarations are, if anything, mild. Usually it took the form of ranting, raving radio announcers shouting that we had to find all the reds and get rid of them. And radio announcers really did rant and rave back then.

    My parents really were members of the Communist Party until it imploded in 1956, so I was very aware of it all. Most of their friends who had been in the Party were idealists — those who were teachers got purged from the Philadelphia school system when they wouldn’t inform on their friends. Corporations subscribed to blacklist publications that listed people they shouldn’t hire. (Fortunately my father was self-employed).

    There was a real climate of fear, with people afraid to openly back any policy that could be portrayed as “Commie”. Sorry, folks, but people who say it was like the atmosphere now have not a clue what it was like back then. It was much scarier.

  9. robro says

    My first inklings of consciousness came while taking a required class in high school called “Americanism vs Communism.” I was fortunate to have two teachers (team teaching being hip at the time) who veered from the curriculum, taking the opportunity to encourage us to think about US propaganda as much as USSR propaganda.

  10. whheydt says

    Hoover, at least, was *not* part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”. being born in 1895 and rather too old to have been in the military during WW2.

  11. Scientismist says

    There’s nothing on that page that wasn’t part of the standard public rhetoric of the whole country in the era when Nixon was rising to power. In the mid-50’s when my older sister was in debate club the tournament topic was something to do with communism, and I read a bunch of paperbacks she had. It was very clear to me as an American teenager that Republicans were God’s chosen people, Democrats were politically and religiously suspect (“soft on communism”), and that communism was anathema precisely because it was atheistic.

    But then some of these books my sister had collected were pointing out that Marxism itself was based on a faith in the perfectibility of human society and the inevitability of history in bringing about the triumph of Marxist class struggle. Then I learned some of the history of the European religious wars, and finally figured out that what we had here was exactly the same thing with new labels — the old time versus the newfangled religion, and reason need not apply on either side.

    The popular song of the day: “Gimme that old-time religion.. It was good for the prophet Daniel.. It was good for the Hebrew children.. It’s good for President Eisenhower, and it’s good enough for me.” (Actual lyrics recalled from hearing it over and over again on the radio at age 14).

    At least now some dare call it nonsense.

  12. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ah, the ’50s. I remember the paranoia about anything remotely considered communist/socialist. Like health insurance for workers.

  13. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 15:
    not to mention the rise of workers unions opposing the god-given right of capitalist bosses to exploit their employees. the unionists who always greeted each other as comrad and floated commie propaganda all over. so the fed decided to modify the Pledge, throwing in the “under God” phrase to scare away all the pinkos and to encourage all the righteous patriots.
    etc etc
    I was born at the end of the 50’s. so glad I missed it.

  14. blf says

    For some reason — I’ve never known why — my family had a few books like that (none by the author in question). They all dated to 1960 plus-or-minus a few years. I tried reading some of them in the mid-1970s, and dismally failed; they were so off-putting, absurd, full of scaremongering, wild claims(a few of which I checked against the family’s encyclopedia), and in one I recall spotting some very overt racism (I now assume others were also racist), that I couldn’t complete any of them. I cannot now the recall any of the titles, and the only bit I can (almost-)clearly recall is a rant against Dr Strangelove, claiming that since the USAF said it could never happen that it therefore never could happen. (Seriously! That was the argument.) And that the movie’s fictional mock-up of a B52 cockpit was giving away secrets, blah blah blahh…

    One speculation I’d had for years about why the family had those books — no-one very expressed anything that obviously supported any of the nonsense contained therein — relates to my father’s job at the time(of the books): Rocket propulsion, including working on the engines used in some military missiles. I have no idea if he ever had a security clearance, but I can imagine him buying a few books like that as “camouflage” in case various goons visited. Or, perhaps less conspiratorially, a “true believer” giving him a few.

    And then there was the von Däniken and Hal Lindsey booksdreck, but that’s another story…

  15. chris says

    My dad is 89 years old and everything he dislikes is automatically labeled as communism, or the person is a communist. This includes Doonesbury cartoons, states that have legalized gay marriage and/or relaxed marijuana laws, and a host of other things. It is has gotten worse in the past few years as he spends his days with Fox News blaring on the TV.

    The thing that boggled my mind is that he hates Obama and Obama Care, yet he loves his very free health insurance. He is a retired Army officer and now gets TRICARE benefits without a fee. He and my brother (also a retired Army officer) were talking about how they no longer had to pay for it, and were very happy. But Obama is bad. Le sigh.

    He called me up to talk to me at a time when I was dealing with my adult disabled son’s state medicaid. He then said someone were a bunch of communists. I had enough and finally told him that it was nothing more than an economic model, much like the way the Panama Canal Zone* was run by the US Army Corps of Engineers disguised as the “Panama Canal Company” when we lived there in the mid-1970s.

    That kind of shut him up. He loved living there, it was being part of the old British imperial colonialism. He wanted to retire in Panama. It is not expensive to live in the Republic of Panama, but the tuition for my younger sisters to attend the Zone schools was too high.

    * As a military family we lived on one of the several military bases. But even civilian canal operations employees were given assigned housing and shopped at commissary. The schools became honest a few years later, they stopped the segregation and became full DoD schools.

  16. methos says


    Of course he was, he made of with a piece from here, and a piece from there…

  17. moarscienceplz says

    The popular song of the day: “Gimme that old-time religion.. It was good for the prophet Daniel.. It was good for the Hebrew children.. It’s good for President Eisenhower, and it’s good enough for me.” (Actual lyrics recalled from hearing it over and over again on the radio at age 14).

    Joseph Campbell came up with some improved lyrics for that:

    Give me that old time religion
    Give me that old time religion
    Give me that old time religion
    It’s good enough for me

    Let us worship Zarathustra
    Just the way we used to
    I’m a Zarathustra booster
    He’s good enough for me

    Let us worship Aphrodite
    She’s beautiful but flighty
    She doesn’t wear a nightie
    But she’s good enough for me

  18. moarscienceplz says

    methos #19:

    Frederick Bronski: [as Hitler] All I want is peace. Peace! Peace!
    Frederick Bronski: A little piece of Poland, a little piece of France…

  19. Numenaster says

    Let’s have some of that REAL old time religion!

    It was good enough for Odin, though he’s full of dark forebodin’.
    If there’s runes that need decodin’ then it’s good enough for me!

  20. Numenaster says

    Ninja’d by moarscienceplz, lol.

    The Usenet group alt.religion (I think) expanded on Campbell’s work. My canonical text file contains, no joke, 210 verses for Old Time Religion. Some of the gods mentioned, I can’t even pronounce.

  21. rietpluim says

    On that page, replace “Communism” with “Christianity” and you get a fairly accurate description of the Republican Party.

  22. nutella says

    The wording is very familiar. You could change ‘Communist’ to ‘Muslim’ and sell this book in any US bookstore today.

  23. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    Pete Seeger had a similar version. A few more verses:

    We will pray with those Egyptians,
    Build pyramids to put our crypts in,
    Cover subways with inscriptions,
    And it’s good enough for me.

    We will pray with those old druids,
    They drink fermented fluids,
    Waltzing naked though the woo-ids,
    And it’s good enough for me.

    Hare Krishna he must laugh on
    To see me dressed in saffron
    With my hair that’s only half on
    And it’s good enough for me

    I’ll arise at early morning,
    When my Lord gives me the warning,
    That the solar age is dawning,
    And it’s good enough for me

    You can listen here.

    Google also has this verse:

    We do dances to bring water,
    Prepare animals for slaughter,
    Sacrifice our sons and daughters,
    And it’s good enough for me.

  24. unclefrogy says

    every time I hear or read Hoover’s name I think of “J. Edgar! the musical” a story of love and law enforcement by Harry Shearer and Tom Leopold I heard it on the radio very funny as one would expect from those gifted with a satirical mind.
    uncle frogy

  25. Anton Mates says


    Well, so they say, but have you seen the death certificate? Are you sure it’s not faked?

    It’s faked, but only to conceal the fact that she died in Kenya.

  26. pacal says

    I am not particularly bothered by actual Communists being bashed any more than I am by actual Nazis being bashed. I do have problems with suppression of speech, witch hunts and assorted other skullduggery. But actual Communists were in my opinion much like Nazis and their ideology equally repellant.

    The bottom line is sadly that much of what Hoover said about the Communist Party was disturbingly accurate. The US Communist party was indeed subject to Moscow and almost always obeyed it with zeal. Each and every turn of Russian policy followed no matter what. From the Moscow Purges to the Nazi-Soviet Pact and beyond. The subservience of the US Communist Party to Moscow was close to total. Further the US Communist Party got financial aid from Russia, so-called “Moscow Gold”. And with the full knowledge of those running the party various Soviet intelligence organizations used the US Communist party as a way of recruiting spies for the USSR. The opening of the Soviet archives has to a large extent confirmed the notion of the Us Communist Party has all to often a agent of Russian foreign policy.

    Also during the period 1930-1956 the US Communist Party was much given to worship of the most holy and divine Stalin, slobbering, writhing in ecstasy in contemplation of his greatness. (Snark).

    Of course a great many of the members of the US Communist Party were idealists but then again so where the Nazis.

  27. Akira MacKenzie says

    mbrysonb @ 8

    It was a time of paranoia and incoherence…

    You’ve just described human hosting general. Please, be more specific. ;)

  28. says

    Marx was wrong. Religion is often the amphetamine of the masses. It gets people excited and outraged, making them take actions they shouldn’t, making them violent towards others.

  29. says

    Swap out “international Communism” for Ayn Rand and squint a little bit and you can see she is really describing today’s Republican Party.

  30. Pierce R. Butler says

    I just took a closer look at the second sentence in the book excerpt shown.

    Some of us may now owe an apology to the Gingrich-Rove faction of Republican Party rhetoricians, who apparently did not after all invent the snide shortening of “Democratic” now used by right-wingers to sneer at their partisan rivals.

  31. says

    I noticed that, too, Pierce R. Butler. It’s an early example of the abiding influence of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who specialized in juvenile slurs more suited to the elementary school playground than to political discourse. McCarthy insisted on saying “Democrat Party” and in 1952 attacked Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson by pretending to muff his name, calling him “Alger — uh — Adlai Stevenson,” as if confusing him with convicted perjurer Alger Hiss. In 1976, as Gerald Ford’s running mate, Sen. Bob Dole brought “Democrat Party” back into common usage by Republicans in the presidential campaign. That was also the year he referred to “Democrat wars” because, of course, Democrats were warmongers and Republicans were peacemakers. They’ve been at this a long time.

  32. says

    pacal: re: comment 29. I will not disagree with your comment (#30) about the about the repellent politics of the Communist Party, but there was a big difference between Communists and Nazis when it came to what they taught their children. Both had delusions about horrific regimes. But when young communists were being taught about the need for Workers of the World to Unite, young Nazis were being taught to dominate and oppress other people who didn’t look like you. Young communists were taught that racism was a serious problem to be overcome, young Nazis were taught that it was a good thing. And so on. It’s always better to see oppression and exploitation wherever it occurs, of course. But if not, if I had to choose, I would choose to see it when it is under your nose .

  33. Pierce R. Butler says

    Zeno @ # 37 – Thanks for filling in those details.

    The remaining question is whether the Repubs renewing the “Democrat Party” schtick take it directly from Joe McC, or got it from some rare rugged individual who somehow both stayed awake and listened when Dole spoke.