Primrose Path to Hell
October 25, 1938: Francis Joseph Beckman speaks to the National Council of Catholic Women. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1875 and entered the Seminary in Cincinnati and then studied in Belgium and in Rome. He was ordained a priest on June 20, 1902. He then received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1907) and later a Doctor of Sacred Theology (1908) from the pontifical school in Rome. The first of those degrees is comparable to a Masters Degree. He returned to Cincinnati and taught at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, was a rector at the church, and worked for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. On December 23, 1923 he was appointed as Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska by Pope Pius XI. On January 17, 1930, the Pope appointed Beckman as Archbishop of Dubuque (Iowa).
Beckman was instrumental in aiding Catholic entities which help the poor and disadvantaged to grow. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Holy Name Society, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Conference on Industrial Relations, and the Catholic Youth Organization all grew during his tenure. He had begun the Catholic Student’s Mission Crusade in Cincinnati and in 1935 their national convention was held in Dubuque. He was also a pacifist and in the years leading up to World War II, advocated for the US to hold a stance of neutrality. It was his opinion that the Soviets wished for the US to enter the war in order to weaken the country so they might be able to spread Communism here.
Archbishop Beckman began a campaign against the evils of swing music in 1938. Swing music stemmed from the jazz era. The new music style took off and peaked during the years of 1935 and 1946. Jazz had been highly regarded by most serious musicians around the world, including classical masters such as Stravinsky. Swing was seen as a “dance craze” and a degeneration of music. It was just a means to sell records to the masses so they might dance. And that is what Beckman spoke about on this day. Before the National Council, he proclaimed that swing music was going to ruin young people and send them down the “primrose path to Hell”. His attempts to rid the world of the genre were unsuccessful.
His own primrose path to Hell was brought on by his love of art. He had appreciated the Church’s culture while in Europe and began to collect fine art pieces. Beckman began to showcase his collection in a newly created museum at Columbia College. His collection was said to be worth $1.5 million. In 1936, he was introduced by Phillip Suetter to the idea of investing monies in gold mines. It is now thought he hoped to have more funds to buy more art. Instead, he signed promissory notes on behalf of the archdiocese and caused financial problems for the entity. Suetter was eventually arrested for fraud and Beckman and the Archdiocese were brought under investigation. The holders of the notes demanded payment and Beckman had to sell off most of his art collection to make good on the notes. He retired in November 1946 and moved back to Cincinnati. He died two years later at the age of 72.
A degenerated musical system… turned loose to gnaw away the moral fiber of young people. – Francis Beckman
Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation — then they called it ragtime, then blues — then jazz. Now, it’s swing. White folks, yo’all sho is a mess. – Louis Armstrong
Telling someone about what a symbol means is like telling someone how music should make them feel. – Dan Brown
Baptists never make love standing up. They’re afraid someone might see them and think they’re dancing. – Lewis Grizzard
Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwave ovens became available for home use.
Fox River Grove – In 1995, a train hit a bus stopped at a red light.
St. Katherine Docks – In 1828, the London docks opened.
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