Happy Hour Library

The Happy Hour Library, Inc. / Friedmans’ Book Store (New York, US)
Series dates: 1924-1925
Size: 4.25″ x 6″

Revised 6/21/2023

“Happy hour” has meant different things over time. The phrase appears in Shakespeare (Henry V) and served as a vague reference to pleasant times. During WW1, in the US Navy in particular, the term came to mean an organized enjoyable event for socializing, music, dancing, or movies. The modern meaning of happy hour, as a pre-dinner time for alcoholic drinking (specifically discounts on drinks in restaurants and bars), seems to emerge, again, from the military, in the 1950s. (source)

Of the several “Happy Hour” book series that appear in WorldCat, all allude to the earlier idea of happy hour as a pleasant time, potentially including light reading of shorter titles.

The Anna C. Reifsnider Book Co. of St. Louis (US) published a Happy Hour Library in 1893. Two titles appear on WorldCat, both by Anna C. Reifsnider, whose biography can be found in what was probably a “pay to be featured” tome, Notable Women of St. Louis, 1914.

Unforgiven by Anna C. Reifsnider
How She Earned It, or, $25,000 in Eleven Years, by Anna C. Reifsnider

In 1911 UK publisher Frederick Warne & Co. issued at least four volumes of a children’s series called The “Happy Hour” Library.

Shown below is an example of a title from a series of twenty-four small paperback reprint books called The Happy Hour Library that appeared in the mid-1920s, published and distributed by Friedmans’ Book Store (70 West 51st St., New York).

I can find little about Friedmans’ Book Store except that it existed from the 1920s through at least the 1940s. The store specialized in Jewish books and remainders, posted wanted lists of books in various periodicals, and issued the Happy Hour Library, which was sold in bulk ($5 per 100). It’s possible the Happy Hour Library was inspired by the very popular Little Leather Library (1920 to about 1923) and other related small, inexpensive reprint books of the 1920s. There are enough copies of the Happy Hour Library titles around to suggest the books were relatively popular in the 1920s, and all but one appear in WorldCat. They were probably sold in dimestores, mercantiles, and other similar outlets.

A modest advertisement in the Publishers’ Weekly (July 5, 1924) lists the 24 titles, with a physical description and price:

Publishers’ Weekly, July 5, 1924, p. 85

The following year (1925), an advertisement for Friedman’s included at least one title (Balzac’s Short Stories), again, sold in bulk. I’ve dated the series 1924-1925, as all titles seem to have been published in that timeframe. Titles may have been sold and reprinted after those years, but I have not found any advertisements.

Bookdealers’ Weekly, December 16, 1925

The twenty-four Happy Hour Library titles. Dates are those from WorldCat and other sources. Given the date of the advertisements above, it’s likely dates that vary from 1924-1925 are the result of guessing on the part of whoever entered the data for the books in WorldCat. There are a few copies with years in them which may refer to the copyright year of translations or the text itself.

Don Juan by Honoré de Balzac
Short Stories
 by Honoré de Balzac
The Dream Woman; A Terrible Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins + My Friend the Murderer by A. Conan Doyle
A Scandal in Bohemia and Other Stories, Arthur Conan Doyle (1941)
The Four Fifteen Express
by Amelia B Edwards + The Denslow Palace by J.D. Whelpley
My Double and How He Undid Me, by Edward Everett Hale
The Queen of the Red Chessmen
by Lucretia P Hale + Miss Lucinda by Rose Terry Cooke (1930)
Mr. Higgenbotham’s Catastrophe and Other Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Spectre Bridegroom, by Washington Irving
Ghost Stories (Selected) by Rudyard Kipling, E.F. Benson, Ambrose Bierce
The Man Who Was by Rudyard Kipling
Household Poems, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Mademoiselle Fifi, by Guy de Maupassant (1922)
Wasted Beauty, by Guy de Maupassant
The Diamond Lens by Fitz James O’Brien + Friend Eli’s Daughter by Baynard Taylor (1925)
Carmen by Prosper Merimee + Silence by Edgar Allan Poe
The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
The Purloined Letter, and Other Stories, by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Pearl by Victorien Sardou + Mysterious Mansion by Honoré de Balzac + Alexandre Dumas.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Pavilion on the Links, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, by Leo Tolstoy
What Men Live By & Bear-Hunt by Leo Tolstoy + Doomed to Live by Honoré de Balzac + Father Boniface’s Crime by Guy de Maupassant (1922)
*The Red Room, by H.G. Wells

*Does not appear in WorldCat, but does appear in Google Books

Below is a copy of The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe. The Happy Hour Library titles are bound in a variegated heavy paper. The copy below is grey-blue in color. I’ve also seen a similar dull green and tan. The spine includes the title and author connected, in this case, by a series of dots. The front cover includes the title and author in a grey-cased rectangle. There is what I believe to be a graphic of a grandfather clock (representing time, eg., a happy hour reading, possibly) on the lower right corner of the cover. Printing has made the clock difficult to distinguish, but the clock icon is replicated on the title page of the book.

The inside of the front cover and what might be called a half-endpaper: a heavier page of paper that may have been used to hold together the pages of the book, to which the cover was then glued. These are cheaply constructed books.

The blank initial paper page in the book:

The title page with the more legible grandfather clock. The combined publisher and series name appears at the bottom of the title page.

A contents page indicates the three short stories in this collection.

The first page of text. It’s possible Friedmans’ Book Store purchased plates for this series from another publisher. One would have to look for similar collections of short stories and compare the printed pages to determine this.

The last page points the reader in the direction of another title in the series, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson. “Printed in U.S.A.”