Frederick William Alden was born on the 28th of June, 1873 in Waseca, Minnesota.
He was a ninth generation descendant of John Alden who came to America on the Mayflower, and the son of Rev. Edwin
Hyde Alden, a friend of the Ingalls family (popularized in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and the "Little House on the Prairie"
television series). F. W. Alden graduated from Wisconsin University's School of Pharmacy with a Ph. G. degree in 1898
and a Bachelor of Science degree in 1900. Artistically talented, he did some pen-and-ink illustrations for the
'99 Badger and the frontispiece for The Badger Pharmacist in 1900.
Subsequently, he worked in Milwaukee for the Pfister & Vogel Leather Co. as a chemist until 1908. Then he opened
a private laboratory in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but poor health forced him to give it up after a few years. He
suffered from a catarrh, something akin to a severe head cold that never abates.
"I tried outdoor work, gardening, and poultry raising, but my health grew worse," Alden wrote. "In 1916 I began
the study of cartoon drawing and designing, and have continued in this work to the present time. Since 1921 I have been
reproducing pen drawings in zinc. My health is fairly good at present and seems to be slowly improving." From
June, 1916 until June, 1918 his editorial cartoons appeared in The Bible Champion, a Christian journal for
which he drew pithy commentaries upon the various forms of apostasy which were affecting the church, particularly evolution
and the "higher criticism" (liberal theological revision of the Bible).
A dedicated follower of Jesus Christ, F. W. Alden was a member of First Congregational
Church in Waseca, Minnesota from 1887-94 where he sang in the choir and chamber ensemble. He continued his affiliation
with this Christian denomination when he relocated to Wisconsin. Alden was also involved in prison ministry and
outreaches to people of color (sadly, this was still the era of racial segregation in the United States).
In 1924 he began what would become a twenty year association with Rev. B. H. Shadduck,
PhD as the principle illustrator of Shadduck's series of booklets. These 32 page, black-and-white, saddlestitched volumes
with color covers sold over a half million copies across the United States, their content mainly taking evolutionists to task,
especially those who profess faith in the God of the Bible and yet see fit to embrace unbiblical theories.
Dr. Shadduck's scholarly biblical, scientific, and philosophical discourses had a wry veneer that recalled Mark Twain or O.
Henry, and in F. W. Alden's satirical (but reverent) editorial cartoons he found a kindred spirit.
Together they commenced with the publication of the fourth edition of Jocko-Homo
Heavenbound in September, 1924. The first two editions were printed by the Pentecostal Publishing
Co. in Louisville, Kentucky in March and April, 1924. Shadduck himself began to publish the remaining editions, including
free postcard cartoons by M. M. Travis (see his website on the links page) with orders of the third and fourth editions.
In early 1925 Puddle to Paradise: the Pilgrim's Progress
of Modernism was released. Response to these cartoon booklets was immediate and widespread.
Jocko-Homo Heavenbound went into ten printings (93,000 copies) and Puddle to Paradise
into four (40,000 copies). Alden's cartoons alternated between pen-and-ink renderings and zinc plate etchings.
Oddly, Jocko-Homo became the inspiration some five decades
later for a song by the same name by U.S. new wave band DEVO, itself being a secular satire on evolution (but entirely unsympathetic
to Christianity). Even the band's name was derived from a "D-evolution" cartoon in this booklet.
In July, 1925 the Scopes "monkey" trial in Dayton, Tennessee became the nation's
erstwhile landmark battle of creation vs. evolution with one-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan representing
the former and famed Leopold-Loeb trial attorney Clarence Darrow the latter. Dayton was swarmed with media and street
hawkers of every kind, from the ridiculous to the sublime, and amid this carnival-like atmosphere Puddle to Paradise
proved to be the bestselling book. Later that year Alden drew an entirely different cover for it, and he reworked a
number of interior cartoons. Subsequent editions had a similar but not identical cover image to the original.
1925 also saw the publication of The Toadstool Among the Tombs which had more cartoons in it than
any other volume in the entire series.
In 1926 Alden drew cartoons for two 8 page pamphlets which were given away free with multiple orders
of the larger volumes, When Snakes Began to Nurse Their Young and 100 Questions for
Teachers of Evolution. The former was a satirical reply to an editorial by yellow journalist Arthur Brisbane which
ran in Hearst Syndicate newspapers throughout America.
Throughout 1927 and early the next year F. W. Alden drew cartoons for no less than four B. H. Shadduck booklets which
were simultaneously released in March, 1928: Alibi, Lullaby, By-by, The Gee-Haw
of the Modern Jehu, The "Seven Thunders" of Millennial Dawn, and Rastus
Agustus Explains Evolution. The first two chastized America's largely slumbering church for embracing destructive
Modernist doctrines, whereas Seven Thunders, still in print today, was the first book to take Jehovah's
Witnesses to task by using their own texts as evidence of false prophecies and teachings. Rastus Agustus
spoofed evolutionist conceits once again, but did so by using Uncle Remus-type
narration from a black college janitor, a God-fearing family man who is momentarily befuddled by "wise" white students.
Politically incorrect today, it was an unfortunate reflection of much of the humor that was typical of the times.
Alden redrew the cover for a third edition in 1942.
From 1924-1931, Alden's cartoons (usually cover art reductions, but occasionally new material) were utilized in advertising
the Shadduck booklets in the leading evangelical Christian journals of the day, such as Moody Monthly,
The Sunday School Times, The Bible Champion, Christian Leader,
and Christian Life. In July, 1932 an Alden cartoon accompanied an advertisement for Buzzard
Eggs in the Eagle's Nest, an eight-page Shadduck pamphlet on prohibition and voters' responsibilities.
The Sunday School Times ran "Gnat Shy and Camel Greedy" in its January 3 and 10, 1934 issues.
This was an anti-Modernist essay by B. H. Shadduck, but it featured no Alden cartoons, nor was it ever collected
as a pamphlet or booklet. In fall 1934, Dr. Shadduck published the second edition of The "Seven Thunders"
of Millennial Dawn with a few additional pages as a postscript, but no new cartoons. This would be his
last literary effort of the 1930s as the effects of the Great Depression were to be felt in full force. During this
time F. W. Alden, unmarried, was supporting his widowed mother in her nineties, working as a commercial artist for a furniture
company in Waukesha. He also sublet a portion of his home to another family to help make ends meet.
In January,1940 B. H. Shadduck wrote an anti-evolution editorial series with his characteristic wit and
superb Bible insights entitled "Mistakes God Did Not Make" which ran in several issues of The Sunday School Times,
having a weekly circulation of 108,500 copies in its peak years. Suddenly, Dr. Shadduck found himself with numerous
speaking engagements offered to him in schools, churches, and public forums across the United States, kindling renewed
interest in his booklets. F. W. Alden was once again dispatched to provide cartoons for Mistakes God
Did Not Make, published in June, 1940, their first collaboration in six years. It would go into eight
printings (80,000 copies), and Irwin H. Linton, a devout Christian and a Washington, DC attorney who argued cases before the
Supreme Court, wrote a glowing introduction for the first edition.
Dust and Deity followed October,1940, continuing in the vein of Mistakes.
Then Man, the Harness Maker was released two years later, its themes being man's technological advances
and God's sovereign power. Though it had more Alden artwork than any other of Shadduck's latterly-published books, only
a handful of them were editorial cartoons; the rest were small spot illustrations which relied upon the body of text for them
to fully make sense.
Stopping the Stork was a discreet but thorough discussion of childbirth and birth control from
a Biblical standpoint, published in 1944. Early advertisements in The Sunday School Times and
Moody Monthly featured a silhouetted stork carrying a baby wrapped in a bundle in its beak, but
the baby's head, arms, and legs, emerging from his wrappings, was soon omitted, then the bundle itself. Perhaps the
journals' publishers were too easily embarrassed about a topic that was scarcely spoken of, let alone advertised, in 'polite
society' of that era.
Eagle Wings and Asking for the Unwanted, a booklet on victorious living in Christ, was released
in November, 1944. It featured only one cartoon by Alden, "The Stonecutter's Blunder", a separate page glued on the
inside back cover, as if an afterthought. Dr. Shadduck's introduction to the publication described it as "being in plain
working clothes because of wartime conditions". It may be that sufficient funds to secure Alden's services were not
available at the time of printing, or that Alden himself was unavailable or unwell. Though Dr. Shadduck would publish
two more volumes in 1946 (Spiritism and Kindred Beguilements and Puzzles of Genesis),
they both featured cartoons by other artists. Although Shadduck's booklets are worth reading on their own merit, Alden's
cartoons unquestionably drew more reader interest than the text alone could have. Likewise, Shadduck's texts provided
a springboard and platform for many memorable images which Alden would perhaps not have had opportunity to create, nor
the resultant national publicity.
With already such a diverse background and activities, it is not such a great surprise that F. W. Alden was also a photography
enthusiast, drew cartoons for his local newspapers, did some lithograph work, and, later, carpenter work.
On September 26, 1955 Frederick William Alden departed to be with Christ in glory. Alden, 82, did not die
in a sickbed. Rather, he, working with another 82 year old, fell twenty feet from a tree while stepping from one branch
to another. He died three hours later. Diagnosed as having only a dislocated left shoulder and kneecap, a
physician thought Alden's cause of death to have been internal injuries.
Since 1930 he had been a founding member and an active part of what would become the Waukesha Bible Church. Part
of the church's annex, built in the 1950s, is still known today as Alden Hall.
This essay (c) 2005 by Alec Stevens. All rights reserved.
Addendum: a new book, From Puddle to Paradise?, the collected writings of Rev. B. H. Shadduck,
PhD, is now available from Calvary Comics. 450 pages in length with all of Alden's drawings for Shadduck's
booklets, and much more!