Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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English and Journalism
Earnest Elmo Calkins (1868-1964)
By Bill Knight
Born in Geneseo, Ill., Earnest Elmo Calkins moved to Galesburg with his family while still an infant. Despite being deafened from measles when he was six, Calkins graduated from Knox College in 1891 and became an accomplished writer.
After local newspaper work—setting up ads and writing verse as well as covering high school and college news—Calkins failed to find success in New York City. When he returned to Galesburg, he became a Galesburg Evening Mail columnist.
Known for his skills at advertising, he soon started a copywriting service for local advertisers and won a national contest for the best ad for a carpet sweeper. He became an ad manager for a Peoria department store, then returned to New York, where he accepted a job with the Charles Austin Bates advertising agency.
In 1905, Calkins published Modern Advertising, the first textbook that described contemporary advertising procedures. In 1931, he left advertising to write, contributing many pieces to magazines and newspapers including the Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times, and writing five books, including the autobiographical Louder, Please! and an area history, They Broke The Prairie.