I am in the process of preparing for my doctoral exams next spring, and the Russia Revolution will likely be a topic upon which I will be tested. I am reading a book by Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary, one-time leader of the Red Army in the civil war that followed the October Revolution, and Marxist theoretician who was murdered by operatives of Stalin in 1940.
When I first opened the book, I noticed a sticker on the inside front cover indicating that the Carl Joseph Memorial Library Fund paid for the book. The inscription indicated that Joseph was a paratrooper who was killed in action during the 1944 Normandy invasion.
Joseph grew up in an area of North Toledo once known as Little Syria, though the area today might be better known as "Crackville." Among the famous Toledoans who grew up in that area were entertainers Jamie Farr and Danny Thomas, and it is possible that Thomas and Joseph bumped elbows a few times in Little Syria, being only one year apart in age.
Joseph also worked at the Spicer Manufacturing plant on Bennett Road in Toledo until some time before his deployment overseas. The sticker also notes that he was a member of the UAW-CIO and the NAACP, and at some point attended the University of Toledo.
Yet beyond these few facts I have been able to learn little about Carl Joseph and the family members who likely started the Carl Joseph Memorial Library Fund. It is a testament to the legacy of Joseph that books were viewed as one of the best ways to remember this patriotic 29-year-old man cut down just as he was entering the best years of his life.
Yet I am also curious about the choice of books that the fund selected. While Trotsky's observations about the Russian Revolution are important to the study of history, I am almost surprised to see that the administrators of this fund had the willingness to purchase texts written by (GASP!) known Communists. This was the era before such technological innovations as fiber cable and the Internet, when books and newspapers were the primary sources of information.
And after all, this was a period of time in which communism was viewed as some sort of dangerous philosophy, and by the end of the Second World War, Harry S. Truman commenced the newest wave of Red-baiting that culminated in the phenomena known as McCarthyism. I keep drifting back to the front cover of the text instead of dissecting Trotskyist political philosophy, because the mystery of Carl Joseph is much more interesting to me tonight than Trotsky's revolutionary analysis and doctrinaire dictums.
A belated thanks for the book, though, to Mr. Carl Joseph, a man I never met and know only through the sticker I chanced upon today in a dusty library book.