The Trotty Veck Messengers were pamphlets of advice and good cheer. The publication was begun in 1916 by two TB patients Seymour Eaton, Jr., and Charles Swasey Barnet. The Trotty Veck Messengers would ultimately sell four million copies.
For some Saranac Lake patients, the chance to write and publish locally was literally a lifeline. One of the most innovative schemes for turning writing into dollars was hatched by patient Beanie Barnet and his Trudeau Sanatorium roommate Seymour Eaton, Jr. When Beanie and Seymour complained of feeling down, Seymour's father suggested they write inspirational messages to cheer each other up. Beanie and Seymour soon realized they could never pursue demanding careers, so the two decided to publish small chapbooks of these inspirational messages to cheer others and make money. Together they launched their Trotty Veck Messages series in 1916. A character in Charles Dickens' short story "The Chimes," Trotty Veck delivered messages of cheer to townsfolk, despite the frailties of his health. Barnet and Eaton fashioned themselves after Dickens' character and became "Trotty Vecks." Their Trotty Veck Messages contained short selections of prose and verse steeped in wisdom and humor. Quotations came from the widest imaginable range of sources from antiquity and current events to local lore. Shakespeare shares the spotlight with an old Adirondack guide in an issue devoted to the theme of "Friends." Shakespeare counsels, "Those friends thou has, and their adoption tried, / Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel, / But do not dull thy palm with entertainment / Of each new hatched unfledged comrade." Equally confident of his counsel, "The old Adirondack guide says he does not mind long sermons as they do not wake him up."
Trotty Veck became an instant success - an antidote for both TB and the Great War. Barnet and Eaton sold four thousand copies the first year of 1916. Sadly, Seymour Eaton died in 1918. But Beanie Barnet carried on. By 1966 the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that Trotty Veck Messengers had sold 4 million copies worldwide. Beanie had arrived in Saranac Lake in 1907 expecting - like Edward Livingston Trudeau - to die. Instead, Beanie cured, wrote, stayed, employed others, and lived in Saranac Lake as both patient and ex-patient until he died there in 1977, aged ninety! Surely writing played a key role in Barnet's ability to cope with the challenges of TB. Certainly Barnet's widely distributed Trotty Veck Messengers integrated the patient's voice into the discourse of this particularly widespread disease.
See: Beanie Barnet
"The House by the Side of the Road"
Author and date of publication unknown. Historic Saranac Lake Collection.
The publishing of the Trotty Veck Messages was started in 1916 by two young men; Seymour Eaton, Jr. and Charles Swasey Barnet. Both of them had come to Saranac Lake for their health. They were roommates in a private sanatorium when the idea of publishing good cheer messages was thought of. Seymour was born in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania and was a student at Syracuse University. He was the son of Seymour Eaton, Sr. who was famous as an advertising authority and as the originator of The Tabard Inn Library and The Book Lovers’ Library - unique circulating libraries that flourished in this country in the early 1900’s.
Charles Swasey Barnet (better known in Saranac Lake as “Beanie” Barnet because he came from Boston) was born in Dorchester, Massachustts - a suburb of Boston - and had to come to Saranac Lake just before he graduated from Boston Latin School. He was the son of Robert A. Barnet, a playwright, who wrote the book and lyrics of many successful musical shows as “1492,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Miss Simplicity,” “The Show Girl,” and others which ran for years in the 1890s.
Seymour died in 1918. During the two previous years he had been bed ridden. After his death the publishing of the Messages was continued by Barnet alone. But in 1940 he acquired a new “partner.” He got married to Elisabeth Widmer, Swiss-born, a graduate of Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses, who also came to Saranac Lake for her health. The rest of the family consists of a cocker spaniel, White Flash, a lovable and lively companion.
Their office and home is located two miles outside of the village, on the edge of the woods near a small lake. Here they have a garden and several feeding stations which attract flocks of wild birds the year around - a hobby they thoroughly enjoy. Bass fishing is the publisher’s avocation!
In 1916 only a few thousand Messages were sold but gradually the circulation increased each year, until it reached a close to one hundred thousand. During the years that the Messages have been published(- a new title usually each October) thousands of heart-warming letters have been received from people in all walks of life: and the large scrap books contain many from famous personalities such as Alice Hegan Rice, Carrie Jacobs Bond, “Roxy” of radio fame, Dr. Frank Crane, Sir Harry Lauder, Harry Houdini ( a check of his with his picture on it hangs on the office wall. It was never cashed), George Ade, Dr. Walter Damrosch and others numerous to mention.
Hundreds of letters came from boys in the service and from chaplains during both World Wars and the Korean War. The Messages apparently were great morale boosters.
Friends of Trotty Veck who are passing thru Saranac Lake are always given a warm welcome at “the house by the side of the road” at Lake Colby, Saranac Lake, New York - two Miles directly north from the Saranac Lake Post Office.