Lahr, Charles

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers document many of Charles Lahr's activities, especially during the 1920s and 30s. These include his involvement in the publishing business, and bookselling activities. Most of the correspondence is related to social and family matters. There are various typescripts related to the activities of the Blue Moon Press available, some of them with manuscript corrections and signed by the authors. A file of newspaper cuttings consisting mainly of reviews of published works provides additional information on the publishing activities in London at the time.Most of the correspondence lack important details such as dates or clear identification of writer. Some of the correspondence has been annotated for Ms Oonagh Lahr before she handed the collection to the University of London. Some of the annotations were written in pencil on the same documents while other notes are attached with the originals. Where these give added information to that in the documents, these notes have been kept with the originals. Some of the photographs have notes written on their reverse identifying some of the persons featuring in them. This was also done by Ms Oonagh Lahr.Esther Lahr clearly played a significant role in the running of both the bookshop and the various publishing ventures in which Charles Lahr engaged. Correspondence addressed to her is listed in a separate section of this catalogue.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Lahr was born Karl Lahr in 1885 at Wendlesheim in the Rhineland Palatinate, Germany. During his teenage years he became first a Buddhist and later an anarchist. In 1905, to escape conscription into the German army, he left Germany for London. On arriving in London he worked as a baker and expressed his political involvement by joining and frequenting anarchist clubs. By 1914 Lahr had taken work as a razor grinder and had joined the British Section of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He began to accumulate books at around this time as he moved from residence to residence in the Kings Cross area of London. He also let rooms to people he met through his political activities. Designated an enemy alien, Lahr was interned in Alexandra Palace in London from 1915 to 1919. After the war Lahr returned to his trade and continued his involvement with the IWW, where he met his future wife, Esther Archer, whom he married in 1922. Lahr and Archer both joined the Communist party in 1920, but left in 1921. It was during this brief membership that the Lahr met and became friends with Liam O'Flaherty. In 1921 Lahr took over the Progressive Bookshop at 68 Red Lion Square, Holborn. The bookshop became a centre for new writers and political activists from around the world, and specialised in the sale of radical literature and first editions. Lahr's first moves into publishing came in when K. S. Bhat recommended the editors of the New Coterie to take the magazine to the Lahrs. From 1925 onwards Lahr started publishing items on his own account, often using his wife's maiden name to counter anti-German prejudice. During 1925 to 1927 these took the form of offprints from New Coterie, and then articles within the magazine itself. In the publishing world he was in close contact with writers such as D. H. Lawrence, T. F. Powys, James Hanley, A.S.J. Tessimond, Liam O' Flaherty, Paul Selver, Russell Green, George Woodcock, Rhys Davies and several others. The New Coterie ran until 1927, and in 1930 Lahr launched his Blue Moon Booklets and a year later the Blue Moon Press. However, by 1933 Lahr was having financial problems. In 1935 his difficulties came to a head when he was found guilty of receiving stolen books and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. However, after his release he continued his publishing activities although on a much reduced scale. The bookshop continued to be a focus for radicals and revolutionaries.The bookshop in Holborn was bombed in May 1941. Lahr moved the bookshop to several locations in central London before finally moving it to the headquarters of the Independent Labour Party at 197 Kings Cross Road, London. Charles Lahr died in London in 1971.

References:R. M. Fox, 'Lahr's Bookshop' in Smoky Crusade, Hogarth Press, 1938, pp. 180-188.D. Goodway, 'Charles Lahr: Anarchist, Bookseller' in London Magazine, Jun-Jul 1977, pp. 47-55.

Arrangement

The material has been arranged into the following groups: Charles Lahr's papers: Correspondence addressed to the Lahr family; Works submitted for publication; Lectures; Newspaper cuttings; Photographs and drawings; Booksellers' Catalogues; Advertising, publicity materials and notices; Other correspondence; Blue Moon Press Greetings cards; Administrative material related to business activities; Papers for Clubs and Societies; Other papers and publications. Esther Lahr's papers: Correspondence; Photographs; Publications. Oonagh Lahr's papers: Correspondence; Photographs.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act.

Note

An additional deposit of Lahr correspondence (reference MS985C) has been deposited at Senate House Library.

Custodial History

The University of London Library purchased the papers on 20 August 1999 from Oonagh Lahr, daughter of Charles Lahr. Before the papers were transferred to the Library in 1999, Ms Lahr hired a person to organise some of the material. Several signatures and names of individuals, which were difficult to decipher, were identified by Ms Lahr.Most of the material was already separated according to the author (e.g. correspondence) before it reached the library. The material was kept in this order, since most of the letters are still in their original envelopes and dating most of the letters would have been impossible without them.Included in the Lahr papers were a number of typescripts, galley proofs or manuscripts of works by various authors submitted for possible publication by Lahr. These had already been separated according to their author and usually give no indication of date.