Charles Lahr papers (April 2007 deposit)

Scope and Content

Correspondence: correspondents include Rhys Davies, Guy Alfred, Pearl Binder, Hugo Dewar

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 editionsThe 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.

Access Information

Open for research though access to individual letters may be restricted by the Freedom of Information Act

Other Finding Aids

Uncatalogued. This collection level description is also available in hard copy form in the Special Collections reading room in Senate House Library.

Custodial History

Found by Alun Ford in SHL, April 2007