JOHN A. SHORTELL was a frequent writer of letter which appeared in "The Editor's Mail Bag" section of the Camden Courier-Post newspapers in the 1930s.

John A. Shortell was born in New York State around 1876. He appears to have come to Camden in the 1910s. In January of 1920 he and wife Cecelia were living in a boardinghouse at 560 Mickle Street, just off of Broadway.

When the Census was taken in 1930 John Shortell had found employment as a manufacturer's representative. He lived with his wife Cecelia in an apartment at 584 Benson Street, near Cooper Hospital. Both Mr. and Mrs. Shortell had left Camden by 1947.

Camden Courier Post - October 14, 1931


Praises Baird; Denounces Prohibition

To the Editor:  

Sir:- Mr. Baird's emphatic public avowal: that win or lose, he’ll devote his energy and influence to promote the cause of temperance which received such a death blow with the advent of prohibition merits more than casual consideration from any angle one cares to view it. 

Inasmuch as he never allowed consequences to sway his loyalty to a cause or person; his sincerity cannot therefore, be doubted. Nor can his wisdom in subscribing to the principles of modification be questioned.

As no sane or truthful person can refute that the present unsurpassed crime wave is not a by-product of prohibition, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is the most potent influence for evil in American life today.

The Anti-Saloon League and like societies are responsible, make no mistake about that. They are as much a political party as either the Democrat or Republican parties. Their denial to the contrary, notwithstanding. 

In fact, they, with the cunning of the serpent, and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, under the cloak of righteousness, resort to methods, that the lowest old time ward heeler would not consider. 

But the mills of the gods, while they grind mighty slow, they grind mighty fine. Prohibition is now a very destructive, serious and ironical boomerang; in that it is enriching those it meant to beggar; increasing their influence; decreasing its own church attendance. It has forced 11,000 ministers to seek other means of livelihood, and, quoting the Rev. H. L. Stephens, there are 50,000 closed and pastorless churches in the United States today. 

Add to that (to mention a few) the fact, that it has corrupted every branch of our government; debauched our youth, saddled millions upon the taxpayers, and turned that which was the backbone of any nation- homes- into distilleries, and you have a fair picture of the results of the noble experiment. And all this under the guise of improving public morals. 

What colossal nerve some folks have. And what gullible boobs we are to stand for such perfidy and intrigue. Let us forget the reds and concentrate our efforts to check the lily whites (?). 

That temperance means nothing to the Anti-Saloon League and kindred organizations, and that they only used it as a means toward an end, is all too evident. Nor does the present depression cause them any concern. Are not their friends "as snug as a bug in a rug" holding down positions that prohibition was "put over" to establish for them?

And because they do not want temperance, they will knife Baird or in fact any other sincerely temperate person. Which makes it more the reason why he should have the sincerely temperate element's vote and support.

Personally, he is temperate. But he realizes you can't have prohibition and temperance too, anymore than you can eat your cake and have it. And that he, like millions more, thought so once, is the best proof he will go the limit now, to correct his former erroneous impressions.

It is time to reform the reformers, purge the country of crime, kill hypocrisy before it kills us, advance the  cause of temperance, and get rid of snoopers and stoolpigeons. Get busy.


Camden Courier-Post * June 7, 1932


Camden Courier-Post * June 10, 1932

John A. Shortell - Dr. Samuel S. Butler

Camden Courier Post - June 1, 1933
Sometimes Mr. Shortell's letters drew a response, like this one from Russell W. Tucker


Sir- "Peace and good cheer" offers Mr. John A. Shortell in an attempt to gain public favor after his Hitleristic demand for "one hundred or more funerals" to conserve this obsolete, dying, private capitalism or individualistic and corporate own­ership of the people's means of life which has about wrecked the world and promises nothing but increasing destitution and misery! With heart­less unconcern for social and international welfare, he ignores all logical and ethical retorts of writers from the humane-social standpoint and raves on in a visionless, misleading tirade striking at Communism as the enemy of "economic freedom" and "political democracy" to delude the unthinking to believe i there is a danger other than the protracted rule of this piratical capitalism which has no means of ex­istence over the people but exploitation.

Yes, Mr. Shortell, your ideal, Mussolini, is well right, "that democracy is all right for the United States," and “that it won't work in Italy" because, through the people's ignorance, he is in power and has no use for it, and neither has Italian capitalism which he upholds. And this sort of rule (Fascism) is our real danger in this terrible, evolutionary period.

America has nothing to fear from Soviet Russia if we have the intelligence to abolish this blood-sucking competition by establishing democracy upon our economic structure (industry, finance and trade) instead of clinging like drowning numbskulls to this cloak of political democracy screening capitalism; one-sided laws and "business' code against this nation's welfare, security and progress; meaning democratic management and operation of our means of life and full social distribution of the wealth we create under public ownership. Ho, hum! Then Mr. S. tries to present a "restricted capitalistic system" as the way out, wherein "the wage-earners, the little fellow in business as well as 'big business,' will then be assured of receiving pro rata share of the profits. Instead of this present cut-throat price scheme of each, against all, it will then 'be: One for, all and all for one." For the love of Mike, what drivel! As though we, the people, could give away a large part, or any part of our earned wealth in these days of increasing scientific, mechanical ·and marvelous wonders that drones may share "profits" at our loss! We should know better than to support a "money" royalty by this time.


Camden Courier Post - June 2, 1933


Mr. Shortell Denounces "Mall Bag Caterwaulers"

To the Editor:  

Sir:-Well folks, with a 17 percent gain in farm prices from April 15 to May 15, the largest for anyone month since April, 1919, during the pre-war boom, and 50 trade associations, and all labor leaders, not only signifying their intention of supporting the new governmental program, but acclaiming it, perhaps all those chronic Mail Bag caterwaulers will now return in person to the oblivion which their mental faculties never emerged out of and eventually (?) recognizes the fact: "that being on the level leads to the up-and-up and public confidence? 

But then again: 'To those whose minds are always askew nothing is, or ever will be right.

They will abuse liberty, and misuse power always. So the only thing that we can do about it is to let them stew in their own ignorance and treachery, while we serenely pass on out of the woods of depression into the valley of peace and plenty.

Adieu, my misguided brethren.  

"May the earth lie lightly upon you." You are dead and don't rea1ize it.


Camden Courier Post - June 2, 1933


A Reply to Mr. Shortell

To the Editor:  

Sir: A reply to Mr. Shortell, the professional patriot.  

Mr. Shortell pretends to be very short-sighted or else he seems to think that he can impress or sell every broad-minded man and woman on the idea that everything in our City of Camden and State of New Jersey is rosy. Just trifling little matters that should not concern anyone to any great extent. He disregards the fact that there are thousands of unemployed and over 20,000 in our county alone struggling in misery and hell on earth on a measly $3 food order. There are thousands of undernourished children and many more adults are down in health owing to the constant fear of being evicted from their homes. Or their homes, which represent their life savings, are being taken from over their heads. And, to make matters worse, increased, instead of greatly decreased, taxation.

Mr. Shortell, what is your game?

Are You trying to kid somebody? It is about time your little dramatic act was exposed.

These unscrupulous, greedy, selfish, un-American political demagogues who you have been trying to uphold are the very ones who have helped to bring on these miserable conditions. You remind me of a stray dog that came into my place of business some years ago. Although I had more dogs at the time than I could keep, he immediately proceeded to make friends with me. To further prove his friendship he barked and snapped at everyone who entered or passed by my store. Apparently you have an ax to grind and are therefore trying to get on the right side, somewhere or somehow, by barking and snapping at an outraged, unemployed, underfed, exploited and overburdened citizenry and taxpaying public in order to feather your own nest. J. S., that's an old game. Lay off. They cannot even pay you for any of the fire extinguishers that you peddle.

You have pretended to show what a patriot you are, then you unjustly condemned the Camden Courier and its staff of editors. More power to the Camden Courier and its staff of editors. It is one of the most fearless and most liberal newspapers in America. May it long survive. In your little act you have also condemned the Civic Congress as agitators and what not. You have condemned the Socialists as Communist "soap-box racketeers" etc., therefore proving yourself an enemy of freedom of the press and an enemy of freedom of the press and an enemy of free speech. Now that you have condemned everyone who has guts enough to be a real American by agitating and fighting for a right to live as human beings, and for government for and by all the people all the time, as did our forefathers; and since we have refused to crawl into some corner and curl up and die in silence, why don't you tell a suffering, patient public what your racket is besides peddling fire extinguishers.

Some time ago you also questioned the American pride of the members of the Unemployed Union for refusing to submit themselves to a species of slavery, namely, by working for a measly food order. Why don't you set an example and show your professed patriotism by starting to work for a food order yourself? Of course your answer will be that you don't have to. If not, please try to get yourself a job of some kind and go to work. Maybe if you keep hanging around the city hall corridors and if you write a few more nice letters the city fathers may give you a job cleaning the cuspidors or washing the walls of that burdensome rock pile.

If the people are getting too wicked for you in this world you would not be missed if you led the way to that nice quiet spot in the thick of' the woods and stayed there.

2241 Forty-second Street
Pennsauken N.J.

Camden Courier Post - June 4, 1933


Prohibition and Tolerance

To the Editor:  

Sir-"Let he without sin cast the first stone."

Mr. Connor of the Y. M. C. A. says: "As a man sows so also shall he reap." Then tries to amplify the quotation with the rejoinder "There are no accidents with the Lord."

Maybe so, Maybe so! But infinitesimal man's evil habit and neglect of his own growth in grace, gives too much liberty to thoughtless speech. Which is precisely Mr. Connor's status in the present instance, and likewise the lady's when she made the very uncalled for un­just and unkind accusation, which the Courier-Post dealt entirely too leniently with.

Mr. Connor, assuming a premise which I do not feel he is justified in, might ponder well Proverbs 12.1: "He that loveth correction loveth knowledge; but he that hateth reproof is a fool." Or: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Why go on? Suffice it to say that the people behind prohibition have very definitely established the fact that Christianity's greatest menace in the United States lies within its own membership and not from with­out.

Therefore, it would have been more apropos of the occasion had Connor quoted: "By their deeds shall know them," instead of "As a man sows so also shall he reap," seeing that the majority did not have any hand in sowing the seeds for the evil fruit which prohibition bore, and the ill-effects of which will require fifty or more years to eradicate from our moral, social and economic life.

"Death to bigotry. Long live tolerance".


Camden Courier Post - June 8, 1933


Tolerance Is "Empty-Mindedness"

To the Editor:  

Sir-Mr. John A. Shortell's rejoinder to a letter I wrote a few days ago might make one think that he had been hit with a beer bottle instead of a quotation from the Bible.

I thought the Mail Bag was what it claims to be, an open forum. I am wondering if it has not become the usurped publicity domain of a few radicals- Socialist, religious and others. "Thoughtless speech!" If there is anything more thoughtless than "tolerance,' - what is it? Tolerance is the very negation of thought. It is empty-mindedness. and with a vengeance. "Bigotry." It is because Jesus Christ was a bigot that the High Priest sought to have Him put to death. Righteousness, Mr. Shortell, is the Lord's standard of a political state, and holiness is the standard of man's religious state. These are the very antithesis of "bigotry" and "tolerance." And if a man strives to live be these standards, Paul says, he "shall suffer persecution!"

Paul said to Timothy: "Preach the word." We have always understood this to mean proclaiming all truth, as it is found in Scripture and as it fits a condition. But there are some who would come the Bible for texts with which to form anathemas to hurl at the very ones who are striving to preach the word.

I would like to invite you, Mr. Shortell, to hire a hall if you want to start something. I will be glad to debate you. Or if you must resort to personalities come around to the Y. M. C. A. and let's talk it over together.


Camden Courier Post - February 11, 1936


Finds Democrats Putting Best Foot Forward In Choosing Brunner

To the Editor:  

Sir:- To some, reputation means everything, character nothing. But to the worthwhile type, only character matters, because and quite properly that is not only always respected, but accepted also as a bona-fide certificate as to ability or conduct, and moral excellence. And such persons naturally, never can be small, consequential, arrogant, treacherous or discourteous. They're too big. They're real.

Such men will, in an emergency, appeal to one's patriotism, yes, but never, however, to emotion, party loyalty or class, because such tactics are the tools of the pretender, opportunists, hypocrite and exploits, therefore repugnant to real men.

We also hear much these days of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but not, however, from the lips of honorable men. To the contrary, it emanates from those and they alone, who's whole life and efforts have been in robbing both. Yes, and often with the aid of courts, a convenience which. still seems to be responsive and profitably productive to those that have, but not always to you, and you, and you.

That such betrayal can long endure or be endured is unthinkable.

Rather must we fortify a desire for judicial integrity and impartiality, respect for law and the ballot, material independence, economic stability, social security and last but not least by any means, courageous and honorable county party leaders.

In the choice of the latter in the past lies most of our present day ills. As an unscrupulous, an arid, or even an indifferent leader, by their selections of candidates, either elective or appointive, can and have caused many and many communities, states and even the nation at times, irrevocable damage, expense and woe.

In this connection the Democrats, locally, have in the recent selection of Mr. Brunner put their best foot forward, now let them complete the job with a running mate of his type, and the Republicans follow suit, then we'll soon get headed in the right direction, but not before. As we positively must employ every honorable method, every instrument to try to escape the present destructive consequences of our past indifference to our political makeup and life.

Eternal vigilance always has and always will be the price of liberty and security. Practice it and remember that money-makers never tire and schemers seldom sleep.


Camden Courier-Post
July 30, 1941

Ralph Vasso - Sidney P. McCord
South 6th Street - Penn Street
Volney G. Bennett Lumber Company
Dr. J.S. Shipman - Mabel M. Craig

Sabba Verdiglione - L. Merochnik Sons - John A. Shortell - Thomas F. Gibson
Camden City Lodge No. 11, Independent Order of Beth Shone
Diamond Coal Company - Camden Fire Insurance Association
J. Alpheus Harker - U.S.O.