Many are our benefactors in this enterprise stretching back more than a century and a half. Without Jesse Fell and his protégé, David Davis, there might never have been a President Abraham Lincoln—or the Black Book. Too many are the benefactors over the Black Book’s span for recognition. Carol Evans aided Adlai II with many years of faithful service in government and out. Phyllis Gustafson served with him and followed with me for more than thirty years until her death. She left her modest savings to a neighbor and to favorite causes of the Stevensons. Carol and Phyllis, never married, faithful and diligent, little recognized, were keepers of the Black Book. In helping organize and edit it for publication, Barbara Ascher brought order to a product of disorderly habits and contributed a detached perspective, succeeding Joy Johannsen whose generous editorial efforts were sadly cut short by illness. Mary Trimble rescued The Black Book from my typing while contributing valuable editorial suggestions and needed encouragement. Frances Mautner-markhof, Director of the Austrian Center for International Studies, encouraged me during many moments of weariness in recent years, and contributed to the historical perspective, sharpening dull memories of Gibbon, Spengler and Clausewitz. Greg Koos, President of the McLean County Historical Museum, contributed valuable recollections of my family and its roots in that County. Phyllis Wender was more than a capable literary agent. She offered sound editorial comments and was a source of encouragement with an evident interest in recording history for its lessons. Nancy is a member of the Black Book’s cast and my partner, the mother to our family. Her faithful, near life-long support, even as she wrote her own books, made the effort possible for me. She aided Adlai II in his later years.
In pulling together the bits of wit and wisdom which comprise the Black Book, I came across a copy of Thesaurus of Anecdotes by Edmund Fuller, Crown Publishers, 1942, inscribed by Adlai II. It includes some anecdotes also recorded in the Black Book — many of them Lincoln stories. Provenance is at times difficult to establish. Mr. Fuller prefaces his Thesaurus with a message which encouraged me to persevere:
Anecdotes are stories with points. They are tools — nail-sinkers to drive home arguments firmly.
They are the origin of all thinking. In their old form they are known as parables. By means of them, Jesus Christ taught. The prophets and sages of all ancient religions and wisdom employed the simple, effective parable.
Thus, stories with points were made to embody profound teachings. So the Greek slave, Aesop, sagely propounded his fables. Today the true anecdote is still the counterpart of the parable and fable. Time has tended to shorten it somewhat and, as an attribute of our temperament, we have made it often funny....
All prove something. The thing to remember is, many jokes are anecdotes but not all anecdotes are funny.
I would disappoint my coauthors, if, in the end, we failed to acknowledge the indebtedness of an American family to the America of the Black Book. It was our privilege to have served it— and by this modest means to recall it.