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Jim Jam Jems

Sometimes the truth hurts, and even offends, but that didn’t stop Sam Clark and C.H. Crockard, publishers of Jim Jam Jems. As the magazine’s forward warned, “Here in the confines of this little booklet …we intend to write just whatever we damn please and say just as much.”

The publication was widely read, but on this date 1912, Clark and Crockard were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fargo for sending “obscene and immoral” reading matter in interstate mail. Meanwhile, news dealers throughout the state and in Minneapolis and St. Paul were also being arrested for selling the publication. Jim Jam Jems, however, continued “selling like hot-cakes,” and Clark and Crockard continued publishing while fighting the charges. They insisted the publication was in no way obscene and had even helped bring several people to justice. Their mission, they said, “was the cleaning up of some of the filthiness existing in the country.” For them, the magazine was just political and social commentary that often skewered church or political officials. To the state, however, the publication was obscene.

One of the articles considered most lewd was titled “Chicken-chasing.” This article made the point that young women were vulnerable due to a lack of laws to protect them. The article said in part:

In most states, the age of consent is fixed by statute at 14 to 16 years. … Can you imagine a little girl 14 or even 16 years of age as the legal custodian to her person … of sufficient age to dispose of their virtue to the first brute that happens along? … the men who make the laws and the men who are supposed to enforce them are too often ‘chicken-chasers’ themselves, and it seems that it is a hard matter to change the existing conditions.

For the next five years, Clark and Crockard contended the charges, and the trials often flopped back and forth between guilty and not guilty. The legal battle finally ended December 1917 with a conclusion of guilty.

Jim Jam Jems continued to circulate, however, and Clark and Crockard retained their colorful voice in later issues. Clark later moved to Minneapolis, and began taking on other endeavors. He spent less time on the publication, and the August 1929 issue was the last of Jim Jam Jems.

Dakota Datebook by Tessa Sandstrom

“Publishers of JJJ indicted by Grand Jury,” Ward County Independent. Nov. 14, 1912.
“Will have hard time to convict ‘JJJ’,” Ward County Independent. Nov. 21, 1912: 1.
“Sam Clark, colorful ND writer, dies,” Bismarck Tribune. Dec. 21, 1944: 1.
Clark Sam, General Reference File. State Archives.
Jim Jam Jems collection. State Archives.

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