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First Copies of Joyce’s Ulysses smuggled into U.S. via Windsor, Ontario

The SS Lansdowne was a railroad car ferry built in 1884 by the Wyandotte Shipyard of the Detroit Dry Dock Company. It was used from 1884 until 1956 between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario across the Detroit River,

The first copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses to enter the U.S. came via Windsor, Ontario.

The books were printed in Paris and mailed by Ernest Hemingway to a friend in Windsor who worked for the Curtis Publishing in Detroit.
The friend, a reporter named Barney Braverman whom Hemingway had met during his days either in Toronto or Chicago (found references citing both),commuted from Detroit to Windsor each day on the ferry. Braverman apparently lived on Chatham Street in a house kitty-corner to the back of what is today The Windsor Star building. Once the smuggling plan was devised, 40 copies of the novel, published by Sylvia Beach owner of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, were sent over from Paris.

Every morning Braverman set off with a package under his arm containing copies (I’m guessing no more than one or two at a time) of Joyce’s novel, strolled downtown past the border guards and onto the ferry. This was the only way to cross the river back then. At the time construction of the Ambassador Bridge had only just begun.

These were in fact interesting times.  Prohibition was in full swing. All sorts of people used to smuggle bottles of fine Canadian whisky across the border tucking them away in their trouser pants and underwear. Booze wasn’t the only thing banned.  The authorities were also pretty uptight about ‘immoral’ ‘pornographic’ literature.  Though this really wasn’t what the guards were on the lookout for.

Each day for what must have been several weeks on-end, this innocent looking publishing salesman crossed the river, went to the Detroit Post Office and fired off first editions of what is now considered by many to be the greatest novel of the 20th Century, to friends and contacts, including Alfred Knopf and Sherwood Anderson, throughout the U.S.

Today a copy fetches $65,000.

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3 Responses to “First Copies of Joyce’s Ulysses smuggled into U.S. via Windsor, Ontario”

  1. Peter Kavanagh Says:

    I love this story thanks so much…

  2. Nigel Beale Says:

    Glad to hear this Peter. You’re welcome!

  3. Random thoughts one month after the opening of Swan’s Fine Books… | Swan's Fine Books Says:

    [...] The friend, a reporter named Barney Braverman whom Hemingway had met during his days either in Toronto or Chicago (found references citing both), commuted from Detroit to Windsor each day on the ferry. Braverman apparently lived on Chatham Street in a house kitty-corner to the back of what is today The Windsor Star building. Once the smuggling plan was devised, 40 copies of the novel, published by Sylvia Beach owner of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, were sent over from Paris…”  For the entire article, see:  http://literarytourist.com/2013/06/first-copies-of-joyces-ulysses-smuggled-into-u-s-via-windsor-onta… [...]

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