“We introduce ourselves as the two youngest of lecturers and writers of ancient history in the world today,” write Bernice and Eunice Fütterer in the spring of 1911.
We are nine and ten years old and we are lecturing in halls or in any place which we can procure, and our subject is, ‘Four Thousand Years of History in One Hour,’ and thus we are demonstrating to the people by one of us writing on one subject while the other is talking on another; and we can write 4,000 years of history in 24 hours; and we learned this history by a new system in about three months, which system is capable of teaching any other children who will put their minds to it.
Thus supposedly do these two children introduce themselves to the world with their May 20, 1911 introduction to 4000 Years History in One Hour. By the Two Youngest Authors and Orators–Nine & Ten Years Old. Bernice and Eunice Fütterer. The Effects of a New Rapid System of Historical Juvenile Education Prepared for the International Juveniles Researchers Authors & Orators Instn. (San Francisco, 1911.)
While a good portion of the pamphlet is taken up with a recapitulation of the Old Testament history which the two Fütterer children, recent immigrants from Australia [sic, for Austria?], were evidently able to spiel forth onstage in under an hour, the real meat of the piece lies in the grandiose plans of the Fütterers mère and père, who hold their children up as the cynosure of their novel method of tuition, which they evidently planned to bestow as a boon on all children under twelve who might fall within convenient reach and who might be persuaded to attend their projected International Juvenile Ancient History Researchers–Authors and Orators Institute.
(That the system seems built on the Fütterer family’s ability to cram Old Testament lineages into the heads of their children is held up as the prophetic witness to the biblical truth, “a child shall lead them.”)
What, for me, most encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit of the Fütterer enterprise is their proposal for the upcoming 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco:
Moreover at the World’s Fair, San Francisco, in 1915, if Providence permits we plan to demonstrate the effects of this system with about fifty children of twelve years and under who will lecture as well as write a 4,000 years story ready for print in one hour; a feat I believe never before accomplished; and your child may be one among them; but the child to excel is he who first learns to read, write, spell, figure and obey well; such may write original letters to me in regard to ‘Worlds Fair’ proposition in Juvenilville.
Copyright records suggest that this pamphlet, despite its San Francisco imprint, was printed across the Bay in Oakland at the press of the Messiah’s advocate. Curiously, this edition of the pamphlet, likely the earliest published variation of the Fütterer system, is not found on OCLC, which notes variations on this title published in Los Angeles in 1912 and 1913, as well as later versions largely concerned with the Fütterer Patent Universal Eye-ographic Bible Atlas.
The copy of the pamphlet I have to hand is stamped in ink at the head of the title page as copy number 4142, this pamphlet being–in addition to all its evident charms–something of an artificial rarity produced for the collector’s market; as is so shrewdly noted at the end of the text,
These books are the first on record to our knowledge ever written by children; and will be numbered from 1 to 5,000, the first 100 to be sold as souvenirs at following prices: No. 1 at $50, No. 2 at $40, No. 3 at $30, No. 4 at $20, No. 5 at $15, No. 6 at $10, No. 7 at $5, No. 8 at $4, No. 9 at $3, No. 10 at $2, and from 10 to 100 at $1 each. These will be of greater value in time to come as curiosities.
In this optimistic assessment of fair market value, I am in full agreement with the enterprising Fütterer crew; the copy I sent home in the wake of my recent too-brief trip to San Francisco for the California Antiquarian Book Fair is described below and on our website. (Further interesting material continues to emerge from my parcels, those interested are directed as always to cast their eye along our concern’s New Arrivals page.)
Fütterer, Antonia Frederick. 4000 Years History in One Hour. By the Two Youngest Authors and Orators–Nine & Ten Years Old. Bernice and Eunice Fütterer. The Effects of a New Rapid System of Historical Juvenile Education Prepared for the International Juveniles Researchers Authors & Orators Instn. San Francisco: Antonia Fredck. Fütterer, Supt., 1911. Small 8vo, original gilt-printed red wrappers, , -72,  pages. Illus. with a fetching halftone portrait of the Fütterer family (the two children wearing mortarboard hats). Wrappers a trifle sunned and showing a couple of scrapes; a very good copy. First edition.– $225.00