The Innocents at Cedro: A Memoir of Thorstein Veblen and Some Others, by Robert L. Duffus. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1944. Hardcover: ISBN-10: 067800885X, $35.00, 163 pages.
I was visiting my dear colleagues Fadhel Kaboub and Zavdrka Todorova, former classmates at the University of Missouri--Kansas City, in Madison, N.J., when one afternoon we went to one of those old bookstores these towns have. I was amazed to find an old book about Veblen, one that I have never heard about.
But what drew my attention was that this book was not about Veblen's theories but about Veblen as a person, about the year he spent at Stanford University living at the Cedro House which was offered by the university for the 1907-1908 academic year.
An interesting policy during those times was that students were assigned to work in the households of professors doing chores, errands and taking care of all the work in the house in exchange for room and board. In addition to this, it was also a great opportunity for students to interact with scholars on a daily basis and extract important lessons from that experience.
R.L Duffus was studying Journalism at Stanford. His brother was majoring in Economics, and Duffus had the opportunity to listen to Veblen and to help him with many manuscripts during those times. For Duffus, his brother, and Henry George, an older brilliant student who joined them later, it was clear that the "Professor" as they used to call him, was a great thinker and that they had been honored to be with him.
Veblen had a troubled and difficult life because of his theories and radical criticism of the American Society of the time. But the experience at Cedro, a country house with chickens, mules, pigs and many animals, made Veblen very happy and calm. Duffus asserts that he was convinced that it might be the happiest time for Veblen.
The Duffus brothers came from a working family from Vermont. Their father was a unionized employee who got lung disease as a granite worker. When he could not stand Vermont's climate, his sons asked Veblen's permission to bring him to Cedro House to take care of him. There was no health insurance during those days. Veblen accepted without hesitation and spent many months talking with this experienced worker who valued education as the most important gift for his children. When Mr. Duffus died, Veblen helped with the funeral expenses.
There were few opportunities to speak with Veblen. He did not talk much, nor spend...