Inside the “Who’s Who” business

By Les Kinsolving

Most people are aware of the 103-year-old “Who’s Who in America.”

This is a two-volume publication of names and biographies of several thousand selected Americans, to which I felt honored to have been selected 27 years ago.

What I was not aware of at that time, was an appellate-court decision in 1969. This decision ruled that since the term “Who’s Who” is such a part of the lexicon, the Marquis Company, even with decades of publishing this national directory, had no right to copyright the title.

One result of this has just arrived in my mail.

The “Strothmore’s Who’s Who” of Westbury, N.Y., wrote me to: “Extend to you an invitation to be included in the forthcoming 2002-2003 edition of Strathmore’s Who’s Who.”

I contacted Marquis Who’s Who which has moved from Chicago to New Providence, N.J., having been purchased by the Reed Elsever Corporation.

A spokesman at Marquis told me of the 1969 appellate court decision and he estimated there are now “20 competing Who’s Who publications, including Strothmore’s.”

I then telephoned Strothmore’s Who’s Who. I was able to talk with Tina Wolf, assistant manager. I was able ask this lady a number of questions about the letter they sent to me:

WND: You write of my “accomplishments as a highly respected professional in your field.” What accomplishments of mine do you mean?

STROTHMORE’S: I don’t know. It may have come from a list of top professionals or someone may have recommended you.

WND: I am confused. You write in paragraph 1: “I extend to you an invitation to be included.” But in paragraph 4, you write: “Should your inclusion be confirmed.” How can I really be “invited to be included” if there is such doubt as: “Should your inclusion be confirmed”?

STROTHMORE’S: I agree with you. But the majority are eligible – 90 percent – But we must do an interview.

WND: You write: “In the event of any error in the publication, the sole responsibility of Strothmore’s Directories will be to correct such errors in succeeding editions.” How often have you had such errors that require a succeeding edition to correct?

STROTHMORE’S: I can’t tell you. Nobody’s perfect!

WND: Your letter to me is addressed: “Mr. Lester M. Kinsolving” – which is not my name.

STROTHMORE’S: Then how did the letter get to you?

WND: It’s close to my name – but I have no middle name beginning with “M”.

STROTHMORE’S: What about your address?

WND: That, too, was partially correct – with the right number on [the correct street] – but with the addition of “#R1” – which is also incorrect.

STROTHMORE’S: You’ll have to call the person that mails the letters. That’s Chris. I’ll transfer you.

I then heard the voice of Chris – on a recorded message.

I left my number. He did not return my call.

I shall not return Strothmore’s attempt to recruit me.