The film adaptation of Moby Dick was released in 1956, one year before Reader's Digest published I Killed "Moby Dick" in its June issue and about two years before the Reader's Digest Junior Omnibus was issued, so interest would have been keen for this life-imitating-art story of the giant white sperm whale. You can read I Killed "Moby Dick" online. A Bedford Standard Times article from 1957 reported that Smalley felt honored for having received $2,500 from Readers Digest for telling his story.
Amos Peters Smalley was born in Aquinnah, also called Gay's Head, near the western edge of the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1877. He was a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe; his ancestors having been on the island for 10,000 years. He first went to sea on a whaler when he was fifteen. In July of 1902, aboard the barque Platina, he sailed to south of the Azores and there harpooned the 90 foot great white whale. Herman Melville had written about Aquinnah Wampanoag harpooners in Moby Dick forty-one years before, in 1851. Melville described the character of the harpooner Tashtego as
"an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly promontory of Martha’s Vineyard, where there still exists the last remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers."
Amos Smalley died in 1961.
Max Forrester Eastman was an editor for Reader's Digest magazine for twenty-eight years, but he is better known for his activism for socialism and other liberal causes. He was born on January 4, 1883 in Canandaigua, New York. After school he settled in Greenwich Village in New York City and became part of left-leaning causes. He was editor of The Masses, a leading socialist periodical. He raised money to send John Reed to Russia and was portryed in the 1981 film version of Reed's story, Reds.
Eastman wrote many books, including
- Enjoyment of Poetry (1913)
- Journalism Versus Art (1916)
- Leon Trotsky: The Portrait of a Youth (1925)
- Marx and Lenin: The Science of Revolution (1926)
- Stalin's Russia and the Crisis in Socialism (1939)
- Marxism: Is It a Science? (1940)
- Reflections on the Failure of Socialism (1955)
- Love and Revolution: My Journey Through an Epoch (1964)
Later in life Eastman's views became anti-socialist and conservative, but he remained an atheist his whole life. Eastman died on March 25, 1969.
Edward Vebell was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928. Vebell has had a long, varied and lauded career as an illustrator. In WWII he was an illustrator for Stars and Stripes and a court artist during the The Three Investigators series, many drawings for Time and Life and the design of fifteen U.S. postage stamps. He has lived in Westport, Connecticut since 1953.
Geoffrey WhittamGeoffrey Whittam illustrated another story in the omnibus: Annie Oakley and the Wild West; you can read a little about him there.