Crook, the Unkissed

Algie R. Crook (or "Alja" Crook, as his name was sometimes spelled) was a professor of mineralogy at Chicago's Northwestern University. His great claim to fame, however, had nothing to do with science. Instead, it was that in April, 1901 he allegedly told his undergraduate class that he had never kissed a woman. More specifically, he reportedly said, "I have never uttered a profane word, never have smoked or chewed tobacco, drank intoxicants, nor hugged or kissed a woman."

Given that he was thirty-seven years old at the time, this was considered a remarkable admission. So remarkable that when word of it leaked to the press it became international news.

Great Falls Tribune - May 15, 1901

The media started referring to him as "Crook, The Unkissed." Acquaintances of Crook (or people who claimed to be his acquaintances) readily confirmed the tale, attributing his lack of kisses to his embrace of "austere science." One said, "the scientific atmosphere is inimical to the love germ."

Offers of marriage flooded in, from women hoping to be the one to thaw the professor's icy reserve.

Philadelphia Times - Apr 28, 1901

The French were particularly taken with the story. As reported in the Leavenworth Times (May 8, 1901):

Leading [French] novelists and scientists have been interviewed. Some pronounce the Chicago instructor an "idiot" and a "monster," but a powerful clan uphold his theory that love for woman, even love of the ideal type, seriously impedes a man who would be great and learned.

Supposedly the news even reached as far as China where the dowager empress expressed a desire to see him.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Apr 27, 1901

Crook, for his part, was said to be "abashed and humiliated over the gossip the affair has provoked," and also furious at the "tattling undergraduates."

He issued a denial of the allegation, stating, "I have never told any one that I have refrained from hugging or kissing women, for the reason that I consider it nobody's business but my own."

He recalled having advised a student to do as he did — never to kiss, hug, swear, and so forth. And he figured that's how the story must have started. But he insisted that he hadn't said that he had never done these things at all.

However, it was too late. The story was out there and couldn't be taken back. His denial got buried in the back pages of newspapers, if it was printed at all.

In other interviews, Crook asserted that he had kissed female family members, which didn't help his case much since it implied that he had indeed never romantically kissed a woman. Also, a former student recalled that Crook had made similar claims before, noting, "He is a consistent Methodist, and his convictions sometimes cause him some trouble." So I kind of suspect that Crook really did make the no-kissing claim to his class, but denied it later out of embarrassment.

Whatever the case may have been, the tale continued to haunt him. The following year (1902) a group of students at Northwestern formed an "Anti-osculation Society," claiming that they were "following the teachings of Professor Algie R. Crook, the man who never was kissed." They elected him an honorary member.

In 1904 Crook got married, and inevitably this triggered a renewal of the no-kissing story. "Unkissed Man To Wed," reported the papers.

The Hutchinson News - Dec 28, 1904

Crook and his wife eventually had five children together. He died in 1930, at the age of sixty-six, and the kissing story resurfaced in his Chicago Tribune obituary (June 1, 1930). It was, after all, the achievement he was most famous for:

In 1901 he won fame by being credited with having declared he was never kissed. He denied he had made the assertion after it roused world wide comment.

However, the memorial of him in the Journal of the Mineralogical Society of America omitted the kissing story. Nor is it mentioned on the wikipedia page about him.
     First Posted: Dec 2016
     Reposted By: Alex - Fri Oct 08, 2021
     Category: Eccentrics | Science | 1900s | Love & Romance

Maybe the distinguished professor was gay. Since it was still illegal at the time, he would prefer to pass for a complete virgin than be arrested and/or put in a psychiatric ward.
Posted by Yudith on 12/21/16 at 11:49 AM
Why does this bring to mind Jayne's comment "That's why I never kiss them on the mouth." (Firefly reference -- I don't expect many here to recognize it)?
Posted by Phideaux on 12/21/16 at 12:44 PM
Crook sounds like the prototype for the Sheldon Cooper character. "I don't smoke, I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do."
Posted by KDP on 12/21/16 at 04:31 PM
Not likely entirely gay - he had five children. Now it's not rare for people's sexual preferences to change over time, and it's not rare (and was even less so) for a gay person to be married to the opposite gender and have a child or two. Five, though? That seems to indicate a taste for the exercise not quite compatible with total homosexuality, at least.
Posted by Richard Bos on 10/09/21 at 06:18 AM
His wife had five children. There's nothing to show he was the father.

Lavender marriages between a gay man and a woman in a long-term affair with a married man were a convenience for all concerned.
Posted by Phideaux on 10/09/21 at 07:58 PM
With a name like Algie, he should have been a biologist, not a geologist.
Posted by ges on 10/09/21 at 09:09 PM
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