Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mark Twain in Magazines

Having just acquired an extremely important and rare periodical that contains twelve early Mark Twain appearances, it is an excellent time to present to you a short treatise about the periodical appearances of America's all-time foremost humorist. I believe that my collection now contains the best representation of Twain periodicals in private hands and, perhaps, anywhere.

The latest piece of the puzzle is The Californian. I could not hope to describe it any better than by pilfering Richard West's characteristically impeccable scholarship in the catalog description of Periodyssey, America's finest dealer in periodicals, from whom I acquired it.

A little bit about collecting here. You will note the catalog price of $7200. The present day economic woes (and, moreso, an ex-wife!) made that number somewhat prohibitive so, after giving him ample time to market the item, I negotiated a deal with Richard that included some cash and my six volumes of Harper's Weekly from 1860-1865. The details are not important but the philosophy is.

As a collector, rarity rules. I have only seen one other copy of The Californian for sale in thirty years and doubt I will see another. The other copy was at the California Book Fair about 15 years ago and, though I was tempted, it was so ridiculously overpriced that I passed on it. For all I know. this could be the same copy. So, despite my having only one Civil War run of the important Harper's Weekly, I know it could be easily replaced.

So win/win. Rich gets an item he can sell for a nice profit and I get an exceedingly important and rare item and free up some shelf space-Sort of like trading a superstar for a couple of prospects.

Ok. Enough pontificating. Now let's get to the good stuff.

The Californian (San Francisco) Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 28, 1864) to Vol. 2, No. 25 (May 20, 1865), comprising 51 issues (lacking the May 27 issue for a complete volume 2), bound in contemporary black half-leather and paper covered boards. Binding skillfully rebacked, handsome, edge wear and scuffing to boards; contents VG with light foxing. The Californian was the first important literary magazine produced west of the Mississippi. Charles Henry Webb, a former New York Times reporter, was its founder and editor. He chose as his assistant a young compositor on the San Francisco Golden Era, Bret Harte. Harte was to become the Californian's chief contributor (39 pieces in these two volumes) as well as editor for three months near the end of 1864. His exposure on the Californian put him in the position in 1868 to become editor of the newly launched Overland Monthly. But the Californian's most celebrated contributor was Mark Twain. While Twain had edited a few short-lived and minor Western newspapers before he walked into The Californian's offices, he was unknown to the literary world. The Californian became the first magazine (aside from one contribution to the Boston Carpetbag twelve years earlier) to publish his work. Bret Harte knew Twain was the real article; he placed most of his contributions on the front page. These two volumes contain twelve of Twain's emblematic essays:

-- October 1, 1864: A Notable Conundrum; First time magazine appearance of Clemen's work under the pseudonym "Mark Twain"; every bit as funny now as it was then. -- October 8, 1864: Concerning the Answer to that Conundrum;-- October 15, 1864: Still further concerning that Conundrum;-- October 22, 1864: Whereas, or Loves Bakery;-- October 29, 1864: A Touching Story of George Washington's Boyhood;-- November 5, 1864: Daniel in the Lion's Den -- and Out Again All Right;-- November 12, 1864: The Killing of Julius Caesar -- Localized;-- November 19, 1864: A Full and Reliable Account of the Extraordinary Meteoric Shower;-- December 3, 1864: Lucretia Smith's Soldier;-- March 18, 1865: An Unbiased Criticism;-- May 6, 1865: The Important Correspondence of Mark Twain Concerning the Occupancy of Grace Cathedral; -- May 13, 1865: Further Correspondence of Mark Twain Concerning the Occupancy of Grace Cathedral.
In 1926, John Howell, the San Francisco bookseller, wrote "Very little is known of the work of Bret Harte and Mark Twain of the sixties, because the files of the publications for which they wrote have largely been destroyed." (Howell. Sketches of the Sixties [San Francisco, 1927]). OCLC isn't helpful because it combines this Californian (1864-1867) with the magazine of the same name that was published from 1880 to 1882, so it is difficult to figure out which institution has which title. The Union List is more straight-forward: it shows only four institutions holding complete volumes 1 and 2. This title is an important piece of Californiana and a cornerstone for any serious Twain collection. $7,200

Add this blockbuster to the next item and you have a real dynamic Twain duo.

Twain's first appearance was way back when he was sixteen, in Benjamin Shillaber's Carpet Bag in 1852, thirteen years prior to "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", considered to to be the work that launched his career (which appeared in The Saturday Press in November 1865 that, alas, I do not own). Schillaber's Mrs. Partington, who appeared in this journal, is considered to be the model for Tom Sawyer's Aunt Polly. Amazingly, some scholars disputed that it is Twain's work, but a short story set in Hannibal Missouri and signed S.L.C. leaves little doubt as to who wrote it. Heres a link it is in its entirety for your reading pleasure "The Dandy Frightening the Squatter", the first literary appearance of an American genious.

Twain's original work was published in magazines 178 times in a few dozen different publications, some posthumously. Most notably are the earliest excerpts of "Huckleberry Finn" in December, 1884 in The Century and "Tom Sawyer" in the exceedingly rare humor periodical Wild Oats on August 23rd, 1876 (the only known copy is at the New York Historical Society).

The first publication of "Huckleberry Finn"

One of my favorites is in the first issue of the very rare Kelley's Weekly on November 30, 1867. It contains a three column illustrated story entitled "A Yankee in the Orient. Mark Twain Takes a Turkish Bath." For you Twain scholars out there, my research indicates that this is the earliest appearance of any part of "Innocents Abroad" and that the six illustrations appear nowhere else!

Another favorite is this rare issue of Packard's Monthly that contains a Twain appearance.

The most comprehensive list of Twain Magazine appearances (not included is the Kelley's that I found later) is in a little volume Rich and I put together in 1997, what we lovingly refer to as "BALP", Bilbiography of American Literature in Periodicals available at

So there you have it- a marvelous asssociation with two of America's greatest assets- Mark Twain and its magazine heritage!

See you soon,


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Bicycles Too!

As promised, here's the last part of the transportation trio as echoed in the title of popular movie starring the late John Candy. Subsequently, I realized that it would be proper to include bicycles as well.
The first magazine illustration of a train in an American magazine appeared on the first page of this 1825 issue of American Mechanic's Magazine and seven years later Railroad Journal was the first to be devoted exclusively to the "iron horse" and was still being published as of 1965 as Railway Locomotives and Cars.

American folklore and periodical literature is peppered with railroad references and personna and it is interesting to note that the first pulp fiction magazine devoted to a specialized topic, begun in 1906, was Railroad Man's Magazine.

The word "bicycle" was coined in 1869. Prior to this the two-wheeled contraptions were known as velocipedes. According to Frank Luther Mott, whose authoritarian five volume work on American magazines is the starting point for any serious scholarship on the subject, America's first magazine devoted to the subject was the short-lived Velocipedist in 1869. Thereafter, Scientific American had frequent reports of improvements and news until a flurry of periodicals, beginning with American Bicycling Journal, started in 1877, appeared as the popularity and practicality of device blossomed. Perhaps the most popular and successful was Wheelman. Here is the first issue:

Interestingly, Wheelwoman apperaed shoertly afterwards and this might represent the first specialty magazine ever published in America to target women.

Here are a couple of other rare and interesting bicycle related items I've collected over the years:

For now this post concludes the recent transportation theme. I thought about doing another on ships and boats, but that body of literature is so vast, it will be reserved for a later time.

Bon voyage!

See you again shortly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aviation Magazines in America

While we're on the subject of transportation, the logical follow-up to my last post on automobiles is aviation. The next post will complete the troika with trains.

The first aviation related article goes waaaaaaaaaay back to 1786, when Boston Magazine published this woodcut of the first balloon flight of the Montgolfier brothers

Now jump ahead 105 years to 1893, when the first American magazine devoted aviation appeared, an exceedingly rare periodical, Aeronautics, published in New York by M.N. Forney and cheifly devoted to the proceedings of The Conference on Aerial Navigation held during the World's Fair in Chicago.

It was followed shortly by Aeronautical Annual, published in Boston by James Means, that had a great influence upon such notables as Wilbur Wright.

My research has found at least 24 aviation magazines that appeared up to 1921. Here is the list first published in my 1996 book.

and here are some of my favorite early magazines from my collection:
The first issue of the weekly aviation magazine:

A fantastic 1911 futuristic cover, not to be outdone by the great futurist Hugo Gernsback a year later!

an early postal title and another concerned with the military uses of aviation:

Even more than the automobile, America was fascinated by airplanes. Aviation pioneers were yesterday's astronauts and they were so treated by the public. The Wright Brothers were the first celebrities of the twentieth century, though the report of their acheivement often met with skepticism in the leading scientific magazine of the day, Scientific American, due to a lack of eyewitness coverage. One of may favorite aviation magazines is this 1910 issue of Greater Dayton, devoted to honoring their most famous denizens. Wilbur Wright died shortly afterwards a victim of the typhoid fever epidemic of 1912. Orville lived until 1948 (the year this blogger was born!).

Charles Lindbergh's 1927 trans-atlantic flight re-fueled the American interest in the romance and adventure of aviation, bringing about dozens of new publications, many of them pulp magazines. Pulps were the cheap sensationalist reading of the day. It is interesting to note that there are no pulp magazines based on automobiles, but over a dozen devoted to flying. Here are a few rare "birds", including the first, Air Stories, not concidentally published shortly after the Lindbergh flight.

and one could not show rare aviation pulps without mentioning the rarest of all, Zeppelin Stories. My collection may be the only one to include both the first issue and the iconic "mother of all wacky pulps" the very rare and very valuable "Gorilla of the Gas Bags" issue.

America's most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell also used Lindbergh on a well known cover of the Saturday Evening Post but also on this rare Elks Magazine a year later (probably after being rejected by the Post in favor of the other image)

There is also another interesting Lindbergh magazine connection. His father published this right-wing journal of opinion in 1916! Unfortunately Charles Jr. may have picked up some of his Henry Fordish views about fascism as well.

What Lindbergh did for men, Amelia Earhart did for women. The cover of this very rare pulp magazine was obviously created to take advantage of her celebrity.

As ever, magazines continue to prove their importance, carrying the American reading public from the earliest ballooning flights right through to the space age.

Oops, I almost forgot this one! A very rare aviation magazine published by Douglas Aircraft in 1946, using some of their employees to promote their new products. One of those emplyees went on to achieve iconic status in another field. Do you recognize him/her?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Automobile Magazines in America

With today's headline story being the financial tribulations of General Motors, I thought I'd spend a little time on the history of Automotive magazines. American's have had an ongoing love affair with cars from very early on. Despite President Obama's recent gaffe about where cars were invented, the manufacturing process of Henry Ford (anti-semitism not withstanding) revolutionized the car industry and enabled the common man to enjoy the mobility afforded by the automobile. Each image is the first issue of the title!

America's first automotive magazine, and the second in the world, was Horseless Age, stated in 1895. The initial circulation was only 800, so it is obviously quite rare.

Of course, many other magazines devoted to the sublect rapidly followed. They are rare and expensive, though none were particularly distinctive or long-lasting:

There were dozens of car manufacturers and many had their own magazines. Here is the earliest I've found:

Virtually every car manufacturer had their own magazine at one time or another. I have a dozen or so first issues of them, but getting one random issue of each would make a nice collection.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) began in 1902 and began publishing road maps in 1905. They were also involved with auto racing until 1955. Their first magazine was Touring Topics published in California in February 1909, but the "official" magazine was American Motorist, begun in April of that year.

Many early magazines featured automotive articles and advertising. Some devoted special issues to them.

The twenties had there share of ephemeral motoring publications as well.

Auto racing gained in popularity at this time, bringing about magazines such as this rare 1932 title.

After the war, Hot Rodding became a popular pastime. The most collected title of this genre is the 1948 Hot Rod. Early issues were basically hand-distributed by the publisher at racing events and are very rare. Issues from the first year have been reproduced and the repros are often confused as original. There are differences. Here is an original- it consistently sells for around $1000.

Other hot-rodding titles abounded in the late 40's and early 50's.

Today's most important titles began at this time; first Road and Track then Motor Trend, followed by Sports Car Illustrated, which evolved into Car and Driver.

Lets hope GM and the UAW reach an agreement for mutual preservation so we can continue to, as Dinah Shore used to sing, "see the USA in our Chevrolet".

Monday, March 2, 2009

Walt Whitman in Magazines

It's a snow day in New Jersey. The dog and two cats are snoozing away and my "s.o." and editorial assistant, Katherine, is working from home. My office hours have been deferred to Wednesday and my daily FDR mania has been temporarily satisfied. It's time for a blog post!

At a relatively quiet, contemplative time, my thoughts turn to America's most revered and beloved poet, Walt Whitman. The gentle and compassionate New Yorker, turned New Jerseyan began his writing in newspapers and then often published in magazines. Most of his earliest newspaper work is lost. Even the greatest repository in the world of pre-1876 American newspapers, The American Antiquarian Society, does not have a copy of The Long-Islander, Whitman's own paper from the late 1830's.

On the comprehensive and authoritarian website of the Walt Whitman Project, there is a list of Whitman's poetry in periodicals, beginning with ten contribution to the newspaper, The Long Island Democrat, between 1839 and 1841. From a semantic standpoint, this is incorrect. Newspapers are not periodicals, since they are not issued periodically. Therefore, this takes us to his first true periodical appearance in United States Magazine and Democratic Review for August 1841.

It is a short story entited "Death in the School-Room. A Fact", here reproduced in its entirety for your reading pleasure:

Whitman's first story in a periodical

The first poem in a magazine was in the November 20 1841 issue of Park Benjamin's New World. The front page also features another Whitman story. Within the issue are serializations of stories by Charles Dickens.

The first poem appeared in Brother Jonathan, in November 1841. (By the way, "Brother Jonathan", was the term that identified an American before "Uncle Sam", taken from Jonathan Trumbull, a Connecticut Revolutionary War figure called by Washington "the first patriot")

The New World also published Whitman's only novella in 1842, a work based on a temperance (anti-alcohol) theme "Franklin Evans; The Inebriate. It appeared in a supplementary issue and is quite scarce and valuable. I see it regularly quoted for around $5000.

No copy is known in original wrappers. If one surfaced it would sell for considerably more. I do have another issue in original wrappers so I imagine it would look similarly:

Whitman appeared in many magazines until his death at age 72, including quite a few in the first volume of The Critic from 1881.

The best reference work here is a book compiled by Richard West and myself in 1997, sparked by the fact that the standard refernce work Bibliography of American Literature does not include periodical appearances. Copies of Bibliography of American Literature in Periodicals, which includes all the known first periodical appearances of not only Whitman (including some not noted in the comprehensive Walt Whitman Project list!), but of Poe, Twain, Hawthorn Thoreau and others are available from Periodyssey at