Saturday, January 30, 2010

Celebrities Monthly. One of my favorite finds. Amazing photography

I probably mentioned part of this before, but its worth repeating. I first heard of this magazine in conjunction for a show I contributed to at MOMA, and subsequently found the first issue for sale on ebay. After purchasing it (from my now friend, Nick Certo) I inquired whether he had any more and found that he had the entire run. Obviously I jumped the chance to buy it, finding to my glee that, not only was it illustrated with original tipped-in photographs, the run included an issue that was previously unknown.

I have posted the cover of first issue before, but decided to share other images with you.

Celebrities Monthly was a "who's who" of the late 19th century, including vignettes of artists, actors and actresses, authors, inventors, business leaders, feminists, socialites and even a future president (TR). As you can see, the photos are original prints by some of the finest photographic studios of the day, rare and collectible in their own right.

Here's the ULS listing for the magazine, documenting the presence of five institutional holdings, only one (Harvard) allegedly complete. You will also note that the run ends at volume 2 number 4.

Here is the cover, frontis and Joseph Pulitzer vignette from volume 2 number 5. Interestingly, Pulitzer made it into the magazine but his arch competitor, William Randolph Hearst, didn't!

Here's another notable image from the run and an incomplete (excluding the last three issues) index. If anyone would like the page of anyone in the index, I'd be happy to send it.

While we're an the subject of great photography, I felt compelled to share with you a image I recently came across on the web that is peripherally related to the above magazine. I've spent a great deal of time looking at it, a magnificent photo of the Flat Iron Bulding in NYC under construction. Each section of the photo tells its own story, there's even one horseless carriage!

For those who love history as I do, I think you will appreciate the snapshot of life in turn of the century NYC. The publisher of Celebrities Monthly was a mere block north of this location and the photo was taken only 5 years after the magazine was published. You can easily imagine Maud Adams walking these very streets.

See you again soon!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jerome David (J.D.) Salinger 1919-2010

I recently devoted a post to this American literary giant. It contains links to many of his short stories.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

American Magazine of Wonders. Is it Really a Magazine?

Now that the frenzy of "FDR's Deadly Secret" has diminished to a dull distant roar, I get can get back to the business of magazine history in earnest.

This post was spawned by a recent purchase on ebay of volume two of The American Magazine of Wonders, and Marvellous Chronicle published in 1809 in New York. I've had the first volume in my collection for twenty years and, since the entire run is of only two volumes, it was opportune to finally complete it.

These volumes are quite interesting because they are sort of a "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" of the early 19th century, containing stories and illustrations of the weird, bizarre and off-beat aspects of the time.

The "magazine" is quite scarce, with only five holdings in Union List of Serials (ULS)- three complete at The Library of Congress, American Antiquarian Society and Library Company of Philadelphia, volume one only at The New York Public Library and an incomplete run at The Philadephia Historical Society.

The ultimate reference for magazines of the first decade of the 19th century is the 1955 University of Michigan doctoral thesis of Benjamin M. Lewis entitled "A History and Bibliography of American Magazines 1800-1810. An abridged version in a smaller size was published in 1961.

Here is Doctor Lewis' preface to that edition.
Two copies and one bound reprint are presently availble on for as little as $18.24. The comprehensive original treatise can be obtained (as I did) directly from the University of Michigan. Here's Lewis' description of our magazine:

Now that you know a little more of the thought process involved in finding and researching magazines, let's move on to the next discussion point. Despite the fact that it is listed in ULS and the ultimate authority on it includes it in his bibiography, is it actually a magazine?

The original use of the word "magazine" was as a storehouse, best illustrated by the magazine of a ship for storing munitions. The first use of it in the context of a periodical was by Edward Cave (aka Sylvanus Urban) who employed it in his Gentleman's Magazine, begun in 1731. Cave intended his magazine to be a storehouse of information and his innovative idea obviously stuck.

Now we have to dig even a little deeper into semantics by defining a periodical:

of all these I like the third one best:

"A publication that is produced at regular intervals, or "periodically", and is intended to appear indefinitely. Generally, the frequency of publication is weekly, monthly, quarterly."

By this definition, daily newspapers and annuals are not periodicals but anything published at regular intervals in between is.
As to the second part "intended to appear indefinitely" this is where our Magazine of Wonders gets into trouble, as do many other periodically issued publications, i.e. books in parts, that have a clearly finite and pre-planned life expectancy (Charles Dickens, for example, issued many of his books in parts prior to the final complete book edition). While a subscription list appears in volume two, the title page clearly state "in two volumes- volume two", quite clearly indicating that the author intended it to have a limited life.

Therefore, it is a "magazine" but not a periodical. Sorry Dr. Lewis.

This blog is, in essence, a magazine, since it is indeed a storehouse of information. While it is intended to appear indefinitely (as long as I am above above the ground rather than six feet below it) it is issued notably irregularly, so it really isn't a periodical either.

While I still have it in my collection as an interesting curiosity, and the price I paid to complete the set was well worth it, it really doesn't fit with the "real" magazines I so enjoy collecting.

Crazy huh! But all of us collector's are slightly off center ya know. Thanks for listening.

Enjoy the football playoffs. I will be doing such with my "s.o", my son and daughter-in-law and my two grandchildren.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Blog: FDR's Deadly Secret

For the last year, I have been writing another blog, until now private, devoted to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Since our book has been released, it is now time make that blog public and to return this forum completely to the subject of magazines, which has a great deal more to be discussed.

While they are both essentially historical treatises, a segregation is in order. So, for those interested in the fascinating world of Presidential health, permit me to introduce (drum roll)

There are already over 40 posts, containing much new and original information about our much discussed 32nd President. It reflects the same degree of dedication and compulsive search for the truth as you have witnessed, and will continue to witness, on this blog.

So, please pardon my surreptitious disloyalty, the secret (FDR's Deadly Secret) is now out. After the storm of FDR news (see today's Wall Street Journal for a phenomenal review of our book)
this forum will now be return exclusively to the subject of American magazine history.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fdr's Deadly Secret

February 1940 aboard the USS Tusaloosa

You'll probably see that a review of our book is on the front page of today's New York Times!
It's a free country and Mr. Altman surely has a right to his opinion. He is, without a doubt, one of America's leading medical journalists. I am, though taken back by his remark about fact-checking. This blog is ample testimony to my compulsive pursuit of accuracy and completeness and I've never work harder on something nor have I been more convinced of its merits.

The fact of the matter is that the most probable medical cause of Franklin Roosevelt's death was melanoma and the cover-up of his severe disability that we have exposed and carefully documented had a profound effect upon history.

Monday, January 4, 2010

FDR's Deadly Secret.

As I have continuously stated on this blog, magazines are an important window of American popular culture. No better testimony to that fact is the following, that bears a relationship to my concurrent passion, the health of our thirty-second president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Shortly after Franklin Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, and obscure but credible news magazine published a story, in three parts, entitled "The Strange Death of President Roosevelt". It laid out a scenario that Roosevelt's health was not as good as the public had been led to believe, and that he had actually died of cancer.

The story is constructed in a wildy over the top format and contains some inaccuracies but there is indeed a ring of truth within it. It is clear that the source of the story was Chicago Tribune white house reporter Walter Trohan, who was particularly concerned about the president's health, but, while FDR in office, was unable the violate the strict code imposed by press secretary Stephen Early, forbidding any unauthorized mention of Roosevelt's medical condition (there is even a mention of this in the article).

The similarities between Trohan's article that ran in the Chicago Tribune on April 13th, 1945, rather amazingly overlooked at the time, is further testimony to his anonymous contibution to the magazine article.

Here is another later Trohan Tribune article, published concurrently with the magazine article.

The book I co-authored with journalist Eric Fettmann, FDR's Deadly Secret, will be released on Tuesday, January 5th. It is the consummation of three years of intense research and lays out the health of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as never before.

It has received excellent reviews (Google or Bing the book title for a long list).

Here is the one that appeared recently in the Boston Globe:

A second opinion on FDR’s condition
By Claude R. Marx
January 2, 2010

By Steven Lomazow, MD, and Eric Fettmann

PublicAffairs, 304 pp., $25.95

Franklin D. Roosevelt's health problems have been so well chronicled that even those with a great interest might have thought there wasn't much to say about it.
Then, along came neurologist Steven Lomazow and journalist Eric Fettmann. “FDR’s Deadly Secret,’’ which is likely to trigger much discussion among physicians and historians, contends that in addition to all his other maladies, Roosevelt suffered from melanoma. They argue that it was cancer that killed him on April 12, 1945, less than three months after he began his fourth term.

According to Lomazow and Fettmann the melanoma started with a lesion above FDR’s left eye and eventually spread to his brain and abdomen. The authors’ diagnosis comes on top of what historians have always acknowledged about FDR’s health: his heart disease, fluctuating blood pressure, and the effects of polio. While some of their evidence is circumstantial, the authors also make use of newly discovered correspondence and some medical records that hadn’t previously received much attention.

After examining the video of a speech that Roosevelt gave to Congress on March 1, 1945, reporting on the Yalta Conference (and comparing it to the manuscript that FDR used), the authors reached a startling conclusion. FDR’s halting delivery and inability to follow the text was caused by an inability to find the margin of the page on which his speech was given. From this evidence, they conclude, that the president “was suffering from a neurological condition called left hemianopia, characteristic of a specific focal dysfunction in the right posterior portion of the brain.’’ And they further hypothesize that the melanoma - which they say had been malignant for four or five years - had metastasized to his brain.

To the non-medical expert, the authors make a strong case. However, the fact that by necessity they are relying on circumstantial evidence will cause some of the debate on this subject to continue.

While FDR’s performance shocked many people, including some of his closest friends and allies, it followed the pattern of his behavior at Yalta. Many historians have criticized the substance of the agreement at Yalta and contend that FDR was misled in part because he didn’t have full control over his mental faculties. The authors cite the observations of other attendees that Roosevelt looked ill and acted disengaged.

“To a doctor’s eye, the President appears a sick man. He has all the symptoms of the hardening arteries of the brain in an advanced stage, so that I give him only a few months to live,’’ Winston Churchill’s physician Charles McMoran Wilson (Lord Moran) wrote in his diary.

A year earlier, several prominent American physicians expressed similar concerns and made them known to Roosevelt and his aides.

Lomazow and Fettmann note that renowned Boston surgeon Frank Lahey had, after examining him, privately counseled FDR that he wouldn’t live through a fourth term. Lahey never made his reservations known to the public and the authors contend that he and FDR’s personal physician Admiral Ross McIntire deceived the public and worked to squelch any rumors that the president had cancer. The authors also quote several other physicians who reportedly told Lahey that FDR had cancer.

The authors note that while in 1944 FDR’s heart problems were becoming widely known, “[C]ancer, on the other hand, remained FDR’s deadly secret, not even hinted at and certainly never to be acknowledged in writing.’’

The authors present their material in an engaging, though not sensationalistic manner. As a result, “FDR’s Deadly Secret’’ will find a wide following among those interested in one of American history’s most compelling medical mysteries.

Claude R. Marx is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively on history and politics.
I hope you enjoy reading our book as much as we have writing it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Origins Of American Science Fiction. The Steam Man and Frank Reade.

The inspiration for this post comes from many conversations with my dear friend Joe Rainone. I met Joe at a Phillip Weiss magazine auction (where else?) on Long Island purely by chance as we were looking over pulp magazines (we both are members of the exclusive club that own the scarce and valuable ($25,000 or thereabouts) 1912 first appearance of Tarzan in the October 1912 All Story)

and soon our conversation turned to collecting. He told me, at the time, about the origins of Johnston McCulley’s Zorro in 1919 in All Story Magazine (worth well over $1000 in good condition.

and I was immediately impressed with his fund of knowledge. I later contacted him and we have been sharing our collecting interests ever since.

Joe began collecting comic books, then graduated to pulp magazines (personally I have little interest in comics since they have been well documented by Overstreet and the key issues are extremely expensive. I enjoy discovery and there really isn’t much left to discover in this area. After the pulp bibliographies of Gunnison (Adventure House) et al and Tim Cottrill (Bookery Fantasy), this genre has become better known but there are still holes to fill and I revel in finding them).

The first Dime Novel, probably less than a dozen copies exist in original wrappers.

After pulps, Joe then took another step back in time and moved on to Dime Novels and Story Papers. Our knowledge of this fascinating and important genre is still in its relative infancy, making it a collector’s paradise. Many of even the most important titles are incredibly rare and one can still find real gems on Ebay or at ephemera fairs, for a fraction of their true value. Likewise, their importance to the development of American popular culture cannot be overstated.

In the last five years, Joe has put together a truly amazing assemblage of material, much of it previously unknown, expanding upon the venerable Dime Novel Roundup and the few classic references such as the very important book by E.F Bleiler on science fiction. Joe’s collection is a testament to his dogged dedication and extreme knowledge and interest in the subject (I’ve said over and over again, knowledge is power). This is still one of the true frontiers of periodical collecting. Thanks to Joe, the Overstreet Comic Price Guide now contains reference and prices for this genre, in recognition of their seminal influence on present day comics.

A number of American universities, Northern Illinois, Minnesota, Bowling Green, Rochester, Syracuse (home of the Street and Smith Archive) Stanford and Princeton among the most notable, have extensive holdings, as does the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts and the New York Public Library.

And now: the magazines.

According to Bleiler, science fiction can be divided into three areas:

1) Quasi-scientific stories of pretend technology (as we will be discussing today)

2) Lost Race and Lost Worlds. This genre began with H. Rider Haggard’s “King Solomon’s Mines” in 1885 which includes James Hilton’s 1933 work “Lost Horizon” that Franklin D. Roosevelt used to name his Maryland presidential retreat Shangri-la, later and called Camp David by Dwight Eisenhower after his grandson. For more on this genre see:

3) Future Stories. Star Trek, Star Wars, ad infinitum. There’s even a religion (Scientology) thrown in for good measure (the first appearance of Dianetics appeared in the May 1950 issue of the science-fiction digest Astounding, routinely available on ebay for under $100)

The origin of American periodical science fiction goes back to 1868, with the publication of “The Steam Man of the Prairies” by Edward Ellis in Beadle’s American Novels, No. 45. (not more than a handful, if that many, still in existence)

The steam man was actually taken from a true life invention that was patented, also in 1868, by New Jerseyan, Zadoc Pratt Dederick.
The Steam man then reappeared, bigger and better with a new cast of characters in Norman Munro and Frank Tousey’s classic story paper Boy’s of New York, #28 on March 16, 1876.

This key issue is valued at over $2000 in good condition. The original story was re-written by Harold Cohen, under the pseudonym, Harry Enton. After three more Reade stories, Enton and Tousey soon quarreled, leading Tousey to hire another writer, 18 year old Cuban immigrant Luis Senarens, who then continued the first recurring science-fiction character in American history, now Frank Reade Jr.. Senarens went on to write nearly all of the 147 stories, exclusively for Tousey publications in America, about Reade Jr. that appeared in Boy’s of New York, Wide Awake Library, Frank Tousey’s Boy’s Weekly, Frank Reade Library and the later colorized version, Frank Reade Weekly, that began on October 31, 1902.

By far the best reference on the Steam Man and Frank Reade was self-published by Joe, who can be contacted at

There's a lot more to be shared and we will be keeping you posted on this fascinating and underappreciated area of American publishing.

Happy New Year!