Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Yellow Kid and Richard F. Outcault

Twenty years ago, while browsing a catalog of the State Street Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan I came across an the first issue of an interesting magazine called The Yellow Kid. As it turned out, it was part of a huge collection of first issue magazines bought by the proprietor, Kevin Sheets. My 85 dollar purchase was pretty good, even for the time and, by virtue of it, I eventually went out to Ann Arbor and bought the whole shebang for $20.000. It was a seminal moment in my life since it represented the beginning of my serious pursuit of first issue magazines. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and probably tens of thousands of hours later I'm still at it and it has been one of the most consistently pleasurable pastimes I've enjoyed. The State Street collection had many items I've never seen again and many rare ones (the first National Geographic, for example) which I continue to prize.

I didn't know the history of the "kid" when I bought it, but it really is a milestone in American publishing history. The magazine had this name for only nine issues then became Yellow Book (just bought a copy, in wrappers for twenty dollars that brought about this blog entry) and then Ainslees's, which lasted into the twenties as an illustrated fiction monthly.

I can add very little to Dr. Richard D. Olsen's great web site about the history of the Yellow Kid and his importance.

Basically, Outcault first drew him for the June, 2, 1894 issue of the widely circulated then but now quite obscure magazine called Truth, soon republished in Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, The New York World. He became so immensely popular that the other giant of New York publishing, William Randolph Hearst, in a way reminiscent of the present day New York Yankees, bought him away from Pulitzer for his New York Journal. Not to be outdone, Pulitzer hired George B. Luks to continue to draw the Kid for him and the two competing papers became known as the "Yellow Kid papers".

the first apperance in Truth

Despite the fact that today's prestigious journalism award is named after him, Pulitzer and Hearst did not necessarily feel that the truth should get in the way of selling newspapers. Their competition, using often factitious and highly exaggerated reporting became a matter of criticism by more ethical (and less profitable) journalists. Because both papers featured the Kid, "yellow journalism" came into the lexicon, still meaning exaggerated, unscrupulous publishing.

Aside from this, The Yellow Kid is considered to be the first successful comic strip character, a genre still widely popular today. Interestingly, the magazine does not have the kid inside it at all, just the cover illustration and his name.

A very rare contemporary magazine called Vim picked up on the war between Hearst and Pulitzer. Here is an illustration of of one of them from my collection (with the Kid as Hearst).

After the Kid craze calmed down, Outcault went on to father another widely recognized comic character, Buster Browm. As with the Kid, Buster Brown was used to sell wide variety of products- most notably socks and shoes (remember the Andy's Gang TV show of the fifties?). A very rare advertising vehicle The Buster Brown Stocking Magazine, lasted only a few issues. I have found and bought three of them over the years. Here is the first issue, January 1906- despite the price probably given away rather than sold
A copy of this magazine sold at a Hakes auction in 2007 for $320. The first issue of the Yellow Kid would probably sell for a few thousand.
Hope you enjoyed today's lesson in etymology as well as gaining further appreciation of the importance of the American periodical.
Happy New Year to all!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Repros: Caveat Emptor

As I've stated repeatedly, in collecting knowledge is power. One important lesson here is the recognition of items that are misrepresented as authentic.

In autograph collecting, which I participated in for some time and continue to dabble, the pitfalls are many. Autographs of recent sports figures are often outright forgeries, even despite "letters of authenticity". Many prominent figures are particularly difficult- The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo (almost always bad), Jean Harlow (most signed by her mother) are at the top. Babe Ruth is a very commonly forged, especially on blank pieces of paper. Any autograph in pencil is suspect.
Recent presidents are very tough. Aside from intentional forgeries, the autopen has fooled even some good dealers. I've seen autopen examples sent to prominent people, cherished and displayed for years and the alleged signer never laid a hand on the paper. Secretarial signatures also need to be excluded. Some proxy signatures are pretty tough to detect- Jimmy Carter's secretary, Elizabeth Clough, was particularly adept. Eisenhower, JFK and even FDR had some pretty good imitators. Not for any financial gain or anything sinister, its just that these people get many. many requests and they simply can't keep up with them. Guaranteed, if you write the White House, you'll get back a lovely personalized letter- signed by a machine. Caveat emptor to the max here!

Since this is a magazine collector's blog, we should talk about those. Probably the most commom and frustrating reproductions I've encountered over the years are the first issues of TIME and Newsweek. They are very, very often on eBay represented by the seller as authentic, usually because the seller himself doesn't know what he or she is selling.
The Newsweek repro was obviously reproduced from a volume where the originals had been cropped so the captions on the bottom two photograph's "Saturday" and "Sunday" are missing. Also, the back cover of the original is pink and the the repro is orange.



TIME is a little tougher since it was printed in black and white. The paper of the originals is thinner than most repros. The easiest way in to look at the bottom of the back cover. Repor's say nothing or "printed in U. S. A.". The originals say "Williams Printing Company New York". A true pristine first issue of TIME is quite rare and is worth upwars of five hundred dollars. I recently got one that had been removed from a bound volume (without the staples) for a little over a hundred.
An authentic TIME rear
Other common repro's are the first issue of the 1883 Life. The miniatures are all later printings (by the later Life as a subsciption premium in the 1950's). The original is a quarto size.
Other first issue repros I've encountered are Arizona Highways (original is very rare and valuable, repro has a vague white line down the middle where the original had been folded)
Motor Trend (repro is slightly smaller and glossier) Rolling Stone (so stated as a repro inside)
Hot Rod (original quite scarce, repro has no white margin at bottom and printed date is white background rather than red). High Times (original priced at one dollar)
Playboy has recently produced a limited edition repro of the first issue with some minor cover variations. For now they are being sold as repros for about forty dollars. Its only a matter of time until someone offers one as original (and some unsuspecting buyer thinks he's got a real bargain). By the way, the ongoing demand for original Playboy first issues is truly amazing and decent copies always seem to bring over two thousand dollars.
Lately there's been quite a few Reader's Digest first issues offered. There may be a publishing point on the index page on a repro and the quantity appearing is just too many for all them to be original (5000 printing run in 1922).

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Constitution in Magazines

There were four contemporary magazine printings of the Constitution of the United States. I have been fortunate to obtain them all. My favorite and perhaps the earliest, rarest and most valuable is from this issue of The New Haven Gazette and Connecticut Magazine. A fabulous front page appearance.

Two most important and widely circulated magazines in 1789 were the Columbian Magazine and Matthew Carey's American Museum. My copy of Columbian is in the very rare original wrappers. I obtained is from a fine Rhode Island antiquarian paper dealer, M & S Books, about twenty years ago for $5000. It seemed like a lot then but its rarity made it an imperative for my collection. As I've said, buy the best and you'll never go wrong and this is a great example. The American Museum issue is from a bound volume but, as all eigteenth century magazines, is quite difficult to come across.

The fourth Constitition issue is from Isaiah Thomas' Worcester Magazine. It would have been instead in Thomas' newspaper The Massachusetts Spy, but he suspended publishing it in favor of a magazine format to avoid the tax on the delivery of newspapers at the time. Apparantly, the one who laid out the magazine had some trouble fitting it in as can be seen by the reduced type size on the back page!

The Bill of Rights was never printed in a magazine at the time it was ratified. There are two collected newspaper appearances (in Gazette of the United States). An earlier draft of the Bill did appear in American Museum. When I found it in a bound volume I went back and found that I indeed had previously bought the issue in the original wrappers. A few thousand dollars of serendipity never hurts.

All of these magazines are quite expensive and I haven't seen one on the market for many years. With the possible exception of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts (founded by Isaiah Thomas and the greatest repository in the world of pre-centennial American paper) you won't find them in one place anywhere!

Since we're on the subject of the Constitution, here's another gem. It's the earliest periodical in my collection and mega-rare. John Peter Zenger had quite a lot to do with establishing freedom of the press in America.

Here is the second issue of his New York Weekly Journal, containing his first essay on the importance of the freedom of the press- a true milestone of American journalism. For me, it simply doesn't get better than this one.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Santa Claus in Magazines

Regardless of who wrote it, it is undisputed that "An Account of a Visit From Saint Nicholas" was first published in a newspaper The Troy Sentinal, in 1823 and is responsible for the way we view the number one resident of the north pole today. The first national appearance of this poem appeared in the rare first volume of Samuel Atkinson's Casket in 1826 published in Philadelphia. Atkinson also published the Saturday Evening Post, then a weekly newspaper with some literary content.

I've only run across this magazine on one occasion, at one of my favorite bookstores, DeWolfe and Wood, in Alfred, Maine twenty or so years ago while visiting my daughter at summer camp. In the days before the internet, it was great fun to visit as many old bookstores as possible to find untold treasures. Unfortunately, today it's just not worth the effort. Anyhow, here's the page I happened upon after perusing the volume I was so happy to obtain for a pittance of its true value (the volume also contains a rare and very early engraving of the White House).

From the standpoint of illustration, the earliest image of Santa I've found comes from the first issue of the 1841 Dollar Magazine. As you can see, the illustrator had undoubtedly read the poem. (though he got the holiday mixed up!)

The popular impression today is that the rotund, pipe-smoking appearance of St. Nick was first created by the renowned illustrator Thomas Nast in the widely circulated Harper's Weekly in 1863. Pictures usually don't lie. Take a look and see what you think.

No doubt Nast was a great and extremely important illustrator and political cartoonist, nor am I advocating that he plaigarized the image. Nast was, indeed, the father of political cartooning and is responsible for the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant (which also first appeared in Harper's Weekly) among many other iconic images.

The favorite Nast item in my collection is an obscure 1859 children's magazine Little Pig Monthly, almost completely illustrated by the 19 year old artist. This is a very rare and early example of the use of color on a magazine cover.

So that's the holiday magazine blog for today. Merry Chrstmas (Kwanzaa, Chanukah and Ramadan) to all - and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

a movie magazine ebook

Since my movie magazine bibliography has attracted so much attention, i've decided to give a little holiday present to the readers of this blog. Here is an e-book that I put together a few years ago using highlights from thirty years of collecting. Most of these images can be found nowhere else.

Season's greetings,

Periodically yours,

Steven Lomazow, M.D.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hugo Gernsback: Magazine Publisher Extraordinaire and the World's Greatest Futurist

One of the great pleasures of my thirty plus years of magazine collecting has been learning about many of the personalities associated with them. None is more fascinating than Hugo Gernsback. Among the dozens of magazines he published, the first was Modern Electrics, started in 1908 and considered to be the first magazine devoted to electronics. Aside from fine technical reports, it is also notable for the publication of Gernsback's futuristic novel Ralph 124C 41+, serialized over twelve issues in 1911-12. While the writing is crude and amateurish at best, the content is the most ingenious piece of literary futurism ever published. This is not hyperbole. Some successful predictions from this novel include television (the first mention anywhere) remote-control power transmission, televised phone calls, transcontinental air service, practical solar energy (the cover of this one is just about what we predict for the future in 2008!), sound movies, synthetic foods, voice printing, synthetic fabrics and even the first description of radar, complete with a diagram!
Over the years, I've been fortunate to put together a complete run of all the "Ralph" issues, each of which features a cover illustration from the story. Here they are. I think you will be as impressed by them now as I was when I first saw them.

Later, Gernsback went on to coin the term "scientific fiction". The first issue of any magazine devoted to the genre is this 1923 issue of Gernsback's Science and Invention and the first magazine devoted wholly to the genre, Amazing Stories (here the first issue) was founded and published by Gernsback in 1926. It is a fitting tribute to this genious of futurism and publishing pioneer that today's awards for science fiction writing are known as "Hugos".

From a collector's standpoint, individual "Ralph" issues of Modern Electrics bring about a hundred dollars each in good condition if you are fortunate enough to find one. A run will take many years to put together. The first Amazing is less rare and sells for $500 and up depending on condition. The Sci-fi first usually brings about $300.

Great Magazine Women: Chapter Three: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was a prominent American novelist, writer of short stories, poetry and non-fiction and a lecturer for social reform. She was a utopian feminist during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women, and she served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper", which she wrote after a severe bout of post-partum depression. This rebellion against the standard method of treatment at the time, the "rest cure" of Doctor Silas Weir Mitchell forever changed the way women were looked upon and treated. This story first appeared in the May 1892 issue of New England Magazine. Here is an image of the quite rare copy I recently obtained (its importance unbeknownst to the seller) in the original wrappers for a fraction of its value.

Perkins went on to edit and publish the important feminist journal The Forerunner. The following is fron the Literary Encyclopedia:

"In print from 1909 to 1916, The Forerunner was self-published by Charlotte Perkins Gilman after American author and editor Theodore Dreiser advised her to “consider more what the editors want” since her social reform writing did not appeal to the masses. Rejecting Dreiser's advice, Gilman instead decided to write what she pleased by publishing her own twenty-eight-page monthly magazine. Written entirely by Gilman, The Forerunner sold for ten cents an issue or a dollar a year and featured short fiction, serialized novels, essays, articles, book reviews, and poems. At its apex, The Forerunner had nearly 1,500 subscribers from all of the United States and from Europe, India, and Australia. The cost of publishing The Forerunner, however, became prohibitive, and the magazine was discontinued at the end of 1916."
The Forerunner has recently been reprinted and these copies are available on eBay. Here is my original copy.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of the ten leading feminists of the twentieth century, largely due to the work she published in magazines.

Great Magazine Women: Chapter Two: Emma Goldman

The paragraph below comes direcrly from the PBS "American Experience" website. The importance and impact of this wonderful anarchist magazine is self-evident- I obtained this issue a few years ago from a book scout who knew of my interest in rare magazine. I have never seen another copy of the first issue (apparantly nor had PBS). A publishing milestone of a great woman unafraid to back down from her principles.

The first issue of Mother Earth, with a print run of 3000 copies, hit newsstands in March 1906. For a dime, readers got a showcase of anarchist and radical writings on current events, as well as poetry and fiction. Editor Emma Goldman kept the monthly in circulation until August 1917, despite conflicts with the U.S. Postal Service and law enforcement authorities who found its content "treasonable." Goldman's circle of friends and associates -- especially Alexander Berkman, a professional typesetter -- helped shape each issue at meetings in Goldman's apartment. "My room was the living-room, dining room, and Mother Earth office, all in one," she said. By 1918, in a repressive wartime environment federal authorities had seized lists naming over 8,000 subscribers to Mother Earth, targeting them for investigation.

I've added a few other images of "radical" magazines of that era from my collection- The Masses issue is one of three I own that was banned by the Post Office for its radical content. The Liberator was a monthly magazine established by Max Eastman and his sister Crystal Eastman in 1918 to continue the work of Masses, after it was shut down by the wartime mailing regulations of the american government. It combined astute radical political coverage of events of the day, fine art, poetry, and some of the best left-wing political cartoons in the history of American journalism. Take a look at the list of contributors to Comrade. You'll find an interesting "radical" there, probably best remembered for his adventure story about a dog of the frozen north (which, incidentally,first appeared as a serialization in a decididly unradical magazine, The Saturday Evening Post in 1903).


Other excellent examples of how magazines reflected the cutting edge and controversies of the culture of their time and the joy of magazine collecting.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Successful Literary Dinner- Lippincott's Magazine, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde

Many major literary works have had their genesis in magazines. Among the most important occurred by virtue of a literary dinner at the Langham Hotel in London in late Summer 1889 between a literary agent, J.M. Stoddart, representing the editors of Lippincott's Magazine, and the esteemed authors, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde.

The young writers engaged in mutual flattery. They also discussed such topics as future wars and what Doyle later called ''the cynical maxim that the good fortune of our friends made us discontented.'' By the end of the meal Stoddart had accomplished what he had traveled all the way from Philadelphia for: commitments from Doyle and Wilde that each would write a short novel for Lippincott's. As a result, Wilde produced ''The Picture of Dorian Gray'' and Doyle the second appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, in ''The Sign of Four.''
These appearances are probably the true first editions and since they were published in their entirety are quite valuable and highly sought. One dealer currently lists the Wilde issue for sale at $12,500. The Doyle issue is even more highly sought.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Earliest and Rarest Illustrated News Magazine and Principles of Collecting

Most collectors equate the "illustrated news magazine" (news publications illustrated with engravings, published in the last half of the 19th century) with Harper's Weekly, begun in 1857 or the rarer Leslies Illustrated Weekly which started in 1855. Prior to this there were a few others such as Gleason's, and Illustrated News (founded in 1853 by none other than P.T. Barnum). The first one, though, started in the boom town of San Francisco on September 1, 1850, The Illustrated California News. It lasted a mere six issues and contains unique and important images of early California life. There are two complete sets of these known to exist. I am fortunate to own own one individual issue, which I bought some years back from my friend Richard West of Periodyssey. This was the only copy he had ever handled and Richard sees more rare American magazines than anyone. When I heard of the the existence of a complete set of these in late 2007 I ponied up more than I had ever spent on a magazine purchase before, $15,000. Though times are a little harder at present, I'm still quite happy I took the plunge. It's too early to speculate whether or not the economy is affecting prices of these collectables and but I think it's safe to say these wont drop in price to the same degree as the stock market.

I guess this is a pretty good segue into an important collecting philosophy. If you buy the best and rarest you will rarely go wrong (look at the price of the famous one cent British Guiana stamp or the Honus Wagner T206 card, for example). The problem with many unsophisticated collectors is that they begin by hoarding everything in sight and before too long are inundated with mountains of inexpensive material that they eventually wish they hadn't bought in the first place that rarely is worth as much as they paid for it. Every collector will tell you regretful stories of "the one that got away".

Principle number two. Collect because you enjoy it. Never buy things with resale in mind. Good and truly rare items will always appreciate. When a dealer tells you a piece is "a good investment" run in the other direction. Caveat emptor!

Three. Do your homework. In collecting, knowledge is power. Scour any reference you can find in your chosen field. Dealers often know less about what they are selling than an astute collector. An EBay addict as I am, a day doesn't go by that I don't see some item that is either misrepresented or underdescribed.

Now go out and have some fun. Isn't that what collecting is all about? Thanks for reading!