Friday, July 25, 2008

The first map of Washington and the first image of the White House

I have a dozen or so european magazines in my collection and those almost always contain important americana. The earliest printed image of the "president's house" was published in a British ladie's magazine in 1814, reporting the success of their troops in destroying it. All remnants of the fire were removed when the house was gutted and rebuilt during the Truman administration. An 1833 American image also show, when a good portion of present day Washington was still a mosquito infested swamp.

L'Enfant's first map of Washington, engraved by Thackara and Vallance, was originally published in Columbian Magazine and Universal Asylum in October 1792. It is usually found in a folded state extracted from the original magazine. Here is a wonderful image of the one I found in a print shop in Washington in the original state with deckled edges. The watermark of the paper is identical to those taken from magazines. I had an I eye on it for some time and bought it for $5000 the day after an extracted magazine copy sold at auction in New York for $12,000.

the first oil periodical?

The american petroleum industry began in earnest in 1859 when Edwin L. Drake deliberately drilled for and found oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania. (see the excellent timelime at A number of years ago I came across this magazine and have never seen an earlier title devoted to petroleum. The Union List of Serials shows partial holdings at New York Public Library, American Antiquarian Society and a complete file at the Connecticut State Library. The first issue, in original wrappers replete with advertising, is illustrated for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Norman Rockwell

Norman Perceval Rockwell was arguably America's greatest commercial illustrator. From his first job in 1913 as art editor of Boy's Life Rockwell's work graced the covers of over 600 magazines, 321 of which were part of the most fabled association of an illustrator and a magazine, The Saturday Evening Post (which, by the way had nothing to do with Benjamin Franklin as long alleged by the publishers). In May 1916, the 22 year old Rockwell boldly strode into the office of George Horace Lorimer, the Post's art editor with a large case full of paintings. At the time, the cover of the Post was the pinnacle of American illustration. The rest is history.

The subject of this cover was Billy Paine (drawn three times for you more observant visitors), one of Rockwell's favorite models until his umtimely death only a few years later. The original oil of this and most of Rockwell's great original illustrations can be seen at The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. well worth a visit if you are in the Berkshires and a place where I've enjoyed many wonderful days.
Collecting Rockwell magazine covers and appearances has been a popular hobby since the 1970's. There are many websites devoted to his work.
In the 1980's I traded my Rockwell collection to the museum for an original drawing (which I gave back to them a few years later for a pittance of a tax deduction!) and it still forms the foundation of the reference collection there. The catalog raisonee compiled by museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt is highly recommended reading and, far and away, the best refernce work on Rockwell. I still enjoy finding and keeping the rarest of the covers in my collection. Here are a few of the most coveted.
This "rara avis " was the corporate magazine of Firestone Rubber.

This one is actually quite amazing and testimony to the rarity of certain magazines. Popular Magazine was a widely circulated pulp but over the years I've only seen one copy of this wartime issue (found at a pulp convention for one dollar) and, believe you me, I've seen a lot of magazines in my time!
This one is also extremely rare. It was a sunday newspaper supplement and only rumored to exist until it unexpectedly showed up a few years ago at a paper show. Ain't collecting great?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

obama and satire?

The latest issue of Harold Ross' venerable New Yorker has re-ignited the age old controversy of the value and appropriateness of magazine satire. Supporters of the cartoon plead that it is fair game, appropriate and that its intention has been misunderstood. Detractors have a more jaded view and feel personally affronted.

The purpose of this blog is not to advance the opinions of the author but to use history as an example to form opinions. Hence, lets take a lesson from the past.

Since the earlist issues of John Peter Zenger's New York Weekly Journal in 1733, the freedom of the press has been a matter of great debate and contention. The first "humor" magazine was the satirical Bee, published by Anthony Armbruster under the pseudonym William Honeycomb in 1765. It was banned for its criticism of the government.

Political cartoons were important in acheiving independence. None other that Paul Revere engraved this one for Royal American Magazine in 1774.

Even another Illinois politician was not immune to scathing satire in 1864.

Other presidents and candidates not been spared either. In the past, magazines have been closely allied with political parties.

Even Ross himself was parodied by his own staff in this extremely rare satire published for him shortly after the magazine came into existence.

and, finally, lets go to the original prospectus to see what Mr. ross had in mind and get some insight into what he might have thought about the recent events.
Now you have some more facts to form your own opinion!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Television (2)

The first digest-sized issue was Chicago's Television Forecast.

A number of local TV weeklies now known as "pre-nationals" appeared shortly afterwards, the most successful being New York's Television Guide, later TV Guide, the first use of the now familiar name. The first issue (below) is available only in reproduction. I've never seen an original and and led to believe that the one used to make the repro was destroyed.

Here are two of the most collectible of this title, each worth about $500.

In Philadelphia, Walter Annenberg started Local Televisor, later TV Digest.

Among the rarest pre-nationals is Image, published in Los Angeles. Here is the first issue. Did you know that the earlier version of Life of Riley featured Jackie Gleason? Here he is with William Bendix, star of the long-running popular TV version.

In 1953, Annenberg merged New York's TV Guide, Philadelphia's TV Digest and Chicago's TV Forecast into the phenomenally successful national TV Guide, long the most highly circulated magazine in America. The iconic first issue features the immensely popular, to this day, Lucille Ball and with her then husband, Desi Arnaz, the creators of the groundbreaking "I Love Lucy".

All issues of the national TV Guide are readily available. The first one usually sells for about $300 on Ebay.

As always, magazines document the origins and development of American popular culture, providing a wealth of unique and valuable information. Television is a great example.

Television Magazines

The origins and development of TV can be easily documented in magazines. I have enjoyed collecting these hard to find and previously undocumented issues over the years. Here are some of the highlights:

The word "television" was coined by the remarkable futurist Hugo Gernsback. (for a nice review of his publications and many images see The first image I have found of anything resembling the present day television is included in his legendary story "Ralph 124C 41+" which was serialized over twelve issues in 1911 in the first ever magazine devoted to electronics, Modern Electrics, edited and created by- you guessed it- Hugo Gernsback. Over the years I've managed to assemble the complete "Ralph" run. It is quite rare and I'd estimate the value of a complete set to be about $2000, if one was lucky enough to find all the issues. Here are the very first issue of the magazine and the telephot cover:

Gernsback subsequently edited dozens of magazines, mostly technical and science-fiction (another term he coined) related but that's a blog for another day.

In the twenties a few issues of other Gernsback magazines had covers with different early television images:

The first magazine devoted exclusively to television appeared in 1927, lasting two issues. These were the days of the rotating disk, prior to the invention of the modern video tube by Philo T. Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin.

Another magazine devoted to television appeared in 1928, also printed in Britain.

This 1931 magazine one really threw me for a loop: I've only seen it once and it probably ran for three issues: It features the first published list of commercial television stations. I don't use the term "rare" lightly. This one is extremely rare and possibly the only copy in existence.

In 1931, a longer running Gernback publication, Television News appeared.

By 1939, television had come a long way technically and was one of the major features of the World's Fair in New York. It was ready for widespread commericial distribution but World War II put that on hold.

In the mid 1940's television manufacturers send out programming schedules by mail. The first weekly programming magazine appeared on January 26, 1948 (two day's after I was born!), Phillipp's Television Weekly, which evolved into Tele-Week. Here is the scarce first and a later issue:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

James Joyce's Ulysses: A banned literary masterpiece

Magazines have always been used as vehicles different political causes, opinions and cutting edge literature. That's one reason why they are so fascinating to collect. Many that were outside the mainstream were banned. Here's a great example of one of them:

Yes. James Joyce's literary masterpiece "Ulysses", initially published serially in magazines before it was published as a book, was indeed banned as pornographic by The Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1919.

Joyce was prevailed upon by his friend Ezra Pound to first publish it, in parts, in the literary journal of another friend, Margaret Anderson, The Little Review, (pictured above). After 14 of the 18 parts were published, the censors caught up with it and Margaret Anderson, the magazines publisher, was brought to trial. Individual issues of The Little Review from this era are very fragile due to the poor paper quality, a reflection of the financial tribulations of the publisher.

It was not until 1922 that it was published again in book form, in Paris by Sylvia Beach, and not until 1933 that the first American book edition appeared, although a controverial 1925 pirated printing appeared in Samuel Roth's Two Worlds. See link here of the University of Buffalo Joyce collection (which rather amazingly does not mention the earliest printing) for additional bibliographic information

A complete set of the "Ulysses" issues, the true first appearance, sells for only a fraction of the later and more common first book edition. I still don't quite understand why.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Rare and Unusual Disney Magazine, etc.

Burbank, California; Vol 1. No. 1: 1943
Pictorial wrappers; 5 1/2 x 8

"Dispatch from Disney" was published by Walt Disney Studios for its employees in the services during WWII. It contains many original illustrations, articles about the studio and its war efforts and an incredible laid in "pin-up" poster of nudes drawn in cartoon. This page also contains the names, addresses and ranks of all Disney employees in the armed services on the reverse. The cover depicts Donald Duck throwing a tomato in Adolf Hitler's face (alluding to the academy-award winning cartoon "Der Feuhrer's Face"

suppressed due to it's wartime inspired politically incorrect, anti-german, italian and japanese images). A wonderful, patriotic and graphic documentation of the home effort, a rare and highly unusual piece of Disneyana and another great and rare piece of magazine americana. This is the only copy of this magazine I've seen in thirty years. An estimated value is about 1000 dollars.

Another great non-Disney WWII era parody magazine is Der Gag Bag, a rabidly anti-nazi satire published by Anthony Publishing in 1939, two years prior to Pearl Harbor.
This is vol 1 no.1. I've never seen a later issue. (back cover image on right)

Other Disney collectibles include two incarnations of Mickey Mouse Magazine (1933, 1935), the first of which was an advertising vehicle for local dairies;

Coo Coo (1932), a very rare magazine edited by Carl Barks (be careful about reproductions of this one), the originator of Donald Duck;

and Mickey Mouse Club Magazine (Winter 1956). Remember Karen and Cubby?

On a more serious note, take a look at this very rare and fragile 1933! magazine, New York Life, I found at a paper show a few years ago. Perhaps if more people read it and had the good sense to appreciate its content, millions of lives could have been saved.