Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rare Humor Magazines, Richard Outcault (Buster Brown,Yellow Kid) Rose O'Neill

This post may seem to be a little rambling but it actually all ties together quite nicely. After years of study, things that previously seem random begin to come into focus. I think you'll get the drift.
The idea began when I received this magazine after purchasing it on ebay for $13.50.

It went relatively unnoticed but I immediately recognized it as an exquisitely rare magazine, obviously related to a run of another, The Foolish Book, that I was fortunate to obtain in the late 90's at the rare room of the fabulous Strand Bookstore on the corner of Broadway and 12th Street in Manhattan on one of my countless rounds of book hunting in Gotham City.
The run I obtained, is most probably the only one on the planet, consisting of 21 issues between June 1903 and January 1905. The incredibly well-researched and valuable reference by David Sloane on American humor periodicals, published by Greenwood Press (hard to find and highly recommended) is, by far, the best reference on the subject:

and even Professor Sloane had not located any more than 2 issues. This appears to be a complete run and it contains illustrations by the likes of R.F. Outcault and Rose O'Neill (also as Rose O'Neill Latham) most remembered for the Kewpies and the famous dolls modeled after them. The highly collected Kewpies were featured for many years in the widely circulated Ladies' Home Journal.
The Foolish Book covers featured entertainer Ida Melville, in her vaudeville character of Sis Hopkins' sister and she later allegedly edited the magazine.

Sis Hopkins had here own magazine, also extremely rare, a Judge spinoff begun in 1899.

Since Just Fun and Foolish Book began at the same time and were both published by Arkell Publications, I suspected that they employed the same illustrators and, to my glee, I found this to be the case. Here are two examples that most probably have never been reproduced before, there's not even a whiff of either of these magazines on the web or in Union List of Serials.

The Outcault illustration is reminicent of those seen in another rare humor periodical Truth, from the 1890's, featuring one of Outcaults's most notable creations, The Yellow Kid, here the first appearance

and here the first issue that I obtained in the 1980's from a catalog of the State Street Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan for $85 that led to the acquistion of a collection that is the cornerstone of my present holdings.

for those interested the Kid, it would be hard to improve on Richard Olson's great website at

The other important Outcault creation was Buster Brown, who I first came to know in the early 1950's (eek!) by virtue of the sponsorship the childrens' program Andy's Gang, featuring Andy Devine (who also played "Jingles" to Guy Madison's Wild Bill Hickok). For some crazy reason I still remember quite vividly the comic Billy Gilbert and "plunk your magic twanger" Froggy the Gremlin from that program.
Getting back to Buster, he also had his own magazine, a promotional effort for Buster Brown Stockings. A 2007 Hakes auction had a copy of that sold for a little over $300 that they allege was the first issue.

In fact it is not, though it is dated January 1906

my copy came with the original mailing envelope!

I've since located an issue for July 1906

and one that is probably earlier, considering the cover image is identical to that of the mailing envelope of the January 1906 issue.

All of this information by the way, will be found nowhere else, since even Sloane doesn't list this title.

Well. I told you that this would ramble, but at least you can appreciate a little better my crazy thought process a little better and hopefully this unique information will be valuable to future historians! Its sure a great way to spend three hours on the day before christmas.

In that light, I bid ye farewell with the original magazine appearance of a christmas classic, from volume one of The Casket from 1826.

and a Santa image from the first issue of Dollar Magazine from 1841

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fortune, Volume 1 Number 0

As has happened recently with increasing frequency, the idea for this post came from a reader with a question.

In this case, I had a comment that I had omitted Fortune from my flurry of first issues and that also that she had a substantial run, beginning with the first issue, that she would like to part with. I advised her that the cigar band issue and the Disney issues bring the most money and that, if she would make the effort, she'd do best by listing the magazines individually on ebay.

Since this blog is not a retail site, nor do I accept advertising, I will not post her name though I'd be happy to put interested parties directly in contact with her.
That being said, I remembered that I had an issue she didn't- the "dummy" issue, Volume One Number Zero from September 1929 and that it also contained separately within, a two page letter from the publisher, essentially a prospectus. The light bulb then went off in my head that this would be an excellent post so- here it is.

The notion of publishing a magazine with a price of one dollar at the outset of the depression seemed incongruous. While the market crashed in October, between the mock-up of the dummy and the January 1930 first issue, it still seems somewhat of a risky venture, since the bulk of the populace that could afford such a hefty price tag were seriously contemplating suicide at the time. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and Mr. Luce got away with it!

So here is the magazine, half of which is blank inside, as I said, a mock-up "dummy" issue. I've also included the letter. Pardon the quality of the cover image, It is a large magazine that does not fit into my scanner so I took it with a digital camera.
A very interesting piece of magazine history indeed. A guess of today's value is about $300,
though one has not come up for sale for quite some time.
Before I forget, my article preceding our new book on Franklin D. Roosevelt has just appeared, through the courtesy of editor Rick Shenkman on . You might want to have a peek at my other historical obsession. . Quite frankly, my greatest goal in writing the book is to, once and for all, get out the long sequestered truth about the man that will afford historians a better ability to interpret his true place in history. Perhaps the "smoking gun" that has been sought for the last forty years will finally come to light. This should be a very exciting few months

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowy Day Eye Candy- First Issues

Were about to be hit by the first blizzard of the season so it gives me time to put together a post.

When I started collecting magazines nearly forty years ago, my goal was to get the first issue of every major American magazine ever published, especially ones that you find on your newsstand today. Spending a ridiculous but highly enjoyable amount of time towards accomplishing that task, I've been fairly successful and I'm kinda proud of what I have put together. Some people or institutions might be close but I'd dare say you won't find this assemblage anywhere else on the planet. So, by the miracle of the modern hard drive, I am bringing a hearty sampling to you today.

They are assembled in a relatively random fashion with some loose underlying method to my madness that I think you'll appreciate. All are not necessarily volume one number one but most are. All are the first circulated issue of the magazine. Some are common, others exquisitely rare.

The grandaddy of them all is actually a journal but since it has been continually published since 1818, its worth including.

The Queen is actually the first issue of what became McCalls (R.I.P).

I've been admittedly a little lazy about those that began in the last few years. I have most of them but haven't scanned them to include. If there's any particular first issue you don't see, drop me a line and I will send you a digital image as a holiday present.

I hope you enjoy the picture show as much as I enjoyed putting it together and waxing nostalgic about all the time I spent amassing this irreplaceable and unique panoply of popular American culture.

Which of these magazines do you think has the highest present day circulation? You'll be quite surprised and it really isn't even close. Hint: the target audience might be more apt to read it in hardcopy than online.

Happy Holidays!

Answer to quiz: Modern Maturity- present circulation a whopping 24 million!