Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Illustrated California News. Illustrated Newspapers

I am often asked what is the most I've ever spent on any individual item. The answer is that in 2007 I purchased a complete run of The Illustrated California News (ICN) for $15,000.
As you can see it is a great rarity, only two holdings are listed in the Union List of Serials.
I owned one issue previously (and still do) , which I bought from Periodyssey but the opportunity to obtain a complete file of six issues was too hard to resist. As the first of its genre it represents a key title to obtain.
It is remarkable that America's first illustrated newspaper (IN) began in the brand new state of California, spurred no doubt, as many other commercial ventures, out of the boom of the gold rush. This magazine then gives me an opportunity to discuss the entire genre and, of course, show off some of the highlights of my collection.

The first publication to use the term "illustrated news" was the British London Illustrated News in 1842.

Here's one of the great illustrations from ICN.
and a nice discussion of illustrated newspapers, and in particular Gleason's and Ballou's, commonly encountered titles from the 1850's.
The most commonly encountered IN's are Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, the latter being somewhat less common and, in some cases, having more graphic images.
Here, for instance, is the issue following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
The issues depicting early baseball are particularly valuable. Harper's Weekly's claim to fame are the illustrations of Winslow Homer ("Snap the Whip" the most valuable) and Thomas Nast, the creator of the Republican elephant, Democratic donkey and Tammany tiger, as well as the modern image of Santa Claus.
Successful magazines invariably produce clones. Here is a rare title, Kelley's Weekly, that bears a strong resemblence in format to Harper's Weekly. Interestingly, this issue contains an original contribution by Mark Twain, the earliest of any part, containing unique illustrations, of what became "Innocent's Abroad".
Some early and rare examples of IN's. Illustrated News was published by none other than the irrepressible showman P.T Barnum.

There were even titles published in German.
The format also was used for specialty magazines as well.

and, of course, the Confederates (after all these magazines are American, albeit of the secessionist variety) were soon to publish an IR of their own, having less pages due to a lack of raw materials. These issues are obviously quite rare, the earliest and latest even moreso.

After California, many cities (some relatively small) had their own titles. The Chicago title is quite rare as is, obviously, the one from Sioux Falls. Note the image of the great Walt Whitman, just one of the many benefits of collecting periodicals.
So, you see, there really is a method to my madness!
Periodically yours,


The First Oil Magazine

In an effort to stay topical, with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominating the news, I thought I'd chime in with some related magazines.
I obtained this one in a large collection of number one issues many years ago. To my knowledge it is the earliest oil related magazine published in America and the only one known to exist. As you can see, the American oil boom started in Pennsylvania.

Here are few other oil related magazines in my collection:

Hopefully, a twenty-first century American genius can figure out how to solve the problem!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

LIFE Magazine Rare Editions

Since LIFE is the pre-eminent magazine of photo journalism and was a staple of my childhood, I've always been on the lookout for special issues to collect. Six times, the magazine was sent to press and either a better cover story or, in one case, a better photo of the same cover story came to light, resulting in two different magazines with the same cover date.
Of course, the most famous and highly collected is the Roger Staubach cover for November 29, 1963 that was pulled for a JFK memorial edition.
This is by far the rarest of the bunch. The story goes that the vast majority of the issues were destroyed but a few dozen perhaps were saved as souvenirs by the editorial staff. The magazine was never circulated and sells for around $1000 when it rarelt shows up on eBay. A few years ago I got a call from Staubach's agent who asked if I had any extra copies so that each of the QB's children could have one. I've since acquired one other copy.
The first time this happened was for the October 29, 1956 issue when Anne Boleyn was axed (again!) for a photo of a rescue at sea. This magazine, as all the others beside Staubach, had a limited distribution prior to being pulled. Most issues have west coast mailing labels, suggesting that they were send out first so that readers throughout the country would get their issues simultaneously. The rarer editions, scarce but obtainable, sell between $20 and $50.

February 3, 1967, the Bahamas rolled snake-eyes due to the tragic death of the Apollo 1 Astronauts.
June 30th 1967, a stark photo of the Soviet leader was replaced by one including LBJ.
April 12, 1968, a kinescope photo of the important story reporting LBJ's decision not to run for re-election was pulled for the even more important nightmare of Martin Luther King's assassination.

and finally, on November 8, 1968, an photo of an Orangutan was switched to a dramatic photo of a one-legged Vietnamese child.

There are other rare regular issues. The European edition produced some collectible covers, most notably the one featuring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in a scene from "The Prince and the Schoolgirl" (rare, $200 or so)

A interesting 1962 newsstand edition was circulated locally to keep New York City reader apprised of the current events during a newspaper strike. (Oh, how times have changed, can you even think of a newspaper strike today?)

Two special 1969 issues are highly collected. The Woodstock issue usually sells for $50-$100.

And then there are a few oddballs I have gotten over the years.
A 1940 edition in conjuction with a fund raising event

A 1940's advertising vehicle (advertising vehicles!)

and a curious edition with a different cover and a few extra inside pages included for Kodak.

So. "asi es la vida", "c'est la vie" and as Frank Sinatra so ably belted out "That's Life" !

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Marx Brothers Collection. Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo and Gummo.

This is the result of thirty years of voracious collecting, greatly enabled by the recent acquisition of a large bed (12x17) scanner!

You will find documentation and illustration of virtually every piece of sheet music associated with America's most celebrated musical comedy team. A labor of love that I am finally able to share with you.

A few minor items are in other collections and as I get images, I will modify the document. I would be most appreciative of any additional information/corrections that readers would like to offer.

With sincere pleasure:


Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne 1917-2010. African American Magazines

The death yesterday of the great songstress Lena Horne reminded me of a rare magazine I acquired a few years ago, the first issue, April 1946, of the African-American general interest monthly Our World.
The word "Our" in the title of magazines issues in the forties and fifties almost always was used for those of interest to the African-American community. All of these magazines (all first issues pictured) were of low circulation and most often were not saved. Some are exceedingly scarce like this one:

Others are rare but show up on occasion like these:
Even the iconic magazines of the Johnson publishing empire, Jet, Ebony and Negro Digest are by no means abundant.

The "separate but equal" dictum spurred an entire spectrum of specialty magazines, equivalent (and sometimes quite so in design as well) to Time or Life. The sports equivalent is pictured above, edited by Jackie Robinson. Even individual issues of many titles in this genre are very hard to find.

The ninety-two years of Lena Horne's life encompassed an era of remarkable change- from Jim Crow to the White House, from apartheid to Nelson Mandela. We've come a long way but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
One of the favorites in my collection is this exquisitely rare first issue featuring the multi-talented and often wrongly persecuted Paul Robeson. Had he been born thirty years later and not encountered the "stormy weather" that Ms. Horne sang of, his star would shine far brighter than it does today.