Monday, June 16, 2014

Wings Winfair and Gulf Funny Weekly

[1] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 224, August 6, 1937
THE MAN who started the comic book business wishes now he hadn’t. Harry I. Wildenberg, now a Tampa cigar manufacturer, deplored the trend of the sensational and crime stories in the so called comic books of today. “I think they are pretty awful,” Wildenberg said, “They leave no residue of worthwhile knowledge with the young reader. The adult that reads them is beyond saving.” — ‘Wishes He Had Not Started Comic Books,’ in Daytona Beach Morning Journal, April 21, 1950
by John Adcock

WILLIAM J. PAPE, born in Liverpool, England, lived the Horatio Alger story of rising from rags to riches. He went from a $3 a week cub-reporter job on the Passaic Daily News to wealthy publisher of the Waterbury Republican-American (1901). He was also the owner and president — George G. Janosik may have been president in 1933 — of Eastern Color Printing Co., of Waterbury (Conn.) and New York, which printed the color comic supplements for Sunday newspapers in the 1920s.

IN 1929. Eastern Color printed the first newsstand comic books in the United States, in color, in the year 1929.

[2] The Funnies, No. 1, January 1929. The first comic book.

DELL PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC. – George T. Delacorte Jr.’s business – began publishing comic books in 1929. The earliest was The Funnies (subtitle: “Flying – Sports – Adventure”), a dime weekly which carried original art and stories rather than newspaper comic reprints. Printing was done by Eastern Color. It ran from January 16, 1929, to October 16, 1930, a total of 36 issues. Each issue had 16 pages of four color material printed on newsprint. It consisted of comics, stories and columns. The first issue cover featured the beginning of a comic series called Frosty Ayre by Arch (Joe Archibald).

[3] George T. Delacorte Jr. – his signature and passport photo from April 1924
GEORGE T. DELACORTE JR. was born in New York City on June 20, 1893. After graduating from Columbia University in 1913 he went to work for a small publishing company. He founded Dell Publishing Co. in 1921 with an initial investment of $10,000, concentrating on pulp magazines, comic books, and, after the war, paperback books. The humor magazine Ballyhoo made his fortune. He had two wives, two sons and three daughters, and died May 4, 1991, at his home in Manhattan, probably aged 97.

THE FIRST COMIC BOOK. Despite its resemblance to a newspaper comic section I accept The Funnies as the first American comic book and the first to be distributed through newsstands. I am ignoring Victorian predecessors and Cupples & Leon books which I consider a completely different animal to the twentieth-century comic book. It baffles me that comic historians  accepted The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (1842) as a comic book and for a long time did not extend the same courtesy to The Funnies (1929).

‘THE FUNNIES’ was not an anomaly; it was the beginning of our modern comic book industry. George T. Delacorte Jr. was the parent of the comic book and Eastern Color its midwife.

[4] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 274, July 22, 1938

COMIC BOOK TRADEMARK. If you’ve ever wondered where the 20th-century term ‘comic book’ originated I can tell you it originated with Eastern Color which first described them in May 1934 in Patent Office records as 
“Comic Booklets Consisting of Comics, Comic Strips, Puzzles, Tricks of Magic, Etc., Published in a Series.”
The first mention of ‘comic booklets’ by Eastern Color was on May 1, 1934, listed under Trademark Applicants. Note how well Delacorte’s The Funnies fits with this initial definition. Progress was short-lived though and the printing of comics independent of newspapers came to a halt — for a while.

[5] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 223, July 30, 1937
THREE YEARS HENCE, Eastern Color’s sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg approached the Gulf Refining Company to produce a weekly giveaway, titled Gulf Comic Weekly. The Library of Congress Catalog of Copyright Entries gives the date of the first issue as April 28, 1933. The title changed to Gulf Funny Weekly with No. 5, May 26, 1933. The premium comic was produced until May 23, 1941, ending at 422 issues.

EASTERN COLOR’S FOUR-COLOR PRESSES were already geared for processing tabloid size Sunday comic pages, and Gulf Funny Weekly was printed the same size, on both sides, and folded to make four pages. The size was 10.5  by 15 inches. By May 14, 1938, Gulf advertised in the Joplin Globe that via the corporation’s service stations and dealers their Gulf Funny Weekly had “a weekly circulation of 2,700,000.”

[6] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 205, March 26, 1937
IN ADVERTISING. Harry I. Wildenberg had a long history. He had worked for the Larkin Company in Buffalo, the National Cloak and Suit Company, and the mail order catalogue house of Sears, Roebuck & Co., and in 1913 opened an office in New York for the purpose of developing mail-order accounts. In 1916 Wildenberg was appointed advertising manager at the Daniel Hayes Company, land merchant, of Rock Island, Illinois. Previous to that he had been advertising manager of the Nicholas-Finn Advertising Company of Chicago.

[7] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 229, September 10, 1937
In September 1918 he was advertising manager of Scott and Scott Inc. in New York. His wife at this time was Lottie Wildenberg. Documents from 1920 show he had two daughters, Ruth and Judith. In 1928 he was with the Prudential Sales Promotion Company, Inc. of Manhattan, New York. Census shows a second wife in 1946 by the name of Joyce Bittner Wildenberg.
Wildenberg said that in 1933 he hit on the scheme of putting old colored comics between covers and selling them to newsstands. At that time he was sales manager for a New York Publishing concern that printed these comics, which were mostly plain funnies. At first he was laughed at, but then he persuaded a soap company to buy them for distribution as premiums for so many soap wrappers. In 1934 they caught on with the newsstands. — ‘Wishes He Had Not Started Comic Books,’ in Daytona Beach Morning Journal, April 21, 1950
[8] Advertising Principles, 1937
WRITER-ARTIST STAN SCHENDEL, an advertising man too, was the editor of Gulf Funny Weekly but it’s not known which advertising agency he worked for. Eastern Color or Gulf may have had an in-house advertising department to produce the comics. In 1936 he was still drawing cartoons advertisements for Gulf. Later, in 1950, Schendel left the copy department of Federal Advertising Inc. for Kudner Agency Inc., both in New York. For Gulf, Stan Schendel wrote and signed a humor comic titled The Uncovered Wagon while Vic Tor contributed Curly and the Kids. ‘Vic Tor’ may have been a pseudonym of Schendel’s. The last page usually featured text columns and a large Gulf advertisement.

[9] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 240, pp.2-3, November 26, 1937
STANLEY V. SCHENDEL (the V. may have been for Victor after his paternal grandfather) was born in Manhattan, New York, on August 5, 1901, and died in July 1972 at Greenwood Lake, Orange, New York. His father Simon Schendel was a manufacturer of cigars, married to Rosa (or possibly Rose) L. Fuchs. Stanley had an older sister named Sarah E. Schendel. Somewhere, maybe in the Spanish-American War, Simon had picked up a ‘Major’ title before his name. Stanley Schendel married Louise Amelie Lissauer August 25, 1924, in New York and had three children, all girls; Lucy, Betsy and Nancy. His father-in-law was a well-off New York jeweler, Jerome M. Lissauer.

[10] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 318
‘WINGS WINFAIR’ was originally credited to Stan Schendel (writer) and the unknown artist Lyndell (although we notice both contain the letters ‘del’). Fred Meagher began drawing Wings Winfair with No. 232 in 1937 and continued until the comic’s 1941 demise. Meagher also did occasional pencils for the educational feature This Wonderful World as did Lyndell. In 1940 Meagher, still working on Gulf Funny Weekly, took on additional work with the Ralston-Purina Tom Mix promotional comic booklets (1941-42). I have already looked previously into his background – HERE. (Update: Lyndell has been identified as Arthur H. Lindberg by his granddaughter.)

[11] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 411
FUNNIES ON PARADE. May 1933’s Funnies on Parade, printed by Eastern Color Printing Co. did not resemble today’s comic book, it was a booklet similar to the newspaper comic supplement, with 8 (correction: 32) pages of reprinted newspaper material. Harry I. Wildenberg appears to have had the initial inspiration for proposing the title to Proctor and Gamble who mailed out Funnies on Parade as a premium item. It consisted of 32 pages of previously published Sunday pages of Mutt and Jeff, Hairbreadth Harry, Joe Palooka and others.

[12] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 233, page 4
MAXWELL CHARLES GAINES was born Maxwell Charles Ginsburg, on June 5, 1894, in New York. His parents, Abraham and Rose Ginsburg, both born in 1869, were emigrants from Russia. Max had three brothers, Benjamin (b.1892), Isidor (b.1896), and William (b.1899). Benjamin and William became pharmacists. All the children were born in New York City. Their father Abraham emigrated from Russia with his family in 1892 and began a new life as a rag picker. Within a few years he was running a small remnants shop. It was noted on census records that Russian immigrants were described as ‘Russian Yiddish’ and Austrian immigrants as ‘Austrian Yiddish.’

[13] ‘Narrative Illustration; The Comics,’ by M.C. Gaines, in Print, Vol. III, No. 2, Summer 1942 
YOUNG MAX GINSBURG was in service since 1917. At that time he was single, living at 371 Maple in Bridgeport, Connecticut and employed by Remington Arms as a machine operator. He was sent to training camp at Plattsburg, NY, and served overseas from November 2, 1916, to January 4, 1919. He was discharged Jun 25, 1919, and gave his address as 1819 Barnes Ave., Bronx, his parents’ residence. Abraham Ginsburg died in September 1917. (His widow, Rose, remarried a furrier named Sam Starkman.)

NAME CHANGE. Based on the birth date of Max’s son, William Maxwell Gaines — later Bill Gaines — March 1, 1922, Max C. Ginsburg probably married his wife, Jessie, about 1920 or 1921. He had changed his name to Max C. Gaines by the time of the 1925 NY State Census. In 1933 he was a salesman for Eastern Color and working under Harry I. Wildenberg.

[14] Famous Funnies; a carnival of comics, front cover, 1933 
TAKING CREDIT. Both Harry I. Wildenberg and M.C. Gaines have been credited (or took credit) for the inspiration for Famous Funnies, the first successful newsstand comic. In 1933 Eastern Color Printing Company had printed Famous Funnies; a carnival of comics with Dell as publisher also handling the distribution. Dell dropped out of the arrangement and Eastern Color resurrected the title as Famous Funnies, No. 1, in July 1934.

The fourth issue of this back-from-the-dead Famous Funnies was issued October 23, 1934. An advertisement for it claimed “a couple of hundred thousand readers.” The editors were Harold A. Moore and Stephen A. Douglas and their comic was distributed through the American News Co. The comic was a success.

[15] The Funnies, No. 4, January 1937
SPLIT. M.C. Gaines broke connections with Eastern Color and moved into a partnership with the McClure Syndicate to publish a one-shot giveaway called Skippy’s Own Book of Comics. By 1938 there were about a dozen comics of reprinted newspaper strips on the newsstands with titles like Popular Comics (Feb 1936), The Funnies (Sept 1936), Tip Top Comics (April 1936), King Comics (April 1936), The Comics Magazine (May 1936), The Comics (March 1937), and Crackajack Funnies (June 1938). The comic books were now an integral part of American life.

[16] Gulf Funny Weekly, No. 233, Oct 8, 1937

Gulf Funny Weekly Scans courtesy Arthur Lortie.
Thanks to Pamela L. for her impeccable research.


  1. Great article John and Pamela and thanks Arthur.
    Joe R.

  2. Great article and if I may chime in a few additions of data, Stephen Douglas had a two page article in a mid-late 60s RBCC. He stated in there George Delacorte sold out from his 50-50 partnership with Famous Funnies #7 which was the first issue to see a profit. Just clearing a bit over $2000. He gave the exact amount to the cents.

    Also, Lev Gleason and Max Gaines were both salesmen under Harry Wildenberg. Both went on to become publishers in their own companies.

    The myth legends of folding over Sunday sections down to Famous Funnies size I find to basicly be poppycock. That format size of slick paper cover, pulp paper interior with two staples had long been the format of what I call "late stage" Dime Novels. There was nothing "new" to the format except adding in color comic strips.

  3. Unknown artist Lyndell was my grandfather ... Arthur H. Lindberg using an alias.

  4. Updated 2019-03-29 to identify Arthur H. Lindberg as the real name of artist Lyndell.