Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Update: comic strips of The Graphic and The Illustrated London News

Thierry Smolderen has posted an article with numerous examples of the comic strips of The Graphic and The Illustrated London News HERE.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery (1824-1901)

The name of Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery “Champion-At-Arms of the Two Americas,” appeared in ten (see list at bottom of post) mostly sword and cape dime novels published in Beadle’s Dime Library between 1879 and 1882. There is the possibility that Monstery’s name was merely window-dressing, a celebrity ‘house-name’ that hid the identity of one or more ghost authors.
The most likely ghost would be Captain Frederick Whittaker who had some obvious connections to Monstery. Whittaker’s name appears as author to the sequel to Monstery’s novel California Joe’s FirstTrail (1884) and Whittaker authored TheSword Prince, the Romantic Life of Colonel Monstery in 1889. In addition Whittaker’s Ernest Darcourt, from The Young Folks Weekly Budget, Vol. 29, July 3 1886, published in London by James Henderson, and Monstery’s Mourad the Mameluke, from Beadle’s Dime New York Library, Oct 26 1881, share the same historical Mameluke background. Whittaker wrote The Russian spy: or, the Brothers of the Starry Cross in 1878 -- Monstery penned The Czar’s Spy; or, the Nihilist League for the same publisher in 1881.

 The hero of Iron Wrist, the Swordmaster was Danish Swordsman Olaf Swenson. He is eighteen in this story which takes place in St. Petersburg. Swenson reappears in El Rubio Bravo, a bit older, hacking and thrusting his way through Honduras, and in The Czar’s Spy he is 56 years old and back in St. Petersburg. You might call this a trilogy. In Whittaker’s Romantic Life of Colonel Monstery it is claimed that Monstery himself was “El Rubio Bravo” (the brave blonde.)

In most dime novel’s violence is depicted in a flat and unconvincing way, while the violence in Monstery is shocking and realistic. From Mourad, the Mameluke;
“The belated one drew his sword and aimed a blow at the Mameluke, who took it on his left arm with a clang that told he wore armour under his rich garments, and retaliated with a slash across the other’s face, made apparently with little effort. Lafangere, who had turned at the gate, uttered a cry of horror.
The Mameluke’s saber, with the sharp sickle edge, had sliced off the Frenchman’s head at the mouth as if it had been a carrot.”

 Edgar Rice Burroughs mentions Monstery in his swashbuckler The Mad King (1926) and one could speculate that Burroughs took a lot from the sword and cape dime novels of Colonel Monstery (or Frederick Whittaker) from the beginning of his career, starting with Under the Moons of Mars, serialized in All-Story in 1912. By merging the swashbuckler with the scientific romance he came up with something entirely original. All Burroughs greatest heroes used blades: John Carter, Carson Napier, and Tarzan. Burroughs was born 1 Sept 1875 which made him the right age (and right place: Chicago, where Monstery was a huge celebrity) to have been reading the Monstery sword and cape dime novels.

Probably a lot of Whittaker’s “Romantic Life” is exaggerated but there is some truth to his tales. Both his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, Col. Monstery is Dead, 2 Jan 1902 and A Famous Swordsman, Romantic Career of a visitor to the City of Mexico [From the Mexican Herald] Washington Times, 29 Jan 1901, tell some of the same story as appears on the Wikipedia entry on Monstery.

According to the newspaper accounts (which may also be exaggerated) Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, “soldier of fortune, expert swordsman, and hero of hundreds of skirmishes and battlefields” was born in Baltimore, Maryland on 21 April 1824. In his early days his name was Tom Munster. Newspaper accounts say he was of Danish and Irish parentage. His Wikipedia entry claims otherwise -- both parents are Danish -- his mother was the daughter of the cousin of the assassin of King Gustav III of Sweden. 

 At twelve his parents took him to Copenhagen where he was enrolled in the Royal Academy. A series of duels brought him to the attention of the authorities and he fled to Russia where he was a fencing instructor in the Czar’s household. More dueling troubles followed and he fled again, back to America and San Francisco. He fought with the Walker expedition in Nicaragua and in the Cuban insurrection of 1851. He then went to Spain, Honduras, and service in the Mexican Army under Juarez.

 The Washington Times wrote:

He bears the honor of being the champion swordsman of the continent, and wears a medal awarded by the Mexican government on the first of March 1858, for having defeated the famous French captain Poupard, who was at that time instructor in fencing and foiling in the army of Mexico. On the same day he won laurels by defeating all the champions of the army with sabres, knives, knives against sabres and bayonets, that at the time were shining lights in the handling of the above weapons.

Captain Monstery entertained General Diaz at the Palmer House some sixteen years ago in Chicago, the only visit paid by the President of this Republic to the United States…

 In 1871 Monstery opened a fencing school in New York and a few years later moved operations to Chicago. He trained Junius Brutus Booth, the actor, (at Frank Wheeler’s San Francisco Gymnasium), Edwin Booth (for a staged “Hamlet”), and the actress and swordswoman Jaguarina.

 Jaguarina was Ella M. Hattan, born in 1864, a child actress and comedienne in John A. Ellsler’s Cleveland stock company. She started fencing at a young age and afterward studied under Monstery. Her swashbuckling career was summed up by the San Francisco Call 13 Aug 1905:

Under his instruction she became the greatest fencer in America, especially with the broadsword, both in foot or mounted contests. To-day she has the record of forty two broadsword contests with noted male fencers on foot and horseback, winning every contest.

In 1886 she challenged Duncan Ross in San Francisco to meet her with broadswords on horseback. Ross declined to accept her challenge and left the coast. Subsequently she defeated Sergeant Owen Davis of the Second Calvary, champion of the United States army, in Mechanic’s Pavilion, San Francisco, in a mounted contest, by a score of eleven pints to seven. Davis knocked her off her horse in the second attack, but, undaunted, she remounted and defeated him. Subsequently she defeated Captain E. C. Jennings, master-at-arms of the Olympic Athletic Club of San Francisco, in a mounted contest by a score of eleven to ten points. Both Davis and Jennings had previously defeated Ross, which shows she was not presumptuous in her belief that she could defeat the giant Scotch athlete.

Notwithstanding her hard training in athletics, Jaguarina is a splendidly preserved woman of striking beauty.

 Monstery died impoverished at the Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago on 31 Dec 1901. He was “practically without resources, but in Alexander B. Scully, President of the Scully Iron and Steel Company, and Thomas Moran, the liquor dealer, he found stanch and helpful friends.”

Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery Dime Novels:
Iron Wrist, the Sword-master; a Tale of Court and Camp, New York: Beadle & Adams, Dime Library No. 82, 3 Dec 1879. Originally published under title: Iron Wrist, the Swordmaster of Copenhagen in either the Saturday Journal or Banner Weekly  Beadle story papers. Reprinted 1897 in Dime Library No. 986.
The Demon Duelist; or, the League of Steel, a Story of German Student Life, Dime Library No. 126, 23 Mar 1881.
The Czar’s Spy; or, the Nihilist League, a sequel to “Iron Wrist the Swordmastter, Dime Library No. 143, 20 July 1881
El Rubio Bravo, King of the Swordsmen; or, the Terrible Brothers of Tabasco, a Story of Tropical Love and Adventure, Dime Library No. 150, 7 Sep 1881.
Mourad, the Mameluke: or, the Three Swordmasters, a Tale of the Grand Army Dime Library No. 157 26 Oct 1881
Corporal Cannon, the Man of Forty Duels, a True Story of the African Chasseurs, Dime Library No. 169, 18 Jan 1882
Champion Sam; or, The Monarchs of the Show, a Romance of the Circus and Prize-rings, Dime Library No. 236, 2 May 1883.

Fighting Tom, the Terror of the Toughs, a story of a very deceiving young man, Dime Library No. 262, 31 Oct 1883.

California Joe’s First Trail, a story of the destroying angels, Half-Dime Library No. 376, 7 Oct 1884.

Spring-Heel Jack; or, the Masked Mystery of the Tower, Dime Library No. 332, 4 Mar 1885.

Captain Frederick Whittaker titles in The Young Folks’ Weekly Budget, London: James Henderson:

 Covinda, the Tiger Tamer, by Captain Fred Whittaker, Volume 13, No. 396, 6 July 1878

White Rudolf and Red Ensign, Volume 18, 8 Jan1881.

Phil D’Arcy, Volume 19, 2 July 1881

 Round the World, Volume 20, 7 Jan 1882

Joe Manley’s Rise in Life, Volume 24, 5 Jan 1884

 Gentle Deeds; or, from Serfdom to Knighthood, Vol. 28, No. 783, 2 Jan 1886

 Ernest Darcourt, Vol. 29, 3 July 1886

 The Maid of Domrency, Vol. 32, No. 873, 7 Jan 1888

*Thanks to Welton Jones for the Chicago Tribune Obituary

Friday, January 27, 2012

Phonograph Funnies

Punch 26 July 1889
Punch 6 April 1878
Judy 15 may 1878
Funny Folks 8 April 1882
Moonshine 6 Oct 1888
Funny Folks 24 Nov 1888
Punch 8 Dec 1888

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Captain Frederick Whittaker Part II

See Part I HERE

Captain Frederick Whittaker


By E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

WHITTAKER, thou rare raconteur, When I take my summer saunter To the mountains, Lo! I hunger not, and never Am athirst, for thou are ever Living fountains!     
                        (A.W. Crowell, 1895)

One of the more complex popular novelists of the mid-Nineteenth Century was Frederick Whittaker (1838-1889), cavalryman, biographer, spiritualist and labor crusader.

Albert Johannsen recorded the following biographical sketch in The House of Beadle and Adams (University of Oklahoma Press, 1950):

Frederick Whittaker, son of Henry Whittaker and his wife Catharine Maitland, was born in London December 12, 1838. His father was a solicitor, but, having endorsed some papers for a noble client who defaulted, he was obliged to flee to the Continent to escape being imprisoned for debt. He lived with his family for several years in various towns and in 1850 came to New York City, where he obtained a position as managing clerk in a law office. Frederick's education was limited to six months in a private school in Brooklyn, conducted by a Mr. Walker. His father wished him to become a lawyer, and at the age of sixteen he was entered in the law office of N. Dane Ellingwood, as office boy. He was, however, not interested in law and several years later he was working in the office of Henry G. Harrison, an architect, but a defect in his eyesight compelled him to relinquish this work. Just before the breaking out of the Civil War he had had an article published in The Great Republic Monthly, and hoped to become a writer. When war broke out, he enlisted November 11, 1861, at Camp Scott, Staten Island, as a private in Company L, 6th New York Cavalry. He was transferred to Company D in the same regiment February 16, 1863, and was honorably discharged December 15, 1863, as a corporal, to enable him to enlist as a veteran volunteer. He re-entered the same organization December 16, 1863. In the Battle of the Wilderness, in May, 1864, he was shot through the left lung and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on February 12, 1865, in Company A. He was mustered out and honorably discharged August 9, 1865, as 2nd Lieutenant, Company A, New York Provisional Cavalry. Nothing has been found of record to show that he ever received the brevet rank of Captain, but there is a letter in the "files of the National Archives,” from James D. McClelland, a member of the New York State Senate, dated October 10, 1911, in which he stated that Frederick Whittaker "was made Brevet Captain after the War for bravery in action."

(The Sixth New York Cavalry was engaged in over 150 actions during the Civil War, from small skirmishes and picket duty to some of the bloodiest major engagements, including the Seven Days’ battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Brandy Station, the Wilderness campaign, the Petersburg siege and the final battles around Appomattox.)

After the war he worked as a book agent for a while, and then taught school. When Mayne Reid established his magazine Onward in 1869, Whittaker wrote for it, the first item published being a little song entitled "Starlighted Midnight." This was followed by several other poems and a sketch, "Shot by a Sweetheart," but when Reid's magazine ended in February, 1870, Whittaker began to write for Frank Leslie. After inheriting some money from English relatives, he married and bought a house in Mount Vernon, New York, where he lived the remainder of his life. He now settled down to steady literary work and wrote for various journals. In the Army and Navy Journal for January 21 and June 3, 1871, he had a series of articles: "Volunteer Cavalry, the Lessons of the Decade, by a Volunteer Cavalryman," in which he gave personal experiences during the war. He also wrote for the Galaxy, the Fireside Companion and for Beadle's Young New Yorker, Saturday Journal, and Banner Weekly, and turned out a great many dime and nickel novels, mostly stirring stories of adventure of the swashbuckling type. They were well written, without padding, and were about the best of the kind.

In 1874 he was made National Guard editor and later assistant editor of the Army and Navy Journal. He resigned for the year 1876 to write his "Complete Life of General George A. Custer," but in 1877 he was back with the Journal and remained connected with it until his death.

About two years before he died he became interested in spiritualism and was an enthusiastic worker in the cause. He was almost insane on the subject and "of late had frequently commanded that every member of his family should think as he did. His argument was that there should be harmony between his wife and children and himself in order to have close communication with the spirits." He was always of an excitable disposition, irascible, and at times became extremely violent. He was interested in the International language Volapuk, and shortly before his death had asked those interested to meet at his home.

(Volapuk, one of dozens of attempts at a “universal” language, was created by Johann Martin Schleyer (1831-1912), a Roman Catholic priest from Baden, during 1879 and 1880. Schleyer believed that God had instructed him in a dream to usher in a new era of peace. A secondary universal language could help to overcome intercultural misunderstandings and end human strife. Although Volapuk was eclipsed by the simpler Esperanto around 1890, there are still quite a few diehard Volapuk adherents.) Captain Whittaker was a follower of several “New Age” ideas and fads, long before they formed a part of mainstream American consciousness. “Spiritualism,” first popularized by the table-rapping Fox sisters in the 1850s, attracted many intellectuals and a fair sprinkling of celebrities, including Mary Todd Lincoln and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to “mediums” and seances. Although his prodigious literary output brought in a comfortable income, he seems to have run into debt.

His untimely death was described by Johannsen:

On the thirteenth of May 1889, returning home from the office of the Mount Vernon Record, for which he wrote, he met his wife at the door, said a few pleasant words to her, then ran up stairs. He always carried a revolver in his pocket and, apparently taking it out to put it away as was his custom on returning home, when he reached the head of the stairs his cane seems to have caught in the banisters, tripped him, and he fell, breaking the rail. His pistol exploded and he was shot in the head, dying in half an hour without regaining consciousness. His wife, three daughters, and a stepson survived him.

He and his wife are buried in St. Paul’s Church Cemetery, Mt. Vernon, Westchester County, New York.

Custer’s widow Libbie (Elizabeth Bacon Custer, 1842-1933) encouraged Whittaker’s Complete Life of General George A. Custer and probably supplied him with private documents. It appeared a scant six months after the cavalry commander’s death. The biography amounts to a heroic whitewashing of Custer’s glaring faults as a leader and strategist and placed a large share of the blame for the Little Big Horn catastrophe on the shoulders of Major Marcus A. Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen. Whittaker’s status as a veteran cavalry officer and author of a respected study of volunteer cavalry doctrine lent considerable weight to his opinions. In January 1879, Reno requested a full inquiry before a military tribunal. During the inquiry in Chicago, Whitttaker’s book became a pivotal piece of evidence used by both sides. After 26 days of testimony, the tribunal failed to prove Whittaker’s allegations and cleared Reno. The embittered Whittaker became a strident critic of the military establishment. (Undaunted, Libbie Custer wrote her own books to keep the Custer legend alive: Boots and Saddles, 1885; Following the Guidon, 1890; and Tenting on the Plains, 1893. She also encouraged Buffalo Bill Cody's reenactments of Little Big Horn in his Wild West extravaganzas.)

During his long association with the publishing house of Beadle and Adams, Whittaker turned out an astonishing quantity of exciting fiction on a wide variety of subject matter. After the great “strike year” of 1877, and the rise of American labor unions, Whittaker became a champion of the downtrodden workingman in such novels as Nemo, King of the Tramps, John Armstrong, Mechanic, Norman Case, Printer and Larry Locke, The Man of Iron. Although not a frontier character like other Beadle authors, his western stories have a ring of authenticity, particularly his trilogy about the range wars in Texas: Old Cross-Eye, Top-Notch Tom and The Marshal of Satanstown. Other stories were set in the South American pampas, the Balkans, the South Seas and other exotic locales.

Whittaker was associated with Thomas Hoyer Monstery (1821-1901): the self-styled “Champion-at-Arms of the Two Americas,” and may have written some of the Beadle novels credited to him. The sequel to a novel about the scout "California Joe" Milner signed by Monstery carried Whittaker's by-line. The writing styles of the two stories is similar. He wrote a fictionalized biography of Monstery in 1882 for Beadle’s Boy’s Library of Sport, Story and Adventure

In 1884, he penned a brief defense of dime novels “by a writer of them” for the New York Daily Tribune.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

American Comic Weeklies

Daily Graphic 4 Sept 1873, Daily Graphic 5 Aug 1873, Daily Graphic Triple Sheet 28 Jun 1873, Frank Leslie's Budget of Fun Jan 1875, The Free Lance 12 Jun 1875, Illustrated Weekly 18 Mar 1876 cover and large comic sheet, Comic Weekly 3 July 1886, Tousey's Comic Monthly Jun 1882, Under the Gaslight 21 Dec 1878, Wild Fire 1 Feb 1878, Wild Fire cover, Wild Oats, 29 Feb 1872, Wild Oats 10 Oct 1872, Bricktop 'comic books', 1848 Crockett Almanac, and Comic Almanac 1892. All images courtesy Joe Rainone.