Friday, October 26, 2012

Race Record Advertisements from 1926-29

Ethel Waters sings ‘Shake That Thing’ — March 27, 1926

Bessie Smith sings ‘Back-Water Blues’ — April 2, 1927

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five play ‘You Made Me Love You’ — April 2, 1927

Clara Smith sings ‘Percolatin’ Blues’ — May 7, 1927

Barbecue Bob plays ‘Barbecue Blues’ — June 4, 1927

Reverend A.W. Nix and Congregation sing ‘The Black Diamond Express To Hell’ — July 2, 1927
Blue Belle (Bessie Mae Smith, with guitarist Lonnie Johnson) sings ‘High Water Blues’ — August 13, 1927

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven play ‘Alligator Crawl’ — September 3, 1927

Victoria Spivey sings ‘I Have Killed My Man’ — January 21, 1928

Emmett Miller plays ‘Thousand Frogs on a Log’ — March 3, 1928

Jim Jackson sings ‘Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues’ — April 7, 1928

Blue Belle sings ‘Dead Sea Blues’ and ‘Creepin’ Eel Blues’ — April 7, 1928

Jim Jackson sings ‘The Policy Blues’ — April 21, 1928

Victoria Spivey sings ‘Red Lantern Blues’ — April 28, 1928

Georgia Tom and Tampa Red play ‘Mama Don’t Allow No Easy Riders Here’ — December 7, 1929

Be a winner in everything with the 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Early North American Educational Comic Strips

‘In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln,’ by Nicholas Afonsky
‘HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY,’ the first known educational strip, was produced by the American J. Carroll Mansfield. It began November 17, 1924, and ran until 1942. The daily strip was syndicated by Bell Newspaper Syndicate. A color Sunday page was added to comic supplements in 1926. This strip was collected into a junior high school history book under the title Highlights of History – America 1492-1763. Early issues of Famous Funnies reprinted Highlights of History strips and the strips were widely circulated in a series of Big Little Books beginning in 1934.

‘Highlights of History,’ by J. Carroll Mansfield
James Carroll Mansfield was born January 4, 1896, in Baltimore, Maryland, and died at Atlanta, Georgia, in 1957. He was a staff artist for the Baltimore News and American before and after World War I. Moving to New York he studied art and syndicated his Highlights of History series in 1924. For Bell Syndicate he also wrote a Sunday strip in the Ripley mold called ‘Would You Believe It?,’ and ‘Boys and Girls the World Over’ and ‘Jolly Geography.’ He wrote and drew a strip based on classics, titled ‘Highlights of Fiction.’ Mansfield retired from strips in 1942 and moved to Florida where he worked as a commercial artist.

Advertisement, Sep 29, 1925
Mansfield’s long running strip was noticed across the border in Canada where it appeared in a number of newspapers. Two Canadians started a similar effort intended to educate Canadian children about their past. ‘This Canada of Ours’ was copyrighted by J.S. Morrison, artist, and Maud Morrison Stone, a writer based in Toronto, Ontario. The strip ran from May 2, 1925, to May 23, 1929, in many Canadian papers.

Advertisement, April 28, 1925
Nicholas Afonsky was a native of Lithuania, son of an Imperial Russian army officer, and was wounded five times while serving with the Russian army in World War I. He moved to the United States in 1917 where he worked as an assistant on Ed Wheelan’s ‘Minute Movies’ strip. In 1926 Nicholas Afonsky was drawing a weekly adaptation of classics like Walter Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’ and Zola’s ‘The Attack on the Mill,’ both with continuities by Ruth J. Williams. The syndicate was Wheeler-Nicholson, Inc.

'The Conquest of the Air,' August 18, 1927
Next Afonsky illustrated ‘In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln,’ with text by Ida Tarbell, for McLure Newspaper Syndicate. The strip began February 24, 1927, and ended June 22, 1928. It appeared daily except for Sundays. In 1927 Afonsky also drew another feature for McClure, ‘The Conquest of the Air.’ In 1934 he began drawing ‘Little Annie Rooney’ Sundays plus (in 1935) its spinoff strip ‘Ming Foo,’ for King Features. Afonsky died June 17, 1943, aged 51.

'Lincoln in Newspaper Features,' in Lincoln Lore, June 6, 1949
Mansfield and Afonsky’s Abraham Lincoln continuities can be read HERE.
Note: ‘An American Master Rediscovered; A Brief on the Archive by Wm Earl Hutchinson’ (unpublished article on Mansfield).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

True Crime Picture Stories

Public Enemy No. 1,
April 25, 1934
Celebrated Franks Murder Case,
June 14, 1924
Brutal Murder in Louisiana,
July 12, 1927
Trunk Slayer’s Confession,
October 26, 1931

Mysterious Bath-tub Murder,
March 2, 1926
Harry Thaw’s Exploits
January 15, 1917
Hauptmann’s Battle,
October 11, 1935
March 3, 1927
Celebrated Franks Murder Case (2),
June 14, 1924

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Masses 1911 to 1917 – America’s Great Arts and Politics Magazine

February 1916, Frank Walts illustration
  by Richard Samuel West

The handful of years leading up to America’s entry into World War I was Socialism’s glorious moment in America, its high-water mark of energy and promise. This pregnant moment in time was the result of decades of ferment, indeed more than 100 years of growing agitation to curb the excesses of American capitalism, beginning with Jefferson’s warnings about the deleterious effects of urbanized culture, and proceeding through the painful dislocation of the emerging industrial economy, the excesses of speculation during the Civil War, the rise of the robber barons, the suppression of labor unions, the exploitation of immigrant labor, through to the exposes of the muckrakers. By the decade of the ‘teens,’ the evils of capitalism were widely acknowledged, even by champions of the system.

Socialism became capitalism’s logical alternative and the rallying point for the disenchanted.  It was, of course, merely a vision, largely untested. But that is exactly why the socialist movement was so formidable. The artists and writers of The Masses didn’t need to defend socialism when Rockefeller’s henchmen were gunning down mine workers and their families in Ludlow, Colorado. Eventually, the American socialist movement would shatter on the rocks of the Russian revolution, when it was finally confronted with the reality of a socialist state, but that story comes later. The time of The Masses was a magical moment in the history of the American left, when it was resolute in its fight against evil and pregnant with glorious possibility. During these heady days, The Masses was the movement’s flagship.

Janary 1911, First issue cover of Piet Vlag’s Masses
By all measures except the most mundane (profitability, advertising pages, circulation figures), The Masses was a great magazine: beautiful, intelligent, surprising, deadly serious, laugh-out-loud funny, hard-edged and frivolous.  Nothing like it had ever been seen in America before. It was an arts and letters magazine that thoroughly embraced a political agenda of radical reform and pacifism. And it managed to do this, unlike all of its predecessors in the field of political thought and opinion, with wit and style. The result was then and remains today a joy to behold, an ever-evolving experiment in publishing and a supremely entertaining intellectual high-wire act.

November 1913, John Sloan illustration
It was founded in 1911 by Piet Vlag, a Dutch immigrant, to promote the cooperative movement. Nearly every issue in The Masses’ early days contained an article or editorial explaining the merits of business- or consumer-owned and run cooperatives. The magazine was earnest and attractive, enlivened by cartoons by Art Young and John Sloan and illustrations by Charles and Alice Winter. But by August 1912, Vlag’s vision had run its course and the magazine folded. Though Vlag had given up on the magazine and left for the south, Art Young was not yet ready to follow suit. He rallied Sloan, the Winters, and others, and they corralled Max Eastman, a doctoral candidate at Columbia who was a leader in the suffrage movement, to edit the magazine. A brighter, more vibrant Masses reappeared in December 1912.

December 1913, Art Young illustration
In the pages of this second Masses, art predominated. It was not an adornment or mere illustration used to break up fields of gray type. Artwork in The Masses appeared, well printed and large, on its own terms. This explains why some of America’s finest talents – Young, Sloan, and the Winters, soon joined by George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, Frank Walts, among many — contributed art to The Masses for no remuneration. While The Masses was a child of America’s leading political satire magazines, Puck, Judge, and Life, in that it built on the visual and comedic vocabulary they had popularized, it was more interested in subverting tradition than on extending it. For that task, The Masses artists drew their inspiration from the leading satire magazines of Europe, Simplicissimus and L’Assiette au Beurre, and succeeded in bringing the visual bravura of those unconventional publications to America.

February 1914, Cornelia Barns illustration
The Masses letterpress was a happy jumble of essays, short stories, poetry, and humor. Max Eastman contributed rousing and lucid editorials that set forth one of the most radical agendas of the day. Floyd Dell conducted what was arguably the finest review of the arts in the American press. Except for excerpts of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, The Masses fiction was not particularly distinguished. The poetry, on the other hand, was of a fairly high caliber at a time when American poets were shaking off the 19th century and letting their words fly.

March 1914, Frank Walts illustration
The war complicated The Masses’ mission. It brought a new urgency to the magazine’s pages, with Eastman’s passionate editorials against the war leading the way. Some of the contributors objected to this new increasingly strident tone. Others, like Art Young, championed it. Old allies fell apart. Founders such as Sloan and the Winters left the magazine. New contributors such as Robert Minor and Hugo Gellert took their places.

April 1914, John Sloan illustration
The magazine came to an end at the hands of the US post office when it refused to mail the August 1917 issue forcing that issue and the remaining three issues of that year to be distributed only on newsstands. By then, Eastman, Young, and others were charged with treason for having through the pages of the magazine “obstructed the recruiting and enlistment of the US military.” Two trials ensued, dragging on throughout 1918. Both ended in deadlocked juries. Though the men of The Masses were free of legal prosecution, the magazine that had championed their causes was now long gone.

June 1914, John Sloan illustration
If you want to learn more about this amazing periodical, there are many valuable books to consult. The best are Rebecca Zurier’s Art For The Masses (1988), a cogent and well-illustrated scholarly assessment of the magazine and William O’Neill’s Echoes of Revolt (1966), which collects much of the best from the magazine’s pages. My personal favorite is Richard Fitzgerald’s Art and Politics (1973), a vigorous and surprisingly opinionated appraisal of the men and women who created the magazine’s graphics. I believe that the more we examine The Masses in all of its splendor the more certain we will become that this David of the magazine world was the Socialist movement’s greatest tangible gift to American culture.

August 1914, Maurice Becker illustration
January 1915, Stuart Davis illustration
February 1915, Frank Walts illustration
March 1915, George Bellows illustration
July 1915, K.R. Chamberlain illustration
August 1915, Robert Minor illustration
September 1915, Cornelia Barns illustration
December 1915, Ilonka Karasz illustration
January 1916, Frank Walts illustration
May 1916, Maurice Becker illustration
June 1916, Will Hope illustration
July 1916, Robert Minor illustration
December 1916, Frank Walts illustration
January 1917, Frank Walts illustration
March 1917, Frank Walts illustration
May 1917, Frank Walts illustration
June 1917, Hugo Gellert illustration
July 1917, Carlo Leonetti illustration
September 1917, Carlo Leonetti illustration
* Richard Samuel West’s new book 
‘Iconoclast in Ink; The Political Cartoons of Jay N. “Ding” Darling’ can be purchased HERE.