Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“Songs of a Certain Description”

[1] “Everyday Scenes, in the Flash Circles,” illustration prefacing Duncombe’s Edition; Modern Flash Dictionary, written “by George Kent, Historian to the Prize Ring”, from an old catalog (N.D.)

The Duncombes of Holborn 
by Robert J. Kirkpatrick

IN the first half of the 19th century the name of John Duncombe was associated with the publication of dramas and one-act plays (with over 600 titles recorded as being issued between around 1821-52), music and songs. The imprint of John Duncombe (or J. Duncombe) and Edward Duncombe also appeared on a number of periodicals, penny-part serials, books and pamphlets, and the name of Duncombe was also linked with several cases of libel and obscenity. Yet, despite the extent of the Duncombe family’s publishing activities, and the notoriety associated with the name, very little has been written about them before. Teasing out the family history is complicated by the fact that, like several other publishers from that era, the name of John Duncombe covered both father and son.

John Duncombe senior was born around 1764. Nothing seems to be known about his background and early life, or about his wife, Sarah (born around 1767).  They had six children: John (b.1792), Elizabeth (b.1795), Sarah (b.1799), Edward (b.1802), Erasmus (b.1804, d.1805), and Emily (b.1807, d.1808). Between around 1799 and 1805 the family lived at 32 Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, London, before moving to 9 and 10 Middle Row, Holborn.

In 1811, John Duncombe is listed in Holden’s Annual Directory as a cabinet maker at 9 Middle Row. In 1819, a John Duncombe is listed as a bookseller and stationer at 19 Little Queen Street; in 1822 as a bookseller at 10 Little Queen Street, and in 1823 a bookseller at 19 Little Queen Street. Three years prior to this, in August 1820, John Duncombe senior fell through a trapdoor in a linen draper’s shop and suffered a compound fracture of his leg, subsequently spending six months in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. Two years later, he was still walking with crutches, and was unable to work, with his business, that of a newsvendor and bookseller, being carried on by his wife and an assistant. This was all revealed in the Times on 15 November 1822, when it reported the court hearing at which Duncombe sued for damages, being awarded £50 plus costs. His son was a witness, but gave no indication as to his profession at that time.

Whether or not John Duncombe the elder was ever a publisher, and if he was, what he published is not clear. His will, drawn up on 24 February 1831, stated that he was a “bookseller and newsagent” at Middle Row, Holborn. It is, therefore, quite likely that most, if not all, of the publications carrying the J. Duncombe imprint were issued by his son.

[2] Title page of Duncombe’s Edition; Modern Flash Dictionary.
John Duncombe the younger was born on 13 September 1791 in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, and baptised at St. Clement Dane’s, Westminster, on 5 November 1792. Nothing is known about his early life, other than that he married Deborah Haines at the parish church of St. George, Bloomsbury, on 8 August 1814. He set up in business in his late teens — one of his first publications was The Minstrel, or Songster’s Miscellany, published from Middle Row in 1811-12. Numerous other song collections, individual songs, dramas and the occasional pamphlet followed. But in August 1824, then operating out of 19 Little Queen Street, Holborn, he was declared bankrupt, the petitioning creditor being none other than his father (Law Advertiser, August 1824). This may have led to his father offering a helping hand and taking him under his wing, a possibility borne out by John Duncombe the younger’s second bankruptcy, in May 1827, with the London Gazette (8 May 1827) describing him as “formerly of Little Queen Street, Holborn, and late of 12 Bateman’s Buildings, Soho Square, foreman to John Duncombe the elder, of Little Queen Street, aforesaid, bookseller and printer.”

Despite this second bankruptcy, John Duncombe the younger was soon back in business, this time apparently estranged from his father. In 1826, he had launched the weekly periodical Portfolio of Amusement and Instruction. In the issue dated 27 December 1828, the last page carried an advertisement for several J. Duncombe publications (including The Adelphi Songster, The Man of Pleasure’s Song Book, Secret Amours of the French Chief, The New London Rambler's Magazine, and The Private Life and Amours of Lord Byron), with a notice at the end to the effect that “J. Duncombe, at 19 Little Queen Street, Holborn, has no connection in trade with any other Publisher of the same name.”

The Post Office Directory for 1827 lists the two John Duncombe’s as a Book and Music Seller at 19 Little Queen Street, and as a Bookseller, Publisher and Newsvendor at 9 Middle Row. This appears to be the first appearance of a John Duncombe as a bookseller at this address. A year later, they are listed as a Bookseller and Publisher at 19 Little Queen Street and a Bookseller and Newsman at 9 Middle Row. In 1829 they are both listed simply as Booksellers at both addresses.

[3] Memoirs of the Life, Public and Private Adventures, of Madame Vestris, 1826.
John Duncombe the younger also used the name of M. Metford at his Little Queen Street and Middle Row addresses, and J. Turner at 50 Holywell Street. (See Henry Spencer Ashbee, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, 1877.) Amongst the publications carrying the Metford imprint were a number of song books and pornographic titles such as The Mysteries of Venus, or Lessons of Love; and The English Rogue, or the Life, Adventures and Intrigues of Meritou Lairoon, a fashionable extravagant Libertine.

John Duncombe the elder died in April 1831, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, on 18 April 1831. In his will he left everything to his wife Sarah (who was also an executor), with the proviso that she should not dispose of any part of her inheritance without the approval of his other executor, his son-in-law Charles Dear. He left nothing to his son John, nor to his other children (National Archives, ref. PROB 11/1792/367).

[Charles Dear had married Sarah (born on 23 July 179 at Cursitor Street), on 24 November 1818 at St. Pancras Parish Chapel, with her father and son (then shown as living in Little Queen Street) providing a £200 marriage bond, as Sarah was only 19 years old at the time. Charles later became a picture dealer.]

If John Duncombe the younger had become estranged from his father, then any family rift had been healed by that time of his mother’s death. Sarah Duncombe drew up her will on 22 August 1833 and left her estate to be divided equally between her four children – John, Edward, Sarah and Elizabeth. She died a day or so later, and was buried in St. Andrew’s, Holborn, on 29 August 1833, with probate subsequently granted to John and her son-in-law Charles Dear.

In 1833, the Post Office Directory shows John Duncombe still operating out of 19 Little Queen Street, with S. Duncombe (i.e. Sarah) operating as a bookseller out of 9 Middle Row, having taken over her late husband’s business. Rather confusingly, though, in 1835, 1836 and 1837, this business was recorded at 10 Middle Row, with the occupier named as John Duncombe. John Duncombe the younger was listed at 19 Little Queen Street in 1835 and 1836, but not in 1837 – indeed, the name of John Duncombe then disappears from the Post Office Directory until 1843, when John Duncombe & Co. is listed as Bookseller etc. at 10 Middle Row. He is still there in 1847, but by 1851 his name has disappeared.

[4] Madame Vestris, 1826.
John Duncombe the younger established a thriving business as a publisher of songs, dramas etc., as well as dabbling in what turned out to be dangerous waters. In September 1819 he was the subject of a writ issued on behalf of the Prince Regent, which described Duncombe as a “malicious, seditious and ill-disposed person” and accused him of “unlawfully devising and intending to raise and excite discontent and disaffection in the minds of the liege subjects of our Lord the King…” This related to an issue (no. 5) of The Republican, a periodical printed by R. Carlile of 55 Fleet Street which contained A Letter to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent. (Carlile was also the subject of legal action, Duncombe being prosecuted for selling the periodical, and later issues of The Republican were referred to the Attorney and Solicitor General with a view to prosecution for blasphemy. National Archives, ref. TS 11/43.)

In November 1826 Duncombe was taken to court by the actress Lucia Elizabeth Vestris for libeling her in his penny-part serial The Adventures and Amours of Madame Vestris. He had ignored a warning issued by her solicitors after the appearance of the first two numbers, so legal action was taken to suppress further publication (Morning Post, 27 November 1826).

A month later, Duncombe was back in court accused of pirating a song the copyright of which was owned by J. Willis, a music seller in St. James’s Street, who was awarded £200 damages (Times, 8 December 1826).

In November 1829 John Duncombe appeared in court again, alongside his brother Edward, charged with selling and publishing indecent publications (described in the Morning Chronicle as being “publications of a grossly indecent description and immoral tendency”). The titles of these were not read out in court or reported, but both Edward and John contended that they were simply reprints of works which had been published and sold in Britain for many years, and they were unaware that by selling them they were committing an offence. It was alleged that John Duncombe had been put on notice by the Society for Suppression of Vice in 1826, but he denied all knowledge of this. He also told the court that he had a wife and family (in fact, as far as is known he only had one child, Sarah Anne, born in 1822), and medical evidence was submitted that he was in poor health. He also supplied several affidavits attesting to his morality, integrity and honesty. Despite all of this, he was sentenced to six months in prison (at Coldbath Fields, Clerkenwell), fined £50, and bound over with sureties totalling £400 (Times, 20 November 1829).

[5] Madame Vestris, 1826.
In February 1837 John Duncombe found himself in court again, although this time as a victim. Henry Skinner, a former employee who had been sacked for “bad conduct,” was charged with stealing a ream of paper, 500 copies of The Comic Magazine, and five sheets of stereotyped plates from Duncombe’s British Theatre series – he was sentenced to seven years transportation. Also in the dock were James Newton and Thomas Grove, two of Duncombe’s employees, charged with theft. A large quantity of books had disappeared from his Middle Row premises, and had been traced to the Drury Lane premises of a pork butcher, who had clearly been buying stolen books for some time. Newton was also charged with selling books as waste paper to a Hatton Garden trader. He was sentenced to transportation, with Grove sentenced to a term in prison (Times, 12 February 1837).

At the time of the 1841 census, John Duncombe the younger was living at 11 Middle Row, described as a bookseller, with his wife Deborah, his daughter Sarah, then aged 22 and working as his assistant, and his niece Caroline Bartlett. Deborah died six years later and was buried, on 14 February 1847, in St. Andrew’s, Holborn.

A year after this, Duncombe married Ann Allen at Tottenham Parish Church. She was a widow, born Ann Drakeford in St. Pancras in 1800, and had married George Allen in 1822 – his date of death is not known. In 1851, Duncombe was living at 17 Holborn, this time describing himself as a music seller, living with Ann, his niece Sophia Drakeford, and a 20 year-old female servant.

He retired in 1852, his business being bought by Thomas Lacy, a former actor, playwright and theatrical manager who had turned to bookselling in the mid-1840s, operating out of Wellington Street, Covent Garden, and who became particularly well-known for his series of Lacy’s Acting Editions of Plays (1848-73), which comprised 1,485 individual titles.

John Duncombe the younger died in October 1853 and was buried in St. Andrew’s, Holborn on 30 October of that year.

In his will, drawn up in April 1848 (National Archives, PROB 11/2180/373), he left his entire personal estate to his daughter, Sarah, who, in 1842, had married Frederick Moon. Moon, born in 1821 in Holborn, was a business partner of John Duncombe, with several publications – largely dramas, music and songs – appearing under the imprint of Duncombe & Moon.  Moon subsequently died in 1849. It is not clear what happened to Duncombe’s wife Ann – in the 1861 census, an Ann Duncombe, a widow, is living at an address in Bloomsbury and shown as a “Proprietor of houses.” It is not known when and where she died.

[6] Madame Vestris, 1826.
Despite his brushes with the law, John Duncombe maintained a position as a major publisher of plays, melodramas, songs and music, an activity that spanned his entire publishing career from around 1811 to 1852. Amongst his drama productions were Duncombe’s New Acting Drama (1821-25), Duncombe’s British Theatre (1825-52), and Duncombe’s Minor Theatre (1834). Duncombe was especially notable for publishing scripts that had not been published elsewhere, buying up copyrights specifically for his collections. This proved to be an invaluable leg-up for new writers – the first play by Douglas Jerrold, for example (More Frightened than Hurt) was the first in Duncombe’s New Acting Drama series.

His songs and music publications included Duncombe’s Music; Duncombe’s Piano Forte Music; The Musical Casket, or Melodies for the Million; The Adelphi Songster; The Choice Songster; The Vocal Magazine; British Melodies, or Lyric Repository; The London Singers Magazine; and The London Vocalist.  These were supplemented by somewhat racier material such as Duncombe’s Drolleries; A Bawdy Song Book, and The Man of Pleasures Song Book.

He also issued a handful of penny-part serials and penny bloods, including Lives and Adventures of the Most Remarkable Highwaymen, Footpads, Notorious Robbers, and Other Daring Adventurers (1832); Lives and Adventures of Notorious Pirates and their crews, gallant Sea Fights, battles etc. (1833); and Perils of the Ocean, an interesting collection of Terrific Shipwrecks, and other disasters at Sea (1833).

Amongst his more controversial works were Details of a Demirep, or Life and Adventures of the celebrated Lady Barrymore; The Great Illegitimate!! Public and Private Life of that celebrated actress Miss Bland; The Secret Memoirs of Harriet Pumpkin (a salacious account of the life of Harriet Mellon, subsequently Mrs Coutts and the Duchess of St. Albans – of which most of the copies were bought up and destroyed); The Bower of Bliss, or The Loves of Alonzo and Angioline; The Private Life and Amours of Lord Byron; The Mysteries of Venus, or Lessons of Love; and Amatory Poems and Songs of the Earl of Rochester.

In some cases it is not clear which of his publications were the subject of prosecution, although some sources say that amongst these was Fanny Hill.

He also published a handful of short-lived periodicals, including Punch in London (1832) and Peeping Tom, or Notes of London Life (1841).

John Duncombe was, for a brief period, associated with his brother Edward, whose experiences as a publisher were equally as controversial.

Edward Duncombe was born on 30 January 1802 and baptized at St. Clement Dane’s, Westminster, on 7 March 1802. He married Ann Harry (born in Devonport, Devon, in 1802) at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, on 22 August 1826, with whom he had three children: Edward (b.1827, d.1828), Charlotte (b.1828, d.1829), and Edward Harry (b.1831).

[7] Madame Vestris, 1826.
He appears to have set up in business as a publisher on his own around 1822, with the periodical The Mirror of the Stage, or New Dramatic Censor (1822-24), followed by The New Theatrical Inquisitor (1824). He also issued a few dramas, the earliest being King Richard III: Travestie, a Burlesque, Operatic, Mock Terrific Tragedy in Two Acts (1823), and the occasional song book, such as Duncombe’s New Comic Songster.

More notoriously, he published several pamphlets, such as The Life, Amours and Intrigues of Miss Paton, commonly called Lady Lennox, now Mrs Wood; The Life and Exploits of Ikey Solomons, swindler, forger, fencer, and Brothel-keeper; and The Trial at Full Length of Edw. Gibbon Wakefield, William Wakefield and Mrs Frances Wakefield, for a conspiracy, and the abduction of Miss Turner, etc.; and the occasional periodical such as The Ramblers Magazine, or annals of gallantry, amatory tales and adventures, memoirs of the most celebrated women of pleasure, etc. (1827), and Horn Tales, or the Art of Cuckoldom made easy.

His early business addresses included 165 Fleet Street (1826), 26 Fleet Market (1827-28), 188 Fleet Street (1828), 1 Vinegar yard, Brydges Street, Covent Garden (1828), and 18 Middle Row, Holborn (1829). Like his brother John he also used another name, that of John Wilson, at 78 Long Acre (see Ashbee). In November 1829 he was sentenced, along with his brother, to six months in prison for selling obscene literature (Times, 20 November 1829).  The prosecution said that Duncombe had published a catalogue containing “49 different books, with amatory titles. Some of these were sold by the defendant himself [at his shop in Middle Row] and others by a woman in the shop, around the window of which great crowds of people were frequently collected.” In his defence, Duncombe claimed, like his brother, that all the publications complained of contained material that had already been published. He added that his wife was about to give birth and was dangerously ill, he had an “aged and infirm father and mother depending on him for support,” and a doctor provided an affidavit to the effect that Duncombe was “of a delicate constitution.”

In December 1835 he was again found guilty of selling several obscene books and prints, although before he was brought to the court for sentencing he found himself in a debtors’ prison. The London Gazette (1 March 1836) revealed that he had, for a time, been in partnership with his father:
Edward Duncombe, formerly of No. 165, Fleet Street, Bookseller, Music-Seller and Newspaper Agent, then of No. 9 Middle Row, Holborn, in Copartnership with John Duncombe the elder, as Printers, Publishers, Music Sellers and Newspaper Agents, trading as Duncombe and Co., then of 18 Middle Row aforesaid, both in Middlesex, Printer, Publisher , Bookseller, Music-Seller, and Newspaper Agent, my wife lodging at No. 4 Waterloo Terrace, Waterloo Road, Surrey, and late of No. 55 Fleet Street, London, trading under the firm of Thomas Mecklam, & Co. as Booksellers, Publishers, and Music-Sellers, and of No. 18 Middle Row, Holborn, aforesaid, Bookseller, Publisher, Music-Seller, and Newspaper Agent, having a private residence at No. 23 Cross Street, Hatton Garden, Holborn, Middlesex.
On 8 May 1836 he was sentenced to six months imprisonment (in Newgate) for the offence for which he had been found guilty the previous December. He was back in court again, charged with the same offence, in January 1843, again in a prosecution initiated by the Society for the Suppression of Vice. By this time he had moved to 78 Long Acre, having taken a weekly tenancy of a shop and living accommodation in around 1839. In 1841 he placed the name “John Wilson & Co.” over the door, although both his landlord and a neighbour testified that they knew no such person. Duncombe was fortunate to escape a guilty verdict as he had only been released from a debtors’ prison two hours before the sale of the offending article, and the magistrate accepted that there was no proof that Duncombe had gone direct from the prison to his shop, and no proof that he had personally sold the article or authorized its sale (Times, 18 January 1843).

In September 1843 he declared himself bankrupt, giving his address (then and for the previous five years) as 78 Long Acre. He was absent from the 1851 census, possibly in prison yet again. His wife was living at 119 Fetter Lane, the head of the household being her widowed mother, Ann Goldwise, a newsvendor; also present was Edward Harry Duncombe, then aged 19 and described as a Newsman.

In December 1853 Duncombe was once again trapped by the Society for the Suppression of Vice into selling one of its representatives an obscene book from his premises at 7 West Street, St. Martin’s Lane — he was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison (Times, 8 December 1853).

No sooner had he been released than he was back in court charged with selling an indecent and obscene book (Times, 17 April 1856). Again it was an agent of the Society for the Suppression of Vice who bought the offending article –
He went to the defendant’s shop in Little St. Andrew’s Street, Seven Dials, and asked for a book of songs of a certain description, which the defendant sold him, and then asked if he wanted any works of an amorous character, as he had some on hand. He at once said he would purchase some books if they suited him; the defendant then produced some books, one of which he handed to the witness and asked two guineas for it. After a little parleying he agreed to take 30 shillings for it, and gave him a catalogue of works of the same nature. It was for selling that book that the defendant was indicted.
His defence counsel told the court that “when this offence was committed the defendant was in a state of the most deplorable and object poverty, or he would not have sold the book.” Despite this, he was later sentenced to six months hard labour (Times, 1 May 1856).

Duncombe was possibly back in prison in 1861, as he was again absent from the census record. His wife Ann was living at 110 Fetter Lane, working as a newsagent, and their son Edward Harry was described as a Music-Seller. But other than Ann appearing as a lodger, out of work, at an address in Westminster in the 1871 census, that appears to be the last we know of Edward Duncombe and his family. His date and place of death, and that of his son, is apparently unrecorded.

John Duncombe the younger left behind him a reputation as a prolific publisher of drama and music, although he was also famous for his frequent brushes with the law and his occasional forays into the dangerous waters of radical politics, scandal and pornography. John’s brother Edward was also notorious for his under-the-counter activities and the selling of pornographic books and prints. The full story of what were almost certainly colourful lives has yet to be told – the foregoing summary is just a starting point.

[8] Memoirs of the Life, Public and Private Adventures, of Madame Vestris, 1826.

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.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Shadow Advertisements

“They wanted all I could possibly write about The Shadow. Then for fifteen years, using the pen name Maxwell Grant, I sat before the typewriter doing a million words a year, mostly on The Shadow and Cranston, the chief character. It got so I could smash out these stories with the regularity and rhythm of setting up exercises.”Walter Gibson, Writer Returns After 30 Years, in Utica Observer Dispatch, October 4, 1947

THE FIRST Shadow story, The Shadow of Wall Street, appeared in the February 1929 issue of Fame and Fortune, written by former dime novelist George C. Jenks, writing as Frank S. Lawton. Fame and Fortune was a casualty of the stock market crash. The Shadow of radio began as a voice used to promote Street & Smith’s new Detective Story Weekly. The Shadow’s sepulchral chuckle caught on with listeners and his background and his identity of Lamont Cranston were devised by Ruthrauff & Ryan, a Chrysler building ad agency.

[1] 1933

THE QUARTERLY (soon monthly) pulp series began with The Living Shadow in April-June 1931 and lasted until summer 1949. Walter Gibson (b.1897), a former reporter on a Philadelphia daily, writing as Maxwell Grant, churned out 287 novel-length stories in the first fifteen years. Maxwell Grant’s books were reprinted in the 1960s – in paperbacks from Belmont and Bantam – books which introduced The Shadow to a new generation of fans.

[2] 1933
[3] 1933
[4] 1933
[5] 1933
[6] 1933
[7] 1932
[8] 1947
[9] 1947

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ching-Ching’s Own and The “Best For Boys” Publishing Company

[1] Cheerful Ching-Ching by E. Harcourt Burrage, 11 Nos., “Best for Boys” Publishing Company

by Robert J. Kirkpatrick

“And lastly, Ching-Ching – eccentric, clever, cunning immortal Ching-Ching, whose nature has so many contradictions in it that one scarcely knows what he is – I, the writer of his history, fail to fathom him, and it may be that he was even a puzzle to himself?”Handsome Harry of the Fighting Belvedere, by E. Harcourt Burrage, 1876 
The “Best for Boys” Publishing Company was established in 1890 to capitalise on the popularity of the writer Edwin Harcourt Burrage, and in particular his stories of Ching-Ching, a wily Chinese detective. The company survived for just eight years, before falling victim to the growing success of the Aldine Publishing Company and Afred Harmsworth and his cheap boys’ papers.

Thomas Harrison Roberts [1850-1915
The origins of the “Best for Boys” Publishing Company lay in the activities of William Lucas and Thomas Harrison Roberts. Lucas, born in Clapham, South London in 1844, began his career as an office messenger before becoming a printer in Newcastle Street, Strand, in the late 1860s, and then a publisher, launching the Boy’s Standard in November 1875 (taken over by Charles Fox in 1877). Roberts, born in Kingston, Surrey, in 1850, began his career as a publisher’s clerk before establishing a wholesale newsagents and publishing business in Essex Street, Strand, in the 1870s. One of his first publications was the Illustrated Family Novelist, launched in 1878 and which went on to run for 1,007 issues until 1897.

Lucas and Roberts seem to have joined forces in 1885, firstly operating out of 42 and 43 Essex Street, then moving to 158 Fleet Street, and then to 26 Dean Street, Soho. Amongst their publications, which usually showed Roberts as editor and Lucas as publisher, were the Illustrated Fireside Novelist, Lady’s Own Novelette, Sporting Sketches, Lazy Land and Dorothy’s Home Journal.

In March 1876, Lucas’s Boy’s Standard began serialising ‘Handsome Harry of the Fighting “Belvedere”’ written by Edwin Harcourt Burrage. Born in Norwich, Norfolk, in 1839, Burrage had moved to London, and after a brief and unsuccessful spell as an engraver was encouraged to try his hand at writing by Charles Stevens, the original editor of Edwin J. Brett’s Boys of England; himself a successful author of boys’ stories. Burrage submitted a story to William Emmett, then establishing himself as Brett’s great rival as a publisher of boys’ story papers, and after having it accepted was soon appointed as a sub-editor on the Emmett paper the Young Briton, in 1869. Burrage subsequently wrote numerous stories for various Emmett publications, most notably a series about Tom Wildrake, a character created by George Emmett in March 1872, in Tom Wildrake’s Schooldays, the authorship of which was taken over by Burrage in August of that year when Emmett allegedly ran out of steam. Many of Burrage’s later stories appeared under the name of George Emmett.

Ching-Ching was initially a minor character introduced in the story of Handsome Harry, but he quickly became a readers’ favourite, having his own story, Cheerful-Daring-Wonderful Ching-Ching, in the the Boy’s Standard in 1877. In 1885-86, the story was reprinted in Charles Fox’s Boys’ Leisure Hour, and it was possibly this that prompted William Lucas to launch a new paper, Ching-Ching’s Own, in June 1888. This was edited by, and largely written by, Edwin Harcourt Burrage. Lucas also began issuing previously-published serials as penny-part novels and then as complete volumes.

The publishing history of Ching-Ching’s Own is rather confusing, not least of all because of mistakes made by previous bibliographers – myself included. To begin with, both Frank Jay (in in his series of essays on 19th century periodicals ‘Peeps into the Past’) and John Allingham (in his ‘A Brief History of Boys’ Journals’) stated that Ching-Ching’s Own was launched on 14 June 1888. However, the British Library has a complete run of the paper, and the first number is clearly dated 23 June 1888, a Saturday.

[4] Ching-Ching and his Chums, cover
Published by Lucas at 42 & 43 Essex Street, and printed by Charles Straker & Sons, Bishopsgate, London (and not Sully & Ford as stated by Frank Jay), it was initially subtitled ‘A Journal that will Please the Boys.’ Its opening serials were Ching-Ching and his Chums and The Slapcrash Boys, and these were supplemented by jokes, puzzles and cartoons. As well as a free colour plate, the paper also included a free Ching-Ching’s Novelette. With the fourth number, the masthead declared that the paper was “Edited by E.H. Burrage, the originator and only writer of Ching-Ching,” and the subtitle changed to ‘A Journal that will Amuse the Boys.’

The paper ran in short volumes – Volume I finished with no. 12, Volume II ended with no. 24, etc. With no. 27, the subtitle changed again, rather ungrammatically, to ‘A Thorough Good Journal for the Boys.’ In January 1889 it was announced that the paper was now being published every Wednesday, although it still carried the Saturday date. In March 1889, another announcement stated that the publication day would alter to Monday.

[5] Young Ching-Ching (A Worthy Son of a Worthy Sire)
With no. 41, the subtitle was dropped and replaced with a strapline at the top of the cover: ‘The Biggest, Brightest, and Best Boys’ Book.’ This was sustained until 15 February 1890 (no. 87), when the strapline was altered to ‘Best for Boys.’ This then became absorbed into the paper’s title with no. 92 on 22 March 1890, when it became Best for Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own. The publisher was still William Lucas. This led some previous bibliographers to suggest that Best for Boys was a separate paper, launched in March 1890, with Dennis Gifford, for example, suggesting that this ran until 20 September 1890, after which it merged with Ching-Ching’s Own into Best for Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own. (Unfortunately, I repeated this error in my history of boys’ periodicals, From the Penny Dreadful to the Ha’penny Dreadfuller, published last year). Certainly, there is no evidence that such a separate paper existed (although see later).

On 27 September 1890 a new series of Best for Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own began, printed on pink paper and larger in format. The front page carried the legend “No. 1, Vol. I New Series” below the masthead, although at the bottom of the page was printed “No. 119 Old Series.” 

On 6 December 1890, with no. 128, and with no prior announcement, publication was taken over by the “Best for Boys” Publishing Company, operating out of 17 Gough Square, Fleet Street.

The “Best for Boys” Publishing Company Limited had been incorporated on 28 November 1890 (the papers relating to its incorporation are held at the National Archives in London). Rather oddly, perhaps, William Lucas was not involved, unless he was retained as an employee. The new company, which had share capital of £2,500, divided into 1,500 ordinary shares of £1 each and 100 founders’ shares of £10 each, was founded by seven shareholders headed by Harry Bye, a printer from Wimbledon (who went on to become the Managing Director of the printers Sully & Ford). The other founders were Edwin Harcourt Burrage, Tom Joseph Hartshorn (a solicitor), William Bacon (a stationer), Frederick W. Eaton (a merchant’s clerk), Francis W. Watkins (a cashier), and Frederick Warren (a solicitor). They were subsequently joined by two other shareholders – John E. Strong (a printer), and Strong and Thornbury (paper merchants).

A Memorandum of Agreement for the new company, drawn up on 20 November 1890, revealed that the purpose of the business was to provide an exclusive outlet for Burrage:
The said E. Harcourt Burrage for the consideration herein
appearing hereby agrees to and with the said Tom Joseph
Hartshorn that he will for the space of ten years from the
date hereof write or at his own expense provide the whole
of the literary matter for the future editions of the said serial
publications and that he will not for the same period write
for any other serial or publication of the same class or publish
any tales for boys or literary work otherwise than upon the
account of and through the Company so to be registered.
The said E. Harcourt Burrage shall be a Director of the said
Company and shall edit the said publications. As consideration
for the above he shall be entitled to a weekly salary of six
pounds. The said Harry Bye shall also be a Director of the
said Company and shall be the publisher and superintend the
publishing and bringing out of the said publications and so
long as he shall be such publisher be entitled to a salary of
104 pounds per annum payable weekly.
The “said publications” referred to above were later recorded as being Best for Boys and Ching-Ching’s Own, suggesting, presumably erroneously, that these were two separate publications.

So, a week or so after the “Best for Boys” Publishing Company was formed, it took over Best for Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own, with the printer now being Sully & Ford. On 30 April 1892, with no. 84 of the new series (no. 210 of the old series) the title changed to Best for Merry Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own, and as such it ran until 17 June 1893 (no. 143/261), after which it was replaced by a new paper, Bits for Boys – A Journal for Young Britons. On 16 September 1893, after only 12 numbers, this was relaunched as The Prince – A Journal of Fact and Fiction, Teeming with Records of Heroism and Thrilling Adventure, although this came to an abrupt end a few weeks later on 2 December 1893.

[9] Daring Ching-Ching; or, the Mysterious Cruise of the Swallow, 18 Nos., “Best for Boys” Publishing Company
In the meantime, the “Best for Boys” Publishing Company Ltd. had issued two other boys’ papers – the Boys’ Star Library, a monthly, edited by E.H. Burrage using his pseudonym of “Tom Tartar”, which ran for one year in 1891; and the Complete Sensational Library, which ran for 20 numbers in 1895. More profitable, perhaps, were the reissues of old serials in complete volume form in the Best for Boys Library, which offered around 40 titles with prices ranging from threepence to two shillings. Another series, the Up-to-date Library, appeared briefly in 1895.

[10] The Wild Adventures of Jam Josser & Eddard Cutten at Home and Abroad, No. 1, by E. Harcourt Burrage, “Best for Boys” Publishing Company
The company was also almost certainly behind Golden Hours, a weekly boys’ paper launched on 30 March 1895, which ran for 96 numbers until January 1897. No publisher’s name was given, and it simply carried the legend “Published for the proprietor at 17 Gough Square.” It included advertisements for “Best for Boys” titles, although again without mentioning the company’s name. While it reprinted serials from earlier publications, its main focus was on American stories, apparently reprinted with permission from the papers published in New York by Norman L. Munro. It came to an end in January 1897 after 96 numbers.

The publishing company survived, presumably still selling its stock of complete volumes, for a further couple of years. The last Return of Shareholders was made on 31 December 1898, revealing just nine shareholders. Following the absence of a Return the following year, the Registrar of Companies wrote letters in August and September 1900, asking if it was still in business, but these were returned undelivered. Finally, the company was warned in April 1901 that it would be struck off the Companies Register if it failed to respond, but this letter was also returned undelivered. Accordingly, the “Best for Boys” Publishing Company Limited was dissolved by the Registrar via a notice in the London Gazette on 23 July 1901.

In the meantime, T.H. Roberts had launched his own contribution to the Ching-Ching industry with Ching-Ching Yarns, a 68-page pocket-sized weekly which ran for just 12 numbers between April and June 1893. Five years later he and Lucas launched Boys’ Stories of Adventure and Daring, another pocket-sized weekly, priced at a halfpence and an attempt to muscle in on the market in cheaper papers which was becoming dominated by Alfred Harmsworth. In the event, it survived for less than a year, coming to an end in January 1899 after 44 numbers.

William Lucas appears to have abandoned the publishing business in the early 1900s, and by 1911 was retired and living in Croydon, where he died in 1918. Roberts continued, as T. Harrison Roberts Ltd., until 1908, when financial difficulties led to his company’s dissolution. He tried to re-establish himself, via T. Harrison Roberts (1908) Ltd., operating out of 1 Plough Court, Holborn, but this company failed and was struck off the Register of Companies in 1913. Roberts, who spent several years living in Reigate, died in Croydon in 1915.

For his part, Edwin Harcourt Burrage appears to have gone outside the terms of his agreement with the “Best for Boys” Publishing Company when he wrote what turned out to be two of his most popular school serials, The Island School and The Lambs of Littlecote, for the Aldine Publishing Company in 1894-95. After 1900, Burrage wrote more or less exclusively for the Amalgamated Press. Having moved to Redhill in Surrey, he spent several years on the local council and was very active in local affairs. However, his later years were not without financial difficulty, and in 1904 he was obliged to apply to the Royal Literary Fund (a long-established charitable fund set up to help authors in temporary dire straits) for assistance, after ill-health meant he had to stop writing, while he had no savings with which to support his wife and seven children. He was awarded a grant of £50. He died twelve years later, on 5 March 1916.

[12] The Best for Boys Library listings

Publishing history of Ching-Ching’s Own

Ching-Ching’s Own
Published by W. Lucas
23 June 1888 - 15 March 1890 (91 numbers)


Best for Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own
Published by W. Lucas
22 March 1890 - 20 September 1890 (27 numbers)
New Series:
27 September 1890 - 29 November 1890 (10 numbers)
Taken over by “Best for Boys” Publishing Company
6 December 1890 - 23 April 1892 (73 numbers)


Best for Merry Boys – Ching-Ching’s Own
Published by “Best for Boys” Publishing Company
30 April 1892 - 17 June 1893 (60 numbers)

replaced with

Bits for Boys

[Note] E. Harcourt Burrage introduced Ching-Ching in Handsome Harry, a serial in the Boys’ Standard, No. 20, March 18, 1876. It was later published in penny numbers as Handsome Harry of the Fighting Belvedere by Hogarth House in 28 parts in the 1880s. Throughout I have used Ching-Ching with a dash rather than Ching Ching, following the lead of its originator E. Harcourt Burrage in the original texts.
 Thanks to Nick Harrison Roberts for the photograph of his grandfather Thomas Harrison Roberts