Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Circulation magazine – 14 covers from early 1921 to early 1927

[1] Circulation #29, April 1927, King Features Syndicate’s worldwide newspaper services — cover by Dan Smith.

Of the 1920s Circulation magazine little more remains than rumours. Published almost a century ago by King Features Syndicate, Inc. in New York, its 1921 subtitle was ‘A Magazine for Newspaper-Makers.’ Its contents hovered between gimmicky and entertaining. Its tone was highflying. But its press run was a modest 5,000 issues per number — sent via direct mail ‘to every newspaper executive in the country, and to hundreds of advertising agencies and national advertisers’ — and its numbers were published at irregular intervals with gaps of several months at a time. For some years Circulation was edited by Sidney Loeb. The four sides of its front and back covers were printed in colour, the interior pages in plain black and white; the printing was of ordinary quality but the journalists and comic authors and artists clearly enjoyed contributing to it. The magazine was reportedly the idea of journalist Moses Koenigsberg (b.1879), the man at the helm of several Hearst companies: Newspaper Feature Service, Universal Service, and finally King Features Syndicate since 1915.

[2] Universal Service — M. Koenigsberg, President.
The greatest mystery at present is why the KFS company in the year of its centenary celebrations still hasn’t been able to retrieve any files on Circulation magazine — not even back issues.

[3] Circulation #4, September 1921, ‘Circulation Chat’ editorial page, illustrated by Joe McGurk.
The rumours about it are as yet hard to prove. Collector and historian Bill Blackbeard mentioned it in 1986 as ‘…the old Hearst trade magazine Circulation…’ But no specification of the total number of issues had and has been found yet. Blackbeard’s research in the mid-1960s, when he’d found only one issue of it, led him to the New York Public Library, which seemed once to have owned ‘a full bound run’ of Circulation. As it turned out these bound issues had mysteriously disappeared from the library’s shelves already.

[4] Circulation #3, July 1921, “Wuxtry!” — cover art by Nell Brinkley.
In January 2001 in Angoulême, France, comics historian Robert Lee Beerbohm surprised and excited me and other interested researchers with xerox copies of ten Circulation issues, of 44 or more pages per issue. Not one of us had ever seen it. (We were all invited by Thierry Groensteen for his international symposium ‘Comics in Europe,’ my lecture about the Dutch shenanigans at the time was titled The Comic Strip: the Incredible Shrinking Medium.)

[5] Circulation #9, September 1922, “Forty-five Minutes Ahead!” — promoting the fastest newspaper news by telegraph, supplied by Universal Service, Inc.
Up to now just 15 numbers have resurfaced of Circulation magazine (11 full issues, plus from 3 issues only the covers, and from 1 issue only the interior). Issues are downright rare. My present estimate is that at least 29 issues were published. The earliest I saw is from 1921, the latest from 1927. Of one — number 4 of September 1921, with the McGurk “Wings of Circulation” cover — I have not been able to find an original full-colour version.

[6] Circulation #4, September 1921, “Wings of Circulation— cover art by Joe McGurk.
[7] A 1925 photo of comic author-artist George McManus in front of a Persian rug made after his Circulation cover art.
[8] The resulting Persian rug — made after the cover of Circulation #6, February 1922.
[9] Circulation #18, February 1925, the Persian rug article.
[10] Circulation #9, September 1922, “Please page Barney Google!” — cover by Billy DeBeck.
[11] Circulation #11, March 1923, Barney Google on his horse Spark Plug — cover by Billy DeBeck.
[12] “Barney Google Fox Trot” — 1923 sheet music front cover by Billy DeBeck.
[13] Circulation #12, April 1923, ‘The Picture Folk’ — a poem about the soul of the Sunday Funnies.
[14] Circulation #12, April 1923, Bringing Up Father — cover by George McManus.
[15] Circulation #13, July 1923, “Hey Boob!” Boob McNutt prepares for the 4th of July— cover by Rube Goldberg.
[16] Nemo, the classic comics library #24, February 1987, cover for a special issue on Rube Goldberg.
[17] Circulation #18, February 1925, St Valentine’s Day — cover by James H. Hammon.
[18] Circulation #19, April 1925, Bringing Up Father — cover by George McManus.
[19] Circulation #4, September 1921, comic author-artist Elzie Segar ‘…getting ideas at home where all is quiet…’ — strip cartoon by E.C. Segar.
[20] Circulation #20, Augustus 1925, five bathing beauties present “Front Page Marine News” to Neptune, the god of water and of the sea — cover by Alexander Popini.
[21] Circulation #22, December 1925, Polly and Her Pals, wooden christmas tree and puppets — cover by Cliff Sterrett.
[22] Circulation #25, July 1926, Abie the Agent and friends blown away from the author’s table, with a self-portrait of their maker — cover by Harry Hershfield.
[23] Circulation #26, September 1926, “The Magic Carpet of the Comics” — cover by Louis Biedermann.
[24] Circulation #26, uncropped xerox copy of the front cover.
[25] Circulation #18, February 1925, “A Scribe’s Lament” by William F. Kirk — illustrated by James H. Hammon.

You have now seen fourteen surviving Circulation covers, most over ninety years old, finally shown together here — some in damaged state, some xeroxed, some too closely cropped, but, one excepted, all in their original colours.

Any lead, or any more background information to solve this Circulation mystery is welcome.

Huib van Opstal

[ to be continued ]

This is part 2 of a series — see Part 1 HERE.

[all issues] Robert Beerbohm & BLB Comics       
[10] [14] courtesy of Brian Walker 
[20] courtesy of  Carsten Laqua & Galerie Laqua 
[4] courtesy of Craig Yoe & I.T.C.H.     
[17] courtesy of Rob Stolzer  
Mark Johnson
Cyril Koopmeiners
Ianus Keller

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