Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Crowded Life in Comics –


By Rick Marschall

Pete Hamill died this week. 

There are people you can say about their passing – not many; and damn few about whom we can say this with genuine sincerity – that Pete didn’t die: he lived.

What I mean, of course, is that he savored life. In a way that few people have. He had gone through hell but wrote like an angel. He was self-aware but not self-important. It seemed like he had done everything, but always wanted to do more; and was not chary of admitting to unfulfilled dreams. He had the voice of a documentary narrator and the face of a war correspondent; a frankness only a street-wise Brooklynite could have; and the regrets of a heavy drinker. He had been all those things, and many more – columnist, fiction writer, editor, screenwriter, artist, interviewer, sportswriter. Work informed his life, just as life informed his work. Even when he gave up drinking, he wrote a book about it.

I have loved “old New York” since my youngest days, fed lore by my mother’s father, whose German parents had owned a grocery store off Times Square, “where Stern’s built their department store,” I was told a thousand times in melancholy; and now even Stern’s is forgotten. Pete was born in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and eventually worked around the world, but never left New York City even when he was away from New York City. He worked for the Daily News and the New York Post and sipped coffee at other metropolitan dailies and weeklies.

What Jacob Riis and Stephen Crane and O Henry and Bruno Lessing and O O McIntyre and Damon Runyon once were to New York City, Pete Hamill was, two generations later… but, like an ink-stained Phoenix, he was not the reincarnation of any of them, but all of them. He touched on politics; he wrote fiction; he knew the underbelly; he knew the glamour and grunge, the soaring hopes and crushing defeats; he was a cynic and a dreamer and a poet – a rare hat-trick.

We became friends and discussed the lore and trivia of “little old New York,” whose glamour to me as a scholar and collector ended in the Roaring Twenties. For Pete, his fascination was always as fresh and intense as last night’s deadline.

He had attended the School of Visual Arts, where I taught years later; and he occasionally spoke to my classes. About what?

Oh, I have neglected to share a major passion of his life: comics. Pete Hamill loved comics. He wanted to a be cartoonist. He especially loved the work of Milton Caniff, and loved Milt. We traded original artwork, and every Noel Sickles Scorchy Smith original I ever owned wound up on Pete’s wall. 

His life was hectic in the 1980s – I think it never was not hectic – the News, the Village Voice, editing a paper in Mexico City (!)… and we almost pulled off some collaborations. Projects, anyway; he wanted to write the Foreword to my book collection of Caniff’s complete Dickie Dare, but he blew the deadline. Same with a Foreword to one of my Terry and the Pirates reprints. Regrets on both sides. He urged me to reprint his stories, semi-autobiographical of course, on growing up as an aspiring cartoonist, loving Sickles and Caniff. 

There were other points of contact (for instance, Al Capp’s family had reached out to me about working on a movie, and I connected with Pete… At another time, I arranged to have him invited to the Lucca Comics salon in Italy...) but I will let some of his letters tell those stories. I hope they reproduce well. I am so proud of his “fan” letter when Nemo Magazine had its debut. He never got to write something new for us… but urged me to reprint his comics-and-nostalgia pieces, which we will do in the imminent, new, NEMO. Reciprocity; he wanted to find a way to reprint some of my work somewhere.

For years I was an addict of Imus In the Morning. Pete was an “I-Fave,” a frequent guest. Don Imus needled and made nervous almost every guest, from my new BFF Bernadette Castro, then the New York State Parks Commissioner, to President Clinton. But I never remember Imus being anything but almost reverent when Pete Hamill was a guest. OK, they shared some of the same battle scars, but so did many. So do many.

But Pete Hamill was nobility. His thrones were sidewalks and benches and his domains were forgotten parks and old storefronts, all with stories to tell. 

Pete inscribed his book of short pieces Invisible City to me: “I wish I could write as well as Noel Sickles could draw.” Oh, he did.

--- 30 ---


A Crowded Life in Comics –

Here Come the Judge.

By Rick Marschall

My father could not draw, and probably never tried. But he was a rabid fan of cartoons and comics. We subscribed to many Sunday newspaper from Long Island to Philadelphia when I was young, so he could read virtually every syndicated strip; otherwise he only read the The New York Times and one or two others. And he saved the Sunday funnies.

On his bookshelves he had what were about the only books then published about comic strips and their history – the books by Waugh, Craven, and Sheridan. These gave me my taste and affection for older strips. How else would I have known Opper, Dirks, and Swinnerton? I started to draw, as well as study. On school vacations I would go to the New York Public Library’s microfilm division and look at spools of Hearst funnies from the turn of the century. When I was a little older, I visited syndicates, where indulgent executives and bullpen staffers would give me encouraging words, and stacks of originals. The good old days.

My father delighted in these activities, and he helped me compose fan letters to Hal Foster, Walt Kelly, Crockett Johnson. Al Smith, who drew Mutt and Jeff, went to our church and became a mentor… with my father’s vicarious presence. The New York area was full of cartoonists, and each artist I met would recommend me to others… and before I could drive, my dad was the cheerful chauffeur. On Florida vacations, the final two days were always spent visiting cartoonists by polite pre-arrangement. Frank King, Roy Crane, Les Turner…

There was one discordant note in this long happy song of ours. As part of his lifelong interest, he read and saved the humor magazines of the day. He bought his first copy of Judge, he always remembered, when he was almost 14. And he kept the issues. Also Life, and eventually The New Yorker and other titles. That commenced in 1929, so there were substantial stacks of the cartoon weeklies.

In 1955 our family moved from half a brownstone in Ridgewood, Queens, to a split-level house on half an acre in Closter NJ, across the bridge from New York. In other words – more room, more space, more corners to fill with old comics and humor magazines.

Counter-intuitively, instead of moving his collection of cartoon journals to a larger venue, he decided, in planning the household move, to sell them. I was only five, not yet having contracted the Collecting Virus. When I did, a few years later, it was original art and (on weekly visits to Book Store Row with Dad) vintage Puck, Life, and Judge magazines of the 1880s and ‘90s.

But soon enough my regrets joined his. So I – we – set about acquiring runs of those magazines, and soon I was happily knee-deep in John Held, Jr., Russell Patterson, Gluyas Williams, Percy Crosby, early Dr Seuss, and early… S J Perelman.

Dad loved to read, too – our house resembled the Trinity College Library – and he was attracted by the text humorists in those magazines. In Judge of the late 1920s, S J Perelman was a fixture, often with a text piece and two cartoons. Yes, he was a cartoonist and a good one. I was just as impressed, almost 40 years after Dad had been, by the insouciant nonsense of the short pieces and the cartoons: surreal, pun-filled, intelligent. This was the work that attracted the Marx Brothers, too, and led to collaborations. Perelman was slow to join The New Yorker, and the Judge material, grown obscure, was prime in my view.

Eventually I assembled a complete run, via auctions, lots, bookstores, and libraries like of that Judge cartoonist (and Oaky Doaks creator) R B Fuller. When I found a duplicate copy of the first issue my father bought as a teenager, I gave it to him (of course he had been borrowing and re-reading all the issues from the past). It was like a Dead Sea scroll, thereafter displayed.

I loved Perelman so much that I proposed to Sid that an anthology deserved to be published. He disagreed about his early material – many fans do not – and seemed wistful that I had a better file of his early works than he did. I got to know Sid’s last best friend, and insightful biographer, Prudence Crowther.

I did collect and edit a book of this material, That Old Gang O’ Mine (Morrow, 1984), conveniently titled after what seemed to me to be one of the book’s funniest feuilletons, as he liked to call them.
And for the cover – to honor Dad and the path he set me upon – I designed it from one of Perelman’s color cartoons, a Judge magazine cover. And I dedicated the book to him.

To Perelmaniacs, it seemed like simple justice… and a Judge was already presiding.


Monday, August 3, 2020

American Comic Cuts –

⭐ Jake Geller on Comic Cuts, The Windsor Star - ‎Oct. 13, 1981. 

– Our first issue of Comic Cuts, The National Comic weekly carried a cover date of May 19, 1934. It sold for a nickel and had 24 pages of color comics. The front-page comic strip was called ‘Simple Simon Scores Again This Week.’

How it happened is told here in Jake Geller’s own words, recorded in personal interviews, and taken, with his permission from the text of It’s Jake with Me, Geller’s unpublished autobiography. His is the true story of Canada’s own comic book hero.

“My Windsor News Company handled a series of English comic papers published by Lord Northcliffe’s Amalgamated Press in London, England. Every so often, a gentleman from Detroit would show up in my shop and buy 15 or 20 back issues of these papers. One day, out of curiosity, I asked him what he did with them. He told me, “When I was a boy I lived in Hamilton, Ontario. I used to read these English comics all the time. There is nothing like them available in Detroit, so whenever I’m in Windsor I pick up a few for my kids.”

“THAT GAVE ME an idea. I had my brother Maurice take the rest of the back issues to Detroit and set them up at a variety store which was located near a school. The papers cost two-and-a-half cents each and we sold them to the retailer for three-and-a-half cents, giving the retailer a cent-and-a-half profit on each five-cent sale. Boy were we ever surprised when Maurice returned the following week. Every copy had been sold and the storekeeper was clamoring for more.

Finally, it occurred to me that if I bought the American rights to these strips, I could issue my own publication and make it any size I wanted. I could also control the number of titles the retailers would have to handle.

I APPROACHED Wilbert Smith, president of Select Magazines, and asked him to be our national distributor in the United States. He was enthusiastic. Harry Baker, a friend of mine from New York, agreed to put up some of the money. We opened an office in New York and started to hire our staff. We hired a couple of big names to begin with. A.F. Cole joined us as our advertising manager from Popular Science, and Robert Ament, the former art director of the late lamented New York World, was hired as editor.

Our first issue of Comic Cuts, The National Comic weekly carried a cover date of May 19, 1934. It sold for a nickel and had 24 pages of color comics. The front-page comic strip was called ‘Simple Simon Scores Again This Week.’

You know, the World Encyclopedia of Comics (edited by Maurice Horn, published in 1976 by Chelsea House) gives credit for the first comic book where it isn’t due. Look at this.” Geller takes the book down from his shelf and reads, “In May 1934 the Eastern Color Printing Company issued the first comic book, Famous Funnies, a monthly (Geller again repeats ‘monthly’) collection of newspaper strip reprints.” There is no mention of Geller. Or of Comic Cuts.

GELLER CLOSES the book and says, “Why, we were a weekly. And we had six issues out before they were ever on the stands!

“You know who Eastern Color Printing was. They were the first printer we contacted for a price quote to print Comic Cuts. We didn’t go with them because they were in New England. Instead we chose a printer in Buffalo. But they sure must have liked the idea.


Sunday, August 2, 2020

A Crowded Life in Comics –

A Price-Less Baseball Fan.


By Rick Marschall

I have shared my memories, here, of George Price, the great New Yorker cartoonist whom I knew in high school, who lived a couple towns away from me in New Jersey. Tenafly NJ, for the curious.

This is an appropriate season to revisit George. He was an obsessive curmudgeon, almost trying too hard to be the dictionary definition of one. He hated Nixon, he hated Bob Hope (“a glib wise guy”), and he wrote many choleric letters to the editors of local newspapers. As a return for that particular investment of time and creativity, he received piles of angry letters and post cards. In those days, papers would print the writers’ addresses, and George relished the vituperation. “Look!” he showed me stacks of cards and letters sorted by the same phrases used, or the same patriotic slogans underlined in red or blue. “The morons meet somewhere and plan to write them all together!”

George was nice enough to me, and loved talking about cartoons, but enjoyed putting on a show, I think.

There was one subject, however, that made his eyes light up, and turn him into a joyful, enthusiastic conversationalist: Baseball. In particular, the New York Mets, if you could call the team “baseball” in those days.

No, in fact, I used to see him between the Miracle Mets World Series year when they broke their “horrible” streak as a new team, and the excruciating World Series they lost to the Athletics four years later when Yogi was their manager.

It was the best of baseball; it was the worst of baseball, and baseball always ignites discussions, what-ifs, dreams, and disappointments.

I thought of George Price and those conversations recently, as the baseball “season” has “opened up,” or not. No fans; short season; canned cheers; new rules; no popcorn, peanuts, or Cracker Jacks. Sheesh.

I always wondered what it would be like to have gone to a game with George Price. Would he have enjoyed it, or reverted to type in the stands?

This year? Sitting at home, watching a Bizarro-world version of baseball, he would probably wonder how they’re going to make those thousands of cardboard cut-outs of fans in the seats do the wave, those stupid bastards.


Friday, July 24, 2020

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Return To Sender.

Another envelope, a large mailer, from Bob Weber. I think there never was a Moose Miller Fan Club, but there should have been. One was discussed, and the Treasurer, suspiciously signing the exorbitant chapter-registration invoice as “Web Bobber,” stipulated that board of director meetings were held each year in what sounded like “Baltimore,” but was in fact Bermuda. I had kids to put through college…

By Rick Marschall

The response was so surprising to last week’s compilation of the “decorated” envelopes, I thought I would share a few more before moving on to other recesses of a Crowded Life’s memory. I previously shared thanksgivings and huzzahs that incipient collectors along the line in the postal “service” never seized. Cartoonists’ letters with sketches and artwork on the envelopes… but how would I know?

Another anomaly pertains to cartoonists who were bold enough, or “economical” enough, to draw their characters on envelopes or the backs of post cards. Chancy, especially for recipients, right? Well, one of the first fan letters I ever wrote was to Crockett Johnson, who then was drawing a revival of Barnaby. In the second response I ever received from a cartoonist it was from him (the first was from Hal Foster), and he thanks me for liking the strip; he expressed gratitude that I was making my own Barnaby book, cutting and pasting strips every day; and he apologized for not being able to send an original. But “this will have to do” – an original inked drawing of Mr O’Malley. It did just fine!

But – Cushlamochree! – after all my worrying about the Merry Mailmen of the land swiping sketches by famous cartoonists, sometime through the years I mislaid this card. It is in my piles of ju… my archives, but not located for awhile, not in time for this column.

The others, today, are to me, but also from prominent cartoonists to others. (The collecting disease is infectious). I am not showing others of related interest – for instance all the letters Bill Watterson wrote to me do not have original sketches of Calvin or Hobbes on the envelopes (so calm down, everyone) and, very much like the hermit he is, no return address except the name “Watterson.” I cracked the code.


This envelope has interesting history as its subtext. Pat Sullivan had “established” his animation studio, clearly, but Felix the Cat and Otto Mesmer were not yet on the scene. The character he displays is Sambo, of the strip Sambo and His Funny Noises, which he inherited for the World Color Printing Company’s Sunday comics from Billy Marriner, who had committed suicide in Harrington Park NJ.

R. F. Outcault could be all business. One of his many enterprises was an ad agency – mostly using his characters – run, in Chicago, by Charles Crewdson and his son-in-law, a nephew of General “Black Jack” Pershing

Clare Victor Dwiggins – “Dwig”-- sent this caricature to his editor at Henry F Coates, the publisher of some of his early books of drawings. In case the postman did not recognize the recipient by the portrait, Dwig dutifully scribbled the name. It is amazing that, even in one of America’s largest cities, the name of the company and the simple city name, was sufficient to have a letter arrive. Also, cities in those days had multiple deliveries per day – better known as “per the Good Old Days.”

I have several letters – some silly; some flirtateous – from George Herriman to Louise Swinnerton, ex-wife of Jimmy. The envelopes, with his distinctive signature and full home address in Hollywood, was always there. And some envelopes – or large package wraps, like this in butcher paper! – had sketches too. Here, a self-caricature.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Notes on the American News Company 3 –

But to come back to the actual workings of the American News Company, who’s periodical and book departments have already been briefly considered. In addition to these two central departments of distribution, the Company operates along most of the railroad systems in the United States as the Union News Company, which controls the hawkers on trains, the big terminal stands, and even restaurants.

For the import and export trade in periodicals and books it has the International News Company; and to take care of such districts as may not be fed by its system of dealers (newsstands are of course a distinctly urban feature, and by far the largest part of the trade) it has established a mail order house known as the New York Publishing Company, which circularizes possible customers and fills orders for the books of all publishers. (The Company claims that 93% of the orders handled are filled within 34 hours." And finally, as a part of its distribution- economy, the Company edits and prints a monthly catalogue of books.  R. Betty Braverman; ‘American News Company’, 1934 

★ Full Text HERE 

★ Read Previous Post HERE 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Notes on the American News Company 2 – Hearst

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff conducts a store for the sale of newspapers, magazines, stationery and cigars and similar articles at 240 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn. It further alleges that the defendants owned and controlled substantially all of the leading newspapers circulated in the City of New York and in the Borough of Brooklyn with the exception of the New York Tribune and the local newspapers published in the said Borough of Brooklyn. 

That the American News Company has an almost complete monopoly of the business of supplying retailers with morning newspapers; that at the present time none of the important morning newspapers published in New York City, except The Tribune, can be obtained by retailers otherwise than through the American News Company.   —♠ ‘Decision Stops Aid Publishers Gave Hearst in Newsman's Fight,’ New York Tribune, Jan 27, 1919
MORE NOTES.—♠   By the end of my last post the American News Company was entering the era of Prohibition, gangsterism and bootleg liquor distribution. Prohibition was first proposed in late 1917 and came into full effect on January 17, 1920. Samuel Shipley Blood, formerly ANC Treasurer was the President of the ANC, Stephen Farrelly was Directing Manager and Vice-President. I quoted the online Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists unsourced comment that in the 1920s ANC was “controlled by organized crime, but it was headed by William Randolph Hearst, Arthur Brisbane, and Moe L. Annenberg.” I have found no evidence to support that claim, but I don’t disagree that the ANC was connected to organized crime, or that Moses Louis Annenberg was involved. He will pop in and out of our story in this and in future posts.

By John Adcock.—♠

ALLIES.—♠   If the Field Guide report is true, the most likely point of entry for Hearst, Brisbane and Annenberg into the affairs of the ANC would have been in 1918 when a suit was launched by news dealer Joseph A. Sultan against Hearst, his allies in the Publishers’ Association, and the American News Company. 

The Newspaper Publishers Association was a powerful force and deserves scrutiny, but it is also a huge hole to delve into. Every major city seems to have had one, and they stretched as far back as the 1880s. Another subject for the future I think. I will share something tantalizing now though. 

In 1912 Andy Lawrence, circulation manager of Hearst's Examiner, accused the Publisher's Association in Chicago of carrying out a murder of a union street car conductor during the newspaper strike. He himself had been fingered in print by the Chicago Tribune, but claimed it was not the Examiners hit. Instead he claimed it was carried out by assassins hired on behalf of the entire Publisher’s Union trust. Under Colonel Robert McCormick, owner and publisher of the Tribune

And you thought newspapering was a respectable profession. 

Did McCormick head the Chicago Association and Hearst New York? Too much to digest... for now...

HEADLINE—♠  This was not the first time Hearst had engaged in an attack against one of his rivals. A San Francisco Call headline of June 3, 1907 read: FOUR NEWSPAPERS ARE ACCUSED OF CONSPIRACY. The rival was Colonel Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago.—♠   Warrants were issued yesterday by Judge Fake of the Harrjson street municipal court against the Evening American, the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Record-Herald, Andrew M. Lawrence of the Examiner; Frank B. Noyes, publisher of the Record-Herald; Berthold Yokel and Max Annenberg, circulators of the Hearst papers; Walter Inman and Albert G. Beauenlane of the Daily News, and James S. Seymour and Ernest A. Scholz of the Record-Herald. 

The warrants were issued at the solicitation of five individual news dealers outside of Chicago on the following charges: Conspiracy to injure the business of complainant news dealers and dealers throughout  the country and state by refusal to sell the Daily News, Record-Herald, American, and Examiner to dealers handling the Chicago Tribune. Conspiracy, to injure the business of the Chicago Tribune. Violation of the antitrust law of Illinois.

BROTHERS—♠  Max Annenberg, named in the SF Call report of 1907, was the elder brother of Moses by three years. Max had started his newspaper career in the Chicago Tribune’s circulation department about 1893. He was working for Hearst by 1907 and rose to circulation manager of the evening Chicago American under Andy “Long Green” Lawrence. He changed sides once again, returning to the Chicago Tribune in 1910.


S.S. Blood.—♠  But back to 1918. Samuel S. Blood is mentioned. His name rarely appeared in news items except as “Mr and Mrs Samuel S. Blood,” usually in society page squibs dealing with charities or evenings out at the Waldof-Astoria. According to Roger Deane Harris’ The Story of the Bloods (1960) Samuel went from working in his brother-in-law’s bank to organizing the New York News Company in 1867.

The National News Company was absorbed by the American News Company in 1868. He became manager of the International News Company in 1872, then President and manager of the ANC in 1923. From this newspaper account we can see that he was President already in 1918. 

MONOPOLY.—♠  The defendant makes his case that William Randolph Hearst controls both the Publishers’ Association and the American News Company. And he uses that word “monopoly,” which followed the ANC from its beginning. This is not proof, however, that he “headed” the American News Company. Still… food for thought.

And this seems a good time to point out just what Moses L. Annenberg’s relationship to the Hearst newspaper chain was. His name and deeds will turn up in our investigations into the American News Company once again, but that is for a future post.


In a moment of supreme serendipity (chalk it up to The Invisible Librarian), I realized this news clipping ‘Court Enjoins Hearst at Plea of Newsdealer’ from November 12, 1918 was indirectly connected to a previous YP post of mine from Dec 4, 2010 titled Kronprinz Wilhelm Randolph von Hearst (HERE). This is verified by the NY Tribune’s position on Sultan’s suit published on Jan 27, 1919.



There are several days worth of coverage of the 1918 Sultan lawsuit  at Chronicling America for anyone who wants more. Comments on the Notes are welcome.

Previous post HERE

To be Continued... HERE


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Notes on the American News Company – the Founders

By John Adcock

Mr. (Robert) Bonner’s methods of conducting and advertising the Ledger led, among other things, to the establishment of the American News Company. Many of his advertisements to smaller cities referred would be purchasers of the Ledger to local booksellers. Letters from such Mr. Bonner turned over to Mr. (Sinclair) Tousey of Ross, Jones & Tousey, who prepared a circular letter suggesting the regular sale of periodicals. Mr. Tousey afterward became the President of the American News Company, whose first business was so built up. ‘Robert Bonner, the Story of his Life,Gazette and Courier, Greenfield, Mass., July 22, 1899
Histories of dime novels record (briefly) that the American News Company was founded in 1864 by Sinclair Tousey in New York City as a distributor of story papers, magazines, and dime novels.  In time, with a near total control of newspaper and book distribution in the United States, Tousey became the richest and most powerful man in American publishing.

Sinclair Tousey was born in New Haven in 1815 and was working for Erasmus Beadle from the firm’s beginning. The title page of Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter by Ann S. Stephens (Beadle's Dime Novels, No. 1, June 9, 1860) shows Beadle & Co. of 141 William Street (they had moved to these premises in May 1860) as the publisher. The firm was run by Irwin Beadle and Robert Adams, with some backing by Erastus Beadle. Also, on the title page at bottom is the name Sinclair Tousey of 121 Nassau Street, NY. Nassau and Ann streets were in “the Swamp,” where Robert DeWitt and most cheap publishers of the fifties and sixties had their offices.

Mary Noel (Villains Galore) notes that by 1860 the two largest newsvendors in America were Ross & Tousey and Dexter & Brother. Ross, Jones & Tousey were wholesale news agents in Nassau Street from 1854 to 1856. From then until 1864 the firm operated as Ross & Tousey. They also sold British periodicals like Punch’s Almanac. Robert M. DeWitt also had offices on Nassau street. In 1858 advertisements show that Dexter & Brother, Long & Farrelly, Hendrickson & Blake, and Dick & Fitzgerald all operated out of Ann street, Samuel Yates on Beckman street, and WM Skelly on Greenwich street. The Phunny Phellow, “a comic illustrated paper” published by Okie, Dayton & Jones, was puffed in the NY Daily Tribune on Dec 3, 1860. It was sold by Ross & Tousey, H. Dexter & Co., Samuel Yates, Hamilton, Johnson and Farrelly, and John F. Feeks & Co.

Henry Dexter, Busy Mans Magazine, May 1, 1910
Poking around in newspaper archives from 1864 I found two advertisements, both in Horace Greeley’s Daily Tribune (Greeley was a good friend of Sinclair Tousey’s). The first from February 6 advertises the American News Company as “successors to Sinclair Tousey and H. Dexter Hamilton and Company.” The second is from March 3 and lists the officers of the ANC

Sinclair Tousey, President
Henry Dexter, Vice-President
John E. Tousey, Secretary
S.W. Johnson, Treasurer
John Hamilton, F. Farrelly} Superintendents

New York Tribune, March 3, 1864
A newspaper paragraph from the June 11, 1904 Rockland County Times identifies Patrick Farrelly as one of the founders. F. Farrelly may have been a typo.  In an article titled News Butchers in The American Mercury (April 1947) Stewart H. Holbrook writes In a fat, handsome brochure the company published in 1944, for its eightieth birthday, a mere nineteen lines of text serves to relate the concern’s long history. Today it has nearly four hundred branches in the United States and Canada and supplies ninety thousand retailers, many of them train butchers, with wares. The brochure displays portraits of The Founders, seven in number, who were George Dexter, Henry Dexter, Solomon W. Johnson, John E. Tousey, John Hamilton, Sinclair Tousey, and Patrick Farrelly.

Rockland County Times, June 11, 1904
The bulk of the ANC founders’ fortunes came from the dime novel and story paper publishers; the Beadle’s. Norman and George Munro, and Frank Tousey. ANC distributed the New York Ledger, New York Weekly, Family Story Paper and Fireside Companion, all published in New York, as well as the Saturday Night published in Philadelphia.

It may be asked why, if these five papers are so successful, others do not become so. The American News Company control this. There is no other News Company, and this has over 50,000 newsstands and stores under its control. It will not send out any other paper of the Ledger class except the five named, and this gives them full control of the situation. More than one unfortunate individual has been swamped in his expectations and purse, by finding that ho could not got his papers upon the newsstands of the country, try as hard as ever he might. – ‘Story Papers, What They Are and How They Manage To Live,’ Amenia Times, June 25, 1888
The growth of the ANC was greatly aided by the growth of railroads after the Civil War. By 1869 railways stretched from coast to coast. Telegraph stations and news depots sprung up at nearly every stop. Railroads were required to transport newspapers and periodicals as second-class bulk mail at a special low subsidized price. This was the era of the street newsboy and his railroading counterpart, the news butcher. News butchers sold candy as well as paper on the trains.

The continuity becomes confusing from here on. Sinclair Tousey died June 16, 1887. Although Tousey continued working in his office up to the day of his death newspapers reported in 1880 that David P. Rhoades was the acting president at the time. Henry Dexter took over as President of the ANC in 1887. Newspaper reports identify Patrick Farrelly, who began life as a news butcher on the railroads, as president in May 1890. Dexter died July 11, 1910, age 98, of cerebral hemorrhage.

Of books the largest dealing is in paper covers. The company bring them to the attention of the news agents all over the world and before the circulating libraries. The establishment is of inestimable value to the small publishing houses, and the immense business carried on by the company Is evidenced by the fact that millions of books and periodicals pass through their hands during the year. Their goods go across the Atlantic, up the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, until they meet the current coming from the western coast that goes to Japan and India. A department devoted to wholesale stationery has grown out of the necessities of the business. There are 250 employees in the New York house alone, which is situated in Chambers street, and has been the headquarters of the company since 1877.
The business, probably the largest of its kind in this country, was founded by Sinclair Tousey and Henry Dexter and their associates, Hamilton, Johnson and Farrelly, about twenty-seven years ago. Since Mr. Tousey’s death Mr. Dexter has been president of the company. Mr. Dexter takes no part in public affairs, nor did Sinclair Tousey; but the latter was very well known as a member of the Prison Association, for his connection with the Union League Club and as a close friend of Horace Greeley. The only other business house in the world to which the American News Company may be compared is the one in London known as W.H. Smith & Co. The head of that firm, Mr. Smith, is the government leader in the House of Commons. ‘The American News Company,’ New York Press, 1890
The Sun, June 17, 1887
Canada’s Busy Mans Magazine reported in July 1, 1908 that Henry Dexter “ is in his ninety-sixth year, and although he resigned the presidency of the American News Company some ten or twelve years ago, he still retains a large interest in the company.” George Tyson reportedly acted as President until November 1895. Next (Wild American Pulp Artists tells us) was Solomon W. Johnson, the last survivor of the original founders’ group, who became President and held that office until 1913. A contradiction however: one Henry W. Bellows died in 1913 and was described as formerly a president of the ANC. No dates or further information about Bellows has come to light.

From here we move into the period when ANC (allegedly) threw in their lot with organized crime. During Prohibition, the New York mob was run by Lucky Luciano who brought Italian, Jewish, and Irish gangs under one roof. 

Solomon W. Johnson’s presidential successor was Samuel Shipley Blood, formerly ANC Treasurer. He was in the service of the company and its subsidiaries for 66 years.

Mr. Blood organized the New York News Company as a young man and became manager of International News Company and a vice president of the American News Company, which absorbed the New York News Company. In 1915 he became president, treasurer, and chairman of the board of the American News Company, and soon afterward president of the International News Company.‘S.S. Blood Dies; Retired Head of American News Co.,’ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 23, 1934
Stephen Farrelly of the ANC was arrested and fined in 1890 for selling the works of Balzac and Tolstoi. In 1917 Farrelly was described as “Directing Manager and Vice-President” of the ANC. 

Harry Gould became President after S.S. Blood. Gould died in 1945 although it was reported he had retired some years previously. William A. Eichhorn was Secretary. There is a seven-year gap in my continuity until 1952 when a July 18 article in the Ottawa Citizen identifies P.D. OConnell as President of the ANC. Henry Garfinkle, who started out in life as a newsboy on the Staten Island Ferry, served as the last president of the American News Company.

I will end with the following paragraph from the online Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists. The statement is unsourced, although I believe it may have been based on the memories of pulp artist Norman Saunders, maybe of stories heard or rumored. These allegations will be the subject of a future post. 

Of interest is that mob killer Dion O’Bannion was on the payroll of William Randolph Hearst. According to Ferdinand Lundberg’s 1936 biography Imperial Hearst the gangster was the chief circulation agent for Hearst’s Herald-Examiner from 1917 to 1922 and was bumped off in 1925 over a bootlegging beef. Hagiographies of the historic cast and crew usually gloss over this long period of corruption and collaboration between publishers and organized crime in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia... 

Leaving huge gaps and disinformation in the historical record.

Moses Annenberg, May 1947
During the "roaring twenties" organized crime acquired control of the nationwide system of distribution, trucking, warehousing, and labor unions. The American News Company (ANC) was the most powerful force in publishing. It was controlled by organized crime, but it was headed by William Randolph Hearst, Arthur Brisbane, and Moe L. Annenberg. ‘H.K. Fly,’ Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists.

To Be Continued…

Part 2 HERE