Thursday, August 17, 2017

 

King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 8 Part 1

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 8

  Behold the Bogeyman! (part 1)

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Rumors of an impending upheaval in journalism grew as the presidential campaign progressed. For several months, intimations of strange developments in the New York field had been dribbling to newspaper workers in the hinterland. They revolved around stories of a fabulous personality. William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, had invaded Manhattan with a trainload of gold. He was the son of the multimillionaire, George R. Hearst, United States Senator from California, who died in 1891. He had bought the New York Journal from John R. McLean for $180,000 in cash. Countless instances of his freakish extravagance were recited. They sounded like episodes in a modern version of The Arabian Nights. Most of them illustrated a contempt for monetary costs. Hearst would double an editor’s or a reporter’s salary as readily as he would light a cigarette. His journalistic prodigalities had driven other New York publishers to the verge of panic. 

The sleazy trade papers then serving the Fourth Estate gave little insight to the actualities. They reflected the views of Hearst’s metropolitan competitors. His splashes in the newspaper ocean were the antics of a sailor on a spree. “Willie off the yacht” would eventually stop splurging. John R. McLean had done very well with the Enquirer in Cincinnati, but bucking New York publishers with the Journal had reversed his peristaltic processes. Hearst’s intestinal experience would run a similar course. But the amusing freak turned into an ominous menace. His stunts, novelties and news enterprises set New York newspaperdom on end. His circulation rocketed. He added an evening edition. The Journal was the only New York daily to champion Bryan for the presidency. On the day after the election—fourteen months after its acquisition by Hearst—it announced the largest sales ever made in one day by any newspaper—more than 1,500,000 copies. 

Then appeared the bogeyman of journalism. Hearst now was held forth as an instrument of destruction. His prodigal methods would wreck the newspaper business. They made profitable publication impossible. It was lunacy to believe a one-cent daily could survive the enormous expenditures they imposed. Hearst’s own losses proved this. They were easily calculable. To break even, he must double and perhaps treble his advertising revenues. To meet his competition, established newspapers would have to do likewise. That was hopeless. Such a volume of advertisements was beyond the limits of imagination. True, Hearst’s operations in the one-cent field were confined to New York. But if he did succeed—if his money bags did hold out—his success would mean the elimination of competition. The next step would be the installation of his program in other cities. It would be introduced by him or by imitators. Eventually, there would be only one daily in each community. Thus, three of the four current St. Louis newspapers would disappear. So, three-fourths of the working newspapermen of America must regard this man Hearst as their arch-enemy. He threatened their jobs and their livelihood. 

This was not a whispering campaign. It was a jeremiad that arose in newspaper counting rooms across the country. Its doleful burden was passed on to editors and reporters in mutual commiseration. Soon the picture of Hearst became to thousands of journalists the visage of an ogre. So it remained through at least two decades, during which he did more than any other man to raise the rewards and multiply the opportunities of newspaper workers. A considerable part of the bias against him, that later extended in many directions, is traceable to the incongruous antipathy instilled by envious and shortsighted competitors among the group most directly benefited by his activities. 

The specter raised by the Californian’s critics was in reality the monitor of an economic revolution already well under way. The industrial element that touched the daily lives of more people than were reached through any other outlet of enterprise was passing into a new phase. The newspaper was turning from circulation to advertising for its major depot of supplies. Hearst was by no means the inventor of the new system. He merely accelerated the transition. Its progress is best shown in a fifty-year arc. In 1880, readers contributed approximately 56 percent of the total incomes of American publications. By 1930, this percentage had been reduced more than one-half. That year they furnished less than 26 percent and the advertiser something in excess of 74 percent of the newspaper revenues. Price increases later modified this ratio; but the advertiser continued to contribute fully two-thirds of the publisher’s receipts. 

The ultimate outcome of the changed order was to requisition and develop a new type of managerial talent. Operation of a newspaper became a dual function. Essentially, it consisted of the acquirement of circulation and the sale thereof to advertisers. Success depended on the degree of simultaneousness with which these tasks were performed. Each paper was produced at a cost far in excess of the price paid by the purchaser. So, each additional reader enjoined an additional expense. Added circulation must be promptly translated into increased revenue from advertisers. The editor could no longer, individually, assure the success of a newspaper. The more brilliantly effective his work, the greater became the need to expand the volume of advertising sales. 

Formerly, the space salesmen, under a department chief, were directed by a business executive. Now the advertising manager outranked the head of the counting room. He was the platinum-haired hero of “his end of the shebang.” He was the fellow who brought in the cash to meet the bills that everybody else in the organization piled up. And he had to do it all alone. The cooperation he got from the editor could be hidden under a hummingbird’s eyelid. Somebody had to keep preened the advertising manager’s peacock feathers. At the same time, the sacredness of the editorial sanctum must be preserved. A coordinating officer must step in. 

Here was a job that demanded extraordinary talents. The incumbent should be master of every patois and idiom in the province of journalism. To him the esoteric symbols of all departments of newspaper-making should be as simple as elementary principles are to a savant. He should have the finesse of a diplomat and the finality of a field marshal. He should have the patience of a philosopher and the driving power of a dynamo. Given these qualities, he could keep yoked in efficient teamwork the strongly individualistic temperaments that almost invariably mark those who achieve divisional chieftaincy in successful newspaper work. Such an official must absorb all the responsibility and all the command necessary for unimpeded direction. So came into the field a new type of publisher. Whether he fulfilled the requirements of the leadership he assumed, or whether he fell short, he became helmsman of the craft. 

Thus is explained the eclipse of that glamorous functionary— that epic figure that reigned over the heyday of personal journalism— the editor who was the sole boss of the shop. His exit was a sluggish anticlimax to the stirringly dramatic story of his supremacy. He was eased out. The door closed slowly but firmly behind him. Fire-eating thunderers of the type of Horace Greeley, Joseph Medill, Henry Watterson and their ilk were shouldered away from journalistic preeminence by masters of a new technique. The dominance of an overshadowing personality was subordinated to institutional prestige. The editorial page became merely one phase of a vastly expanded service of fresh tidings supported with a limitless variety of auxiliary elements. The personal despotism of the philippics gave way to the constitutional monarchy of the news. 

A paradox followed this revision of journalistic methods. The reader’s importance expanded at the same time that it diminished. While his stature declined as a “cash customer,” his potentialities grew as a stimulant of advertising revenues. A new entity arose. Actually imponderable, it became the most ponderous factor in the development of the Fourth Estate. For lack of a more impressive designation, it was labeled “reader habit.” In truth, it constitutes two-thirds of the stock in trade of the newspaper field. It is the vitalizing essence of the institution from which it derives its existence. It is the hub around which revolve the concentric forces of the press. 

Comprehension of this phenomenon may be quickened with a fanciful analogy. Let us, for that purpose, transform a publication into an imaginary theatre. The reader is now a spectator. The management has set up a novel course of procedure. It charges only a nominal admittance fee. It draws the major share of its receipts from the sale of concessions—exhibits to be shown during intermissions. When these privileges are likened to the advertising space in a periodical, the comparison becomes concrete. Various elements must enter into computation of the rates the concessionaire should pay. Foremost is the size of the audience (the amount of circulation). Next would be the time and space consumption of the display (the linage or area occupied). Then would come the quality and extent of the entertainment furnished (the nature and range of the service with which the family of readers is attracted—the published contents by which may be gauged the calibre of reading faith engaged). Also would be considered the regularity of attendance (the degree of continuity of interest). The chief commodity of such a theatrical enterprise would be practically identical with the chief commodity of a modern newspaper—a recurrent assemblage of attention units—“attendance custom” in the theatre; “reader habit” in the publication. 

Continued increase of the commercial implications of journalism engendered various theories of operation. There were publishers who simplified the process by treating the advertisement as a by-product. Unfortunately, few of them carried this view to a logical conclusion. Many raised the subordinate function to major importance. Often, the vending of space dominated the other processes of publication. 

It would be a mistake to assume that this commercialism must impair the cultural integrity of the press. On the contrary, it should establish guaranties of faithful service. The more vital a publication’s need for advertising revenue, the more essential becomes the loyalty of the reader. That can be commanded only by unquestionable devotion to his interests. The same determinant that assures sound business in other fields is inalienable from newspaper success—“consumer satisfaction.” 

Constant vigilance is indispensable for the retention of this objective. Its inexorable necessity was admirably stated by Joseph Pulitzer. “Let the editor be like a priest in the pulpit,” he admonished. Pulitzer sensed not only the spreading intrusiveness of the advertiser, but also a growth of mercenary opportunism within the publishing circle. His proposal was, in effect, a sacred trusteeship of the soul of newspaperdom.

Frances E. Willard

My own understanding of this philosophy was given lasting point by a caustic comment from Joseph B. McCullagh. The incident followed an overweening adventure in phraseology. The national Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had met in St. Louis in annual convention. The delegates were in high spirit over the presence of their beloved leader, Frances E. Willard. Her appearance on the presidential dais was the signal for a scene that lifted me out of reportorial reserve. It was my first view of the Chautauqua salute. Seven thousand women, their faces alight with emotional exaltation, waved their white handkerchiefs in rhythmic salutation to the little figure standing alone in the center of the stage. The demonstration continued for more than a quarter of an hour. It set up a ferment of unfamiliar feelings. To that must be attributed the precipitation of verbiage that cluttered my story of the gathering. 

Still, there might have been no repercussion, except for one phrase—“psychic pulchritude.” That was just too thick. It landed me “on the carpet” in McCullagh’s office. One of the great editor’s idiosyncrasies was his personal aloofness. Few men caught his eye. He affected constant absorption in reading. No matter how distinguished his visitor, an open newspaper served as a screen between them. And his callers included men of great eminence, among them a vice-president of the United States. This remoteness was sustained by McCullagh’s manner of enunciation. His words were shorn of the fulness that tongue and teeth could have assured. Each syllable depended wholly on labial formation. The effects of artificial distance were heightened by McCullagh’s parsimony in diction. He was an outstanding master of laconism. “Did you write the Frances Willard lead?” he asked without prelude. Up to that moment, there had been no intimation whether approval or censure awaited me. Nevertheless, real misgiving attended my confession. “Never write to please the writer,” McCullagh snapped. “Write to please the reader.” The cryptic judgment left me standing open-mouthed. “That’s all!” crackled across the newspaper in McCullagh’s hands. 

That curt admonition—eleven words of seeming triteness—embodied the most effective lecture ever delivered to me on the principles of newspaper-making. Its very obviousness impelled a search for latent values. Harry B. Wandell, the city editor, awaited my return from “the chief’s den” with keen anxiety. He was really a co-defendant. What appeared in the local columns was more his responsibility than the reporters’. He spent most of the afternoon discussing with me the significance of McCullagh’s dictum. It became the text for analysis and debate at a series of meetings extending over several months. With the presence of Obadiah R. Lake, the night editor, and several other executive colleagues, these sessions became classes in advanced journalism. They yielded the basis for this expansion of my professional code: 

The obligation of a newspaper to facilitate its reading is paramount. Clarity is no less important than authenticity. The reader must never be left in doubt. His comprehension must be considered with the same solicitude that is accorded to his convenience. Conflicting news or views must not be presented without ample editorial warning and advice. The publication’s dependability may be gauged by the adequacy of that guidance. “Easy to read” is a pledge covering substance as well as form. 

There is nothing altruistic in this program. It sets the stage for a system of social and economic collaboration. It assures the maintenance of a public domain the existence of which has remained practically unrecognized. It not only outlines requirements for efficient operation, but it also defines duties of an extremely profitable business partnership. 

The publisher undertakes to supply the day’s news at a rate so low as forcefully to emphasize the need for additional or collateral compensation. The purchaser of the newspaper pays a consideration largely in excess of the labeled price. The pennies he tenders are merely tokens of a preliminary payment. They are warrants of the reader’s time and attention—vouchers for the collection by the publisher of larger sums from the advertiser. The transfer of the packet of printed words is only a step in the development of an immensely valuable equity. It expresses a tacit agreement—an implied covenant. To question the mutuality of this quasi-contract would be to set a premium on fraud. 

Real as well as ethical claims accrue from the purchase and reading of a newspaper. A salable asset of great worth is evolved from the efforts embraced in the time and attention that the buyer has been induced to contribute. Under the doctrine of quantum meruit—the owner’s entitlement to a fair value for his property or service—the reader has definitely earned a quid pro quo. “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” It would be fatuous to suggest that this could be readily convertible into substantial means. Yet, gossamer as it appears on cursory observation, it incloses the corporeal structure of an equitable lien. In certain conceivable contingencies—such as carelessness or deliberate deception on the publisher’s part—it would justify actions in tort— suits for damages untenable on any other basis. Meanwhile, it establishes the subscriber in tenure of the newspaper’s preponderant obligation. 

Here is the anomaly of a major indebtedness that resolves itself into a major credit. The capital it represents is equivalent to the revolving funds employed in the collection and distribution of news. Its maintenance and growth are coextensive with that public domain which, preempted by the press and its patrons, long remained terra incognita to its occupants. In short, it is that cultural sphere of actual and potential rights which are here designated as the reader’s estate. 

This is a dominion of inestimable importance. Its constituents furnish the force on which journalism must rely for its existence. They are, in fact, that force itself. They supply the vital fluid of newspaperdom—circulation. But the reader’s estate enjoys powers beyond those conferred by physiologic phenomena. It derives authority from selective practices. It functions through diurnal elections. By affirming to some and withholding from others the approval of purchase, its electors decree the success or failure of daily newspapers. By this process are guided the main currents of public thought and taste. And by this process has been developed that system of interchanging compensations and obligations under which the Fourth Estate became joint tenant with the reader’s estate. 

Except where they are without opportunity for selection—situations to be discussed later in these pages—the purchasers may not disavow their approval of the publications they support. Their patronage of a newspaper is a mandate for the continuance of its policies. The reader shares the publisher’s responsibilities. 

A sign of refractory influences brewing in the Fourth Estate came from a self-constituted committee of reporters headed by Eugene Katz. They were intent on forming a trade union. Some time before, I had succeeded in organizing the St. Louis Press Club. Katz and his associates believed that this work qualified me for their leadership. 

It was impossible for me to conceive a more unworthy objective than the leveling of the mind to the plane of the muscles. That was the only basis on which journalism could be reduced to identity with a labor union. A wage scale could fit only those circuits of service in which an equitable average of earnings may be computed. Metering standards must be available for such calculations. They were at hand in all quarters of manual production. But how could the output of talent be metered? How could the mystic flights of the brain be matched with a schedule of dollars and hours? How could a fixed rate of payment be tabulated for performances as variable in value as the gifts of providence?

The committee felt that what was good enough for a union printer was good enough for them. They’d be very happy to be as well fixed as the compositor. Not one of them earned as much as a typesetter with a regular situation. Their comments betrayed naive notions of certain newspaper realities. In this they shared a characteristic not uncommon to the craft. Nor was this at odds with another distinctive trait—that delicately balanced skepticism which guides the resourceful news-hunter—a masterful superiority which often turned into a bald gullibility in the precincts of personal concern. Many a reporter, known as a “hard-boiled egg” outside the office, reverted to a chickling in shop affairs. This occupational vagary was symptomatic of conditions peculiar to journalism. 

In no other field of industrial operation did so many occasions arise for the turnover of personnel. Every unexplained shift in a newspaper organization therefore became a subject of anxious staff speculation. It was noted with much the same trepidation that prompts earthquake survivors to watch a seismograph. In no other business area did competitive pressure impel more of managerial secrecy. So, lively imaginations—spurred by apprehensive curiosity—continued to beat against the walls of a traditional reticence. A shadowy form of shell-shock followed. In a prize-fighter it might have been called “gymnasium slap-happiness.” Its effects may be epitomized in the observation that “a capable reporter straightened out the inside facts behind everything except his own job.”

The quale of this phenomenon permeated the newspaper establishment. It reached from the reportorial entourage to the publisher’s aerie. It widened the cleavage between the individual and the institution. A speck on the background of a highly specialized industry ultimately grew into a cloud that overcast its pursuit. One of the earliest corollaries of this obscuration was the appearance of the so-called “efficiency expert.” His engagement was construed among the rank and file as a confession of the employer’s deficiency in leadership. At least, it betokened proprietorial neglect in the training of competent and trusted lieutenants.

Ordinarily the summoning of detached assistance to solve management problems would signify a critical exigency. Such was actually the condition that here and there inducted “efficiency crews” into publishing plants. Oftener, the procedure was a covert subterfuge. In some cases it merely masked an avidity for larger profits—a program providing neither reinvigoration nor expansion of service. In other instances it served as an expedient to transfer to outside shoulders the blame for a staff shake-up. Almost invariably it was attended by a decimation of long-time employees. This method of bloodletting left a trail of distrust and resentment. It injected into the esprit de corps an allergy for anemia. It generated currents of yearning for employment stability.

The blight in the wake of an “efficiency crew” also aggravated a notorious grievance. It made more poignant the consciousness of compensation inequalities. The newsroom, without which there would be no newspaper, was generally the center of a false economy. Its functions initiated all the processes necessary for the manufacture of a daily publication. Each working unit added to the existent staff would therefore entail increased outlays all along the line of production. Here, then, was a brake—a species of automatic control—for every mechanical expense arising between the raw material and the printing press. The prudent proprietor never relaxed his curb on the editorial payroll.

Growth of the news budget was nevertheless inevitable. A constantly recurring squeeze play developed between the publisher’s restrictions and the editor’s requirements. It checked any tendency toward a general advance in individual remuneration. The additional funds that were provided went almost wholly into augmentation of personnel and facilities. The extra dollars that were available for recruits were seldom accompanied by extra dimes for veterans. The result was the maintenance of a highly unfavorable standard of earnings in the editorial department. In point of nature and quality of service rendered, it suffered by comparison with every other division of newspaper work.


Chapter 8 Part 2 Next Week   
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Lang Armstrong


1927

George Langford Wainwright “Lang” Armstrong was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on October 27, 1906, according to a family tree at Ancestry.com. His parents were Walter Michael Armstrong and Mayme Wainwright.

The 1911 Canada Census listed Armstrong and his parents in Alberta. His father was in real estate. The Edmonton Journal, September 10, 1940, said Armstrong attended the Alex Taylor School.

According to his mother’s U.S. naturalization application, she was a British national and emigrated to the U.S. at Eastport, Idaho on October 28, 1922. The Armstrong family settled in Spokane, Washington later that year.

Armstrong attended Spokane’s North Central High School. The January 1926 school yearbook, The Tamarack, said he was president of the Art Club. Armstrong was class treasurer in the June 1926 Tamarack. He was art editor on the Tamrack staff when he graduated in January 1927.





While a student, the Edmonton Journal said Armstrong was a copy boy for the Associated Press in Spokane, and later became an evening telephone operator for the Spokane Daily Chronicle. A year later he joined that paper’s art department starting as an errand boy. The Spokane Review said Armstrong joined the art department July 26, 1927 and named staff artist in 1935.

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census recorded Armstrong as a newspaper cartoonist in Spokane on East 7th Avenue. His mother was a nurse and his father retired.

Armstrong married Lucille Evelyn Brown in Spokane on November 28, 1935.

A 1937 Spokane city directory listed Armstrong as a cartoonist with the Spokane American Engraving Company. He resided at West 1029 1st.

Beginning in 1937, Armstrong produced the panel Stuff and Things for the Chronicle. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Bell Syndicate in 1939 syndicated his The Sporting Thing.

Cartoonist Armstrong’s address was 11 Cedar in Spokane as recorded in the 1940 census.

During World War II, Armstrong enlisted in the army on September 2, 1942. The Spokane Review said Armstrong served with the Army Air Corps intelligence division at Kearns, Utah. He was discharged September 14, 1943.

Armstrong returned to the newspaper. On March 1949 Armstrong was named manager of the art department then head of art services in January 1962. He was a founding member of the Spokane Press Club. Armstrong retired on October 31, 1968.

Armstrong passed away February 23, 1983, at his home in Spokane. He was laid to rest at Fairmount Memorial Park



—Alex Jay

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Sporting Thing







I tell ya, it's tough being a half-wit. I've long admired the beautiful brush-work and liveliness of the art on The Sporting Thing. I marvelled over how the same guy who was such a consummate animal artist on Uncle Wiggily could also have such a deft touch with more mature humor and in such a very different style! Of course, there's a good reason for that. They're two different guys. The creator of The Sporting Thing is Lang Armstrong, and the illustrator famed for Uncle Wiggily is Lang Campbell. You can imagine how balled up I get with all the Williamses and Smiths in the cartooning fraternity.

Anyhow, let us not focus on my stupidity, but rather the underappreciated wonder that is the work of Lang Armstrong. The Sporting Thing debuted via Bell Syndicate around September 1939*, and was Armstrong's first syndicated work. He had been working at the Spokane Chronicle since the late 1920s, and had a local daily panel there titled Stuff and Things that had been running since 1937. They were both gag panels, but The Sporting Thing was (obviously) sports-oriented, while Stuff and Things used any general gags he could come up with.

Armstrong continued producing his Stuff and Things cartoons for the Spokane Chronicle while he was also producing the syndicated The Sporting Thing. Because the Chronicle didn't take his syndicated panel, he often let a Sporting Thing gag do double duty as a Stuff and Things cartoon, but by no means always.

Despite the excellent work he did on The Sporting Thing, which featured lovely grease-crayon cartoons and very playful gags, the panel did not really catch on. As natural as it seems to have a daily sport-oriented cartoon for a newspaper's sports page, the idea never seemed to really take hold. I'm guessing that the sports editor would rather run an extra action photo than a cartoon in his limited space. The few papers that did take The Sporting Thing almost all ran the panel ROP, fitting it in if and when they saw fit.

In December 1945, Bell Syndicate** finally accepted Armstrong's Stuff and Things panel for syndication, and around that time reduced Armstrong's space, previously two columns, to a single column width for each feature. Considering that a main attraction with his work was the lush grease-pencil, that was a really dumb move. His panels now looked totally generic, and destroyed the nice playful feel.

Armstrong gamely produced both panels until sometime around March 1946. Neither panel was by any means setting the world on fire, so he opted to continue only Stuff and Things, retiring The Sporting Thing after about six years in the big leagues. Stuff and Things didn't outlast it by long, ending in December 1946.

For some samples of Stuff and Things, and an obit of Armstrong, go check out Ger Appeldoorn's post at The Fabulous Fifties.



* the Minneapolis Tribune advertised that the panel would begin there on August 14 1939, but then they never actually ended up running it. So, huh?

** In my book I credit not Bell Syndicate but Lloyd James Williams for the syndication. That is because I saw his copyright on a panel, while Bell Syndicate never to my knowledge put their copyright slug on it ever. However, Bell was the distributor of record in the 1945 E&P listing, so I'm guessing maybe Mr. Williams was some sort of impresario, a la Stephen Slesinger. In 1939, the panel's only other appearance in the E&P listings, only its Canadian distributor, Dominion News Bureau, was listed.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Rube Grossman


Reuben “Rube” Grossman was born in New York City on April 22, 1913. His birth date was recorded in the Social Security Death Index, and his birthplace was determined from census and marriage records found at Ancestry.com. Grossman’s parents were Benjamin and Ida Lindenburg who married in Manhattan, New York City on June 26, 1910.

According to the 1915 New York state census, Grossman, his parents and older sister, Jennie, resided in Manhattan at 209 East 99 Street. Grossman’s father was an operator in an unspecified trade.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the Grossman family of five remained in Manhattan at 200 East 97 Street. Grossman’s parents were Russian emigrants. His father was a tailor.

The 1925 New York state census said Grossman, his parents and three siblings lived at 65 East 98 Street in Manhattan.

The 1930 census recorded the Grossmans in the Bronx, New York, at 602 Prospect Avenue. Information regarding Grossman’s education and art training has not yet been found. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Grossman was doing advertising work from 1930 to 1934.

From 1934 into the early 1940s, Grossman worked in animation. Grossman was on the staff of Fleischer Studios in New York. Grossman was in the 1937 photograph of a bachelor dinner for Nick Tafuri which was printed in Leslie Carbarga’s book, The Fleischer Story (1976). The caption misspelled Grossman’s first name as “Ruben”. Two Fleischer cartoons Grossman worked on were Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp and Gulliver’s Travels. The studio produced a newsletter, Fleischer’s Animated News. Issue number six has a cartoon by Grossman in row three, column four.


Grossman married Rita Davidson in Manhattan on November 25, 1937, according to the New York, New York, Marriage Index at Ancestry.com.

The 1940 census named the couple as residents of Miami, Florida, at N E 82nd Terrace. Grossman’s occupation was artist in the motion picture industry. Two Miami city directories from 1941 and 1942 listed Grossman as an artist at 1263 SW 21st Terrace.

Grossman was also producing funny animal material for comic books. Around 1942, Who’s Who said Grossman was worked in the Sangor Studio for about two years. The bulk of Grossman’s comic book work was for DC Comics from 1940 to 1962. Two complete stories by Grossman are here and here. Many of his comic book credits are here and here. Grossman attended the 1945 DC Comics Christmas party.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Grossman drew the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for King Features Syndicate which ran the holiday season strip from November 19, 1951 December 24, 1956. It was written by Robert L. May.

Grossman drew the Little Davey Jones coloring book, and collaborated with Larry Nadle on Little Chrissy Tree, and with Seymour Reit on Name-A-Grams.

Manhattan city directories for 1949 and 1953 listed Grossman at 20 Monroe Street, and the 1957 and 1959 listings had 475 Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.

Who’s Who said Grossman returned to the animation field in the mid-1950s, first in commercials then in cartoon series such as Felix the Cat, and The Mighty Hercules.

Grossman passed away August 29, 1964, in Sherman Oaks, California, according to the California Death Index. The New York Times, August 31, 1964, published an obituary. 



—Alex Jay

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A few additions based on only on my memory - I'm the source for most, but not all, of the Grossman credits in the Bails, etc. Who's Who. Grossman. Grossman went to Florida with Fleischer Studios, and returned to NYC, with the closure of the Florida studios. In Florida, Jay Morton had fellow Fleischer employees do comics, that he sent to Ben Sangor (and Richard Hughes) for publication in Ned Pines' comics and I believe Sangor's own ACG. Grossman nicely signed his work. When the studio return to NY in early 1943, Grossman went to work shortly for Dell (in Animal Comics), and then DC where he continued to work till the mid-late 50s or so *. I suspect Sy Reit wrote the Rudolph comic strip, as he was writing the DC Rudolph annuals at that time, and the strip (or at least the one year that I've read) featured characters created in the comic. Robert L. May created and owned the rights to Rudolph, but isnt known to have written more than two Rudolph stories (one published after his death).
* New material continued at DC up to 1960 (Rudolph), but most of the late 50s material seems to be inventory work.
 
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Saturday, August 12, 2017

 

Herriman Saturday


March 8 1909 -- In the Los Angeles suburb of Monrovia, a fellow named Henry Murray found himself unable to sleep because of the glare of street lights. Armed with a pistol, he began rectifying the situation by shooting out every light he saw. He apparently found the activity much to his liking, and ended up shooting out streetlights all over town, scaring the residents half to death.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

 

Wish You Were Here, from Rube Goldberg


Here's another entry in Rube Goldberg's Foolish Questions postcard series, Samson Brothers' Series 213. Not his finest gag IMHO ... wonder why they picked this one for the postcard treatment?

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

 

King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 7 Part 3

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 7

Old Man River (part 3)

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From the biggest local story in its experience, the Globe- Democrat staff turned to the most absorbing national news it had yet covered. The presidential canvass of 1896 opened with the Republican convention in St. Louis. It developed into the most strenuous political campaign in the memory of living politicians. It built a new hate cage in my cerebral back yard. Beside the coop hitherto reserved for the exhibitionist, it raised a twin repository of detestation—the roost of the demagogue. Thereafter the contents of my contempt jugs were divided between two major aversions—the limelight monopolist and the rogue of the rostrum. Demagoguery was rampant in 1896. It staged that year the most spectacular triumph it has achieved in American politics. The presidency of the United States barely slipped through its tentacles.

The currency issue dwarfed all other questions. It menaced both parties with cleavage. The Republican convention was held in June in St. Louis. My assignment was to write “the running story” of the proceedings. Each day unfolded a dramatic chapter. United States Senator Henry M. Teller, of Colorado, led the faction demanding “the free and unlimited coinage of silver.” He threatened a secession if the platform included a declaration for the single gold standard. The Globe-Democrat was one of the staunchest organs of Republicanism. On the morning of June 18, it presented an editorial paragraph that stirred the convention. Its pungency was characteristic of Joseph B. McCullagh, the editor. It read: “To Senator Henry M. Teller and those misguided delegates who accept his leadership—bolt and be damned!”

At noon, was enacted one of the most affecting scenes that it has been my lot to witness in a public assembly. The vote declaring for the gold standard had just been announced. Senator Teller mounted the chairman’s dais. A tense expectancy held the vast convention hall in perfect silence. This eloquent and vigorous leader was at the crossroads of a brilliant career. The pronouncement he had risen to make either would close the gap in his party’s ranks or would widen the breach irreparably. Either it would reinstate him in a commanding position or it would consign him to political oblivion. His speech, in the measured accents of a funeral oration, epitomized his cause. Tears were streaming down his face as he turned to Senator Thurston, the chairman. They clasped hands in token of farewell. Not a whisper arose. Still weeping, Teller made his way down the stairs from the speakers’ stand. Senators DuBois of Idaho and Cannon of Utah followed. Thirty-odd silver delegates fell in behind them. Thirty thousand eyes watched the solemn procession file outward along the main aisle. A spellbound quiet prevailed.

The last of the line of bolters had reached the center of the hall before the strange stillness was broken. Then such a tumult arose as had never been paralleled in a Republican national convention. It started among the delegates. The spectators joined in an uproarious demonstration which blaring bands swelled into pandemonium. The significance of the manifestation was questionable. My theory did not appear in the Globe-Democrat. It was blue-penciled.

The commotion was clearly an instance of autohypnosis en masse. It began with a “whistling for the wind.” The dramatic withdrawal of the silverites had accentuated a sense of party peril. The great auditorium pulsed with a yearning for some omen of reassurance. The yelling of a handful of politicians gave the signal. As the racket grew, it exercised upon the participants a reciprocally mesmeric effect, sweeping them into a clamor-made elation.

It had been a cardinal point of my journalistic program to exclude personal bias or partizanship in civic affairs. But this independence of thought was sorely beset by the campaign of 1896. It was impossible to remain aloof from the high feeling—the all-absorbing excitement—that pervaded every quarter. The withdrawal of Teller and his fellow-bolters from the Republican national convention had been marked with the solemnity of a sacrificial rite. What was the true nature of this question that split in twain lifelong associations; that everywhere turned ordinary discussion into angry strife; that injected a deep-seated acrimony into a national problem?

Out of the confusion and contention a single phrase pursued me. “Silverism is Americanism,” a speaker had proclaimed. It was a captivating thought. Would it stand up as an indisputable fact? The coinage of silver at a ratio of value to be set by the United States government would give America world leadership in fixing and managing the volume and flow of money. Just how that would be accomplished escaped my understanding at the moment.

A full explanation must come at the Democratic national convention in Chicago. The silver delegates would be in overwhelming control. The platform they adopted would be a complete exposition of their cause. The debate that preceded its adoption would resolve my doubts. The Globe-Democrat sent a carefully picked staff to report the proceedings. St. Louis was especially interested. Every likelihood pointed to the selection of a Missourian as the candidate for president. Richard P. Bland—"Silver Dollar Dick”—was without a formidable rival for the honor. More than a third of the elected delegates—over 330—were pledged or instructed for him.

It was my assignment to “cover the floor” of the Democratic convention. Ex-Governor Roswell P. Flower was chairman of the New York delegation. We had struck up a friendship the year before during an interview in his Fifth Avenue mansion. On that occasion, he had descanted on the zest with which he shared the average American’s pursuit of the simple life. A fascinating show of marksmanship with tobacco spittle illustrated his point. He never missed. The white marble appointments of the luxurious chamber remained unstained even though he aimed at receptacles ten feet away. He was as much at home beside a haystack, he assured me, as in a drawing-room. That, he explained, was the secret of his political success. Now, in Chicago, he offered to “show me the ropes.” Moving inward a seat, he gave me his chair on the aisle in the center of the hall.

When permanent organization was effected, William Jennings Bryan sat across the passageway. He had not come to the Coliseum as a regular delegate. He headed a contesting delegation. There were rumors of shady deviousness in the regularizing of the Nebraska contestants. Ex-Governor Flower got the facts for me. The silverite leaders had been doubtful that they controlled the two-thirds majority necessary for the nomination of a presidential candidate. All other considerations were shoved aside to make up the deficiency. It could be covered by seating two contesting silver delegations—the twenty-eight from Michigan and the sixteen from Nebraska. So Bryan became a member of the convention, not by virtue of regular election but by force of a steering committee’s steam-roller.

The chief spokesman for the gold standard was United States Senator David Bennett Hill of New York. He knew his cause was hopeless. He didn’t take the trouble to mount the rostrum. He talked standing beside his seat on the floor. His attire was a compendium of what the careless man may wear. His rumpled vest summarized a recent breakfast. There was a lack of smoothness in his voice, but there was an abundance of it in his logic. It was a masterpiece of reasoning. It convinced me that a sound monetary system must rest on foundations of integrity and sound business. But it hadn’t excluded the possibility that “silverism was Americanism.” That idea was emphasized in the currency plank submitted by the Committee on Resolutions. It read, in part: “We demand the free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold at the present legal ratio of sixteen-to-one, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation.” There was the phrase that rang the gong of American supremacy—“without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation.”

“Pitchfork” Ben Tillman opened the attack for the silver forces. Great applause accompanied the one-eyed senator from South Carolina as he mounted the dais. No member of the United States Senate pressed more violent claim to attention in that decade than did this favorite son of the Palmetto State. But the electric currents of his oratorical power were short-circuited that morning. He had spoken only a few sentences when a barrage of hissing halted him. “Some of my friends from the South and elsewhere have said that this is not a sectional issue,” he declaimed. “I say it is a sectional issue.” At that point came the first explosion of disapproval. Tillman gesticulated for silence. Several minutes elapsed before he could resume. Then he roared: “The truth is mighty and will prevail. Facts can neither be sneered out of existence nor obliterated by hisses. I present to you some figures from the United States census which will prove that it is a sectional issue and nothing else.”

Not one word that Tillman attempted to say thereafter was audible. The spectators joined the delegates in a deafening storm of remonstrance. It continued until Tillman descended from the speakers’ stand. He had been literally hissed off the platform. Obviously, both factions recoiled from the suggestion of regional conflict. The scars of the struggle between North and South had not yet fully healed. As the debate progressed, a gloom so evident as to be almost audible settled among the silver delegations. The weight of their numbers was offset by the paltriness of their polemics. Their spokesmen were missing the mark.

Hill’s splendid presentment remained practically unanswered. It was supplemented by other gold standard speakers. They did not deny that more coinage meant more cash. They did deny that its mintage assured its distribution. Money, only a token of value, was like the yardstick, the tape-measure, or the scales on the merchant’s counter. No matter how great the multiplication, a mere increase of these metering devices would not affect sales. More business could come only from more buying. And the purchaser, instead of being encouraged, would be deterred by a fluctuating currency. He could never know what he was actually paying for the goods or services he bought. The paramount necessity was a firm anchorage for exchange values. A fixed ratio between gold and silver was fictitious. Money based on fiction could not be sound money.

Most of the sixteen-to-one orators argued with the spirit of men enlisted in a holy crusade. Some of them got lost in clouds of fanatic fervor. These brushed aside “platitudes creaking on the rusty hinges of a sophistry as vicious as it was vacuous.” They spoke for a reorganized humanitarianism. They were inspired by the vision of a new order. “No longer would the extortionate formulae created by monopolists and bankers dominate the world’s economics. Whence came the sacredness that withheld from revision by human endeavor the so-called law of supply and demand? Nature’s unlimited bounty would set aside the fallacies by which the fortunate few had so long misled the misguided many. Untold wealth, pouring from our inexhaustible mines, would stretch beyond the reach of restrictive control the latitudes of American production and consumption.” Only the fiat of the United States government was necessary to introduce this era of fabulous prosperity.

These exciting flights of oratory were too fanciful to convince an earnest inquirer. They failed to ignite the tinder of enthusiasm ready to flame in my mind. United States Senator Jones of Arkansas, chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, took up the argument. Much of his speech was given to repairing the blunder committed by Tillman. Jones sought by dispassionate analysis to disprove any basis for sectional differences. Impatience among the “white metal” partizans was growing audibly. “They’re afraid their horses have foundered,” whispered ex- Governor Flower. “They’re in the dumps. They crave fireworks.” It was at this juncture that William Jennings Bryan stepped to the rostrum. Ten minutes earlier, we had met back of the speakers’ stand. He was pacing to and fro like an actor awaiting his entrance cue. Ordinarily his clothes hung loosely. His usual attire was an unmistakable label of detachment from sartorial care. He wore hand-me-down suits. Now, to the casual observer, there seemed little change except for a degree of neatness. Close scrutiny, however, revealed meticulous attention to every item of his apparel. There were only two outer garments, a black alpaca coat and trousers, but they fitted his splendid physique with a perfection that attested master craftsmanship. An excellent tailor had done an excellent job. An usher, carrying a basket of flowers, brushed against Bryan. The accident disarranged the Nebraskan’s flowing bowknot tie. He seemed actually distressed. As my hand reached out to readjust his neckwear, Bryan grabbed it. “Be sure,” he directed, “that the ends do not come out even.” Then, with a smile of rare intimacy, he added: “Be careful to make it look careless.”

The incident, trifling in itself, recurred later as part of the setting for an historic tableau. It was one of the items evincing the thoroughness of Bryan’s preparation for an unparalleled coup of oratory. Starting without even a regular delegate’s credentials, this man had come to the convention resolved upon its capture. His plans had been worked out in the minutest detail. There was no hint of the outcome when his speech began. At that moment, “Silver Dollar Dick’s” supporters felt more certain than ever of Bland’s nomination for president.

Seldom has so handsome or so impressive a figure as Bryan’s appeared upon the hustings. Fully five feet and eleven inches in height, his 180 pounds were evenly distributed over an athletic frame. An organ-like voice added to the spell of a magnetic presence. The silver delegates straightened up. An air of expectant triumph dispelled their depression. Their David had arisen to smite the Philistines. For me, too, the decisive hour was striking. Now Hill would be answered. Now would be reared the structure of fact and logic from which would float the proud legend, “Silverism is Americanism.” At the beginning an exhilaration came from the exposition of my friend’s magnificent talents. No sleight-of-hand performer ever displayed a fuller bag of tricks. Never did grace of gesture and modulation of tones wheel a more effective vehicle of eloquence. To millions of followers Bryan truly became that day “the peerless prophet of the plains, the foremost orator of the ages.” But as his oration progressed, my elation ebbed.


This was no ascent to the peaks of pure reason. It was a journey through a circus of emotion. It was less a discourse than a painting. It was the picture of an epic struggle, concentrating in the foreground, like a Meissonier canvas, the color and action of a far-flung battle. “. . . It is not with gladness, my friends,” Bryan said, “that we find ourselves brought into conflict with those who are arrayed on the other side. The gentleman who preceded me [ex-Governor Russell] spoke of the State of Massachusetts. Let me assure him that not one person in this convention entertains the least hostility to the people of Massachusetts, but we stand here representing the people who are the equals before the law of the greatest citizens in the State of Massachusetts.”

What did that mean? Why drag in this assertion of equality except to emphasize sectional lines? Would Bryan flout the convention’s repudiation of sectionalism? Would he ignore the indignant demonstration that had driven Tillman off the platform? Would he treat with disdain Senator Jones’s denial of a geographic division? The printed records do not reveal the answer. It was hidden in a masterpiece of histrionic elocution. Most of the delegates themselves remained for a long time unaware of its significance. It was the trick of a mighty conjurer. The magnitude of its political portent obscured the aspects of a colossal farce.

Alphabetic coincidence had massed most of the “sound money” delegations on the east side of the Coliseum floor. The state standards of Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania were grouped together. Around this nucleus ranged fellow-partizans from Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin. Thus, an island of gold was formed in a sea of silver. It could be indicated with a motion of the hand. The arrangement was an ideal background for Bryan’s drama-laden invocation. It enabled him to pantomime what he dare not put into speech. It permitted gestures to invest impeccable phrases with a bitterness of meaning of which the words themselves gave no hint.

Reading of Bryan’s oration will disclose no intemperance in this sentence: “When you come before us and tell us that we will disturb your business interests, we reply that you have already disturbed ours.” Its moderation might well fit into an amicable discussion of trade. As delivered by Bryan, it evolved into an exposition in dumb show of bitter sectional strife. The pronouncement consisted of twenty-three words. Eight were personal pronouns. And each of the eight served as a symbol of regional conflict.

“When YOU come before US”—first an accusing finger pointing to the East and North identifies the gold bloc—the hostile forces of invasion. Next, Bryan’s arms reach out toward the West and South in three successive embraces of the defending legions— the mass of silver delegates on the floor, the throngs in the galleries and the invisible populace behind them. Four gestures have given to five words volumes of unspoken meaning. “. . . and tell US that WE will disturb YOUR business interests”—the outstretched arms are again extended to the good folks of the West and South. The minatory finger is again leveled at the cohorts of aggression from the East and North. “. . . WE reply that YOU have already disturbed OURS”—this marks the climax of the pantomimic drama. The arms that have been lifted with the word we, as if rallying the hosts of free silver, are suddenly dropped. Bryan whirls halfway around. His hand points incrimination to you, the group of gold standard delegates. Then, once more, both arms are raised in the opposite direction in sympathetic salute to ours. Sectional lines have not only been drawn but emphasized by impassioned gesticulation.

The convention hall rocked with applause. The bitter dose that had been spewed forth in the rawness of its true name became delightfully palatable in a versicolor capsule of anonymity. The naked sectionalism of Tillman’s crude candor had been violently rejected. The diapered sectionalism of Bryan’s subtle jugglery was vociferously affirmed. Tillman had been refused opportunity to simplify the problem with economic data. Bryan was acclaimed for saddling it with class dissension. The orotund periods that hoisted the gathering’s enthusiasm to constantly mounting heights drove my own spirit downward.

Was nothing forthcoming to set me right on the currency question? Was there no cogent reason for the claim that silverism was a pillar of patriotism? Bryan’s reply to Hill was the edict of a victorious majority repudiating a vanquished leadership. “In this contest,” said the Nebraskan, “brother has been arrayed against brother, father against son. The warmest ties of love, acquaintance and association have been disregarded; old leaders have been cast aside . . . and new leaders have sprung up to give direction to this cause of truth.” So the answer to Hill was that he could “no longer thwart the will of the Democratic party.” Was the currency riddle, after all, just a pawn of partizan politics? At last came Bryan’s memorable peroration: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

Only the zealotry of a multitude aflame with a spiritual obsession could explain the convulsion that followed. The Coliseum seethed with an orgy of fanaticism. Bryan was dragged from the dais by frenzied admirers. They lifted him to their shoulders and carried him up and down the aisles at the head of a hysterical parade of shouting, chanting, laughing and sobbing idolaters. The State standards of the silver delegations were plucked from their fixtures. Marchers bore them aloft like gonfalons waved by crusaders alight with pious ecstasy. This was more than an outpouring of sentiment. It was a mass transfiguration. An evangelized host was advancing to its fate—to face, either in sacrifice or in triumph, the martyrdom symbolized by the crucifix in Bryan’s closing adjuration.

It was an unexampled presentation. It was an awesome demonstration of demagogy at its summit. The higher the uproar grew, the lower the gold standard delegates seemed to sink in their chairs. More than a half-hour passed before Bryan was allowed to resume his seat. Then cool heads rescued him from the mauling and hauling by his frantic idolizers. The delirious hullabaloo continued. The Nebraskan, suffused with perspiration, panted for breath. Touching him on the shoulder, I whispered: “Alabama has just been polled; eleven votes were cast for you.” The news had reached me as a sensation. It was the first definite indication—outside of the Nebraska contingent—that the man from Omaha was “in the running” for the presidential candidacy. Also, it meant a break from Bland. The state first on the roll-call had been claimed for “Silver Dollar Dick.” Bryan received my report without the flicker of an eyelash. “Just half, eh?” He nodded knowingly. The calm assuredness of the answer astonished me. “Did you expect more?” I asked. The Nebraskan glanced at me with a quizzical smile. “There’ll be more,” he said quietly, dabbing his face with a handkerchief.

The murmured statement came as a revelation. It gave significance to several circumstances the real meaning of which had escaped me. There had been a minimum of fortuity in this history-making spectacle. The wizardry of a genius in political stagecraft had foreseen and arranged each incident of a master stroke. A request for him to speak earlier in the proceedings had been pressed by several members of the majority’s steering committee. They had gathered around Bryan while Tillman, angry and flustered, was descending from the speakers’ platform. When the huddle broke up, I slipped across the aisle and crouched beside the Nebraskan. His face wore an expression of grim satisfaction. “What goes on?” seemed to be a pertinent query. “They wanted to change the order of debate,” Bryan replied casually.

My next question evoked a reaction the full import of which did not dawn on me for quite a while. “By the way, when do you speak?” I asked. Bryan turned as if to give me opportunity to study his features. They were set in an owl-like gravity. One of his eyelids fluttered for an instant. It was the nearest approach to a wink that I ever saw him indulge. Clearly, he credited me with a fuller understanding of what was in his mind than I had grasped. “There has been no change,” he said. “I shall close for the prosecution.” That he had prevailed over opposition in his determination to be the last speaker was patent. But that this was only one phase of a major design did not occur to me until after other lines of the pattern presented themselves.

One of these was the Nebraskan’s supreme confidence in his plans. Shown to me first in his comment on the Alabama poll, it was strikingly emphasized twenty minutes later. The incalculable uproar had gone on for more than fifty minutes when I reported to Bryan: “Bland’s managers are trying to force a recess.” “Yes,” he answered, “we’ll accede. It won’t affect the result.” Events ratified his measureless assurance.

When the convention reassembled, it was wholly the creature of Bryan’s slightest wish. His nomination for president came in regular course. Attention was first given to recovering the aspects of a deliberative assembly. Possible charges of a hysteria-made program must be forestalled. Even the first ballot for the presidential nomination was made to serve that end. It showed 231 votes for Bland and 119 for Bryan.

Then, with his presidential candidacy made unanimous by acclamation, Bryan entered upon his thirty-year leadership of the Democratic party. The convention’s stampede to “the dark horse from Nebraska” secured the citadel of my non-partizanship. The oration that won for Bryan its leadership turned me away from the free silver movement. It had stripped from silverism its fleeting guise of Americanism. It renewed and fortified my resolution to maintain complete independence from political partizanship. The campaign that followed, until then unmatched in intensity, produced a number of newspaper crises. Democratic publishers were especially affected. Those unwilling to support Bryan yet eager to maintain party regularity, found themselves in varying degrees of embarrassment. St. Louis presented a unique case. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was owned by Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World. His New York newspaper vigorously advocated the gold standard. His St. Louis newspaper, with even greater vigor, championed free silver.

Charles H. Jones was editor of the Post-Dispatch. He was also a minority stockholder. Pulitzer instructed him to devote the paper to the “sound money” cause. Jones refused. He claimed contractual rights on which he based his course. Pulitzer sued. The litigation ultimately resulted in Jones’s ouster. But adjudication did not come until long after the close of the political campaign. Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch attracted nationwide attention with the strenuousness of its efforts in Bryan’s behalf. The violence of its partizanship led to a critical situation in the week following the election. At first it proclaimed a Democratic victory. Then, admitting that the vote was close, it counseled vigilance to prevent the stealing of the presidency. Telegraphed to other cities, its claims and warnings produced considerable unrest. Great pressure was brought to persuade Jones to desist lest grave disorder ensue. Not until five days after the polls had closed did the Post-Dispatch cease to claim victory for Bryan.

Despite McKinley’s popular plurality of 567,692, Jones’s contentions were far less fantastic than his critics charged. As many analysts have proved, a shift of only 37,000 votes would have yielded a Democratic majority in the electoral college. If that number of ballots had been changed from McKinley to Bryan in California, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, the electors would have stood: Bryan, 224; McKinley, 223. A turnover of less than one-third of one percent of the total votes cast would have produced that result.

Startling figures for a single performance of pantomime!

And what a commentary on political polls!

The highest claim of accuracy for pre-election surveys has been a disparity from the actual outcome of between three and four percent. That is a dozen times greater than the margin by which Bryan was defeated.


Chapter 8 Part 1 Next Week   
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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: H.E. Godwin




Harry Earl Godwin was born in Richardsville, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1874. A family tree at Ancestry.com named the birthplace and Godwin’s World War I draft card had the birth date and full name.

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census recorded Godwin as the oldest of three children born to William, an English emigrant and jeweler, and Matilda. They resided in Richland Township, Pennsylvania. At some point the Godwins moved to Butler, Pennsylvania.

Godwin was profiled in the Editor & Publisher, May 12, 1917, which said:

…As a kid he realized that he had a mission in life, so he climbed oil derricks in Brookville, Pa. He wanted to start in at the top. From the hurricane deck of the derrick he drew pictures, and then the family moved to Butler, Pa. He drew his first newspaper picture for the Times of that city, when the paper was printed on a Washington hand press by the proprietors. Here he gained confidence in himself, and went to Pittsburgh “scratching” chalk plates and blowing his head off for the Post. He went from the Post to the Chronicle-Telegraph, and later to the Gazette, and then to the Dispatch, all the while digging trenches in chalk plates.

Then he hit New York, where he free lanced with varying success in comics, going back to the Dispatch as a pen-and-ink man. Philadelphia looked good to him, so he went over there and sold full page comics to the Press, North American, and Inquirer; was art manager of the Bulletin, and later cartoonist of the Telegraph. Then he got homesick, and returned to Pittsburgh, but later went back to Grand Rapids, Mich., and Chicago, and now he is back at the desk in the Pittsburgh Dispatch office that he used fifteen years ago.
The Butler Citizen noted several of Godwin’s activities. On May 5, 1893, the Citizen said “Harry Godwin will shortly start on a photographing trip through the county. His Portable Gallery was built by himself and father and is a neat bit of work.” The November 24, 1898  issue noted “Harry Godwin will draw pictures for the New York World, in the near future.” On March 30, 1899 the paper wrote “Harry Godwin who has been working for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, came home Monday evening.” The August 16, 1900 Citizen reported “Harry Godwin now has a good position on the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph. He and his wife, a daughter of Alex Russell, visited friends in Butler over Sunday.”

In the 1900 census, artist Godwin was the oldest of five children. Godwin’s father worked as a photographer. The family lived in Butler at 442 North Bluff Street.

Godwin was on the move in 1901. The Citizen, February 21, 1901, said “Harry Godwin and wife of Allegheny spent Sunday with their friends in Butler. Harry is now the artist of the Chronicle-Telegraph.” Several months later, the August 8, 1901 Citizen wrote “Harry Godwin, who for a year past has been on the pictorial staff of the Chronicle-Telegraph, has secured a better position as cartoonist on the Boston Post.” Godwin’s next move was noted in the Citizen, October 10, 1901, “Harry Godwin now has a studio in Philadelphia. He had two pages of the colored supplement of the Press, Sunday.”

Godwin’s whereabouts were listed in Pittsburgh city directories. In 1903 Godwin was a Dispatch cartoonist who lived at 1316 Federal. Directories from 1905 to 1915 listed Godwin at 1412 5th Avenue. He has not yet been found in the 1910 census.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Godwin created several comic series, from 1902 to 1903 for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which were Rube Green, Sly Sam and Shy Sue, Swapping Si, Crazy Charlie, Jack Horner, Dorothy and Bess, and The Little Quakers. For the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, Godwin drew Smudge and Stub in 1904. During 1910 Godwin produced Mr. and Mrs. Getrichquick, and Grandpa Scattergood for the McClure Syndicate.

The family tree said Godwin was married to Ida Reno who died in 1918.

On September 12, 1918, Godwin signed his World War I draft card. His address was unchanged. The Dispatch cartoonist named his second wife, Sarah, as his nearest relative. Godwin was described as tall, small build with blue eyes and light brown hair.

The 1920 census said Godwin, a widower, was at the same address and continued as a newspaper cartoonist.

In 1921 Godwin illustrated John Mellor’s The Rhyme of the Woodman’s Dream and Other Poems.



A 1929 Pittsburgh directory listed Godwin as a commercial artist at 408 Aronson Building. He resided in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania.

According to the 1930 census, newspaper cartoonist Godwin was in his brother’s household in Butler, Pennsylvania at 500 South Main. The family tree said Godwin’s brother, Guy, died in 1932.

The Pittsburgh Press, December 6, 1939, reported the death of Godwin’s mother and said:

Mrs. Caroline Godwin, mother of Harry E. Godwin, former Pittsburgh newspaper artist and cartoonist, now of Buffalo, N. Y., is to be buried this afternoon from the McDonald Funeral Home, Mars, Pa. Mrs. Godwin, born in Jefferson County near Brookville, 87 years ago, was a resident of Butler, Pa., 50 years, until the death of her husband, William J. Godwin, in 1925. Mr. Godwin died in the home of her daughter, Mrs. E. L. Marshall, of Mars, who until five years ago was a resident of Shadyside. She was a member of the Second Presbyterian Church, Butler. Besides her son, Harry, and her daughter, Mrs. Marshall, Mrs. Godwin is survived by another daughter, Mrs. J. W. Allen, of Pittsburgh.
The date and place of Godwin’s passing is not known.


—Alex Jay

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

 

Obscurity of the Day: Sunny Sam and Shy Sue / Sly Sam and Shy Sue



Here's a sample, courtesy of Cole Johnson, of a short-lived series that ran in the Sunday section of the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1903. The series was originally titled Sunny Sam and Shy Sue starting April 26, then changed titles more often to Sly Sam and Shy Sue starting with it's third appearance on May 17 until the series ended on August 2.

The strip's gags took place on a farm in Egg Hollow, where the kids were usually playing Katzenjammer-style tricks on the farmer, named Uncle Hi. Why the Inquirer had two Katzenjammer wanna-be strips (Fineheimer Twins was the other one) I don't know, but maybe because one was done with German accents and the other with homegrown rustics, it didn't seem like duplication of effort.

Though H.E. Godwin's work sometimes has a bit of fun charm, his efforts on this series are appallingly bad. Most of the tricks the kids play are so clumsily set up that readers are left with no clue what in the world is going on. Of course, it really matters little, because in every case, the big pay-off is always that all hell breaks loose and someone suffers grievous injury. The end.

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A lot of the early Inquirer series were like this, there were some name artists there like Dwiggins or Marriner,and some of their stars would become more sophisticated and become giants of comicdom after they left the 'Inky' like Sidney Smith but most were ametuerish, and had a sameness to them. You can always tell an early Inquirer section by their strange coloring. They seemed to have some rich, attractive colors that printed well, and others that were consistantly smeary and uneven.
Cole was always unsure of the exact date when the Inky went from just a local section to a syndicated one, he figured the structure of the section went from an anything goes in sizes and formats to a ridged uniform half page only in early 1903 may have indicated when they began, yet couldn't find a paper that took Inky material before 1905. (St. Louis Globe-Democrat). have any ideas?
 
Hi Mark --
No, in my collection the best I can do is also 1905 -- my few samples of the early syndicated version coming from the Boston Herald. They took the Inquirer material in between one of their spates of producing a homegrown section.

--Allan
 
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Monday, August 07, 2017

 

Obscurity of the Day: Tommy




A fabulously talented newcomer burst upon the newspaper cartooning scene in 1996 when United Feature Syndicate offered newspapers a new strip titled Tommy.The creator, Jay Martin, was the son of Joe (Mr. Boffo, Willy 'n Ethel, etc.) Martin, noted newspaper cartoonist. Between Joe's tutelage and a fine arts education, Jay at the tender age of 22 was already a cartoonist who could knock your socks off.

Martin's creation, Tommy, was a fantasy about the dreams of a kid, who's personal guide to a bizarre dreamland  is a muscular black blob named Gus. The drawing was to die for, and Martin showed off a dry acerbic wit that belied his age. Because the strip featured a boy and his fantasy friend, there were the inevitable comparisons with Calvin and Hobbes. However, Martin was obviously harkening back far more to Little Nemo than treading in Watterson's territory. Tommy is a pretty calm and cool kid, a million miles away from the sugared-up bouncing-off-the-walls Calvin, and Tommy spends most of his time in Dreamland, whereas Calvin's world is mostly a wakeful one, with only occasional dips into fantasy (other than the talking tiger of course).

Newspaper editors seemed to recognize that Tommy could be the next big thing. Major papers took the strip, like the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. They even heralded the new strip with feature stories about the wunderkind, a rare occurrence by 1996.

What happened then is a mystery to me. I don't know if readers failed to take to the strip because it was too eclectic, or if the drawing was too 'far out', or if features editors were disappointed that they hadn't found an instant mega-hit, but the buzz over Tommy died off quickly despite what I consider to be superb material. Or maybe the buzz was still there, but Jay Martin lost interest in the project. Whatever the case, the strip debuted on October 7 1996, and was cancelled on June 28 1998, not even making it to the two year mark.

Jay Martin went on to bigger things, a pretty big loss to newspaper cartooning in my opinion. He went to Hollywood and became a storyboard artist, then began directing music videos, and now he's even directing major motion pictures. Nice to know that he didn't forget Tommy completely, though. In the 2000s he shopped around a movie based on the character, which was picked up and a script developed. As with many projects in Hollywood, it ended up on the shelf.

I have no idea if there's a market for it, but I for one would love to see a Tommy reprint book, especially one reprinting the especially hard to find dailies.



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This would be a perfect webcomic today which I'm sure would find a large audience. He was a bit before his time it seems.
 
I remember that this one appeared briefly in the San Jose Mercury News, where I worked in Marketing. It replaced BC, which had become identified as a "Christian" strip and was otherwise a shadow of its old self.

The usual angry letters came in, but a bit of a frenzy had been worked up by writers claiming we were anti-Christian. They also claimed that the black-clad figure was explicitly Satanic. Tommy out, BC back in.

I recall seeing a few later strips where Gus had shed his costume and was just a youngish guy.
 
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Saturday, August 05, 2017

 

Herriman Saturday


March  6 1909 --  a court case involving the theft of a boa constrictor is sauce for the reportorial goose, but when the snake fails to be paraded around the court as expected, the story is much ado about nothing. The reporter couldn't bear to have wasted his time at court, so he comes up with the angle that stealing a snake is not larceny. Which, in the story, it clearly is. Just not grand larceny, but rather petit larceny as the value of the snake is only $15. Ho hum.

Fake news! A total nothing-burger!

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Friday, August 04, 2017

 

Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael


Here's another entry from Albert Carmichael's postcard series "I Love My Wife But Oh You Kid", published as series #565 from Taylor Pratt & Co.

Was it ever the style for men to wear ribbon bows on their shoes!?!

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

 

King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 7 Part 2

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 7

Old Man River (part 2)

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In the late afternoon of May 27, 1896, the Mississippi Valley was visited by the most devastating tornado in its history. The brunt of the calamity was borne by eastern Missouri and southern Illinois. The next morning for the first time a local story appeared on the front page of the Globe-Democrat. It was my report of the havoc that attended the destruction of more than 250 lives in St. Louis and East St. Louis. It followed a general survey of the ravage wrought throughout the region.

A classic operation in news gathering followed the catastrophe. The tornado had slashed diagonally southeastward through those sections of St. Louis and East St. Louis that face each other on opposite banks of the Mississippi. It destroyed every line of communication across its path. The Missouri metropolis was completely isolated from the territory east and north. The Eads Bridge, which ordinarily linked St. Louis and East St. Louis into one community, had been rendered useless. Its eastern pier was dismantled.

Disaster threshed at both ends of the great steel structure. Only a few hundred yards lay between. The channel span is 520 feet. Yet more than 5,000 miles of wire were required to exchange the tragic tidings. Messages from St. Louis were sent to Galveston. They went from that Texas port via the then shortest cable relay through Vera Cruz to Halifax. Land lines transmitted the dispatches from Nova Scotia to New York for distribution through the East and North and for delivery to the stricken town across the Mississippi scarcely half a mile from their point of origin. Dispatches traveling the same 5,000-mile route in reverse brought the only advices received that night from East St. Louis.



One, at three o’clock in the morning, startled into renewed activity a staff on the verge of collapse from exhaustion. It was packed with an emotional content rivaling the shock of the tornado itself. It contained three elements of sensation. First, it announced that Governor Tanner of Illinois had proclaimed martial law in the devastated area. Second, it told of organized groups of vandals defying the armed forces which opposed them and looting the city from street to street. Third, and most lurid, was the report that women ghouls, “captured in the act of robbing the dead victims of the storm,” had been hanged by militiamen. The bulletin, sent by a regular correspondent of the Globe-Democrat, concluded with a request for staff assistance.

The telegram thrust upon Obadiah R. Lake a critical problem. As night editor, he confronted a pressing duty. He must hasten reportorial help to East St. Louis. The city editor had notified him that it was impossible to get men across the Mississippi. To persist in the face of that notice might mean the assumption of too great a responsibility. Lake was in a jam between the urgings of professional ardor and the promptings of conscience. Twenty years later all his worries would have been eliminated by the radio. In this quandary he resorted to an expedient.

The last edition had gone to press. Ordinarily, at that hour, the offices were deserted except for three men on the “dog watch.” This morning they were crowded with reporters, copyreaders and special wire operators reading the biggest local story ever printed in a St. Louis newspaper. More than forty men answered the night editor’s summons to the telegraph department. The exciting message, that had come 5,000 miles from the sender less than the length of a dozen city blocks away, was read aloud. “Are there any suggestions?” Lake asked. The response was a noteworthy instance of journalistic zeal. As with one voice, every man in the room volunteered to go. Lake behaved as if a heavy load had been lifted from his shoulders. He selected Frank J. Price and me.

Price, then twice my age, started out as if on a lark. Our first reverse came at the St. Louis approach to the Eads Bridge. A militiaman with a rifle barred our way. His instructions were to permit no one to pass under any circumstances. Both argument and cajolery proved fruitless. We withdrew for consultation. Neither of us believed the sentry would actually shoot a newspaperman. We had learned that his orders were not to leave his post. So, a simple stratagem was evolved. Frank would edge along the north side of the bridge while I distracted the guard’s attention. When he had gained sufficient distance, Price would shout a signal, at the same time putting on a burst of speed. That would be my cue to sprint. The sentinel, debarred from leaving his post, would be powerless to overtake either of us.

All went well until Price yelled. He had already started his spurt. A shot halted him. It seemed to come by command of Frank’s voice. The explosion dazed me. But the sequel quickly restored my self-command. “Stop that!” bellowed Price. “You’ve spoiled my shoe!” For a moment, the man with the smoking gun stood irresolute. Then he joined my laughter. Frank ignored our levity. Here was a man who seemed to prize his safety less than his footwear. The guardsman was amazed. Instead of detaining us for a provost marshal, he offered friendly advice. “Call it a day,” he urged. “The bridge is impassable and the river is choked with wreckage. It would take a steel-armored battleship to get across now. Anything else would be crushed like an eggshell.”

While Price’s show of annoyance had won a laughing exit from an awkward pinch, the effects menaced the equilibrium of our comradely morale. Frank felt himself cast into a matrix of heroic hardihood. He had to bulge out to fill the mold. He steamed up an aura of dense dignity. There was no comment until his stride changed to a swagger, retarding our movements. Then a four word sentence pricked the bubble. It laid bare the inner structure of Frank’s seeming bravado. Price was a native of the Ozark Mountains. Shoes in his boyhood were a precious luxury. They came to be the hobby of his adult years. So the normalcies were reestablished by the simple quip: “The Ozarks belched up.”

The bridge sentry’s counsel had fallen on skeptic ears. We were convinced we could find a vessel that would carry us to East St. Louis. It was four o’clock when we reached the levee. The cobblestone embankment was hidden in a blackness more opaque than a photographer’s idle darkroom. Will-o’-the-wisp twinkles showed the upper contours of craft moored in solid array along the waterfront. The faint glimmers came from lanterns hung below deck on the far sides of the silent boats. The only audible sounds were the muffled crashes of floating masses of debris tossed against each other by the sullen river. It seemed impossible to arouse a crew. Shouting and the hammering of dornicks against wood and iron remained unanswered. We groped our way to what felt like a boarding-ladder. Hand in hand we began to climb. In another moment we were aboard, floundering in the folds of a malodorous tarpaulin. It had been thrown around us. Excited voices discussed our capture. We were prisoners on a Mississippi packet. That it was the Dixie Dispatch meant nothing to us at the instant.

Again Frank Price’s ready resentment scored a triumph. His caloric volubility awed our captors. They had mistaken us for renegade roustabouts hunting plunder. Word had gone down the line that prowlers were raiding every accessible cargo. Our efforts to attract attention had passed as trickery to “smoke out” or test the alertness of those on watch. Nobody apologized. Disappointment mixed with displeasure in the faces around us. Angry men are not quickly appeased at that time of night. But the jingling of pocketsful of silver coins presently encircled us with friendly smiles. Our request for a rowboat snapped this cheeriness into a forbidding gloom. The explanation presented a new problem. Nothing could be done for us without permission from the Captain. He was asleep. No man on the Mississippi could match the violence of his temper. At the best, it required courage to accost him in ordinary routine. It would be unshirted folly to awake him at this hour at the behest of a stranger.

“No capable reporter can be defeated by difficulties of approach.” So ran a maxim credited to Joseph B. McCullagh, our Globe-Democrat chieftain. “Obstacles are tests of reportorial ingenuity” was a companion adage. These phrases were inspirational guides in the years of their author’s ascendency. They lapsed into the limbo to which a later day consigned “the overworked clichés of a crude stage of journalism,” much like the printer dumps into the “hellbox” for recasting the type that he has used. Their verity continued unchallenged but their virtue attenuated. The fading of their force synchronized with the transition of news-getting into news-letting, with the passing of the newspaper from an individual enterprise to a mass operation. But the vigor of their fullest meaning animated the two Globe- Democrat reporters on the Dixie Dispatch.

Price divided with me a series of brief but strenuous shifts at high-pressure suasion. The Captain might resent being awakened, we argued, but he would never forgive stupid neglect of his major interests. These men looked to him for their jobs, but he in turn looked to the owners for his own berth. Proprietors of boats courted the favor of the press. Didn’t they pay money for advertising? What would the real bosses of the Dixie Dispatch do when they learned what had happened tonight? What would they do to him and what would he do to the men who put him in that hole? A break came sooner than we expected. The first mate and the steward beckoned us to a whispered conference in an adjacent aisle. A couple of greenbacks closed a bargain. We would be shown the skipper’s quarters. Both officers would call out so that he could recognize their voices. Thereafter, it would be “every man for himself.”

The mate wore a set of brass knuckles. Repeatedly, he raised them to rap on the Captain’s cabin. Each time, his arm dropped in a gesture of impotence. The show of trepidation provoked an impatience tinctured with suspicion. Such a case of jitters did not comport with the bowel equipment necessary to become second in command of a Mississippi steamboat. The steward was carrying a carpenter’s hammer. It seemed like a call of duty to grab the tool. The steel head was banged against the door panel. The mate jumped in surprise. “Newspapermen to see you, sir,” he called out, vanishing immediately with his fellow-officer. The next few moments erased all doubt about the genuine indigo of his funk.

Our credulity was taxed. It seemed impossible that one man could produce the vocal bombardments that assailed our ears. The vessel had little need for a foghorn. The Captain’s voice was adequate. Its high notes had a strident quality that set one’s teeth on edge. On this occasion, its volume was no more nerve-racking than its messages were scarifying. There burst upon us a catalogue of the most astounding epithets that ever reached my hearing. Its authorship compelled a certain awe. The faunal nomenclature alone, without the dizzying roster of hybrid fantasies, was a challenge to scholastic achievement. But the need for expedition held a higher claim than wonderment over the skipper’s unique talent. My watch showed that more than seven minutes had passed since the avalanche of profanity started. Then there was an instant’s pause, as if for breath. Before we could speak, an order thundered out.

“Take them up to the pilot house and kick them to hell off into the river!” Evidently, the master of the boat believed his subordinates had waited for instructions. Evidently, also, he was not lavishing hospitality on newspapermen. But that fact didn’t divert us. Our trump card remained to be played. The Captain didn’t realize that he confronted the power and the influence of the Globe-Democrat. The name of that newspaper was something to conjure with. It was a shibboleth that demanded respect wherever the Mississippi flowed. Our words merged as if by signal into a single shout: “We represent the Globe-Democrat!’’ There was a brief silence and then a sharp command to “repeat that.” We obeyed. The promptness of the result exceeded my expectations. “I’ll see you in a minute,” came a modulated, businesslike voice. The change in tone was more than astonishing; it was positively refreshing. It converted tenseness into buoyancy. What a remarkable institution was the Globe-Democrat! How penetrating and pervasive was the prestige of a truly great newspaper! Its mere mention worked miracles.

The chief of a Mississippi steamboat was still an outstanding figure in that day. No autocrat of an Atlantic liner exercised an authority more absolute. But there was a sharp difference. Commands from the quarter-deck were translated into actions that all eyes could observe. Orders from the texas were often executed in the absence of witnesses. The sea captain moved deliberately in the firm security of centuries of traditional discipline. The river despot struck quickly in the lurking shadows that lingered from Reconstruction reprisals. Seldom did one of these side-wheeler overlords deign to report a casualty among his crew. Even in such a moment of condescension to outsiders, he maintained the formality of reserve befitting a foreign potentate. It was not smart to invite official interest. That might lead to an investigation. Opinions might clash as to the actual nature of “a mutiny nipped in the bud.” And there was always a maudlin sentiment about Negroes among those who never handled them.

At first, the skipper of the Dixie Dispatch seemed quite different from the ogreish bully that his tantrum had suggested. Tall, well-knitted together, with aggressive features, he had an air of competence. He might have been mistaken for a ringmaster in a circus or a floorwalker in a department store. This fellow knew what he wanted. And what he wanted just now was to determine whether we were actually employees of the Globe-Democrat. Apparently, he felt it would be best for us to disavow the connection. What we had considered an ace was dwindling to a deuce. The packet boss was questioning me when Price edged to the door. Frank tried the knob. It wouldn’t turn. The lock was fastened.

“Then there’s no mistake; you have been delivered into my hands!” The words fell as if a stage manager had timed their utterance. They sounded too artificial for credence. But the next sentence clinched them to chilling reality. “I am Captain Frank Bilbo.”

Why, out of all the craft along the levee, had we picked this one? An unhappier choice could not have been made. Bilbo’s name was anathema in the Globe-Democrat organization. No one else holding a master’s license on the Mississippi had ever gained a wider notoriety for highhanded defiance of the authorities. The Globe-Democrat had done much to promote his conspicuousness. On a number of occasions it had severely chided public officials for what it defined as neglect of the Captain. These editorials pointed out that Bilbo might be persuaded to repair omissions and correct errors in various mortuary records. A bitter feud developed. The Captain denounced the Globe-Democrat. He demanded reparation. Also, he pronounced various threats. To these the newspaper made cavalier response. Now, with much effort, we had succeeded in convincing him that we came to his cabin direct from the Globe-Democrat. Perhaps this was another instance of overzealousness.

Captain Bilbo gave a more or less artless exhibition of an aggrieved man working himself into a fury. An impassioned recital of his wrongs followed an ascending scale of intensity. His gestures breached the dramatic unities. They distracted attention from his speech. They were made with a cutlass that he had wrenched from the wall. It was brandished with so much emphasis that at times the speaker’s words were lost to his listeners in their concentration on the flashing blade.

The fear grew on me that Bilbo’s emotions indicated a pathologic phase. How else account for his fits of satanic glee? How else explain the sadistic satisfaction with which he outlined his program of vengeance? For weeks, he told us, he had planned “to slit off the ears of the first Globe-Democrat man he met.” He had intended to send them to the editor—such a message of contempt as no words could answer. But tonight fate had bestowed on him a double sign of its favor. Instead of one pair of ears, here were two. He would send both. Each of us could carry our own, or the other fellow’s, as we chose. The graciousness of this permission betokened a degree of considerateness for which it was impossible at the time to frame a fitting expression of appreciation.

Frank Price was no longer the devil-may-care brave of the Eads Bridge. A wistful air had replaced the insouciant mien of an hour before. Still, he had a look of self-possession that stirred my envy. Obviously, his mind was functioning while mine seemed inert. My thoughts were numbed by the feeling that we faced a man impervious alike to reason and sentiment. It is possible our jeopardy was not as great as we feared. It is possible that providence would have intervened to avert a maniacal assault; but my hands were moving to shield my ears when Price launched the diversion that fended off the crisis.

“Listen to a proposition!” Frank shouted. Bilbo paused in astonishment. “Don’t you own a pack of fine hounds?” Price asked. Then, without waiting for an answer, he went on in the hurried speech of one seeking to avoid interruption: “That means you’re a sportsman. I want to make a sporting proposal. You’ve told us you were a God-fearing man. My proposition is that if you will kneel with me in prayer for five minutes, repeating what I quote from the Bible, you may then have your will of me without further resistance.” Price’s offer was like a kick on the shins. It both aroused and irritated me. No matter how pressing he considered our peril, he had no right to hang my safety on so slender a reed. Without protest from me, Bilbo might accept Frank’s terms as a joint tender. And there was grave doubt about Price’s familiarity with the Scriptures. Suppose his tongue got tangled over a couple of quotations! In another instant, the significance of Frank’s coup flashed on me. Anything to get this fellow’s mind off his madness for a mess of ears.

The idea was like a shaft of light. It dispelled the muddle into which Bilbo’s phrenetic ravings had crowded my thoughts. A veritable hurricane of words whipped out. Either the velocity or the vehemence of my speech—or both—compelled his tongue-tied attention. His hounds were barking up the wrong tree. My indignation on his account was greater than his own. All the offenses he complained about were committed without our knowledge or consent. They should be fully requited. We would see to that. We were in position to do so. Nursing a grudge could fit into the private life of a commonplace citizen. But Captain Bilbo was an important public character and his quarrel with the Globe-Democrat was an important public affair. What would give the Captain more satisfaction—to vent his anger in physical violence or to receive vindication through an open apology from the Globe-Democrat published in its own columns? Of course, there could be but one answer.

It may have been that Bilbo’s choler and skepticism were simultaneously exhausted. That would explain his conversion from blood-lust to amity. Or, perhaps, as Price afterward claimed, the scales of Bilbo’s mood were balanced in our favor by the piety implied in Frank’s proposal. The assurances we advanced entailed no salving of our scruples with the excuse of duress. But it was fortunate that the Captain didn’t analyze them. Careful consideration of their meaning might have altered the outcome. It would probably have withheld from us the skiff which the Captain shortly placed at our disposal with three Negro roustabouts.

Two of the Negroes tugged sturdily at the oars, while the third, at the tiller, directed them how to avoid heaving heaps of wreckage. The current had dragged us far south of our course. I was trying to count the miles when a lurch of the little craft upset me. The man at the rudder had suddenly flung himself to the bottom of the boat. He was wailing in abject terror. He had used a paddle to ward off an object bobbing around in the water. It turned out to be a coffin. The thrust of the oar cracked it open. A corpse became visible. In a few moments, the gruesome case sank from view. But the awe-stricken Negro could not be persuaded to look. He had “done wrong to the dead.” He was a doomed man. Already, the voodoos were grabbing for him. His horror infected the two men at the oarlocks. They sat as if paralyzed.

Passing debris knocked the skiff in all directions. A metal shaft, projecting from a half-submerged crate, pierced the bow. Water poured through the hole. It washed the darkies loose from their hobgoblins, but too late to finish the boat ride. Fortunately, the sun had risen. Slipping into the river and swimming alongside, the three roustabouts guided the skiff with their hands. It was seven o’clock when we waded ashore on the Illinois sands. The current had carried us eleven miles south of East St. Louis. Nine o’clock had come when Price alighted with me from a railroad handcar in the ravaged district.

The report of women ghouls robbing the dead was untrue. It was one of the exasperating mockeries of journalism. A canard may lay on newspaper energies a larger tax than many a story of historic consequence imposes. “Nothing happened,” was Price’s rueful comment, “except that we covered another assignment.”


Chapter 7 Part 3 Next Week   
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