Monday, June 26, 2023

Filth on Main Street, from The Independent, June 20 1925

Prompted by my men's adventure maniac Bob's comment on the last post of Arts Pictorial Monthly, I thought of an article I've had sitting in my blog folder for years that's a reaction to the proliferation of risque magazines on the stands and sort of a reporter's eye on the newsstand trends of the decade.  Mind you, I'm likely to savage the poor writer when we're done, but it's a neat article.  I'm not sure why I sought it out, but it was likely in someone's notes in something I'd read, so props to the initial researcher if you know what I mean.  I'm putting up a mix from two sources.  I have a scan of photocopies that I'm not sure if they are my own from a visit to a university library or found elsewhere.  But since I last went looking, a nice run of microfilm of the magazine the article comes from, The Independent, has been put up at the IA, including the June 20th 1925 issue.  I'm mixing the photocopy pages, which represent the art better (if still shoddily), with the microfilm's text pages.  Not an ideal 'scan' by any means, but the .cbr is here, and I'll post the whole thing (AS UNREADABLE THOUGH IT MAY BE ON GOOGLE BLOGGER 😝 BUT CLICK THE IMAGES AT LEAST FOR A BETTER VIEW) right here below.  The opening editorial cartoon


From Edmund Duffy, who may have spent some time at the dump like myself, as he draws a convincing trash heap in a very graphic style.  Duffy would go on to greater things in his career covering the Scopes Trial with Mencken and later winning the Pulitzer a whopping three times. Sir, I'll take a Dirt, the Vile Stories and a copy of True Filth, please, and a tootsie roll.  Telling Tales was an actual pulp (and a barely naughty one at that), but we'll see it again in a second.  Here's Frank Keith's "Filth on Main Street."  I'll withhold my snarky comments until the end with the exception of the graphics page.

"Selected from an average new stand" by a gentleman with extraordinarily good taste I might add.  I'd like to blog on each an every one of these magazines at some point (though maybe not these particular issues). For now I'd note that it's a particularly mild collection of magazines.  French Frolics largely reprinted material from La Vie Parisienne (or in imitation of that mode) and Red Pepper is a barely risque joke magazine (also swiping material from LVP).  Paris Nights is one I plan to talk a lot about in the near future and is perhaps the most risque on this page with still clothed starlets on photo pages and some nude illustration.  The rest are very basically romance pulps - the center title "Breezy" is a good term for the genre which is pretty distinct from the girlie pulps, even though all of these magazines often get lumped in with the racier illustration and peppy story variety of magazine. But let's see if I can't dig in the archives and hit these puppies.

French Frolics v01n04 (La Vie Parisienne) April Fool Number (1925-04) cover after Herouard (maybe Dash).  From my own collection.  I'm sticking this on the pull list to scan, as I'd like to take a look at the original this artist has copied from and post a few mags that pretty directly crib pages from LVP. 

 Red Pepper v01n12 (1925-06) cover Jack Neal.  Also from my collection.  

I need to scan one of these, too, though likely an earlier issue as an example.  Somehow I've found a number of these, and even a pin to go with, promotional material perhaps

Paris Nights 1925-04 v01n01.Paris Nights cover WVC, sadly not in my collection.  But if you're talking the earliest of the girlie pulps, it's a good place to start.  

Saucy Stories 1925-05 cover H.H. Warner, from an old eBay auction - the source of most cover images in my indexes, if you can't afford them at least you can keep a picture :D

Saucy Stories was started by H.L. Mencken, in the downmarket mags solely for the money.  This is actually the last issue before the pulp would change title to Heart to Heart Stories for the last two issues before cancellation.  I happened to just post another Saucy Stories cover to my Flickr thread today that's an absolute classic here.  The artist H.H. Warner remains a mystery.  If you have information, do let me know.  There's a strong possibility given the racy nature of the paintings and lack of hits in websearch that it's a alias, but who knows -

Young's Magazine 1925-06 v49n04.Young cover Greiner WANT  <---ha, I don't put that in my filenames very often, a mycomicshop image (if you can't tell by the watermark grumble grumble)

We'll be rapping on C.H. Young and his mags in the future, as I've got some plans.  And Oscar Greiner, too, who did a fair amount of work on Courtland's titles over the years.  A distinctive and underappreciated pin-up artist.

Breezy Stories 1925-06-15 v22n03.Young cover Seymour Marcus

I'm pretty sure this is inspired by an Earl Christy from a The American Magazine cover from 1925 but couldn't track down the image I'm thinking of.

Droll Stories 1925-03 v05n01.Young cover Mulholland

Another Courtland Young title, an odd but charming cover, a black and a white man both take a peek. 

Telling Tales 1925-06 v38n01.Climax cover Marcus.  Sigh, I was doing so good, all I have is a small image for this one.  Still, better than no image.  A title I still to need to index in my files.

Sort of cute, eh.  A mix of the sexy and the mundane.  A flapper does the crossword in the tub, Seymour Marcus.

Snappy Stories 1924-10-01 v85n03.New Fiction cover Dealton Valentine

Dealton Valentine. She was blissfully unaware of the silhouette thrown by the firelight on the sheet that concealed her...Fantastic, can't believe I managed to hit for the cycle there and find every one of these "filthy" covers.  But back to more of the diatribe on the magazine problem from Mr. Kent.

So, Let's dig into Mr. Kent's anxieties and observations here for a moment.  Mr New York here has the opportunity to venture out amongst the people in an attempt to "search for sentiment" and notes that 4 out of 5 Americans live outside of the 65 cities at that time in America with over 100,000 citizens.  The 20s saw a tension between city and country that we haven't likely seen up until the present.  Still, in the small towns, Kent sees more clearly the state of the American magazine because, well, there may only be one seller of magazines in the entire town.  Kent argues that "in these standardized, syndicated days, the same influences play on all people." THE MASS MEDIA, SOCIAL DEGRADATION.  He writes, "The same social customs and business methods absorb them, the same political currents saturate them, and they are affected with the same gross misconceptions and misunderstandings.  You find in one section what you find in another. From coast to coast, the radio, the movies, golf, bobbed hair, business, short skirts, trashy literature, automobiles, lip sticks, bad newspapers, rotten liquor, absorption in money making, almost complete political inertia, and an unparalleled muddy-mindedness about public matters - that's the country today."   Mr. Kent sounds like great fun at a party.

Mr. Kent blames the French for leading the way in the area of dirty magazines and notes that men used to smuggle home magazines from France and pass them to their friends. But now in the mid-20s, the Americans have surpassed the French in depravity with our Yankee crudity.  Faced with the "imposing array" of publications gathered at the country magazine peddler, Frank writes, "When you stop to analyze, scrutinize, and check up there is here more reason for apprehension as to the future of than any other single symptom in America today."  Wow.  I like to "scrutinize" the girlie mags, too, but it's telling of the age that the proliferation of this "gutter" media might be seen as the greatest existential threat to our way of life (culture war language if there ever was).

Kent's keen at least in that he knows the changes in magazine culture hasn't happened overnight.  He notes that there's been a gradual growth in risque magazines since 1920 (and even before) but that more and more magazines have been popping up in 1923-1925.  He writes, "The place to fully appreciate its proportions is in the smaller cities and towns with populations ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 - towns, for instance, like Fairmont, West Virginia, where one newsdealer sells 2,200 copies every single month of every issue of a single monthly devoted to stories of sex experiences and nude art; or like Steubenville, Ohio, where out of 110 periodicals on sale in a single store, 60 were either out and out the prurient type or bordered on the libidinous line." But even more salacious than these more visible periodicals are "the real shock troops of these paper battalions of literary indecency...the smaller and more compact nonfiction affairs frankly and exclusively given over to obscenities."  What HAVE you been reading anyways, Mr. Kent?  "They carry no advertisements and go to the dealers express, not by mail."  Under the counter baby.  Or I've heard the cigarette girls in the nightclubs like this one from Oscar Greiner might carry them in their boxes.

Why has their been no outcry "centered on this great American smut crop of the last two years (?)...Certainly, a more fruitful field  for moral crusade would be hard to conceive."  Kent's getting worked up now.  Pictures of nekkid girls or dirty jokes are more dangerous than liquor and especially corrosive to young minds. Sexy romances will muddy your brain to mush. In fact, "It ought to clearly suggest to those who think ahead and clearly that here is a greater menace to the future than any socialistic, communistic, or Bolshevistic propaganda that can be devised.  Here is something real about which to see red."  Smut, ladies and gentlemen, scarier than the commies. Beautiful, though, ain't it?

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