Saturday, June 8, 2024

Sport Story Magazine March 1, 1939

at Flickr

Download the full scan here

Or read online or download in .pdf format from my Internet Archive shelf here.

The cover to this issue by Modest Stein was featured on the 2023's edition of The Pulpster in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first issue of Sport Story Magazine.  It's far from my favorite Stein but does possess a kinetic energy and celebration of sport.   Michelle Nolan has pointed to this issue as the only sport pulp to feature women on the cover.   In Warming the Bench, the editor (I'm not sure who it was at the time) writes about having Jackson Scholz visiting his office and admiring Stein's painting which would become the cover for the issue.  He asks Scholz (three time Olympian and ultra-frequent contributor to the magazine with three stories in this issue alone) if he can come up with a story for the painting.  No problem, boss.

I've read this one before posting (fittingly in a fun week of sports including the first game of the NBA Finals as well as some great NCAA softball and baseball) and will give a quick teaser on these.  I do like synopses and reviews but don't want to spoil the fun.

Hoop Lesson - the cover story by Scholz - Carl Temple has taken a job with Grayson Tire perhaps a prize for the fact his grandfather owns a large share of stock in the company.  Shown the company gymnasium (and corporate teams are often the setting of sports pulp stories, a facet of athletic life that's largely receded in American life), Carl has an adverse reaction to the fact women are on the court.  As fate would have it, one of the women players is the daughter of the company President and has recommended Carl, a former college Center, be recruited for the company team.  Done with basketball, Carl nonetheless is cajoled into taking a back-up spot and is even roped into chaperoning the women's team on a trip out of town.  Can Carl get his basketball groove back and make peace with the fact women have hoop dreams, too?  Can he find his footing on the court and keep his feet out of his mouth?  An excellent sport story and maybe a bit of romance, Scholz writes a good lead story here with the type of inspiration one might expect of the genre, even if the source might be a twist.  The call of the action on the court might leave a little to be desired but in an era when a final score might be 22-21, I imagine the game was indeed very different than today.

Iron Chin begins with a young rube making the error of bending down behind a donkey and taking a hoof to the jaw.  Amazingly the lad remains still standing, but lodgers happen to witness the event, one being a former light heavyweight in the fight game.  Does an iron chin a boxer make?  Our rube will find out as he's tricked into a match far beyond his skill.  How I do love boxing tales.   

Illustration by Frank Kramer who did most if not all of the art for the interior. At Flickr

Ben Peter Freeman who wrote a great number of novels for Dell's Five-Novels Monthly writes Ten-Grand Set.  Playboy Dusty Dean takes the game none-to-seriously giving in when the game gets tough.  A tough-minded uncle holds back his inheritance, though, forcing Dean to grind it out on the low end of the pro circuit.  Things take a turn, though, when a top pro does his pal dirty.  Can Dusty Dean get his act together and win the (Twenty) Grand Set? A fun story.  Freeman is best remembered as a writer on TV's Adventures of Superman.

 at Flickr

Six Girls and a Basket by  Handley Cross - Cross must have been some sort of sports writer, as he handles this article on the rise of women's hoops as well as the later sections on Big Moments in Sport (running down a couple of big games from the last season in various sports) and Trainer and Coach (advice for athletes getting in shape for the Spring Season).  Here Cross gives the lowdown on women's basketball c.1939 citing such authorities as James Naismith and Phog Allen and describes an epic game between Wichita and Little Rock as well as variations between the men's and women's rules.  Having Six women per side seems to be the most shocking difference in rules, but odder than that might be the fact each player was allowed a single dribble.  Cross easily seems the worst writer in the issue, so perhaps it's best he's confined to the non-fiction areas of the magazine.  In the Trainer and Coach department, regarding cigarettes and athletics, Handley writes, "Smoking?  Well that depends. If you are a runner, you had better stop altogether.  But baseball players and many other athletes seem to be able to smoke moderately without it doing them any harm.  If you continue smoking, make certain that your smoking is moderate."  Lucky Strike advertises on the back cover of this sports magazine and no wonder my high school still had a smoking section in the early 90s :D

Telemark Tension by Leonard Lupton, longtime practitioner in the sport genre with a mystery tale involving the Ski Jump and shots fired mid-flight. I think this might be the first Ski Jump tale I've ever come across...

Home-Town Hero by Leslie McFarlane, writer in many genres and described by Fictionmags as "Newspaperman; prolific hack; also author of “Hardy Boys” stories under name of Franklin W. Dixon."  The story of loutish Skates Kelsey, washed up hockey player, gambler, drunkard, and scout for the Chiefs who finds himself fired and penniless at story's outset.  Luckily for him, he gets a tip about a local hockey prospect that Skates intends to use for at the very least train fare back to the big city.  A rewarding tale of devious and loutish behavior, small town pride, and competing interests on ice.

.400 Eaters by Royal Hall, pseudonym of Scholz, but this time in a humorous vein.  My favorite story in the issue regarding a baseball team that's gotten fat and lazy and put on a no-lunch diet by a coach that has seen it all.  Called up to aid the struggling team is a lanky player from AA with a huge head with sunken cheeks and gargantuan feet that match his enormous appetite.  The rookie puts coach's dietary regimen to the test and hilarity ensues.  Any coach that's gotten a bit of wicked glee hitting fungo to lazy players is going to get a kick out of this one.

Seal-Skinned by Jack Volney, another pseudonym of Scholz, regards a water polo team for a feed manufacturer.  Sadly, when a team member goes to collect payment for goods rendered to a visiting circus, he receives payment in the form of trained seal.  All the horses were taken.  The seal becomes the team mascot, but can they keep him out of the water? 

A uniformly excellent issue with only a low spot or two.  A nice mix of sports and story types as is usual for the sports pulps.  If you haven't read a sports pulp before, this might a good place to start.  If you must pick only a story or few my faves were 1) .400 Eaters 2) Home-Town Hero and 3) Ten-Grand Set.  The opener gets special mention, too, as a meditation on women's sports and the nature of mojo.  Exactly what inspires our hero to action might irk those of us with a feminist bent (me!), but maybe not...

Notes on the scan:  there's some variance in page color from page to page.  The edit matches the copy I scanned from, and, as mysterious as the coloration may be, I rolled with it - the color edit is uniform across all of the interior pages.  I did remove all the pencil from the crossword, "Skull Practice," just in case any cruciverbalists want to try their hand at an 80 year old sports puzzle.

One last image, the inner back cover, Lee Jeans and Ripley's Believe it or Not

at Flickr

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The Early Follies of Cap'n Joey and Worth B. Carnahan / W.B.C. Pt. 7

at Flickr 

Get the cover to cover scan here

or you can view it online or grab a .pdf of the issue at the Internet Archive here.

Worth Carnahan, 1924.  The November edition of Burten's Follies, the Turkey number.  Perhaps Carnahan's first published magazine cover.  An appropriate way to start a post on Carnahan's earliest work in New York City, eh?  A deceptively layered cover with in the interplay of form and shadow.  And after Cap'n Joey Burten's heart, too, no doubt.  F is for flapper and F is for football, two of Burten's keenest interests. 

Based on the date of Carnahan's marriage to Genevieve discussed in the previous post and the fact that Carnahan says he worked in Connecticut for two years after before striking out for "the big time", that would put the Carnahan's arrival in The Big Apple around September of 1924 which just happens to be the same month he first appears in Burten's Follies, sounding his arrival to the magazine with a single illustration in the September issue of Follies.

An edited image via Will Straw, who has most kindly supplied me with a wealth of materials regarding Joey Burten for my investigation of Carnahan.  I've linked Will's pages before (and here is a fantastic page he's put up that has some great information on Burten as well a wonderful gallery of magazine covers).  Will has been working on a book on Stephen Clow (a notorious publisher in his own right and occasional contributor to Follies himself) which has material on Burten as well as other publishers in the Broadway/Scandal/Artists and Models milieu.

I've spent the last couple of days reading Burten's publication leading up to Carnahan's arrival, and it's been quite the trip.  Joey Burten (born Joseph G. Bernstein, I'm assuming he Americanized his name like so many others of that time to fit in) is an interesting character to say the least.  I haven't been able to find very much in the way of hard information outside of what other pulp scholars have written and even some of those bits of background seem iffy.  Born in New York in 1893, his brother was Morris Bernstein who was also in the publishing business and also on Statements of Ownership for Follies beginning in 1923. Burten had a lengthy football career in that he played for LSU starting in 1914 which would have had him starting his schooling at 21.  Burten described himself as a rolling stone, and if his constant tales of travel and ribaldry in his magazines are to be believed, it's no surprise he started school a bit late.  He played in 1915 and 1916 as well but then went off to World War I where he would make lieutenant in the Army.  Burten doesn't write about his war experiences in Follies often, and when he does he seems haunted by the experience (like most WWI veterans who had been through that meatgrinder). Burten returned to LSU for his last year of football eligibility in 1919, and would play up into his publishing career playing for the New York Giants in 1921 (different Giants than we know now) and the Rock Island Independents out of Illinois during the Fall season from 1923-1925. He's listed in the football records at 6'0" 205 lbs.  In the December 1923 issue of Follies, Burten writes, "Art Williams who is the whole show on sports in the Middle West printed that I was some 'plunging fullback.' In refutation, Art, let me tell you that I'm the best in the world when it comes to plunging my fork into a mess of potatoes, and I don't mean maybe."

It so happens that the only picture of Burten I've ever seen is in the issue I shared at the top of this post.  Here's Burten next to Jim Thorpe.  You think Beau (Jackson) knows, but Jim Thorpe is the most versatile athlete I've ever heard of, winning a a gold medal in both the pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Summer Olympics and then going on to play six seasons of Major League Baseball, play for six National Football League teams (as well as other pro football leagues), and even play on a traveling pro all Native American basketball team.  And that's not even getting into the All-Star/All-American/number of championship accomplishments or his career in college sports.  We've got some territory in common, as he spent some time at Haskell Indian College in my hometown of Lawrence, KS.  They still lift hard at the fitness center at Haskell named after the man 💪 I imagine Thorpe and Burten got on like gangbusters on the Rock Island Independents (and probably drank the rest of the team under the table, good lord.)

The mysterious Celestine Vichy provides caption.  Vichy is often referred to as an on again off again lover girl of Burten, though both Vichy and Burten seem to have plenty of amorous adventures on their own.  Vichy is described as a sporting woman herself, ready to hop in the ring with any woman that will put on a pair of gloves (or man for that matter).  And I better give a close-up crop of Burten here, too, just in case this really is the only picture that makes it to the internet of the guy.  Heaven forbid he goes down in perpetuity in a pulpy photograph wearing a goofy helmet and the letter 8, obscurity might be better ><

But I'd be selling Burten short if I were to categorize him only as a football player.  He's a joker, a traveler, a lover, and a poet.  He was a hustler with such a vivid imagination that it's incredibly hard for me to cipher out what's real and what's imagined in the yarns he spins in his magazines.   Here's this fullback living in Greenwich Village with all sorts of bohemian artists, poets, and free love types, hob-knobbing with the celebrities of the day but also apparently partaking in globe-trotting of the most adventurous variety.   His magazines contain many distinct editorial and poetic voices, and I've no doubt he had help with his magazines, but I also have to wonder how many of the pseudonymous contributors are figments and how many are real people.  Adding to the mystery in all this is that, in risque magazines, authors,artists, and editors deigned to give their real names because of the risk of obscenity blow back. Money men and distributors always had the smaller fish (like Burten) taking all the risk on the paperwork as figureheads so that they would be fall guys when decency groups managed to get somebody hauled off to court for obscenity.  Which is a little puzzling for the modern reader, because it is very hard to recognize these charming little magazines as smut.

I didn't really mean to get into all these details regarding Burten, but I don't think I can set the stage for Carnahan's entry without looking at the nature of the mag and the couple of years that came before he arrived.  Cap'n Joey's Jazza Ka Jazza (which would turn into Cap'n Joey's Follies then Follies then Burten's Follies) started as a Greenwich village version of the folk humor that made Capt. Billy's Whiz-Bang a success out of Minnesota.  It started out very simplistic in terms of graphics. Bruce Long has scanned a couple of the early issues which are available at the Internet Archive, a *fantastic* contribution, and the image below is from his scan of the second issue:

"Jule," 1922.  Or here's the cover of the following issue courtesy Will Straw.

I suspect "Jule" here as well.  I do think the graphics are very striking in their simple wildness, and I love the colored cover stock.

After a single wrap of photos, Joey opens issue number two touting the success of the first issue and alluding to his Greenwich Village den.  The copyright registration card for the second issue lists Burten's residence as 39 7th Street in the village (and I do get a kick out of Google streetviewing these addresses, perhaps Joey lived above the space that is now a Subway).
How appropriate is the quotation from the NYT here as celebration of Rabelaisian comedy. Even the most star-aspiring amongst us are motivated by the same Darwinian drives shared by the lowest primate - the juxtaposition of the two makes for great comedy and the art of the 20s mined that vein in art high and low.
The following page:
By the fourth issue, Burten is upping his game in terms of graphic and production quality.  One hallmark of the 20s magazine market was that it was ever-changing and quickly.   Magazines like the Whiz-Bang or Cap'n Joey's learned that the public wanted not only people's humor but photos, illustration, and novelty.  The magazines that were initially produced for a nickel and sold for a quarter needed to up their game if they were to stand out from the newsstand competition.  From the slick section at the center of issue four printed in green ink, an account of Joey, the mysterious Celestine, and circulation-manager Rozatski attendance at the Quat'z Arts Ball at Tammany Hall after the Parisian tradition:
Subject unknown, Celestine Vichy?  Hard to know, the subject of artist's model is a constant topic of ribaldry in the era (and, indeed, I refer to a whole genre of magazine as artists and models mag - someday I'll get hot and heavy into that maze of publications of which later incarnations of this very mag were a part).  The copyright registration card for this issue lists Burten's address as 44 Greenwich Ave (Perhaps his den was above what is now the Greenwich Treehouse and Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers).  By the sixth issue, Jo Burten is still the copyright claimant, but the publisher and printer is listed in the copyright registration as Bohemian Mag. Co., Inc, the namesake of the "Bohemian Group" of magazines of which Worth Carnahan would be engraver and art director for almost immediately upon his arrival on the scene.  There are *many* other players within the magazines and behind the scenes in the printing and distribution aspects of this group that played key parts in the magazine history of the first half of the 20th century.  

For the second volume which would appear quarterly starting with the Pre-Spring Number in 1923, the magazine title pivots from  Cap'n Joey's Jazza Ka Jazza to Cap'n Joey's Follies (after the various Follies of Broadway no doubt) and the format switched from humor digest to a full magazine size on a slicker variety of paper.  Not high-end by any means but aspirational with color covers, more space for higher quality advertisements (though still mostly local clients), much more spot and full page illustration, photos all over the place and an increasing number of contributors art-wise and article-wise, whereas previously you get the feeling Joey was doing most of the penmanship himself.  Necessary because Joey was a traveling man?  Investors come aboard because of the obvious opportunity the Jazza Ka Jazza's success provided?  An increasingly competitive magazine environment that demanded novelty at every turn? I'd say so.  The first cover of the second volume, courtesy of Will Straw's page on Burten:

Starting with this issue and running through the first five issues of the volume, Burten is listed as Travelling Editor while the Assistant Editor is ostensibly a Jeff Jiggs. During this year, Burten spins tales of trips to visit rum runners in the Bahamas, adventures in the wild oil boom towns of Oklahoma, as well as happenings in various town in the rust belt (assuming these last travels were during football season). Starting with this issue, the address for the Bohemian Mag. Co. is listed at 1416 Broadway, in the heart of Tin Pan Alley, and, indeed, there seems to be many ties between Burten and the song printers and publishers of Broadway.  New contributors like Albert Vargas, Harry Glynn, and Merle Hersey, and Dan Baker would make contributions.  Beginning with the May 1924 edition, Wayne Sabbath would be listed as Assistant Editor, a name that would be linked to Burten for much of his later career.  The art was getting better and better, partly because of "borrowing" of foreign material from France's La Vie Pariesienne and the UK cartoons of Starr Wood, but also with the addition of American artists like Chas. A. Smith, Millard Hopper, and Phil Love.  Also, the photography improves, as credited photos from John de Mirjian start to appear. And then our man, Carnahan comes on the scene.
At this point, I'm going to kind of drift off here from a sequential history of Burten's Follies and just get into sharing issues and Worth Carnahan pieces. When exactly Carnahan becomes the art editor isn't clear, but I'd say pretty fast.  I have a feeling his engraving experience was a great boon to the enterprise along with the layout skills, and starting with the cover that opened this the post, Carnahan is given the cover for the next seven issues (between Burten's Follies and Follies Quarterly), always a sign of publisher's favor (not to mention strong sales).
But Carnahan's first credit begins with this issue from the month before the issue I led this article with.  The issue is an old scan of mine October 1924 issue of Follies (from before I had a proper interest in Carnahan) and was edited by my long lost pal, McCoy.
Cover to cover scan available here.
Online viewing and .pdf available at the IA here.
"The People Be Tickled," and I imagine Carnahan was pleased to see his name in print amongst the contributors on the frontispiece:
Artist unknown, possibly Wayne Sabbath, as W.S. signed below a variation of the same frontispiece in the next issue.  Also unknown is why Worth Carnahan is credited as R. Carnahan in a number of these contributors lists, but there is plenty of funny business going on with other names in these as well.
Here's Carnahan using one of his many signatures, simply a C (which he had a number of variations on).  I suspect the illustration may be an adaptation from La Vie Parisienne:

Or here's one made up of a series of small figures, a common sighting in the artists and models magazine and girlie pulps, as you might be able to squeeze a little lass in many a spot on these pages.  The signature has a W, B, and C, cramped into one spot, he hadn't come up with his distinctive "bug" signature yet that combined his initials in a stamp-like configuration.

One more illustration from the issue, not from Carnahan but a self-portrait by Burten himself, caveman indeed.  If I'm including a photo of him looking goofy in the old-school football helmet, I might as well give another option in the portraiture department, heh heh

More Worth Carnahan, from the following month's issue linked at the top of the post.  Already in just the third issue he's appeared in for Burten, Carnahan has the cover spot as well as a couple of feature illustrations.  The Leg of Nations:

at Flickr. I like his signature on that one.

I particularly enjoy this one, impressions of a newcomer to the Playboy's Frolic:

and some fun spot illustrations (which are fairly small on a three column page) from the issue...

The Turkey Number.  Meditating on a turkey?  Quite the bird.

 There's a zen to these.

One last cartoon from Carnahan for this post.

I've got more W.B.C. Follies material share and ruminations on the evolution of the magazine but think looking at the first three issues of Carnahan appearances is a nice stopping point.  I'd stress that though I'm focusing on a single artist in a some of these Carnahan posts I'll be doing that there is all sorts of neat material in these issues, go ahead and thumb through 'em and see what there is to see :)

I'm feeling happy about the trajectory of my Carnahan project here and realize there's still so much ahead to get to.  Still, I'm gonna be mixing up the subject matter here in a couple of posts going forward.  I've been scanning so many neat magazines and have so many ongoing and newfound investigations.  Like this rooster, I believe the next couple posts will be on some recent discoveries, and I'll write about some new subjects while I do some further edits behind the scenes regarding Mr. Carnahan.  (From the first issue of Frank Armer's Whoopee! April 1929):

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Young Love at The Krazy Kat / Worth B. Carnahan, Pt. 6

Worth B. Carnahan tickles the ivories, cigarette in mouth, date unknown.  Courtesy of Cynthia Carnahan.

It's been too long since I've written here at Darwination Scans.  My scanning and research work continues fruitfully and unabated, but I do apologize for the intermittent dispatches to the world at large here on my blog.  I realize that knowledge confined to my own little bean is of no help or joy to others, so let's see if I can't rattle off a post a day here for a week or two.

The above photo was sent to me by Worth B. Carnahan's youngest daughter, Cynthia, and has instantly become my favorite photo of the artist.  I've done a series of articles on Carnahan (five parts so far) and have many more in store.  A blog is a funny thing in that it unfolds over years - questions I've asked in old articles have been answered, and yet I look at old scans and come up with entirely new questions and curiosities from a more informed perspective.  

Biography is a strange and intimate pursuit. Poking around in someone else's personal life and dramas can feel like interloping, but these dramas inform who we are.  We come to understand more about artists and authors when we learn about their trials in life, even if the greatest understanding comes simply and directly from the art itself.   Most biography is laid out sequentially with a beginning, a middle, and an end, just like our lives.  As what you might call a periodical archeologist, my own scans and writings are never so linear. 

Today, though, we start at the beginning - or something like the beginning - with my favorite Worth  B. Carnahan story, a tale of star-crossed love in the jazz age, propriety and impropriety, and escape from family bonds.  I've learned so much this past year corresponding with Cynthia (and have scanned a trove of photos, art, comics and magazines and associated production material she has graciously shared with us that will get posted here and at the Digital Comics Museum), but the most illuminating bits about Worth's early life and career as a magazine artist come from a letter he wrote to his first daughter, Patricia, January 8th, 1950.  Worth is writing pretty much to tell the facts about his marriage to Patricia's mother and to describe their courtship.

He begins, "It was July 1919 when I got back from overseas duty in the First World War.  Like a lot of other veterans, I was restless and sort of at loose ends." And, indeed, there's pretty much no doubt that the experiences of World War I primed society for the revolution in morals that was to come in the 20s.  Tossing young men into the meat grinder and then returning them to polite society is discombobulating in any era, but in the 20s it particularly seemed to spell that the old way of doing things hadn't worked, that you might die tomorrow, so you ought live today.  Even before the war, Worth was restless.  Groomed to be an assistant in his father's manufacturing enterprises, Worth shortly attended Georgetown to study electrical engineering.  His daughter, Patricia, in the Fall 1964 edition of The Sketchpad of Kappa Pi, would say, " but in rather dramatic the artistic tradition, my father rebelled against being forced into an engineering career, joined the army and went off to France in World War I."  David Saunders' pulp wiki has it as "On November 30, 1918, during the Great War, he was selected for military service in the Army. He was recorded at the time of his recruitment to be tall, slender, with gray eyes and light brown hair." Volunteered or drafted, no matter, as he was in the Army now.  By his army days, he's already showing artistic talent:

Self-portrait, Worth B. Carnahan, date unknown. Photo by Cynthia Carnahan.

Worth's service was short-lived, as he would fall ill with the flu in France, but he would be a lifelong member of veteran's groups.   I do not know if Worth first encountered magazines like La Vie Parisienne while overseas, but there's no doubt his magazine art was influenced by artists like Georges Leonnec.  During WWII and after other ventures in the comic books,  Carnahan contributed to Dell's War Stories, one of the better/more realistic wartime comics, as both writer and artist.

But back to a restless Carnahan circa 1920, returned from the war and then a short stint working as a mapmaker and draftsman for one of his father's ventures in Santo Domingo.  I'm going to just give Worth the wheel here and let the man spin the tale himself, the first of a few extended excerpts from the 1950 letter I'll include in this post.  I copy just as he has written:

It was July 1919 when I got back. from overseas duty in the First World War.  Like a lot of other veterans, I was restless and sort of at loose ends.  My father was trying to re-establish his steel wheel business that the recent war had all but wiped out.  For a time I helped him with setting up a new company and selling stock.  I also rented a studio and tried to make the public believe I was an artist.  That winter I became one of the charter members of a new Bohemian Club called the Krazy Kat with headquarters in an old converted barn up an alley near Thomas Circle. It was a rendezvous for artists, writers, diplomatic set and social climber and a goodly section of the college crowd.  The place reeked with atmosphere (rustic benches, rickety tables pile high with dirty candle grease, walls and rafters covered with old fishing nets, foreign travel posters, framed and unframed canvases of would-be artists, and a few original cartoons by Herriman, the originator of the Krazy Kat cartoons)  The one main attraction was a huge stone fireplace at one end of the center room.  A roaring log fire and flickering candle-light was all the illumination - very romantic and intriguing as a setting.  Waffles with coffee or hot chocolate were the only refreshments served (no liquor or intoxicated guests allowed)  The place had a limited membership and a long waiting list.  It was crowded every night.
It hadn't occurred to me to look up the Krazy Kat on the internet until just now, but I'm delighted to find a wiki on the club which links to the the owner of the space who would go on to fame in the jazz age as painter and set designer, Cleon Throckmorton.  The footnotes in the wiki point to a number of interesting articles on various topics that reference the club, and I'm including below some photos which set the scene from Library of Congress.  No known photographs of the interior exist, so we'll have to intuit from Worth's description.  I'll include the LOC's titles and descriptions.

Krazy Kat. Artist Cleon Throckmorton, his wife/model Katherine "Kat" Mullen, and friends at the back-alley entrance of the Krazy Kat speakeasy. This famous Jazz Age speakeasy was operated in Washington, D.C. during the Prohibition era.

A model, likely Katherine "Kat" Mullen, poses for artist Cleon Throckmorton on the external premises of the Krazy Kat speakeasy.

-Art, high heels, stockings, and cigarettes. Bohemia at the dawn of the jazz age.

Artist Cleon Throckmorton, his wife Katherine "Kat" Mullen, and several friends enjoy refreshments in the external treehouse of the Krazy Kat speakeasy.

-I include this second but similar image to show the overflowing candle with wax dripping about that Worth describes and to show a name carved into the table. I assume that's a water jug, as it might be a little big for the ol' moonshine-

A waiter ascends a ladder to serve patrons in the external treehouse of the Krazy Kat speakeasy.

-This looks like a difficult climb with a tray of hot chocolate, but these were adventurous souls, after all.  We can get just a glimpse of the small, dark club within where our tale continues.

Carnahan writes:

One night somebody brought a very cute, vivacious young lady to the Kat who, in my own estimation, made all of the other girls fade out of the picture. She came often after that but was always so well escorted and surrounded by admiring and jealous males that all I could do was worship her from afar.  About that time dancing was added to the Kat's attractions.  Whereas we had to rely upon guests bringing in ukes, guitars or some other sort of musical instrument with which  to entertain, we had at last purchased a piano for the joint (an antique massive square affair that cost just ten bucks plus cartage)  I was one of those elected to hammer the ivories while the "customers" cuddled and pushed each other about over the rough floor in the center of the room (a space about ten by ten) I didn't mind.  I could stand it if the cash customers could.

In a way it was a break for me.  The popular Miss Genevieve Gould began to notice me and even came over to the piano, on occasions, and asked me to play her favorite pieces.  One happy evening her obnoxiously attentive escort got into a fight with another fellow and it was my pleasant duty to assist in throwing them both out.  That left Genevieve without a "date" and, inasmuch as she was not at all ready to go home, there was but one thing to do.  I did it.  I beat the other wolves to the punch and elected myself as her protector.  Someone else played the piano, Vieve and I danced, drank coffee and finally departed for an all too short walk home.  I learned that she was seventeen and that her mother ran a boarding house over on M Street.  I was also informed that her mother was quite an old tyrant and objected to her daughter frequenting the Krazy Kat or dating any of that crowd.   Upon the young lady's urgent request I lefter her half a block from home to in order to avoid a scene with the irate mother who would certainly be waiting up for her.  Well, that was the beginning.  From then on we saw more and more of each other.  I did meet Mrs. Gould sometime later and, as to be expected, she thoroughly disapproved of me and forbade her darling daughter to have anything more to do with me.  I was just a penniless, no-good-artist-fellow and no asset at all to the Gould establishment.  That attitude, of course, was mamma's great mistake.  Vieve and I met at every opportunity and soon found ourselves delightfully but hopelessly in love.

Genevieve's family history is complicated to say the least, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that if the "Gould establishment" found no value in adding a starving artist that Worth himself was taking on a whole hornet's nest of obstacles in young Genevieve's situation.  Her mother had run off from Florida with Genevieve's father (a George Ernest Hart, who was possibly the fiancee of her older sister at the time) to Atlanta over the objection of her own family.  There, George Hart abandoned Genevieve's mother, Buena, shortly after Genevieve's birth, and Genevieve was in turn abandoned at a Catholic home.  Buena would move to D.C. and disguised her age and situation and married a much younger Chester King Gould whose own family hoped marriage might cure a black sheep of his wild ways.  After learning that Buena had a daughter, Chester insisted Genevieve be sent for.  By the time Genevieve was in her mid teens, Chester seemed to develop unhealthy interest in his own stepdaughter, so Buena hastily arranged a marriage for Genevieve to a soldier with the last name of Rogers (and son of a wealthy family) about to head overseas when she was only fifteen years old. Worth would only learn of this previous (and still legally binding) marriage after the two were in love.

In order to get her marriage annulled, Genevieve had to establish residency in Virginia (that had "lax" divorce laws at the time, allowing for a marriage to be ended on terms of abandonment) which meant the young lovers were paying rent in two cities.  

I'll quote once more extensively from Worth's letter from 1950 where we learn how love and marriage would finally prevail over family and financial obstacles and a young Carnahan would gain valuable experience in the engraving field with a "fake it until you make it" sort of scheme:

It took all the money both of us could scrape together to swing that deal, the six month residence and the final divorce action but it went through and Vieve was free, taking her maiden name of Genevieve Walton Hart.  Of course there was still a waiting period before either party could marry again so we were still in a stew.  To add to the upset, I had scraped bottom in Washington as far as raising any money was concerned and I was practically forced to get out of town.  My father had been begging me for months to come up to Bridgeport and help him but, of course, I just couldn't leave Washington.  Well, I finally had to accept his offer and departed for Connecticut much to Vieve's despair.  Dad was about to get his wheel business actually started (had a factory and everything) and he wanted me to work on an extensive advertising campaign.  He put me on the pay-roll and I sent most of my money to Washington.


Things were at sort of low tide when Vieve wrote me that her folks were moving to Dallas, Texas and wanted to taker her with them (she had made up a bit with her mother after I left town although she was still living alone).  She refused to be left stranded in Washington by both her folks and myself so there was only one thing to do.  I invited her to come to visit my folks for awhile until we were able to get married.  She packed up and came right away but my mother threw a monkey-wrench into the works by getting her back up and refusing to have anything to do with Vieve (she never liked my "affair" having had her own choice for a daughter-in-law for some time).  I met Vieve at the station and took her to a hotel in a shower of tears at the way my folks were treating her.  I was plenty sore and told of the whole Carnahan aggregation.  So there I was broke, no job, a fiancee on my hands and out on a limb for fair.  A block away from the hotel was the Park City Engraving Company and I thought I might land something there although I had never been in the place.  It was worth a try, anyhow.  Luck was with me and I talked myself into a job as "art director" over two other artists (both of whom knew more about art and retouching than I did).  My salary was to be fifty dollars a week and I was to report for work on Monday (this was on a Saturday morning with a long bleak week-end staring me in the face).  My new "boss" seemed like a pretty good egg so I got up nerve enough to ask him for a week's salary in advance.  He was actually shocked at my audacity and asked me why I was in such drastic need of money.  When I told him I wanted to get married he all but collapsed but, for some strange reason, let me have the cash.  (Later he told me it was the best fifty he had ever invested) and he and his wife went with Vieve and me to the county seat (Trumbull, Conn.) where Judge Beach performed the ceremony.  That was September 22nd, 1922 in a heavy downpour of rain.  Vieve and I stayed at the hotel for a few days until we found a small furnished apartment.  I got along fine with my job right away from the start and soon got a raise (learning all the time from the other fellows without exposing my ignorance to them)  For two years we lived in Bridgeport and was beginning to think of myself as a pretty good artist and retoucher.  We had saved some money and Vieve wanted to go to New York.  I had visions of getting into the "big time" and really making some important money.  By this time we had made up with my folks and Vieve was quite friendly with mother and my sisters (we had lived in the same town for nearly a year, though, before the Carnahans would even speak to us)  Well, my boss hated to see me go but said that he wouldn't stand in my way to success.  He gave me a send-off and a bonus and away Vieve and I went to the "Big City."


If love isn't hard enough to make work in this mean old world in the first place, it's amazing how hard some of the old-fashioned ideas and hypocrisies made it back when.  I find the tale of Worth and Genevieve's courtship, trials, and eventual marriage incredibly romantic - a love-conquers-all affair.

Sally Carnahan Lewis, Worth's second daughter with Genevieve (still alive and kicking and turning 95 this week out in California!), recently saw some of Worth's art in Spice O' Life from 1926 and remarked that some of the illustrations look just like her mother.  Here's Genevieve in an undated photo courtesy of Cynthia Carnahan dressed in wonderful 20s fashions:

and here's the piece that Sally remarked looks like her mother:

It's pretty amazing when lost histories come into focus and the dramas of yesteryear resurface.  Worth and Genevieve's life in the New York "big time" would involve challenge and tragedy but also incredible experiences rubbing elbows with the artists and celebrities of the day.  And, oh, yes, some magnificent magazine art - which I'll focus on in my next post in this series on Worth B. Carnahan, Carnahan's Early Follies.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

William Ekgren's Cosmic Psychadelia, St. John Comics, and Girl Playing Piano

A quick and unplanned post today of a few cover restorations I've done this week along with discoveries (of another historian's discoveries) I've made along the way -

Last weekend, I noticed a colorful if low grade copy of Weird Horrors #7 from 1952 for sale at Heritage Auctions.  I can never afford books at the high end auction sites, but I do like to look at them, and I was instantly reminded at having been struck by Ekgren's covers for St. John when I first encountered them fifteen years ago.  They are so out of place on a comic cover and so intricately wild that comics enthusiasts and art lovers alike stare in wonder.  I took the opportunity to "restore" the auction image and went ahead and found images to work for his other two comics covers.

Weird Horrors #7, April 1953

Strange Terrors, November 1952

 Weird Horrors #6, February 1953

The detailed linework in every inch, the exploding colors, and the mystic wonder and horror make these comic covers unique (the closest contemporary work would be from L.B. Cole whose covers I've also been working on in a gallery here).

When I first encountered Ekgren, I'd read Ken Quattro's sidebar in Alter Ego #77, "Who is WILLIAM EKGREN?" in which he shares his wonder at these covers and describes his intense curiosity at just what the fuck is going on here with these three amazing covers on the St. John comics.  Quattro finds the Larsens, a family, who knew him in New York in the 50s and finds some paintings the family has along with some basic biography.

What I hadn't seen until this week is the amazing follow-up on Ken's blog from back in 2010, A Letter from William Ekgren.  In this absolutely fabulous post (and all this being a great piece of unfolding comics history), Ekgren, amazingly still alive after all those years, reaches out and shares the story of how these paintings became comics covers:

“One day in the Spring of 1952--at the Greenwich Village Outdoor Art Show--three men and a woman were murmuring between themselves looking at one of my paintings…after less than 5 minutes they had bought the publication right to it--for 100 dollars. After a week they gave me the painting back so that I could sell it again…the same procedure came about at the next Outdoor Show (and then the next after that)…the same persons coming back, acting in an almost impolite way and paying 100 dollars for each picture. The editor’s name was Archer St. John (one of the four).”

Marion McDermott (the woman here and Editor at St. John) and Archer had bought these paintings off the street.   Quattro also manages to ask him about rumors of schizophrenia which those who have looked long at these images will understand.  My man was seeing things differently.  Psychedelic is an adjective that gets used, and those who've experimented with substances such as LSD might know there are different realms of perception that might influence art like this.  Ekgren responds:

“About that and that: yes, of course, I’m schizophrenic, thus being more nutty than a fine fruitcake. But thus far I’ve been able to handle this “mental thing” rather nicely, by using ingredients, as well as wholeness, as basic measures giving informative vividness and strength to all my creative activities.”

Fuel for his art. 

But maybe the coolest find for me in this new look at Ekgren is a piece I discovered that sold at Heritage in 2007,  Girl Playing Piano


This piece was sold by someone who had known Ekgren in the early 50s and is very likely contemporary to his comics work.  Absolutely stunning and alive with colorful energy.  Girl on fire, Woo!

Along with the painting, the seller offered two pictures of Ekgren at work.  Art in the streets, we need more of that - what neat photos.


Big, zoomable images of all of these can be seen a Flickr gallery for William Ekgren here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Renovation: Ballyhoo, February 1934 - Mae West Number / More Ballyhoo / Ballyhoo Explosion

 EDIT: I've been looking at this magazine a little more closely lately and have been gathering existing scans of issues as well as scanning some new ones.  Yoc over at the Digital Comics Museum informed me he wanted to put up a section for Ballyhoo and link my blog, so I'm taking the opportunity to get new links and images up for a post in need of repair.  After the refurbished post, I'll add just a couple insights and some new issues.

An issue of a classic American magazine up for your enjoyment, Ballyhoo!


at Flickr

Ballyhoo v06n01 (1934-02.Dell)(Darwination-McCoy).cbr

Get the cover to cover scan here.

At the Internet Archive here.

Scan edits for the issue from the one and only McCoy.

Ballyhoo was the brainchild of editor Norman Anthony who had pitched the idea to George Delacorte at Dell for a magazine without sponsors, indeed for a magazine that that lampooned Madison avenue and the burgeoning advertising industry. Anthony had been in humor magazines for years and is remembered for always wanting to push the envelope. He'd been an editor for Judge but felt that there was too much pressure from advertisers about propriety. In his short run as editor for Life, he radically altered the magazine, discarding much of the traditional content. With Ballyhoo, he finally got the chance to really change the mold of the American humor magazine

Here is an article in Time from May 11, 1931, in which Delacorte expresses his reservations about the "freshness" of the magazine (Anthony supposedly tried to have some of the initial issue's 150,000 copy pressing wrapped in cellophane, but I'm unsure if any issues were actually shipped this way). Delacorte's reservations quickly evaporated, I'm sure, as the first copy sold out quickly. The magazine was a complete success, exploding in popularity. Theodore Peterson's excellent 1964 book, Magazines in the Twentieth Century, says, "Although the circulation figures are unreliable, the first issue of 150,000 copies was said to have sold out in five days; the second issue sold 450,000 copies, the third 675,000, and the fourth more than 1,000,000. In a few months circulation exceeded 2,000,000." Within a couple years, the circulation would drop back down to about 300,000, but it's 2 million plus circulation mark would not be passed until the 40s with Life and Woman's Day. Advertisers soon pleaded for page space and ads were introduced. It says something that at times it can be difficult to tell between the real and the parody...

The rocketing onto the scene of this magazine seems unique in that it begat a whole craze. Mimicking the readily identifiable patchwork colors of the cover design, clothing makers rushed out dresses, ties, scarves, etc. with the Ballyhoo theme. A book from Simon and Schuster, greeting cards, games, songs and more were produced on the theme, and Anthony even wrote a musical show titled Ballyhoo (which introduced a youn Bob Hope to the stage). A neat piece of trivia for you pinball fans like me out there, the first pinball game had a Ballyhoo theme. You can see it here if you scroll half way down the screen. I can't tell for sure, but it looks like the Bally game company stuck with half of the name of this first machine. And all this talk of faddishness and cultural saturation leads nicely into our covergirl or cover woman, rather, as labeling Mae West as anything but just won't do.

A few nice pics of West, my kind of gal. This first one (a pic of Mae on trial for obscenity for her Broadway show "Sex" in 1927) is taken from a nice review of She Done Him Wrong (1933) over at Lolita's classics (she's also got a review of I'm No Angel also from the year previous the publication of this Mae West issue). The other two, more in a pin-up vein - Mae West had curves in all those places flappers didn't.

In the issue, you get a sense of how big of a sensation West was. She was just everywhere. Her up-front sexuality and disarming wit took the nation by storm and single-handedly had decency groups up-in-arms. And like most fads, perhaps seeing Mae everywhere did get tiresome.  

On the other hand, what's not to like? The gag men bust out the breast jokes en masse for this issue, bawdy humor being a specialty of Ballyhoo . The crude audacity of Ballyhoo is a great surprise, but I think it's done with such a wink and a smile that they were able to get away with much more than other magazines might have.

Steady, men, steady.

Oh my...

at Flickr

A hallmark Ballyhoo two page spread style of five toons with a big one in the center, notice the Minnie parody in the bottom left. 


Ralph Fuller causing a splash at the aquarium

The photo gags in here are pretty funny, and you can see how this magazine might have influenced later pubs like Help! and National Lampoon. This page takes aim at the haterz

And also tonight, a bonus issue from the following month, March 1934 - The Clean Number. Involving many plumber's jokes, a lost genre of dirty joke? Russell Patterson cover.

Ballyhoo v06n02 (1934-03. Dell)(D&M).cbr
The scan's here.

at the IA.

Plumber's jokes as noted artists (Picasso, Brinkley, McCay) might do them:

or the Hollywood take

The trophies, C.W. Anderson

Big thanks to scanmeister McCoy for the edit work on both of tonight's issues. 

EDIT: New thoughts, new scans below

So, I've been getting the handful of Ballyhoos I've done up at the Internet Archive (there's a link to my shelf on the right hand side of this blog) and also looking more closely at this era of humor magazine with magazines like KooKoo, Wild Cherries, Smokehouse Monthly and others.

With Ballyhoo exploding to a circulation of 2 million almost overnight, you can see how competitors would hope to  hop on the train.  Will Straw has a neat blog post where he posts a lot of these magazines covers here in a post titled United States : The New York Humour Magazine Wave of 1931-1932. Featured are covers for Ballyhoo, Hooey, Boloney, Hokum, Bunk, Slapstick, Hullaballoo, BLAH, and BUSHWA.  There were many more like them.  In the depths of the depression, people needed a laugh.  You can be assured, though, most imitators lost money hoping to duplicate Ballyhoo's novelty and success, but that didn't deter them from trying (and some of these magazines are very good).

One I worked with recently while we're at it, excellent cover design.  A collaboration between Joey Burten and Harry Donenfeld which lasted I believe three issues, here's the second, not a great magazine but sort of an interesting aesthetic. 

at Flickr

.cbr here.

at the IA.

Not a full issue, and quick work from found photos, but another wraparound cover from Bunk v01n01 from Clayton in 1932

Of course, it seems Ballyhoo is the trendsetter here, as some kind soul has put the first issue, August 1931, up at the IA.  The wraparound cover boasts of its freshness and editor Norman Anthony.

But speaking of fresh, I leave you today with a fresh Ballyhoo scan.  I've got a few more to do and a couple I haven't shared on my blog yet.  I've also gathered what issues have been scanned from the Internet Archive (huge props to the unsung IA scanners out there, some of my favorite scanners) and put them in a folder here, as we are starting to get a better record of this fun sensation of a magazine.  Times were hard in The Great Depression and some of the artists from the slicks were taking work where they could get it.  Magazines like Ballyhoo were able to offer a paycheck.

Thanks for the edits on this last one to DaveH, a new partner at Darwin's Free Press who has been helping me with some goldenage comic edits and who will be working with me on some magazines as well.  Here's Ballyhoo from March 1932 with an Ed Graham cover.  Sadly, the issue is missing four pages, but that's pretty common for these Ballyhoos.  People pulled out the gags on the big slick pages (not to mention there might be some nice nudie art that deserved saving, I understand but leave my copies alone you dirty boys!)

.cbr here.

at the IA.

Next time at Darwination Scans, the Columbus Sunday Star, wild, man, wild.