Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Christy Walsh
In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Walsh was the oldest of four children born to Walter and Marie. His father, a Canadian emigrant, was a traveling salesman. The family resided in San Francisco, California at 1333 Broadway.
According to the 1910 census, the Walsh family were residents of Los Angeles, California at 1795 Twenty-Fourth Street. Walsh’s father was a salesman of mining equipment.
The New York Times, December 30, 1955, said Walsh “graduated from St. Vincent’s College in Los Angeles in 1911 and began newspaper work on The Los Angeles Express.”
Walsh was profiled in The Fourth Estate, October 7, 1916.
Christy Walsh, the new Pacific Coast representative of the Chalmers Motor Company, with offices in San Francisco, is a lawyer by education, a newspaper and advertising man by experience and a cartoonist whenever occasion demands.Information about Walsh’s art training has not been found.
He is twenty-four years old and entered newspaper work five years ago as a cartoonist and reporter, meanwhile devoting himself to the study of law. As a result of the latter efforts, he was admitted to the California bar after graduating from the University of Southern California in January, 1915.
Law did not attract him at that time, however, and he became advertising manager for Greer, Robbins & Co., automobile dealers of Los Angeles, resigning this summer to become correspondent of the Los Angeles Herald at the United States Military Training Camp, Monterey, Cal.
On June 5, 1917, Walsh signed his World War I draft card. He was married and lived in San Francisco at 805 Lake. Walsh was the advertising manager at Chalmers. He was described as tall, medium build with brown eyes and hair. A short time later, Walsh moved to New York City.
The Los Angeles Evening Herald, August 30, 1918, published this item.
By the way, another most attractive girl, formerly Miss Madeline Soudan, is at Jacksonvile [sic], learning how to be an officer’s wife, as Christy Walsh, her husband, has been in the training camp there for the past two months.About four months later, the Evening Herald reported Walsh’s visit.
Mr. and Mrs. Christy Walsh, the latter being formerly Miss Madeline Souden, are to arrive in Los Angeles on Monday and plan to spend the holidays with Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Souden. Mr. Walsh has been in the service for the past year to more, and some of his clever articles on camp life—the training of the youngAmerican idea how to shoot Germans—will be remembered by readers of The Evening Herald.Walsh was an Evening Herald sports cartoonist.
A number of pleasant affairs are planned in their honor.
Editor and Publisher, March 19, 1921, reported Walsh’s new business.
The Christy Walsh Syndicate. has been established in New York with offices at 50 East 42d street, headed by Christy Walsh, former newspaper and advertising agency writer. After getting a start in newspaper work on the Los Angeles Herald as a reporter and as correspondent for a string of newspapers. he left California for Detroit. where he became publicity director and house organ editor of the Maxwell-Chalmers Automobile Company. Since 1917 he has been with the Van Patten Agency in New York. He has also gained some reputation as a cartoonist.A similar report appeared in the Fourth Estate, March 19, 1921.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Walsh drew the panel, Rightfield Follies, from April 13 to May 20, 1921. It appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Four panels had contributions from the readers on April 23, April 24, May 7, and May 17.
Walsh has not been found in the 1920 census. 1925 New York state census listed writer Walsh, his wife, Mary, and sons, James and Walter. They resided in Brooklyn at 118 Second Place.
Aboard the S.S. Transylvania, Walsh, his wife and youngest son, Walter Jr., departed Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1928. They arrived in New York on September 2. Their home was in Los Angeles at 1222 North Bronson. Apparently oldest son, James, passed away.
In 1930, newspaper syndicate manager Walsh and his family were in the household of his father-in-law, Oscar M. Souden, a banker, who employed three servants. Their address in Los Angeles was 2190 Ponet Drive.
The Walsh family visited Bermuda in 1930. The passenger list recorded their return to New York on July 14 and home address as 54 Riverside Drive, New York City.
Walsh and his family sailed from Los Angeles, June 29, 1934, and landed in New York City, July 16. Their West Coast address was 2244 North Edgemont, Los Angeles.
Walsh’s marriage ended in divorce. A brief article appeared in the New York Sun, March 21, 1935.
Mrs. Christy Walsh Sues for Divorce
Los Angeles. March 21 (U.P.).—Walter Christy Walsh, sports writer and promoter, was too critical, Mrs. Madaline Walsh charged in a divorce suit on file here today. The complaint said a property settlement had been made and an agreement effected concerning custody of their eight-year-old son, Walter Christy Walsh Jr.
The 1940 census said newspaper executive Walsh lived alone in Manhattan, New York City at 405 West 23 Street.
Walsh signed his World War II draft card on April 25, 1942. The Los Angeles resident was at 741 1/2 South Burnside Avenue. He stood five feet eleven-and-a-half inches, weighed 165 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.
Walsh passed away December 29, 1955, at his home in North Hollywood, California. His death was reported the following day in the New York Times and other papers. Walsh was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Spur Line
Bud Sagendorf may only be my third favorite creator of the Popeye comic strip Thimble Theatre, but that still puts him in heady company (E.C. Segar and Bobby London come in at #1 and #2, for the record). He really knew how to channel the Segar way of writing, and his drawing was sort of a scrubbed-up version of Segar's down-and-dirty bigfoot cartooning style. I dare say that if you showed the average man or woman on the street a Popeye drawn by any of the strip's creators, Sagendorf's would be chosen as the iconic one.
It only makes sense that Sagendorf was a natural on Popeye, since Segar employed the young cartoonist as an assistant in his studio. When Segar got sick, I'm guessing the only reason Sagendorf was not chosen as his successor was because he was so darn young (about 22) that he wasn't taken seriously as ready for the big time on such a valuable property.
Sagendorf was instead employed by King Features as the cartoonist in charge of many Popeye licensed products, and eventually became the main artist and writer of the Popeye comic books. It wasn't until 20 years after Segar's death that Sagendorf finally was assigned to the newspaper comic strip. In the interim, Sagendorf did manage to create his own newspaper strip, a fun little wacky fantasy about a fellow who runs his own railroad. The strip was well-written, full of slapstick and bizarre situations, following directly in the footsteps of Segar.
Spur Line, however, was doomed from the start. Sagendorf signed on with the Associated Press to produce the strip, and their comic strip syndicate division was running on fumes by 1954, when Spur Line debuted. AP's strips were folding at a constant clip, fueled by creators who couldn't afford ink for their brushes, much less feed a family, with the pittance they were making.
Spur Line debuted as a daily-only strip on February 15 1954, and came to the end of the tracks on April 2 1955. The feature appeared in very few papers -- not many of those dogged few newspapers still taking the AP feature service made room for the strip. That's at least partially because Spur Line doesn't seem to have been a 'drop in' replacement for another AP strip that was being cancelled. That was the normal way AP dealt with ending strips, and made it simple for subscribing newpapers who didn't have to have to redesign their feature page -- one goes out, one goes in. For Spur Line, papers would have had to make room or drop some other strip.
For more on Spur Line and a longer run of strips (including the introductory week), see this post at Ger Appeldoorn's Fabulous Fifties.
PS: If the above strip samples seem to be missing something, it's because the newspaper I scanned these from, in a fit of pointless fiddling, scratched out the syndicate stamps, the dates, and Sagendorf's signature in each one. Sigh.
Monday, July 17, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Stubby Penn the Reporter
John R. Bray went on to become an important pioneer in the animated film industry, but we must all start somewhere. For Bray, one of his earliest cartooning jobs was with the McClure Syndicate, and for them he produced his first comic strip series -- all two episodes of it. Presented here in its entirety!
The two episodes of Stubby Penn the Reporter appeared on February 19 and 26 1905. They appeared in the T.C. McClure copyrighted version of their section. Bray wouldn't manage another series until June of that year, but that time he'd be in for the moderately long haul, producing a whole year's worth of Stuttering Sammy strips for the same syndicate.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
March 1 1909 -- The long arm of the law gets the watch stolen off its wrist.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 14, 2017
Wish You Were Here, from Walter Wellman
This 1910 postcard by Walter Wellman indicates no maker. Perhaps this prolific cartoonist self-published? He reserved his copyright on the front, a pretty rare thing.
I don't know which is weirder about this card -- that a fisherman is wearing a tuxedo and spats, or that this dapper fellow would gladly see a pretty girl drowning in order to cop a feel of her ankle. Actually, wait, I do know which is the weirdest -- that someone would purchase this card over all the other options they undoubtedly had on offer at the postcard rack.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
In any case, I'm thinking not all that appropriate for fishin'.
Our friend in the card is just wearing some street-level dressy clothes for a young fop of 1910.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 6 Part 1
King News by Moses KoenigsbergPublished by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941
From the Chaparral to the Tenderloin (part 1)link to previous installment link to next installment
A period of self-discipline was undertaken to prepare for my invasion of the North. Complete detachment from newspaper activity was desirable for this cycle of introspection. It could be found in the lonely stretches of the Panhandle of Texas. Work on one of the great cattle ranges would also provide a stake for my journalistic travels. Two weeks after my departure from San Antonio, I was “riding the line” on the Capitol Syndicate Ranch. The tract covered three million acres. It blanketed ten counties. Starting in the northwest corner of Texas, its western limits followed the state line southward for more than two hundred miles. The area was great enough to inclose the states of Delaware and Rhode Island, with a thousand square miles to spare. An historic transaction accounted for the assembling of this tremendous range under one ownership. The land was deeded to a group headed by J. V. Farwell, Sr., of Chicago, in payment for the building at Austin of the largest state capitol in the United States. Line riding was a unique occupation. It disappeared with the squatter, the nester and the cattle rustler. It was a phenomenon of the times when water holes were priceless jewels of the plain. In droughty seasons, each wet patch was carefully husbanded. As one after another became exhausted, those remaining grew more vitally important. The loss of a single drinking pool, or “tank,” might mean the wiping out of all the livestock on the range. The desperate owner of a herd dying of thirst ignored markers and imaginary boundary lines. He drove his stock wherever they could lap up enough moisture to keep alive. To protect against these depredations and against more vicious forms of marauding, came the line rider—the prairie vedette.
Fences were built at enormous expense. They were cut. The legislature of Texas defined fence-cutting as a felony. Enforcement of the statute was left to sheriffs and the local constabulary. The line rider, paid by the landowner, supplemented this official force. Often, he was formally deputized by a sheriff or a constable. Usually he was a veteran cow-hand. A sudden dearth of expert help had withdrawn seasoned branders and ropers from this patrol work. A gap in the line was assigned to me. The work was ideally suited for my program. Frequently twenty-four hours passed without the sound of a human voice. Here there was utter detachment for unaffected meditation. The completeness of that detachment left its mark not only in insistent memories, but also in habits of thought. It deserves description. For me it was never better pictured than by Arthur Baer in a whimsical bit many years later. “No man can understand Texas and Texans,” Baer wrote, “until he has walked in the invisible bluebonnets on a night blacker than a mule’s bedroom. You cannot see an inch, but you can think to eternity. If you talk, it is in whispers, under a sounding-board of stars, which start where the earth stops and never stop themselves. There are no shadows; there is no horizon in a Texas night, but you can sense something that you cannot see in the cactus, the sword-edged grass and the dwarf oak. It is the chaparral, mysterious and unanswerable.”
Three months on the Staked Plains completed my course of inner questioning. All the answers pointed in the same direction. The code evolved from my experiences and observations must be the constant guide for my career in journalism. It would provide an unfailing shield against the recurrence of past errors. As for success—under these rules, it was certain. The renascence of an unquenchable optimism!
Wes Humphries rode with me to Fort Worth. We had met at a chuck wagon on the Capitol Syndicate Ranch a dozen times. His conversation was a model of terseness. On the range, he had repelled all friendly overtures. Now, on the train, a quality of aggressiveness entered into his reticence. Apparently, he reserved the right to propound questions to others while ignoring those addressed to himself. A nose twisted by at least two breaks, a narrow slit that served as a mouth and a corrugated chin definitely excluded Wes from the ranks of the handsome. A coal black mop tumbled over his forehead and ears. It curtained a pair of glowing orbs the color of which remained undistinguishable through the tangled fringes. While Humphries’ countenance did not compel admiration, it did excite curiosity. We parted at the Katy railroad station. No appointment was made, but Wes left me in no doubt that we would meet again. He had already made it clear that he never met anyone except at the time and place of his own choosing. All of which should have afforded me ample warning of what was to follow.
Forth Worth was to be the springboard for my plunge into Northern journalism. The Mail was without a city editor. The title attracted me. The label would be helpful in recapitulating to Northern editors the breadth of my experience. Moreover, this would be my first position with the rank of an executive on a daily newspaper outside San Antonio. And three months would be adequate for this round of duty.
Industrial unrest was gaining momentum throughout the country. The business depression of 1893 was nearing its second year. The American Railway Union, fresh from a victory on the Great Northern System, was organizing the employees of the Pullman Company. A demand had been submitted for the restoration of wage cuts and the correction of employment abuses. Mr. Pullman had answered that he was operating his car shops at a loss and that he was keeping his plant open only to assure work for his employees. In proof, he offered to exhibit the books of his company.
Living in obscurity in Fort Worth at the time was Martin Irons, leader of the great railroad strike on the Gould Southwestern System eight years before. The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor of America was at the zenith of its power when Irons, as chairman of the Executive Committee of District Assembly No. 101, ordered the walkout on March 1, 1886. In May, the strike collapsed. Martin Irons was ruined, but hundreds of thousands of union men looked upon his personal disaster as a brave sacrifice for their cause. He had led the greatest railroad strike thus far attempted in America. Few men were better fitted to comment authoritatively on the course of trade-union disputes. Now an exclusive interview with him in analysis of the pending Pullman conflict would be a notable scoop. Irons agreed to give me a comprehensive statement. But he wanted a week in which to await certain developments and to prepare his notes.
The delay was onerous. It might force a choice between the Irons interview and an opportunity for a superlatively spectacular news coup. Preparations for the latter undertaking had been in progress for weeks. They grew out of a series of meetings with Wes Humphries. Wes had been slow to show his hand. He played me like an angler reeling in a trout. It had required little imagination to classify him as a rascal. But he was an extremely interesting type, and observation of his personality was intriguing. At first our contacts supplied an amusing game. Matching wits with a master of knavery was an engaging pastime. At last, Humphries turned the comedy into a roaring melodrama. His ultimate proposal was reached by stages so gradual that its startling nature did not lift it out of the sequence of conversation. Wes Humphries offered me a share in a projected train robbery.
The looting of express cars was still a favorite occupation among bandits of the Southwest. Every detail of this job had been worked out with such thoroughness, Humphries explained, that failure was impossible. And this was no piker pick-up. The main haul would be $225,000 in gold. Every sixty days a consignment of that amount of cash in a specially constructed safe was made from St. Louis via Kansas City to San Antonio. It was planned to “grab the next load.”
From the beginning of my acquaintance with Humphries he had loomed as a prospective subject of newspaper copy. Now, he exceeded my most sanguine expectations. But the very magnitude of the story occasioned pause. Why had Humphries picked me for membership in his select company? In the argot of his kind, he had “ribbed me up” to the role with flattering allusions to nerve, muscle and speed. That, in the same slang, was “just a build-up for a fall”—a tickling of vanity to hasten compliance. Much more important than physical fitness was mental attitude. How had Humphries assured himself on that score? Detailed review of our conversations offered a clue. Wes believed nothing that he couldn’t understand. He couldn’t comprehend ethical restraints. Therefore, there were none. Every man had his price. This he knew. And what he knew was not debatable. He had satisfied himself that my besetting sin was avarice and that $25,000 would lure me to the gates of perdition.
Humphries pointed out that there would be practically no risk in my part of the job. He had chosen me for “the feeler and front.” My task would be to receive from a confederate working in a St. Louis bank and to transmit to Wes, with the dispatch and accuracy necessary for success, certain details including the precise time and manner of shipment of the money. After that, nothing would be expected of me except to serve as lookout when the “heist” was made. Wes had organized a pleasant party of four. The other two members would be presented in due course. At present they were arranging for our quartet to accompany a cattle train to Kansas City. It was my hope that these negotiations would not be completed before Martin Irons delivered his promised statement.
Wes Humphries was throwing into my lap an opportunity such as seldom if ever fell to a journalist. The capture of a trio of train robbers would be both a newspaper epic and a signal public service. Fortune was surely in a gracious mood. James B. Roberts, editor of the Mail, did not agree with me. “I’ve never heard of so foolhardy an undertaking,” he said in high anger. “You can’t put it over. I’ll have nothing to do with so harebrained a stunt.” Nevertheless, he was helpful. First, he agreed to forward to me for my own exclusive benefit any writing that Martin Irons might send in. Next, he worked out an open letter of identification, which he signed. It read, in effect, as follows: “To Whom It May Concern: The bearer, M. Koenigsberg, is a newspaperman. He is leaving the city editorship of the Fort Worth Mail for an enterprise on his own account. He believes he has a workable plan to perform an important public service. I have urged him against the undertaking. This note is written reluctantly, not in approval of his venture, but as such safeguard as my recommendation may afford.”
This document, intended as insurance against an unpredictable adversity, became the source of a violently contrary effect. It was written in duplicate on the India tissue paper of which stereotype flongs were made. One copy Roberts retained. The other, the original, was inserted by a seamstress between the lining and the outer fabric in the back of my coat.
A formal exposition of Martin Irons’ views was in my hands when Humphries presented me to Louis and The Kid. It was an unceremonious meeting. We had made our ways separately to the caboose of a cattle train in the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific freight yards. It was a made-over sleeping car. Introductions were achieved with three-word sentences. Taciturnity was the tacit rule. Later in the evening a semblance of social amenity, warmed by a tin bucket of hot coffee, brought the crowd a bit closer together. The full monikers of my two new companions were revealed.
The Kid was really “The Iron-Gall Kid.” His looks fully confirmed the cognomen. Six feet of a cadaverous frame was topped by a sallow visage totally bereft of any shadow of sentiment. No alchemy was needed to convert The Kid’s facial tegument into brass. Louis, pronounced “Looey,” was formally known as “Lefty Louis.” Fifteen years later, a central figure in a New York gang murder boasted the same name. But the New Yorker was only a hired assassin. Humphries’ protégé claimed a wide proficiency. He was equally familiar with safe-cracking and pocket-picking. Usually one who pursued either calling professed a violent contempt for the other. It was Louis’ versatility that earned his high rank in Humphries’ esteem.
Lefty’s proximity gave me a sense of discomfort. He owed his nickname to the excessive intrusiveness of his “southpaw.” It was never idle. The fingers were constantly in play. Whether they were toying with the loose property of a neighbor—a watch, a pencil or a knife—or whether they were tentatively hefting an accessible item of decoration, Louis always wore an abstracted smile as if he were unaware of what his digits were doing. It was a pose that often proved profitable. The seeming aberrances of this left-handed diligence were not the only source of my uneasiness over Louis. He had a disquieting manner that intimated joint possession of a secret. He would lower an eyelid and then abruptly turn away as if to hide the gesture from our companions. Louis was giving my nerves a ride.
The Iron-Gall Kid remained markedly aloof. One sweeping glance at our first meeting seemed to glut his interest in me. Our eyes never met again. Clearly, my vigilance must center on Louis. Chunky, but as hard as nails and as light as a cat on his feet, he would be an ugly customer in a mix-up. And he continued to wink at me.
Transportation to Kansas City had been arranged in accordance with a common practice. A berth in a caboose and grub en route were supplied in exchange for attendance on live stock in transit. Our quartet were engaged to tend four carloads. The animals were fed and watered at scheduled stops. It was a simple routine. With goads and poles, the cattle were driven off each car down a portable runway, through narrow chutes, to feeding bins and drinking troughs and then back onto the train. An additional duty required inspection of the cars from time to time to prevent the trampling of steers downed by bunching or jolting.
Humphries found pride in his craftiness. This trip was a species of generalship. “It’s what I call a double play,” he announced. First, it supplied transport for his forces at the enemy’s expense. Second, but more important, it furnished facilities for a reconnaissance from the most desirable angles of observation. Wes had already studied the scene chosen for “the blow-off.” But views from horseback or passenger-train windows did not afford the comprehensiveness of vision obtainable from the top of a freight car.
Ministering to the creature comforts and toilets of Texas shorthorns had never excited my enthusiasms. The Iron-Gall Kid made this job especially irksome. He was shirking his stint. Yet this shortcoming might be turned to advantage. An expression of my dissatisfaction ought to evoke some sort of telltale rejoinder. Any trick seemed worthwhile to prod these fellows into unguarded talk. An annoyance more pretended than real was given vocal outlet. It turned into an unfortunate blunder.
Scarcely had the complaint left my lips before Louis’ ubiquitous left hand was stroking my back in a mocking simulation of sympathy. His fingers traveled with incredible celerity from shoulder to flank. They lingered for an instant just below the waistband. There was no audible sound. Yet a noise like the crackling of sheets of foolscap assailed my inner ears as a hand paused over the tissue paper sewn into the lining of my coat. Louis gave no sign that he had discovered anything. He began rolling a cigarette. My fears receded. Then Louis winked at me again. It seemed less an ocular antic than a flicker of fate. If Lefty had started out to fray my nerves, he was close to success.
It had been my idea to defer until after our arrival in Kansas City the formulation of a definite plan for the capture of my unamiable trio. Facts usable as legal evidence must first be obtained. At the moment, there was no basis on which to press a formal accusation. No overt act had been committed. An allegation of conspiracy was not yet provable. Wes might even poke fun at my charges. Thus far there was not even any testimony to convict our two companions of guilty knowledge. It was enlightening to observe how thoroughly they guarded against incriminating admissions. But all this would be changed when Humphries began to drill the members of his gang in their respective and collective duties. That, he had whispered to me, would be the day after our arrival in Kansas City. Now, within twenty-four hours, would come the circumstances from which my program must be evolved—unless Lefty Louis meanwhile put a spoke in the wheel.
That night my outer garments were carefully folded at the head of my berth. On top lay my only article of baggage—a small satchel. A shoelace was looped over my right forefinger, through a buttonhole of my coat and around the handle of the bag, What more could be done to assure my arousal if any attempt were made to get at the hidden letter? When morning came, none of my traveling companions was in sight. A hasty search had shown the shoelace to be intact. That was reassuring. But why, for the first time on the trip, had my droughtful and attentive fellow travelers left me alone? A brakeman, donning his trousers across the aisle, offered a suggestion. “We hooked on a couple of empties at Topeka,” he said. “Your friends may be shooting craps in one of them.” A dice game would be unimportant. A meeting from which I had been pointedly omitted would be altogether a different matter.
Still, there was no occasion for alarm if Roberts’ letter remained untouched in its hiding-place. And how could it be otherwise? Had not my fingers reassured me at the moment of waking? Ever since the suspicion arose that Lefty Louis had detected its presence, the hidden sheet of paper had obtruded itself on my every thought. It had become an incubus. Perhaps the wisest course would be to destroy it. My fingers, groping for the basted strip, felt a fold of paper. It was easily extracted. It was not the India tissue from the stereotyping plant of the Forth Worth Mail. It was much coarser. It was of the same texture as the roll in the washroom of the caboose. And it bore no writing. Roberts’ letter had disappeared. What he had warned me against was coming to pass. The trapper was being snared in his own trap.
Obviously, Roberts’ writing had been replaced with the blank sheet to delay my discovery of its absence. By restoring the substitute, it would be possible to feign ignorance of what had happened. Such a pretense might prove a critical measure of safety. The strip of lavatory paper was tucked back into the recess where Roberts’ script belonged.
Fright came with the realization that it was with Wes Humphries rather than Louis that my thoughts should be engaged. What would Humphries do? In all likelihood, his decision was already made. The plans for its execution were the subject of the discussion for which the trio had absented themselves. No other conclusion was tenable. Humphries would not let me balk the project on which he had worked so long. Neither would he trust me to remain silent. Roberts’ letter disposed of any such possibility. One could sense Humphries’ judgment as clearly as if he had pronounced it. The pernicious interloper must be put out of the way. The underworld conceives no trespass more malignant than the acceptance of companionship as cover for a campaign of exposure. It is an inexpiable offense.
A sense of frustration confounded my dilemma. It would be foolish to turn to the train crew for assistance. On what could a request for protection be based? No threat had been offered. There was bitter irony in the prospect that none would be offered. Humphries and his ilk took neither the chance nor the time to make such gestures. Safe arrival in Kansas City might be only an emergence from the smoke into the flame. No more help could be expected from the police than from the railroad staff. In fact, it might be Humphries’ design to postpone action until we reached the screen of the city’s shadows. This was the worst mess into which my quest for a scoop had yet entangled me.
There was only one avenue to deliverance. That lay in putting myself beyond the reach of Humphries and his two cronies before they suspected my purpose. Where were they? Kansas City would be the next stop. We were traveling at high speed. Evidently, the engineer was making up time. A leap for escape here would be suicidal. But at any moment there would be a slowdown for the switchyard. Then must come my break for safety. The side door of the caboose was movable along grooves with adjustable ratchets. It was easily set midway. The train wheels began to grind on a curve. The speed slackened. My chance was at hand. Braced in the open door, I searched for a favorable landing spot.
There had been a heavy downpour of rain. Puddles of water hid the railroad ties. On the right, on the parallel track skirting a sod embankment, a string of freights was slowly forging ahead of us. The rear cars were lurching crazily around the bend. They were canted sharply to the left. Their tops were hanging perilously close to the cattle train alongside. Either the inner rails of the outer track had sunk or one of the axles was broken. A sideswiping collision was due at any instant. Would there be a choice between Wes Humphries and a railroad wreck?
At that moment, Wes spoke for himself. He had just made his way through the front entrance. Beside him were Louis and The Kid. All of them eyed the satchel hanging from my left wrist. “Listen, pal,” said Humphries, in the longest single speech he ever made in my hearing, “you’re not breaking away—yet. We have to have a nice talk together. Not now, but when we’re ready. You’ll come right along with us like a good boy. Or there’ll be a very sad accident. And it won’t be any trouble for me and my friends to tell the coroner exactly what happened. There won’t be anybody to tell it different.”
A few minutes earlier Humphries’ words would probably have stirred me to the marrow. But now a more immediate danger overshadowed his threat. The caboose was careening. Intent on their purpose with me and obviously unaware of what was happening outside, Humphries and his companions had not sensed the impending smash. A glance forward through the half-open door confirmed my fears. Several of the cattle cars ahead were toppling over. The back end of the freight had passed beyond our caboose. Now there was open space to the terraced turf on the right. It lay less than three yards away on a level fully six feet below. No part of this fleeting scene was visible to the trio facing me. But the expression on my face must have warned them. They darted forward.
“It’s a wreck!” I yelled, jumping for the brown sward across the track.
No twinge of conscience followed my failure to ascertain what happened to Wes Humphries and his worthy mates. It seemed at least pardonable to leave without a show of solicitude on their account. If items of justification for this neglect were lacking, the condition of my satchel would supply one. It was ruined. A puncture on one side and a gaping hole on the other made it useless. It did not require an expert to trace the action of a bullet. As a parting souvenir, it was much more acceptable 'than the donor intended. The overturning of the caboose had interfered with his aim.
Another memento remained with me permanently. It was produced by the impact against the railroad embankment. Lesser hurts, including two dislocated finger joints, were soon forgotten. An umbilical rupture commanded more serious attention. The Kansas City doctor advised an immediate operation. Three weeks in a hospital would be required. That involved a longer period of idleness than was wrested from my program for more than a quarter of a century. Then surgery became imperative. Thus, thirty-three years after the incident, the scalpel carved a record of my worst fiasco in news adventures.
There was some salvage from the rout. Most important was my deliverance from any further concern over the projected train robbery. Newspaper reports of the wreck showed that Wes Humphries must succumb to his injuries. Tragic as was this source of relief, it also assured me of a personal safety that Humphries’ survival might have imperiled. Without his leadership, neither Lefty Louis nor The Iron-Gall Kid would be likely to molest me. At all events, I never saw them again.
The statement by Martin Irons had been kept in my satchel. Though perforated by the pistol shot, it was still legible. Transcribed in the form of an interview, it made a timely story. Edwin H. Craig, managing editor of the Kansas City Journal, was pleased to get it. Irons had set out to write a dispassionate review of the American Railway Union’s claims against the Pullman Company. It was not wholly passionless. He urged the union not to be tricked into consideration of Mr. Pullman’s books as the basis for negotiation of a settlement. He argued that a big corporation could secrete a million dollars in profits more easily than a laborer could hide a patch in the seat of his trousers. No Argus-eyed income tax department existed then to dispute this argument. Irons was pessimistic over the threatened strike. He predicted its failure unless union labor meanwhile achieved a greater solidarity. Of course, he had a plan. It was for an affiliation between the American Railway Union and the Knights of Labor.
It is noteworthy that such an alliance was formed. The Kansas City Journal published the Irons interview in February. Three weeks later, on March 11, 1894, the historic strike began. In June, under the direction of Eugene V. Debs, the American Railway Union, at a meeting in Chicago, effected a coalition with the Knights of Labor. The combination was defeated by an unforeseen factor. President Cleveland ordered that there be no interference with the transportation of United States mail. The strike was crushed by the calling out of troops on July 4th.
Compensation for the Irons interview introduced me to a curious offshoot of newspaper operation. Craig paid me in hotel scrip. It was an order on the Midland Hotel for a first-class room and three meals daily for a week. The Midland then was one of the two leading hostelries of Kansas City. The accommodations supplied to me represented two columns of advertising in the Journal. For years such trade deals tainted the legitimacy of newspaper business standards. The practice was part of the slipshod methods of those publishers who considered advertising more of a graft than a science. Proprietors of that stripe eagerly sold in bulk their prospective linage for the year for cash in advance. The rates left wide margins of profit. Fortunes were made by outside operators. Usually these were the shrewd managers of advertising agencies.
Chapter 6 Part 2 Next Week
link to previous installment link to next installment
Labels: King News
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Another AP Mystery: What was Wide World Features?
This other mystery is that for a short while, the AP comics, which were always copyright-slugged as "AP Features", was changed to "World Wide Features" (just "World Wide" at first). In tracking down the early Sundays, Jeffrey found that the Wide World name was slugged on the Sundays from March 8 through December 20 1942. That gave me the push to finally track down what was going on.
I first checked the AP dailies; they were slugged with the World Wide stamp from March 2 to December 19 1942. The big question, though, is not so much when by why.
Combing through old news stories and legal documents brought forth the answer. In 1941, the New York Times decided that their photo service division, called Wide World Photos, was not making enough money. The Associated Press, United Press and NEA photo services seemed to be sufficiant for most newspapers, and their client list was too short. Luckily for the Times, their unprofitable division had one substantial asset -- a vast trove of news photos from prior decades.
Tha Associated Press and the New York Times were able to make a deal for the AP to buy both the current business and the archives. For reasons that are unclear, the AP decided to keep that business name as a new division of their company. The new division also took over the business division then known as AP Features, the moniker they used for their photo and feature business, including comics. The name of the service was changed slightly, to Wide World Features. Therefore, on March 2, AP Features abruptly disappeared and was replaced by Wide World Features.
That was all well and good, except that in April the U.S. Attorney General sent the Associated Press a letter, saying that they were engaging in monopolistic practices, and that they might want to quit it before the government got really peeved. The reason for the letter had little or nothing to do with Wide World Photos/Features; it had to do with the AP's exclusionary practices in which client newspapers could not share their news stories -- even locally written ones -- with any other newspaper. Marshall Field of the Chicago Sun was the main complainant who got the government to move on the case.
Apparently the AP responded to the letter by basically saying that they weren't a monopoly, that there are other news cooperatives around, and that the government had no case. You don't scare us a bit.
If this was meant to make the government fold up their tent and go home, it didn't work very well. In August the government brought suit against the AP in New York district court, with a substantial list of grievances. One of the minor items they complained about was Wide World Features -- they brought it up as additional evidence of the AP's monopolistic tendencies.
Of course the inner workings at the AP are impossible to tell at this late date, but for some reason they seemed to feel that it might be best to minimize the importance of Wide World Features while this court case was going on. Thus, on December 21 the comics and many other features went back to AP Features, while Wide World Features seems to have been left as a division with very little to do. It is still referred to on the occasional column or photo later on, but they are few and far between.
To finish off the story about the government case, the New York State circuit court tendered an opinion in October 1943. Judge Learned Hand wrote an opinion that basically boiled down to the idea that news-gathering is not quite in the realm of a public utility, and that therefore the AP was within its rights to conduct business as they had been.
The case was then bumped up to the Supreme Court, which in 1945 pretty much concurred with Judge Hand.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Found! The Debut of Associated Press Sunday Comics
My presumed target start date has always been based on a passing mention by Ron Goulart, who stated in one of his books that the Sundays debuted in October 1941. For the longest time the earliest I could document was based on a few scattered examples I found from late 1942. Then came a breakthrough, courtesy of Jeffrey Lindenblatt, who found that the New York Post started running the Sundays in March 1942 (as documented in this 2008 post).
Armed with the information that the Post was an early adopter, I kept my eyes peeled for an actual Sunday section (the microfilm of the Post sadly does not include the Sunday comics). After years of watching and waiting, I was lucky enough to find some early Oaky Doaks strips from the Post on eBay. They were color photocopies, but beggars can't be choosers. Turned out that R.B. Fuller was numbering his Sunday strips in 1942. Based on the numbering, I was able to figure backward to come up with a possible start date of November 30 1941. Knowing that strip numbering can be an iffy basis for making assumptions, and the fact that it didn't jive with Goulart's claimed start date, I didn't take that information to heart.
Flash forward to now, and Jeffrey Lindenblatt has once again rung the bell, coming up with what I believe is all the proof anyone could need that the start date for the AP Sunday section is indeed November 30 1941. Lindenblatt found that the section debuted in three newspapers on that date. In each paper the debut was preceded with a news story from the AP hailing the new Sunday comics.
Here's the transcribed news story, as found in the Deadwood Pioneer Times, Corvallis Gazette Times and the Santa Cruz Sentinel Sun:
The Story of the AP Color ComicsThirty-five million people can't be wrong! They can't be wrong in 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, South America.
Thirty-five million read AP comics, and a large share of these have been reading them for 10 years.
Now AP's great daily comics are available for the first time in color. They will appear in [name of paper], beginning next Sunday, November 30 -- eight knockout pages, ten knockout features.
AP Color Comics were started because readers asked for them. Readers like the soldiers at Fort Jackson, So. Car., who adopted Quin Hall's great army character, "Private Peter Plink" as an honorary member of the outfit; readers in Mexico who find Pap's Sport Slants "Una Gran Cosa" (great stuff); readers in Los Angeles, and Lynn, Washington and Wilkes-Barre, Baltimore and Bangor, New York and New Orleans.
Recently, a Pennsylvania editor wrote the AP Feature Service in New York, where AP Color Comics are produced:
"We have just taken a poll of school children to determine their favorite. They picked AP's "Dickie Dare" and "Scorchy Smith" in first positions against all other strips we have been using."
But AP's new Color Comics offer not only the best entertainment for children -- adventure without horror -- AP comics offer something for every member of the family.
Here's the lineup:
Page One -- Modest Maidens by Don Flowers. Don draws streamlined "gals" and his gags are just as fresh as the latest fashion. Show girls and shop girls, stooges and stars feature this page.
Page Two -- Scorchy Smith by Frank Robbins. This is the answer to the airman's heart and what real American boy isn't a pilot at heart these days? Right now Scorchy is engaged in aerial reporting in an incredibly high adventure. It's clean cut, red blooded entertainment.
Page Three -- Oaky Doaks. Here is adventure of another kind, the hilarious story of a self-made knight in a medieval setting. Oaky Doaks is the latest addition to King Arthur's court and he is making things the merriest around the round table they've been for centuries.
Page Four -- Two lively features, Things To Come by the nationally popular cartoonist, Hank Barrow, and Neighborly Neighbors by Milt Morris. The first is a preview of the World of Tomorrow thru an artist's eyes. The second is life "Down East" in Peters Corners, revolving around the explosive Horsefeathers Peters.
Page Five -- Patsy in Hollywood. This is the only juvenile feature using the adventure and glamour of Hollywood as a regular setting. Little Patsy Cardigan is the new first little lady of Flickertown and she manages to get into an incredible series of adventures making movies. She's a natural in color.
Page Six -- Two more top features, Sports Slants by Pap', the country's number one sports cartoonist; and Homer Hoopee by Fred Locher. Look for Pap's Memory Mirror to see just how much you really know about sports. Homer Hoopee is the All-American husband, getting into the customary domestic difficulties with friend wife, mother-in-law and unpredictable nephew.
Page Seven -- Strictly Private by Quin Hall. This is the army comic that scooped the field just a year ago and has been scooping all the competition since. Private Peter Plink is popular from Honolulu to Hackensack but he's most popular with the soldiers themselves.
Page Eight -- Dickie Dare. Another red-blooded adventure page -- and the ideal of the real American boy. While Scorchy Smith burns up the air, Dickie Dare sails across strange seas into all sorts of thrilling escapades. Dickie is the last page of this new color comics section starting in the [name of paper] next Sunday morning, but you'll probably find yourself turning to him first.
In two cases, the microfilm for the newspapers failed to include the actual Sunday section. Luckily, the Santa Cruz Sentinel Sun did, so here you go, the debut color comics section of the Associated Press. Note that you can just make out a "#1" designation on some of the strips. The continuity strips start new stories for the Sunday section separate from the daily stories, though they seem to be trying to downplay that.
|Page 1 - Modest Maidens by Don Flowers|
|Page 2 - Scorchy Smith by Frank Robbins|
|Page 3 - Oaky Doaks: note that Fuller doesn't sign; Bill Dyer is believed to have ghosted Sunday until 1944|
|Page 4: Thing To Come by Hank Barrow (new feature for the Sunday section) and Neighborly Neighbors by Milt Morris, sporting a temporary extra title bit of "Down East With..."|
|Page 5: Patsy in Hollywood (Sunday version of Adventures of Patsy); unsigned art presumably by Charles Raab who was on daily at this time. I see no particular evidence here of Noel Sickles who was assisting Raab in this era.|
|Page 6: Sport Slants, a new feature by Tom Paprocki who was the AP's sports cartoonist and occasionally used this tile in his daily cartoons; and Homer Hoopee by Fred Locher|
|Page 7: Strictly Private by Quin Hall|
|Page 8: Dickie Dare by Coulton Waugh|
I take it (I think I've read somewhere) that the AP destroyed its comics archives?
Monday, July 10, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Jay Jones - His Camera
Jay Jones - His Camera is by one of my favorite forgotten cartoonists, Albert Carmichael. This is a very early entry for him, which debuted in the New York World September 29 1907 (only his second series). His work was still a little rough at this time; he hadn't quite figured out comedic pacing yet. But the seeds are definitely there and ready to sprout.
Picture-taking had become a national obsession in the 1900s, mainly because of the groundbreaking Brownie camera, introduced in 1900. That innovation in economical picture-taking brought photography into the hands of just about anyone, and turned us into a nation of shutterbugs.
Jay Jones, however, wouldn't be caught dead with a Brownie. He fancies himself a professional, and uses a high-end bellows camera. The gag comes in when he never gets the shot he intended. These gags went over well with newspaper readers, who were at this time coming to feel that photography wasn't quite the combination of mystical art and scientific marvel that it was portrayed as prior to the Brownie. It turned out that anyone could take a passably good picture without being a combination of Renoir and Marconi.
Jay Jones - His Camera was one of Pulitzer's quarter-page strips that did not appear in the World itself as far as I know, but was used in the syndicated version when the World ran a quarter-page ad in the comics section. Based on its syndicated appearances in the Chicago Inter-Ocean, it seems like it appeared pretty regularly every second week. It's last appearance was on April 5 1908.
Saturday, July 08, 2017
February 26 1909 -- Herriman adds a little vignette to a funny story about a post box being moved. Wonder if Herriman wrote the prose as well?
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 07, 2017
Wish You Were Here, from Zim
Here's a divided back postcard by Zim (Eugene Zimmerman), published by H.G. Zimmerman of Chicago. The blue plate on this card is off-register (most obvious on the candle) lending it a vaguely blurry look. For the whippersnappers, the gag is based on the man's activity -- this is what was called 'boring a bung hole.' I think the further gag is that he probably hopes it is a wine or beer cask, and can't see the writing in the darkness. He's about to have a very unpleasant moment if he doesn't sniff before he quaffs.
The card was postally used in 1909. A woman in Dowagiac, Michigan writes to a relative in Ohio telling her about the terrible tragedy that had just happened at the Geesey Brothers Hoop Mill when a boiler blew. She describes the explosion as feeling like an earthquake, so she must have been very close.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, July 06, 2017
King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 5 Part 4
King News by Moses KoenigsbergPublished by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941
At The Editorial Valhalla (part 4)link to previous installment link to next installment
In Waco, [William Cowper] Brann found an enthusiastic circle of supporters. They urged him again to establish a periodical devoted exclusively to his writings. He bought back from Porter the title of the Iconoclast. The publication was avowedly a personal organ. But its meteoric course traced journalistic history. Its circulation passed 100,000. Its readers were spread across the continent. It was at the peak of. its progress when Brann’s life paid the forfeit of his flame-tipped pen. The controversy that led to his death raged over a period of months. It embroiled whole communities in bitter strife. Mobs were repeatedly organized to lynch Brann. The storm centered around Baylor University at Waco, the first coeducational institution in Texas.
A pathetic story of a little girl’s seduction launched the conflict. The victim was Antonia Tiexiera. She had been brought from Brazil as a ward of Baylor. Considerable publicity attended her arrival. An undersized child of eleven years, she was described as ‘a brand snatched from fires of infidelism.” She was to be trained as a missionary. On the completion of her education, she would return to her homeland to save souls among her countrymen. Three years later she became a mother. She was expelled from the university. Investigation disclosed that her term at Baylor had been spent in menial service. A kinsman of a faculty member was accused of her debauchment.
Brann took up the cudgels for the wronged girl. Each issue of the Iconoclast contained a blistering attack on the faculty of Baylor University more violent than the preceding diatribe. At last an enraged throng of a thousand Baylor students, augmented by scores of alumni, set out on a mission of vengeance. They had been lashed into fury by an article which referred to the university as “this manufactory of ministers and Magdalenes.”
|William Cowpe Brann|
“It is devoutly hoped,” Brann wrote, “that the recent expose of Baylor’s criminal carelessness will have a beneficial effect—that henceforth orphaned girls will not be ravished on the premises of its president and that fewer young lady students will be sent home enceinte. The Iconoclast would like to see Baylor University, so-called, become an honor to Texas instead of an educational eyesore, would like to hear it spoken of with reverence instead of sneeringly referred to by men about town as worse than a harem. Probably Baylor has never been so bad as many imagined. Probably the joint-keepers in the Reservation have been mistaken in regarding it as a rival. Probably the number of female students sent away to conceal their shame has been exaggerated. Still, I imagine that both its moral and its educational advantages are susceptible of considerable improvement. . ."
The mob first visited Brann’s home. He was absent. Then the office of the Iconoclast was raided. Brann was stripped of most of his clothing. Thrust into an open carriage, he was driven to the campus of Baylor University. There he was hustled under the gaunt branches of a live-oak tree. A hempen noose was fixed around his neck. A spokesman presented a sheet of writing. It phrased a complete repudiation of everything Brann had ever written adverse to Baylor. He was ordered to affix his signature. He refused.
Brann afterward told me that he never learned just what was in the paper. Booted, cuffed, caned and clubbed, he could neither read it nor hear its contents recited. The loose end of the rope around his neck was thrown over a tree limb. The halter was tightened. The belaboring continued. Some of the rioters spat at Brann. He remained obdurate. A dozen hands jerked the hemp.
Brann’s weight was resting on his toes. At that instant two policemen appeared. They were the armed force that had responded to a riot call. All day Waco had hummed with rumors of a threatened lynching, yet when the crucial moment arrived, a thousand rioters were confronted by a couple of patrolmen. The officers were Alf Knott and Bellewood Smith. Knott drew his revolver. He pointed it at the group holding the rope.
Brann called out. “Don’t shoot them, Alf,” came chokingly from his swollen tongue. “They’re not going to hang me. They want me to sign something; and if they will loosen this rope a bit, I will.” Adherents of Brann afterward surrounded these words with a nimbus of magnanimity. Their hero-worship conjured a sacred simile. Through their minds ran a parallel of the hallowed utterance: “Forgive them; they know not what they do.” It is true that Brann withheld the vials of his wrath from his student tormentors. He ascribed their attack to the fomentations of their elders.
With the two policemen looking on, Brann scribbled his signature. Bruised, battered, and on the verge of collapse, he was escorted home by Knott. Five nights later, there was another lynching bee. This time the assailants were only a handful. But they were armed with revolvers and knives. They were beaten off by a group of Brann’s admirers who had been warned of the impending onset.
It was at this juncture that Brann defined his crusade against Baylor as a contest for freedom of the press. Writing to me in answer to an inquiry in which several mutual friends had joined, he said: “The forthcoming issue of the Iconoclast covers completely the questions you ask. Make such use of its contents as you choose to support my fight for the independence of journalism.”
Unfortunately, the recent assaults upon me are not altogether my private concern,” he wrote in that edition. “They were armed protests against a fundamental principle of this Republic—freedom of the press. . . . They were futile but brutal attempts in the last decade of the nineteenth century to suppress the truth by terror, to conceal the iniquities of a sectarian college by beating to death the only journalist that dared to raise his voice in protest. . . .”
The charge that he had slandered the girl students of Baylor—the chief burden of complaint of his enemies—aroused Brann’s bitterest resentment. In one of his retorts to this accusation, he said: “From my youth up, noble womanhood has been the very god of my idolatry; and now that I have reached the noon of life, if the reputation which I have earned as a faithful defender of the vestal fires can be blown adown the wind by the rank breath of lying rascals, I would not put forth a hand to check its flight. If old scars, received while defending woman’s name and fame in padis of peril which my traducers dare not tread, fail to speak for me, then to hell with the world and let its harlot tongue wag howsoever it will.”
The irrepressible pugnacity of the man bristled in other sections of the same article. “After the first outbreak,” ran one passage, “the Baylor bullies of the lost-manhood stripe and their milk-sick apologists held a windy powwow. [This referred to a mass meeting at which resolutions were adopted approving the rough treatment that had been administered to Brann on the university campus.] . . . and there bipedal brutes with beards, creatures . . . whom an inscrutable providence has kept out of the penitentiary to ornament the amen corner—some of whom owe me for the very meat upon the bones of their scorbutic brats—branded me as a falsifier while solemnly protesting that they had not read a line of my paper. . . . These intellectual eunuchs, who couldn’t father an idea if cast bodily into the womb of the goddess of wisdom, declared positively that I would be permitted to print nothing more about their beloved Baylor. ... It was a mob that writhed and wriggled in its own putridity like so many maggots, while the local press cowered before its impotent wrath like young Skye terriers before a skunk. If I couldn’t beget better men with the help of a Digger Indian harem, I’d take to the woods and never again look upon the face of woman.”
There were some who found a glimpse of vatic vision in this paragraph: “. . . I am credibly informed that at least half a dozen of my meek and lowly . . . brethren are but awaiting an opportunity to assassinate me and that if successful they will plead in extenuation that I ‘have slandered Southern women.’ I walk the streets of Waco day by day and I walk them alone. Let these cur-ristians shoot me in the back if they dare and then plead that damnable lie as excuse for their craven cowardice. If the decent people of this community fail to chase them to their holes and feed their viscera to the dogs, then I’d rather be dead and in hades forever than alive in Waco a single day.”
Six months later Brann was killed. He expired in the same hour with his street-duel adversary, Tom E. Davis. They had emptied their revolvers into each other. Davis’ daughter had been a student at Baylor. There was tragic irony in the testimony of four eye-witnesses. It recalled Brann’s open challenge to his foes to shoot him in the back. The four bystanders swore that Davis fired the first shot while Brann was facing in the opposite direction. The double tragedy only spurred the growth of Baylor University into a better and greater institution. It extinguished the thundering voice of one who stirred a multitude of souls. It removed from arbitrament the plea that Brann had lodged for freedom of the press.
Brann’s departure from San Antonio had left “Majah” Harris the editorial cock of the walk. There was none to dispute his pyrotechnic premiership. But he suffered from the absence of a foeman worthy his steel. His talents showed best in the heat of gladiatorial combat. His blade rusted in disuse. Its polemic brilliance faded under the tarnish of banal bluster. From that smudge came a lasting streak across my own conscience. “The Majah” persuaded me to join him in a sally of inexcusable insolence. The incident is related here as an act of contrition. The facts are contained in this card which appeared at the top of the second column of the first page of the San Antonio News:
TO MAJOR WILLIAM HOLT
(In Cooley’s Register yesterday afternoon, William Holt, a paymaster at Fort Sam Houston, with the title of major, openly aspersed the courage of officers of the Confederate Army. Gentlemen of unimpeachable veracity report that he referred to the gallant leaders of our lost cause as cowards.)
Major William Holt, you are a liar.
Major William Holt, you are a dastard.
Major William Holt, you are a poltroon.
Major William Holt, you disgrace the uniform you wear.
The editors of this newspaper, who here subscribe themselves, cheerfully assume personal responsibility for its contents.
Mose C. Harris
This impudent challenge excited little comment. It fitted into the outer tapestry of the times. “Waving the bloody shirt” of the Civil War was still a popular pastime in 1893. But an acid remorse followed the appearance of my name appended to the rowdy screed. From that repentance grew two commandments. One withholds my signature from any instrument lacking constructive purpose. The other has become a dominant article of my code of journalism. It reads:
The decency that is the prime essential of a newspaper must be measured by standards more exacting than mere custom or propriety. It must be the true equivalent of fairness. It must satisfy every scruple of the editor, who shall not qualify for his post unless he be as much a gentleman as a journalist.
A publication so edited can make no errors of commission. Its only blunders will be those of omission.
It was “the Majah” who accounted to Holt. Several weeks after the rude defiance was published, they met on Alamo Street. Holt slammed Harris against a cab standing at the curb. “The Majah” underwent a terrific beating. Finally he wriggled one hand around a spoke of the carriage wheel and drew a knife from a sheath on his hip. Police separated the combatants. Holt had received several slight cuts. Harris’ drubbing confined him to bed for a fortnight.
The San Antonio News suddenly faced a financial crisis. Our bank balance faded to zero overnight. Harris had reserved the right to draw funds for his personal use by way of advances to be reimbursed. He overworked the right. My discovery of this exigency was made on Saturday, the weekly pay day. “The Majah” grinned sheepishly when confronted with the facts. He turned his pockets inside out. It was a gesture intended to strain my resourcefulness. Reproach would be wasted. It was more important to get $280 for the payroll than to bicker with my incorrigible partner. But the problem baffled me. To borrow from friends would be rank folly. There was slim likelihood of repayment so long as Harris was in position to drain our resources.
When a feeling of absolute hopelessness had overcome me, “the Majah” perked up. “How much cash can you turn over?” he asked briskly. The $25 on hand seemed to satisfy him. “Give it to me and keep the boys in good humor until I get back,” he directed, snatching the money and his hat with the same motion.
A hectic afternoon dragged on. It was impossible to conceal from my companions the depth of my discouragement. They were too depressed for conversation. Each of them was in pressing need of his week’s wages. The prospect of going home unpaid was in itself disheartening. The future seemed even more melancholy. If the current payroll couldn’t be met, what would happen next week? It appeared certain that the paper must shut down. Employment was never more difficult to find. We were in the midst of the panic of 1893.
The gloom of these reflections was suddenly lifted. Harris came bustling into the office. Perspiration was streaming down his face, but in one hand he clutched a roll of yellow-back bills. A joyful shout arose from the waiting group. Tears trickled down the cheeks of one of the printers. He still had a job.
The wad of gold certificates that cheered the staff brought me no elation. Instead, it blackened the blue of my outlook. One did not convert $25 into several hundreds in a couple of hours in a legitimate transaction. Harris had used the contents of our cash till for a stake in a faro game at the Crystal Palace. He had won $550. The situation was far more vitiating than invigorating. A newspaper could not continue to meet its deficit with winnings at a card table. Yet for nine weeks that is how the San Antonio News operated. To what depths had the journalistic estate sunk?
Adam Maurer’s political slush-fund to support the Evening Star had been bad enough. But was it more sinister than reliance on the turn of a card in a gambling den ?
The day came when faro changed its smile to a frown for “the Majah.” Apparently, he had foreseen this contingency. “I’ve landed a big advertising contract with Dugan & Kroeger,” he told me. “They have agreed to pay $750 in advance. The best way to confirm the deal is for you to collect the money. Dugan will see you at Louis Michael’s saloon. It would be expedient to speed the transaction because ‘the Majah’ misses the comforting carols of yellow boys in his jeans.”
Dugan handed me a thick envelope. He evaded discussion of any kind. An offer of a receipt brought a deprecatory smile.
Dugan’s haste to meet an appointment elsewhere diverted the questioning thoughts that had arisen in my mind. Harris accepted the packet of bills in unctuous satisfaction. “A business coup of these proportions merits a celebration,” he commented. “As a preliminary, I propose that we forego the customary formalities and here and now declare a dividend.” He started to count out the bills. “Do that at the office,” I insisted.
Dugan’s reticence had been puzzling. Now Harris’ gesture of extravagance became an astonishing sequel. Somewhere in this chain of unusual circumstances was something to offend the olfactories. Dugan & Kroeger were not advertising in any other newspaper. Why did they select the San Antonio News as the only daily in which to promote their business? And where was their copy for the advertising? Otto Kroeger had shown a pleasant friendliness. He might explain the situation. Cautious overtures were met with brusque impatience.
“If you don’t understand what’s going on,” Kroeger said, “it’s your own fault. Why don’t you ask your partner?”
Harris’ celebration was still in progress. With him a spree was neither a frothy adventure nor a careless caper. It was an undertaking of impressive proportions. It must have magnitude in all its dimensions. Time, scope and content must measure up to the breadth of the celebrant’s imagination. Otherwise it became a vulgar aberration. “The Majah” never neglected any of the details.
It was on the third day of his bacchic ritual that he paused to talk with me. It would have been difficult to select a less auspicious moment for my purpose. A waiter had guided me to a private dining-room in Lousteneau’s Elite. The resort was justly famed. It was the last word of the Southwest in cuisine and vintages. It was specially fitted for the gourmet who sought seclusion with a carefully chosen companion.
“What now, my virtue-ridden squire?” Harris jeered in greeting. “Do you come to carp at a great soul in communion with his godly fellows on high Olympus? Or have you come on some sordid errand of trade?”
Harris continued to scoff. His replies to my queries were in the tenor of one’s responses to a spoiled youngster. “Don’t bother me,” he finally ordered, “with a farrago of fledgling fancies.” He looked up to note the effect of the phrase. Ordinarily “the Majah” didn’t waste such diction on an unappreciative audience. The absence of applause seemed to vex him. He turned abruptly impatient.
“A truce to this imbecility! I have no more time to squander on your half-baked notions. Let us terminate this silly interlude with the categorical statement that neither I, nor Dugan & Kroeger, had any idea of running an advertisement for them in our paper.”
A real dread tightened my nerves for the answer to my next question: “Then what are they to get for the $750 they paid?”
There was a long pause. At last, Harris spoke as a tolerant tutor might talk to a backward pupil.
“Apparently, you have not yet learned how highly my pen is prized,” he said. “Men of substance regard it as a gift of providence. They esteem it so much that they wish to preserve its usefulness. They realize that the genius which directs it must be nurtured if not pampered. They realize that its potency may diminish through the travail of overexertion. They cheerfully provide means for a surcease from its inspired labors. In words that may percolate into your limited intelligence, they are willing to pay more for what I don’t write than for what I do. Our friends have assured themselves of a seasonable vacation for my powers of observation and expression.”
The gorge that had been rising while Harris spoke turned to ice. An indignation swept over me that chilled while it burned. This man had sought to trick me into an odious misdeed. He had tried to dupe me into sharing in a scheme of extortion.
That is common blackmail,” I cried. “I’ll expose you!”
Harris’ sensibilities were too variable to diagnose. Yet his reaction to this crisis should have been easily foretold. There was no course for “the Majah” except to resent by force of arms so violent an affront. Failure in that era would have stamped him a derelict. He acted instinctively. His revolver came from the holster quickly enough. But, apparently, he had no stomach for a killing. His hand did not move with the swiftness of one intent on gunfire. Perhaps he was willing to be disarmed. He was relieved of his pistol with scarcely a struggle.
He did fire one shot. But he didn’t press the trigger until my fingers had clasped the barrel. A bit of awkwardness permitted the bullet to puncture the base of my right thumb. It was little more than a scratch. Nevertheless, sight of the blood sobered “the Majah.” He fell limp on the sofa beside him. That was my last view of Mose C. Harris, journalistic soldier of fortune, sybarite and charlatan.
Rupture of the partnership with Harris enjoined a survey of my affairs. They were in a sorry state. Two and a half years of intensive work had led to a climax of disgust and disappointment, without a substantial profit or a definite prospect. To what must this outcome be attributed? Was it traceable to ineptitudes of which I had been unaware? Or was it assignable to unfortunate associations ? Did the fault lay with the arena instead of the performer? Had there been actual failure? Was not the multicolored experience an equipment for the future? The background for an accurate appraisal was lacking. All phases of newspaperdom must be mastered before competent judgment could be formed. A further course in the university of empiric knowledge was necessary. I would seek guidance under the ablest masters.
One leaf out of the “tramp printers’ book would direct me. No job would be held long enough for stagnation. A decision of my problem would be forced, not where the preliminaries were staged but where the finals were contested. The metropolitan centers of the North and East must yield my answer.
Chapter 6 Part 1 Next Week
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