Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Aunt Connie & Adventure Magazine

Connie, around the time she first worked at Adventure, with a 1920s bob.

My mother Dorothy and my aunt Connie in their back yard, young ladies with spring dresses and sandals.

Constance Fleming was a young woman first going to work in New York City at age 20. In writing the previous post, From the Train, Part 2, about Irish writer George William Russell, I was inspired to think of Connie, because she worked for almost three decades for the literary agency, Russell and Volkening.. One of the two partners there was Diarmuid Russell, the son of the abovementioned George Russell, the other partner being Henry Volkening. For many of those years, Connie was their sole employee.  More about Russell & Volkening in another post, but for now: Adventure Magazine.

Connie, my mother's younger sister, was born in 1910, and after high school, during the Depression, went to a business school rather than college, and then on to work at her first job at a pulp magazine called Adventure.

"The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Magazines printed on higher quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". In their first decades, pulps were most often priced at ten cents per magazine, while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece. Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. Modern superhero comic books are sometimes considered descendants of "hero pulps"; pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Plantom Detective."

Wikipedia excerpt:

"Butterick Publishing Company was founded by Ebenezer Butterick to distribute the first graded sewing patterns. By 1867, it had released its first magazine, Ladies Quarterly of Broadway Fashions, followed by The Metropolitan in 1868. These magazines contained patterns and fashion news. In1873, Butterick created The Delineator magazine. By 1876, E. Butterick & Co. had become a worldwide enterprise selling patterns as far away as Paris, London, Vienna and Berlin, with 100 branch offices and 1,000 agencies throughout the United States and Canada. One of Butterick's subsidiary companies was the Ridgway Company, which published the pulp magazines, Everybody's Magazine and Adventure."

Excerpted from the Wikipedia article:

I have a lots of information about Adventure, or at least Connie's experiences there, because she was a wonderful archivist of memorabilia, such as letters she wrote and those written to her. I always liked her way of crafting letters and here are photos of some intriguing items from her time at Adventure.

Mrs. Frank C. Lewis (aka Sandra Alexander) was disturbed when, hearing no response to having sent in a story for submission to Romance Magazine (another magazine published by Ridgway Publishing), she wrote to "Dear Miss Fleming" as follows: " I recently sent you a story entitled 'An Interest in Life'. It was returned to me from your Editorial Department without comment or acknowledgement and furthermore my letter to you was still attached to the Manuscript.  I am at a loss to know just what is meant by this. I have been writing fiction for ten or more years and have had stories accepted by all of our foremost magazines: Harpers, Century, the Ladies Home Journal, The London Mercury, Collier's etc - and likewise rejections! The rejections however have always been accompanied by a letter from the Editors. Even now I cannot but believe that this was an oversight upon the part of some member of the staff of Romance; I am even wondering if the new story reached your desk."

#1 Connie's brief but nicely put response to the writer:

When submissions came in to Adventure from aspiring writers, and the Editor had to let someone down, someone whose manuscript would not be accepted, Connie wrote regretful letters accompanying the manuscript return. She worked for several Editors there, first Anthony M. Rud, Editor from 1927 to 1930, and then Albert A. Proctor, from 1930 to 1934. I always liked her letter-writing style. I know she was given guidelines for writing such letters, yet she still seemed to have her own "voice", young as she was.

I notice that during the 1930s, people wrote letters with greater frequency than now. I found one note from Connie to my mother (Connie living in the West Village, New York City, and my parents in Long Island) saying "We'll be coming out on the Long Island Railroad Saturday as planned" or something like that...not a phone call but a quick letter, mailed with a 2 cent stamp! I have lots of similar notes/letters in my mother's memorabilia, and love reading things like: "Dot, can I borrow your brown skirt and yellow blouse next week", this from a friend living in Greenwich Village, she and her husband being one of a crowd of friends of my parents and Connie and her husband. Again, the Depression and money scarce, etc., but lots of amusing notes, an intelligent and funny bunch! And I deduce that many times people must have driven back and forth between NY and Long Island on lesser roads than the highways we have now, or perhaps just took the train...but no-one to ask about this!

A nicely typed note to Connie and one of her confreres at Adventure, suggesting that they should endeavor to be on time at 9:00 in the morning...there seems a slightly humorous tone about it, or do I just think of it that way? Connie had saved it, along with other interesting items.

According to a flyer found among Connie's papers, Anthony Rud contributed fiction and articles to Saturday Evening Post, Red Book, Munsey's, Popular, Black Mask, Blue Book, Complete Story Magazine, wrote novels, movies, edited other magazines, and lectured at The Writers' Colony on "The Distinctive Story." His story, "Ooze", appeared in the magazine, Weird Tales, in 1923.
"Ooze," the cover story for the very first issue of Weird Tales (March 1923), was the work of Anthony M. Rud and a possible inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu." The cover art is by Richard R. Epperly. The octopoid body is misleading: in actuality, Rud's monster is more like a giant amoeba. It's worth noting, however, that the head of Cthulhu resembles the creature depicted here.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Above, from the blog called Tellers of Weird Tales:

Also among Connie's clippings, a New York Times obituary of Arthur Hoffman, former head of Adventure, who died in 1966. From the obituary:

"Mr. Hoffman was most widely known as the editor of Adventure magazine from 1911 to 1927...the Oct. 21, 1935 issue of Time magazine described Adventure as the 'No. 1 Pulp' "
Time also noted Hoffman's stress on action as evolving from character. Sinclair Lewis, the author, served as Hoffman's editorial assistant on Adventure, and contributors included George Jean Nathan and Albert Payson Terhune.

There is yet another and very interesting connection with Adventure: one of their cover artists for many years was Earl Mayan, father of my good friend, Cathy Hammerquist. I worked for Cathy and Bob Hammerquist some years ago at their Hammerquist Gallery in New York City, and we've been friends ever since. Earl did covers for Adventure as well as the Saturday Evening Post. (In the case of Adventure, he did those covers after Connie had gone on to another job in the later 1930s, or they might have met.)

Here's an excerpt from the article Cathy Hammerquist prepared for Wikipedia about Earl Mayan...

Earl Mayan (1916 – December 12, 2009) was an American illustrator whose early career spanned the era of pulp magazines to the post WWII years alongside Norman Rockwell at The Saturday Evening Post. From 1954 to 1961, he painted ten Saturday Evening Post covers and illustrated many of the stories that appeared inside the magazine.  Dr.Chris Mullen, former professor of art at the University of Brighton, England, wrote of Mayan's art, "He managed great visual invention, possessed excellent powers of drawing, and entertained his readers with an inventive set of references within the images...Mayan also worked for Grosset & Dunlap, Argosy, Bantam Books and Random House. A portrait of Cesar Chavez by Earl Mayan is in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. From 1962 to 1995, Mayan taught drawing and illustration at the Art Student's League in New York City. Earl Mayan died in Huntington, Long Island, New York on December 12, 2009."

The link to the full Wikipedia article:

And here is the link to the Earl Mayan web site, overseen by Cathy's sister, Susan Klavir, where not only his artwork but his writing can be found:

There is also the E. Mayan Studio, Inc., Fine Art and Framing, at 520 Second Avenue (between 29th and 30th streets in Manhattan.)
Bob Hammerquist masterminds the conservation framing and archival mats, and has amassed an exceptional inventory of vintage mouldings. They also are the exclusive outlet for the work of Earl Mayan.  (212) 889-8173

Connie's long-standing job came later on, when she went to work at the literary agency, Russell & Volkening for partners Diarmuid Russell and Henry Volkening. Some of their clients were Eudora Welty, Joseph Campbell, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, and Joseph Heller...more will be told about Russell & Volkening in a subsequent post.

She was Connie Cunningham by then, having married Larry in 1940. Their apartment on West 11th Street was on the ground floor with bars on the windows but no screens, and it happened that they began being visited by a vagabond cat who walked from time to time through the apartment to the kitchen window at the back to get to a little garden area which the cat was interested in visiting and viewing birds, etc. And one day they found a surprising bunch of baby kittens in one of their closets. Connie said the mother had carried each by the scruff of the neck from wherever they had been born, through the window bars and into the gigantic walk-in closet the cat had specially chosen for a nursery for her little ones. She already knew Connie and Larry were nice people! A small preview here...


Daria said...

Your posts just get better and better! Connie and Dot sound like truly lovely women to know. I love your inclusion of the origins of "pulp" as well as the scans of her original letters- yes, she does have a unique voice! And very beautiful, both of them- the photographs of them in their dresses and bobbed hair, wonderful! Keep these coming!

LianaK said...

Wonderful post about Connie! I can see why she enjoyed working for Adventure magazine and then for R & V. Must have been so interesting and inspiring to be around so much talent. Love seeing the beautiful pictures of Connie and Didi , too!

PJ McQuade said...

Wow, very cool, great post about Connie, great pics too.

Sai S said...

Great post. I am a fan of the old pulp magazines, and run a blog about Adventure magazine and it's authors and editors.

I'm going to post a link to your article over there. Would appreciate it if you can write more about your aunt, and share the memorabilia you have.

Walker Martin said...

I've been collecting and reading Adventure magazine for 40 years and I hope you will continue to write about your aunt and her years working for Adventure.

I loved the memo concerning lateness at the office. Reminds me of my years as a manager. I must have sent a hundred memos warning employees. I was amused to see that Adventure had the same problem.