Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jack Harkaway’s ‘father’ (1841-1901)

[1] The Harkaway Empire League — membership certificate.
by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

EVERY so often, what seems like a fairly straightforward project assumes a life of its own. The person who innocently inaugurated the endeavor becomes caught up in its momentum and swept along until it reaches its unique termination — the hobby-horse controlling the rider. Historical research is particularly addictive. It combines the seductive appeal of forensic detective work with treasure-hunting in long-forgotten documents. Most of the research materials pertaining to the study of 19th-century popular literature consist of the ephemeral publications themselves, in all their tattered and disintegrating glory. Until very recently, libraries and archives disdained to grant this ‘trash’ any shelf space, so researchers were obliged to collect it as best they could from flea markets, auctions and other collectors. This technique has been materially assisted by online venues, but it is still pretty hit-and-miss. Although most dime novels are not monetarily valuable, compared to ‘golden age’ comics or early baseball cards, their fairly low survival rate has made many issues very scarce indeed. And a distressingly high proportion of surviving novels are too fragile to read without destroying them.

[2] Jack Harkaway full-color front covers.
Back in the early 1990s I blithely decided to investigate a series of very popular Victorian-era adventure stories about a character with the catchy name of ‘Jack Harkaway.’ The stories were credited to someone with the improbable monicker of ‘Bracebridge Hemyng’ — obviously a pseudonym. At the time, I owned a stray Harkaway story in Frank Tousey’s Five Cent Wide Awake Library, a group of Street and Smith paperbacks in the Harkaway Library, and an odd hardback volume from the 15-book series published by M.A. Donohue & Co., Harkaway Series for Boys. My intent was to compile a short cross-indexed bibliography of the original fifteen stories, prefaced by an even shorter blurb about the obscure author. It seemed a fun thing to do. I expected the research to take a year or so and result in a modest article in Dime Novel Round-Up or a similar journal. Ha!

[3] Alternate portraits of author Bracebridge Hemyng whose real surname was Heming.
Two decades later, I have nearly 500 pages of typescript, an extensive collection of variant Harkaway editions and a couple of thousand pages of notes, including detailed biographical and genealogical information on the very real English writer Samuel Bracebridge Heming (signing as ‘Bracebridge Hemyng’) who lived from 1841 to 1901 in England and America. Not only did he pen the Harkaway stories, but also a wealth of adult and juvenile fiction and non-fiction.

[4] Portrait of Henry Dinham Chard, the other grandfather (in the Lyme Regis Museum).
Until James Bond and Harry Potter, the fictional schoolboy adventurer Jack Harkaway was the only major English publishing phenomenon for adolescents on both sides of the Atlantic. The original stories, written in 1871-80, spawned imitations, were ‘pirated’ extensively, were adapted for the stage (and an early silent film) and remained continuously in print until 1933. More recently, they have become available in e-reader formats and from ‘print-on-demand’ venues. They were praised by Graham Greene and excoriated by Rudyard Kipling. ‘Harkaway’ became a generic term for blood-and-thunder adolescent reading and formed the basis of at least one publisher’s fortune. ‘Jack Harkaway’s’ creator has begun to emerge from the oblivion of more than a century.

[5] Caldecote Manor near Nuneaton in Warwickshire.
Most English literary hacks, or ‘penny-a-liners,’ of the 19th century lived fairly anonymous lives: born into poor or lower middle class families, spending their days in rented rooms and pubs, and often dying young from alcoholism or malnutrition. Despite feats of literary athleticism that would exhaust modern writers, their labors were poorly rewarded – only a few earned as much as two pounds (approximately ten dollars) per week in flush times. In an act of bravado they called themselves ‘Bohemians.’ A few came from good homes (and very occasionally the minor gentry or nobility) and possessed more than a common education. These were the (non-inheriting) second or third sons, or inveterate gamblers or drinkers, who were unable to hold down a steady job. Some were just plain unlucky. Although they jumped through all the proper hoops, success in business or a profession eluded them at every turn.

[6] Fenton’s Hotel, in Tallis’s London Street Views, 1838-40, No. 14.
With the shining example of Charles Dickens, who rose from a wretched childhood to become the literary darling of the English-speaking world, as a goal, dozens of impoverished hacks dreamed of writing David Copperfield or Bleak House while churning out The Jolly Dogs of London or Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads and Murderers. Many of their serials and novellas were exciting and entertaining. Many were poorly written, badly plotted and peopled by cardboard dummies. A superior ‘penn’orth’ of fiction was one that contained more words than its nearest competitor. Quantity was everything in the early days of the penny ‘bloods.’

[7] No. 63, St. James’ Street, London.
SAMUEL BRACEBRIDGE HEMING, if not born with the proverbial silver spoon, was born with a tastefully respectable plated article to a family of minor Warwickshire gentry. One grandfather, George Heming, was a well-to-do Jamaican sugar planter who married an heiress, Miss Amecia Bracebridge. The other grandfather, Henry Dinham Chard, was a master naval designer and shipbuilder.

[8] Seville Great House, St. Ann’s Bay in Jamaica.
Young Samuel’s parents were a May and December couple who saw four of their five children survive to maturity. His father, Dempster Heming, born in 1778, studied at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland and was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple in 1808. He set out for India in 1810, becoming the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Kolkata (Calcutta), and returned in 1822 to his family estate of Caldecote, near Nuneaton, Warwickshire. He married for the first time at the age of sixty to one of his tenants, a lady half his age: Miss Rhoda Mary Chard. Their eldest son and heir was born in London on March 5, 1841. At some point, Dempster lost most of his fortune, and the family left Caldecote and moved to his elder brother Samuel’s Lindley estate in 1846. In 1856, following the Rev. Samuel’s death, Vincent Eyres purchased Lindley. Dempster Heming and his family moved to London, where he owned a house in Loughborough Street, Brixton, one in Bayswater and one at 70, Lower Harley Street, Cavendish Square, London. In 1860, his residence appears in the census as Barnes, Surrey.

[9] Caldecote Hall, Nuneaton. Advertisement for the alcoholism and drugs rehabilitation center.
Each of his three sons received a sound public school education – Samuel B. attended Eton College, Dempster, Jr. went to Winchester College, while Philip Henry studied at Harrow. While still in his teens, Samuel adopted the nom de plume ‘Bracebridge Hemyng’ for articles in the radical press. (His father held radical views and ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1832 on a radical platform.) He even penned a couple of amateurish novels and a scathing study of prostitution while studying for the Bar at the Middle Temple, to which he was admitted in 1862. So far, so good – a dutiful son who played by the rules and followed in his elderly father’s footsteps.

[10] St. James’ Church Weddington, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
For some reason, his legal career was a total flop and he soon became known as ‘Briefless Bracebridge.’ Thanks to an accident of geography, his empty chambers were adjacent to Fleet Street, home of the bustling cheap publishing trade. Barristers and ‘Grub Street hacks’ rubbed elbows at a score of pubs along with publishers and journalists. In this atmosphere, not a few unsuccessful barristers tried their hand at cheap fiction to eke out a living. Just as Arthur Conan Doyle would begin to write detective stories in his empty surgery in the 1880s, young Brace Heming filled up his idle hours with producing novels for the new genre of ‘railway literature’ – paperback novels sold at train station kiosks.

[11] The Inns of Court, 1833, as pictured in The Penny Magazine.
Bracebridge Hemyng, a gifted storyteller with a ready imagination and ferocious energy, turned out dozens of ‘yellowback’ novels, short stories and serials for a wide variety of publications. Most were respectable, but some drew on his earlier researches into prostitution. He established a reputation for reliability and was often called upon to complete missing serial installments for defaulting fellow authors. In 1871, while working for Boys of England publisher Edwin John Brett, he created the character of Jack Harkaway, which caught on with the public and became as popular as Harry Potter would become over a century later. Brett only paid him two pounds a week, so he was ready to leave should anything better should turn up. Something did in 1873.

[12] S.S. City of Brussels.
The flamboyant Anglo-American publisher Frank Leslie (born Henry Carter, in Ipswich, 1821) offered Heming $10,000.00 a year (he was then making about $500.00) to come to New York and write exclusively for him. From December 1873 to early 1880, Hemyng was a one-man fiction factory for Leslie publications, in addition to ghostwriting factual articles. In attempting to emulate Leslie’s gargantuan lifestyle, the barrister-turned-novelist ran through his huge salary. After Leslie went bankrupt in 1877 and died in 1880, Heming returned to London with no fanfare and returned to his two-pound-a-week drudgery for E.J. Brett and others. In the days before literary agents, he sold his work outright and received no royalties.

[13] S.S. City of Brussels in drydock.
In 1884, his health failed. Suffering from malaria and a facial neuralgia so severe as to cost him an eye, he soldiered on for the next fourteen years, dictating his stories to Bessie, his third wife, as he was forced to sell all his furniture and move to ever-poorer lodgings. On several occasions, he applied for relief from the charitable Royal Literary Fund. His final serials about ‘Harkaway the Third’ set his hero’s grandson in the Boer War of 1899-1900.

[14] Heming’s arrival at New York, in December 1873.
Heming died of paralysis on September 18, 1901 in a dingy flat in Fulham, London.

[15] New York’s Broadway in 1899 with Gilsey House at the right.
Besides the large volume of writings that he produced between 1860 and 1901, there are a surprising number of physical and documentary landmarks relevant to Samuel Bracebridge Heming’s life. Some of them exist to this day.

[16] Gilsey House, 1872, as pictured in Canadian Illustrated News.
Because past researchers were unable to locate a birth certificate, it had been speculated that he was born outside of the U.K., possibly India or Malaya. However, in the April, 1841, issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine, by Sylvanus Urban, Gent., Volume XV, New Series, MDCCCXLI, January to June Inclusive, p.143, we find the following terse item in the birth announcements under ‘Lately’ (i.e.: March, or early April, 1841):
In St. James’s-st. the wife of Dempster Heming, esq. of Caldecote-hall, Warw. a son and heir.
[17] Gilsey House cigar box label.
Thanks to the lag between birth and christening, the ‘son and heir’ is unnamed. In The Law Times; the Journal and Record of the Law and the Lawyers from November 1874 to April 1875 (London: Printed and Published by Horace Cox at the ‘Law Times’ Office, Wellington-Street, Strand, 1875). January 9, 1875, p.181, the obituary of Dempster Heming, Esq., clinches the identity of his first-born:
Mr. Heming married in 1839 Rhoda Mary, third daughter of the late Henry Dinham Chard, Esq., merchant, of Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire, by whom (who survives him) he has left a family of a daughter and three sons, the eldest of whom is the well-known novelist, Mr. Bracebridge Heming.
[18] The Gilsey House in New York today.
And thanks to some very recent discoveries in the archives of the Royal Literary Fund, now preserved in the British Library, we may pinpoint the place of his birth. Although his father was the squire of Caldecote manor, a ramshackle 17th-century Warwickshire manor house, he maintained law offices at Number 8, Duke Street, St. James, London, fairly near the Inns of Court. On March 5, 1841, his young wife Rhoda gave birth to a son and heir at Fenton’s Hotel, Number 63, St. James’ Street, a short walk from her husband’s office. Fenton’s Hotel, formerly ‘Pero’s’ or ‘Perault’s’ Bagnio, an 18th-century Turkish bath, was completely renovated in 1825. The current building was erected in 1886-87 as the Meistersinger’s Club. Its frontage exactly occupies the Fenton’s Hotel footprint and still bears the number 63.

[19] Frank Leslie’s Publishing House in 1882, Park Place, New York City.
The sugar plantation owned by his ancestors in St. Ann’s Bay since the 17th century still exists as a Jamaican Heritage property. Built originally by Captain Richard Heming (died 1692) on land once colonized by Columbus as ‘Sevilla la Nueva,’ the Seville Great House is a major archeological site and tourist attraction.

[20] Clifton Railroad Station, Staten Island, New York City.
Grandfather George Heming died in 1804, leaving Weddington and Lindley manors to his eldest son Samuel, and Caldecote to Dempster. A manor since 1086, the house was burned by Prince Rupert in 1642, when it was owned by Col. William Purefoy, a ‘Roundhead.’ Purefoy later signed King Charles’ death warrant. The Heming family home at Caldecote incorporated some of the original structure, but was extensively remodeled by Capt. Henry Townshend in 1880, during the ‘Gothick’ revival craze of the late 19th century. After Townshend’s death in 1896, it had a chequered career as a showplace residence, a C. of E. rest home for wealthy alcoholics, and ‘St. Chad’s’ school. It was severely damaged by fire in 1955. The East Wing is currently a posh condominium of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. (See Country Life, August 4, 2005.)

St. James’ Church Weddington, in Nuneaton, where many of his family members are buried, still exists, although it also has undergone substantial remodeling. The Reverend Samuel Bracebridge Heming, the author’s uncle and namesake, served as its vicar. The earliest remains of an ecclesiastical building on the site date to the 14th century, but the baptismal font is a 12th century relic. The church was rebuilt in red brick in 1733 and heavily restored in 1881 with Gothic windows.

[21] John Ludlow poem Jack Harkaway, 1902.
In 1861, Heming studied law and dined at the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar on April 30, 1862, according to The Law Magazine and Law Review, or, Quarterly Journal of Jurisprudence, November 1861, to February, 1862, Vol. XIII (London: Butterworths, 7, Fleet St., 1862) p.381: ‘Calls to the Bar. Easter term 1862.’

The Middle Temple in London still looks much as it did when the briefless barrister twiddled his thumbs waiting for a solicitor to throw a case in his direction. Buildings damaged during the London Blitz have been painstakingly restored.

[22] Dempster Heming Sr.’ s grave, St. James’ Church Weddington, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
In December 1873 Bracebridge Heming and his bride embarked for New York aboard the Inman Line steamship ‘City of Brussels.’ Built in 1869, it was the first transatlantic steamer to be equipped with steam-powered steering gear. On January 7, 1883, she collided in the fog with the Kirby Hall of the Hall Line and sank in Liverpool Bay at the mouth of the River Mersey. Ten lives were lost in the disaster. Two years later, the Inman line sold out to the American and the Red Star steamship lines. The shipwreck not only still exists, but serves as a regular diving destination for the Merseyside Sub Aqua Club.

Upon their arrival in New York at the Inman Line pier, (which later burned in 1883,) to a riotous welcome stage-managed by Frank Leslie, the Hemings took up residence at the luxury Gilsey House hotel at Broadway and 29th Street in Manhattan’s ‘Tenderloin’ district. Other guests included ‘Diamond’ Jim Brady and George Armstrong Custer. The marble and cast iron showpiece, erected in 1871, has been restored to its former glory and, like Caldecote Manor, is currently a condominium.

[23] Lt. Col. Dempster Heming Jr.’ s gravestone; the brother of Bracebridge Heming.
After about a year at the Gilsey House, the Hemings moved to Staten Island, within sight of the Manhattan skyline. Briefly they resided at a boardinghouse run by an English family named Young. In 1875, the Youngs named their newborn son after the ‘famous author.’ The name ‘Bracebridge Hemyng Young’ has been passed down through the generations of the family. Their exact address, and that of the large house rented by the Hemings in Clifton, have not yet been pinpointed.

Frank Leslie’s Publishing House, located first at 537 Pearl St. and, after 1878, at Nos. 53-55-57 Park Place in lower Manhattan, was his nominal ‘office,’ although I doubt he spent much time at either location. Today, the Pearl Street neighborhood is dominated by the NYC Police Department HQ, the U.S. Marshals’ Services, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the U.S. Justice Department and the NYC Supreme Court. Park Place is anchored to the east by the Woolworth Building and is the location of the Amish Market.

[24] Heming biographies in Frank Leslie’s Boys of America, and in The Young Englishman (published by Hogarth House, London).
After Heming’s ignominious return to London, specific places associated with him thin out rapidly. The ‘Olde Cheshire Cheese’ pub in Fleet Street was more than likely one of his haunts. Between extensive German bombing during the Second World War and massive postwar urban renewal, the Battersea and Fulham neighborhoods in which he spent his final years are unrecognizable. Battersea retains some of its industrial character, but erstwhile shabby Fulham has become extremely gentrified, fashionable and expensive.


Detective work consists of lots of routine procedural slogging. Many cases are solved only when a ‘tip’ is provided by an unexpected witness. After researching the life and works of ‘Bracebridge Hemyng’ for the past twenty years, a number of questions and mysteries about the author, his family and places associated with him still remain. Among them are:

Q. How did his father lose his fortune? A tantalizing reference in the July 8, 1882 issue of The Builder states: ‘The way Mr. Hemming’s [sic] large fortune was dissipated is a matter of notoriety amongst readers of causes célèbres,’ but provides no specifics. Dempster Heming and his wife’s brother, Henry Chard, were seriously involved with an association of Spanish bondholders (and even sent money to support a Carlist pretender to the throne of Spain.) The Spanish government defaulted on its debt. Perhaps this is the cause celebre? Historical tidbits can be maddeningly coy at times.

Q. Where did the Hemings live in Clifton, on Staten Island? Bracebridge Heming’s first wife, Jane, died during their increasingly grim life in New York. At present, the only accounts of her madness and death from hypothermia are pure hearsay and ‘fudge’ such details as the exact date. She is supposed to have become deranged, attacking Heming’s guests and passers-by, and finally wandering out on a cold night, dressed only in a flimsy gown. 

Q. Where is ‘Bracebridge Hemyng’ buried? In 1902, John Ludlow wrote in his poem in the New York Herald:

       And nowhere on the starry peaks
            And pinnacles of fame
       Has time a proud memorial raised
            To Bracebridge Hemyng’s name.

Too true. Surely, somewhere in London, a gravestone exists?

Q. Are there any  portraits of him and his family? Do any paintings, sketches or photographs exist of his parents, Dempster and Rhoda, or of his brothers, LTC Dempster Heming of the Madras Police, and Philip Henry Heming, Royal Navy? An oil painting of his grandfather Henry Dinham Chard, commissioned by Dempster Heming, now hangs in the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum.

Q. Does any photographic portrait of him exist? The half-dozen or so images of Bracebridge Heming are all woodcuts of varying quality.

If sharp-eyed readers of Yesterday’s Papers can answer any of the above questions, a communication would be most welcome. (A response qualifies the respondent for immediate lifetime membership in the Harkaway Empire League of Health and Good Habits — plus my undying gratitude of course.)

I would really like to finish the research and whip my manuscript into shape for publication in book form, so any assistance, however small, assumes major importance to me.

Thanks to Mr. Joseph Rainone, Mr. Robert J. Kirkpatrick and Mr. John Adcock for their generous help.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tales of the Incredible – 1965

[1] 1952, ‘By George’ by Al Williamson.
by John Adcock

If I were asked to choose my favorite comic of all time it would have to be the Ballantine pocket book EC reprint collection Tales of the Incredible, first published in March 1965, in black and white. 

EC comics had been gone from the newsstands for over a decade when I spotted the amazing retrogressive Frazetta cover on the pocket-book racks and excitedly carried it home. (Ballantine’s Tales from the Crypt was issued first, in 1964). For those of us who were too young to have experienced EC firsthand these book presented something of a mystery, unlike today when information on comic history (and the comics themselves) are just a click away from your desktop, every bit of information was hard come by. Alex Raymond died in 1956 and already his work on Flash Gordon was forgotten. Who knew our hero Harold Foster was a Canadian, or that he had once drawn a brilliant Sunday comic strip in the thirties featuring another of our heroes, Tarzan of the Apes? The same year, 1965, more historical information was provided by Jules Feiffer in his hardcover book The Great Comic Book Heroes. All I knew about comic books of the thirties and forties up to that point was gleaned from reading and slavering over the titles in Howard Rogofsky’s second-hand comic book lists advertised in comic book columns, mailed out from New York.

[2] 1965, pocket-book cover by Frank Frazetta.
The Ballantine Books cover itself was a mystery – it was comic but drawn in that feathered ink style favored by long dead illustrators like J. Allen St. John or Joseph Clement Coll and seemed to have dropped out of some alternative comic book universe whose home base was Mars or Venus. The indicia were not much help either, crediting the stories to an unknown  I.C. Publishing and Fables Publishing between 1950 and 1953. The entire contents were trademarked E.C. Publications 1965, and, though familiar with MAD, I had yet to draw the publishing connection. The first clue was on the first page of the first story, ‘Spawn of Mars,’ where the word ‘WOOD’ was dug into a broken log at the bottom of the first panel, which I recognized from similar images in the MAD comic books reprinted in paperback throughout the sixties. Wally Wood was not a household name in those days; indeed most comic artists were recognized by style not by name. When I saw ‘WOOD’ etched on rocks and logs in MAD paperbacks I had tossed it off as a sight-gag rather than an artist’s signature.

[3] 1951, ‘Spawn of Mars’ by Wally Wood.
‘Spawn of Mars’ was also in a retrogressive style, the feathered ink-lines might even be considered a little overdone, and was printed in black-and-white. I was not a big fan of science fiction, except in short story form, and was more interested in fantasies like Jerome Bixby’s ‘It’s a Good Life,’ or Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘Yesterday Was Monday,’ than the works of Arthur C. Clarke or Robert Heinlein, but I will never forget that first story (originally published in Weird Fantasy no. 9) involving a woman who marries an alien and sees his true hideous betentacled shape after a horrific vehicle crash. The second story, ‘Plucked,’ was also signed ‘WOOD’ which confirmed the artist’s name. The feathery style of the first story was replaced by the shining chiaroscuro of Wally Wood’s mature style mingled with generous use of halftones, cross-hatching and pointillism. It was a bravura artistic performance and quite unlike anything I had ever seen in a comic book.

[4] title-spread with Al Williamson illustration.
‘By George’ was, and still is, my favorite of all the EC comics. I recognized the art of Al Williamson from his work for ACG comics, although I’m unsure if I knew his name at that point. He had a sketchy unfinished style which had always irked me when I saw it in Adventures into the Unknown and other titles but this was another beautifully realized work of comic art with very effective use of halftones, feathering and luminous blacks. I have always preferred EC comics printed in black and white, the color tended to obscure the moods created with the variety of illustrative techniques favored by the major EC artists. This pathetic story by the way was the basis for at least two EC fanzine titles, Squa Tront and Spa Fon (still up for grabs are Chaz Furnd, Bas Crod, and the best of the lot, Frud Nyuk).

[5] 1965, pocket-book cover by Frank Frazetta.
Another superbly realized feature was ‘50 Girls 50,’ most notable for the sexy space-noir heroine lolling about in clothing that had yet to be invented in the fifties. The next two stories ‘Judgment Day’ and ‘Chewed Out’ were less memorable. ‘Judgment Day’ is celebrated for its use of a black character at a time when Civil Rights were in their infancy. It was nicely drawn but like the ‘protest songs’ of the sixties relied on its topicality for effect. What was considered shocking in the fifties seems mundane from our future vantage-point. ‘Chewed Out’ was humorous filler, most memorable for its last panels where an Army General (a Patton ringer), who has just eaten a frankfurter, picks a tiny squashed rocket ship, dripping with spit, from out of his teeth and stares at it with his eyes bulged out in horror. At fifteen I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever read.

[6] 1953, ‘50 Girls 50’ by Al Williamson.
‘Child of Tomorrow,’ the stiff and clunky work of Al Feldstein, was aesthetically jarring after perusing the sharply drawn fantasies of Wood and Williamson but I was an indiscriminate reader of comics at the time. I recognized bad drawing but found myself strangely attracted by the worst of it. I once cherished a complete set of the Archie comics version of the pulp Shadow, surely one of the worst drawn superhero comics ever. Feldstein’s blocky atomic mutants were very effective and I still read ‘Child of Tomorrow’ with pleasure.

[7] 1950, ‘Child of Tomorrow’ by Al Feldstein.
Wally Wood closed out this first Ballantine EC anthology with ‘The Precious Years,’ a bleak look into a boring future where citizen’s wants are tended by machinery and eternal life leads to terminal boredom. It’s a love story with a happy ending, remarkably drawn by an artist at the peak of his powers. Woods ennui-ridden hero bore quite a resemblance to DC’s Superman.

[8] 1953, ‘The Precious Years’ by Wally Wood.
Tales of the Incredible was the first of the Ballantine Books EC anthologies to appear on the newsstand, at least in my town, and was followed by collections of Tales from the Crypt (1964) and The Vault of Horror (August 1965). Two great paperback collections of Ray Bradbury comics from EC were also published, The Autumn People (1965), and Tomorrow Midnight (June 1966).

[9] 1966, pocket-book cover by Frank Frazetta.
Since the seventies all of the EC comics were brought back into print, in poorly reproduced color newsprint comics and in deluxe hardcover editions by Russ Cochran but it was the sixties Ballantine Books paperbacks that were responsible for the renewed interest in EC comics. The sixties Edgar Rice Burroughs revival as well as MAD and EC paperback reprints were to have a strong effect on the cartoonists of the late sixties and the seventies. Bernie Wrightson, Michael William Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith, Gray Morrow and Rich Corben’s work was mightily influenced by Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Roy Krenkel, Reed Crandall, George Evans, and ‘Ghastly’ Graham Ingels, who in their turn had been influenced by newspaper cartoonists Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Milt Caniff and Roy Crane. Most of these seventies artists were not well suited to survive the pressures of comic book deadlines and concentrated on illustrations or one-shot comic book work instead.

[10] 1951, ‘Chewed Out’ by Joe Orlando.
My present copy of Tales of the Incredible is a newer copy – my original copy was so lovingly dog-eared, tattered and torn that I was forced to search out a better one. The old companion of my long ago youth I left in a bus shelter near the junior high school on the corner. I like to picture some wide-eyed callow youth turning off his computer at night, picking up his dodgy old found copy of Tales of the Incredible and dreaming the dreams (the like of which we’ll never see again) that were laid down on paper in simpler times. Perhaps he (or she), if artistically inclined, will be inspired to emulate the lines of wondrous Wally Wood, sleek Al Williamson or clunky Al Feldstein and carry these still powerful dreams into the future of comics.

[11] EC Classics No. 2, September 1985, published by Russ Cochran.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The South. — A Baltimore Secession Newspaper

[1] Harper’s Weekly, November 26, 1864, ‘Long Abraham Lincoln a Little Longer,’ by Frank Bellew, Sr.
by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

 Abe Lincoln.

WHEN Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, freedom of the press was the constitutionally guaranteed law of the land and a babel of conflicting editorial voices clamored from every news stand. The entire spectrum from rabid secessionist to intensely pro-Unionist sentiments was represented in New York’s daily papers. While Horace Greeley was shouting ‘On to Richmond!’ in the Tribune, Ben Wood was advocating accommodation with the Southern Confederacy in the Daily News. The New York World, a Democratic paper, skated close to the edge, but avoided outright disloyalty. It reprinted many items from Southern papers and stressed a peaceful solution to the war. Impartial news reporting was definitely not the order of the day; people chose their papers according to editorial partisanship. Besides the more general news sheets, there existed a wide variety of niche publications – trade, mechanical and agricultural papers, religious organs, foreign language papers, medical journals and lunatic-fringe tracts. Many of them likewise exhibited political biases.

[2] The South, June 14, 1861, masthead.
The Lincoln administration has remained under fire both from contemporaries and from later historians and students of constitutional law for the past century and a half.

[3] The World, New York, early 1861 and late 1864 front pages.
The outbreak of war in April 1861 changed the editorial landscape. Despite the vaunted First Amendment right:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,
[4] The World, New York, March 12, 1861, editorial.
freedoms of speech and of the press were doomed as soon as Fort Sumter surrendered to Confederate troops. Angry mobs, North and South, threatened editors suspected of disloyalty and outright treason. Certain papers became the victims of government censorship. Three-fourths of the First Amendment was suspended until further notice!

[5] The World, New York, March 12, 1861, flag of the Confederate States of America
The South.

A CASE in point was a pro-Secession paper published in Baltimore, Maryland by Thomas W. Hall, Jr., called simply The South. Hall, a prominent Baltimore attorney and later City Solicitor from 1878 to ’82, trusted the First Amendment to protect his right to publish ‘disloyal’ views. He was sadly mistaken.

[6] Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 31, 1861. ‘Tarring and feathering of Ambrose L. Kimball, editor of the Essex “Democrat,” Haverhill, Mass., a rebel-sympathising journal. — From a sketch by a correspondent.’
Maryland, a slaveholding ‘border state’ was a classic example of the ‘brother against brother’ nature of civil wars. If Maryland had joined the Southern Confederacy, the federal capital at Washington, D.C. would have been completely behind enemy lines and one of the first efforts of the new administration was to secure Maryland for the Union. The state capital at Baltimore was a particular hotbed of southern sympathizers: City Marshal Kane had assembled an arsenal of weapons to combat coercion, the city council remained hostile to Lincoln and regiments of Confederate volunteers began to organize.

[7] The Baltimore Riot on April 19, 1861, various illustrations.
As a key seaport, Baltimore occupied a strategic position to threaten Union interests by land and sea. In addition, the principal railroad lines linking Washington, D.C. with the rest of the Union passed through Baltimore. On April 19, 1861, a regiment of Massachusetts volunteers was changing trains in the city when a mob attacked the troops, killing two and wounding several. Seventeen-year-old Pvt. Luther C. Ladd had the melancholy distinction of becoming the first Union combat death of the Civil War. The soldiers eventually battled their way to the safety of a southbound train.

[8] Luther C. Ladd.
One of Adalbert J. Volck’s earliest war etchings depicted the violence in his home town. Unlike engravings that appeared in the Northern press, his spirited view emphasizes the heroism of angry citizens repelling hated armed invaders with sword canes and stones. This intolerable state of affairs led to a federal military invasion of Maryland and widespread arrests of prominent politicians, law officers and journalists. Despite the unconstitutionality of these actions, Maryland stayed in the Union. Northern illustrated papers reveled in the discovery of Marshal Kane’s stash of weapons, federal troops occupying downtown Baltimore, and other scenes of the crisis.

[9] Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, July 13, 1861, ‘Entrance to the Provost-Marshal’s building, Holliday Street, Baltimore, guarded by canon to prevent the intrusion of the mob —,’ front page.
If not a confirmed anti-federal before the Baltimore riots, Thomas W. Hall, Jr. was radicalized by the violence. He and several business associates were walking along the railroad tracks when his friend Robert W. Davis was shot and killed at his side by a stray Minie bullet, possibly fired by the panicked Massachusetts volunteers aboard the train taking them out of the city. On the editorial page of his paper, Hall repeatedly printed extracts from the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Rights of the People of Maryland and the Declaration of Independence, stressing freedom of the press, freedom from unwarrantable search and seizure, freedom from imprisonment without trial, the right to bear arms, and the subordination of military forces to the civil authorities. His worst fears would all be realized within a few months.

[10] The South, June 14, 1861, front page.
Thomas Hall’s newspaper, The South, and its editor would likewise become casualties of the war. According to Col. Thomas J. Scharf’s The Chronicles of Baltimore (1874),
The South, a very able afternoon paper, “devoted to the South, Southern Rights and Secession,” issued the first number on Monday, April 22, 1861… From the first it became exceedingly popular, and was eagerly sought after by all classes of our citizens. The South flourished until Friday, September 13, 1861, when the printer announced in the afternoon edition on a half sheet, under a flaming head of the “Freedom of the Press,” that the “usual hour for the arrival of the editor, Thomas W. Hall, Jr., Esq., having passed this morning, an effort was made to gain admittance to his editorial room. This was easily accomplished, for on trying the door, it was found that the lock had been forced, and that all his papers and documents of value had been abstracted. The locks of Mr. Hall’s desk and private drawers had been picked with an expertness that would do no discredit to the most accomplished convict, and all the letters and scraps of papers contained in them carried off, as were also the full files of the Exchange and South, the files of the American, Clipper and Sun being left. Whilst looking on with wonder and amazement, the astounding intelligence was brought in that Thomas W. Hall, Jr., Esq., had been arrested ***** and it is only reasonable to suppose that he is now an inmate of the American Bastile [sic], formerly known as Ft. McHenry. As all communication between the editor and the printer of the South is forcibly cut off, the latter is constrained to announce to its numerous readers that its publication, for the present, must necessarily cease with the current number.” This was certainly, for the times, bold language of the printer. On Thursday, the 19th of September, The South, after a suspension of six days, was continued by Messrs. John M. Mills & Co., on a half sheet. On Thursday, the 13th of February, 1862, the paper was issued on a full sheet by Messrs. S.S. Mills & Bro., who continued to publish it until Monday, the 17th of February, 1862, when it was suppressed by the military authorities.
[Samuel S. Mills, of the printing firm of Mills and Colton, would also be arrested by U.S. troops.]

[11] The South, June 14, 1861, editorials.
According to The War of the Rebellion; A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series II – Volume II (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1897), Major General George B. McClellan submitted to Secretary of War Simon Cameron a letter for his signature. This missive, delivered by Allan Pinkerton, chief of McClellan’s secret service, requested General John A. Dix to arrest seditious Baltimoreans, including members of the legislature. Dated September 11, 1861, McClellan’s cover letter stated that ‘it would seem necessary to arrest the parties named. I have indicated Fort Monroe as their first destination in order to get them away from Baltimore as quietly as possible…’

[12] The South, June 14, 1861, military ads.
Secretary Cameron’s signed order directed General Dix to dispatch Pinkerton and his men to ‘take immediate charge of the arrests and examination of papers.’ The persons named in the order were Thomas Parkin Scott, Severn Teackle Wallis, Henry M. Warfield, Francis Key Howard, Thomas W. Hall, Jr. and Henry May. Dix was ordered to arrest these suspects ‘and to keep them in close custody, suffering no one to communicate with them, and to convey them at once to Fortress Monroe there to remain in close custody… The exigencies of the Government demand a prompt and successful execution of this order.’

[13] The South, June 14, 1861, song text.
On September 27, Thomas Hall and a growing number of political prisoners were transferred from Fortress Monroe, Virginia, to Fort Lafayette, in New York Harbor. A cartoon in New York’s The Phunny Phellow for November 1861 shows ‘Uncle Sam caging the Rats who would undermine the Union” in Ft. Lafayette. On February 15, 1862, Hall was transferred once again, this time to Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor. He and his fellow Baltimore secessionists, including George William Brown, the ex-mayor, two ex-police commissioners, Kane, the ex-city marshal of police, four ex-legislators, several merchants, and his fellow editor, F.K. Howard, of the Exchange, were quietly released from captivity on November 26, 1862, by order of the Adjutant-General’s Office at Washington.

[14] The South, June 14, 1861, ads.
Note that none of the captives had ever faced the due process of law following their arrest – a proceeding eerily foreshadowing the ‘renditions’ and close confinement of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay 150 years later. The Lincoln administration defended its actions with regard to Thomas W. Hall, Jr., as
a military precautionary measure of great necessity for the preservation of the peace and maintenance of order in Maryland. His paper was openly and zealously advocating the cause of the insurrection and largely contributing to unsettle and excite the public mind. A mass of correspondence and manuscripts were found in Hall’s possession in prose and poetry, much of it intended for The South newspaper and all of intensely disloyal character.
[15] The Phunny Phellow, Vol. 3, No. 1, November 1861. ‘Fort Lafayette; Uncle Sam caging the Rats who would undermine the Union,’ front page.
Hall’s fate illuminates the constitutional crisis of 1861: was the preservation of the Union a justification for the suspension of civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and freedom of the press? As a shrewd lawyer, Lincoln drew on the traditions of English and European law and believed that keeping the nation together transcended a strict construction of its constitution. This dangerous precedent has led to many abuses in the name of ‘emergency decrees,’ whereby liberty is traded for security and often never regained. Lincoln proved to be a benevolent despot in this respect. Perhaps the best proof of this is the huge corpus of violently anti-Lincoln cartoons and editorials that were allowed to circulate during his presidency. Personal attacks on Lincoln and his policies were not considered disloyal or treasonable. They were part of an established American tradition of lampooning current officeholders. Advocating secession and armed rebellion was a different matter. Unlike a sad majority of world governments throughout the ages, the U.S. and Canada do not punish dissent with torture and death. Despite charges of tyranny, Lincoln’s summary roundup of secessionist editors resulted in no maiming or execution of the culprits. After a year languishing in damp military dungeons, they were allowed to return home, sadder and wiser. The only man to be executed as a war criminal was Henry Wirtz, commandant of the infamous Camp Sumter (Andersonville) prison camp. In spite of public sentiment, Jefferson Davis was never ‘hung to a sour apple tree.’ Following the war, top Confederate statesmen and military leaders were able to resume their lives in an impoverished and ruined South. Thus we find Alexander H. Stephens, the only Vice President of the C.S.A. publishing a rather tame History of the United States in 1884. Antebellum congressmen gradually returned to Congress, despite frantic ‘waving the bloody shirt’ by their Republican opponents.

[16] Alexander H. Stephens, 1876, ‘History of the United States,’ frontispiece portrait and title page.
As late as the election of 1864, when the fortunes of war had shifted to the Union side, cartoonists continued to lambast the Lincoln administration’s tyranny. In the London humor magazine Punch, John Tenniel’s ‘The Federal Phœnix’ depicted the reelected president as a human-headed eagle, rising from the ashes of ‘Commerce,’ ‘United States Constitution,’ ‘Free Press,’ ‘Credit,’ ‘Habeas Corpus’ and ‘State Rights.’ In Comic News, fellow-Brit Matthew Somerville Morgan showed Lincoln as a ravening stage vampire, menacingly intoning, ‘Columbia, thou art mine; with thy blood I will renew my lease of life — Ah! Ah!’ as he hovers over a shrinking female figure. Although many of these vicious drawings undoubtedly hurt Lincoln deeply, his well-developed senses of humor and justice prevented him from suppressing all dissent. Comic journals like Vanity Fair took pot shots at many administration foes as well, such as ‘Copperhead’ ex-mayor Fernando Wood and his wobbly successor George Opdyke. Had Lincoln quashed the majority of political cartoons, we would have lost the affectionate ‘Long Abraham Lincoln a Little Longer’ by Frank Bellew in Harper’s Weekly, following his reelection.

[17] Punch, December 3, 1864, ‘The Federal Phœnix’ by John Tenniel.
[18] Comic News, November 26, 1864, ‘The Vampire’ by Matt Morgan. ‘Abe: ‘Columbia, thou art mine; with thy blood I will renew my lease of life — Ah! Ah!’
[19] Vanity Fair, Vol. 6, No. 134, July 19, 1862. ‘Fernando Wood in his famous role of Oliver Cromwell,’ front page.
[20] Vanity Fair, Vol. 6, No. 137, August 9, 1862, ‘George Opdyke: Mayor of New-York, and First Recruiting-Sergeant to the Union,’ front page.