ARGOSY at PulpFest — An Abundance of Riches

Jan 25, 2016 by

Blackwood's Magazine 1818-10 to 1819-03Although magazines have been around since the seventeenth century — the first regular periodical was ERBAULICHE MONATHS UNTERREDUNGEN, a literary and philosophy magazine, launched in Germany in 1663 — it was only with the arrival of increased literacy and lower costs in the early nineteenth century that magazines of mass appeal began to be produced.

As Europe and North America became increasingly industrialized, magazines began to reach a much wider, sometimes national, audience. BLACKWOOD’S MAGAZINE, NOUVEAU MAGAZINE DES ENFANTSHARPER’S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, SCRIBNER’S MONTHLYand others emerged, publishing the fiction of Charles Dickens, Fitz-James O’Brien, Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and others. The dime novels, penny-dreadfuls, and story papers were also introduced during these years, offering tales of derring-do to a growing juvenile audience. It was in such periodicals that the “American Jules Verne,” Luis Senarens, developed the Frank Reade, Jr. series of adventure yarns.

The last quarter of the nineteenth century has become known as “The Age of the Storytellers.” Beginning around 1880, when Robert Louis Stevenson started to publish his first works of fiction, the world would witness the birth of the popular fiction magazine as well as the pulp magazine. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” first serialized in 1881 – 82, helped provide the spark for other authors to try their hand at similar fiction. Works such as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885), “She” (1886), and “Allan Quatermain” (1887), as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” (1887), demonstrated the need for an inexpensive, popular fiction magazine to be published on a regular basis. Shortly after Christmas in 1890, the first of these — THE STRAND MAGAZINE — was launched in Great Britain by George Newnes. Filled with illustrations, the periodical really took off during the summer of 1891 with the start of Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” featuring one of the most successful continuing character series of all time.

With the success of THE STRAND MAGAZINE came a host of imitators, among them PEARSON’S MAGAZINE, another popular British fiction magazine. It debuted in late 1895 and soon became one of the leading publishers of magazine science fiction, featuring the future war stories of George Griffith and the scientific romances of Herbert George Wells. “The War of the Worlds” and “The Invisible Man,” both originally published in PEARSON’S in 1897, are still enjoyed today, over a century after their initial appearances. Educated in the sciences as well as a literary genius, Wells’ mastery of both science and fiction was readily apparent. His later science fiction, including “The First Men in the Moon” (1900-1901) and “The Country of the Blind “1904), would run in THE STRAND.

War of the Worlds

The British popular fiction magazines were modeled after the illustrated periodicals of America. However, unlike their British counterparts, the leading American magazines of the late nineteenth century – HARPER’S, CENTURY MAGAZINE, and  SCRIBNER’S – were beyond the financial and intellectual reach of the average U. S. citizen. It was left to Frank A. Munsey – a man about whom it has been suggested, “contributed to the journalism of his day the talent of a meat packer, the morals of a money changer and the manner of an undertaker” – to deliver the first American periodical specifically intended for the common man. In his own words, Munsey decided to create “a magazine of the people and for the people, with pictures and art and good cheer and human interest throughout.”

Frank Munsey was born in Maine where he became interested in publishing. With minimal funds, he traveled to New York City and founded THE GOLDEN ARGOSY, a children’s weekly, in late 1882. Working largely on credit, he struggled for years, building his circulation through advertising and sheer determination. Deciding that the future lay in the adult market, he founded MUNSEY’S WEEKLY in 1889, soon converting it to MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE. In 1893, convinced that a magazine could only be successful if the price was right, he slashed the price of MUNSEY’S to a dime and marketed it directly to newsdealers, essentially cutting out the middle man.

Argosy 1896-12As the circulation of MUNSEY’S climbed to hundreds of thousands of copies, the publisher converted THE ARGOSY to an adult magazine, similarly priced and modeled after it’s brethren. Envisioning a new kind of magazine, Frank Munsey wrote, “We want stories . . . . not dialect sketches, not washed out studies of effete human nature, not weak tales of sickly sentimentality, no ‘pretty’ writing . . . . We do want fiction in which there is a story, a force, a tale that means something – in short a story. Good writing is as common as clam shells, while good stories are as rare as statesmanship.”

In October 1896, THE ARGOSY became the first all-fiction magazine. Two months later in a cost-cutting move, it began to be printed on the wood-pulp paper Munsey used for his daily newspaper and the rough-paper fiction magazine, or pulp, was born. Within a short while, its circulation had doubled to about 80,000 copies per issue. By 1907, the year the periodical celebrated its 25th anniversary, its circulation had reached a half million copies, earning its publisher about $300,000 per year.

As its readership grew, THE ARGOSY was bound to attract some imitators. Street & Smith, the longtime publisher of dime novels and story papers, was first to meet the call, debuting THE POPULAR MAGAZINE with its November 1903 issue. As the circulation of the new magazine grew, it became apparent to Frank Munsey that there was room on the newsstand for more than one pulp. At the end of 1904, the publisher debuted THE ALL-STORY MAGAZINE.

More than any other periodical prior to the introduction of the specialized science-fiction and fantasy pulps, THE ALL-STORY became the major repository for the “different” tale or the pseudo-scientific yarn. It was soon joined by other Munsey magazines – THE SCRAP BOOK and THE RAILROAD MAN’S MAGAZINE (both 1906), THE OCEAN/LIVE WIRE (1907), and THE CAVALIER (1908). All of these, THE CAVALIER in particular, published fantastic fiction. However, it was all but a prelude to the serial novel that would begin in the February 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY — “Under the Moons of Mars” – credited to Norman Bean.

All-Story 12-10Bean’s novel — the first published fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs — would introduce John Carter of Mars to readers. It would soon be followed by the author’s “Tarzan of the Apes,” published in its entirety in the October 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY. These two novels, along with the pseudo-scientific works of H. G. Wells and his American disciple, George Allan England, would serve as templates for much of the science fiction written over the next twenty-five years, generating a type of fiction best known as “the scientific romance.” The Munsey chain in particular worked to develop this school of fiction, creating a stable of writers – Ray Cummings, J. U. Geisy, Victor Rousseau, Francis Stevens, Charles B. Stilson, and the best of all, Abraham Merritt – able to contribute such stories.

Although the fiction of Burroughs and Wells and those “inspired” by their work would remain popular for some time to come, its share of the pulp market would diminish as new magazines began to arrive on the scene. Beginning with ADVENTURE MAGAZINE, introduced by the Ridgway Company in 1910, these specialized pulps lessened the attraction of the general fiction magazines for those who enjoyed a certain type of story – mystery, romance, western, or straight adventure. In not too many years, the fantasy and science-fiction fan would likewise be served.

The word “argosy” is defined as a large merchant ship, especially one with a rich cargo. With the terrific programming we’re lining up for PulpFest 2016, you’re promised “an abundance of riches” We’ll be saluting a wide range of anniversaries at this summer’s pulp con: the tenth anniversary of Sanctum Books; the eightieth anniversary of THE WHISPERER and THE SKIPPER; the ninetieth anniversary of AMAZING STORIES, the first science-fiction pulp; the hundredth anniversary of the specialty pulp; the 120th anniversary of THE ARGOSY, the original pulp magazine; and the 150th anniversary of the birth of H. G. Wells!

Check out our post of January 4, 2016 — “Coming Soon to Columbus — PulpFest 2016” — for a look at our planned. We’ll be featuring a pair of presentations on THE ARGOSY. “120 Years of THE ARGOSY — The World’s First Pulp Magazine,” will be offered by Doug Ellis, one of the world’s leading collectors and authorities on the magazine and a founder of the fabulous Windy City Pulp and Paper ConventionArt and pulp historian David Saunders will be discussing “The Artists of THE ARGOSY —  120 Years of Sensational Pulp Artists.” Both presentations are planned for Saturday evening, July 23rd, immediately preceding our exciting auction.

“Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” will take place from July 21st through July 24th in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center. Start making your plans to join us at the “pop culture center of the universe” for PulpFest 2016.

(BLACKWOOD’S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE — which first appeared in April 1817 — was one of the first magazines to reach a national audience. It’s introduction helped pave the way for the popular fiction periodicals of the late nineteenth century. Pictured here is volume 4 of the magazine, dated October 1818 – March 1819. The image on the cover is an engraving of the 16th century Scottish historian George Buchanan. BLACKWOOD’S continued publication until 1980.

PEARSON’S MAGAZINE was one of the popular British fiction magazines that emerged during the late 1800s. Its first issue was dated January 1896. The magazine’s publisher, C. Arthur Pearson, was “fascinated with stories of the future and what science might bring. Hence, it comes as no surprise that H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was originally serialized in eight parts in PEARSON’S, running from April the December in 1897. It was illustrated by Warwick Goble. PEARSON’S ran for over 500 issues. Its last issue was date November 1939.

The December 1896 issue of THE ARGOSY, published by Frank A. Munsey, was the world’s first pulp fiction magazine. It would continue for nearly eighty years, ending as a “men’s adventure magazine.” It’s final issue was dated November 1978.

One of the most popular authors to appear in the Munsey magazines was undoubtedly Edgar Rice Burroughs. His adventure romance, “Tarzan of the Apes,” was published in its entirety in the October 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY. The issue featured front cover art by Clinton Pettee who drew interior story illustrations for MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE and painted covers for such pulp magazines as THE ARGOSY,THE ALL-STORYTHE CAVALIER, and SHORT STORIES.)


Saddle Up! Thrilling’s Western Heroes

Jun 8, 2015 by

Buffalo Bill Stories 1909-04-24The western story got its start with James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, a fictional adaptation of the adventures of frontiersman Daniel Boone. In the years following Cooper’s Natty Bumppo series, authors such as Bret Harte, Francis Parkman, and Mark Twain further expanded the field.

According to an essay written by pulp scribe John A. Saxon and published in 1945 by WRITER’S DIGEST, the western story became a genre of its own during the second half of the 19th century. In 1869, writer Edward Zane Carroll Judson convinced hunter, scout, and showman William F. Cody to lend his name and reputation to a fictionalized account of his life, “Buffalo Bill, King of the Borderman,” originally serialized in Street & Smith’s NEW YORK WEEKLY. Phenomenally received, Judson found a public hungry for further adventures of the real life hero of the American frontier. Thus started “. . . the fictionalized form of the Western story . . . based partly on fact, but mostly on imagination.”

Given the great success of Street & Smith’s Buffalo Bill tales, nickel weeklies and dime novels devoted to western heroes and outlaws soon followed: DEADWOOD DICK LIBRARY, DIAMOND DICK LIBRARY, JAMES BOYS WEEKLY, KLONDIKE KIT LIBRARY, WILD WEST WEEKLY, and more. These as well as stories featuring detective heroes such as Nick Carter and Old Sleuth and sports heroes such as Frank Merriwell, reigned supreme for nearly forty years. Then, following the introduction of the pulp magazine by Frank A. Munsey in 1896, the story papers and dime novels began to give way to these more economical rough-paper periodicals.

The first all-western pulp magazine was introduced by Street & Smith when they converted their tired old story paper, NEW BUFFALO BILL WEEKLY, to WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE in 1919. Within a year, the magazine reached a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue and began to be released weekly, a status it enjoyed for the next twenty-five years. Soon thereafter, the magazine began publishing the western fantasies of poet turned pulp writer Frederick Schiller Faust–better known as Max Brand–and really took off. By the late 1920s, WESTERN STORY was competing against countless imitators–ACE-HIGH, COWBOY STORIES, FRONTIER, GOLDEN WEST, LARIAT, NORTH-WEST STORIES, RANCH ROMANCES, WEST, and others.

With the collapse of the world economy in 1929 and spare change hard to come by, ten-cent western pulps began to flood the market. Introduced by Popular Publications in late 1931 when they debuted DIME WESTERN MAGAZINE, other companies followed suit with their own ten-cent western fiction magazines. One of these firms was Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, with managing editor Leo Margulies riding herd over the new publisher’s Thrilling Group.

Although Margulies seemed to be forever complaining that western writers were “deceiving themselves in the belief that all a Western story needed was plenty of gun slinging; plenty of people killed; plenty of fights, but never mind a good reason,” his line of western pulps featured “. . . thrilling tales of the gallant West where danger lurks and cowboys are supermen.” According to pulp scholar John Dinan, Standard’s typical western superhero “could absorb more than his share of punishment” and was “characterized by immediate action in response to a dilemma or conflict which was always external.”

Texas Rangers 1946-11On Thursday, August 13th, Ed Hulse will explore the Standard line of western superhero pulps, from TEXAS RANGERS, launched in 1936 and featuring the “Lone Wolf” Ranger, Jim Hatfield; to MASKED RIDER WESTERN MAGAZINE, purchased from Ranger Publications in 1938 and starring Wayne Morgan, “the Robin Hood of the West;” to RANGE RIDERS and its “stories of western avengers in action;” to THE RIO KID WESTERN, a pulp that featured “the fictional exploits of the Kid . . . interwoven with actual historical characters;” to WEST and its lengthy series featuring Johnston McCulley’s Zorro; and HOPALONG CASSIDY’S WESTERN MAGAZINE, featuring Louis L’Amour’s blend of Clarence E. Mulford’s original character with the movie version popularized by actor William Boyd. Ed will also be touching on such characters as Alamo Paige, Navajo Raine, and W. C. Tuttle’s Tombstone and Speedy, all featured in EXCITING WESTERN, and A. Leslie Scott’s Texas Ranger Walt Slade, whose adventures ran in Standard’s flagship western title, THRILLING WESTERN.

For decades now, Ed Hulse has been scouring the back alleys and deserted farmhouses of his home state of New Jersey, searching for old pulps and 16mm prints of vintage motion pictures. Not content with what he was finding in Jersey, he can now be found rummaging through boxes of old pulp magazines in places as far away as Singapore and Kodiak, Alaska, trying to find a pulp that measures up to his lofty standards. When not sifting through eBay listings, Ed works as a free-lance journalist. One of the founders of PulpFest, Ed has been helping to organize pulp and film conventions for many years. He’s the guy who runs the movie projector at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention and also publishes BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, the leading pulp and popular culture fanzine of our day and age, and Murania Press books such as J. Allan Dunn’s THE ISLAND and his own HANDSOME HEROES AND VICIOUS VILLAINS. Additionally, Ed has written extensively about both the pulp and motion-picture fields. His THE BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER GUIDE TO PULP FICTION should be on the bookshelves of every pulp collector. Ed’s publications are available through and other fine booksellers. In 2007, Ed was presented with the Lamont Award for his exceptional work within the pulp community.

“Saddle Up! Thrilling’s Western Heroes” will begin at 9:20 PM on Thursday, August 13th, on the second floor of the Hyatt-Regency hotel in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio. It’s all part of this year’s “Salute to Standard Magazines,” taking place at PulpFest 2015. Learn how you can register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” by clicking here.

(THE BUFFALO BILL STORIES was the first publication devoted to fiction about frontiersman William F. Cody. A weekly publication “devoted to border history,” it debuted with its May 18, 1901 number and was published by Street & Smith. Pictured here is the April 24, 1909 issue. To learn more about the evolution of the pulp western, read John Dinan’s THE PULP WESTERN, Ron Goulart’s CHEAP THRILLS, and Will Murray’s WORDSLINGERS. According to dime novel scholar J. Randolph Cox, most of the covers for Street & Smith periodicals published during the early 1900s were drawn by Charles L. Wrenn, Marmaduke Russell, Ed. Johnson, and J. A. Cahill.

TEXAS RANGERS was by far the most successful western pulp magazine devoted to a single character. Launched in 1936 to commemorate the centennial of the historical Texas Rangers, the magazine lasted for over twenty years, running for 206 issues (more than any other single-character pulp except for THE SHADOW). A. Leslie Scott or Tom Curry wrote many of the lead novels, using the house name of Jackson Cole. There’s an excellent chapter on Standard’s western superheroes in Don Hutchison’s history of the single-character magazines, THE GREAT PULP HEROES. Pictured here is the November 1946 issue of TEXAS RANGERS, featuring front cover art by Sam Cherry.)

The Origins of Science Fiction

Apr 4, 2014 by

Startling1939-01Way back in 1939, a sudden blossoming of  magazine science fiction and fantasy occurred. Following the introduction of Startling Stories at the end of 1938, no less than eight pulps featuring fantastic fiction debuted in the next year–Dynamic Science Stories, Strange Stories, Science Fiction, Unknown, Fantastic Adventures, Future Fiction, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and Planet Stories. Additionally, three other science-fiction pulps were in preparation during 1939–Astonishing Stories, Captain Future, and Super Science Stories–and the first World Science Fiction Convention was held in New York City, home to the World’s Fair and its “World of Tomorrow” theme.

Over at Astounding Stories, editor John Wood Campbell was publishing the first science-fiction stories of Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. Van Vogt, as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for the magazine and Hubert Rogers’ first cover. With his growing stable of writers and artists, Campbell was ushering in what would become known as the Golden Age of Science Fiction. But from whence did the genre come?

Although science fiction can trace its roots to such imaginary voyages, satires, and utopias as Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626), Johannes Kepler’s Somnium (1634), Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone (1638), Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), and other works, most modern scholars point to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, originally published in 1818, as the first science-fiction novel. In the years that followed the publication of this important work of both Gothic horror and science fiction, an increasing amount of fiction, once the province of books, found its way into magazines.

It was in periodicals that Edgar Allan Poe, best remembered for his horror and mystery tales, introduced logic and science to explain elements of the fantastic. Beginning with “Ms. Found in a Bottle” (1833), a story involving a sinking ship caught in a whirlpool leading toward the earth’s interior, Poe introduced science fiction to the short story. In the remaining sixteen years of his life, the author would periodically return to the genre in tales featuring trips to the Moon, new species, the death of the human race, the transmutation of lead into gold, and more.

From the Earth to the MoonWhen Poe died in 1849, the strength of his stories kept them fresh and alive, inspiring authors the world over. One of these was Jules Verne who introduced “precise, scientific details” into his own writing, culminating in his first great triumph, Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863). Encouraged by the novel’s great success, the story’s original publisher, Pierre Hetzel, contracted the author to produce two novels each year for the next twenty years to run in a new periodical. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869-70), Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and Off on a Comet (1877) are just some of the masterpieces of science fiction penned by this master of the genre.

As the century progressed and Europe and North America became increasingly industrialized, magazines began to reach a much wider, sometimes national, audience. Blackwood’s Magazine, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Scribner’s Monthly, and others emerged, publishing the fiction of Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Fitz-James O’Brien, and others. The dime novels, penny-dreadfuls, and story papers also emerged during these years, offering tales of derring-do to a growing juvenile audience. It was here that the “American Jules Verne,” Luis Senarens, developed the Frank Reade, Jr. series that featured steam-powered contraptions in exciting adventure yarns.

Franke Reade, Jr.Still to come are H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle and The Strand Magazine, H. G. Wells and Pearson’s, Munsey’s and The Argosy and George Allan England. We’ll discuss these and more as we continue our examination of the offspring of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein–the fantastic magazines of Europe and the United States–in anticipation of PulpFest 2014 on August 7 – 10.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.