A future so bright it still casts a shadow today.
Berlin to New York in one hour! 190 mph with ball-wheel train! Big things to come! These covers of Science and Mechanics magazine, all published during the 1930s and 1940s, tout a future of endless invention, with stability and prosperity, high productivity and infinite possibility for all. And they're even more more amazing when you consider that this was the assumption these magazines made even through the Great Depression and a global war. Does anyone really still believe in a bright shiny future for all the world? We seriously doubt it.
Take Elon Musk's Hyperloop as an example. Musk claims his tube transport system might move people coast to coast at airliner speeds for the price of a bus ticket. That's big thinking Science and Mechanics style. But his critics say it's insane to think three thousand miles of track will go unsabotaged in today's world. They say the security cost alone of protecting that much infrastructure would completely negate any possibility of journeys costing the price of a bus ticket. They point out that big plans rely not only on scientific know how, but political, economic, and social stability, a trifecta of items lacking in today's America.
And the thing is all those critics are right. It really is hard to imagine 600 mph ground transport being safe. And the pocket sized price sounds—frankly—too altruistic to be true. Musk isn't going to charge people through their noses for his miracle train? Really? Such gut reactions say everything about the age in which we live. But in Science and Mechanics every place was stable, people everywhere would be prosperous enough to partake in the fruits of progress, and cynicism was nowhere in sight. We have thirteen covers for you today, and you can see our other uploads along these lines here and here.
You brute! Why don't you enslave someone your own size!
Above, more Down Under goodness from Australia's Adam magazine, with a cover from this month in 1969 depicting a scene from Mark Bannerman's “Murder in Marseilles.” It's a tale of kidnapping and slavery, or as the author constantly puts it, “white slavery.” This is a term you run into often mid-century and pulp literature, and of course the idea is that enslaving white people must be specially pointed out, as it's presumed to be orders of magnitude more evil than just plain slavery. In this case, a “swarthy Algerian” is the villain, and a Marseillaise beauty is the target. Do we need to tell you this plot is foiled? Of course not.
Adam offers another interesting feature—a piece of factual journalism entitled “Wild Girls of the American Suburbs.” It's about apartment complexes for singles, which are described as if they're twenty-four hour sex parties. All of this being well before our time, we weren't sure if such places actually existed, but it seems they did, in locales all over the U.S., particularly San Francisco, the Jersey Shore, Myrtle Beach, and Fire Island. Apparently Los Angeles had a famous one called Villa Dionysus, which we can't help noticing would be initialed V.D. Hopefully a walk-in-clinic was somewhere in the same zip code. Twenty-seven scans below.
Jealous murder strikes a John Wayne movie set.
This Master Detective published today in 1960 has a nice cover by Al Drule, and inside the issue are several interesting stories, but the one we're looking at today is “The Crime that Wasn't in the Script,” about a murder that took place during the filming of John Wayne's western The Alamo. The story is kind of forgotten, but basically, an actress named LaJean Etheridge was killed by her boyfriend Chester Harvey Smith, who was angry that Etheridge had decided to move closer to the movie set in Brackettville, Texas. Such a killing is impossible to understand under any circumstances, but putting on your jealous madman cap for a second you can picture a possessive man losing it over his girlfriend moving thousands of miles away. Like if someone told you the story you'd nod and go, “Umm hmm,” because you could see it.
But Etheridge wasn't moving thousands of miles. She and Smith had both scored work as extras on The Alamo, had traveled from Hollywood together, and were living in Spofford, Texas with three other extras in lodgings set up by Wayne's Batjac Productions. Etheridge had decided to move from Spofford to Fort Clark, ten miles north, a relocation precipitated by her landing a larger part in the film. Was she simply moving closer to the set to facilitate the changed demands of her role? Or was she leaving her boyfriend? Still wearing your jealous madman cap, you can picture Smith believing the latter. Etheridge would be out of sight, living with unknowns, possibly having fun with production staff and carousing with handsome actors. But she never got the chance—as she was packing Smith stabbed her in the chest with a Bowie knife, and she died on the scene. He was arrested when police arrived fifteen minutes later, pled guilty to murder, and was sentenced to thirty years in prison.
The final assessment by Smith's lawyer was that the murder was a crime of “passion and professional jealousy.” As details emerged a clearer picture of Smith formed. He had once struck his ex-wife's roommate in the head with a hatchet, and earlier had tried to run her, her roommate, and their dates down with his car. His rage wasn't reserved only for ex-lovers. He also once attacked a bus driver. So Smith needed no excuses to hurt people. It's just what he did. But maybe this particular episode really was a so-called crime of passion. Rumors circulated during the trial that Etheridge had been seeing John Wayne, but he never testified nor was officially involved with the case in any way. And under the circumstances, it was probably inevitable that such rumors would spring up. Yet Etheridge had completed her part, and Wayne, according to several accounts, had asked her to stay on at Fort Clark. So there's no telling.
Etheridge's part in The Alamo was left on the cutting room floor. No surprise. The murder caused enough bad publicity as it was, so naturally there was no way she could have remained in the film. It wasn't until an extended version was released in 1993 that her role as Mrs. Guy was seen by movie fans. Though the story of the murder hasfaded somewhat, author John Hegenberger used the events as the backdrop for a 2017 crime novel called Stormfall. Chester Harvey Smith, John Wayne, and others are characters, and the star is Hegenberger's detective creation Stan Wade. The book opens with the murder, and Etheridge uttering her final words to Smith before she dies. What were the words? According to the statement Smith gave police, Etheridge said, mortally wounded and bleeding to death, “I love you.” You can take off your jealous madman cap now.
When Mafia thugs take on Oklahoma roughnecks it's an oil or nothing battle to the death.
We finally picked up a new scanner and life is good again. You may have noticed the difference in recent uploads. No moire patterns. No weird rainbows. All clean. You may also have noticed the website looks a bit different. We were making some changes over the holidays and got caught in the middle, but we'll finish everything as soon as we can and get it all working properly again. We know, we know. We're really slow with this stuff. But we'll get there.
Meanwhile, today we have for your enjoyment an issue of Australia's Adam magazine, published this month in 1972 with a cover illustrating Martin Rudyard's tale “The Mafia Oil Stakes,” about an organized crime cartel trying to take over a group of Oklahoma oil fields. Most of the owners sell out, but one stubborn cuss refuses, and sabotage followed by violence soon results. The climactic fight takes place against the backdrop of an oil well conflagration. A femme fatale is at the root of all this craziness, and her name is Angela Fierce. Sometimes writers try a little too hard, don't they?
The inside cover star, just above, is Lois Mitchell, someone we've been meaning to feature. She was a popular glamour model during the ’70s, and appeared in copious amounts of high quality images shot by men's magazine contributors Ron Vogel, Edmund Leja, and others. The photo appearing here is new to the internet as far as we can tell. We have thirty-some scans of today's Adam, forty-eight other issues inside the website, and about thirty more we plan on sharing down the line.
War is hell, but being a prisoner of war can be worse.
This January 1959 copy of Stag is an example of the joys of collecting old magazines. We bought it for three dollars, but it's being auctioned on Ebay right now for $100. Mort Kunstler handles the cover chores, illustrating Edward Newman's story “The P.O.W.s Who Broke Out of Rat Hell Stockade,” which deals with a group of Union soldiers during the U.S. Civil War who tunneled their way out of Richmond's Libby Prison. The story is true. The escape was one of the most successful breakouts of the war. The escapees were highly motivated due to the fact that Libby Prison was a hellhole that generated high mortality rates due to abuse, starvation, exposure to severe weather, and terrible overcrowding.
A contemporary newspaper had this to say: “They are huddled up and jammed into every nook and corner; at the bathing troughs, around the cooking stoves, everywhere there is a wrangling, jostling crowd; at night the floor of every room they occupy in the building is covered, every square inch of it, by uneasy slumberers, lying side by side, and heel to head, as tightly packed as if the prison were a huge, improbable box of nocturnal sardines.” Inside Stag is art from James Bama, Kunstler again, Joe Little, Al Rossi, and Bruce Minney. You also get model/actress Irène Tunc, who was Miss France of 1954 and appeared in about thirty films during a three-decade film career. All this and more below, in twenty-three scans.
Update: we got the following e-mail from James N:
The cover of Stag, January 1959 was painted by James Bama. The credit to Mort Kunstler as printed in the magazine was an editorial error. Bama has confirmed this. For the sake of historical accuracy it would be nice if you changed your Jan. 9, 2017 post to reflect Jim Bama's true credit.
We've talked a lot about how official credits can be wrong, so we're inclined to believe the cover was mistakenly attributed by editors because we already know they were human and made these types of goofs. But the process of collecting and curating vintage art offers the chance to get things right. So we're calling this cover a Bama, and thanks to James N. for taking the effort to write us.
When in doubt just shoot everybody.
Above is a really nice cover for an issue of Australia's Adam magazine published this month in 1969. The art illustrates John Dean's story “Aces High,” which is about an undercover operative trying to take down an organized crime kingpin. His way in is a Casino Royale style high stakes poker game, where he's surprised to find that his girlfriend is the arm candy of the kingpin. In the final shootout the girlfriend helps the agent take out the crooks, and we and the boyfriend learn that she's also an agent working undercover—deep undercover—to set up the crooks for the police. We've read better. We've read worse. We'll give Dean credit for deftly working the titillation angle of the girlfriend repeatedly bedding the kingpin so that he would thrust fully in her—er, we mean trust fully in her.
Normally when we share an Adam we make thirty or forty scans. This one, however, came to us in something close to unread condition. Not a crease to be found anywhere. Because scanning involves flattening a magazine, which naturally brings about creases, we decided not to reduce this one's value. That means we have only the cover and few interior images for you. Sorry about that. And our scanner is a little balky of late too. It's six years old, so it's probably a case of that engineered obsolescence thing electronics companies do but which we're supposed to believe they don't. Sure. Anyway, we have dozens of other copiously scanned issues of Adam elsewhere in the website. Try a few of our favorites, here, here, and here, while we pick up a new scanner. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.