Just some complements to the Harlem Renaissance conversation . . . another example of Modernist “Party” and an instance of celebrating the vernacular
|Black Mask||9:47 AM (1 hour ago)|
I’ve attached a pdf of the stories here. I wish the scans were more square & less wavy, but the magazine is so rare, so I’m grateful for having scans in any shape.
There are some universities that concentrate on specific pulp titles: they may specialize in sci fi or detective titles, for example. And the Library of Congress has a lot of pulps on microfilm. But the LOC considered Black Mask as too important to destroy in order to create the microfilm. UCLA has a near-complete set, but they’re cagey about making copies due to their fragility. And with Hammett and Raymond Chandler appearing in so many issues, they’re pricey to purchase (when they turn up).
JMU has many BM issues scanned, as they scanned them for us. In fact, they may have been the source of this KKK issue.
As such, it’s been important to us to acquire a set of BM for reprint/reference purposes. We’re working on a digital-first set. We’ve got a nice accounting of the run, but many still elude us. I’ve attached a spreadsheet of what we have & what we’re looking for.
Good luck with your project: as an aside, the depictions of minorities in the pulps would be an interesting subject. Sure, it would be a layup to find plenty of prose that would be offensive people in 2020, but there are a surprising number of characters who were shown to be heroic and respected. A lot of the more popular pulp writers were world travelers and had experienced a variety of cultures… this no doubt affected their work.
Black Mask Magazine
Building on Joey’s great post (see below) on The Oriental, I’d like to call attention to the work of early Chinese American editor and writer Wong Chin Foo, who was active in New York City during the 1880s and ’90s. Wong is an extremely interesting figure (e.g. he challenged anti-Chinese labor organizer Dennis Kearny to a duel–Kearny refused–and bested him in a debate), who started another of the first Chinese-language newspapers in the U.S., The Chinese American, which was published in New York City for the first time on February 3, 1883.
Wong was a born provocateur (see his most famous essay “Why Am I a Heathen?” in The North American Review) and exaggerated immensely when he said his paper would serve the “nearly 100,000 Chinese east of the Rocky Mountains.” According to his biographer Scott D. Seligman, there were approximately 2,500 Chinese in the eastern U.S. during this era, with about 700 living in New York City (the paper comes out just after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act).
Again, according to Seligman, “Only two editions of the Chinese American, the inaugural issue and the ninth issue, dated March 31, survive. The articles they contained, written rather inelegantly, were mostly tabloid fare.” The paper also seems to have primarily covered events in China, or events involving Chinese abroad, rather than local events.
The Chinese American was short-lived and not very profitable (there was only a small audience of Chinese readers in the local area), so Wong wrote extensively for other papers to earn his living. Harper’s and the Youth’s Companion are prominent among these, though Wong’s contributions to the Cosmopolitan are particularly noteworthy. His serialized novel, “Wu Chih Tien: The Celestial Empress” (1889), based on the life of real historical figure Wu Zetian, was illustrated by Daniel Carter Beard. That same year, Mark Twain read Wong’s story and soon contracted Beard to illustrate A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).
In my American literature survey (1865 to present), I’ve taught Wong and Twain’s texts alongside one another, having students write about the interaction between illustration and text within each novel, as well as highlighting continuities and disparities in the way Beard illustrates the different subject matter. So far, it’s proved a useful way to incorporate marginal voices into the syllabus in a way that also stresses the significance of periodical culture as a medium of intercultural exchange during the late nineteenth century.
I hope to start writing about Wong’s “Wu Chih Tien” and other related materials in the next year. So much remains to be done in covering this remarkable figure in American literary and cultural history!
References re: Wong Chin Foo
Hsuan L. Hsu’s chapter “A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of Wu Chih Tien” in Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain’s Asia and Comparative Racialization (2015)
Scott D. Seligman’s biography, The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo(2013)
The Stanford Graphic Novel Project’s American Heathen, a student-designed graphic novel about Wong’s life (available as a free eBook)
Comprising four pages per issue, the first half in English, and the second half in Chinese, The Oriental was the second Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S. It was also the first of several nineteenth-century Anglo-Chinese newspapers to establish sections in English. Edited by William Speer (1822-1904), a Presbyterian minister and Lai Sai (also known as Lee Kan), associate editor, The Oriental commenced publication on January 4, 1855. Lai Sai was the first Chinese elder in San Francisco’s Presbyterian church and Speer’s former student from the Morrison Education Society School in Hong Kong. Lai was responsible for the Chinese content of the newspaper, which included advertisements and the first directory of Chinese businesses in San Francisco in 1856. The newspaper was published by Whitton, Towne. & Co. at 151 Clay Street, San Francisco. Its publication schedule was inconsistent. Intended to be published triweekly in Chinese and weekly in English, its schedule was later changed to weekly in Chinese and monthly in English. In terms of content, the paper consists of local, domestic, and international news items, religious poetry and anecdotes, updates on previous articles, targeted advertisements, and business/organization listings. Below are some images of its 2 nameplates and a closeup of the masthead.
While conducting some archival research for a different project at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester MA, I stumbled upon this newspaper first due to its derogatory title. Thus far I have been able to look at the AAS’s holdings, consisting of three issues, and some online versions. I welcome the names of Chinese-language translators who can help me in this project, as well as leads on accessing more of the print run, if it exists.
I have a longer article on the paper that I am working on, and shoutout to Spencer Tricker for your comments/insight at our C19 conference roundtable this April!
 For more on William Speer, see Gordon H. Chang’s “CHINA AND THE PURSUIT OF AMERICA’S DESTINY: Nineteenth-Century Imagining and Why Immigration Restriction Took So Long.” Journal of Asian American Studies 15, no. 2 (06, 2012): 145-169, 239.
-Joey S. Kim
James Hill’s “DeathWish” ends with a moving description of Jiggs on the shoulders of paraders singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by Johnson and set to music by his brother. Here is a youtube video on the history of the song. JWJ is interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
The Early Poems of Sarah Morgan Bryan (Piatt) in The New York Ledger, 1857-1860 (Sarah Piatt Recovery Project)
The Early Poems of Sarah Morgan Bryan (Piatt) in the New York Ledger, 1857-1860 is a DH project that I started in 2015 with my advisor Elizabeth Renker during the first City of Print institute. The site is now LIVE: https://kb.osu.edu/handle/1811/87056
Here are a couple of photos from when the City of Print 2015 convened at the Schomburg: a painting by Aaron Douglas (which I think might be a reproduction) and a signed table of contents from Fire!!
Thanks for the great email exchanges this weekend. Here’s a pic I took Saturday during the rally at City Hall Park with Horace Greeley of the NY Tribune in the background.
Hey all, my pal Kassie Baron just publishes a short blog post about women’s mill work and its connection to Herman Melville’s “Tartarus of Maids.” It dovetails nicely from our conversations with Graham Thompson and elsewhere about labor and literary production. You can read it here: https://uihumanitiesforthepublicgood.com/2020/06/25/melville-and-the-mill-girls/
She writes, “The history of women’s labor is a history full of triumph and heartbreak, perseverance and setbacks.”