DEAR FRIEND: The Rascals, Rogues and Roues Who Made American Junk Mail, Chapter 17: The Hard-Luck Writer

By Ray Schultz

Slightly hung over from drinking their way to Chicago, ad men filed into the hall for the opening of the first Direct Mail Advertising Conference in 1915. The keynote speech snapped them out of their torpor.

“We must emit and vomit out the nauseous masses that have been swallowed in our swift growth,” said the copywriter Louis Victor Eytinge. “There are too many specious shysters amongst us, who while they may be within the law are yet foul with filth in the morality of their business methods and we must remove this reek ourselves!”

Well said, but Eytinge didn’t deliver the remarks himself. He was serving a life sentence for murder, and had to speak from “behind the walls that encompass my body.”

It was a sad comentary that the beleaguered direct mail business. had to rely on a felon to speak for it.

Eytinge was a “wastrel” from a family of actors and musicians. Convicted twice of forgery, he drew a five-year sentence in the second case and emerged from that term in 1907 with tuberculosis. Hoping to cure him (and get him out of their sight), his family sent him to Arizona with an allowance of $100 per month.

But he got into trouble there, too. The body of his roommate, a tubercular barber named John Leicht, was found near a ranch after the pair had gone for a buggy ride one Sunday. There was no proof that Leicht was murdered, let alone that Eytinge had done it, but Eytinge fled after passing several bad checks, and that was enough to convince a jury that he had poisoned the barber. Convicted of first degree murder, Eytinge was sentenced to life imprisonment, the court deciding that there was no need to hang a man who was about to die of TB.

Near collapse, the 120-pound Eytinge was dumped in the outdoor ward at Yuma Prison. He hemorrhaged daily, and was too weak even to swat flies. There must have been times when he wished he had been put out of his misery. But as his parents hoped when they sent him west, the desert air did him good and he eventually regained his strength.

Then, as legend has it, he wrote to two Western curio dealers to offer the horsehair souvenirs made by inmates. And he got orders from both. So he wrote more, and the prison lifted its restriction of two letters per month, the belief then being that even killers could be rehabilitated by work.

In time, businessmen noticed that this lifer could write and started giving him freelance copywriting assignments. Granted, his “letters were sophomorically fervent” as the copywriter Henry Hoke described them. In one insinuating letter, Eytinge offered raincoats to Catholic priests:

Dear Father,

Just as I glanced at next month’s calendar my eye caught the warning, ‘Rainy Season Begins,’ and I thought of you and other faithful servants of the Church.

My mind’s eye pictured you thrashing your way thru wind and rain, to administer the Holy Oils to some dying one, going about your duty despite the dirty weather. Saw you standing beside the open grave, giving your benediction not seeming to mind the bluster that bespattered your beloved Breviary. I saw you, too, hurrying to some sadly stirred soul, with the rain soaking into your black clothes. And then, I began to really understand what is meant to take Holy Orders.

But Father, there’s little need spoiling your good black overcoat…

Not many raincoats were sold. “I made the thing too personal for a printed letter and talked more about weather than weatherproofs,” Eytinge admitted.

But he learned. By 1915, the Eytinge Service was pulling in $5,000 a year, and his ideas were taken seriously. In his Chicago speech, Eytinge called for the start of a direct mail magazine. Postage appeared six months later, and the jailbird Eytinge was soon named editor of it.

Chapter 18: Selling In America

DEAR FRIEND: The Rascals, Rogues and Roues Who Made American Junk Mail, Chapter 4: Gospel Mail

By Ray Schultz

One morning in 1855 or thereabouts, in a church in upstate New York, a minister of the Gospel opened his mail and, according to Postal Inspector J. Holbrook, found the following letter:

“Brother P —

“I heard you once, while passing through your place — a sermon that has many times recurred to my memory, though its calm piety and deep perception of human nature may be weekly occurrences to your congregation.

“I have several times thought it would be well for our church to call on you for a trial here. Our house is wealthy, and ‘up town,’ though that is no matter.”

The writer mentioned that he had seen “a notice of you in the new publication of travels through the states; in which I see the writer has heard you, and was so impressed that he gives a strong description of your and your style…” And there’s the rub: The minister could have a copy of the book for $1.50. Pastors who fell for it soon learned, according Inspector Holbrook,  that “the dollar and a half went to the ‘bourne from which no traveler returns.’”

One minister wasn’t fooled, and his answer showed a clear understanding of the direct mail art, such as it was at that time. He wrote: “I am in receipt of a communication from you, of whose flattering contents I have reason to believe that I am not the only recipient; as I am not ignorant of the fact that the art of lithography can be employed to multiply confidential letters to any extent.

“If, as you state, you have at any time heard a discourse from my lips, I regret that the principles which it has inculcated have produced so little impression upon your actions, especially as it has ‘many times recurred to your memory.’

(Perhaps the minister also noticed that the word “brother” was lithographed, and that a blank space was included for his own name).

“If you ever happen to pass through this place again, and to be detained over the Sabbath, your name, mentioned to the sexton, or indeed, to any member of my congregation, will secure you as good a seat as the house will furnish: And if you will inform me of your intended presence, beforehand, I will endeavor to suit my discourse to your wants, if not to your wishes.

“‘Not what we wish, but what we want Do thou, O Lord, in mercy grant.’

“If, however, circumstances like some that I can foresee, if you continue in your present course, should prevent a visit to our place, I hope you will manage to be satisfied with the ministrations oef the chaplain at Sing Sing, who, I understand, is an excellent, talented man.”

That was once instance where the intended victim avoided harm. But it was a rarity.

Chapter 5: Show The Money

No Checking Required: An Early Credit Offer From Diners’ Club

By Ray Schultz

It’s hard to picture in this age of instant credit approvals and payment by smartphone. But in 1962, Diners’ Club sent out this offer in a Time magazine envelope without much prior checking:

This invitation is extended to

(Blank for name)

by Mr. Allred Bloomingdale, President


Your credit standing and financial rating have placed you on the select list of individuals to whom we are limiting the mailing of this invitation for Diners’ Club membership.

We hope you will take a moment to review some of the advantages of membership outlined in this folder and decide to fill out and mail your application today.

The enclosed application is transferable to members of your immediate family or associates sharing your business responsibilities, if you now have a Diners’ Club Credit Card.

Sounds a little loosey-goosey, doesn’t it? But remember: In 1962, Diners’ Club was only 12 years old, and American Express less than half that. Diners’ Club must have assumed that Time magazine readers were good prospects.

Diners’ Club had been introduced In 1950 by Frank X MacNamara for use in restaurants The original plan was to make money by taking 6% off the top of each transaction.

First, Diners’ Club mailed the card unsolicited to several thousand businessmen. The card itself was cardboard, and had the names of its few participating restaurants on the back, wrote Matty Simmons, the press agent for Diner’s Club, and later publisher of the National Lampoon.

In 1962, credit card issuers were mailing their offers to everyone, including, the joke had it, dogs and dead people. That practice of sending out cards unsolicited ended in 1970 when Congress outlawed it.

We don’t know now how Diners’ Club personalized the name on the letter—it may have been by hand, given the technology of that time.

The note was accompanied by a list of institutions that accepted the card in “Canada, British Isles, Europe, Asia, Australia, Arica, South & Central America.”

And there was a brochure proclaiming Diners’ Club as “the newest and mot advanced plastic credit card.”

It said:

Designed for your utmost convenience and honored by thousands of establishments that have been screened for quality and service. These are listed by area in wallet-size directories, which are furnished separately as guides for your additional convenience.

Since this single credit card replaces dozens of individual credit cards you now carry, it actually reduces the bulk of your wallet. In addition, you receive on request Diners’ Club directories covering all international listings and special listings of automotive services, gasoline stations, and repair centers.

Collections were a challenge.

“In addition to cardholders who simply couldn’t pay their bills, credit-card thefts, counterfeiting, and fraud started to escalate,” Simmons wrote. “Thieves, who since the creation of civilization had come up with new ways to rob others of their valuables and their money, now learned how to steal credit cards. They discovered how to falsify their credit applications so they could get their own cards and copy them much like the counterfeiter mattered the art of re-creating twenty-dollar bills.”

Things have improved.

The Face Of Ho Chi Minh: A Time Magazine Direct Mail Piece

By Ray Schultz

Marketing guru Ron Jacobs has observed that “Consumers don’t have the patience anymore to read an eight-page direct mail letter.” True, and they probably don’t even have what it takes to read a four-page one.

But they must have had it in 1966, because that’s when Time magazine sent the following four-pager.

Like the classic Time letters from the 1940s and ‘50s, this one is a historical artifact. It introduces Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam, to the American people. Then it goes on to quote Marshall McLuhan, mention both LBJ and Jimmy Hoffa in passing, and explain—in some detail—the benefits of Time.

The envelope features a line drawing of a pair of sandals, with this copy: “The wearer of these sandals said: “Americans don’t like long, inconclusive wars. This is going to be a long, inconclusive war.”

Inside, at the top of the letter, is a compelling image of Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately, I have only a black-and-white Xerox copy, and did not write down the color of these illustrations. I suspect it was red.

Having found this letter in the Time Inc. archive, I am sad to report that it was one of the last of its type. That very year, Time started sending charmless, computer-generated sweepstakes letters, although Bill Jayme’s long Cool Friday letter was mailed into the 1970s.

There were no handwritten notes attached to this one, so I don’t know who wrote it, or how it pulled. And I wonder how many people, even those who snapped up the offer, made it all the way through. But here it is: One of the last great long letters written by Time’s direct mail masters. Enjoy.

Dear Reader: 

The frail, goat-bearded comrade is in remarkable health.

At 76 he is ruddy-cheeked and cheerful. He dresses in –cream-colored, mandarin-style uniforms and “Ho Chi Minh scandals” carved from automobile tires. His tastes are exquisite. He smokes American cigarettes and dines on a rare delicacy called “swallow’s nest” – a marriage of sea algae and swallow’s saliva. 

In 1962 Ho Chi Minh said: “We held off the French for eight years. We can hold off the Americans for at least that long. American’s don’t like long, inconclusive wars. This is going to be a long, inconclusive war.”

Drenched by a monsoon rain, a leathery U.S. Marine sergeant and his platoon wait in the swampy dark outside a wretched hamlet where V.C. are reported hiding. Finally a wan moon reappears. Its dim light glints on weapons carried by four fleeing figures heading out of the village. The marines open fire. A grenade explodes.  

Says the sergeant: “I hate this goddamned place like I never hated any place before, but I’ll tell you something else: I want to win here more than I ever did in two wars before.”

Right now the war in Viet Nam is neither popular nor unpopular with most Americans. It is simply confusing.

But as U.S. commitment deepens, personal involvement becomes apparent to each of us. And it becomes expedient to know all the risks, reasons and alternatives. To know the facts.

And that is one of the reasons why I am sending you this special invitation to enroll as a regular TIME reader, at a special introductory rate:

. . . 17 weeks of TIME for only $1.87. (Just 11 cents an issue.)

But (you may ask) why do I want to read a newsmagazine? And why TIME?

Let me explain why…

In 1923 TIME initiated the newsmagazine idea.

It was a new technique of newsgathering and a new format for presenting the news which offered the reader a multiplicity of news stories each week about all kinds of human activity, within a unified structure.

There was also a consistent “tone of voice” throughout TIME’s pages. Because it was different from all other news media of the era, a new form of journalism had been introduced.

Today TIME’s way of presenting the news conforms completely with the way we live. It is as integral to our society as the electric and electronic wonders that surround us.

The newsmagazine form offers an integrated mosaic picture of our time…

Says Professor Marshall McLuhan, Canada’s social catalyst: “The newsmagazine form is pre-eminently mosaic in form presenting a corporate image of society in action…The reader of the newsmagazine becomes much involved in the making of meanings for this corporate image…”

After assembling what McLuhan calls “the crucial commodity of information” through many channels and from many sources, TIME prints only the most significant of that week’s news, news of greatest human interest. From all directions, covering all facets.

It is then up to the reader to assemble this mosaic of the news and discover for himself what it means…and by doing so becoming involved in his world in a way never before possible.

The reader begins to know who he is, what he is doing, and what it means to be a member of this particular society at this particular moment in history.  

Thus the newsmagazine is recognized as a modern, efficient and essential tool of communication.

But how does this happen? How does the reader receive sufficient information each week to formulate his own meanings?

If you know TIME (and most people do) you know that it covers the news each week completely in23 separate sections. Among them: The Nation, The World, People, Education, Law, Religion, Medicine, Art, Modern Living, Music, Sport, Science, Show Business, Theater, U.S. Business, World Business Cinema, Books.

Each section of Time is also composed as a mosaic…

Take “Medicine” for example. In six consecutive issues TIME published the important news about infectious diseases, orthopedics, metabolic disorders , cardiology, physiology, parasitic diseases, gynecology, cancer, neurology, doctors, diagnosis, bacteriology, gastro-enterology.  

In a single issues under “U.S. Business” there were stories on the economy, profits, auto, advertising, government, mining, banking. The following issue carried news of housing, publishing, publishing, communications, corporations, steel, money, retailing, oil, industry. And the next: shipping, airlines, finance, Wall Street, aviation, insurance, taxes.

One week recently under the heading “The Nation” TIME reported on President Johnson’s Hawaii Conference; the $3.39 billion foreign aid package; Senator Dirksen’s filibuster; Jimmy Hoffa; a wicked snowstorm; California’s Governor Pat Brown; Wyoming’s Governor Clifford Hansen; Mississippi’s Governor Paul Johnson; the Hudson River Valley; and the new head of all military construction in Viet Nam: Brig. Gen. Carroll Dunn.

TIME connects you with the world through a fascinating, complex, modern grapevine of information…

TIME’s staff of editors, writers, researchers and technicians scans the world to amass each week’s fund of new information. They read and translate millions of words, examine thousands of pictures, sift ideas, opinions, quotations, figures, reports….trimming, fitting, checking and transfixing it all into just about 125 columns of news and news-pictures each week. (TIME is a magazine for busy people.)

Each week too, there is an important Cover Story, a TIME Essay (on some subject as controversial as the Divorce Laws, or the Homosexual in America), and a color portfolio. With listings of what’s best in theater, movies, records, books, television.

Only an organization of TIME’s stature, structure and dimension could expend this amount of energy and effort.

But what is just as important: Time is a lot of fun to read … it often reads like fiction, humor or biography…

You can follow the exciting thriller 9reported from TIME’s Paris Bureau): “L’Affaire Ben Barka”, a sensational spy-murder-police scandal that has rocked France as the Dreyfus case did a the turn of the century.

You can play TIME’s new game of “barrendipity” (in contrast to “serendipity”, or the art of finding somewhere where you least expect to find it). Barrendipity is the art of not finding something where you might expect to find it: Danish pastry in Denmark, frankfurters in Frankfurt, English muffins in England, or baked Alaska in Alaska.

You can gain intimate knowledge of a great artist. From TIME’s Cover Story on pianist Arthur Rubenstein, who says:

“I’m passionately involved in life; I love its change, its color its movement. To be alive, to be able to speak, to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it’s all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle. Music is not a hobby, not even a passion with me. Music is me.”

With this weekly fund of news, insight, sidelight and background . . . you sense the unpredictable variety of life itself.

Writes Professor Marshall McLuhan: “By using our wits, we can translate the outer world into the fabric of our being.”

TIME helps you “translate.”

There is no set rule about how to read TIME. Some begin at the beginning. Others start from the back. What interests each man and woman is incalculable. So TIME tries to provide as much of interest and value to as many interested people as possible.

As the artists of 6th century Ravenna arranged mosaic tesserae according to size, contour and direction to create monumental designs, so TIME presents the design of our times.

Why not partake of this experience?

Our invitation is enclosed. It enrolls you at once as a TIME reader and brings TIME to your home or office regularly – for 17 weeks at only $1.87 (just 11 cents an issue).

Just put the card in the mail to me today – it’s already postage-paid.

And thank you.


Putney Westerfield

Circulation Director

DEAR FRIEND: The Rascals, Rogues and Roues Who Made American Junk Mail, Chapter 13: The Confederate Croupiers

By Ray Schultz

Born in 1837, the grandson of a Baptist minister, John Wanamaker was so good a student that one of his teachers said, “It is no use to send John to me any more; I have taught him all I know.” By rights, Wanamker should have gone into the family brick-building business, but he was diagnosed as a possible consumptive, and spent months in a Minnesota rest home. Filled with the “serious thoughts of one likely to die,” he left the family faith to join the Presbyterian church, then, that matter resolved and his health restored, turned to his livelihood.

In April 1861, as the city and country were buzzing about the Confederate attack on Fort Summer, Wanamaker, age 22, opened a ready-to-wear clothing store with his brother-in-law Nathan Brown: the Oak Hall Clothing Bazaar. Each man invested $2,000.

Soon, they were sending “four-page papers containing a good deal of miscellaneous and original reading matter, sandwiched between bright, readable advertising paragraphs, for instance, ‘A sad sign—to sign your name to a note; better buy your clothes at Oak Hall and pay cash,’” one historian wrote.

In 1969, the partners tried a larger store. And in 1877, after buying a parcel of land for $500,000, Wanamaker opened one of the country’s first department stores. It was heralded in a double-column advertisement in all the Philadelphia papers: “The Inauguration of the Dry Goods Business at the Grand Depot will take place Monday, March 12, from nine to six o’clock.”

Wanamaker hired a writer named J.E. Powers to write “daily store talk in bright, catchy sentences.” And he spent $300,000 a year on this advertising in a time when, as one historian noted, it was “not considered polite to advertise.” He also sent a 148-page mail order catalog containing “a list of the goods in every department in the store.”

The lifelong Sunday school teacher was a benign employer: Every staff member received two weeks vacation with full salary every summer–unusual for that time. And the company library was free for female workers.

Wanamaker was also active in politics. In 1888, he raised more than $200,000 for the Republican presidential candidate Benjamin Harrison, asking fellow businessmen, “What would you pay to be insured for a better year?” Later, he boasted, “We raised the money so quickly that the Democrats never knew anything about it.” That fall, Harrison unseated the sitting President Grover Cleveland, and Wanamker received the prize so often tendered to contributors and political hacks: The Postmaster Generalship.

As promised, Wanamaker approached this job as a businessman. “Gentleman, you want to run your post office as if there were another fellow across the street competing with you, and you were trying to get all of the business.” he said. But then he did something that was decidedly unbusinesslike—he tried to dump his largest customer: The Louisiana Library.


Louisiana had been occupied since 1867 by federal troops, and run, one outraged Southern editor charged, “by corrupt Republicans, ignorant Negroes cooperating with a gang of white adventurers, strangers to our interests and our sentiments,” reflecting the racism rampant in the former Confederacy. Among the newcomers was a 31 year-old Baltimorean named Charles T. Howard.

Some people said Howard inflated his Confederate war record, but it didn’t matter, for in 1868 he had something in short supply in Louisiana: capital provided by the New York gambler John Morris, and he liberally dispensed it to the Republicans in the legislature. His hosts rewarded him with a 25-year charter to operate a lottery, and made it a crime for anyone else to start one. And the company was exempted from all taxes except for a $40,000-a-year contribution to the state educational fund.

At first, the Louisiana Lottery sold chances mostly through policy shops in the state: the daily drawings were “the special curse of the colored population,” one observer alleged. But this was a limited market. In 1873, in perhaps his wisest move,  Howard appointed Dr. Maxmilian A. Dauphin as president.

Dauphin was born in 1837 in Alsace Lorraine, and emigrated to the United States at age 16 with a brother. But the siblings separated soon after arriving, and Maxmilian ended up friendless in New Orleans. He attached himself to Dr. Sam Choppin, “then the center of one of the most brilliant social, professional and politicial coteries.” and under his sponsorship became a physician. Then he went into business.

Dauphin knew that the lottery would never realize its full potential until it dominated the Yankee market, which it did, within a few years. Next to New Orleans, Washington was the most lucrative city. The Lottery offered tickets at cigar stores, hotels, saloons and barber shops, and through bootblacks and newsboys in the streets. And, of course, it peddled them by mail, so many that Bin “D,” in the Washington post office was assigned to Dauphin, and clerks worked into the night, using “express wagons and furniture cars to haul the outgoing mail,” one account reported.

It was similar in New York and Chicago, where lottery agents mailed tens of thousands of packages a month, containing letters, certificates, logos, entry forms and tickets, and promises of “grand” and “extragavant” prizes.” One package sent in New York in 1880 said: .“No seed, no harvest.” Altogether, the Lottery’s mailings pulled in $30,000 a day, or almost $11 million a year. And they constituted 45 percent of the entire business of the New Orleans post office.

The Lottery could usually buy off anyone in its way, but it made a mistake when it offered payments of $25,000 a year to Anthony Comstock, made out to him personally. The vice crusader yelled, ““As long as I live and have my reason and health, your company shall never have another office open in New York.” No matter: business went on.

The drawings were held in an ancient hall in New Orleans, with an alligator paddling around in a pool outside. And they were under the “personal supervision” of two venerated Confederate generals: Jubal T. Early, who had torched Montgomery Blair’s house in Maryland during the war, and G.T. Beauregard, both dressed in Confederate gray and crowned with white hair.

General Beauregard “was of large stature, but the progress of years weighed heavily upon him, and his shoulders were bent so as to throw his florid face, with its full white hirsute covering, forward towards the floor. Gray-blue eyes, fierce and penetrating, gleamed beneath bushy, overhanging brows. A suit of Confederate gray clothing, well cut and near, covered the aged man.”

Then there was Jubal, “clad in black, and a handsome face crowned by now-white closely cropped hair was poised proudly sabove an elegant, dignified form,” aided by two small boys wearing knickers.

The generals were each paid tens of thousands of dollars a year to stand on stage once a month and “preside.” The drawings featured blindfolded boys from a local orphan asylum, and were conducted before men who were “redolent of rum and tobacco and poor bathing facilities, and had no taste or money for clean raiment,” according to one eyewitness account. “With the utmost solemnity, Croupier Early proceeded to blindfold the boy beside him,” wrote another witness. “Located near the brazen drum, Croupier Beauregard, with corresponding gravity, tied a white handkerchief over the eyes of his juvenile assistant.”

The drawing began. Jubal drew the white paper from the encircling black rubber tube. In measured tones he read the number, 48,146.” The voice of General Beauregard was likewise measured and somewhat harder in is timbre when he called the figures on the white slip of paper which he drew from the little black tube: ‘200’ he said.” What it meant was the holder of ticket 48,146 had won $200.”

Several larger prizes were drawn, including jackpots of $100,000 and $300,000, but no winner came up to claim them, causing groans in the gallery. With good reason: One third of the tickets in the drum were unsold, still owned by the Lottery, which meant that the bettors were playing against the house. And the house did well. Government lotteries in Europe distributed up to 85% of their ticket money in prizes; the Louisiana Lottery kept more than half.

In 1890, Congress passed yet another law making it a crime to use the mails to conduct a Lottery. Unlike previous bills, this one made it a crime even to patronize a lottery by mail. Harrison signed it, and Wanamaker vowed to enforce it.

Dauphin decided to bypass the mails, employing private express deliverers and in this way removing he criminal taint for customers. His ads advised players to “remit currency by express at our expense. Give full addresa and make signature plain.” But the pressure and his rich New Orleans diet must have gotten to him, for in December Dauphin died at age 53 after a brief illness. Charles Howard was dead, too, having been thrown from a horse.

Paul Conrad, former chief clerk of the Lottery and part owner of an ice company, took over. As Pattee and Nathan Read had done, he opened a Lottery office in Canada, then had circulars sent over the border to advertise the fact that “recent changes in the United States Postal regulations have rendered it preferable to more closely consult the interest of our Canadian patrons by establishing a branch office in Canada.”

At this point, the Supreme Court of Louisiana was deciding whether to renew the Lottery charter or put it on a ballot referendum. The court, heavily subsidized by the Lottery, ruled to renew, and Conrad quickly got out a mailing hailing the victory. And he rubbed it in Wanamaker’s face: The pamphlet contained return express envelopes addressed to the New Orleans National Bank, again bypassing the Post Office. Worse, it was designed to look like a newspaper, and was mailed at the second class rates for pubishers.

That tore it for Wanamaker. Employing the full machinery of law enforcement, postal authorities made 153 arrests. But they rarely netted anything more than a $500 fine. Still, the bad publicity had its effect: The flow of incoming envelopes slowed down to a trickle.

Conrad had one more trick. He relocated the Lottery to Honduras, and started sending pink circulars under the name the Honduras National Lottery Company by express mail, bypassing the post office. “We use the express companies in answering correspondents and sending lists of Prizes to the U.S.A.,” they said. “Reply by Express only.”

But it didn’t work. In 1892, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the anti-lottery laws and Conrad announced that he would close shop. Wanamaker claimed victory. Morality and sound business practices had prevailed over the rebels. In 1895, green goods were also wiped out in the courts.

Too bad not all of Wanamaker’s schemes ended in victory. He was ridiculed for his most brilliant idea: Free rural delivery. One Republican editor wondered whether Wanamaker also wanted to “have the Government present every farmer with a free telephone and a free telegraph instrument.” Free rural delivery wasn’t enacted until after Wanamaker left office.

The robber baron Jay Gould himself denounced as socialistic Wanamekr’s plan to nationalize the telephone and telegraph systems and run them through the post office. Then it was over: Harrison lost to Grover Cleveland in the 1892 election, making Cleveland the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. Wanamaker returned to his business, and lived until 1922, despite his youthful fears of consumption.

Chapter 14: The Road To Wellville

DEAR FRIEND: The Rascals, Rogues and Roues Who Made American Junk Mail, Chapter 26: Black Mail

By Ray Schultz

To the untutored, 1940 probably seemed like just another year ending in a zero. The movies Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were playing around the country. On the radio, one heard Frank Sinatra singing with the Tommy Dorsey band. But some people were not consoled by such entertainment: The Germans were overrunning Europe, the Jews were in peril.

In March 1939, a charitable group called the Committee of Mercy, had sent a direct mail letter to people of good will:

Dear Friend:

The situation of the intellectual Jews who are still living in Germany in a state of misery, humiliation and ill-treatment attains a degree of horror which cannot easily be described in words. They endure it with great courage. They say:

“We do not mind so much for ourselves. We have made the sacrifice of our lives and of our welfare. We let them take our properties, our wealth, our factories, etc……We do not ask any help for ourselves, but for pity’s sake save our children.”

It was an eloquent plea, but the letter went on to offer anti-Semitic readers a way out: WILL YOU HELP? it asked. Or if you do not care to assist the Jews, will you aid the tubercular, and pre-tubercular children in France?

It’s not known how many recipients took either option. Either way, the letter reminded them, without explicitly saying it, that there could be another war.

Soon there was. And Time magazine hammered it home, both on its pages and in its direct mail pieces. This is America’s year, it said in a letter dated Jan. 2, 1940 and signed by Time’s circulation manager Perry Prentice. It continued:

All over Europe the lights are going out. All over Europe the nights are dark with fear.

But here in America the nights are bright with the lights of a thousand factories as America starts back to work after the long depression — bright with the lights of a thousand laboratories whose discoveries may change the course of history and all the ways of our living — bright with the lights of forty-million homes, where Americans are newly confident that they can find and conquer new frontiers in the American way.

 Yes–this is America’s year — so this is the year you need TIME most.”

The letter went on to offer a subscription.

That was soon followed by:

Time has been banned in Germany! 

Banned in Russia! Banned in Italy! Banned in Japan!

But here in America, where men are still free to think and learn the truth — thousands upon thousands of new families are turning to TIME each week to help them make the confusing news and war and peace make sense.

In February, at the height of the Phony War, Time sent a a direct mail piece, saying:

This is the dullest war in history…


But it’s a tremendously exciting, moving, portentious war for those who know and understand what is really going on…

 …tremendously exciting for the readers of TIME.

Two months later, with Hitler now on the march, recipients read this stark reminder:

When kingdoms vanish in the night…

  – and nations wake to find the enemy within their gates..

Millions of people snap up each extra as it comes off the press and scan each headline in fear and horror – as puzzled children turn to parents for reassurance and explanation.

The real war had started. And in June, Time reported this

The Nazi Blitzkrieg has swept like a flame —

–over Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Northern France.

 In eight short weeks kingdoms and governments have fallen, peoples have been subjugated, the balance of power of the whole world has changed.

 It cannot go on much longer, many experts say — the next hundred days should tell the story.

In September, Time continued on its roll.

Dear American

Ours is the tragic previlege–

     The tragic previlege of living and taking part in the greatest worldwide military crisis since Napoleon, the greatest American election crisis since Lincoln, the greatest economic crisis since Adam Smith.

     And in times like these, when the news is so confusing and so dramatic and so immediately important — no American need be reminded that keeping thoughtfully well-informed is a personal duty.              

Meanwhile, there was a struggle between isolationists like Charles A. Lindbergh, whose comments were tinged with anti-Semitism, and those who felt the U.S. had to help defeat Hitler. Among the latter was Henry Hoke, the 46 year-old Baltimore native and Wharton graduate who had befriended Louis Victor Eytinge. Hoke was ever on the alert for frauds who abused the medium, and he felt he had uncovered just such a group.

The Nazis.

The Germans were using the U.S. mails to spread propaganda, and Hoke, whose son Pete had received pro-German circulars at Wharton, took it on himself to expose them. As he wrote later, in a book titled Black Mail, “the German government, through mail issued by specified agencies to selected lists, was attempting to divide the country so that the United States would be helplessly unprepared for future military attack.”

For instance, “the German Library of Information guided by Matthias F. Schmitz (assisted by George Sylvester Viereck), issued about 90,000 copies of a semi-weekly, well printed and written Facts in Review to ministers, school teachers, editors of college papers, legislators, publishers,” Hoke wrote in May 1940 in his magazine. “Purpose: to sell the National Socialist ideology and to prevent preparedness against attack.”

Then he added that “the German Railroads Information Office, guided by Ernest Schmitz, issued about 40,000 weekly mimeographed bulletins to hotel mangers, travel agencies, stock brokers, bankers and ‘small business men,’” to “convince Americans that the Nazi system of doing business was best.”

Hoke wasn’t done: “The American Fellowship Forum, guided by Friedrich E. Auhagen, assisted by George Sylvester Viereck, Lawrence Dennis, and others, issued pamphlets or bulletins to a ‘cultural class,’—educators, civic leaders, authors and a selected list of persons who might be sold the idea that the German mind was filled with nothing but the milk of human kindness for all humanity.”

It took courage to write that, even for an American tucked safely at home in Garden City, Long Island. E. Schmitz, from the German Railroads Information Office, wrote to demand that Hoke retract these “slanders,” and assured him that if he did, “a waiver will be given, releasing you and your publication from further claim.” Hoke noted that the letter “had been sent to my home…not to my office.”

Hoke published his exchange with Schmitz in a special mailing—“I refuse to be intimidated by you or by any German controlled organization. I refuse to have my family intimidated,” he wrote. And he got more outspoken as he realized the scope of the German operation.

“For the first time, it was possible to show how the Nazis had built a large mailing list (estimated at 250,000) of German Americans with relatives in Germany…how Japanese boats brought hulls full of printed material from Hamburg, Munich, Berlin…how these pieces were delivered under International Postal Union Treaties free of charge by the United States. (Under International Postal Treat, the country of origin retains the postage collected,” he wrote in Black Mail. “The country of delivery delivers free. A wash-out transaction to avoid bookkeeping).”

But the Germans were only part of it. Hoke found that Sen. Burton K. Wheeler, the Montana Democrat who had broken with Roosevelt over his court-packing plan, was sending out isolationist mail under his free Congressional frank. Analyzing the addressing on the envelopes, Hoke traced the pieces to a German group: the Steuben Society, Also sending seemingly pro-Hitler mail, for free, was Rep. Hamilton Fish (R-NY), who in 1938 had met with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Europe, and reportedly said that Germany’s demands in Poland were “just,” according to Hoke.

Hoke deplored the anti-Semitism shown by many isolationists. “On April 25, 1941, in Omaha, Nebraska, Charles B Hudson, violently anti-Semitic publisher, admitted to reporters that he had distributed isolationist speeches under the Congress free mailing franks of Senators Worth Clark of Idaho, Bennett Champ Clark of Missouri and Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, and Representatives Oliver of Maine and Bolton of Ohio,” he reported.

Hoke wrote to Wheeler: “Unaddressed franked mail under your signature and under that of former Representative Jacob Thorkelson of Montana, has been distributed by your violent adherent Donald Shea at his anti-Semitic meetings and by Nazi-loving, Jew-baiting Joe McWilliams at Christian Front meetings. Recipients were instructed to address the franked envelopes and dump them into the nearest postal box, without payment of postage.”

Of course, isolationists had a right to circulate their views, although not under franked mail, Hoke argued. Wheeler fought back. “I am not seriously concerned about Mr. Hoke’s misrepresentations,” he wrote in a letter. “In the first place, Mr. Hoke is interested in direct mail advertising, as he himself says, and is opposed to the use of the franking privilege on general principles.”

Wheeler then claimed that “Mr. Hoke makes no reference to the fact that those in Government who apparently favor our intervention in foreign war sent out under various Congressional franks some 2,00,000 pieces of mail all over the United States, much of it distributed by the pro-interventionist committees and organizations.”

Wheeler also falsely wrote that Hoke was employed by the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai Brith, as if that discredited him. Meanwhile, Hoke reported that the supposedly good name of the Order of the Purple Heart was being used as a cover in the scheme.

Events moved quickly. FDR was elected to an unprecedented third term in November 1940. On June 2, 1941, Hoke wrote, “a friend beside a news ticker called me on the ‘phone to beat the headlines…’Henry, you ought to be glad to know,’ he said, ‘the President of the United States has just issued an executive order closing the German Railroads…the German Library of Information…and the German Consulates.’”

Hoke was pleased, although this crusade had practically wrecked his business. But he kept after the Nazi sympathizers, using the techniques of his trade to undo them. For example, friends wrote flattering letters to the appeasers, using dummy names, and soon received isolationist letters addressed to those names, fueling his investigative reporting. And more was to follow.

“We learned from a girl who worked in a locked and guarded room on the top floor of the Ford Building at N. 1710 Broadway in New York City that Ford Motor Car Company employees were compiling a master list of appeasers, anti-Semites, pro-Nazis and Fascists from fan mail addressed to Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, to former Senator Rush Holt and to Representative Hamilton Fish,” Hoke wrote.

He added that “the lists, when compiled, were delivered to Bessie Feagin, circulation manager of Scribner’s Commentator. That explained how some of the dummy names used in writing to radio orators eventually got on the list of the American First Committee and Scribner’s Commentator. But why the Ford organization? But why…a lot of things?”

Feagin was eventually hauled before a grand jury, as were many others, including Hamilton Fish. “No one knows what Hamilton Fish told the Grand Jury on December 5, 1941,” Hoke said. “Someone was pulling every possible string to have the case buried.”

Two days passed. Then: “Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, just as our little family sat down to dinner…the flash we feared came over the radio…Pearl Harbor!”

Time wasted no time in getting letters out:

Dear American:

And now the news is happening to us!

Its unpredictable turns and changes are altering the whole course of your life — the job you work at, the town you live in, the clothes you wear and the food you eat.

The news is happening to you in the Pacific — and sudden developments in Malaya and the China Sea, at Singapore and off San Francisco, in Tokyo and Manila and the Dutch East Indies can change your life more than you can possibly change it yourself.

The news is happening to you across the Atlantic — where Russia bleeds Germany white, where American tanks fight the Axis in Libya, where Britain waits tense for an attempted invasion – and your life and my life, the safety of our families and the future of our children all wait on tomorrow’s news.

The news is happening to you at home — where new laws and new regulations pour out of Washington – where entire industries are changing over to war production, where uniforms fill the streets and the whole nation moves with a new unity and determination.

Yes, the news is the biggest things in our lives today – stirring and vital and very near us all. And it is very confusing.

And that is why this is the year you need TIME most.

Despite this development, and the collapse of the America First organization, the flow of isolationist mail continued, some letters containing vicious attacks on “the Jews.” George Sylvester Vierick was indicted by the Federal Grand Jury for failure to give a true statement of his activities in registering as a german agent, and held on $15,000 bail. (Nazi agent).

Hoke recorded the scene:

“11:30 P.M. Judge Lawes appears and the courtroom is filled with an air of dignity…and tension. The jury walks in a semi-circle at the side of the bench. Viereck stands before the jury and glares. The clerk reads each count and the foreman answers—‘Guilty’…six times. Vierecks lawyer asks that the jury be polled. Viereck glares at each juror as the question is put six times, an the answer six times is ‘Guilty.’ Seventy-to times Viereck hears his ‘fellow citizens’ say the word ‘Guilty.’ The big marshal standing behind George Sylvester Viereck takes out his handcuffs and the Nazi agent goes out through the back door. Court adjourned.”

It was the last blast for Viereck—and also for junk mail. As they had in World War names disappeared from iists—these men were unreachable. Not that it mattered– there were paper shortages that prevented mail pieces from being printed. And there was nobody to send them, for copywriters and list brokers were now in uniform. Except for the mail sent by charitable fundraisers, like the people who served coffee and donuts to servicemen, the business was on hold.

Chapter 27: The Veteran’s List



Riding the Rails

By Ray Schultz

Spare me your three-word tweets: I yearn for the day when publishers sent four-page direct mail letters. They were worth reading whether you responded or not.

Take this stirring note written by the copywriter Frank Johnson. It’s for a book on railroads offered by American Heritage magazine.

The letter is dated Dec. 30, 1974, but readers probably didn’t get it until the calendar year 1975. If I’m reading it correctly, in fact, the book wasn’t available until that summer.

Hmnn, I wonder if the volume was even written when the letter went out: The single-spaced missive almost serves as an outline or proposal. Did American Heritage plan to go forward only when it had sufficient orders? (Hardly an uncommon practice in those days).

It’s hard to know now. In Frank Johnson’s files, the piece is identified only as RR letter – final, 11/13. And there’s no information on response. But one thing’s for sure: This letter is a richly enjoyable piece of Americana. And it could only have been written by someone who grew up in Ohio, listening to those railroad whistles. Here’s Frank Johnson at his absolute best.

 December 30, 1974

If you’re old enough and lucky enough, you can remember lying in bed as a child and hearing, far off, the whistle of a steam locomotive as it pounded through the night. The wail was hoarse, mournful, inimitable. And once upon a time it was a siren song for any youngster.

You could imagine the engineer, red bandana around his neck, eyes riveted on the gleaming rails ahead, wind-blown and ruddy in the glow from the open fire door. You envied – oh, how you envied – the impossibly glamorous travelers in the spruce train behind, eating five-course feasts in the spotless dining car, ice tinkling in their wine buckets. Or snug in their berths behind swaying green curtains in the long Pullmans, each car lettered with its name. “Someday,” you told yourself, “”Someday ….” It was magic.

Someday, lackaday. Such high-style overland travel is almost gone, as someone has said, with the wind. But as all of us who remember can tell all of us who were a bit too young, railroads were once magic carpets for Americans. The miraculous iron horse changed our modes of life more radically than any mechanical device before or since, from steel plows to airplanes.

Railroads are obviously an important part of the American experience That’s one reason why our editors are now at work on a first-rate, expertly written and illustrated history of the subject.

But I’m inviting you to look at the completed book for ore reasons than its “importance.” As you already now a proper history of railroads is bound to include invention, skullduggery, wild economics, outrageous politics, dashing adventures, and a motley cast of characters. A great history of American railroads, I think you’ll agree, should also include a touch of the magic you – or your parents, and theirs – once felt.

And that touch will be evident in our forthcoming AMERICAN HERITAGE HISTORY OF RAILROADS IN AMERICA. Here I’d like to tell you about the book, make some heady claims, and offer to prove them by sending you a copy late this summer, on approval, and at a good bargain.

To get the magic as well as the facts of that important, colorful story into one illustrated book calls for someone who has an intimate knowledge of America’s history, and more than a bit of railroading experience. Ideally, this historian should also have ready access to the archives of railroad pictures and art; and the ability to write with precision, economy, and wit.

Not by happenstance, our author with all those qualifications built in is Oliver Jensen. For two decades he has been the editor of the world’s biggest and best-known history magazine, American Heritage. All his life he has been railroad buff. And he founded and is chairman of the Valley Railroad of Essex, Connecticut. It features antique steam engines and restored wooden coaches.

He starts with the achievement of the wonderful 19th-century “locomotive engine”: For the first time, you could move across the land without using leg power of some sort! That thought simply hadn’t occurred to right-thinking people since the world began. Even the idea of an “engine” was new in 1830, when The Best Friend of Charleston, the first practical U.S-built locomotive, began to haul goods and people. (So new that six months later, The Best Friend’s unsuspecting fireman, annoyed by the hissing safety valve, sat on it to gain a few quiet moments … his and the boiler’s last.)

But wonder turned to love, and to avarice, in short order “Railroad fever” brought a mania for wildcat railroad enterprises … and a push of rails to the new western states. “West” in the 1830’s an ‘40’s meant Ohio Indiana, Illinois. And access to their rich lands quickly emptied New England’s hardscrabble farms of ambitious young men, and built the first railroad city: Chicago.

Early on, you’ll come across familiar names in new roles. For example, that foxy young railroad lawyer, Abraham Lincoln of the Illinois Central; U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, espousing the virtues of a southern route for the projected transcontinental railroad; Peter Cooper, racing a horse with his Tom Thumb engine; John Quincy Adams, escaping injury in the firs train wreck; and Andrew Carnegie as a young train dispatcher.

A B.&O. train was stopped by John Brown’s men during the bloody raid at Harpers Ferry. Once released, the conductor wired the first news of Brown’s threatened rail blockade – and U.S. Marines were rushed to the rescue, by train. From the Civil War on, railroads were to be part and parcel of all military strategies.

But not even war could stop the drive west. Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862, chartering two companies to complete the first Atlantic-to-Pacific rail link. “The Great Highway of Nations between OCCIDENT and ORIENT,” as the ads had it, was completed just seven years later. What rousing stories there are to tell about railroading in the 1860’s: The stolen “General” and the great locomotive chase, Promontory Point and the golden spike, the real emergency that tested the first air brake ….

RAILROADS IN AMERICA will put you on scene at these historic occasions, with fine reproductions of wartime Brady and Gardner photos; with paintings and sketches made by artists who followed the Irish and Chinese track layers into the Rockies; with a moving picture essay of Lincoln’s funeral train; with enticing posters (“83 hours, coast to coast!”), and photos of spidery trestles and tangled wrecks.

The whole saga of our railroads is one of the most picturesque – and best-pictured – in America’s history. So the 300-and-more carefully chosen illustrations in the book are remarkably evocative windows to the past.

You’ll see how the notorious railroad robber barons o the late 19th century were often viciously lampooned by press cartoonists. And you can understand why they were so cordially hated: Among other tyrannies, U.S .cavalrymen were used to break a strike that had been called because the Pullman Company cut its workers’ wages, but not the rents fro the Pullman-owned tenements. There were reasons aplenty by the turn of the century for America’s biggest business to become our most stringently regulated one as well.

But of course railroads were also an economic force that simply coined capital, built cities, populated our plains, made a national market, and cud take you anywhere in the U.S.A. – Key West, Death Valley, Pike’s Peak – in posh style. So by and large, although there was plenty to complain about, there was more to love America’s passion for railroads continued well into the 1930’s.

A chapter looks at the great “name” trains, such as The 20thCentury Limited, The Overland Limited, The Santa Fe Chief – and the music and literature and art they inspired. Another shows you the workmen: the lordly engineer; the fireman, with his giraffe-necked oil can; the busy conductor, turnip watch in hand; the lantern-swinging brakemen; the sledge-hammering trackmen, called gandy dancers ….

Then a couple of spectacular chapters lead you through the crowded bell-echoing palaces we once had for depots, up the long red carpets, and aboard sinfully luxurious cars – with pump organs to sing around, plush an inlaid-rosewood décor barbers, shoe shines, and blue stories in the men’s lounges, already blue with the smoke of fine havanas. And the dining cars, the menus, the service! Wait till you see these pictures.

An 1870’s guidebook advised the rail traveler to “sit and read, play games, and indulge in social conversation and glee.” And so we did. But the “glee,” and the boarding stocks, and the dragon-like locomotives that grew from big to huge to gargantuan – such excitements, obscured some problems. By World War I, seven major “combinations” controlled the country’s key rail systems. Like their steam engines, they were massive, impressive, and doomed.

World War II gave the monsters a brief, busy respite from the attacks of the subsidized competition and the dry rot of rigid managements and archaic laws and too-soft featherbeds for labor. Then came the years of “last trips” and abandonments, of rust and recrimination and nostalgia. The pictures here are exceptional.

And the last chapter, if not a “happy” ending, is a most hopeful one for all of us who wish this once-lovely way to go would get going again. What’s the most fuel-efficient, prettiest device for moving tons of goods and crowds of people across the U.S.A.?

Listen for that whistle. It’s beginning to sound again.

Meanwhile, I can promise you a wonderful trip through history with THE AMERICAN HERITAGE HISTORY OF RAILROADS IN AMERICA. To see an early copy of the $27.50-retail book, with an option on the lowest price we can offer, $19.95, return the enclosed form promptly. There’s also a most elegant, and slipcased, de luxe edition. See the form.

Of course we’ll guarantee the special price, regardless of inflation; and the book is fully returnable if it doesn’t whistle your tune.* But I’m sure it will. And thank you!


Paul Gottlieb


*Speaking of steam whistles and tunes. SONGS AND SOUNDS OF THE GREAT DAYS OF STEAM is both title and description of a rousing stereo record we’ll have available for buyers of the book. The enclosed folder describes it.





Calling Western Union

By Ray Schultz

Direct mailers have often tried and failed to find alternative delivery systems. But they were offered one in the early 20th century by a trusted brand name.

“The Western Union Telegraph Company has a complete messenger service for delivering telegrams,” manager J.A. Rudd told Printers’ Ink magazine in an interview published on Sept. 30, 1903.

That said, Rudd announced that this service had been expanded to include advertising matter. It would cover “more than 30,000 cities, towns and villages in every part of the United States.”

As Rudd explained, two developments drove this move. First, the company realized that its messengers had too much time on their hands.

“They came to the offices at eight in the morning, uniformed and ready for work, but the rush did not begin until eleven o’clock, and at three it was over,” Rudd said. “This left five or six hours of time during which they were unoccupied.”

Second was the fact that the Post Office had excluded some publications from second-class privileges.

“The express companies could not handle mail matter, and many publishers were at a loss for methods of distributing their periodicals,” Rudd explained.

So Western Union stepped into the breach, delivering samples, advertising literature, catalogs and “any other matter that we could profitably handle,” Rudd said. “Our service is not based on weight, like that of the Post Office, but on individual deliveries, and we are able to distribute small packages at rates far below those of the express companies.”

Case in point: “A publication weighing one pound, which is the minimum weight of most monthly magazines and trade journals,” Rudd said. “The government carries such a publication for one cent at second-class rates, or eight cents third-class. We deliver it for one cent, and get a signed receipt in each case. The latter is turned into the publisher.”

Rudd continued that, “for a publication weighing five pounds we charge four cents, saving a penny on second-class rates, and thirty-five cents on third-class, under which catalogues are mailed.”

And samples? One patent medicine seller “had a remedy which he was sending by mail, selling it at twenty-five cents,” Rudd said. “Postage came to twelve cents, eating up his profit. Consignments of this remedy were shipped to our distributing centres, and when the manufacturer received an order a bottle was delivered and twenty-five cents collected form the addressee. This service cost five cents, including return of money and receipt.”

Thanks to clients like this one, there was so much work that “we are now putting on boys who work wholly at delivering,” Rudd added.

Western Union even offered mailing lists. “We have made no attempt to furnish addresses to our customers, but our books contain thousands of cable addresses, and we also have lists of wholesale and retail houses throughout the country,” Rudd stated. “These lists, under certain conditions, are accessible to responsible customers.”

It’s not clear how long this service lasted. But there was one false note in Rudd’s presentation.

“There are thousands of people right here in New York who have never received a telegram, and delivery by telegraph messenger is an event,” Rudd said.

That’s a little dubious. As I recall, a telegram was a frightening thing for an average person to get—it usually meant a death in the family.

The Schlock That Wouldn’t Die

By Ray Schultz

I recently had breakfast with a filmmaker whose masterworks include 2000 Maniacs, The Gore Gore Girls, and Blood Feast, the first movie in which “people died with their eyes open.”

The producer of those splatter classics, now eating yogurt and cereal in a hotel coffee shop, was Herschell Gordon Lewis, a direct mail copywriter and an inspiration to anyone who wants to have fun as well as make a living.

“The technique I learned of how to cause an unsuspecting yokel to come into a theater has served me well in my dotage years in direct marketing,” he confessed.

I couldn’t resist asking how a person goes from being a footnote in movie history to a junk mail legend. Herschell had already worked as an English professor, a disk jockey, and a general ad person, when he started making low-budget gore flicks in Chicago in the 1960s (he just happened to own a half interest in a studio that did commercials and government training films). His first was Blood Feast, which was also the first movie in which fiends “reached in a girl’s mouth and pulled out her tongue.”

Hard to top, wouldn’t you say? But he tried, in follow-up blood fests like Color Me Blood Red and She Devils on Wheels. Men were sliced and diced, white-mini-skirted women were crucified (literally), and Lewis won himself a loyal cult following. A year or two ago, he showed up at a horror film festival in Milan to find the audience singing along—in English–with the opening song for 2,000 Maniacs:

There a story you should know

From a hundred years ago

And a hundred years we waited now to tell

Now them Yankees come along and they’ll listen to this song

They’ll quake in fear to hear this rebel yell


Herschell wrote and sang the soundtrack song himself, and still gets a small royalty– “about $30 every six months, a symbol of what I call the Schlock That Wouldn’t Die.”

Unfortunately, Herschell’s film career faded as distributors went bankrupt and the big studios came in with “more advanced skills in killing people onscreen.” (They didn’t have to splatter ketchup on the walls). And his advertising business took a nose-dive when a client went belly-up owing six figures.

Reduced to arguing with schlemiels about $40 typesetting charges, Herschel was ready to listen when asked to write a direct mail package for the Women of the Century series of collector plates from the Bradford Exchange.

Talk about landing on your feet: He showed a knack for selling collector’s items, and was soon given other assignments by Bradford. By this time, Herschell had gotten another break (the most important one of his life): his marriage to Margot, an agency colleague, who now became his partner in charge of the business end.

The pair moved on to the Calhoun Collector’s Society, where their projects included The Creation, a 12-plate series telling the Genesis story, and the Bethlehem Christmas Plate, which has to rank somewhere near Blood Feast in the Lewis canon.

To get the Bethlehem plate off the ground, Margot found a porcelain factory in Israel near the Lebanese border, then tried to find someone to authenticate the plate. But the best she could do was the Archimandrite Gregorious, an Orthodox prelate whose role in life appeared to be greeting the tour busses and asking for money. His picture, complete with black robe and hat, appeared on the plates, although “we had to airbrush the sunglasses,” Herschell says.

But it sold. “After two years, the Archimandrite was recalled or fired or what I don’t know. But we kept using his name, and he was immortalized. Right now, as we talk, he is hanging on somebody’s wall.”

Herschell confessed that “it’s possible to develop cynicism based on some of the things we market successfully. But there’s a big difference between cynicism and contempt.” One thing that appalls him is when he sees copywriters treating financial offers “in a light-hearted manner. I say, ‘Hold it there, fella, people take their investments seriously. When you make a joke out of it, you make a joke out of your proposition.’”

POSTSCRIPT: Herschell returned to filmmaking late in his career. Whatever he did, he was first to admit that none of it would have been possible without Margot. Now there’s an enduring marriage.


Time Was

By Ray Schultz

Time Inc, not even two years old and decades away from algorithms, sent personalized direct mail letters to businessmen in the 1920s. Take this piece identified in the files only as “before 25.” It went to Alexander Jones, of Market Street, Philadelphia. Since Time magazine debuted in 1923, that gives you some idea of the timeframe.

The letterhead says “Time,” and lists the address as East Thirty-ninth Street New York.” Here’s the direct mail letter:

 Dear Mr. Jones:

 Because TIME is particularly a magazine for people how are not “magazine readers”; for people who have little time to take up with new fads; it seemed to the publishers of TIME that the usual methods of subscription solicitation by mail and advertisements would not bring the new-magazine to the attention of those for whom it was primarily intended—the busy man and woman of affairs.

The publishers, therefore, asked a leading citizen and TIME subscriber in several large cities the great favor of suggesting the names of persons in his city to whom he thought the news-magazine would be of interest. Mr. Edward M. Bok in Philadelphia, Mr. William Allen White in Kansas, Mr. Robert Underwood Johnson in New York, Mr. Bernard M. Baruch, Mr. Otto Bannard were kind enough to give us the names of such people in their respective communities. The judgment of these men in this instance has been most effectively upheld.

The specimen issues of TIME sent to the busy persons whom they suggested have resulted in almost 100% enthusiastic subscribers—an unparalleled response. It is with a feeling of confidence that we have sent you the several issues of TIME. Whether or not you are in a position at the moment to enter a subscription we trust that TIME has afforded you as much pleasure in reading as we have had in sending them to you.

The enclosed card bears your name and address and requires only your signature to bring TIME for the next year. If you will return it promptly we shall take care to see that there is o gap in the delivery of your copies. The card is stamped ready for mailing. It will be a great pleasure to consider you as a subscriber.

Cordially yours,

 Briton Hadden



Alexander Jones Esq.,

Market Street,

Philadelphia, Pa.