Not too long ago, I purchased a copy of Detective Fiction Weekly (formally baring the Flynn's banner), issued the ninth of January, 1932. I ordered this issue specifically for the Sidney Herschel Small cover-story "Fireflies of Death." Stories of tong violence, the gang wars between rival Chinese secret societies in Chinatowns throughout the country during the earliest years of the last century, factor heavily into my current historiographical research, and make up a great bulk of my pulp purchases, as of late.
|Detroit Free Press - Page 8-A - Wednesday, August 4, 1971.
I found it immensely fascinating that a newspaper clipping, obviously removed from the rest of the paper with care, should be stuck between the pages of a nearly eighty-year old pulp, which featured a tong story on its cover, no less. Such placement produces a list of possible scenarios and reasons as to why it was there; questions that get to the very heart of my love of history and popular ephemera such as the pulps.
Was it placed by a secondary, or even tertiary owner of this magazine in later years, for some reason? Was it placed by a recent owner, to give a little mystery to the issue, and to create such thoughts and mental wanderings as I elucidate in type now? Or was it (what I like to believe is the case) that the original owner of this magazine, a boy or young man when it was first released, cut out this story and placed it within those pages decades later, as a kind of remembrance of the tales he marveled at in his youth?
It is, obviously, impossible to know the truth, and that is precisely what I find the most interesting. It is such speculation, concerning the past, that popular literature of bygone days provides for its posterity, the idea that you hold something that, monetary values aside, meant a great deal to someone, for one reason or another, in the past and, for whatever purpose, meant something to them over forty-years later. It is a tie to the past that no textbook, no recorded media, and certainly no "app" can provide: tangible, physical memories of someone, albeit however anonymous, and however ambiguous. To most, such a discovery would mean little; to the historian (and romantic, I can freely admit), however, such ephemera is invaluable.
Such things are but a few, of the many reasons, I care for the pulps; out of curiosity, would anyone else like to share their reasons, or have similar instances of wondering about a pulp's history, aside from its physical existence?