Sunday 11 May 2014

Arthur S. Hoffman's departure from Adventure magazine - an update

A long time ago, when I published my first article on Arthur S. Hoffman, I mentioned that he probably left because the management changes to the editorial direction of Adventure magazine were not to his liking. Walker Martin disagreed with me on this, saying Hoffman wanted to make Adventure a higher quality magazine, and his decision to depart was not due to the management change. At the time, I thought we wouldn't resolve this until we found any other evidence. Well, I've found new evidence and here it is (from one of the magazines I acquired at the Windy City Pulp convention 2014).

From the Camp-Fire, 1 February 1935:

A FINE bright blaze crackles this time in the Camp-Fire. Thousands of comrades who have been in the circle year in and year out will feel the warm and cheerful glow on their faces. We have a message from one of the few great editors—the man who conducted our magazine with so much ability and honest enthusiasm that readers gave him a truly remarkable response of loyalty and friendliness. No large group of readers is so loyal as the older guard of Adventure. They are an unusual army of well-read and friendly men, and at their head still marches the talented comrade who sends us this greeting:

Carmel, N.Y.


Dear Comrades of the Camp-Fire:—

Is there room around the Fire for one of its old-timers? No adventures to tell about, but as I was the fellow who gathered the first wood and struck the first spark for this Camp-Fire of ours, maybe there's still a place for me to sit and listen to the others after I've given an account of myself.

I admit it: I've not been coming to the meetings. To make a long story short, when I resigned as editor of our magazine, I was more glad than sorry to do so. Partly because I was going to a better paying job but chiefly because it had become more and more plain to me that the new ownership (at that time) was set upon making changes in the magazine that seemed to me to doom it to go downhill. They even spoke of abolishing Camp-Fire and Ask Adventure as well as all other departments. After working hard for seventeen years to build up the magazine I naturally didn't want to stay and see it crumble away. Still less did I want to be held responsible by the readers for things I did not approve and could not prevent.

Well, our magazine did what I had foreseen—went downhill. Many a one of you has written me bemoaning that fact. A number of editors tried their hands; I do not think any editor could have made a success of the program and under the limitations laid down from above. Personally, I stopped reading the magazine. Camp-Fire at times seemed a mere travesty of what it had once been; I missed the old spirit among you, despite the faithful who did their best to keep things as they had been.

One day last summer, on one of my infrequent trips from the country, I stopped in to see Joe Cox of our old staff, having learned he'd returned to the magazine after its purchase by Popular Publications. I met the present editor and we went to lunch. We talked.

Then we talked more frankly, and for a long time. About nothing except the magazine and Camp-Fire.

On another visit we talked again, and this time one of the publishers sat in on our informal session.

And so I've come back to Camp-Fire.

No, I have no connection with the magazine in any way except as a reader.

I've come back merely as one of the Camp-Fire gang. Because, for the first time since some seven years ago, our magazine has an ownership and an editor who really understand it as we understand it and whose aim is to make it all that we used to find it. As I know from experience, it takes time to build up what we had, for what we had was not just printed words on pages but a spirit of comradeship and understanding that grew up among us. But now we're not only on our way, but picking up speed.

Some of you never deserted the Fire, so it could not die out entirely. Now we have an editor who is really one of us and, back of him, a house that also understands. It looks to me as if the good old times were coming back again.

Apparently it looks the same way to the rest of you, for the circulation has begun to go up steadily. Even during the summer months, dull ones for magazines, it was going up.

And very glad I am to be "home once more. I've been in touch with quite a few of you, both readers and members of our writers' brigade, and hearing occasionally from others, but it's good to be able to shake hands with all my old friends again and to meet the new comrades. Most of us have traveled a long and pleasant road together; there are many memories and old ties and there is good comradeship among us. Our Camp-Fire is now twenty-two years old.

Here's to its next, and better, twenty-two years.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Sai, for this additional information concerning why Hoffman left ADVENTURE. I'm familiar with this letter which was printed to show Hoffman's support of the magazine being published by the new publisher, Popular Publications.

    However, I also recall that more than once Hoffman in the 1920's discussed in The Campfire letter department, the subject of why certain readers did not buy ADVENTURE. He welcomed the fact that many blue collar workers, soldiers and sailors, and young men in college read the magazine. But he was trying to reach even more readers, especially in what he called the professional classes. He meant doctors, attorneys, businessmen, etc.

    These so called "professional" men often ignored the magazine thinking it was just another pulp and they did not realize that it was a quality fiction magazine publishing excellent adventure and action stories. Hoffman said the reason they did not realize the quality of the magazine was because of the rough, cheap paper and what many called the garish covers. They lumped ADVENTURE in with the other lower quality pulps and were embarrassed to be seen reading it because of the cheap paper and covers.

    So, I still really believe that he was completely supportive of the change to white, book paper and non-pictorial covers. Please see the October 8, 1926 issue, pages 174-176, where Hoffman makes it clear that he is excited about these new changes in the appearance of ADVENTURE..

    What I think may have happened is that the new appearance did not double and triple the circulation like he hoped but instead the circulation actually decreased(Despite all the griping about garish covers, etc, it was a proven fact that action covers caught the reader's eye and increased newsstand sales). Because of this failure in the great experiment, I think the new publishers made the decision to go back to the standard pulp covers and paper. This disappointed Hoffman of course and when they also made noises about eliminating some of the departments, then he must have wanted to get out. By this point he had been editor for a very long time and when the opportunity was offered to him of being editor of a major slick, well, he took it. He mentions McCLURES'S MAGAZINE paid more, and I would say probably alot more since the slicks paid higher across the board compared to the pulps.

    So I believe he left, on his own will, because the experiment failed and the new owners were going to return the old pulp policy and also because of the higher pay offered by another magazine.