Pulp Census Report: Tip Top Semi-Monthly and Frank Merriwell

TIP TOP SEMI-MONTHLY – March 25, 1915 Second issue sold for just $36.00 and the April 10, 1915 Third issue sold for the same.

March 25, 1915 “VERY NICE. Except 2″ SPLIT AT BOTTOM… easy to re-glue. NICE BACK COVER AND GREAT PAGES !”;

TIP TOP SEMI-MONTHLY - March 25, 1915 (#2)
TIP TOP SEMI-MONTHLY – March 25, 1915 (#2)

April 10, 1915 “NICE. Except 3″ SPLIT AT BOTTOM… easy to re-glue. NICE BACK COVER AND GREAT PAGES !”

TIP TOP SEMI-MONTHLY - April 10, 1915 (#3)
TIP TOP SEMI-MONTHLY – April 10, 1915 (#3)

As a Pulp title it only had 18 issues. It began it’s

TIP TOP WEEKLY - April 18, 1896
TIP TOP WEEKLY – April 18, 1896

long history as the “Dime Novel” TIP TOP WEEKLY with the very first “Frank Merriwell” appearance, “Frank Merriwell or, First Days at Fardale” on April 18, 1896 and continuing until 1912 before transmorphing into NEW TIP TOP WEEKLY (August 3, 1912) with Frank Jr. taking over with “Frank Merriwell, Jr. or The Camp on Wind River”.

Frank  Merriwell (and Frank, Jr,) made it into TIP TOP SEMI-MONTHY (also brother Dick) but just seemed not able to translate into the Pulp magazines after such a long history. Frank did make 7 serials in SPORT STORY MAGAZINE in 1927-1928, 2 stories in FAME AND FORTUNE (ghosted by Warren Elliot Carleton), and 12 in TOP-NOTCH MAGAZINE 1929-1930 (the last 4 as serials) before finally heading into written retirement. He had a rare 27 1/2 minute 1915 Anti-Drinking Silent Movie, “Frank Merriwell in Arizona”. He made it into the newspaper funny pages from 1928 to 1936, and a very brief (don’t blink) 15 minute radio series in 1934 (and again from 1946 to 1949).

NEW TIP TOP WEEKLY - August 3, 1912
NEW TIP TOP WEEKLY – August 3, 1912

(An aside: in March 1973 he became President of the U.S, in a way. Let’s just say it’s a terrible story, best left forgotten, and leave it at that.)

Bookery states “Uncommon to Scarce” $10.00 – $25.00 – $50.00 (the March 10, 1915 First issue is listed as $20.00 – $50.00 – $100.00)

For a Pulp from 1915, “Scarce” (“…tough to find … a handful of couples may surface (yea, I’d like to see that – DLS), while…none may come up for sale at all. Most collectors will accept what condition they can find…” – Bookery), and a major character in the Pulp industry (although on his athletic last legs; he’s catch a brief second wind from 1928 to 1930), those prices seem a tad low, especially if you do find one in top condition (remember, 1915 here). It’s a title I watch for and have only seem about 6-7 copies surface in 8 years.

– Believes in Our Youth –
By William Fuchs

I knew him as Burt L. Standish. A million boys in the United States between the ages of ten and fifteen, who assiduously followed Frank Merriwell as he went through Fardale, into Yale and then put into the world again, knew him by that name. Every week we trudged to the neighborhood  bookstore and deposited our coins for the latest copy ofFrank Merriwell“.

TOP-NOTCH MAGAZINE - Second Nov. 1929
TOP-NOTCH MAGAZINE – Second Nov. 1929

The lad who had not heard of Burt L. Standish had not yet tasted of the joys of life.

But his name, he told me, is William Gilbert Patten. When he was seventeen he dropped the William. I suppose the reason was  that he hated to be called Willie. That was a “sissy’s” name and his imagination, which had been bred on the old Beadle and Adams thrillers, yearned for something bold and daring. Gil Patten, when uttered in the right tone was fine. In the little town in Maine where he lived the altered name brought him some respect from his fellows.

The spirit of  adventure was in him at the age of sixteen.Then he suddenly became fully aware that his mother wanted him to be a preacher and that his father was passionately set on making him a carpenter, a good trade by which one could make an honest living.  But Willy remained awake nights visioning overwhelming successes as a writer.

William Gilbert Patten (Burt L. Standish) (Oct. 25, 1866 – Jan. 16, 1945))
William Gilbert Patten (Burt L. Standish) (Oct. 25, 1866 – Jan. 16, 1945))
Willie was aghast when he finally discovered his parents’ ambitions for him. He pleaded with them, but to no avail. The elder Patten would never allow his son to become a writer. There was something indecent about writing for a livelihood.
So Willie put his toothbrush in his pocket and ran away to Biddeford, the mill town quite a few miles away, where he quietly secured a job in old man Gooch’s place. He spent six months there and then asked for a raise, it was refused him and Willie quit.
He came home. He brought money with him and the sophisticated air of a man the world. His parents welcomed him back with open arms, but his  father told him in words not exactly soft that he would have to go to work. But our hero went to sleep and dreamed of cowboys and Indians.
As he was telling me this Patten laughed. “I had a hard time convincing the folks that I could make money writing, but I finally did”.  He earned six dollars for two stories submitted to the Banner Weekly. For his third contribution he was awarded with seventy-five dollars. The fires of authorship burned in him fiercely. He sat down and wrote a full length novel. The title was “The  Diamond Sport”. He was paid $150 for it. His day had arrived at last. Henceforth Gil Patten would write novels. The world would yet recognize him as a genius.
Patten puffed his pipe and he laughed again as the recollection of those days came to him. “I was writing a lot then and making money. My books were all thrillers, stories of the golden West. In their pages roamed Indians and two-gun cattlemen. Whole wagonloads of brave pioneers were butchered by the ruthless red men. Men shot at the drop of a hat. They all chewed tobacco and swore.”
For about four years this continued. Then, when he had passed his twenty-first year. Patten suddenly decided to head for New York. He had saved a little money and felt sure of success in the big city.
A few months previously he had been struck by an amazing idea and with his ego guiding him he had started a newspaper. This venture had not been marked by an epochal success. Let Patten tell the  story:
“My mother put a stop to it when she found out that I was $900 in debt. She was scandalize. My father, she said, had never been more than $100 in debt in his whole life. That was about the only connection I have ever had with a newspaper.”
When Gilbert Patten came to New York it had already achieved a certain eminence among the cities of the world: Jenny Lind had sung here; the actor Forrest had performed before its citizens; the Bowery was the gaudiest and the most bizarre street in the United States; the Brooklyn Bridge was still unequaled by any other metropolis and Steve Brodie had gained undying fame by diving off it, and emerging alive; John L. Sullivan was still heavyweight champion and was to be seen nightly in his saloons; the girls in its show houses danced in tights: the Pulitzer Building still topped all other structures in the country; Fifth avenue was the flower of  residential districts; it was the city of opportunity. From all over the land came lads to seek their fortunes.
Into this seething pot Patten threw himself. He made the acquaintance of many men. Colonel Prentiss Ingraham,  biographer of Buffalo Bill Cody, developed a fondness for the young man and daily lectured him on the Western story. The Colonel said it would  never die, but his young listener was doubtful. His own stories seemed aged and decrepit to him. Thus far Frank Merriwell was still unthought-of in boy’s literature.
One day while Patten was in Camden, Maine, he received a long letter from Street and Smith who had taken over the leadership in the dime novel publishing business from Beadle and Adams. The firm wanted him to write a series of stories on a young man attending a military academy and afterward, if the thing were possible, to send the youth on a tour of the world and then through college. Patten chose Yale because, as he explained, it was the most democratic of all the institutions. Thus was Frank Merriwell  born. It was in 1896 that Patten wrote the first book. It was called “Frank Merriwell at Fardale,” and it sold for a nickel.
The book was an instant success. Patten in stilled a typewriter in his home and made ready to turn out a book a week. “The publishers thought that three years of this work would do for me; there were 20,000 words each week. But I kept it up for almost twenty years.” There was noticeable pride in his voice.
“In these twenty years I traveled all over the United States. But spent most of my time in New York. It was a terrific grind at first, but later I became used to it. As I grew to know Frank better I grew fond of him and I confess that I followed his adventures almost as breathlessly as his army of small readers.

“For one thing I rarely had much trouble in finding plots for the young man. I usually entangled him in some way or other and then let him out after he had shown his character. Need I tell you that Frank was always honest, courageous, resourceful, generous and was never one to take advantage even of an enemy ? However, Frank really wasn’t the brave fellow everybody imagined him to be. Frank was often scared, but me repeat that he was resourceful and he always managed to get out of every scrape I put him into.

“I think, though, that I rank’s greatest trait was his loyalty. That is what boys like, and undoubtedly this did much to popularize him with his young readers. Frank always stood by his friends, although he could have made a million dollars if he had turned against them. Merriwell had a sense of Justice and a sense of humor. These helped him.

“There were some bad aspects to Frank, but these were all natural ones. He loved to gamble and his desperate struggles to overcome this weakness filled many pages of my stories. He also had an eye pretty girl, but his was the wholesome respect one accords to anything beautiful. He was a clean-minded fellow.

“Frank Merriwell was what every boy would like to be. And his friends were of the sort we’d like to have. All of them were stanch and true and willing to lay down their lives for Frank Merriwell, and he would have done the same for them.

“The adventures of Frank when he traveled around the world must have delighted his followers. Frank went through England, France and other countries in Europe. In France Merriwell, always on the side of justice, leaped to the defense of Captain Dreyfus, who had been railroaded to Devil’s Island on a trumped-up charge.”

As Patten talked I examined him carefully. His hair is white, but his eyes reflect a daredevilish gleam. The spirit of youth is far from dead in him. He is tall and graceful, a genial fellow and addicted to pipe smoking.

I have no doubt that, just like Merriwell, Patten would not be averse to playing a prank on anybody. If I can remember correctly the former was responsible for putting a centipede in the bed of one of the students at Fardale. He engineered many more tricks on his friends. I would not be at all surprised if those close to Patten have been the victims of some of his mischievous pranks.

Patten still writes about Frank Merriwell. The stories appear in the Top-Notch Magazine. Patten was one of the founders of the magazine and he edited it through the early years of its existence. But he discovered that writing and editing were too much for him. He preferred to write, so he sent the editorship down the line.

Few people know that Patten uncovered the playing value of Bill Carrigan, famous Boston Red Sox catcher of a decade ago. Patten ran a semi-pro baseball team in Camden and Carrigan played on his team. Patten explained laughingly that he had used Carrigan in every position but that of catcher. When he heard that Carrigan was regarded as one of the most valuable catchers in the American League he was astounded.

Patten reads the sporting pages, but he is not very enthusiastic about the sports themselves. The love of the game is gone, he thinks. In his opinion, Albie Booth is one of the great football players of the generation. Patten had seen Booth in action once, against Dartmouth, and he says Booth’s playing prowess to his swiftness of foot and to the Yale star’s trick of relaxing and allowing himself to fall limp when tackled.

Frank Merriwell himself was something of a athlete. He was Yale’s greatest figure. Who can forget Merriwell’s thrilling home runs, which usually came in the ninth inning when two men were out, and Yale needed four runs to win.

But Gilbert Patten’s fondest treasures are letters he has received from parents and boys all over the country. He has rarely met a person who did not grow up on Frank Meriwell. Some of them know more about Merriwell than he himself. They have not forgotten their boyhood idol.

A paragraph from one letter sent to Patten by a heartbroken mother read: “My child was a wild boy until he commenced reading about Frank Merriwell. I loved my boy. He died in the Argonne (and), fighting for his country. If he his gone to heaven he owes it to Frank Merriwell. Thank you.”
AMAZING SPIDERMAN #8 Jan. 1964 by Jack Kirby(inks by Steve Ditko)
AMAZING SPIDERMAN #8 Jan. 1964 by Jack Kirby(inks by Steve Ditko)
ENJOY PULPS – David Lee Smith

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