Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Herbert J. Mangham (1896-1967)

Herbert J. or J. Herbert Maughiman
Aka Herbert J. Maugham
Musician, Journalist, Poet, Writer
Born April 27, 1896, Des Moines, Iowa
Died September 14, 1967, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Herbert J. Mangham, author of a single story in the first issue of Weird Tales, has long been a fugitive from inquiry. Once again the Internet has allowed us to find him and to question him about his past.

First is the question of his name. In Weird Tales, it was Herbert J. Mangham. Thirty-one years later, in an article in the Kansas City Star, it was still Herbert J. Mangham. Long before that, however, in the magazine Motion Picture in 1915, the name was J. Herbert Maughiman. On his draft card, in 1942, the first and middle names were switched, and he was Herbert Joseph Maughiman. Whether the Herbert came first or second, we have a name, and from there the case is broken wide open.

Herbert Joseph or Joseph Herbert Maughiman was born on April 27, 1896, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Joseph S. Maughiman (1855-1924) and Nettie Voorhees Maughiman (1862-1909). He lived in Salina, Kansas, as a child. Both of his parents were buried there, at Gypsum Hill Cemetery. In 1915, at age nineteen, he gave his address (in Motion Picture) as 1305 Locust Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. That location is significant because of its proximity to the old Central High School, located at the southeast corner of Locust Avenue and Eleventh Street. (1) I think it likely that Maughiman attended Central High School, graduating in about 1914. Whether he attended that institution or not, he continued his schooling at Kansas City Junior College, a college within the new Kansas City Polytechnic Institute. The Kansas City Polytechnic Institute occupied the same building as the old Central High School, which moved to new quarters in 1915. Maughiman lived only two blocks away.

Herbert J. Maughiman was in the Kansas City Junior College class of 1917. I can't be sure that he graduated, although there was enough time--from about 1914 to 1917--for him to have completed a two-year course of study. I'm almost certain that he served in the U.S. military during World War I, but I don't know any details on that. In the 1918 Savitar, the yearbook of the University of Missouri, Maughiman was listed as a member of the Dana Press Club. If he had already completed a two-year course of study plus time out for military service, he may have graduated from the University of Missouri in about 1919-1920. In the 1920 yearbook for Kansas City Junior College, Maughiman was listed as a newspaperman at the Kansas City Star, perhaps his first job in his chosen profession. (2)

Through high school and college, Maughiman supported himself by playing piano, at movie houses, nightclubs, concert halls, and "King Joy Lo’s restaurant on the second floor at Twelfth and Main streets" in Kansas City. (3) He also played on the Chautauqua and Lyceum circuits. In 1954, Mangham wrote to the editor of the Kansas City Star:
My fame is thin and localized, and my fortune is contained in a slim envelope of war bonds. But my life is richly threaded with travel, good friends, radiant women, varied foods and adventure. (4)
Writing was "his first love and he worked hardest at it." (5) In a newspaper item from 1929, he was described as a writer for "Life, Judge, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and other magazines." (6) Maughiman lived in New York at the time and as late as 1942, when he completed his draft card. Over the years, he sold news and feature articles to the Kansas City Star, the Kansas City Times, and other publications. His stories, articles, and poems include:
  • "Annabelle Thinks He's Cute" (poem) in Motion Picture, 1915
  • "Brazen" (poem) in Snappy Stories, July #2, 1918
  • "Everybody's Laughing Stock" in Argosy All-Story Weekly, Dec. 17, 1921
  • "The Growth of a Millet Seed" (article) in The Editor, Feb. 4, 1922
  • "A Lesson in Melodramatics" in Argosy All-Story Weekly, June 24, 1922
  • "His Public" (short story) in The Smart Set, Aug. 1922
  • "The Short Short Story" (article) in The Editor, Aug. 12, 1922
  • "So Different from the Rest" in Breezy Stories, Nov. 1922
  • "The Basket" (short story) in Weird Tales, Mar. 1923
  • "Fame or the Gate" in Top-Notch Magazine, May 15, 1923
  •  "Chez La Guillotine" (short story) in The Saturday Evening Post, Apr. 19, 1924
  • "Loon River Anthology" (poem) in Liberty, Sept. 5, 1925; reprinted in Zest, Jan. 1927
  • "Twilight of a Poet" with Russell Maloney in The New Yorker, Dec. 5, 1942
  • "The Life of Bobby Ortiz y Riley" in Prairie Schooner, Spring 1952
  • "Latin America Hears Anti-Castro Rumbling" (article) in the Indianapolis Star, Oct. 31, 1961
  • "Some Guatemalans Find Better Life by Begging" (article) in Kansas City Times, Feb. 3, 1966 
One of the reasons that Herbert Maughiman has escaped questioning over the years is that he was a world traveler and not always easy to find. His travels may have begun during World War I when he served in the U.S. military. He traveled to Mexico, South America, and all the countries of Europe. He may also have gone to New Zealand, and he may have been a pilot who knew or met Charles Lindbergh. Finally, Herbert J. Maughiman's life and travels ended overseas, his death coming on September 14, 1967, in Guatemala City, and his burial, with full military honors, at the American Cemetery in that city.

Here's a limerick by Maughiman:

Annabelle Thinks He's Cute
(from Motion Picture, 1915)
In the photoplays at the La Cynge
An actor appears on the scrynge
   Who's "great" only in size--
   He's got half-closed, dreamy eyes--
That I'd sure like to swat on the bygne!

(1) Central High School was established in 1867 at a different location. The building at the southeast corner of Locust and Eleventh was constructed in two phases, 1883 and 1892. In 1915, Central High School moved to a new location to the south. The Kansas City Polytechnic Institute (KCPI) opened that same year in the building at Locust and Eleventh. KCPI included a junior college, a normal school, a vocational school, a business school, and a regular high school. It is no longer in existence, nor is the fine brick building which housed it: it was torn down and replaced with a parking lot. Kansas City Junior College was known for its famous graduates. In 1967, a journalist wrote: "Mangham [Maughiman] was a member of one of the school’s most illustrious classes. Included were Virgil Thomson, George Hamilton Combs, Richard Lockridge, Dale and Dorothy Brown Thompson, Alice Smith Edwards, Hubert Kelley, Wilson Hicks and Clarence Woodbury." There were others, though Walt Disney was not in fact one of them. (A number of sources make that claim.) You can read more about Kansas City Junior College and its graduates at a website called "MCC Newsroom 100 Stories" at the following URL:

As for the names listed above: Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) was a composer; George Hamilton Combs, Jr. (1899-1977), a U.S. representative; Richard Lockridge (1898-1982), an author and with his wife, creator of the Mr. and Mrs. North detective series; Dale Moore Thompson (1897-1990), a banker; Dorothy Brown Thompson (1896-1994), a poet and genealogist; Alice Myrmida Smith Edwards (1899-1973), a great granddaughter of Joseph Smith; Hubert Kelley (ca. 1898-1959), a reporter and editor; Wilson Hicks (ca. 1897-1973), a photojournalist and picture editor of Life; and Clarence Woodbury (dates unknown), a writer.
(2) Nineteen twenty was probably too late for Maughiman to have worked with Ernest Hemingway at the Star
(3) From "About Town" by Ira B. McCarty, Kansas City Times, Sept. 28, 1967, p. 73.
(4) Quoted in McCarty.
(5) Ditto.
(6) From the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, Chillicothe, Missouri, November 25, 1929, p. 1.

Herbert J. Mangham's Story in Weird Tales
"The Basket" (Mar. 1923)

Further Reading
"The Basket" was reprinted in The Best of Weird Tales: 1923, edited by Marvin Kaye and John Gregory Betancourt (1997).

Zest, from January 1927. Herbert Mangham's poem "Loon River Anthology" was in its pages. The poem, at least by its title, is a takeoff on Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (1915).

Thanks to Kate Hill, Lead Archivist, Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri, for cracking the case of Herbert J. Mangham.
Thanks also to Timothy Perry, Special Collections Librarian, University of Missouri Libraries; and Tina, reference librarian at Des Moines Public Library, both for further research.
Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

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