Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weird Tales in Indiana

Today, December 11, 2016, is the two-hundredth birthday of the State of Indiana. I would like to say Happy Birthday to my home state and to point out that Weird Tales was born here, in Indianapolis in fact. The founder of the magazine, Jacob Clark Henneberger (1890-1969), arrived in Indianapolis in 1919 to work for a weekly newspaper. He alternated between that city and Chicago for a number of years. For example, he was married in Chicago on June 18, 1919. (His bride was Alma K. Schneidewind.) The city directory of Indianapolis, on the other hand, had him living downtown, at 320 North Meridian Street, in 1920. Henneberger published his first magazine, Collegiate World, in Indianapolis beginning in 1920. In 1922, Henneberger and John M. Lansinger founded Rural Publishing Corporation and went about publishing two genre magazines. The first issue of Detective Tales had a cover date of October 1, 1922. The first issue of Weird Tales followed in March 1923.

Henneberger and Lansinger's joint venture went aground in 1924. In an effort to save Weird Tales, Henneberger gave up Detective Tales and more or less ceded financial ownership of his preferred title to Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis. Weird Tales returned to print in November 1924 with Farnsworth Wright at the helm. Like Henneberger before him, Wright lived in Indianapolis and had his offices at the old Baldwin Building (not to be confused with the old Baldwin Piano Building on the Circle). In 1926, Weird Tales moved its offices to Chicago. The Indianapolis era presumably did not end until Weird Tales was purchased by Short Stories, Inc., in 1938, at which point the magazine presumably ceased being printed by Cornelius Printing Company.

Weird Tales relied heavily on artists from Indiana in its first couple of years, especially William F. Heitman (1878-1945), a German-born sketch artist for the Indianapolis Star. Heitman created covers for two issues of "The Unique Magazine" in its first year. Known for his speed with a pen, Heitman illustrated whole issues by himself until the triple, first-anniversary issue of May-June-July 1924. Harry Harrison Kroll (1886-1967) and George Olinick were among the other Hoosier artists to contribute to Weird Tales.

Much is made of "The Big Three"--H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith--in Weird Tales. If we were to create a category of "The Big Six" or "The Big Ten," we might include at least one Hoosier on that list, C.L. Moore (1911-1987) of Indianapolis. (She grew up only a few blocks from our childhood home.) H. Bedford-Jones (1887-1949) and E. Hoffmann Price (1898-1988), though not native to Indiana, lived there for a time as well. Another prominent Hoosier contributor to Weird Tales was writer Wallace West (1900-1980). There were of course others, but for now I'll let this brief list stand on its own.

The Coke bottle and Clabber Girl Baking Powder were created in Indiana. So, too, was Weird Tales. With that, I would like to say Happy Birthday to my home state, the Hoosier State of Indiana!

Weird Tales, born in Indianapolis in 1923, a little more than one hundred years after the state (1816) and the city (1821) came into being.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. My favorite Hoosier has to be Hoagy Carmichael, one of the greatest entertainers of all time. A brilliant singer, songwriter and pianist, Hoagy wrote such iconic songs as STARDUST and GEORGIA ON MY MIND, classic tunes like OLD BUTTERMILK SKY and IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENING (for which he won an Oscar) and dozens of lesser known gems -- including one especially appropriate for this post; CAN'T GET INDIANA OFF MY MIND. As an actor he appeared in two of the finest films of the forties -- or of any decade -- THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. When he spoke, he served up a laid-back philosophy that was a unique mix of the Bohemian and mid-western homespun simplicity. A true Renaissance Man.
    Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg motor cars -- some of the finest autos of the twenties and thirties -- were all produced in Indiana, too. The museum in Auburn that is dedicated to these cars is a great destination spot.
    This country would be much the poorer without all of Indiana's cultural contributions. Thanks Hoosiers!

  2. Mike,

    I'm glad you mentioned Hoagy Carmichael and The Best Years of Our Lives. That's one of my favorite movies of all time. It still holds up very well after seventy years.

    Fans of James Bond know that Ian Fleming described his protagonist as looking like Hoagy Carmichael. It appears as though the actual model for Bond was Fleming's brother Peter, an adventurer and writer who, oddly enough considering your recent comment, went looking for Percy Fawcett in the early 1930s.

    We could go on all day about Indiana (as Hoosiers tend to do). I'll just mention another songwriter who hailed from our great state, Cole Porter of Peru.

    Thanks for writing.