Frank Nathan Armer was born July 27, 1895 in San Francisco, California. His father, Andrew Morris Armer, was born in 1865 in Russia of Jewish ancestry. His mother, Sadie Levy Armer, was born in 1870 in France of Jewish ancestry. His parents came to America and settled in California where they met and married in 1893. They had two children. His younger sister Elizabeth Armer was born in 1901. The family lived at 760 Mission Street in San Francisco. His father was a wholesale jewelry merchant.
Both children attended public schools.
In 1908 Frank Armer began to attend Lowell High School in San Francisco. He worked on the school newsletter and was was active on the student council.
On June 14, 1910 The San Francisco Chronicle reported Frank Armer, age fourteen, delivered an address to parents at the Annual Shabouth Festival, in which children confirmed their faith in Judaism at Temple Emanu-El synagogue.
In 1912 during his Junior Year in high school the students organized an innovative program to run the school cafeteria on a profitable basis. Frank Armer was the Business Manager.
In January of 1913 he graduated from Lowell High School and began to attend college in San Francisco.
In July of 1914 at the age of nineteen after having completed his Freshman Year the family moved to Los Angeles, where the father had opened a jewelry store. The family lived at 733 Berends Street. Instead of continuing his college education, he left school to work at his father's business.
On May 26, 1917 during the Great War Frank Armer reported for draft registration. He was recorded to be twenty-one, medium height, medium build, brown eyes and brown hair, with no disqualifying disabilities. He was drafted for military service and sent to basic training. Less than three months later on August 15, 1917 he was discharged for unspecified reasons. He returned to Los Angeles and resumed work as a salesman at his father's jewelry store.
On January 21, 1920 his sister, Elizabeth Armer, married John W. Bissinger, a Harvard graduate who served in the Great War overseas as a Lieutenant in the artillery and was honorably discharged, after which he went into import-export banking.
In September 1921 a jeweler's trade journal, The Jewelers' Circular, reported that Andrew M. Armer and son Frank Armer had returned to their Los Angeles Jewelry and Silverware business after a pleasant summer vacation.
In 1922 Frank Armer worked in Hollywood at Paramount Pictures as an Assistant to Samuel Wood (1883-1949), who directed Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, and Jackie Coogan.
In 1922 Frank Armer worked as Circulation Promoter for Screenland Magazine, a fan magazine marketed as a true product of Hollywood, "Made Where The Movies Are Made." Along with movie reviews, gossip about stars, and publicity stills, Screenland also featured erotic photographs by Edwin Bower Hesser (1893-1962). When sales improved Frank Armer became Treasurer of Screenland, which was published by Myron Zobel. Frank Armer arranged for distribution to be handled by Eastern Distributing Corporation of NYC, which was owned by Paul Sampliner and Warren Angel.
In 1924 Screenland began to be printed in NYC by printers affiliated with Eastern Distributing, including Tab Printing, owned by Theodore Epstein, and Elmo Press, owned by Harry Donenfeld. Both printing companies were located at the same address, 32 West 22nd Street, and both were in business with Moe L. Annenberg and Frank Costello.
In 1925 Frank Armer left Los Angeles and moved to NYC to accept the job of Sales Representative for this same group of printers and publishers, which included Theodore Epstein, Harry Donenfeld, John F. Edwards, Herman Rawitser, George Shade, Joe Burten, and Henry Marcus.
In 1925 one of the most popular shows on Broadway was Artists & Models at the Shubert Theater. It was the third season of this playful Burlesque revue, which famously featured topless chorus girls, artistic scenery, and fast-paced comedy skits. It was based on a festive annual tradition at the New York Society of Illustrators, The Artists Ball, which featured James Montgomery Flagg, Rube Goldberg and Lejaren A. Hiller. The Broadway version was so popular it ran for several years and was eventually made into a Hollywood movie starring Jack Benny, as well as a later remake with Jerry Lewis.
On March 4, 1925 The New York Times reported in the Business Section a new incorporation of Ramer Reviews, a "bookseller." The corporate partners were Herman Rawitser, H. P, Seligson, and E. S. Silver. The 1925 NYC Business Directory listed Ramer Reviews at 110 West 42nd Street. The first publication of this new company was the March 1925 issue of Artists & Models Magazine. The Publisher was listed as Frank Armer and the Secretary was John F. Edwards (1883-1946). He was the Business Manager of the Broadway Music Corporation, a leading publisher of sheet music for hit tunes from Broadway Shows. He was also publisher of Joe Burten's Follies, which was distributed by Theodore Epstein, whose connections to organized crime allowed him to handle NYC newsstand sales of racing forms as well as Burten's Follies, Jim Jam Jems, Hot Dog, Whiz Bang, and Jazza Ka Jazza. These were digest-sized magazines for fans of Burlesque, which contained pin-up photos of semi-dressed starlets with rapid-fire jokes and ethnic comedy that reflected the popular irreverence of the roaring twenties. These magazines were all regarded as indecent by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose agents brought obscenity charges against Theodore Epstein two years earlier that led to his arrest and conviction.
On May 30, 1925 The New York Times reported that the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice had brought obscenity charges against Ramer Reviews for publishing Artists & Models and Art Lovers' Magazine.
At that same time, NYC pulp publisher, William M. Clayton, sold several of his risque magazines, including Ginger Stories and Pepper Pot, to affiliates of Eastern Distributing, who repackaged them as Ginger and Pep! Other titles, including Juicy Tales, Joy Stories, and Hot Tales were produced by Irwin Publishing Company. That company was named after Irwin Donenfeld, the newborn infant son of Harry Donenfeld. These magazines had photographs by Edwin Bower Hesser and Lejaren A. Hiller, as well as illustrations by Worth Carnahan, Adolph Barreaux, and Cole Brigham. The editor was Merle Williams Hersey (1889-1956). She was the ex-wife of Harold Hersey (1893-1956), who was the editor of pulp magazines published by William M. Clayton.
In 1925 Frank Armer began to host "The Stage & Screen" radio program, which was broadcast weekly from WGBS in NYC. The show featured reviews, gossip, and comments on current stage and screen events. His show was popular enough to remain in syndication for three years.
December 1925 Ramer Reviews published the first issue of Stage & Screen Magazine, to capitalize on his popular radio show. The fan magazine was well reviewed in the March 24, 1926 issue of Variety Magazine.
In 1927 Ramer Reviews, located at 104-108 West 42nd Street, published Stage & Screen, Art Classics, Art Photos, Art Studies, Artists & Models, Art & Beauty, and Thrills.
In 1928 Ramer Reviews bought "Secrets Magazine" from Merit Publishing Corporation of Cleveland Ohio. This title was subsequently published by Ace Periodicals. It is worth noting that several business associates of Ramer Reviews, such as Warren Angel, Herman Rawitser, William M. Clayton, and Harold Hersey were also instrumental in the formation of Ace Periodicals at this same time.
On June 26, 1928 Frank Armer married Janet DePinna. She was born September 7, 1908 in NYC of English Jewish ancestry. Her father owned an elite children's clothing store on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. She was raised in the wealthy suburbs of NYC, where she enjoyed riding horses and the country club life of socially prominent debutantes. The married couple moved to 140 East 81st Street on the Upper East Side.
In 1929 Frank Armer made several impressive investments. On March 22, 1929 The New York Herald Tribune reported Ramer Reviews had leased space at 120 West 42nd Street. The company began to publish several pulp fiction magazines, such as Artists & Models Stories, Airplane Stories, World War Stories, and Zeppelin Stories. That same year Frank Armer was ambitious enough to copyright two prospective magazine titles, "Talkies" and "Talking Pictures."
As the Son-In-Law of a wealthy businessman, Frank Armer became interested in a career as a stock investor. He later recalled this period in his life, "Big money was rolling around Wall Street, and I decided to go down and collect my share. From 1929 until 1932 I was a Wall Street operator." The 1930 U.S. Census listed his occupation as "Stock Broker."
In 1931 The New York Times reported that a home in Larchmont Hills, NY, was rented to Mr. & Mrs. Frank Armer. This suburban community is between his wife's hometown of Mamaroneck and New Rochelle, a prosperous community that included magazine editors, writers, and artists, such as Joseph Christian Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Charles laSalle, Graves Gladney, R. G. Harris, and John Falter.
On May 2, 1931 his son Anthony DePinna Armer was born.
On June 28, 1931 a remarkable incident was widely reported in newspapers. An abandoned package was discovered by a custodian on a commuter train at Grand Central Station. Upon inspection it was discovered to be addressed to Frank Armor, Wall Street Investor, and reportedly contained $368,000. The precious bundle was taken to the lost and found department, where company officials and newspaper reporters eagerly awaited the arrival of the mysterious owner. When Frank Armer arrived to retrieve the package he thanked one and all and described the contents as motion picture reels with "priceless" sentimental film of his son.
In 1931 Warren Angel left Eastern Distributing to found Kable News Company with Samuel J. Campbell and the Kable Printing Company of Mount Morris, Illinois. Warren Angel sold his interest in Eastern Distributing to his ex-partner, Paul Sampliner, who re-sold the shares to a new partner, Charles Dreyfus.
One year later Eastern Distributing went bankrupt, as a growing portion of their clients were lost to Kable News Company. Paul Sampliner went into partnership with Harry Donenfeld to found IND (Independent News Distribution) Company at 432 Fourth Avenue. IND handled the stranded clients of Eastern Distributing. In retrospect, many debtors felt this move was designed to avoid contractual obligations. During this formative era IND employed Martin Goodman, John Goldwater, Louis Silberkleit, Frank Armer, and Michael Estrow, who was Circulation Promoter.
On June 11, 1932 The New York Times reported that Ramer Reviews owed $1,959.68 to Sherman Paper Company, and later that year similarly owed $1,273.74 to Conlew, Inc., a company that bought unpaid debts at discount from lending institutions to sue for repayment.
In 1932 a writer's trade journal The Editor reported, "Ramer Reviews, a publishing concern that issued a half-dozen or so sex magazines. In so far as I know the company no longer exists, having sold several of its magazines and distribution interests."
In 1932 Irwin Publishing went bankrupt and sold all assets to Merwil Publishing Company, which was also owned by Harry Donenfeld. This new company name was derived from the first syllables of the Editor's maiden name, Merle Williams Hersey. In retrospect, many debtors felt this business move was designed to avoid contractual obligations.
In 1932 Frank Armer was listed in a writers trade journal as the Editor of Love Revels, published by Forward Publications at 53 Park Place. He was also listed as President of Modern Publications at 53 Park Place. This address near City Hall in Lower Manhattan was also the location of another new company, Grenpark Novelties. Frank Armer's Modern Publications sold reprinted textbooks of sexual advice that had previously been marketed by mail order advertisements in the back pages of magazines published by Hugo Gernsback. His company had recently gone bankrupt and was reorganized by his Business Manager, Irving S. Manheimer, in coordination with Bernarr Macfadden. The company was split into several autonomous companies, which included Teck Publications, Stellar Publications, and Grenpark Novelties. The name "Grenpark" combined the first syllables of Greenwich Street and Park Place, which was the location of Hugo Gernsback's former business.
In 1932 the publisher of Pep and Spicy Stories is suddenly listed as Harry Donenfeld instead of Frank Armer.
In 1933 Harry Donenfeld and Frank Armer formed Culture Publications with Adolph Barreaux as Art Director. The company produced a new type of pulp magazine that combined the erotic quality of Ramer Reviews with the conventional themes of Adventure, Detective, Western and Mystery. Frank Armer credited the idea for this hybrid publication to Michael Estrow, who had been alerted to a market for such magazines while promoting sales with newsstand owners.
In 1934 Author & Journalist reported Frank Armer's announcement of four upcoming pulp magazines, Super Detective, Super Western, Super Mystery, and Super Love Stories. The company address was listed at 60 Murray Street, which was the rear entrance to 53 Park Place.
In 1934 Super Magazines, Inc, was founded. The President was Harry Donenfeld and the Secretary was his youngest brother, Irving Donenfeld. Frank Armer was the Editor. The editorial offices were at 60 Murray Street. The printer was at 405 Hudson Street and the business office was room #705 in 480 Lexington Avenue. The side entrance to that office building was 125 East 46th Street. The first publication of Super Magazines, Inc, was Super Detective. It was followed by Spicy Detective, Spicy Western, Spicy Mystery, and Spicy Adventure. Authors who worked for these magazines included Robert Leslie Bellem, Jack Woodford, Lars Anderson, and Robert Maxwell Joffe.
In 1935 his mother Sadie Levy Armer died in California at the age of sixty-five.
In January of 1936 Frank Armer published Spicy Stage & Screen, which had a cover by Raymond A. Burley. Although this magazine re-used the title of his radio show from 1926-to-1929, as well as his erotic 1926 Hollywood fan magazine, this version included erotic pulp fiction.
September 10, 1936 Frank Armer rented an apartment at 55 East 86th Street.
In the Summer of 1936 Mr & Mrs Frank Armer visited London and Paris.
On May 15, 1937 their son John Andrew Armer was born.
On August 28, 1937 Frank Armer won $2 Special Merit Award from The New York Herald Tribune Weekly Amateur Photographic Contest for his informal portrait of a "Beggar Woman."
1937 was an exciting year in the life of Harry Donenfeld. He negotiated a contract to publish The Lone Ranger Magazine, based on the popular radio show. To handle this unique project he founded Trojan Publishing Corporation at 125 East 46th Street, and made Frank Armer the Company President. At the same time his comic book company, National Allied Periodicals, owned the world's newest sensation, Superman, whose growing popularity impacted the entire publishing industry as well as the life of Frank Armer.
In 1939 Superman became a McClure Syndicated newspaper comic strip, while Harry Donenfeld produced the 1939 New York World's Fair Comics.
On February 2, 1940 the radio show begins, The Adventures of Superman, which is written by Robert Maxwell Joffe, who also wrote the theme music.
One year later the Fleischer Studios released the first animated color cartoon of Superman.
In 1940 Frank Armer and Michael Estrow, in coordination with Harry Donenfeld and Paul Sampliner, formed Leader News Company at 114 East 47th Street. This affiliated company distributed all Culture and Trojan publications. Artists that painted covers for Culture and Trojan magazines were Hugh J. Ward, Joseph Szokoli, Harry L. Parkhurst, and William F. Soare. Artists who drew interior story illustrations included Max Plaisted, Jay McArdle, William Meilink, Newton Alfred, Frank Volp, Paul H. Stone, Henry C. Kiefer, Paul H. Jepsen, Joseph Szokoli and Harry L. Parkhurst.
On April 27, 1942 during WWII Frank Armer reported for draft registration. He was recorded to be forty-seven, five-eight, 150 pounds, with brown eyes and gray hair and a light complexion. He did not serve.
In 1943 his father died in Californai at the age of seventy-eight.
In 1943 Trojan published Dan Turner Hollywood Detective, a pulp magazine about a L.A. private eye, a topic that reflected Frank Armer's interest in behind the scenes thrills of Hollywood.
In 1944 IND produced a client newsletter with a biographical profile, "Frank Armer - Pulp Potentate."
In April of 1944 several pulp magazines from Trojan Publishing Corporation were suddenly listed as Arrow Publications. This new company was similarly located at 125 East 46th Street. The name of the company combined the first syllable of Armer and the last syllable of Estrow.
On January 24,1947 The New York Times reported a startling criminal case that was uncovered when a pulp magazine author, T. W. Ford, received an erroneous income tax statement for $2,585. He informed Frank Armer, General Manager of Trojan Publishing and Arrow Publishing, both located at 125 East 46th Street, who instigated an inquiry that resulted in the arrest and conviction for embezzlement of his two editors, Ken Hutchinson and Wilton Matthews, who had conspired over a period of three years to forge $96,000 in payment for bogus manuscripts.
In 1947 Frank Armer produced the radio show Melody Theater for the Mutual Broadcasting Syndicate. Robert Maxwell Joffe and his wife Jessica were the Package Producers. According to a review in the July 12, 1947 Billboard Magazine, "The show is a commendable venture in juvenile classic music appreciation, with serialized versions of operas, such as Verdi's Aida and Bizet's Carmen." The show was broadcast immediately following The Adventures of Superman.
In 1948 as Vice President of Leader News Company, which distributed comic books, Frank Armer became a founding member of the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers to advocate self-censorship for the industry. His fellow members included Ray Herman (Orbit Comics Publisher), Lev Gleason (Comic House Publisher), Phil Keenan (Hillman Comics Publisher), Bill Gaines (EC Comics Publisher), Harold Moore (Famous Funnies Publisher), and Irving S. Manheimer (PDC - Publishers Distribution Company). They sought in vain to generate positive publicity in response to growing public outcry against portrayals of violence and indecency in comic books.
In 1948 Hollywood produced a serialized motion picture of Superman, which was soon followed by a popular television show. Other fictional heroes, such as Batman, The Green Hornet, and The Lone Ranger had also enjoyed successful franchise markets. Trojan's biggest fictional hero was Dan Turner Hollywood Detective. During the post-war years Frank Armer struggled in vain to promote a comparable industry for Dan Turner comic strip, animated cartoon, radio show, Hollywood motion picture or cliff-hanger serial.
In 1949 Frank Armer founded the paperback publishing company Golden Willow Press, located at 125 East 46th Street, which featured illustrations by Paul H. Stone.
In 1950 Frank Armer and Adolph Barreaux started Trojan Comics. The first two titles were Crime Smashers and Western Crime Busters. All Trojan Comics were distributed by Leader News Company. Several covers duplicated previously published pulp magazine cover paintings.
Trojan Publishing Corporation produced increasingly fewer pulp magazines and finally switched to digest-sized format. Their last such magazines were Pocket Detective and Pocket Western from the last months of 1950.
On March 07, 1951 The New York Times Business Section reported that Trojan Magazines at 125 East 46th Street had filed for bankruptcy with declared debts of $154,448. Two months later NY Courts confirmed bankruptcy arrangements for Trojan Magazines, whose address was revealingly listed as 480 Lexington Avenue. The publishing company continued to operate for another three years, while court-appointed supervisors, Michael Estrow and his father Stanley Estrow, garnished a portion of the profit on behalf of debtors.
On December 16, 1957 Billboard Magazine reported Frank Armer had been appointed Story Editor at TPA (Television Programs of America) Corporation. His former associate, the pulp author Robert Maxwell Joffe was also hired as Producer and Production Consultant.
The 1958 NYC Business Directory listed the work address of Frank Armer at 205 East 42nd Street. That was the location of the magazine advertising company, Macfadden-Bartell, whose President was Irving S. Manheimer.
In 1960 Mr & Mrs Frank Armer lived in a comfortable home on Hardscrabble Road in Croton Falls, NY. One of their neighbors was the artist H. W. Scott, who owned a horse farm, where Mrs. Armer stabled her riding horse.
On January 25, 1962 The New York Herald Tribune reported that Frank Armer, formerly with Leader News Company, had been appointed retails sales promotion manager of Universal Publishing and Distributing Corporation. That company was owned by Irving S. Manheimer and Arnold E. Abramson.
In 1963 Mr and Mrs Frank Armer of Croton Falls, NY, were proud to report to local newspapers that their son, Dr. John Andrew Armer, had completed his internship at Salt Lake City General Hospital and would soon be stationed to a U.S. Air Force base in Japan. Their younger son, Anthony DePinna Armer, who was a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, as well as of Oberlin College, and who had served as an Army Ordinance Instructor, and after honorable discharge had worked for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was the President of the local chapter of the Great Books Program, was engaged to marry Bonnie Alice Richardson of Atlanta, Georgia.
Frank Armer died at the age of seventy in North Salem, NY, on October 1, 1965.
© David Saunders 2014