Theodore "Teddy" Epstein was born Tewje Epstein on March 17, 1894 in Vilnius, Lithuania. His father, Ibzig Epstein, was born in 1865 in Lithuania. His mother, Bessie Epstein, was born in 1863 in Lithuania. His parents were both of Jewish ancestry. They married in 1884 and had eleven children, of which only seven survived infancy.
In 1906 the Epstein family emigrated to the U.S.A. By that time the eldest children in the family were adults, so the parents brought only the four youngest children, Isidore (b.1892), Theodore (b.1894), Morris (b.1896), and Samuel (b.1901). The family traveled on the Steam Ship Rhynland and arrived in New York City on March 17, 1906, which happened to be Teddy Epstein's twelfth birthday. They lived at 114 Hopkins Street in Brooklyn, where the father worked as a Barber.
In 1907 a twelfth child was born, David Epstein. His birth in Brooklyn made him the family's first U.S. Citizen.
All five children attended public school in Brooklyn. At that time most American teenagers entered the work force after completion of the eighth grade. Such an occasion in the life of Teddy Epstein would have been in June of 1910, however it may have been a challenge for him to keep up with other kids in school his own age, since he was a recent immigrant learning English, as well as American social customs. His family could not afford extra tutoring for the children, so Teddy Epstein did nor enter the work force until the age of fifteen in 1909. His first full-time job was an errand boy at a Brooklyn silk factory.
By 1914 at the age of twenty he drove a horse-drawn delivery wagon in the busy streets of the warehouse district along the Brooklyn waterfront.
On October 8, 1915 Brooklyn newspapers reported that Theodore Epstein had been seriously injured in a traffic accident when a motorcyclist roared past his delivery wagon and frightened the horse, which bolted and dragged the driver down Marcy Avenue. His head, face, and right leg were severely cut by cobble-stones. His face was permanently disfigured with scars and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
By 1916 Theodore Epstein was the Office Manager of the Tietjen Distribution Company, located in the Spinning Wheel Building at 7 West 22nd Street, just West of the landmark Flatiron Building, a unique early skyscraper with entrances on three streets at 175 Fifth Avenue, 949 Broadway, and 5 East 22nd Street. The Tietjen Distribution Company was owned by Henry Herman Tietjen (1873-1931), who was born in Illinois of German ancestry. Tietjen had been a newspaper dealer for twenty years with a leased newsstand under the elevated train at 19 Park Place and Murray Street, one block West of City Hall. Thanks to his connection with one of NYC's infamous political syndicates Tietjen was appointed Inspector of Newsstand Operator Licenses. This position added political muscle to his periodical distribution business.
On April 19, 1917 Theodore Epstein married Annie Cohen in Brooklyn Civil Court. She was born in 1896 in Warsaw, Poland, of Jewish ancestry. Her family emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1901 and settled in Brooklyn. The married couple lived at 8 Vernon Avenue in Brooklyn.
On June 5, 1917 he registered with the draft during the Great War. He requested exemption for "physical reasons" related to injuries from the traffic accident that damaged his right leg. He was not selected for military service.
In 1919 his son Paul Epstein was born, and three years later William Epstein was born.
In 1920 Tietjen and Epstein began to publish a four-page tabloid-size daily racing form, The Daily Racing Tab, which indicated most likely winners of each race based on various behind-the-scene factors.
On January 15, 1922 Mayfair Publishing Corporation of Manhattan was formed by J. W. Fay and M. C. Meyer, whose last names were rearranged to invent the company name "Mey-Fay-er" (Mayfair). The Tietjen Distribution Company handled advertising and sale of Mayfair Publications. Their first publication was "Muzzling The Tiger" by John William Fay, one of the company owners. The book sold for $2 and promised to reveal the secret to always win at gambling.
On May 16, 1922 NYC newspapers reported that the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice had secured the arrest and conviction of Henry Tietjen and Theodore Epstein for distributing indecent and obscene magazines. During the raid of the premises the police seized over four thousand copies of Hot Dog Magazine. Furthermore, they were ordered to stop distributing Hay Rake, Jazz, Jazza Ka Jazza, Jazz Quirk, Jim Jam Jems, Pajammas, Pamphlet, Pan, and Captain Billy's Whiz Bang. They were ordered to pay a fine of $250 or go to jail for thirty days. They chose to pay the fines.
By 1923 Theodore Epstein and his wife and two sons had moved to a more prosperous apartment at 775 East 46th Street in Brooklyn.
Two years later the Epstein family moved to a private home at 6-8 Vernon Avenue in Brooklyn. His occupation was listed as "Circulation Manager."
The 1920s was the era of Prohibition as well as bootleg racketeers, such as Al Capone (1899-1947), a Chicago gangster who headed a nationwide syndicate that sold, warehoused and distributed alcohol, as well as other illegal goods. One of the most powerful underworld figures to emerge from Capone's syndicate was Moe Annenberg (1877-1942), who laundered mob money by acquiring a massive publishing empire that came to be known as Triangle Publications, Inc. There were several investigations of his activities by racket-busting district attorneys, and in several such cases Theodore Epstein's Daily Racing Tab was identified as an affiliated company of Triangle Publications. Eventually Moe Annenberg was fined $8,000,000 and sent to prison for the rest of his life. At the time this was the largest such penalty in U.S. history.
Triangle Publications owned many periodicals and newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, which ran advertisements for Mayfair publications. They also produced a scandal sheet entitled Baltimore Brevities, while Theodore Epstein produced Broadway Brevities and Broadway Tattler. In 1926 Baltimore Brevities was indicted for extortion and blackmail. The Editor, Stephen Clow (1874-1941), was sentenced to five years in a Federal Penitentiary.
In 1930 Theodore Epstein lived with his family at 275 4th Street in Brooklyn. According to U.S. Census records his occupation was listed as "Manager Publisher."
On February 10, 1935 Theodore Epstein and his wife were arrested by Federal Agents of the Suppression of Vice. Over subsequent months several newspapers carried sensational accounts of the arrest, incarceration, bail, trail and sentencing.
In March of 1935, only a few weeks after his arrest, newsstands displayed Theodore Epstein's new magazine, Prison Life Stories. The name of the publishing company, located at 7 West 22nd Street, was Tewhlel Publications. This curious name is composed of the initials of the three principal owners, T(heodore) E(pstein), W(alter) H(ubbard), and L(ewis) E(.) L(awes). Newspapers investigated the remarkable circumstances by which the Warden of Sing Sing Prison happened to co-own a publishing company with a man who was under indictment for publishing an illegal gambling tip-sheet. Eventually Theodore Epstein was fined $2500 and sentenced to serve up to one year in jail for every day the fine remained unpaid. He paid the fine.
At the same time, his co-publisher Walter Hubbard (1893-1974) also happened to be co-publisher with Isaac Ullman (1873-1947) of the Hubbard-Ullman Publishing Corporation, which produced Broadway and Hollywood Movies. After two years that company name was changed to Edgewood Publishing Company.
On December 31, 1939 Theodore Epstein and Milton Michael Bleier (1900-1956) formed Crestwood Publishing Company. The company was named after the prestigious Crestwood section of Yonkers, NY, where the Yonkers Raceway was located, of which Theodore Epstein, his wife, and two sons were major stockholders.
In 1940 the NYC Telephone Directory listed CIrcle7-5289 as the number for Crestwood Publishing Co., as well as for Bleier & Brown Publishing Co., Mayfair Publishing Co., Pioneer Publishing Inc., and Feature Publications Inc.
After a few years Crestwood Publishing was investigated by the IRS for tax evasion. The case resulted in an audit that revealed the complex financial arrangement under which some pulp magazines were produced. The most important financial factor revealed by this audit was the role of credit extended by the distributor to fund the publisher's costs for production, printing, and paper. According to the U.S. Tax Court legal brief, Crestwood Publishing vs. the IRS, "the company was formed for the purpose of publishing pulp magazines of the type sometimes referred to as 'girlie' and 'gag & cartoon' magazines. Two magazines were published for the first year of operation and two others were added the second year. During the third year of operation, two publications of a different nature were substituted for two of the magazines published heretofore. Crestwood began business with no paid-in capital. Its method was to obtain paper, printing, and editorial matter on credit to publish the magazines. The publications were distributed by national distributors who perform the function of a circulation department and collection agency for publishers of pulp magazines. Crestwood used five of these national distributors at various times during the years 1940 to 1945. The services of a distributor are obtained through negotiated contracts. The publisher presents the idea for a new publication to a distributor and if the publisher can convince the distributor that the publication will be successful, a contract is entered into. Pulp magazines, which have no subscription circulation to speak of, must of necessity be distributed by a national distributor to be successful. Once the salability of a magazine is determined, usually after two or three issues, any of the distributing companies would distribute the publication. The distribution contracts customarily have a provision allowing either party to terminate the contract after 60 days notice. As was customary in the trade at the time the printed copies of an issue of Crestwood's magazines were delivered for distribution, the distributor advanced to the publisher a small percentage of the anticipated proceeds from sales. A publisher such as Crestwood could use such advances to make payments on its accounts for paper, printing, and other services." Since the distributor handled all proceeds from advertising and newsstand sales, as well as provided credit for operating funds, the question arises as to whether the magazine is actually owned by the publisher or the distributor.
The legendary publisher Frank A. Munsey (1854-1925) produced the first pulp magazines and ran a nationwide newspaper syndicate that included The New York Sun. He also produced Munsey's Magazine, Argosy, All-Story Weekly, Flynn's Detective Fiction Weekly, and Railroad Magazine. Munsey owned and operated the Red Star News Company to distribute his periodicals. After his death in 1925 Munsey Publications continued under the Presidency of William T. Dewart (1876-1944), who sold off many assets and explored new publishing prospects.
On November 23, 1939 The New York Times reported "A new magazine called "Prize Comics" will be published in January by Mayfair Publishing Company. Frank A. Munsey Company is distributor."
On May 16 1940 The New York Sun reported "Feature Publications will publish Boom Comics. It will appear on newsstands in July, distributed by the Frank A. Munsey Company."
Boom Comics never appeared in print, but Prize Comics lasted for several years and eventually included a Statement of Ownership that identified Bleier & Epstein of 1270 Sixth Avenue as the publishers. That is the same corner building as the stage entrance to Radio City Music Hall at 29 West 51st Street in the Rockefeller Center Complex.
Bleier & Epstein owned Mayfair Publications, which listed the editor as "Maurice R. Reese." That was a pen-name for Maurice Ullman Rosenfield (1909-2001), the nephew of Isaac Wise Ullman, who was a long-term business partner of Frank Z. Temerson, as well as Walter Hubbard and Theodore Epstein.
Bleier & Epstein also owned Feature Publications at 1790 Broadway at 59th Street. Entrance on the north side of the building is 5 Columbus Circle, which faces Columbus Circle at 59th Street.
Bleier & Epstein also owned Headline Publications.
Theodore Epstein owned and operated Tab Printing Corporation at 32 West 22nd Street, which produced Illustrated Movie Fun and Tab, which were fan magazines with gags and roto-gravure pin-ups.
Crestwood produced many comic books by the legendary Joe Simon (1913-2011) and Jack Kirby (1917-1994).
In 1942 the publishing office of Theodore Epstein was located at 32 West 22nd Street. His home was located at 68-37 Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills, Queens, NY.
On April 26, 1942 he reported for draft registration during WWII as required by law. He was recorded at that time to be forty-eight, five-foot-four, 178 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair, and a light complexion with "scars in both sides of face." The scars were remnants from his 1915 traffic accident.
On June 5, 1942 his son Paul Epstein enlisted in the Army. He was recorded to be a high school graduate that worked as a shipping clerk at his father's printing company.
In 1945 Theodore Epstein published paperback books as the Black Cat Detective Mystery Series.
In 1947 Mayfair Publishing Co. produced the book for gamblers, Can You Win by Elliott Friend.
On December 23, 1949 Tab Printing Corporation at 32 West 22nd Street produced Chelsea News, a neighborhood newspaper with articles of local interest. It had editorials by Theodore Epstein and illustrations by Ken Browne.
On July 20, 1956 newspapers reported, "The United States Trotting Association is granting track memberships subject to compliance with recommendations of the Moreland Commission, which have not been carried out at Yonkers Raceway. The President of the USTA points out that the commission urged every effort to acquire the stock and bonds of Burton Chait, Margaret Kienle, Jerry Ross, Sam Sherman, Louis Epstein, Paul Epstein and Theodore Epstein, Rose DeKoning and William Weisman. Nevertheless, these persons are still listed as stockholders in Yonkers Raceway. The President of the USTA asked whether or not the recommendations have been carried out and if not, why not. Putting it bluntly, the USTA wants to know why it is that those cited by the commission are still connected with the track. It would seriously injure the sport if Yonkers Raceway were allowed to operate when parties that the commission suggested be thrown out are still in power. It does the sport no good to have authority flaunted in this way."
On December 3, 1956 Theodore Epstein's business partner Michael M. Bleier died in NYC at the age of fifty six.
In August of 1960 Theodore Epstein hired Joe Simon to produce Sick Magazine under contract for fifty-percent of profits.
During the 1960s Theodore Epstein and Maurice "M. R. Reese" Rosenfield continued to publish comic books, fan magazines, and men's adventure magazines under the company names Reese, Crestwood, and Em Tee Publications.
Their men's adventure titles, Man's Story, Man's Book, Man's Life, Men Today, New Man, Real Combat Stories and World of Men featured sensational illustrations by Norman Saunders, Charles Copeland, Rafael M. DeSoto, and Walter Popp.
In 1968 Crestwood sold Sick Magazine to Pyramid Books.
Crestwood's longest running magazines were Army Laughs, Army Fun, and Broadway Laffs, which were sexy digests of gags and pin-ups that lasted until 1973.
Theodore Epstein died of a heart attack at the age of eighty-five in Florida on October 25, 1979.
© David Saunders 2014