John William "Jack" Glenister was born January 11, 1874 in New York City. His father, Joseph Glenister was born in 1849 in England. His mother, Sarah Morris, was born in 1853 in England of Irish ancestry. His parents came to America in 1870 and settled in New York City. On March 5, 1873 they were married in Manhattan. They had one child. The family lived at 13 Washington Street in Lower Manhattan. The father was an Sales Agent.
In 1875 the family moved to 79 Sackett Street in Brooklyn.
According to John W. Glenister, "I was born in New York City down near the Battery. I learned to swim in the East River like most of the other kids down there. The great sport then was to swim over to Brooklyn and back. The kick in that came out of dodging the ferry boats. At the age of nine (in 1883) I started my business career selling newspapers.
In 1885 his father died at the age of thirty-six. After this tragic death his mother left NYC and moved to Rhode Island, where she worked as a servant in the home of Henry C. Luther, a seventy-eight-year-old retired Mason, at 7 Pine Hill Avenue in Providence, RI.
John W. Glenister later recalled, "Ever since I can remember I had a great desire to see the world. Of course there's nothing unusual in that, you know. All young boys thirst for adventure. When I was fourteen (in 1888) I managed to beat my way to Chicago on freight trains. I stayed there for a little while and worked at odd jobs in restaurants and any other places work was to be had. Before long, however, I hopped on another freight and rode out to Nebraska. There was nothing unusual in it all. I had no hair-breadth escapes from death. I was just out to see the world and that's exactly what I succeeded in doing. Finally (in 1895) I landed back East in Newport, Rhode Island. It was there I first started swimming professionally. My time for the twelve-mile distance between Narragansett Pier and Newport still stands. I also made a record swim of eighteen miles to Rock Island."
He was six foot tall with blue eyes and black hair. His good looks and natural flair for theatrics brought him to NYC, where he posed for the celebrated artist Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) and acted in vaudeville. On New Years Eve 1899, the last day of the nineteenth century, The New York Herald published an article about the comical antics of John W. Glenister for a publicity stunt on behalf of a local theatre, while dressed as a country bumpkin on his first visit to NYC.
On June 10, 1901 John W. Glenister married Emma Swanburg in Lowell, Massachusetts. She was born in 1880 in Lewiston, Maine.
On April 30, 1903, his wife, Emma Glenister, died during child birth. She was ag twenty-two.
After this tragic death John W. Glenister embarked on a desperate and foolhardy enterprise. On August 18, 1903 he became the first man to survive the swim across the Niagara River. This feat was headline news in the national press, including The Steuben Courier of Bath, NY, The Minneapolis Journal, and The Ithaca Herald of Ithica, NY, which proclaimed, "He is one of the most handsome men ever seen here. His physique is perfect." "Professor John W. Glenister" became a celebrity athlete, whose endorsement was sought for advertising campaigns. According to John W. Glenister, "The swim was below the falls and a continuation of the Niagara Rapids. I got a big kick out of the swim, of course. You must realize that it wasn't really swimming but merely keeping above water and keeping your lungs full of air. The currents swirled me over to the other side. I happened to be luckier than the previous attempt fifteen years earlier by Captain Matthew Webb, who had been killed when his head hit a big rock. I made the swim because there was money in it. They were taking pictures of the attempt and it meant vaudeville contracts as well. After the swim I toured the big time giving a little talk and showing pictures. I even played old Hammerstein's Victoria with the act. After the act became stale I went in for producing melodramatic plays and worked on various newspapers doing circulation and promotion work. I started on The Boston Herald and then came back to New York, where I worked on The World, The Tribune and The Telegraph. Then I received an offer to become Business Manager of The Washington Herald. I worked on newspapers all over the country."
On January 10, 1904 The St. Louis Republic published an article in praise of his heroic swim.
While traveling to The Saint Louis Fair in 1904 he met a stenographer in the office of The St. Louis Star and after their first date proposed marriage. On August 20, 1904 he married Julia Alice Mitchell. She was born November 4, 1877 in Miamiville, Ohio. They had three children, Alice Rosheen (b.1906), Jacqueline Emilia (b.1907), and Julia Sarah (b.1909). The family lived at 76 Providence Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, where John W. Glenister was the Manager of The Springfield Democrat, a newspaper owned by the father of Sherman Bowles.
In 1912 the youngest daughter, Julia Sarah Glenister, died at the age of three in Massachusetts.
In 1918 during The Great War John W. Glenister was forty-four and the father of two children, so he did not serve in the military.
In 1919 he was Vice President of Warner Publications, at 25 West 45th Street. The company was owned by Eltinge F. Warner. They produced Saucy Stories and The Parisienne.
On January 17, 1920 the Eighteenth Amendment took effect, which made the sale of alcohol a federal crime. Demand exceeded supply to such an outrageous extent that law enforcement was quickly overwhelmed. Politicians had intended to prohibit unwholesome behavior, but inadvertently generated a national syndicate of organized crime that controlled and coordinated the wholesale import, manufacture, storage, trucking and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Criminal gangs were suddenly involved in a wildly lucrative mass production industry on a scale that was previously unimaginable.
On April 15, 1921 The New York Times reported Fiction House was a newly incorporated business.
According to John W. Glenister, "Finally I drifted into publishing magazines. In association with J. B. Kelly, I put out our first fiction magazine devoted to adventure stories. That was in 1921. Within four years the magazine sold 150,000 copies an issue and we began four other outdoor magazines and several others."
His partner, John Byrne "Jack" Kelly (1886-1932), was born in Brooklyn and had started in newspapers as a copy boy. By the Great War he was Circulation Manager at Metropolitan Magazine when the editor was Theodore Roosevelt, for whom he worked as a Public Relations Man as well as an editor of the Ex-President's biography. By 1921 "Jack" Glenister and "Jack" Kelly had founded Fiction House Publishing Company at 41 Union Square in Manhattan. During their first decade they produced pulp magazines, such as Action Stories, Air Stories, Lariat Stories, Detective Classics, The Frontier, True Adventures, Wings, and Fight Stories.
On August 7, 1922 nationwide newspapers published articles to announce John W. Glenister's leadership of a new anti-prohibition movement, The People's Voice League. He was quoted as saying" We want the moral support of the people. We want them organized so that when a reformer waves a petition of 300 blue-nose Johnnies and long-face Annies over a trembling lawmaker we shall lay before the same lawmaker the petition of three-times-three-hundred common sense Americans, men and women in his own district, who do not propose any longer to stand by and have their personal liberties legislated out of existence." Over the next several months his public speeches were reported nationwide in such newspapers as The Harrisburg Telegraph in Pennsylvania, The New York Evening News, in New York, The Daily Republican, of Belvidere, Illinois, and The New York Tribune.
On December 16, 1928 his youngest daughter, Jacqueline Emila Glenister, married Thurman Thomas Scott. He was born in 1903 in Georgia, and worked as a salesman of boilers and refrigeration equipment.
On April 26, 1930 The New York Evening Post reported that Jack Glenister and his publishing partner Jack Kelly were traveling on an expedition to Ireland to discover the next great heavy-weight championship boxer. The article was written by Jack Kofoed (1894-1979), a celebrated sports journalist, whose pulp fiction stories were regularly published in Fiction House magazines, such as Fight Stories.
In June of 1930 John W. Glenister began to suffer from ill health, so he handed over the management of Fiction House to his Son-In-Law, Thurman T. Scott, and then retired from publishing. He moved to Santa Monica, California, to live near the family of his oldest daughter, Alice Rosheen Glenister, who married to become Mrs. B. L. Lavender.
In January of 1932 his business partner J. B. "Jack" Kelly traveled to Santa Monica, CA, to visit John W. Glenister and several local authors. On February 9, 1932 The Los Angeles Times published an article on him.
On April 4, 1932 J. B. "Jack" Kelly died at the age of forty-five, while still on his visit to Santa Monica.
Five months later, Fiction House suddenly stopped production. Although newspaper accounts from this unique hiatus quoted Thurman T. Scott as attributing the stoppage to the higher costs of authors and loss of sales to cheaper competitors, the actual reason was a lawsuit by Jack Kelly's widow, Laura A. Kelly, who preferred to withdraw her inherited fortune from partnership with Fiction House. Her attorney demanded the liquidation of the company in order to pay her one half of its market value. While the court decided the matter, Fiction House was ordered to stop spending her money on production. After a lengthy appeal the court permitted the company to resume printing in order to retain their titles and mailing privileges, but they were only permitted to produce magazines on a quarterly schedule, in order to keep costs to a minimum until a settlement was finally reached two years later.
Publication of Fiction House magazines gradually resumed after January of 1934.
Fiction House went on to revive their best sellers as well as to introduce new pulp magazines, such as North West Romances, Detective Book, Jungle Stories, Two Complete Science Adventure Books, and Planet Stories. They later published a successful line of comic books, some of which were based on their pulp magazines, such as Planet Comics, Wings Comics and Jungle Comics. In several instances their comic book covers used cartoon versions of previously published pulp magazines.
On April 16, 1937 his wife, Julia Alice Glenister died in Santa Monica, CA, at the age of sixty.
Seven months later, John W. Glenister died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, CA, at the age of sixty-three on October 14, 1937.
© David Saunders 2015