Ray R. Hermann was born Ruth Rae Herman on June 9, 1920 in Brooklyn. Her twin brother, George G. Herman, was born on the same day.
At the time of their birth one of the city's most popular celebrities was the New York Yankee George Herman "Babe" Ruth (1895-1948), whose contract was bought in 1919. It seems likely that the twin babies, George & Ruth Herman, were named after this famous baseball player.
Their father, Aaron Harris Herman, was born in 1873 in Poland. Their mother, Fannie Herman, was born in 1886 in Poland. They married in Warsaw in 1899. They were both of Jewish ancestry. The father moved to America in 1900 to seek his fortune as a tailor in New York City. Four years later he was able to send for his wife. The Hermans had six children, Abraham (b. 1907), Rebecca (b.1908), Benjamin (b.1910), Samuel (b.1915), and George & Ruth (b.1920). At first the family lived in Manhattan at 330 East 100th Street, which was a popular neighborhood for Polish Jews.
By 1918 the family had moved to Brooklyn and lived at 393 South Third Street. The father was as tailor who repaired women's and men's clothing. He co-owned the Herman & Ornet Tailor Shop at 71 East Broadway in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
By 1925 the family had moved to an apartment building at 1474 Park Place in Brooklyn.
All six children attended public school and then, one by one, finished schooling and entered the work force and moved away from home. By 1935 the older siblings worked as a law clerk, a bookkeeper, and a stenographer.
In June of 1939 George & Ruth Herman graduated high school in Brooklyn, after which they also joined the work force.
On April 6, 1940 a census worker recorded Ruth Herman as a clerical worker for a Radio Producer. At this time she first began to use the name "Rae R. Hermann."
On June 27, 1940 WXYZ Radio Producer George Washington Trendle (1884-1972) signed a contract with Frank Z. Temerson (1890-1963), owner of the Tem Publishing Company, to produce a comic book based on the radio character The Green Hornet. This alliance created the first six issues of Green Hornet Comics, which Temerson distributed under a new name, Helnit Publishing Company. Ruth Herman went on to receive many writing credits in Temerson's comic books under the pen name "Mann," so it is worth noting that a number of stories in the fourth issue of Green Hornet Comics were credited to an author named "Mann."
By the summer of 1940 George & Ruth were twenty and were the last two Herman children to still live at home with their parents. The father was sixty-seven and the mother was fifty-four. Unfortunately the father suffered from a chronic illness that finally required hospitalization. To help support the family, the mother worked as the Superintendent of the apartment building at 1474 Park Place.
On March 10, 1941 the father, Aaron Harris Herman, died in a NYC Hospital at the age of sixty-eight.
By 1942 "Ray R. Hermann" was Secretarial Assistant to Frank Z. Temerson at the Et-Es-Go Publishing Company. Temerson's three youngest sisters were named Ethel, Esther, and Goldie, so he most likely invented this company name for sentimental reasons.
During the 1940s Temerson published periodicals under a complex web of assumed company names, such as Et-Es-Go, Ultem, Helnit, Holyoke, and Continental Magazines. Each publication also carried deceptive information concerning the names of owners, shareholders and executives. Temerson clearly preferred to operate from behind a legally protective shield of incorporated "front-name" companies and intentionally complex ownership statements.
This same deceptive approach to the business of producing sensational periodicals was followed by several other publishers, including Bernarr Macfadden, Warren A. Angel, Ned L. Pines, John L. Goldwater, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman.
Frank Z. Temerson may have had crooked motives to employ surrogate business representatives, but this process had at least one socially beneficial consequence. When he listed "Ray R. Hermann" in a variety of executive capacities, as well as "co-owner," he helped to break a perceptual "glass ceiling" that excluded women from the upper levels of the American publishing industry. The importance of her various business titles seems all the more impressive when considering she was a recent high school graduate from an underprivileged background.
Temerson's relationship with Herman may have been influenced by several striking similarities to his own life story. He was also a Polish Jew from Warsaw who had been twenty-two years old when his father had died. He continued to support his widowed mother for the rest of his life and he never married.
On December 1943 the first issue of Suspense Comics #1 included the story "Magnolias and Murder" drawn by Chris R. Scharre, which featured the character Vivian Harper, who bares a striking resemblance to Ray R. Hermann. In a way, this may be her first published "appearance." Several other portraits of her appeared in subsequent comics drawn by Chris R. Schaare, Jack Alderman and Charles Quinlan.
The December 1943 issue of Catman Comics #22 includes The Hood, whose girl friend is variously identified as "Miss Ray Hermann," "Ray Herman," and "Rae Herman." Over the next several issues this same character appears in a variety of passive and active roles.
A 1945 Ownership Statement of Catman Comics lists the Managing Editor and Co-Owner was R. R. Hermann, who personally appeared on October 1, 1944 before a Notary Public named Ray R. Hermann.
On January 10, 1945 The New York Times reported in a financial column, Business Leases: "Ray Ruth Herman" had leased office space at 1819 Broadway to start an "art and publishing business."
The New York City Telephone Directory of 1945 also includes a new listing for "Ray R. Hermann - Art Business - at 1819 Broadway." That same listing appears in all subsequent NYC telephone directories for the next nine years.
Frank Z. Temerson's longtime business partner, Isaac W. Ullman, had business offices as Duplex Motion Pictures Industries, Inc. located at 1819 Broadway since at least 1924.
According to newspaper comic strip historian, Paul Leiffer, the July 1945 issue of The Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directory included a pre-publication listing of a newspaper comic strip entitled "The Hep Cats" by Ray Herman, which was available for distribution by A. F. S. Unfortunately no published examples of this comic strip have been documented.
In 1946 Ray R. Hermann was listed as a Co-Owner of Orbit Publishing Company at 1819 Broadway, which produced Patches, Taffy, Toytown, Wanted, and Westerner Comics.
Toytown Comics carried full page advertisements on the inside front cover for a variety of children's books distributed by Circle Sales Company of 1819 Broadway. Other novelty products were advertised by Whirlaway Company of 1819 Broadway.
According to the artist Mort Leav, "Orbit Publishing did Toytown, Western, Wanted, and Patches, while Our Publishing covered the two love magazines, Love Diary and Love Journey. As the size of publishing houses go, Ruth "Ray" Hermann's was pretty modest. Hence, although I drew all the lead features for any book in which my work appeared, and although I did ninety-percent-plus of all the covers during the years I worked for her, 1946-to-1954, and although I assumed a degree of influence with her, Ray had no salaried individual officially titled "Art Director." In fact all her creative people were really free-lancers, because we were paid by the page."
Other artists who worked for Ray R. Hermann included Rudy Palais, Alex Schomburg, George Appel, Leo Morey, Don Rico, Pagsilang Rey Isip, Ray Willner, and Robert S. Pious.
In 1947 Orbit Comics began a unique policy to feature radio personalities, such as Jack Carson, John Hodiak, Hopalong Cassidy, and Mr. District Attorney, Jay Jostyn in promotional appearances in Patches, Taffy and Wanted Comics. These efforts to promote radio stars suggested an appealing theory to comic book historian, Hames Ware, that perhaps the name "Orbit" was chosen to reflect this interest in "stars."
Although Ray R. Hermann was listed as Publisher and Business Manager of Orbit Publishing Company, the co-owner was listed as Marjorie May (1911-2000). Marjorie Jeanette May was born January 27, 1911 in Schenectady, New York. Her father, Lawrence May, was born in 1881 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her mother, Florence Messing, was born in 1883 in St. Louis, Missouri of German ancestry.
The Messing family of St. Louis were prominent and prosperous. Her mother's younger brother, Roswell Messing, owned and operated World Color Press, Inc., located at 420 DeSoto Avenue in St. Louis, MO. According to the Securities & Exchange Commission News Digest, Roswell Messing was "a printer of magazines produced primarily for newsstand sale, newspaper comic supplements, community newspapers, and other specialized publications of national and regional scope. World Color Press also produced industrial cartoon type magazines distributed other than through newsstands."
Florence Messing and Lawrence May met when they were both students at Missouri State University. They completed their studies in 1905 and married in 1906. They had four children, Elsie (b.1909), Marjorie (b.1911), Bertha (b.1918), and Henry (b.1921). Her father was a successful Mining Engineer involved with oil exploration.
Her father's business concerns brought the family prolonged assignments in California, Upstate New York, Mexico and Cuba, but during her teenage years Marjorie May attended Flushing High School, Queens, NY, where she was valedictorian, President of the Literary Club and Editor of the school magazine, The Folio. She was also an impressive athlete, competing in basketball, volley ball and tennis tournaments. The family lived at 17 Cypress Avenue. She graduated on January 30, 1928 and afterwards attended Syracuse University, where she studied Liberal Arts and graduated with honors in 1932. She received the Eta Pi Upsilon Medal as the most outstanding woman of her class for scholastic excellence, prominence in activities, and personality.
After college she moved to NYC to seek her fortune in the publishing industry. She first worked as a proof reader at advertising agencies, but on December 30, 1939 The New York Sun reported, "Miss Marjorie May has been named Copy Chief of Norman D. Waters & Associates of NYC." In 1941 she became Advertising and Promotional Director of Radelle Lingerie Corporation of NYC. In 1941 she co-authored a popular travel book Manana Havana with Consuelo Hermer.
The April 1943 issue of Green Hornet Comics #12 had an Ownership Statement that listed Marjorie May as Co-Owner with Alfred Harvey of Family Comics at 67 West 44th Street. This sudden appearance of Marjorie May as a "Co-Owner" of a comic book about a popular radio character is most likely attributable to her uncle being Roswell Messing, who printed Green Hornet Comics, and whose company address, 420 DeSoto Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, is also listed in the indicia of this issue.
The first six issues of Green Hornet Comics were published by Frank Z. Temerson, whose Clerical Assistant at that time was Ray R. Hermann. She may have written several stories for Green Hornet Comics under the pen name "Mann."
Temerson's business connection with Alfred Harvey Wiernikoff (1913-1994) remains undocumented, however many of Temerson's comic titles were eventually published by Harvey.
Alfred and his twin brother Leon Wiernikoff were born on October 6, 1913 in New York City. Their parents, Abraham and Eva Wiernikoff, were born in 1881 and 1887 in Wilna, Russia, of Jewish ancestry. They married in 1904 and their first child, Benjamin, was born in 1908. They came to the U.S.A. in 1910 and settled in New York City, where the father worked as a tailor. By 1930 Alfred Harvey Wiernikoff worked in Advertising as a Commercial Designer and by 1940 was the Office Manager of an Art Advertising Business. In 1941 he began to publish Temerson's Speed Comics under the name "Alfred Harvey." Temerson first published Speed Comics as the owner of Brookwood Publications, a company named after his home town neighborhood of Brookwood in Birmingham, Alabama. Harvey's version of Speed Comics was distributed by PDC (Publishers Distribution Corporation, Inc.), which was owned by Irving S. Manheimer, who was also President of Macfadden Publications, Inc.
In 1946 when Marjorie May worked with Ray R. Hermann at Orbit Publishing Company she lived at 413 East 52nd Street in Manhattan.
In 1947 Marjorie May lived at 727 Greenwich Street in Greenwich Village near West 10th Street. In the Ownership Statement of Wanted Comics #13 from September 1947 she is listed at this address. She is also listed at this address in the NYC Telephone Directory.
In 1947 Ray R. Hermann was a founding board member of the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, along with Phil Keenan, President of Hillman Periodicals, and Henry E. Schultz, General Counsel. The group sought to defuse public outcry against unhealthy influences of comic books by advocating an industry based volunteer code of ethics. These innovative efforts were eventually adopted in 1953 by the entire comic book industry.
Ray R. Hermann wrote an advice column under the name "Ray Mann" in response to letters from readers of Love Journey and Love Diary. Many romantic periodicals carried similar features, but most of the other editors were men who pretended to be women, and wrote under assumed names. Although Ray R. Hermann was one of the only women writing a romantic advice column, she actually addressed her readers as "Mr. Ray Mann." One of the last issues of Love Diary even featured "Mr. Ray Mann" as a renowned marriage counselor. In another instance he claimed to have been a working newspaperman for a number of years.
The September 1954 issue #46 of Love Diary lists Our Publishing Company at a new address, 114 East 32nd Street. The 1955 NYC Telephone Directory listed Ray R. Hermann - Artist Business - at 114 East 32nd Street. This same listing continued in subsequent editions for the next five years. This same address is also the location of Comic House Publications of Lev Gleason.
The September 1955 issue #48 of Love Diary contained an advertisement on the inside front cover for the newest rage, personalized photo stationary, from Whirlaway Products located at 114 East 32nd Street. Two of the three examples featured photographs of Ray Ruth Hermann and Marjorie Jeanette May.
After the final issues were released at the end of 1955 Orbit and Our companies ceased to publish comic books. However, Ray R. Hermann's "Art Business" continued to be listed in the NYC Telephone Directory at 114 East 32nd Street for another four years. This suggests she continued to produce some other form of publication.
The 1955 Advertising Agency Magazine, Volume 48, issue 23, states that Ray Hermann, account executive in broadcasting and telecasting at Foote, Cone & Belding had moved to Dancer, Fitzgerald, Sample Advertising Agency.
By 1960 Marjorie May is listed at 325 East 79th Street, which is the posh Upper East Side of Manhattan.
In 1967 Marjorie May is identified as the Publicity Director of the Lucy Stone League, an organization founded in the era of Women's Suffrage to promote the legal right of married women to retain their birth names.
The 1978 Annual of Creativity, published by Art Direction Books Company, listed Ray Hermann as an Art Director.
Ray Ruth Herman died in Brooklyn at the age of seventy-six on December 26, 1996.
Marjorie May died in Manhattan at the age of eighty-nine on June 18, 2000.
© David Saunders 2014