John Byrnes "Jack" Kelly was born October 3, 1886 in New York City. His father, Bernard H. Kelly, was born in 1851 in Connecticut of Irish ancestry. His mother, Katherine H. Byrnes, was born in 1856 in New York City of Irish ancestry. His parents married in 1881 and had eight children, of which only three survived infancy, William (b.1882), John (b.1886), and Francis (b.1891). The family lived at 121 Tillary Street in Brooklyn. The father was a House Painter.
The children attended public school in Brooklyn.
On February 18, 1897, when "Jack" Kelly was ten years old, his father, Bernard H. Kelly, died at the age of forty-five. After this tragic death, "Jack" Kelly left school and entered the work force to support the family. His older brother worked as a clerk at a Brooklyn newspaper, so that was where "Jack" Kelly began his career in publishing as a copy boy.
The widowed mother and her three sons lived together in the same Brooklyn apartment for twenty six years.
By 1914 "Jack" Kelly was Circulation Manager at Metropolitan Magazine, which as located at 432 Fourth Avenue in Manhattan. At that time the editor was Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, for whom "Jack" Kelly also worked independently as a Public Relations Man.
By 1915 "Jack" Kelly had married his wife, Laura A. Kelly. She was born May 3, 1888 on Staten Island, NY. They lived at 540 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Their first child, Doris Kelly, was born in 1916.
In 1918 during The Great War "Jack" Kelly was thirty-two, married and a father, so he did not serve in the military. He was recorded at the time to be of medium height, medium build, with gray eyes and brown hair, which was "slightly balding."
On January 6, 1919 "Jack" Kelly was traveling in Montreal, Canada, to promote circulation of Metropolitan Magazine, when he learned of the death of Theodore Roosevelt. He wrote the following letter to his wife, "Just learned the shocking news of the Colonel's death...Game to the end and always ready for a laugh. I guess Quentin's death hit the old boy harder than any of us ever realized. It will be always the best memory of my life to think of the days I worked with the Colonel and those great talks. I listened and debated with him. The greatest American since Lincoln is gone. God. I can hardly believe it. I am heart broken. When I saw the dreadful headline I went dizzy. I didn't just admire the Colonel. I loved him. His brave restless spirit is gone from us, but what he gave to America will last as long as America does. God rest his courageous soul. It is six below here, but fair and dry. Snow covers the streets and everyone is traveling in sleighs. All over the city men are gathered in little groups reading the news of the Colonel's death. He was a prime favorite here, as he was where ever real men live. Drape a flag around his picture and have Doris salute 'America's great American.' He loved little babies so much that this little act of respect will touch him, because I believe he will see it and understand. -- Love, Jack."
In 1920 his second child was born, John Byrnes Kelly, Jr.
In 1921 "Jack" Kelly joined with business partner "Jack" Glenister to found Fiction House Publishing Company at 366 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. John William "Jack" Glenister (1874-1937), was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. When he was ten years old his father died. [Oddly enough, "Jack" Kelly was the same age when his father died.] After this tragic death "Jack" Glenister entered the work force as a corner newsboy, and eventually became a circulation promoter. Thanks to a natural flair for theatrics, good looks, and a healthy body, "Jack" Glenister became a celebrated athlete and was particularly famed for an historic swim across the Niagara River in 1903. After which he became a vaudeville performer and by 1918 was Vice-President of Warner Publications. The company was owned by Eltinge F. Warner, who produced Saucy Stories and The Parisienne.
On April 15, 1921 The New York Times reported Fiction House was a newly incorporated business.
According to John W. Glenister, "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." 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.
By 1925 "Jack" Kelly and his wife and children left Brooklyn and moved to New Castle, New York, where they lived in prosperous suburban comfort at 48 Prospect Drive.
On December 16, 1928 his business partner's youngest daughter, Jacqueline Emilia Glenister, married Thurman Thomas Scott. He was born in 1903 in Georgia, and worked as a salesman of boilers and refrigeration equipment. After the honeymoon Thurman T. Scott became the new Business Manager of Fiction House.
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 "Jack" Kelly traveled to Santa Monica, CA, to visit "Jack" Glenister and several local authors. On February 9, 1932 The Los Angeles Times published an article on him.
Only a few weeks later, on April 4, 1932 John Byrnes "Jack" Kelly died at the age of forty-five, while still on his visit to Santa Monica.
On December 28, 1932, at the lowest point in the Great Depression, Fiction House abruptly stopped production on all publications. Newspaper articles quoted assurances from Thurman T. Scott that production would resume when conditions improved. He objected to writers' agents demanding higher rates, as well as cheaper publishers flooding the market with nickel magazines.
Despite these petty greivances, the actual reason for the stopppage 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 one year later after January 1934.
On October 14, 1937 John W. Glenister died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, CA, at the age of sixty-three.
Under the leadership of Thurman T. Scott, 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.
© David Saunders 2015