Henry "Harry" Steeger, III, was born May 26, 1903 in New York City. His father, Heinrich Steeger, II, was born 1851 in NYC of German ancestry. His mother, Adelaide Holsten, was born in 1884 in NYC of German ancestry. At the time of his parents marriage on April 9, 1902 the groom was a widow of fifty-two and the bride was eighteen. Henry Steeger was their only child. The family lived on the Upper West Side at 304 West 88th Street in a private brownstone townhouse near Riverside Park along the Hudson River. The father operated a coppersmith company at 143 East 31st Street, where he produced deluxe bathroom fixtures, showers, tubs, sinks and water-closets. The father also invested in NYC real estate. The Mother-in-Law, Adelheid Holsten, lived with the family. She was born in 1849 in Germany, so at age fifty four she was only two years older than her Son-In-Law. The family lived with three domestic servants, a maid, a cook and a laundress.
By 1905 the Mother-In-Law had moved out, while the family had hired a live-in nurse along with the cook and maid, so someone in the family required longterm medical attention.
By 1915 The family also owned a second home in the suburbs at 56 Forest Avenue in Rye, NY. That household included two domestic servants, a maid and cook.
In September of 1916 Henry Steeger began to attend Horace Mann, an elite college preparatory school in NYC. His classmates included Harold Stern Goldsmith (1903-1969) and Ernest Victor Heyn (1904-1995) both of whom were life-long friends and associated publishers.
On June 20, 1918 Henry Steeger's father died at the age of sixty-seven. The maternal grandmother, Adelheid Holsten, age seventy, returned to live with the family and helped to raise Henry Steeger, who at that time was fifteen.
On September 4, 1919 The New York Times reported the final appraisal of the father's estate, from which Adelaide Steeger received $170,024 and Henry Steeger received $77,555.
In June of 1920 Henry Steeger graduated from Horace Mann. He was seventeen.
In September of 1921 Henry Steeger began to attend Princeton University, the prestigious reputation of which had been sensationally revitalized in the "roaring twenties" by the literary genius of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Henry Steeger studied literature and German language. He played saxophone in the school band and acted in the Theater Club. One of his classmates was his friend from Horace Mann, Ernest Heyn. They became roommates, and remained so during all four years of college.
Harold Goldsmith attended Columbia, which was affiliated with Horace Mann. After having completed his Junior year he entered the work force and opened the H. Sanford Goldsmith Advertising Company at 145 West 41st Street, room #314.
In June of 1925 Henry Steeger and Ernest Heyn received Bachelor of Arts Degrees from Princeton. After graduation they both traveled together to Germany to complete their graduate work at the University of Berlin. The passenger manifest of their European voyage listed the NYC home address of both passengers as 650 West End Avenue on 92nd Street. After their return to NYC on September 25, 1926 Henry Steeger and Ernest Heyn were both hired by Dell Publications as co-editors of Famous Story Magazine.
In 1928 Ernest Heyn was hired by Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955) to be editor of several magazines. Ernest Heyn went on to become Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Macfadden Publications.
In 1928 Henry Steeger was promoted at Dell Publications to Assistant Editor of War Birds and Editor of Sky Riders.
In 1929 Henry Steeger became Editor of Dell Publications The Funnies, which was the first American comic book composed of new material featuring popular newspaper comic strip characters.
On June 10, 1928 Henry Steeger married Shirley Meeker. She was born June 1, 1909 in Denver, Colorado. On June 15, 1928 they enjoyed a Caribbean honeymoon on the Steam Ship Bermuda. Their first child, Henry Steeger, IV, was born in 1928. The family moved to Yonkers, NY, where they lived at 10 Palmer Avenue.
By 1929 Henry Steeger decided he knew enough about the business to leave his steady job at Dell and seek his fortune as a publisher. He invited his trusted friends from Horace Mann, Ernest Heyn and Harold Goldsmith, to join him as partners. Ernest Heyn was content with his new responsibilities at Macfadden Publications, but Harold Goldsmith agreed to join Henry Steeger as co-publisher. At that time Harold Goldsmith was the Business Manager of Ace Publications at 67 West 44th Street. That company was owned by Magazine Publishers, which was a corporation headed by Warren Angel, who was also co-owner with Paul Sampliner of Eastern Distributing Company at 45 West 45th Street. Eastern Distributing had devised a uniquely profitable business model to provide publishers with a full range of services though a network of affiliated subcontractors that offered bulk discounts on longterm contracts. Warren Angel and Paul Sampliner also offered operating credit to entry-level publishers, such as Harold Hersey, Frank Armer, Harry Donenfeld, George Shade, Henry Marcus, Aaron Wyn, and Ned Pines, all of whom started publishing on credit arranged by Eastern Distributing Company.
In November of 1929 Harold Goldsmith and Henry Steeger discussed their plans with Warren Angel, who arranged $125,000 of operating credit in exchange for $10,000 collateral. Henry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith each contributed $5000 to start their new company. As usual all of their production costs would be handled by businesses affiliated with Eastern Distributing. The new magazines would be printed by Cuneo Press in Chicago at 2256 Grove Street. The president of that company was John F. Cuneo (1885-1977), who also handled the binding, typesetting, and mailing. The plate engraving was done by Aetna at 511 West 42nd Street in NYC. Advertising was handled by Henry Dwight Cushing (1882-1954)of Magazine Publishers Group, located at 67 West 44th Street.
On January 16, 1930 The New York Times reported that attorney Solomon A. Herzog had registered a newly incorporated business named Fiction Publications.
A few months later on April 20, 1930 The New York Times reported that Fiction Publications had changed its name to Popular Publications.
In May of 1930 Henry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith rented a one-room office for Popular Publications at 220 East 42nd Street. The newly-opened building was a massive skyscraper, of which the first ten floors were the headquarters of The Daily News.
The first four pulp magazine titles of Popular Publications were Battle Aces, Detective Action Stories, Gang World and Western Rangers. They were dated "October 1930," but were on newsstands in September, so the "print ready" materials were most likely sent to the printer two months earlier, around the Fourth of July.
The Art Director was Alexander Portegal and the editors were Rogers Terrill, Edith Symes, Al Norton, and Jane Littel.
By February 10, 1931 Popular Publications had outgrown their office space and moved across the street to 205 East 42nd Street, the Bartholomew Building, where the company continued to expand and eventually leased the entire top two floors.
By 1932, according to Henry Steeger, "the profits were rolling in! There was gold in them thar hills!" Big changes had come to the magazine industry. The Great Depression had devastated the American business and banking systems, so advertising collapsed, which brought hard times to subscription-based periodicals, but newsstand sales of pulp magazines gained prosperity as idle workers bought cheap thrills for pocket change. Warren Angel dissolved his partnership with Paul Sampliner and left Eastern Distributing to join with a new partner to form the Kable News Company of Mt. Morris, IL.
On September 10, 1932 The New York Times reported a petition for bankruptcy had been filed against Eastern Distributing. Henry Steeger later said the collapse of that company left Popular Publications with no payment for one quarter annual production of six monthly magazines.
By 1933 Popular Publications had a new distributor, a new advertising manager, and a new printer. They also introduced several new titles, including The Spider with its first cover by Walter Baumhofer.
On May 26, 1934 Henry Steeger and his wife and son moved to 1088 Park Avenue, where they lived with a chauffeur and a cook, so business more than rebounded.
In 1934 Popular Publications bought Adventure Magazine from the Butterick Company for $40,000.
On February 10, 1935 The New York Times reported Henry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith of Popular Publications had formed The Hartley Press to specialize in publishing novels of Romance, Mystery, and Westerns.
In May of 1936 Popular Publications produced a new title, Ace G-Man Detective. They were promptly sued for copyright infringement of G-Men Magazine by Ned Pines of Thrilling Publications. According to Henry Steeger, "The competition between pulp publishers was fierce. Imitations of successful titles by rival publishers was a way of life. During our first years in business I don't believe there was ever a time when at least one lawsuit was not in the works. We were either suing or being sued at all times. We had a very good lawyer and we pursued our rights vigorously. I think we were sued a great deal because people figured the best way to kill our business was to make it too difficult for us to go ahead."
On June 30, 1937 Henry and Shirley Steeger took time off to visit France on the Steam Ship Europa.
Around 1940 there was a sensational trend in pulp publishers to produce comic books, but Popular Publications never entered that new market. According to Henry Steeger, "I was always anxious to get a line of comic books going, but my partner, Harold Goldsmith, disagreed, and so we never got around to it."
On January 24, 1941 NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ordered the removal of all offensive pulp magazines from NYC newsstands. Along with the usual sexy magazines produced by Harry Donenfeld, Paul Sampliner, Frank Armer, and George Shade, the blacklist also included Horror Stories and Terror Tales from Popular Publications. Harold Goldsmith and Henry Steeger expressed the belief it would cost too much in time and money to fight the decision in court, so they ceased production of those two titles.
On September 28, 1942 The New York Times reported Henry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith of Popular Publications had purchased all rights to over thirty magazines owned by the Frank A. Munsey Company, including the venerable Argosy Magazine, Rail Road Stories, Fantastic Novels, and Flynn's Detective Fiction Weekly.
In 1943 during WWII Henry Steeger was forty-years-old, married, and a father, so he was not drafted for military service. Nevertheless he volunteered for the U. S. Navy Reserve and served aboard patrol boats along the Atlantic coast guarding against German U-Boats. Rafael Astarita, Frederick Blakeslee and John Falter also served in this branch of the military reserve corps.
On March 21, 1943 the U.S. Post Office denied second-class mailing privileges to five magazines deemed to contain obscene material. One of the titles was All-Story Love from Popular Publications. Harold Goldsmith defended the integrity of his publications and successfully sued to have the order overturned.
By 1943 Popular Publications was at the peak of their success, producing over forty periodicals, each of which had an approximate print-run of 100,000 copies. Their titles included Ace-High Magazine, Adventure, All-Story Love, Argosy, Battle Birds, Big-Book Detective, Big-Book Western, Black Mask, Dare-Devil Aces, Detective Tales, Dime Adventure, Dime Detective, Dime Mystery, Dime Sports, Dime Western, Doctor Yen Sin, Dusty Ayres and His Battle Birds, .44 Western, G-8 And His Battle Aces, Horror Stories, Knockout Magazine, Love Short Stories, New Detective, New Sports, New Western, The Octopus, The Pecos Kid, Ranch Romances, Rangeland Love Stories, The Scorpion, The Spider, Sports Novels, Terror Tales, and Western Rangers. Their top cover artists were Walter Baumhofer, Frederick Blakeslee, William Reusswig, John Newton Howitt, Raphael DeSoto, Gloria Stoll, and Norman Saunders. Their interior pen-and-ink artists were John Fleming Gould, Don Hewitt, and Frederick Blakeslee.
In 1943 Shirley and Henry Steeger's second child was born, Susan Shirley Steeger. Two years later their third and final child was born, Nancy Victoria Steeger.
On December 10, 1950 The Bridgeport Daily Herald reported that Harold Goldsmith had sold his interest in Popular Publications to his partner and retired to his dairy farm in Connecticut.
By 1953 Popular Publications had switched to large format men's adventure magazines in recognition that the pulp magazine market had been overwhelmed by a cultural preference for paperback books and television.
In 1958 Henry Steeger's son, "Hal" Steeger, became editor of Argosy Magazine.
In the 1960s Henry Steeger became an active member of the National Urban League, which sought to promote racial integration nationwide. He served four years as President of the organization.
In 1962 Henry Steeger and Whitney Moore Young, Jr., of the National Urban League were invited to the White House to discuss Civil Rights with President John F. Kennedy.
In 1965 in recognition of his efforts Henry Steeger received an honorary Doctoral Degree from Wilberforce University.
On July 12, 1969 Harold Goldsmith died at the age of sixty-five in a NYC hospital.
In 1972 Henry Steeger's mother, Adelaide Holsten Steeger, died at the age of eighty-eight in NYC.
On July 6, 1978 Henry Steeger's son, Henry "Hal" Steeger, IV, died at the age of forty-nine in NYC.
In the 1980s Henry Steeger enjoyed the growing popularity of pulp fandom. He attended several pulp conventions as Guest of Honor, where he was interviewed for fanzines and reconnected with writers and artists from the glory days of pulps.
Henry Steeger died at the age of eighty-seven on December 25, 1990.
© David Saunders 2015