Come Fly With Me…

…or Stories of Adventure of the land, Sea and in the Air. I have always been fascinated by early examples of “Science Fiction”, especially examples from before the genres we know it today actually existed. Although classic works by the likes of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells were quite well known and highly considered as literature I have always been attracted to the more obscure and mostly forgotten examples that cropped up in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The weekly pulp adventures of Frank Reade Jr. and his amazing airships are a case in point.

Frank Reade 1903

Above: The August 21, 1903 issue of Frank Reade Weekly Magazine. This still sealed example never found its way into the youthful hands of an eager reader more than a century ago. Issues of the magazine measured 8 inches by ll inches (approximately 20.3cm x 28cm). Source: From the collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The Frank Reade Jr. magazines were in some ways a bridge between the so-called dime novels that glamorized such things as America’s Wild West in the late 1800s and the comic book which burst into the popular consciousness in the 1930s. In these stories – inevitably penned by the anonymous author “Noname” who in name was actually Cuban born Luis Philip Senarens (1863–1939) – followed the exploits of Frank Reade Jr. in a series of remarkable airships in journeys that took them around the world and into and out of all the exotic perils that the publication’s adolescent readers could hope for. Frank Reade did not limit himself and his friends to adventures in just airships but found himself on board submarines, steam-powered landships or becoming involved with similarly powered robots. The 16 page Frank Reade, Jr. adventures were published in New York by Frank Tousey between the 1890s and first decade of the 20th Century.

The well-preserved example shown above dates from August 21, 1903, just a few months before the Wright Brothers first powered flight. Naturally, Frank Reade’s airship was far more advanced than that which would soon fly at Kittyhawk and certainly much more elegant and stylish than the flying cars we had all been promised would be gracing our own 21st Century skies. The cover illustration brings the action of the inside text to life and shows Reade and several of his friends fighting off a group of mounted Tartars while the good airship Orbit comes to a timely rescue. This particular example is still sealed – each issue had to have its covers cut open in order to read the inside content. This was done to prevent people from reading the magazine at the newsstand to avoid paying for it.

R17-00018-000-001-cover

Above: An earlier issue of the Frank Reade Library magazine from September 24, 1892, featured the adventures of Frank Reade, Jr. and “his new steam man. These earlier issues lacked the full-color covers of the later issues: Source: University of South Florida Libraries.

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