Blog: Thoughts and comments on the world of the pulp magazines

Fatty’s friend, the pulp reader

Posted by at 10:00 am Tuesday, July 11, 2017 in Movies/TV/Radio, People, Pulp History, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Fatty Arbuckle's mugshot

Fatty Arbuckle’s mugshot

In addition to pulps, I collect vintage photographs that include pulp magazines in them. Many are of newsstands covered with the magazines; others are snapshots with pulps being held, read, or just laying in the background.

There’s a gallery of over 100 such images here at ThePulp.Net, but not all of the photographs in my collection have been posted there.

Here’s an example of one of those, and the story behind it.

The photo is of an inmate named Albert Martin whose brush with fame was that he was a cellmate to Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, when Arbuckle was accused of rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe during a party at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.

Albert Martin reading pulps in his San Francisco jail cell.

Albert Martin reading pulps in his San Francisco jail cell.

From late 1921 through early 1922, Arbuckle was put through a series of trials. The first two ended with hung juries, and a third trial acquitted Arbuckle of all charges (and that trial’s jury issued a formal apology to him). The scandal, though, effectively ended his career as a leading film comedy star of the silent era.

Below is a related article about Arbuckle and Martin from the Los Angeles Herald, from Sept. 13, 1921:

Los Angeles Herald article (Sept. 13, 1921)

In the photo of Martin, it’s easy to see that there are copies of Top-Notch Magazine, The Popular Magazine, and Detective Story Magazine on the cot beside Martin, another magazine open next to them, and two pulps in his lap. But even with a high-resolution scan of the image zoomed in, the dates on the spines of the pulps are indecipherable, and there’s just not enough of any pulp cover to determine which numbers they are.

The back of the photographic print has a typewritten caption:

Albert Martin, cellmate of Roscoe Arbuckle in the city prison at San Francisco, where he is held charged with murder of Virginia Rappe. Martin is charge with assault upon a minor child. He says, “Arbuckle is a good scout and game.”

It’s stamped Sept. 17, 1921, and N.E.A. And there’s a handwritten note that says “Frisco N.E.A.” N.E.A. was the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a news syndicate.

Photos such as these bring the pulp era to life; you see in them the pulps in their natural habitat.

Now, if only someone had a color photo from the period.


  1. Poet Joseph Moncure March based his poem “The Wild Party” on Arbuckle’s story. It became a 1975 film with Raquel Welch and James Coco. (Another March poem, “The Set-Up”, was filmed in 1949 by Robert Wise)

  2. Great photo. I bet pulps were very popular in prisons, army barracks and bunkhouses.