Tag Archives: black cat project

The Black Cat, No. 7, April 1896

Welcome to the 7th issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

This issue felt a little light even though it contained six stories and was about the same overall length as other issues. Maybe it was because all the stories were roughly the same length without one longer story.

This was also the first issue without a good ghost story!

Stories

“The Mystery of the Thirty Millions” by T. F. Anderson and H. D. Umbstaetter

“The Mystery of the Thirty Millions” is set in 1903: this is near future science fiction! The main plot device of this story is the movement by the US government of $30 million dollars to Europe (England?) to right a trade imbalance. This is going to be done by literally loading up $30 million in gold on to a fast, unsinkable ship (that is also going to transport some dignitaries). The ship goes missing, but is later spotted adrift,  two weeks overdue. The crew and passengers tell of a strange moving lodestone that pulled the ship off-course. It’s never quite discovered what it is, but it seems that the Russians are behind it.

I don’t have any info on T. F. Anderson, but H. D. Umbstaetter, our intrepid Black Cat editor, is back here with co-writing credit. The zinger-ish ending has his fingerprints all over it.

“The Man at Solitaria” by Geik Turner

Solitaria is a “train station.” It’s a watering tank, a side-track, and a little hut with a telegraph line where a single man lives and takes care of the comings and goings of trains on this stretch of track. But he’s tired of his job. He wants someone to take a shift! He wants a life. So he takes matters into his own hands. I think this story is supposed to be humorous, but there isn’t anything funny about train wrecks.

This is Geik Turner’s first story for The Black Cat, but it won’t be his last.

“The Compass of Fortune” by   Eugene Shade Bisbee

Melville Barrett has recently come into a lot of money. How? wonders his old friend. Well, Barrett tells his tale. During a madcap adventure, he uncovers a skull with two sapphires for eyes. The eyes always look toward an ancient treasure it is tasked with protecting. This is a somewhat creepy story, but ultimately is a let down.

Eugene Shade Bisbee wrote a few other speculative fiction works and the novel The Treasure of the Ice.

“The Surgical Love-Cure” by James Buckham

James Buckham is back this month with a semi-followup to “The Telepathic Wooing.” In this case though, a handsome vicar wishes to be cured of the love he feels for a certain woman in order to better serve God. In this case, science doesn’t provide the solution.

“The Williamson Safe Mystery” by F. S. Hessletine

Mr. Williamson, a mysterious jeweler, has gone missing and after a period of time, his massive safe is being removed from his former place of business. Between the time of Williamson’s arrival in town and his disappearance, a series of burglaries and robberies have taken place, including Williamson himself being mugged. But after Williamson disappeared, the robberies stopped. What happened? And is the answer to be found in his safe? This is a solid mystery, and time is taken in the telling.

“How Small the World” by  E. H. Mayde

This love story is told in a series of letters and conversation snippets. While I more or less got the gist of what was going on, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a bit confusing.

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No ads this issue…

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 7, April 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 6, March 1896

Welcome to the March issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Only five stories in this issue, but one of them is a whopper!

Stories

“Eleanor Stevens’ Will” by Isabel Scott Stone

A curious newspaper ad in the personals section brings together a group of Eleanor Stevens’ rejected suitors. Miss Stevens wasn’t one of those eccentrics; no, she was smart, charming, beautiful, rich, and very self-possessed. No one is really surprised that she died mysteriously abroad, but they do find it odd that she might have included spurned suitors in her will. Of course, things aren’t what they seem and the ending of this story offers up the smallest bit of a zinger.

The only other writing credit I find by Ms. Scott is a book called The Little Crusaders which presumable about the Children’s Crusade.

“To Let” by Alice Turner Curtis

It’s a “very attractive modern house with a history.” The (presumably) first owners of the house die mysteriously, leaving behind a tale and ghosts. This was a chilling story, perfect for the beginning of spring. I rather liked its open-ended quality. The initial deaths are never explained and it ends with “The house it still to let.” My favorite of the month.

Alice Turner Curtis went on to write dozens of historical fiction books with little girl protagonists.

“Of Course—Of Course Not” by Harry M. Peck

There seems to be a whole genre of short story around this time about handsome, successful young men who are afraid to approach the woman they are interested in. This one begins with Neil Richards bemoaning his fate to his aged dog. A further complicating factor? His best friend is intending to propose to the young lady he’s interested in. …And then she shows up seeking advice from him about that situation. Luckily, this is a magazine of light fiction.

“The Marchburn Mystery” by A. Maurice Low

This was the prominent story of the issue, running a full twenty pages. A few issues back, “The Missing Link” by James Buckham gave us a mystery whose resolution relied on a photograph. “The Marchburn Mystery” relies on a telephone call. Unfortunately, there is a lot of investigation that goes nowhere. That’s realistic, but a little boring.

There is a A. Maurice Low who was a journalist and author, but his works seem very political and serious. I wonder it this is the same fellow.

“Their Colonial Villa” by Charles Barnard

Young Mrs. Arburton really wishes that she and her husband could have two houses in town: one at the top of the bluffs where all the fashionable people live (including her parents) and one at the bottom of the bluffs so that her husband can easily come home from lunch. Mr. Arburton really wants to please his wife, but also doesn’t want to go into debt forever. He comes up with a fanciful solution, which I guessed early in the story while Mrs. Arburton remained confused.

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Lovely art in this full-page article for Sponge Crépon.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 6, March 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 4, January 1896

Welcome to the fourth issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project! Alas, there was a problem with the January issue. It was missing a few pages!

Stories

“In Solomon’s Caverns” by Charles Edward Barns

Charles Edward Barns had his first appearance in issue one with “In a Tiger Trap.” “In Solomon’s Caverns” sets up an equally exciting adventure: an investigation of the caves caused by the building of Solomon’s Temple. Of course, the American who is doing the spelunking loses his guide early in the process. The framing story implies that opium is part of the man’s salvation from the caves, but, alas, I’ll never understand how since I was lacking the end of the story.

“An Angel of Tenderfoot Hill” by Frederick Bardford

I was also missing the beginning of this story (and some of its middle pages too). From what I gathered, a hell-raising cowboy-type falls in love with a Presbyterian named Alice. He goes off to make his fortune and to endeavor to be worthy of her, but when he returns he finds that the small town that he’s left has become a city, and Alice may or may not have married his former friend.

“In Miggles’ Alley” by Herman Brownson

This is a little vignette: Little Tim O’Hagan’s nick-name is “Shingles” because when his mom is at work, he hangs out on the roof of their building with this infant brother. Across the street is a fire station. Shingles loves to watch the fire men come and go. In fact, one day to amuse himself and his baby brother he decides to play fire man and “rescue” his brother by lowering him down from the roof of the building…. This is Herman Brownson’s first story for The Black Cat.

“The Missing Link” by James Buckham

While on a camping trip with his friends, Henderson happens to take a couple pictured of a murder occurring. He later offers the photos to prove a man innocent of the crime. This might be one of the most competently written stories I’ve read in The Black Cat thus far, and I was missing two pages of it in the middle and the ending! The use of photography in a mystery strike me as very modern. Via Google, I do find a poet named James Buckham; I wonder if it’s the same author.

“Unchallenged” (alas, I don’t know the author)

Alas, I’m missing the beginning of this story. It “starts” with two girls strapping on pistols and riding out to on an errand. It seems that the errand was to show-up some men, but I’m definitely missing a piece. The writing is good enough that I’m a little sad that I don’t have the whole story.

“Aidu” by Hero Despard

“Aidu” is a story set in India that thankfully lacks some of the usual problematic aspects of a 1896 story set in India. Our narrator falls in love with the beautiful Aidu. When he meets her she seems to be in some trouble. She agrees to help (and later to marriage), under the condition that she be allowed her freedom and she not be followed when she leaves the house. Aidu is a strange woman; she is never seen eating and once a week she goes for a walk alone and returns re-invigorated. Of course, we know how this story goes. Our love-struck narrator, follows her one evening…

This was my favorite of the month.

“Mrs. Emory’s Boarder” by C. Marie Mott

I saw him pass every day; not that I watched for him, but it’s against human nature that a woman should sit at a window all day and never look out.

This story is a bit of a joke; a pretty clever “groaner,” perfect for a magazine called The Black Cat.

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After a couple months with no ads, the issue ends with a full page ad for Holiday Books from Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 4, January 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 3, December 1895

Welcome to the third issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Stories

“The Great Star Ruby” by Barnes Macgreggor

A group gathered late in the evening of the Melbourne Cup discuss the days events, including the opening of the opera house and the woman with the ruby headdress who caused quite a stir. This leads a late-comer to tell the tale of a great star ruby that led to many adventures and some tragedies. This story ends up being much like Macgreggor’s story in issue one, right down to the “savages” and the slight twist ending.

“The Interrupted Banquet” by Rene Bache

Though quite familiar with the street, I could not remember having seen that particular house before.

This is an ominous beginning to a story. Our narrator assures us that he never would have thought to go into the house if the lady he were with hadn’t confidently let herself in. They go upstairs and sit down to dinner. Around the table are a group of strange characters including a man that our narrator thinks is his old friend, Bill, from college. Except Bill has been dead for eight years… The story goes mostly as expected from there. The only other Rene Bache on Google wrote articles for Scientific American. Studied at Yale and Harvard.

This story is by far my favorite of the month

“The Archangel” by James Q. Hyatt

Two guys out hunting are approached by an old codger whose name, he says, is the Archangel. Since every one is being so lazy, the Archangel tells them how he got his name. It seems that in his younger years he lived with a guy named Adolphe. Adolphe was very good at all the cooking and chores, but “Archangel” decided that they(?) should send away for a wife. After receiving no answers to his inquiry for a quite a while, “Archangel” finally got a letter a woman. But this all turns out to be a ruse. The name “Archangel” was given due to an act of mercy.

“Asleep at Lone Mountain” by  H. D. Umbstaetter

A quiet little boy with no name, only a toddler really, is put of a train to Omaha where his father awaits. The little boy is taken under the wing of the passengers and is named Grit. (This is done via auction because the passengers are bored. The the proceeds from the auction go to the boy and his father.) While this story lacks one of Umbstaetter’s usual twist endings, it’s ultimately a sad and slightly pointless story.

“Kootchie” by Harold Kinsabby

A quick, humorous tale about a dog and a cat and their owners. And while looking up Harold Kinsabby (which I probably had done before, this is his second story in The Black Cat), I found out that this name, as well of Barnes Macgreggor, are pseudonyms for H. D. Umbstaetter! H. D. has been padding out his magazine for the first few months!

“Frazer’s Find” by Roberta Littlehale

Littlehale rounds out this issue with a tragic-romantic tale of a man seeking his fortune in the west who finds a youth hiding after an Indian attack. The boy is not quite what he seems, but Frazer shows a tremendous amount of devotion and responsibility even when it wouldn’t be the best for him personally.

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No ads. I wonder if the holidays took their toll on this issue. Maybe October isn’t a great month to launch a magazine.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 3, December 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 2, November 1895

Welcome to the second issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project! While this issue weighed in with the same number of pages, fifty, it was a story lighter and all together felt shorter. Also, the stories didn’t feel as strong. Here’s to hoping that issue no. 3 is a return to form.

Stories

“A Calaveras Hold-Up” by Roberta Littlehale

Littlehale takes us to the Sierra’s in the 1880s once again with another western-romance. Billy Owen is a man with a questionable past. (His gun is named Betty…) Rudy Field is the preacher’s daughter. Billy never had a chance and falls in love with Rudy. Alas, his attempt to go straight isn’t providing “something to live on,” in the words of Rudy’s father. So Billy plans one last heist… It doesn’t go well. I enjoyed this story more than last month’s “In the Gold Time.”

This is also my runner-up for favorite of the month.

“From a Trolley Post” by Margaret Dodge

A man stands waiting for a trolley in Boston on a drizzly, windy day. Bored, he is entertained by the antics of a boy from Texas and an organ grinder’s monkey. The ending of this story might be tragic, but we miss it because the man’s trolley finally arrives. Couldn’t find much on Margaret Dodge other than she had a few stories in a few magazines around 1900.

“An Andenken” by Julia Magruder

Ethel is a lovely young painter taking a working summer holiday in the Alps. She is intrigued by the murals in the village and the andenken, or roadside memorial pictures. While the artwork is crude, it has great heart. Ethel meets the painter, Anton, and endeavors to give him lessons. Unfortunately, Ethel is engaged and Anton believes that she is more than just his teacher. Julia Magruder had my favorite story of issue no. 1 with the deliciously gothic “The Secret of the White Castle.” This story doesn’t hold together as well.

“The Man from Maine” by J. D. Ellsworth

This is a humorous tale about a man on a long train train observing some of his fellow passengers, especially the man from Maine.  The man from Maine is the picture of Yankee frugality and abstinence. But he will play some card if gambling isn’t involved. And he will take a pull on a flask—for medicinal reasons only, of course. Alas, he does seem to be ailing quite often.  Is this the same J. D. Ellsworth that wrote Reading Ancient Greek? I don’t know.

“A Wedding Tombstone” by Clarice Irene Clinghan

An “angular schoolgirl of fifteen” listens to her grandmother tell the story of Melindy Barbour’s wedding tombstone. The Barbours were an aloof family that lived in Ragged Corner. Mr. Barbour committed suicide while in prison. The son, Mortimer, and his mother were unusually close. When she died, Mortimer kept to himself until lovely Melindy McAllister arrived in town. The two fall in love, but a shadow is cast on their marriage by a tombstone with Melindy’s name on it. Clarice Irene Clinghan has a couple of ghost stories to her name as well as a novel, That Girl From Bogota.

My favorite of the month.

“The Other One” by A. H. Gibson

Caleb Parton, a wealthy eccentric former wine merchant living in the hills of West Virginia, tells Mr. Hope (who works for a bank) the Poe-esaque story of his rivalry with Judson Pickford. The story is creepy, but Gibson rushes his gotcha ending. Is this the same A. H. Gibson that wrote Hydraulics and its applications? That A. H. Gibson would only be age 17 at the time of this publication, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

“Stateroom Six” by William Albert Lewis

A tale told on a river boat about a gambler and a toddler put into his charge who ends up with a bundle of money when the gambler is shot dead. Very short and anecdote-like.

“Her Eyes, Your Honor” by H. D. Umbstaetter

A young woman is on trial for the brutal murder of another woman. All the evidence is circumstantial, and the crowd firmly believes that hot-shot lawyer McWhorter will prove her innocence. But strangely, he doesn’t provide much defense at all… The second story from The Black Cat‘s illustrious editor and another zigger of an ending.

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No new advertisers in issue no. 2.  American Hair Cloth Company of Pawtucket, R.I. had the whole back page.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 2, November 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 1, October 1895

Welcome to the first issue of The Black Cat and the first post of the Black Cat Project!

Something that I find interesting about 19th and early 20th century fiction magazines is that most of them were not “niche.” While there were plenty of specialized nonfiction periodicals, genre magazines don’t seem to gain traction until the late 1910s. So, a short story magazine of the this period might include stories of different genres. What we’d now classify as mysteries, adventures, romances, horror, and science fiction might all be included in one magazine that a subscriber might read cover to cover.

Stories

“In Gold Time” by Roberta Littlehale

A western-ish story set in Gold Rush era California. While a contractor and an civil engineer ride through the desolation of Northern California, one tells the tale of two men vying for the hand of the most/only eligible woman in San Francisco. More of an anecdote than a solid story, but Littlehale does a nice job setting the stage with a night-time ride. Robetra Littlehale will appear again as a Black Cat author, but I wasn’t able to find any other information about her.

“The Unturned Trump” by Barnes Macgreggor

Oh, 1895, your prejudices are many… In this story, while adrift on the foggy and iced-over East River one morning, several men sit down to an impromptu game of euchre. Before the trump is turned though, the supplier of the cards goes on a tangent about a story he heard of an American who was travelling in Syria and ended up being taken captive by a group of blood-thirsty (and not too bright)  “Mohammedan” robbers. Turns out he was the American. Macgreggor will be a return author as well, but also otherwise did not have much of a writing career.

“The Secret of the White Castle” by Julia Magruder

Julia Magruder was known outside of the pages of The Black Cat. The Virginia author had a fairly successful career as a novelist and children’s writer. “The Secret of the White Castle” is a nice piece of gothic literature. Our unnamed narrator rents the Chateau Blanc in hopes of curing his melancholy. The house appealed to him due to the strange picture of the previous owner that hangs in the bedroom and the stuffed pet swan that somewhat floats on the lake. He’s sure there is a mystery to these objects…and there is!

This was my favorite of the issue. I might even seek out some of Ms. Magruder’s novels.

“Miss Wood,—Stenographer” by Granville Sharpe

“Miss Wood,—Stenographer” is a nice little mystery too. Miss Wood’s story is related by Detective Gilbert as a story she told him bout a job she was hired to do. Abruptly, she was from her stenography school classes because she is proficient in sign language (her little sister is a deaf mute). She is sent to take down the dying words of a metallurgist. Since his sister-and-law and nephew believe  Miss Wood is deaf as well, they freely discuss their plan to gain the old man’s secret formula for smelting steel-hard copper. I’m going to assume that the author, Granville Sharp, is not the same Granville Sharp as the abolitionist who died in 1813…

Runner-up for favorite story of the issue.

“Her Hoodoo” by Harold Kinsabby

This is actually a rather sweet story about “a real Rocky Mountain cow-girl, in all her glory”. Our narrator is a tender-foot who goes to Colorado to “hunt ozone” for his bad lungs. He gets lost in the wilderness and is found by the cow-girl, a woman educated at Wesleyan, but type-cast locally due to her soft heart and affinity for animals, especially a naughty, spotted heifer.  Kinsabby has a couple stories in future issues, but I find no other biological references to him.

“In a Tiger Trap” by Charles Edward Barns

“The royal Maylay tiger is no gentleman” begins this adventure anecdote, which seems to be a general form of story in this era. And it pretty much details a story of attempting to retrap a tiger that had already been captured and let loose once. Thankfully, this story isn’t too cringe-worthy toward the peoples of Malaysia. Charles Edward Barns was a writer, journalist, astronomer, and publisher. He has at least one more story included in a future issue of The Black Cat.

“The Red-Hot Dollar” by H. D. Umbstaetter

A newlywed accidentally misses his train (is bride sent on without him) and ends up becoming obsessed with a silver dollar he is given as change. Why? We don’t know until the last page. Actually, “The Red-Hot Dollar” could have been a really nice mystery if it had been told a little better…maybe through the wife’s point of view. I suppose the reader is meant to wonder and try to puzzle out what’s going on, but we’re not really given enough information. H. D. Umbstaetter is the editor of The Black Cat as well as being a contributor.

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Not many ads in the first issue. American Hair Cloth Company had pretty much the entire last page. Click to read all about their “light as air” crinoline.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 1, October 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project