Decades before Ira Schnapp worked in comics, he had a long career producing lantern slides, from as early as 1917 to as late as 1939, and lettering movie posters in the 1940s. Lantern slides were shown at theaters, lecture halls, schools, etc. for entertainment, education and instruction. A history of the magic lantern is here. Schnapp worked during the silent motion picture era. Movie theaters would project slides to a captive audience who saw intertitles, news photographs, advertisements, coming attractions, song lyrics, etc. Samples of lantern slides can be viewed at the Museum of the Moving Image and the Silent Cinema Society. In the 1920s Schnapp would witness the introduction of color films and sound films.
Schnapp graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1913. The 1915 New York state census said he was a salesman who lived with his parents and siblings in the Bronx. Not long after the census Schnapp entered the lantern slide industry. On June 5, 1917, he signed his World War I draft card. Schnapp’s employer was the W.T. Slide Company (see sidebar) at 115 East 23rd Street in Manhattan. On the line for occupation was written “Letter Cliless”. (“Letter Slides” makes more sense.)
Schnapp was listed in R.L. Polk & Co.’s Trow General Directory of New York City, Manhattan and the Bronx, 1918–1919.
Schnapp Israel artist Novelty Slide Co h 483 E170th
Camera Craft, February 1917. Top: Novelty Slide Co. Samples
Jumping ahead to 1939, a news item in Motion Picture Herald, April 15, 1939, mentioned Schnapp.
Cosmopolitan Acquires StudioThe entire facilities of National Studios, New York, have been acquired by the Cosmopolitan Studios, also of New York. Herman Rosenberg, Cosmopolitan president, announced this week. Among National executives who will join Cosmopolitan are Dave Brandies, for 22 years in charge of production; I. Schnapp, head of the art department for the last 20 years; Claire Miller, color specialist, and Ken Walmsley and Fred Bram of the sales staff.
On the surface it appeared Schnapp had worked for National Studios since 1919. However, National Studios was incorporated at the end of 1927 according to Motion Picture News, January 7, 1928.
Five Firms Incorporate in New York StateMotion picture companies incorporating in New York State during the last week of the year, and receiving charters from the department of state at Albany, included the following: National Studios, Inc., capitalization not specified, Dolly V. Samose, Gertrude M. Ballinger and Leona Zilber, New York City ...
From late 1927 to 1939, National Studios was in business for twelve years which was eight years short of Schnapp’s reported twenty years. What had happened was National Studios, beginning in 1928, merged with several companies. Printers’ Ink, October 11, 1928, said
National Studios, Inc., New York, has been organized through a merger of three manufacturers of advertising display, of that city. These three companies are the Excelsior Illustrating Company, the Standard Slide Corporation and National Photographers, Inc.National Studios, Inc., has also acquired the Animated Products Corporation and the Manhattan Slide & Film Corporation.
Research on the above companies revealed Schnapp worked at the Standard Slide Corporation which had merged with Novelty Slide Company. Motion Picture World, January 11, 1919, reported the Standard Slide Corporation banquet and said
... The Standard Slide Corporation is the outgrowth of the old Novelty Slide Company, established by Joseph F. Coufal [see sidebar], originally located at 57th Street near Sixth Avenue, removed to 20 E. 14th Street, occupying a back hall room. Afterwards it went to 71 W. 23rd Street and is now located on [209 West] 48th Street.
Moving Picture Age, December 1919 said Schnapp was in charge of Standard’s art department.
“New Idea” Found on a Journey to “Slide Land”Slide-Land, as we have seen, is a successful, composite unit of many departments. It is as if a great many wheels were revolving in perfect harmony, pushing efficiently onward in perfect unison. In each department specialists concentrate on their particular line of endeavor and consequently we find new ideas being constantly introduced, thus keeping this organization well to the front in lantern slide progress. When the old style illustrated song slides passed away, through conditions over which the slide industry had no control, most people predicted that song slides would never come back. Realizing, however, the value of the illustrated song to any program, Mr. Nat Cherin (who aside from being treasurer of the Standard Slide Corporation, is the executive head and managing director of the song slide department) originated and created the New Idea Illustrated Song Slide.This New Idea differs from the old style slides, first, in that the slide is either illustrated by popular movie stars or artistically hand sketched, thus striking a popular chord in the hearts of movie patrons; second, from two to three lines of the song which the scene illustrates appear on the slide, thus enabling the audience to read or sing the words which, with the old style slides, were often unintelligibly rendered! third, the use of the indestructible mica slide which permits using the chorus as often as may be desired without danger of breaking the slide; fourth, the elimination of the second verse, thus consuming less time for the rendition of the number—an important item with every theater manager.That the New Idea Song Slide is a success is evidenced by the fact that prominent music publishers in this country have availed themselves of this screen attraction, but more important is the fact that motion picture theaters have added the New Idea Illustrated Song Slide to their regular program, reporting that their patrons enjoy this attraction as much as any other feature number on the bill.In this connection, the Standard Art Department is deserving of considerable credit for the artistic effects which they produce on these song slide originals, embellishing the movie star scenes in appropriate designs and combining with them the words of the song in an artistic manner. This department is under the direction of I. Schnapp, assisted by J. K. Dommerque and not only prepares the song slide originals for the camera, but likewise the art work for feature film advance slides and Standard national advertising slides.It must be here mentioned that the mica slide used in the New Idea Song Slides is an original and exclusive product of this corporation, manufactured under the only patent ever granted by this government for a transparent slide other than glass, and as explained above, large numbers of these slides are used for song choruses. But they are also being successfully employed in propaganda announcements such as the present Red Cross drive and during the war were introduced for government needs in the Liberty Loan, Fuel and Food Drives and other campaigns. The development of the mica slide from its crude inception to its perfected stage today is a tribute to the Standard Slide Corporation heads.In the printing department where these mica slides are produced, thoroughly-trained workers devote their best efforts to making these mica slides just a little better than would even seem necessary, while in another section of the print shop, the corporation printing is produced with the usual Standard care and efficiency. This entire department is under the management of Arcadio Valenzuela, one of the heads responsible for the elevation of the mica slide industry to its present high plane.
Schnapp was an artist who illustrated and lettered many of the lantern slides. Schnapp’s talent brought him quick success and stature in the lantern slide industry. He was doing much more than art and lettering. Schnapp had a staff of artists, letterers and colorists; the exact number is unknown. He was probably involved with hiring and firing personnel. He assigned and art directed projects that were produced on a schedule.
Based on available documents, Schnapp’s lantern slide employment began with W.T. Slide Company. By 1918 he was with the Novelty Slide Company which had the same address, 115 East 23rd Street, as W.T. Slide Company. In 1919 Novelty Slide Company merged with Standard Slide Corporation which would be acquired by National Studios, Inc. in 1928. So that’s how Schnapp had a twenty-year career with National Studios, Inc. which began as National Photographers, Inc. in 1914. Defendant’s testimony, in 1936, at the Supreme Court of the State of New York, said
.. That agreement was continued in force after the incorporation of National Studios, Inc., the successor of National Photographers, Standard Slide, Co., Superior Slide Co., Manhattan Slide Co., Greater New York Slide Co., Excelsior Illustrating Co., B. Knoppelman and Animated Products Co.
By the mid-1930s the Silent Movie era ended and, along with it, the intertitles faded out.
In 1939 National Studios, Inc was taken over by Cosmopolitan Studios, Inc. which was founded by H. A. Rosenberg, a former president of Standard Slide Corporation and former vice-president of National Studios, Inc.
The length of Schnapp’s employment at Cosmopolitan Studios, Inc. is unknown. He was doing freelance assignments. In 1940, he produced the newspaper series “The Art of the Ages”. His Superman logo appeared on Superman #6, September-October 1940. This logo for National (DC) Comics suggests he had done work earlier for the pulps produced by Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, the owners of National Comics.
In Alter Ego #157, March 2019, Richard J. Arndt interviewed Barbara Friedlander who worked at DC Comics in the 1960s.
RA: What can you tell us about the DC bullpen of the 1960s? …Friedlander: I knew Sol Harrison, Jack Schiff, Ira Schnapp, and Walter Hurlicheck. … Ira was ancient, an elderly person when I knew him. He’d worked at DC for years but before that he’d worked in the movies doing the lettering on movie posters. He could tell you about all the movies that he made posters for. He was a very interesting character. …
Schnapp had a career doing movie poster lettering during the 1940s. When Schnapp signed his World War II draft card, he was self-employed and had a studio at 442 West 42nd Street in Manhattan. The 1942 New York City directory listed sign-maker Arnold Baum at the same address. The business was operated by Edward Arnold and his uncle, William Baum. (Their relationship was recorded in the 1920 census.) It’s likely Schnapp knew both men and may have worked on some of their signs. An advertisement in the Diary and Manual of the Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. 1925 showed Baum and Arnold had been business partners seventeen years ago.
Their advertisement for bronze memorial tablets appeared in The Living Church Annual 1931. They had an entry in the 1937 Directory of New York State Manufacturers.
Baum & Arnold 442 W. 42nd St. ..... SignsProps.: Edward Arnold and William Baum
So far there is no evidence they produced movie posters. The company exists today as W & E Baum.
Around 1949 Schnapp became staff letterer at National Comics. The 1950 U.S. Federal Census said Schnapp was a commercial artist who worked 40 hours the previous week. He and his family resided in Manhattan at 515 Cathedral Parkway (also known as West 110th Street and the same address in 1940) in apartment 2A.
Schnapp passed away in July 1969.
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SIDEBAR: Joseph Felix Coufal
Joseph Felix Coufal was responsible for hiring Ira Schnapp.
Coufal was born on March 16, 1886 in Manhattan, New York City, according to his birth certificate at Ancestry.com. His parents were Czechoslovakian. Much of Coufal’s early life is unknown.
Moving Picture World, January 1908, said Coufal was the general manager of the Novelty Theater at 871 Third Avenue in Manhattan. The April 1908 issue of Moving Picture World said
Owing to the rapidly increasing demand for their service, the Novelty Slide Company has just opened up spacious studio and offices at 221 East Fifty-third street, New York City, where they, will be pleased to see their old customers and make new friends as well. Their stock is one of the largest in the country, and their manager, Mr. Joseph F. Coufal, reports a very large business. In addition to the slide renting, the Novelty Slide Company will manufacture song slides and announcement slides of real high-class novelty and artistic originality; this department is in charge of Mr. Gerard Passy, the well-known French photographer. Their first set of song slides, “Mary Blaine” (Helf & Hager, Publishers) is now ready, and the photography and coloring is certainly very good.
Novelty Slide Company moved to East Fourteenth Street in 1912.
Coufal appeared in a group photograph published by Billboard on July 13, 1912.
Motography, March 4, 1916, noted Novelty Slide Company’s new location.
The Novelty Slide Company, manufacturer of all kinds of lantern slides, has moved from its former quarters at 67 West Twenty-third street, New York, to 115 and 117 East Twenty-third street.
In 1918, Coufal hired Schnapp.
The following year Coufal was involved with the merger of Novelty Slide Company and Standard Slide Corporation. Apparently he left the lantern slide business in the 1920s.
Coufal’s endeavors in the 1930s and 1940s, were chronicled in the Brooklyn Eagle.
Coufal passed away on July 11, 1948. He was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery.
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SIDEBAR: W.T. Slide Company
In 1917 Ira Schnapp was employed at the W.T. Slide Company which was located at 115 East 23rd Street in Manhattan. The Novelty Slide Company was at the same location and employed Thomas G. Wiley. He was an English theater actor who came to New York in 1907. How he met Coufal is unknown. Wiley was mentioned in Motion Picture News, July 25, 1914.
Thomas T. [sic] Wiley, the able representative of the Novelty Slide Company, played a prominent part both in the manufacturers’ meetings and with his display on the exposition floor. The latter was most varied and interesting. Novelty slides were very much to the fore.
The initials of his first and last name are TW and switched around become WT. There is the possibility that Wiley was involved with the W.T. Slide Company and was first to hire Schnapp. W.T. Slide Company went out of business and may have merged with Novelty Slide Company.
Wiley was born on October 3, 1887 in London, England and passed away January 21, 1957 in New York City.
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How to Make Lantern Slides (1918)
Lantern Slides: How to Make and Color Them: A Handbook of Information Concerning the Production of Lantern Slides by Approved Methods (1920)
Page sixteen mentioned white lettering on a black background.
(Next post Monday: Question Mark)