Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Comics: Superman Day

Next week, July 3, 2013, is the 73rd anniversary of “Superman Day” at the New York World’s Fair. The Evening Leader (Corning, New York), June 21, 1940 reported the upcoming event.

Note Superman Day At Fair On July 3

Children’s Day, observed every Wednesday at the New York World’s Fair, will be distinguished on July 3 by a novel program built around the popular adventure strip hero, Superman, It was announced by the Fair’s Special Events Department.

The feature attraction of the day will be a parade headed by Superman himself. A contest to select a Super-Boy and Super-Girl is expected to attract thousands of children between the ages of eight and 14. Prominent personalities will decide upon the winners who will receive handsome gold trophies.

Another of the attractions designed especially for Superman Day is to be a series of athletic events, including a 50-yard dash and a 50-yard obstacle race for boys from eight to 11; the same races for boys aged 12 to 14; a 25-yard dash and rope skipping contest for girls of eight to 11 years, and 50-yard dash and a rope skipping contest for girls from 12 to 14. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the winners of the boys’ events, while the lucky girls will receive charms fashioned from the same metals.

Written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Joe Shuster, Superman, published daily in The Evening Leader, is the only comic strip to be honored by its own celebration at the Fair.

Superman debuted in the first issue of Action Comics, cover dated June 1938. The “S” shield on the costume was originally triangular, not the pentagonal design that’s so familiar today.

The shield changed in Action Comics, number 46, April 1942.

Illustration for the 1978 movie by Bob Peak

There was a parade on “Superman Day” with Superman leading it. The New York Times, July 4, 1940, said: “The mystery of the day was ‘Superman’ himself. No amount of inquiry could reveal his identity. But he was a resplendent figure, attired in his tight-fitting blue pants, red boots, red cape and helmet to match. He led the parade, standing on something that resembled a marble pedestal.”

Of course, Superman does not wear a helmet. The photos, below, of the mystery man costumed as Superman are from the site, His Name is Studd.

For “Superman Day” it was decided by someone or a committee to add Superman above the “S” in the costume’s shield, perhaps to be sure the character would be identified correctly in photographs.

There has been much speculation about who wore the costume that day. Actor Ray Middleton has been named by many sources. He was a participant at the Fair’s “American Jubilee” as reported and pictured in the New York Sun, May 13, 1940.

He also participated as a judge in the “Superman Day” contest to select a Superboy and Supergirl. According to the Times, the other judges were Lucy Monroe (click link and woman with hat), Frank Buck, Morris Gest and Charles Atlas. They picked William Aronis and Maureen Reynolds as the super boy and girl. At the website Superman Through the Ages, Aronis supplied photos of himself, holding the trophy, with Atlas and Middleton.

The photo, above, of the winners and Middleton (far right) was in front of the Jubilee entrance. In both images of Middleton, he was a pointed chin and hair parted on the left. (More images of him are at Book Steve’s Library.) In the photos of the mystery man, he was a square chin and hair parted on the right.

Middleton performed in the 1949 production of South Pacific at the Majestic Theatre in New York City. Two images from the souvenir program are here. Below are the cover of a 1950 Playbill and another photo of the mystery man.

Below are close-ups of their profiles, with Middleton on the left and the mystery man on the right. Clearly to me, Middleton and the mystery man are not the same person.

Some sources refer to the first day of issue envelope for the New York World’s Fair “Superman Day” as proof that Middleton appeared in costume as Superman. The text on the envelope said: “Ray Middleton appeared as Superman at the fair for a live radio broadcast….”

The live radio broadcast required his voice but not a costume. While the envelope text is factually true, it did not say or mean Middleton actually donned the costume for the parade. Even the image of the costumed mystery man on the envelope is not proof it was Middleton. A video of “Superman Day” is here.

(Next post on Monday: Price Building)


  1. While I continue to look into it as well, as does Mark Evanier, I am now strongly leaning toward the fact that it is NOT Ray at all, the proof being the photo of Ray actually there that day as himself (and with hair parted on the opposite side).


  2. Next week, July 3, 2013, is the 73rd anniversary of “Superman Day” at the New York World's Fair. The Evening Leader (Corning, New York), ... isupermanring.blogspot.com

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