Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Creator: John Martin is Morgan van Roorbach Shepard

John Martin is the pseudonym of Morgan van Roorbach Shepard according to a profile published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York), March 22, 1925. Shepard was born on April 8, 1865, in Brooklyn, New York, according to a passport application at

The 1870 U.S. Federal Census recorded the Shepard family in St. Marys, Maryland. Shepard was the oldest of two children born to Rhodes, a farmer, and Cornelia. Shepard’s parents married in November 1862 and his mother died November 1873, according to the Genealogy of the Descendants of John Deming of Wethersfield, Connecticut: With Historical Notes (1904).
In the Brooklyn Daily Eagle profile, Shepard said

“Do you know,” he said to set us right at the beginning, “John Martin isn’t my real name. It’s Morgan Van Roorbach Shepard. I was raised on a little Maryland plantation. My mothers [sic] wanted me to be educated, but there was no school convenient. So she taught me herself by telling me stories about the birds that lived nearby in a martin bird house—one of those tiny cabins on top of a tadpole.” He broke off to sketch a picture of the abode. “All the birds that flew in and out were named, but the leader bird she called John. She had a wonderful imagination. I used to sit at her knee and listen to her whimsies, stories and fairy tales by the hour. That was practically my entire schooling. Years after, when I was casting about for a simple nom de plume to appeal to children I recalled the name of the boss martin bird and appropriated that name—John Martin. If my mother picked it I knew it must be all right. And John Martin I’ve been ever since.”
In the 1880 census, Shepard and his sister lived with their paternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth, aunt and uncle, Sophia and William, and three servants in Tenafly, New Jersey. His grandfather was a dry goods merchant.

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), December 14, 1924, published an article about Shepard who said

“When my mother died I had a lasting memory of all those things. I went to live with my grandparents. I was put in a German school and was very unhappy. Finally I set out for myself. I made the trip around the Horn on a ship. I prowled about South America and Panama, and I found my way into restless Central America and Had my fling as a soldier of fortune….”
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle profile had this recollection by Shepard.
…I’ve been a cowboy punching cattle, Central American revolutionist and a newspaper man like yourself. I spent thirteen years working in a bank. Those were unlucky years for me. I was miserable, a square peg in a round hole. Always I wanted to get with the children, heard their little voices calling, calling. I drifted around Mexico, Maine and California….
The New York Times, May 17 1947, said “…On the Coast [San Francisco] he became a street car conductor, but was fired soon because he let too many children have free rides. For a while he worked as a reporter and then got a job in a San Francisco bank….”

The 1888 California Voter Register listed Shepard as a clerk staying at 1615 Clay, 2nd Floor, Room F in San Francisco.

St. Mary’s Beacon (Leonardtown, Maryland), October 10, 1889, said Shepard’s father remarried, “At New Market, Va., on August 11th, 1889, by the Rev. H.D. Bishop. Josephine F., daughter of John F. and R[illegible] Harris. to Rhodes Shepard, both of St. Mary’s county, Md.”

The 1891 San Francisco Directory said Shepard worked at the Bank of California and lived at 1615 Clay.

The San Francisco Call, May 22, 1892, reported the baseball game between First National Bank and the Bank of California. According to the box score, right fielder Shepard had one hit in five at bats and made an error. First National won 14 to 11.

A description of Shepard, a clerk, appeared in the 1892 California Voter Register. He was five feet six inches with blue eyes and light colored hair. His address was 1223 Pine, 2nd Floor, Room B, in San Francisco. The 1896 voter register said Shepard was five feet five inches with gray eyes and sandy hair. The bank clerk resided at 1034 Vallejo.

The San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 1898, noted Shepard’s new business association, “David P. Elder announces that Morgan Shepard is now associated with him in the business of The Book Room, Mills building. Their specialty is choice editions and rare and antiquarian books.”

According to the 1900 census, Shepard, a book salesman, was a San Francisco resident residing at 1034 Vallejo. Living with him was his wife, sister, Elizabeth, and a servant.

The Evening Star (Washington, DC), November 4, 1901, noted Shepard’s hotel arrival.

On June 3, 1903, a passport was issued to Shepard who intended to return to the U.S. by May 1904. Attached to the passport application was the business card of Mr. Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress, who testified, at the Passport Bureau, that he knew Shepard.

New York Daily Tribune, June 27, 1903, reported Shepard’s business move, “Mr. Morgan Shepard has retired from the firm of Elder & Shepard. It will continue to publish after being incorporated under the laws of California as Paul Elder & Co. With the exception of “The Birdalone Letters,” which have been assumed by Mr. Morgan Shepard, the former publication will be continued.” The New York Times, May 17, 1947, said Shepard “made enough money to go abroad in 1904, studying book printing, book binding and jewelry designing.”

Shepard’s address in San Francisco was 1034 Vallejo as recorded in the 1904 California Voter Register.

Shepard described how the 1906 San Francisco earthquake affected him.

…But it was the big earthquake out on the coast that finally picked me up and dropped me in my niche. But it took one of nature’s greatets [sic] upheavals to point the way.”

…“I got knocked around, a bit while the quake was passing through,” John Martin continued. “After I got patched up in the hospital I managed to patch up my broken finances so that I started in this little publishing undertaking.”
Publishers Weekly, June 30, 1906, reported Shepard’s move move. 
New York City.—R. [sic] Morgan Shepard announces that his publishing business, formerly conducted at 231 Crocker Building, San Francisco, has been transferred to 225 Fourth Avenue, (Parker Building,) where it will continue as the Morgan Shepard Company. All publications heretofore listed, as well as plates, manuscripts and records, were lost in the recent San Francisco fire, which loss may cause some temporary inconvenience, but will not prevent a prompt readjustment of affairs. The Morgan Shepard Company will soon offer an interesting list of books, brochures, cards and leaflets.
Six-and-a-half weeks later, The New York Times, August 18, 1906, reported the status of Shepard’s situation.
Morgan Shepard, late of San Francisco, has transferred his business to this city. Although his stock, manuscripts, &c., were lost in the recent fire, Mr. Shepard nevertheless secured duplicates of manuscripts and other matter and is about to begin publishing these. The first announcements concern four volumes—“The Diary of a Forty-niner,” edited by C. L. Canfield; “Henrik Ibsen,” by Haldane Macfall, author of “Whistler,” &c.; “ “On the Giving of Gifts,” by Margaret O. Graham, and “Lions,” by James Simpson, being series of twelve caricatures of notables, including Roosevelt, Kipling, Hall Caine, Whistler, Gorky, and others, with an introduction by Haldane Macfall.

Above: The New York Times Holiday Book Number, December 1906

The 1910 census said self-employed publisher Shepard and his wife resided in Manhattan at 143 East 21st Street.

In 1912 John Martin’s newsletter changed into a magazine, John Martin’s Book. The first issue (below) was dated November 1912.

John Martin’s House was a publisher of Edwin G. Lutz’s What to Draw and How to Draw It.

The illustrators who contributed to John Martin’s Book include George Carlson, W. W. Denslow, Johnny GruelleHarvey PeakeWalter Wellman and Charles Arcieri.

John Martin’s Annuals can be viewed here (1916) and here (1917). A bound volume of John Martin’s Book, for the months of January to June 1921, is here.

An advertisement for John Martin’s Publications appeared in The Outlook, November 15, 1922.

The last issue of John Martin’s Book was dated February 1933.

In the 1915 New York state census Shepard and his wife made their home at 37 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Shepard was a publisher and house writer. The 1920 census had the same address for Shepard who was a magazine publisher. The address was unchanged in the 1924 New York, New York, Voter List at

The Sunday Star (Washington, DC), February 12, 1922, noted the death Shepard’s father, “Shepard. Peacefully, in Washington, February 11, 1922. Rhodes Shepard, in his 86th year. Services (private) Monday, February 13. Interment at Leonardtown, St. Mary’s county. (Leonardtown Beacon please repeat notice.)”

On August 29, 1927. Shepard arrived in New York City on the steamship American Shipper. The passenger list said he had departed from London, England on August 19 and his address in New York City was 33 West 49th Street.

Magazine editor Shepard and his wife were Manhattan residents in the 1930 census. The couple made their home at 22-24 East 36 Street.

An archive of Shepard’s publishing records and personal papers are in the de Grummond Collection of the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Mississippi. The archive description said “The collection includes several letters relating to Martin’s appointment as director of juvenile programming at NBC in 1933….An annotated list of Martin’s speaking engagements for 1933–1935 is evidentiary of his active role as a traveling lecturer…”

Shepard passed away May 16, 1947 in New York City. The New York Times, May 17, 1947, said Shepard “died yesterday at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park, of which he had been a member for the last twenty-eight years. He was 82 years old….His wife, Mary Elliot Putnam Shepard, whom he married in 1900 [sic], died in 1942.” The 1900 census said Shepard’s marriage was in 1895. His wife passed away September 6, 1942 according to a death notice in The New York Times, September 8.

Further Reading and Viewing
Paul Elder & Company
Google Images

(Next post on Monday: Trademarks, September 24, 1935)