Highly recommended are Ken Quattro’s articles on St. John and his publishing companies at Comic Artville Library, “Archer St. John & the Little Company That Could” and in Alter Ego #77, May 2008, “The Gospel According to Archer St. John”; and John Benson’s Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics (2007).
Archer Anthony St. John was born on October 15, 1904, in Chicago, Illinois, according to his birth certificate (transcribed at Ancestry.com) and his World War II draft card. His parents were Joseph Mathias St. John and Amy Isabel Archer.
The 1910 United States Census recorded St. John, his parents, older brother, Robert, and younger sister, Dorothy, in Chicago at 1714 Park Avenue. His father was a drugstore pharmacist. His mother was born in Canada.
St. John’s father passed away on April 2, 1917.
The 1920 census said St. John’s mother was a widow and head of the household that included another brother, John. The family resided in Oak Park, Illinois at 928 Ontario Street.
Oak Park, Illinois city directories for 1922 and 1923 listed St. John at 305 Wisconsin Avenue. In 1925 his address was 711 Washington Boulevard.
In the mid-1920s, St. John and and Robert’s investigative reporting on Al Capone got them in trouble.
In Merchant of Words: The Life of Robert St. John (2014), Terry Fred Horowitz said St. John met actress Gertrude Faye Adams in Chicago. Gertrude’s parents divorced after the 1910 census. Her mother, Martha, married Wilberforce Judson Rand on November 11, 1912 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Her father, Milo Ezekiel Adams, moved to Chicago and married Harriet. After the 1920 census, Gertrude moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Chicago.
The Camera, January 1922. Photograph by Charles H. Davis
On September 6, 1929 in New York City, St. John and Gertrude obtained a Manhattan marriage license and married the following day. The marriage was witnessed by their brothers, John Quincy Adams and Robert Williams St. John, and noted in the Okmulgee Daily Democrat (Oklahoma), September 10, 1929. On the certificate, Gertrude said she was 29 but the 1900 census recorded her birth as October 1896, making her almost 33 when she married.
The decision to marry in New York may have been because most of Gertrude’s family had moved there, from Oklahoma, in the second half of the 1920s. Her brother, Charles, became an established artist who painted portraits and worked in advertising and publishing. Her step-father, Wilberforce Judson Rand, was a copyreader at the New York Sun; previously he was editor of The American Saturday Night in Tulsa.
St. John has not yet been found in the 1930 census. The New York, New York Birth Index, at Ancestry.com, said Michael A. St. John was born in the Bronx in the summer of 1930. In 1938 Michael and his mother visited relatives in Harlingen, Texas.
The 1932 Darien, Connecticut city directory said St. John was an advertising manager who lived in Norwalk. (The 1931 directory is not available.) Directories from 1934 to 1938 place him in Noroton, Connecticut off Rings End Road. The 1939 directory said he moved to Wilton, Connecticut.
According to the 1940 census, St. John and his family were Wilton residents. He was an office manager working in advertising. Two months before the April census enumeration, St. John retuned from Havana, Cuba.
On February 16, 1942, St. John signed his World War II draft card. His address was Wolfpit Road in Wilton. The Lionel Corporation employee was described as five feet eleven inches, 170 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair.
The Wilton Bulletin (Connecticut), September 24, 1942, said
Mr. and Mrs. Archer St. John of Wolfpit Rand moved to their new home in Sherman Tuesday. They have bought a large farm.
St. John’s assignment to the Office of War Information’s outpost in Chungking, China was reported in the Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 1945; Motion Picture Daily, July 11, 1945; and Printers’ Ink, July 20, 1945.
St. John’s mother passed away on October 14, 1945.
St. John was a passenger on a U.S. Air Force transport when it landed in San Francisco, California on October 29, 1945. The manifest said his home address was R.F.D. 1, Gaylordsville, Connecticut.
Merchant of Words said
… Robert’s nephew, Archer and Jeff’s son, Michael, a photographer, told me about his father; Archer was not only an alcoholic but also “given to pills. He took speed, like a lot of people. He picked up the habit in China when he was working for the government.” …
Jeff was the nickname of St. John’s wife whose initials, GF, sounded like Jeff.
St. John Publications was formed by 1945 and began producing comic books in 1947. The Grand Comics Database has a list of St. John’s comics from 1947 to 1958. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 has a list of people who produced material for St. John. The Digital Comic Museum has scans of St. John’s comic books. St. John was first to print 3-D comic books and its success was covered in “3-D Comics Knock ’Em Dead”, Writer’s Digest, August 1953.
St. John had affair with comic book editor and art director Marion McDermott. In Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations, Nadine French King said McDermott helped on the new magazine Nugget.
King also said Charles Adams was art director on all the magazines which included Manhunt, Murder, Nugget, Verdict, Mantrap and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. The Murder staff (below) included Gertrude’s brother and nephew, Charles and Gerald Adams, respectively. Associate editor N.F. King was Nadine French King, the wife of Warren King.
Gertrude was a stockholder in Manhunt.
In the 1950 census, St. John and his wife lived in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was a publisher who owned a publishing company and she was keeping house in Cople.
Wikipedia said the farm and house known as Bushfield, in Mount Holly, Westmoreland County, Virginia, was sold to Mrs. [Gertrude] St. John around 1944. The Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia), February 10, 11 and 12, 1950, printed a classified advertisement that was submitted by St. John.
Gertrude sailed to Europe for five weeks beginning on December 17, 1952. She returned on January 26, 1953.
On September 23, 1954, St. John and Frances Stratford, a divorcee, were aboard a Pan American World Airways flight to Bermuda. They returned three days later. Stratford would be the last person to see St. John alive.
St. John passed away on August 13, 1955, in Manhattan, New York City, according to the New York, New York Death Index at Ancestry.com. His death was reported in several newspapers including the Staten Island Advance (New York), August 15, 1955 (below), plus Variety, August 17, 1955, and Advertising Age, August 22, 1955.
Merchant of Words said St. John was cremated. The day of death is incorrect at Find a Grave.
Almost two years after St. John’s death, Gertrude advertised Bushfield for sale in the April 28, 1957 editions of the Evening Star (Washington, DC) and Houston Post (Texas). Gertrude’s youngest brother passed away July 1936 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her father passed away January 1943 in Chicago. Her step-father passed away October 1956 in Poughkeepsie, New York. Seven years later, Gertrude’s mother passed away March 1963 in New York City. The Social Security Death Index said Gertrude was born on October 4, 1896 and passed away March 1965. Two of her last known residences were 20 Charles Street and 4 Perry Street in Manhattan. John Adams passed away January 1968 in Harlingen, Texas. Ten years later, Charles Adams passed away March 1978 in New York.
At 100 years old, Robert St. John passed away on February 6, 2003.
Amazing 3-D (1982)
The Internet Archive, Archer A. St. John and Archer St. John
(Next post on Monday: Designers Dr. Mehemed Fehmy Agha, William Golden, Will Burtin and Cipe Pineles)
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