In a Thought Balloonist post that went up on Monday night, EC writer and editor Al Feldstein responded to claims made by Dr. Bart Beaty about the relationship between Dr. Fredric Wertham and EC during the mid-1950s. Bart quickly wrote up a reply, and then Mr. Feldstein swiftly responded to Bart. We present both messages below.
Many thanks to both Bart and Mr. Feldstein for such a cordial, informative discussion, and we invite TB readers to chime in on the Comments threads.
"Thanks for posting the interesting recollections of Al Feldstein. I was particularly struck by the vehemence of his reaction to Lyle Stuart and the distance that he puts between himself and Exposé (which was, like EC, published out of 225 Lafayette Street), and I'd certainly be interested to hear more on that particular subject, as Stuart is obviously a fascinating and little-discussed figure in this particular history.
"Mr. Feldstein asks for proof of his conversation with Mrs. Wertham and I've provided a scan of a letter, written on EC letterhead, signed by Albert B. Feldstein and dated January 19, 1955:
"This letter can be found where it was filed by Wertham, in Box 124 of his papers at the Library of Congress, in one of the many folders containing correspondence pertaining to the release of Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Letters from Lyle Stuart to Wertham, dated August 23, 1954 (written from 225 Lafayette Street and on behalf of "a comic magazine publisher") and November 30, 1954 (surreptitiously sending Wertham a comic book with the Code authority seal) can be found in Box 127 of his papers, along with other letters relating to Exposé and not to EC directly. I can certainly understand that Feldstein might have been unaware of what Gaines and Stuart were talking to Wertham about in the fall of 1954 but they were certainly talking.
"And, as his letter demonstrates, it seems so was Feldstein. I have no interest in accusing Mr. Feldstein, a writer and editor for whom I have tremendous respect, of playing fast and loose with the facts. If he tells me that he does not recall speaking with Mrs. Wertham, and soliciting Dr. Wertham's assistance, I believe him. My memory of events in my distant past are equally hazy. Nonetheless, I do think that Feldstein's letter, and his lack of recollection of it, underscore an important methodological point for historians of popular culture: namely, that archival evidence, while often frustratingly incomplete (which was the enclosed magazine?), is almost always superior to the faulty memories of participants. Memory is by its nature a highly selective resource, frequently shaped post facto by events and new developments. Fortunately, Wertham was assiduous about record-keeping, and histories that take the time to utilize those resources paint a more complete picture of the time than do those that rely primarily, or even exclusively, on memories of events now half a century past.
"Having made these skeptical comments about the nature of memory, I will say that if seeing this letter jogs any memories for Mr. Feldstein, I'd certainly be interested in hearing them.
"Bart Beaty, University of Calgary."
"My sincere apologies.
"Obviously my memory chips at 82 (going on 83) are, indeed, rotting, and your copy of my letter to Mrs. Wertham was quite a shock to me, because I had neither remembered calling or writing her. But obviously I did just that.
"However...when I read my letter, I began to have a vague recollection of my playful attempt to get in touch with Dr. Wertham to send him a copy of an example of one of our 'New Direction' titles--an impish demonstration of what we were then publishing following our forced dropping of all of our horror and crime titles because of the implementation of the Code.
"Specifically, and I think it was meant to be more as a snide needling than anything else, I sent him, via his wife, a copy of our first issue of Psychoanalysis. But nowhere in my attempted contact with him or his wife did I ask for or suggest that he intercede with the Code authority on our (EC's) behalf.
"And, as expected, I never received any response.
"MAD-ly yours, Al."