062. Harry Felsenstein

For Doc Savage fans, perhaps the most important man you probably never heard of was Harry Felsenstein.  The first time I saw that name was in The Savage Society of Bronze #7.  That was a fanzine published in 1985 but I only saw it some 35 years later.  The article was titled Savage Society of Bronze Profile #8, The Sargasso Ogre by Paul Bonner who worked at Conde Nast.  It was decades after publication before I ever saw a copy.  The fanzine published some comments by Paul Bonner who handled publication issues for the old Street & Smith properties, particularly the Doc Savage paperback series. 

The article noted that a person by the name of Harry Felsenstein had approached Bonner about getting the old Frank Merriwell series back in print.  The two men confabulated and determined that Street & Smith had sold the rights to Frank Merriwell.  Felsenstein asked Bonner what other properties the firm had that were similar to Frank Merriwell.  Bonner mentioned Doc Savage, a character neither men were overly familiar with.  Harry Felsenstein tucked that idea into his pocket and proceeded over to Bantam Books to meet with Marc Jaffe.  It turned out that Jaffe was more than a little familiar with Doc Savage and jumped on the idea of reprinting the books.  A contract was signed in 1963 and the first four books came out the next year.

One wonders how an aging silk label salesman managed to get an appointment with an executive at Conde Nast back in 1963.  After that meeting, Felsenstein went over and visited with Marc Jaffe, the Editorial Director at Bantam Books.  How did that happen?

A closer look at Conde Nast executive Paul Bonner reveals that his father, Paul Hyde Bonner, Sr. was an executive in the silk manufacturing industry as shown on the 1930 US Census.  One has to wonder if Paul Bonner, Sr., and Harry Felsenstein were known to one another in a professional capacity.  It would sure explain how that meeting took place.  But it could just be that Paul Bonner, Jr. was simply a nice man who agreed to meet with Felsenstein.  Too much time has passed to ever know the real answer.

Felsenstein’s draft card showing his occupation

Harry Felsenstein was born on July 3, 1906, in Manhattan, New York, to Minnie Felsenstein, age 21, and Benjamin Felsenstein, age 30.  The 1930 US Census showed Harry working as a salesman for a silk house.  Harry’s draft card dated October 16, 1940, showed his employment at the Hercules Woven Label Company.  His wife’s name was Mary.  Harry died on February 4, 1991, and was buried at Mount Golda Cemetery Huntington, New York.

Harry was dedicated to Frank Merriwell.  The December 24, 1962 issue of Sports Illustrated carried an article on Frank Merriwell.

FRANK MERRIWELL’S TRIUMPH
HOW YALE’S GREAT ATHLETE CAPTURED AMERICA’S FANCY, OR, PURIFIED THE PENNY DREADFULS AND BECAME IMMORTAL
By ROBERT H. BOYLE

Harry Felsenstein is quoted in the article;

For the past two years, Harry Felsenstein, a New York label manufacturer, has been seeing one publisher after another in an effort to get the Merriwell stories republished. “They teach a sense of values that is missing today,” Felsenstein says. “Whenever I went out to play baseball or football, I thought of myself as Frank Merriwell, and I found myself performing stunts I didn’t think I was capable of, like making sensational catches, one-handed sensational catches. I always came through, advancing the runner. I never struck out. On the track team, in the last few yards, I always seemed to surge forward. Fantastic!”

The article can be read here: Sports Illustrated

Harry Felsenstein never forgot about Frank Merriwell.  A dozen years later, the Sunday, March 9, 1975, edition of the Daily News printed a letter from Harry Felsenstein about Frank Merriwell.

Doc Savage fans should remember the name Harry Felsenstein.