1938-06 The Submarine Mystery

What exactly was the basis for the character “Prince Albert” in “The Submarine Mystery?”  The likely answer to this question comes in literally three parts. The King of England, Edward VII, was popularly known as Prince Albert before his coronation.  The item readers are interested in is the second part, which was a tobacco brand named Prince Albert.  That particular tag has been used for tobacco products since before 1900.  It was marketed by R. J. Reynolds as a brand beginning in 1907 and is still sold today.  The tobacco was named after Edward VII. 

The third part of the answer lies with a device called the telegraph sounder. This was a mechanism that was designed to give the Morse code received a more distinctive sound.  Eventually telegraphers improvised by placing metal objects against the sounder for additional amplification of the vibrations.

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The Prince Albert tobacco tin was a popular object among telegraphers as an ad hoc amplifier.  Lester Dent’s early career as a telegraph operator undoubtedly acquainted him with this concept.  Naming his villain “Prince Albert” was something of an inside joke and a nod to fellow telegraphers.

The climax of our story takes place on a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean.  Chapter Seven of “The Submarine Mystery” is titled “Raider Island.” The real-life counterpart of this isolated island is Tristan Da Cuhna.  This is a small volcanic island group located in the South Atlantic Ocean.  Discovered in 1506 by Portuguese explorer Tristao Da Cunha, it was named after him.  In 1816, the island became part of the United Kingdom and remains so to this day. The island bears the distinction of being is the most remote inhabited island in the world.  The nearest continent is Africa which Doc Savage verifies in the story as that is his proposed destination during an escape episode.  The inhabitants of the island do have some unusual speech patterns that have been studied and documented.  Though the differences are notable, they are nothing like the archaic speech portrayed in the Doc Savage story. There are at least three newspaper human-interest articles describing the remote island that were published in 1933, 1935, and 1936 along with non-fiction books.  The island is also mentioned in “The Narrative of Author Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe and “In Search of the Castaways” (1867-1868) by Jules Verne.