On the Occasion of Curtis Brown Ltd’s 70th Anniversary
The enclosed squib in the NY Times evoked some fond memories.
In the summer of 1916 I was the office boy in Curtis Brown – then in the World Tower building on West 40th Street. The staff consisted of a very portly Britisher named Mr. Barmby, a secretary, and myself. The office was tiny. We received a great many manuscripts – some from the London office.
My job was to tour the Manhattan publishers every day delivering bundles of manuscripts and picking up the rejections. I got to know the taste of most of the publishers. Century and Harper got the good stuff and all book length manuscripts and paid top dollar.
They printed Railroad Magazine and several others. Street and Smith were down on 13th Street. There was also a firm on the lower West Side that published a fashion magazine. I think they also published Adventure Magazine. (Editor’s note: A bit of 1984 research shows that Adventure was published by the Butterick Publishing Company, who also produced Delineator, Romance and Everybody’s).
Every night we shipped manuscripts to other publishers in the U.S.A. by delivering them to the American Express office on 29th or 39th Street.
I received a salary of $5.00 a week, but there were certain fringe benefits that brought me another $3.00 a week. It wasn’t bad – considering that all newspapers sold for one cent each, and a hotdog was three cents, including sauerkraut and mustard. Around the corner on 7th Avenue the Italian restaurants served a full course meal from soup to nuts, including a bottle of wine, for seventy cents.
We received a lot of mail from British possessions all over the world. Their postage stamps were colorful and exotic.
We did not enjoy all the blessings of today’s New York. There were no radios, T.V., drugs, autos, airplanes, crime waves, or rock music.
I don’t know what the authors used for food and lodging in those days – because their compensation was so miserable.
Some stories couldn’t be sold to anybody, even though they were peddled all over the country.
Very truly yours,
Bernard J. Ferguson
• On the Occasion of Curtis Brown, Ltd.’s 70th anniversary