Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Mystery of the Charles Wrenn Sculpture

I received a really interesting email the other day from Margaret Watts in Australia. She has in her possession a sculpture with some pulp fiction connections, but we're not really sure what the full story is.

According to Margaret, this sculpture was given as an award at some point in the 1930s in the United States. Charles L. Wrenn's signature is on the base, and along each side of the base are the names COWBOY STORIES, RANCH ROMANCES, and ACE HIGH, which we all know were popular and long-standing pulp Westerns during the 1930s.





Margaret checked David Saunder's website, the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists (www.pulpartists.com) and says the signature on the sculpture matches the one on Charles Wrenn's bio page.

According to Margaret, "This statuette came into my family via my mother’s second husband, Arthur. Arthur told my brother that he’d inherited from his mother who lived for quite some time in the US. He also said that it had been awarded in the 1930s. Unfortunately, as with many family histories, Arthur is now long deceased and the story is not complete."

Margaret also told me of another intruiging tidbit: in the 2006 movie THE HOLIDAY, (you know the one, where Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz switch houses), Kate befriends an elderly screenwriter (played by Eli Wallach). When she visits his house, there, among his many awards, is the sculpture.

PulpArtists.com says that Charles Wrenn sold freelance pulp magazine covers to The Danger Trail, People's Magazine, Ranch Romances, Three Star Magazine, and War Stories from 1920 to 1936. In 1936 he moved to Wilson Point, South Norwalk, in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he painted portraits and landscapes until he died in 1952 at the age of 72.

Below are a couple of Wrenn's covers.

So, does anyone have any ideas of the story behind this sculpture? I'm thinking that maybe it was an award given by someone like the Western Writers of America, but not sure.




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20 comments:

Walker Martin said...

At one time during the period of the 1920's and up to about 1932, the three pulp magazines mentioned on the sculpture were all published by Clayton. Also the sculptor, Charles Wrenn did artwork for the Clayton line of pulps.

So, my guess is that the sculpture was awarded or given to someone connected to Clayton publishers. Maybe an author, artist, or editor who did work on the three magazines listed: ACE HIGH, COWBOY STORIES, and RANCH ROMANCES. Wrenn was either commissioned to do the piece or maybe he just did it and gave it as a token of appreciation to a Clayton editor as thanks for all the work that they assigned him.

We will probably never know for certain the real history behind this mystery.

It's a real nice piece of art and one I would like to own because of the pulp connection.

Jonathan G. Jensen said...

Laurie, I'm with Walker on this one, I have seen that sculpture somewhere before, maybe somewhere else on the web. I looked though the Clayton pulps I have and did not see anything in that reguard. I did notice that in 1928 for Ace High they auctioned the cover painting, so a long shot I know, maybe they auctioned the sculpture. Dunno, sure I saw that as a prize for a story or some such...Jonathan

Charles Gramlich said...

I love a good mystery. That's cool. I've got nothing I know about it.

Will Murray said...

This looks familiar to me. I think there's a picture of it in Edward Leithead's memoir of his pulp writing career in TRUE WEST. I don't know where my copy is, but I recall that it tells the story of this sculpture.

Walker Martin said...

Thanks Will. Mystery solved. The sculpture is not pictured in the Leithead memoir but he does talk about it. In the magazine TRUE WEST, February 1967, page 13, Leithead says, "Charlie Wrenn made a model of a cowboy on a bucking bronc, the stand on which the man and horse were pin-wheeling being a triangle with the three magazine titles on the sides. The figures were cast in a metal resembling bronze, and many of the writers and illustrators received a model for Christmas. I got one..."

This article has been reprinted in Pulp Vault 14 and the above quote is on page 159. Pulp Vault 14 has been called the greatest single issue of a pulp fanzine and may be ordered from Black Dog Books or amazon.com.

Jonathan G. Jensen said...

Thank you Will, exactly where I saw it mentioned. I over looked it, when I was looking over my Clayton pulps. Leithead does mention that the sculpture was a cowboy on the bucking bronc, so she may have to look for the other part of the piece. As for where it was given out he says as Christmas Presents to the authors like himself and Major G W Lillie ( Culpepper Chunn) as well as the illustrators got them too! So mystery solved and maybe she has a relative in the pulps business. Jonathan

Walker Martin said...

By the way, on page 58 of the TRUE WEST issue for Feb 1967, J.P. Guinon, a magazine dealer, lists a "Table of Values and Scarcity Factor". In 1966 COWBOY STORIES, ACE HIGH, AND RANCH ROMANCES were worth from 50 cents to a $1.50 each. He also lists several other western pulps and they also are very inexpensive. The costliest pulp was SPICY WESTERN at $1.50 to $3.50.

I can actually remember those days and most collectors completely ignored the western pulps. You couldn't give them away. All they wanted to buy was the SF and hero pulps like SHADOW, DOC SAVAGE, etc. Times have changed somewhat but westerns still have not received the respect that they deserve.

Laurie Powers said...

Wow, this is all way more information than I thought we'd get - this is fantastic. I'm sure Margaret will be thrilled with this information. As she's in Australia her time zone is like 15 hours ahead of ours so she's probably sleeping right now. How her relative got it and why is the missing link that will help us figure out her pulp connection.

And Walker, you're right - the pulp Western has never gotten the respect it deserved. It's only been through the loyalty of modern Western writers like James Reasoner that keep its history alive.

thanks everyone!

fourthhostcelestials (DLSmith) said...

Here you go with the complete article (cowboy) and many others photos for you to post. (12 Photos for you to post)

BRONZE COWBOY ON HORSE BY CHARLES L. WRENN

This is a beautiful bronze statue of a Cowboy riding a bucking bronco by Charles L. Wrenn. He is a well known artist from the Cincinatti, OH. The statue has three inscriptions around the base: "Cowboy Stories"; "Ace High"; and "Ranch Romances". The statue is 11" tall and the base is 10" at it's longest point. Item has a nice patina. We are asking a low opening bid price with No Reserve. Item is being sold "As Is" with no guarentee that it is a original production. We purchased this item in Kentucky while exploring "The US Route 127; World's Longest Yard Sale". SOLD $152.50

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&_trksid=p4340.l2557&item=250988603445&nma=true&rt=nc&si=1iNLLo8C9fC%252FbN5XHtQjF5LpGy0%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc


ENJOY PULPS - DLSmith

Marg said...

That's fantastic information and thank you all ever so much. I've never seen this horse with a cowboy on it so probably it was lost long ago!

Marg said...

Another thought. Now I have a time frame, and have narrowed the choice of pulp titles, is there any way that I can get a list of authors of that time? I may be able to recognise a name amongst the list?

Laurie Powers said...

Probably the fastest and easiest way to look for authors is to go to the Fiction Mags Index online (http://www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm). There you have a couple of choices: go to "By Title" and then peruse each title. (like "Ranch Romances"). But the easier way would be to go the Author page (Click on 'By Author' on the home page) and it will take you to a list of all authors. This isn't separated by magazine, though, so the list is pretty extensive. The Fiction Mags Index is a work in progress - it's constantly being updated - so it's not totally complete but it is a good database to start with.

Jonathan G. Jensen said...

Yup Marg, Google Fictionmags and go to Ranch Romance for instance and the year and look about. I suspece that Ace High would be a better choice. It gives artists sometimes too, mostly covers. Nice to see David send a photo of the rider also, hey? Lots of info to digest there. Jonathan Jensen

Laurie Powers said...

What I want to know is what happened to the sculpture in the movie. Somewhere, in some movie prop house, it's collecting dust on a shelf....

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Meade Phillips said...

I'm writing concerning the Charles L. Wrenn sculpture post. I also have the sculpture that is been described with the cowboy atop the bucking bronc, on the base with magazine names. BUT, I also have another Wrenn sculpture that is of a steer wrestler (bulldogger) on the ground with steer's head and horns in hand ready to be grounded. The base is somewhat oval, with "Charles L. Wrenn" signed on the top of the base. Around the edge of the base is the following....v COWBOY STORIES v RANGELAND STORIES v ACE HIGH MAGAZINE v RANCH ROMANCES v....
How I came by these sculptures is vague in my memory, but here is what I can remember. Good friends of my parents, Julius and Martha Peterson treated me as their son when I was born in 1939. I heard that "Julie" was in the publishing business, and for some reason the cities of Chicago and/or San Francisco ring a bell, although we lived in Pasadena, CA. I believe that Mr. Peterson travelled for his job. He died around 1942. I don't know if Mrs. Peterson gave these sculptures to my parents when I was young or she gave them to me when I was older. All I know is that they did come from the Peterson's. I don't know what publisher Mr. Peterson was associated with.
These could have been awards or bonsuses to writers, employees?? I don't know of anything that they were a sale item sponsored by the magazines or publisher.
The appearance of a second sculpture causes me to wonder if there were others. I continue to be interested in any information that might be found.

Anonymous said...

I have the sculpture of the steer wrestler as well as broncobuster . Following the comments with interest