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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 4, fall 2004 W I L L S T R A W Traffic in Scandal: The Story of Broadway Brevities In December of 1937, a man named Stephen G. Clow was arrested in Toronto and charged with the publishing of obscene matter tending to corrupt morals. The arrest followed a police raid on a printing shop at 10 1 St Patrick Street. Authorities seized copies of three magazines published on the premises – Broadway Brevities, the Canadian Tattler, and Garter Girls. These titles quickly evoke the worlds of scandal and entertainment; their constitutive words have served to name silent films, eighteenth-century society magazines, and late twentieth-century supermarket tabloids. ‘Broadway Brevities,’ the title that concerns us here, had been the name of a Broadway musical revue in 1920, then of a series of short films produced by Warner Brothers in the 1930s. Most notoriously, however, Broadway Brevities was the title of a New York–based gossip magazine, published from 1916 to 1925 and, in a later revival, from 1930 through 1933. Its editor throughout most of these years was Stephen G. Clow, the man whom Toronto police arrested in 1937. Near the end of his career (and of his life), Clow had moved to Toronto to participate in one more launch of a title that had brought him short-lived fame and a more long-lasting disgrace. On its own, the Toronto Broadway Brevities is a minor example of periodical print culture. Like its US predecessor, the Canadian title survived several changes of style, purpose, and frequency of publication, in the I owe thanks to many people for their assistance with this ongoing project. Danielle Schwartz was a superb research assistant, tracking down documents from Clow’s 1925 trial and a variety of other invaluable materials. I owe her boundless gratitude. Susan E. Houston and Don Wallace were very generous with their time and ideas. Christine Bourolias of the GovernmentofOntario Archives,JohnBellofthe NationalArchivesofCanada, Sandra Alston of the University of Toronto Library, and staff at the Metropolitan Toronto Research Library rare books room, the Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, and the New York Public Library were all very helpful despite my regular demands on their time. Don McLeod of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives was particularly generous in providing a photocopy of an issue of Broadway Brevities. Financial support for most of this research came from the ‘Culture of Cities Project,’ funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through its Major Collaborative Research Initiatives Program and from McGill University. 1 See ‘Thanks for Sentence,’ Toronto Daily Star, 17 December 1937, 8; ‘Editor Arrested, Magazines Seized on “Obscene-Literature” Charges,’ Globe and Mail, 17 December 1937, 7; ‘Charge Literature Corrupted Morals,’ Toronto Star, 14 January 1938, 7. 948 will straw 2 Clow’s marriage certificate confirms that he was the son of James and Lucy Graham Clow of Prince Edward Island. An on-line genealogy gives his date of birth as 5 June 1873 (Descendants of William Graham). The age given on his death certificate further confirms 1873 as the year of his birth. His marriage certificate, however, lists his age as forty-one in 1920 (rather than the forty-seven years he most certainly was), and a witness in his trial refers to him as ‘45 years of age’ in 1925. His marriage, incidentally, had ended by the time of the Brevities trial. university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 4, fall 2004 course of a sordid history marked by ongoing clashes with legal authority. Nevertheless, the history of this single title invites us to trace lines of continuity running through the development of North American scandaloriented periodical publishing in the first half of the twentieth century. As well, the unusual career of Stephen G. Clow offers a useful case for analysis of the cross-border movement of goods, people, and sensations between the United States and Canada. Clow’s professional trajectory is one of virtually uninterrupted decline, as he moved from a position on the edge of New York’s literary and social worlds down into the more tawdry realms of the gossip tabloid...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 947-971
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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