DOES AND OATS: WESTERN ROMANCE PULPS

Romance in its various forms was a pulp magazine long suit from the 1920s on. In the weird publishing lab that was the pulps, efforts were constantly taking place to further specialize in and graft genres. One of the earliest and most successful of the Romance grafted subgenres was the Western Romance. This genre supported six long running magazines and spawned dozens of titles  from 1924 to 1971. The trend seems to have had two peaks, in the mid 1930s and in the late 1940s. As with the entire industry, decline started to set in about 1960 or so. Unlike the other genres, the Western Romance didn’t transition from pulp to paperback. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have spread to any other media at all. For whatever it was worth, Western Romance belonged entirely to the pulps. On this page is a representative sample of the trend.



Ranch Romances (1924-1971)

Both the first in and the last one standing in the trend, Ranch Romances was launched by Clayton Magazines, a firm not known for innovation. Clayton generally followed genres that had been established in the Dime Novels and this magazine represents their only known departure from that practice. When Clayton sold out to Street & Smith in 1935, Range Romances was not part of the transaction. Instead, it was sold to a slick publisher and then to a succession of paperback houses. During most of its long life, Ranch Romances was the only pulp its various publishers produced. It was the flagship of the entire trend.




The Lariat (1925-1952)

This magazine spent its first four issues as True Adventure, a True Crime pulp complete with some of the first color overlay photographic covers. That apparently didn’t work out. By issue five it was renamed The Lariat “Cowboy Life Stories”. Within a year, the subtitle mutated into “Cowboy Life Romances” after which there was no turning back. The publisher, pulp middleweight Fiction House, became known for courting the female audience by slanting otherwise male genres. The Lariat represents their first attempt. It is one of only two of their female-oriented pulps to actually sport the word ‘romance’ on its cover. Normally they let their cover art speak for itself. This cover is fairly typical of their line, both in terms of quality and overall presentation. No helpless females at Fiction House, ever! (Well, seldom.)



Rangeland Love (1928-1934)

Also from Clayton Magazines, this title had started out simply as Rangeland, a general western pulp. It converted to Rangeland Love in 1929, possibly in reaction to Ranch Romances’ strong sales. It was monthly until the time of Clayton’s sale in early 1935. May be the parent of Street & Smith’s Romantic Range.



North West Romances (1923-1953)

Fiction House’s other romance pulp, it took something of a circuitous route in getting here. Launched in 1924 as Illustrated Novelettes Magazine, it settled on a Pacific Northwest and Canadian setting and became North West Stories in 1925. After having slanted female for some time, it finally threw up the 'romance' flag in 1937, where it stayed until the end of its quite long run. Sometimes labeling is a pleading--a reaction to market trends--and other times it’s a recognition of the audience a magazine already has.  Fiction House’s western title Action Stories also slanted female, however I am including only those pulps which flat out cop to being both western and romance. As with most Fiction House pulps, our female here hardly seems helpless, although I don’t like her odds.



Rangeland Romances (1935-1953)

Popular Publications was the heavy hitter of the 3rd Wave (Depression era) pulp houses. This is their first and longest running entry into the category. Apparently the genre proved to be a winner for them. Over the years they jumped in with several additional titles. Rangeland Romances was their main magazine in this genre and one of their longest lasting titles overall.




Romantic Range (1935-1947)

Publisher Street & Smith came into pulps from two directions. First, by converting their Dime Novel titles into pulp magazines, and second, by continuing the titles they had purchased from Clayton Magazines. Romantic Range is either a complete deviation from this strategy or it is a continuation of Rangeland Love. Under Street & Smith the title was first issued as Romance Range, but then the grammar fairy descended and it was changed to Romantic Range. They had to be somewhat careful since they did not own Ranch Romances or Rangeland Romances. Unlike other pulp publishers, Street & Smith tried not to occlude the trademarks of other parties. This is because, unlike other pulp publishers, Street & Smith was worth suing. In the later stages, many pulps switched to photographic covers—which really doesn’t seem to suit this genre.



Romance Round-Up (1936-1940)

A.A. Wyn served as editor for the Ace Magazines line of detective and western pulps and his wife served as the editor for its romance titles. Who got this one is anyone’s guess. At this point Wyn’s Ace line is a small and tightly run operation. He either makes money or he gets out. Even four years is a long run for him. Wyn would go on to success in paperbacks, where he is noted for his Ace Doubles tandem science fiction novels.




Romantic Western (1937-1939)

From the people who brought you Superman and Batman, in the pulps this publisher was notorious for its depictions of sadism and misogyny. This magazine spent its first seven issues as The Lone Ranger, one of the few licensed pulps. Imagine you had a subscription to The Lone Ranger--and now you’re getting this? Culture Publications (which is what DC Comics had called itself in pulps) would go on to launch a very nice line of romance pulp titles, which they did fairly straight. Here, they are still a little less than cuddly.



Rodeo Romances (1942-1952)

You know the category is doing well if the Thrilling Group is making a showing. They make Clayton and A.A. Wyn seem positively daring. This is a high quality operator and they stay away from anything marginal. (Read: follow Popular around like a dog.) One history I have indicates they became the publisher of Ranch Romances in the later stages. At that point Thrilling Group was Popular Library--the same business with different owners--and had largely gotten out of pulps. (Or I am totally wrong in the conclusion of my listing for Ranch Romances. Take your pick.)



Romance Western (1948-1951)

Another one from Popular Publications. The issue shown features a re-purposed cover. Pulps often reused covers, or in this case, partially repainted them. I'm no expert on the old west, but I am fairly sure they didn’t have electric toasters back then. (Or steel counter tops, or lemon zesters or peroxide.)




Golden West Romances (1949-1950)

From the Thrilling Group. Beyond reusing covers, pulps were also in the business of snatching trademarks away from each other. In this example, the magazine has swiped Golden West, the name of a long running pulp from a previous era. The original Golden West had ceased publication in 1935 and its issuer had gone out of business. So in ‘pulp terms’ it was fair game.



Rangeland Love Stories (1949-1954)

Yet another fair game domain claim, this one from Popular Publications. To make matters more confusing, this isn’t actually Rangeland Love Stories at all but rather a second monthly “increased” issue of Rangeland Romances. Sales were apparently good enough to warrant issuing the magazine twice a month for a while, but not quite good enough to incur the expenses of launching a second magazine. They changed the title of the second monthly issue to Rangeland Love Stories to confuse retailers into displaying both issues for a month. On the other hand, it was a good deal if you were a subscriber. Pulps can be devious.



Real Western Romances (1949-1958)

From Archie Comics doing business as Columbia Magazines. Both Archie Comics and Marvel Comics are descended from Columbia Magazines. In pulps, both firms had the confusing tendency to use either the Columbia, Red Circle or Double Action trademarks. I think this one is from Archie, inasmuch as the woman pictured isn’t under glass or being menaced by a hunchbacked dwarf.



Romantic West Annual (1950-1954)

The strangest part of this Thrilling Group publication is that there is no Romantic West magazine for this to be an annual of. Although not common, this was the pulp version of domain squatting. At the very least this magazine gets to sit there until the retailer gets sick of it. In all probability, its contents are entirely reprints.  Not only is the cover a reuse, it’s only part of the painting. 



Fifteen Range Romances (1953-1954)

Our final entry features this very cute cover. Popular Publications liked it so much they used it at least twice. It also appeared on an issue of Rangeland Sweethearts, another entrant into this genre which Popular published in 1940 through 1941.

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