Export Publishing Enterprises Ltd

A Short Lived New Toronto Publisher

© Copyright 2008 by Jim Fitzpatrick

 

In the early hours of December 11th, 1950 a concrete block veneer building at 240 Birmingham Road was destroyed by “one of the most spectacular blazes ever seen in New Toronto.” [1] Fed by leaking gas lines the fire burned for five hours before it was under control, leaving “piles of burned and half-burned books.” [2] “One of the hazards firemen had to face was […] children who scoured the premises looking for comic books.” [3] A newspaper reported that “all presses, an art studio, executive offices and editorial offices were destroyed”, [4] a “new $55,000 press being installed was … destroyed.” [5] and “at least 150 men employed by the company will be thrown out of work.” [6] Another newspaper story said that “the plant produced $100,000 worth of comic and pocket books a month” [7]

The business destroyed that day was Export Publishing Enterprises Ltd. which, for a short period in 1949 and 1950, was “the largest paperback publisher in Canada[8] This article will give a brief history of Export.

On November 20, 1946 Export Publishing Enterprises Ltd. was incorporated with shareholders and officers Stanley Roland Schrag, president, Martin Kastner, secretary and F. R. Steele, vice-president. [9] The only other identified employee was managing editor Harry M. Steele.

The owners were publishers of suburban newspapers who saw the opportunity after the war to expand into a book and periodical publishing venture. Export was one of a number of companies that took advantage of import restrictions put in place after the Second World War in England to deal with serious financial problems caused by the war. One of the areas with restricted imports was books and periodicals. However, while paperbacks couldn’t be imported from the USA, they could from Canada. British publishers made arrangements to have books printed in Canada and distributed in England. The largest was Pembertons of Manchester who distributed Export’s I Found Cleopatra by Thomas P. Kelley, [10] their only book published exclusively for the English market. Export used orders from Britain for paperbacks to secure letters of credit and finance a plant to be built in New Toronto. [11]

The company’s first address was 3079 Dundas Street West in Toronto. The two story building at 3079 Dundas Street West is still there. It is too small to have had more than Export’s business and editorial offices and perhaps an art studio.

 Sometime before April 1949 Export prepared to move their offices to 240 Birmingham Road and placed an ad in the local newspaper: [12]

OFFICE HELP

WANTED

Stenographers, Clerks, Secretaries, Bookkeepers

Highest Wages, Excellent Remuneration

Apply in Person To:

Export Publishing Enterprizes [sic] Ltd.

240 Birmingham Rd, New Toronto

 

The extra support staff was needed for the new plant which included an art studio and printing facilities as well as editorial and business offices. [13]     Export had its earliest books produced under contract while the plant in New Toronto was being completed.

Export was one of a number of Canadian publishers, Harlequin being the only one still in business as the world’s largest romance publisher, who produced mass market paperbacks with sensational pulp-style covers and, to a lesser degree, content in order to attract readers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Mass market paperbacks were then described as being “as universal as cigarettes” and were “bought by people in every walk of life.” [14] They were bought in chain stores such as Woolworth, Kresge, Metropolitan and Zellers; United Cigar Stores; railway and bus station stands; in smaller cities and towns through drugstores, general stores and newsstands – where they were introduced by wholesale news dealers who handled paperbacks along with magazines. [15] Booksellers said that “men and women bought paperbacks in equal ratio but some titles appeal[ed] more to one sex than another.” [16] Export produced titles that appealed to men. A section titled “Sex on the Rampage” from a 1949 business article describes the sort of books Export published.

The better pocket-edition publishers shy away from sensational covers because they feel that sexy front pieces will eventually hurt the business. […] Yet any news-stand shows what is in keenest demand. […] Many titles are mockingly salacious. Subtitles are not even subtle. For example: Speak the Sin Softly is described as “forbidden pleasures and frenzied delight.” Sin for Your Supper is a story of “’fast bucks’ and love women.” Take Another Lover is “enslaved by women’s lust.” Call House Madam is apparently a “passionate true tale of love-girls.” Some publishers and distributors decry this swing to such wanton exploitation of sex. [17]

The last three books mentioned were published by Export.

In May 1948 Export published Mark It With a Stone, the first of 156 books in their News Stand Library Pocket Edition (NSL) imprint. The last NSL book was published with a January 1951 date. Export also published four books in November 1950 under the Torch imprint. Both these imprints were sold only in Canada. Export published a separate series of 28 paperbacks under the NSL imprint that were sold only in the US. Interestingly, 20 of the books in this series were sold with glued-on dust covers.

A review[18] of one of Export’s paperbacks provides a good idea of the literary status of Export’s books. The first four paragraphs of the review summarize the plot. The final paragraph has the reviewer’s opinion: “[t]wo things, perhaps, excuse our giving [the book] so much space: first, that there is some reasonably good writing in it, whence it is shameful that Mr. Holmes [a pseudonym for Raymond Souster, one of Canada’s best known poets] should have aimed so low; second, that this kind of book, deliberately offered by some fly-by-night publisher in the hope of wringing a few dollars from the sex-starved, is a relatively new thing in Canadian publishing.”

In addition to the paperbacks Export published pulps, magazines and a children’s periodical called Junior Weekly. The pulps and magazines were reprints of American periodicals. Export also published dozens of comics which were reprints of American comic books as well as two original comic books, two issues  of Science Comics and one issue of Captain Hobby Comics.

Export is little remembered today but the 20,000 buyers of each of its books and the 150 employees lost something important to them that December morning.

 

 

The author would like to hear from anyone with memories of or information about Export. I may be reached at [email protected].

© Copyright 2008 by Jim Fitzpatrick

 



[1] The Advertiser, December 15, 1950, p. 9.

[2] Ibid. The gas was used for drying the printing.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The Telegram, December 11, 1950, p. 2.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Toronto Daily Star, December 11, 1950 p. 5. See p. 2 for photographs. Other newspaper reports can be found in The Globe and Mail, December 11, 1950, p. 1 and December 12, 1950 p. 5.

[8] Martin Kastner obituary: The Toronto Star, January 14, 1976 p. C8.

[9] This information is in Toronto City Directories for 1949 through 1951 with Frank R. Steele listed as Vice-President and Kastner listed as Secretary Treasurer, Magazine Publishing in 1949 and Secretary Treasurer, Periodicals in 1950 and 1951.

[10] Steve Holland, The Mushroom Jungle (Westbury, England: Zeon Books, 1993), p. 53.

[11] Paul Stuewe, “Export, Eh?” Books in Canada May 1977, p. 8.

[12] The Advertiser, April 22, 1949, p. 3.

[13] The Advertiser, December 15, 1950, p. 9.

[14] Ronald J. Cooke, “The Lure of the Pocket-book Ladies”, Canadian Business, November 1949, p. 130.

[15] Report on the Canadian Book Trade 1944 (Toronto: Book Publisher’s Branch of the Board of Trade of the City of Toronto, 1944), pp. 23-25.

[16] Ibid., Ronald J. Cooke.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Allan Sangster, “The Winter of Time”, The Canadian Forum, May 1950 pp. 45, 46.