Just before Christmas, I ran a picture tweeted by DC Comics of the 1945 DC Christmas party, with many figures from comics history—from artist Joe Kubert to publisher Harry Donenfeld —in the room. The photo conveyed a palpable sense of the past brought to life, the clinking of glasses, the laughter of women, the camaraderie of the still young industry.
Thanks to DC, I was able to share a huge version of the photo with a group of comics historians and since then, like a Bletchley Park of the pulps, they’ve been trying to identify as many people as possible in the photo—including Mart and Carrie Nodell (still with us!) and many more. It must be said letterer Todd Klein is the Mikael Blomqvist of this particular mystery, as he’s revealed in a massive and astounding post that IDs as many people as possible and explains who they were and what they might have been doing on this particular Christmas Eve.
480 Lexington Avenue was the home of most of the Donenfeld businesses from the early 1930s to around 1960. It was the address for the east side of the Grand Central Palace building, shown here, that filled an entire city block. Donenfeld’s offices and companies were on the ninth floor. The lower floors held a large exhibition hall where trade shows were presented for about 40 years, and there was probably at least one restaurant or banquet hall included. That might have been where the DC holiday party was held, we don’t know. The date of Dec. 24th, 1945 is interesting in that it’s Christmas Eve Day and despite that, the room is packed with over 200 people. This shows how local the comics business was in those days. People could attend the party and still get home to their families that evening before the Christmas Day holiday.
Seriously, this is a feat of detective work that’s almost Jason Shiga level. Perhaps Todd is the one person who can decode the ending of The Shining for us? He also posts the hand written guest list that DC had on hand, which he theorizes (with very sound reasoning) was written by DC employee Milton Snapinn for the use of Julius Schwartz, perhaps as part of Schwartz’s own research project?
I knew both men and worked with them on the DC staff from 1977-1987. Julie and Milt used to play cards together at lunchtime whenever Julie didn’t have a lunch meeting. Milt was a letterer, and that’s evident in the way the list was written, I think.
As long ago and far away as this photo seems, people in it were working at DC as recently as 30 years ago, and plenty of people still in comics worked with them there. It’s a still living but rapidly vanishing slice of history.
If you thought Todd Klein was just the most decorated and greatest letterer of all time, he may be just as fine a comics historian.
And thanks again to Brandy Phillips at DC for helping with the investigation.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.