LIGHTNER, OTTO CURTIS
Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III
Photo of Otto Curtis Lightner circa 1930, published in Hobbies, June (1950) : 100. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.
Otto C. Lightner is best known as the publisher of Hobbies, The Magazine for Collectors, the successor to Philatelic West. Through his magazine he did much in promoting various fields of collecting, autographs, antique furniture, china, silver, stamps, coins and paper money, buttons, dolls and just about anything collectible. His stamp and coin departments were important in the history of American numismatics which were run by various celebrities over the years and filled with a rich assortment of articles and advertisements. The Lupia Numismatic Library has virtually a complete set of both Philatelic West and Hobbies with many duplicates, all available for sale. Write John@numismaticmall.com.
His private and business life were filled with excitement, drama, and tragedy.
Otto Curtis Lightner (1886-1950), was born on July 2, 1886, Norwich, Kingman County, Kansas, son of James Edwin Lightner (1854-1930), a merchant and native of Pennsylvania, and Maria Catherine Hoover (1861-1946), a native of Ohio.
The Lightner family were part of the American colonial period when German Lutheran immigrants who fled religious persecution went to London, Surrey, England, and many migrated to both Ulster County, New York, Canada, and into Pennsylvania. Beginning with Nathaniel Ignatius Lightner (1709-1782), and his father Johann Adam Lightner (1678-1736), whom the latter was born in Germany, came to America first settling in Ulster County, New York before finding their way into Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Johann Adam Lightner fought during the American Revolutionary War. Otto C. Lightner was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
The year of his birth seems unclear since many legal documents by his own hand and social security say he was born in 1886, yet his tombstone reads 1887. However, he did lie on his 1907 marriage license claiming to be born in 1883. Perhaps he was embarrassed since his first wife was born in 1884 and thought it unfashionable to marry a woman three years his senior. Enough about birth years.
He grew up in Wichita City, Kansas with his four brothers : Scott Will (1882-1962), Ralph Emerson (1884-1967), Paul Arthur (1894-1960), and George (1897-1963), and two sisters : Gertrude (1888-), and Elsie May (1892-1984).
He graduated Wichita Grammar School in May 1901.
In 1903, he was the president of the Young Men's Christian Club of the First Presbyterian Church, Wichita, Kansas.
On September 23, 1903, he was arrested and fined $10 for burning papers in an alley in violation of the City of Wichita ordinance prohibiting bonfires in alleys.
On July 2, 1904, his eighteenth birthday, he delivered a speech titled : "How Christian Endeavor Will Influence the Future Destiny of Our Country," at the Christian Endeavor Rally held on the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt for President.
In September 1904 he was elected to the Young Men's Republican League.
In June 1905, he bought out a wholesale stock of millinery goods, running advertisements in the Wichita Daily Eagle, looking to hire two experienced street men and two traveling salesmen, selling hats, call third floor, National Bank Building.
In 1906, he began his career as a typesetter for a Kansas City newspaper, The Daily Journal.
He was reported to leave for New York City to work on a newspaper there in January 1907.
In 1907, he moved from Wichita, Kansas to Cincinnati, Ohio, working as an editor of The Jewelers' Dial, 38 Pickering Building, Cincinnati.
In August 1907 he resigned from the The Jewelers' Dial, after an unsuccessful election where he backed Mr. Mullaly of Indianapolis for president of the American National Organization of Retail Jewelers, with John P. Archibald winning the election.
On September 5, 1907, he married Winifred Katherine Bruce (1884-), a native of Wichita, Kansas, at her uncle's home, Jamestown, Mercer, Pennsylvania.
In 1908, he worked as a traveling salesman selling Dye's Chili Mixture. He published advertisements that appeared to be a candid interview to promote Dye's Chili Mixture with some lively descriptions of people and food.
Lightner : "I am not a bigot! But those Chinks, Greasers and Old Maids . . . whew . . . enough to make your hair fall out!"
Fig. Lightner ran a clever advertisement using what must have been considered Wichita 1908 politically correct speech published in Wichita Daily Eagle, Friday, February 21, 1908, page 6
Later on in his career he will be sued several times for libel.
In 1911, he was the president of the Associated Trade Press Company, Room 305, 123 East 6th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio. He lived at 56 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Fort Thomas, Kentucky just five miles outside of Cincinnati.
Fig. Winifred seeks divorce from Otto. The divorce was granted on May 12, 1912. In November he was reported to have fought the divorce in court. Saturday Evening Kansas Commoner, Thursday, April 4, 1912, page 5
On October 25, 1912, he started a new company the Cincinnati American Publishing Company, publishing a newspaper working as the the editor and publisher. The paper was an 8 page 7 column newspaper titled Cincinnati American, 122 East 7th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio. The Company had a capital stock of $150,000. At that time he was boarding at the Hotel Sterling. He was head of the "Bull Moose Party" or Progressive Party in Hamilton County and the newspaper served as the platform for the political party.
In July 1913, he sued the Cincinnati Inquirer and Associated Press for $100,000 for interference with his newspaper Cincinnati American.
That same month, July 1913, a lawsuit was placed against Lightner for $2,000 for libel by Judge Littleford.
On February 6, 1914, he married his second wife Henrietta Maud Dressel at New Orleans, Louisiana.
On February 10, 1915, he was the Business Manager of Natchez-News-Democrat, Natchez, Mississippi. The paper Natchez-Democrat was bought by two bankers M. S. Beethoven and A. B. Learned, who consolidated the paper with their Evening News, calling the new paper the Natchez-News-Democrat.
In May 1915, he was made both the Managing Editor and Business Manager of the Natchez-News-Democrat.
In March 1916 he was the Business Manager of the newspaper the Daily Signal, Crowley, Louisiana.
In April 1916 he was made both the Business Manager and the Secretary -Treasurer of the Daily Signal, Crowley, Louisiana.
In May 1916 he was the editor of the Rice Journal, a paper for the Rice Millers Association, owned by the Signal Publishing Company where he remained as Business Manager of the Daily Signal.
In March 1917 the Signal Publishing Company opened a new newspaper the Crowley Signal, putting Lightner in as the Managing Editor.
His 1918 draft card gives his address as 216 Parkerson Street, Crowley, Louisiana.
On April 25, 1919, his second wife Henrietta Maud Dressel died after a long illness with typhoid fever.
On February 12, 1920 he started his own company the Lightner Publishing Company, New Orleans, Louisiana. His first periodical was titled Strawberry Items, published for strawberry growers.
In April 1922 he published the Peanut Promoter, for the peanut growers, but was soon sued by Colonel John F. Penner, Secretary of the Suffolk Peanut Company, for libel. When Penner saw Lightner on the street he struck him several blows.
In November 1922, after the lawsuits he moved his business to 1716 South Michigan Street, Chicago, Illinois.
In March 1925 he was involved in another lawsuit in Norfolk, Virginia.
In 1930, Chicago held its first annual Antiques Exposition and Hobby Fair, which inspired Lightner to not only attend with an exhibit and booth for Hobbies not only to help launch it but also to include a strong antiques focus in the magazine.
In 1930, about the time of the death of his father, he purchased Philatelic West, and began with Volume 36 but renamed the publication Hobbies, The Magazine for Collectors.
Fig. Hobbies, Vol. 36, No. 8, October 1931. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.
The first philatelic editor of Hobbies was Fred M. Tilford (1872-1946), who lived in Windom, Minnesota.
Photograph of 68 year old Clay Lewis Huntley in 1949.
The first numismatic editor of Hobbies was Clay Lewis Huntley (1881-1965), a salesman, who joined the ANA in 1932 in order to attend the annual convention held that year in Cincinnati, Ohio, and to write a detailed report for Hobbies.
Fig. An amusing editorial comment by Lightner in the February 1932 issue of Hobbies, page 11, reporting that Indian Head Cents carried no premium and that they most likely would not for another century. Consequently, we should expect Indian Head Cents to start carrying premiums in another fourteen years from this date of publication, in 2032. He was right about the 1931 Yorktown 2c stamps which still have a low premium in 2018, with a block of 4 unused in mint condition at $4.50. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.
In February 1932 he traveled to Havana, Cuba and flew back to Miami, Florida, then returning to Chicago, Illinois.
On November 14, 1940, he married his third wife Genevieve E. Hatfield at Chicago, Illinois.
On August 20, 1947, Lightner bought the old Hotel Alcazar in Saint Augustine, Florida to open as a Hobbies Museum.
Fig. Lightner tragically killed a 7 year old child hitting her with his car. The Times, Tuesday, March 7, 1950, page 5
He died on June 9, 1950, three months after that fatal and tragic car accident, at Presbyterian Hospital, Chicago, Illinois. He is buried at the Lightner Museum, Saint Augustine, St. John's County, Florida.
See Bibliography below this ad.
Wichita Daily Eagle, Friday, May 24, 1901, page 5
Wichita Daily Eagle, Sunday, June 7, 1903, page 3
Wichita Beacon, Wednesday, September 23, 1903, page 5
Wichita Beacon, Saturday, July 2, 1904, page 5
Wichita Daily Eagle, Saturday, September 10, 1904, page 5
Wichita Daily Eagle, Tuesday, June 13, 1905, page 9
Wichita Daily Eagle, Sunday, June 25, 1905, page 15
Wichita Daily Eagle, Friday, January 18, 1907, page 7
Wichita Daily Eagle, Sunday, September 15, 1907, page 14 wedding announcement
Cincinnati City Directory (1907) : 23
Indiana Evening Gazette, Monday, August 10, 1908
Covington, Kentuck, City Directory (1910) : 589
Cincinnati City Directory (1911) : 1188
Coffeyville Daily Journal, Friday, October 25, 1912, page 3
Wichita Daily Eagle, Wednesday, November 20, 1912, page 5
Cincinnati City Directory (1913) : 1183
Evening Republican, Monday, July 21, 1913, page 6
Town Talk, Thursday, February 11, 1915, page 6
Natchez-News-Democrat, Wednesday, February 24, 1915, page 4
The Bee, Wednesday, April 19, 1922, page 3
Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, November 7, 1922, page 27
Daily Press, Friday, March 20, 1925, page 7
Hobbies, July (1950) : 100 obit
The Numismatist, Vol. 63, August (1950) : 529 obit
Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies (199?) : 145