GREAT UNSUNG HEROES
OF THE SPACE AGE:
As every Thirtieth Century school child knows, the Earle K.
Bergey design lady space captain's uniform is the most important
contribution to space travel of the Twentieth Century. Second in
importance only to the development of the space flyer (to which
Mr. Bergey also contributed important designs) the uniform allows
intrepid space adventuresses such as Captain Veronica Shivers to
fearlessly venture into almost any environment the universe can
throw at them.
Born in Philadelphia, on the Planet Earth at the very beginning of his century (8 August 1901), Mr. Bergey studied at that city's Academy of Fine Arts from 1921 to 1926. His first job was for a newspaper, the Philadelphia Ledger, but he soon joined the staff of a well-known pulp magazine publisher, Fiction House. His skill at drawing good looking women earned him a niche as a contributor to the so-called girly pulps where his glamorous cover paintings appeared on such titles as Pep and Breezy.
It was in 1935 that Mr. Bergey married. At about this same time he took a job with the Saturday Evening Post. But his association with the livelier and more challenging pulp industry did not end then. He moved to Bucks County, Pa., and opened a studio in New York. Toward the end of the Thirties, Mr. Bergey began a long and famous association with Ned Pines' Standard Magazines, better known as the Thrilling pulps for the slogan "A Thrilling Magazine" on the covers
of their publications, and for their trademark use of the word "Thrilling" in many of their titles, such as Thrilling Adventure,
Thrilling Detective Stories, Thrilling Western and, of course, the science fiction magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories.
At Standard, Bergey joined with the likes of Rudolph Belarski, Rudolph Zirn, H.W. Wesso, Howard V. Brown and Eugene Franzden to produce a wide and varied range of colorful magazine covers. As versatile as he was skilled, Mr. Bergey worked on a number of pulp genres for.Standard, including love, sports and detectve magazines.
At the time Mr. Bergey began his career with Standard, Howard V. Brown was their main science fiction illustrator. Brown, famous among science-fiction afficianados for his work on Astounding Stories under the editorship of F. Orlin Tremaine (where, among other notable achievements, he seems to have invented the Bug Eyed Monster), did
most of the covers for Thrilling Wonder Stories through the thirties (that magazine was a retitling of Wonder Stories after Standard purchased it from Hugo Gernsback in 1936), as well as many of the initial issues of Standard's equally famous Startling Stories. (Mr. Brown should not be confused with the similarly named Howard Browne, who was an editor at another magazine publishing house, Ziff-Davis, running Amazing Stories and Fantastic in the early Fifties.)
In 1939, Standard began a weird fiction magazine called Strange Stories. Designed to compete with the legendary fantasy and horror magazine, Weird Tales, where H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard got their starts. Strange Stories carried thirteen stories in every issue. it also folded after publishing just thirteen issues. But each one of those issues boasted a cover by Earle K. Bergey. It was his introduction to the fantasy field.
In 1940, Howard V. Brown stopped doing covers for Standard's SF pulps and Bergey stepped into his shoes, painting covers for the company's Captain Future, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories and Fantastic Story Quarterly, over the next dozen or so years. It was in his work for these magazines that Mr. Bergey began demonstrating the
scientific superiority of the Earle K. Bergey Design Lady Space Captain's uniform.
The reader needs to remember that at this time the height of space exploration was represented by the Geram V-2 rocket, which at that time was being perverted to the uses of war. No terrestrial human would ever walk on so insignificant an object as Earth's moon for another quarter of a centuryl Many ignorant savages of the middle
twentieth century still clung to the superstition that travel to other planets was impossible.
Bergey, along with a handful of other far-sighted artists, began creating illustrations depicting the heroines of space stories
undergoing adVoetures in the rigorous environment of outer space, while dressed in nothing more than brass bra, hipwisps and boots. Often times he eschewed even the glassite fishbowl space helmet that would enable them to breathe. And while they were dressed thus, the human sale characters in these drawings (and often the aliens) were frequently shown clad in thick space armor and helmets.
A scientifically conservative element, not willing to admit the obvious superiority of the female physiology, began vociferously complaining about these covers (the deep entrenchment of superstition is perhaps nowhere better demonstrated as in the fact that this ridicule actually extended into the more scientifically enlightened period of the early Twenty-first Century!), but Bergey continued his scientific speculation undaunted. And in doing so, he foreshadowed the later work of anthropologists such as Montague Summers who would not begin to argue female physical 3upermacy until two decades later.
Now, in the glorious year 3005 A.D., women travel
the far reaches of the universe, dressed only in Bergey's
familiar and classic costume, proving their physical prowess in
the day-to-day routine of space conquest, and the prescience of
Bergey's work is known throughout the Seven Galaxies!
In the late Forties, Pines moved into other pubishinq fields, including the burgeoning paperback book arena with Popular Library. Bergey began doing covers for them, showcasing his skills in a number of genres. While he continued to work for the Standard pulps, in 1950 he began working elsewhere in the science fiction field, as well. Covers by him appeared in Future Science Fiction, edited by Robert A.W. Lowndes, The Avon Fantasy Reader, Avon Science Fiction Reader both edited by Donald A. Wollheim, as well as Science Fiction Adventures and Space Science Fiction, edited by Lester del Rey. Mr. Bergey died in 1952 while visiting a doctor's office.