Thursday, November 15, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Frank V. Martinek

Frank Victor Martinek was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 15, 1891, according to his World War I and II draft cards and a 1920 passport application. However, the birth year in Social Security Death Index is 1895, and the 1900 U.S. Federal Census said 1894.

In the 1900 census, Martinek was the oldest of two children born to Frank and Mary, both Bohemian emigrants. The family resided in Chicago at 2622 Fifth Avenue.

According to the 1910 census, the Martinek family of four and a servant lived in Chicago on West 38th Street. Martinek’s father was in the restaurant business.

The State (Columbia, South Carolina), October 12, 1942, published a brief profile of Martinek and said:

With a job as copy boy on the old Chicago Record-Herald, Martinek began his adventurous career. As a cub police reporter he met Mrs. Mary Holland, celebrated woman detective, who schooled him in scientific criminal identification. He studied finger-printing and left newspaper work to become identification inspector for the civil service commission.

Unable to stay at a desk, Martinek answered the call of excitement and took to sea and then found himself in many far corners of the earth as a soldier of fortune. In 1917, he organized the physical, chemical and photographic laboratory for the office of naval intelligence in Washington and was commissioned an ensign….
On June 5, 1917, Martinek signed his World War I draft card which had his full name and home address, 3431 Lowe Avenue in Chicago. His occupation was identification inspector for the city of Chicago in its service commission. His description was medium height and build with dark brown eyes and hair.

Martinek was aboard the U.S.S. Albany, in Vladivostok, Siberia, when the 1920 census was enumerated in March. His stateside address was 2212 Addison, Chicago.

Finger Print Magazine, November 1920, published additional information about Martinek and excerpted a paragraph from his letter written in Siberia.

On August 10, an emergency passport was issued to Martinek by the American Consulate in Vladivostok. The passport said Martinek left the U.S. in October 1918 and was stationed with the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. When Martinek signed the passport, he was a U.S. Navy Lieutenant aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans. Bound for the U.S., Martinek intended to visit the following countries: China, Japan, Honk Kong Strait Settlements, Egypt, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The District of Columbia, Compiled Marriage Index, at, said Martinek married Victorine A. Carrick on December 24, 1920.

Martinek worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1921 to 1925 as listed in the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s membership directories for 1949 and 1950.

A passenger list at listed Martinek aboard the S.S. Cerro Ebano that sailed from Aruba, Dutch West Indies on May 4, 1929. He arrived at the New York City port May 11. Martinek’s address was 1400 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.

In the 1930 census Martinek and his wife resided in Chicago at the Double Apartment Hotel Building on 3270 Sheridan Road. Martinek was a vice-president at an oil company.

Coulton Waugh wrote in his book, The Comics (1947), that Admiral Wat T. Cluverius, Commandant of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, told Martinek about the recruiting difficulties in the central section of the country. Martinek pondered the challenge and took his book creation and hero, Don Winslow, and turned him into a comic strip.

“One day two artists came into my office,” he [Martinek] writes. “Leon A. Beroth and Carl E. Hammond. Why they came, I cannot explain, but it seemed that Providence was getting us together. I asked them if they would be interested and they said ‘Yes.’ We organized. I became the creator and producer, Leon Beroth the art director, and Carl Hammond the layout and research man.”

Colonel Frank Knox, who was shortly to become Secretary of the Navy, became interested and helped sell the idea to the Bell Syndicate….

“Three years ago,” Commander Martinek wrote in 1945, “Carl Hammond, our layout and research man, went into war work, being single and within draft age. Leon Beroth and I have carried on ever since….

“Every Saturday I write the week’s daily strips and Sunday page, and each week I send the typewritten continuity to Mr. Beroth [in Thompson Falls, Montana], and he interprets it pictorially and returns the art work for approval. It works very satisfactorily—somewhat by remote control.”
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Don Winslow of the Navy ran from March 5, 1934 to July 30, 1955. Beroth was followed by John Jordan. Spun off from the successful comic strip were a movie serial and comic book appearances.

The 1940 census said Martinek and second wife, Clara, made their home in Tucson, Arizona, at 80 North Stone. Clara did research work on a newspaper strip.

Martinek signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. His home was in Chicago at 4940 East End Avenue. His employer was the Standard Oil Company, 910 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

The same address was found on passengers lists from 1953 (Honolulu, Hawaii) and 1955 (Buenes Aires, Argentina).

The Society of Former Special Agents produced a publication called The Grapevine, and in its February 1949 issue printed this item: “Frank V. Martinek — creator of Don Winslow of the Navy — has done it again. He has created a new strip, ‘Tip Horn’ Cowboy Detective.”

Martinek passed away February 22, 1971, in Tucson, Arizona. He was laid to rest at All Faiths Memorial Park

—Alex Jay


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