Frank Hummert

Last updated
Frank Hummert
BornEdward Frank Hummert, Jr.
(1884-06-02)June 2, 1884
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died March 12, 1966(1966-03-12) (aged 81)
Manhattan, New York City]], U.S.
Other names E. Frank Hummert
Alma mater Stonyhurst College
Saint Louis University
Occupation Advertising agent, producer
Years active 1904-1960
Known for Creator/writer of
Just Plain Bill
The Romance of Helen Trent
Ma Perkins
Backstage Wife
Spouse(s) Adeline E. Woodlock
(m. 1908-1934; her death)
Anne Ashenhurst
(m. 1935-1966; his death)
Children John Ashenhurst, Jr. (stepson)

Edward Frank Hummert, Jr. (June 2, 1884 [1] March 12, 1966), professionally known as Frank Hummert and sometimes credited as E. Frank Hummert, was an American advertising agent originally but was best known for writing/producing episodes of nearly 100 daytime/primetime radio dramas and soap opera serials between the 1930s and the 1950s.

A soap opera is an ongoing drama serial on television or radio, featuring the lives of many characters and their emotional relationships. The term soap opera originated from radio dramas being sponsored by soap manufacturers.


Hummert, along with his wife Anne Hummert, became the monarchs of daytime radio with dramas such as Just Plain Bill (1932–55), The Romance of Helen Trent (1933–60), Ma Perkins (1933–60), and Backstage Wife (1935–59). [2] After the success of these dramas, the Hummerts formed Hummert Radio Productions. Under Hummert Productions, creating the basic plots and assigning an assembly line of writers to complete the scripts, they produced more than 40 radio shows, including the soap operas Stella Dallas (1938–55) and Young Widder Brown (1938–56); the mystery shows Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons (1937–54), and Mr. Chameleon (1948–51); and the musical programs The American Album of Familiar Music (1931–51) and Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (1933–49). [3] In all, the Hummerts are credited with the creation/production of 61 radio soap operas. [4]

Anne Hummert American screenwriter

Anne Hummert was the leading creator of daytime radio serials or soap opera dramas during the 1930s and 1940s, responsible for more than three dozen series.

Just Plain Bill was a 15-minute American daytime radio drama program heard on CBS Radio and NBC Radio. The series was sponsored by Anacin for 18 of the program's 23-year run. Other sponsors over the years were Kolynos toothpaste, Clapp’s baby food, and BiSoDol. It was “the real-life story of people just like people we all know.”

<i>The Romance of Helen Trent</i>

The Romance of Helen Trent was a radio soap opera which aired on CBS from October 30, 1933 to June 24, 1960 for a total of 7,222 episodes. The show was created by Frank and Anne Hummert, who were among the most prolific producers during the radio soap era.

By 1937, with his success on radio and potential advertisers lining up to become clients, Hummert had become advertising's highest paid executive. [5]

Early life

Edward Frank Hummert, Jr. was born to parents Edward F. and Carrie Hummert [6] in St. Louis, Missouri on June 2 in the disputed year of 1884. [1] [7] According to a majority of sources and public records on Frank Hummert, Hummert was born June 2, 1884. However, this date is disputed against many sources and radio historians. For example, the Encyclopædia Britannica lists Hummert's birth year as 1879, [3] while media historian Christopher H. Sterling lists Hummert's birth year as 1885. [8] Even radio historian Jim Cox lists two different birth years in two separate books. In The Great Radio Soap Operas, published in 1999, Cox lists Hummert's birth year as 1882. [9] But in Frank and Anne Hummert's Radio Factory, published in 2003, he gives the birth year as 1884.

St. Louis Independent city in the United States

St. Louis is an independent city and major inland port in the U.S. state of Missouri. It is situated along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which marks Missouri's border with Illinois. The Missouri River merges with the Mississippi River just north of the city. These two rivers combined form the fourth longest river system in the world. The city had an estimated 2017 population of 308,626 and is the cultural and economic center of the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, the second-largest in Illinois, and the 22nd-largest in the United States.

Missouri State of the United States of America

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals, and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

<i>Encyclopædia Britannica</i> General knowledge English-language encyclopaedia

The Encyclopædia Britannica, formerly published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia. It was written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors. The 2010 version of the 15th edition, which spans 32 volumes and 32,640 pages, was the last printed edition.

Hummert's mother came from French ancestry and his father was English. The latter was a mercantilist in lace manufacturing and importing who traveled extensively for Rice, Stix & Co. [1] As a result, Hummert and his family were accustomed to moving around. Hummert, in his early years, lived in various places across the United States and Europe before his father began operating his own merchandising-exporting venture under the label "Hummert Hatfield Co." and the family permanently settled in St. Louis. [10]

Hummert, hoping to take over his father's business, began preparatory studies at the Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England. By the age of 20, Hummert decided against his father's business and after finishing studies at Stonyhurst, Hummert returned to Missouri and graduated from Saint Louis University. [10]

Stonyhurst College coeducational Roman Catholic independent school in Lancashire, England

Stonyhurst College is a coeducational Roman Catholic independent school, adhering to the Jesuit tradition, on the Stonyhurst Estate, Lancashire, England. It occupies a Grade I listed building. The school has been fully co-educational since 1999.

Lancashire County of England

Lancashire is a ceremonial county in North West England. The administrative centre is Preston. The county has a population of 1,449,300 and an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 km2). People from Lancashire are known as Lancastrians.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Hummert turned to public media and soon landed a reporting assignment with the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and after that assignment ended, Hummert landed reporting jobs for the news journal of the Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago, New World and the International News Syndicate of The New York Times .


In advertising

In 1920, Hummert began working in his new field of interest, advertising. He was hired as chief copywriter for Albert Lasker's Lord & Thomas agency in New York. Hummert earned a starting salary of $50,000 a year. [11] One of Hummert's first big breaks in advertising came when he coined the slogan "For the skin you love to touch" for soap manufacturer Procter & Gamble's Camay. [12] While at Lord & Thomas, Hummert created ads and slogans for big name companies such as Ovaltine, Quaker Quick Macaroni, Gold Medal Flour and Palmolive soap. [13]

In 1927, Hummert left Lord & Thomas and accepted a position with Hill Blackett and J.G. Sample as vice president of their Chicago based agency. [14] [15] In 1943, the agency was renamed the Blackett-Sample-Hummert agency. [12]

In radio

In 1927, Hummert hired a new assistant. That assistant was 22-year-old Anne Ashenhurst (née Schumacher). Ashenhurst was nearly 21 years Hummert's junior. By the age of 22, Ashenhurst had already graduated from Goucher College in 1925, went to Paris, got a job with the International Herald Tribune, (now known as the International New York Times ), been married to and divorced from newspaper reporter John Ashenhurst and had a son, [16] all in the span of two years.

They began collaborating in radio in 1932 and married in 1935.

Just Plain Bill and early radio years

The Hummerts earliest radio serial was a soap opera by the name of Betty and Bob . Betty and Bob, sponsored by General Mills' Gold Medal Flour, was about the marriage of a secretary of her wealthy boss, whose disapproving father cuts Bob out of the will. The program sustained an eight-year run from 1932-1940. [17]

Also in 1932, their long-running soap Ma Perkins starring Virginia Payne premiered on the radio. Ma Perkins centered around "Ma" who owned and operated a lumber yard in the fictional small Southern town of Rushville Center (population 4000), [18] where the plotlines pivoted around her interactions with the local townsfolk and the ongoing dilemmas of her three children, Evey, Fay and John. [19] The program ended in November 1960.

In September 1932, Just Plain Bill , (under the name Bill the Barber), premiered on CBS Radio. The series revolved around a barber who marries above his league. Just Plain Bill and Ma Perkins were the start of Hummert's radio empire. Another popular radio serial created by the Hummerts was Skippy , based on the popularity of the eponymous comics series by Percy Crosby.

Helen Trent and radio success

In their first year of radio, Hummert and Schumacher created Just Plain Bill and Ma Perkins, (which both enjoyed extensive 20-plus year runs on radio), for the daytime radio schedule. Their next major hit was The Romance of Helen Trent which premiered October 30, 1933 on CBS. The program revolved the personal romantic life of Helen Trent and the continuing question: Can a woman of 35 find love? The program ended after 27 years in June 1960 and the broadcast of 7,222 episodes; more than any other radio soap opera. [20]

With the premieres of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons , The American Album of Familiar Music , Manhattan Merry-Go-Round and Backstage Wife between 1931 and 1937, Blackett-Sample-Hummert were producing 46% of shows on the daytime schedule. [17]

With the beginning of the 17-year run of Stella Dallas in 1938, the Hummert factory was underway. In 1943, B-S-H reorganized to form Dancer Fitzgerald Sample and the Hummerts spun off their own radio production company, Air Features, Inc., which continued to control the airwaves and purchase air time through DFS. [21]

In addition to their daytime soap operas, the Hummerts produced a number of musical programs and crime/mystery shows. At one point, their output included 18 separate serials on the air and up to 90 episodes a week. Other Hummert programs included Amanda of Honeymoon Hill , Judy and Jane , Little Orphan Annie , Frontpage Farrell, Inspector Thorne , Hearthstone of the Death Squad and The American Melody Hour .

Personal life and death

Not much is known about Hummert's private life or his first marriage as Hummert was a notoriously private man. But public records have now surfaced and according to radio historian Jim Cox, Hummert married the former Adeline E. Woodlock (18881934) in 1908 in St. Louis. Woodlock and her family resided just a few blocks away from Hummert and his family. Hummert was German Catholic and Woodlock was Irish Catholic. [12]

Adeline Hummert died on May 11, 1934. Frank and Adeline were married for 26 years at the time of her death. They had no children. Hummert remarried to Anne Ashenhurst, his former assistant at Blackett-Sample-Hummert, in 1935. [22]

Hummert died on March 12, 1966 in Manhattan. [ citation needed ] He was 81. Anne Hummert, who never remarried again, died a multimillionaire on July 5, 1996 in her Fifth Avenue apartment at the age of 91. [22]

Radio credits

Related Research Articles

<i>Ma Perkins</i> soap opera

Ma Perkins is an American radio soap opera which was heard on NBC from 1933 to 1949 and on CBS from 1942 to 1960. Between 1942 and 1949, the show was heard simultaneously on both networks. During part of its run on NBC, that network's coverage was augmented by use of transcriptions. Beginning April 1, 1935, nine stations broadcast the transcriptions. Oxydol dropped its sponsorship in 1956. The program continued with various sponsors until 1960.

Dancer Fitzgerald Sample was a top tier Madison Avenue advertising agency during the 20th century. It was founded in Chicago in 1923, and was acquired and merged into the Saatchi & Saatchi network in the 1980s.

Jim Cox, a retired college professor living in Louisville, Kentucky, is a leading historian on the subject of radio programming in the 20th century. He has written extensively on the history of radio from the 1920s to the present.

<i>The American Album of Familiar Music</i>

The American Album of Familiar Music is a radio program of popular music broadcast from October 11, 1931, to June 17, 1951, first on NBC and then on ABC. Directed by James Haupt, the show was produced by Frank and Anne Hummert, better remembered today for creating Ma Perkins and other soap operas.

<i>Backstage Wife</i>

Backstage Wife is an American soap opera radio program that details the travails of Mary Noble, a girl from a small town in Iowa who came to New York seeking her future.

Amanda of Honeymoon Hill was a 15-minute daily radio soap opera produced by Frank and Anne Hummert. Broadway actress Joy Hathaway had the title role, sometimes described as "the beauty of flaming red hair." The series was broadcast from February 5, 1940, until April 26, 1946, initially on the Blue Network at 3:15 p.m. until August 1942. It then moved to CBS, airing at 10:30am until 1943 when it was heard at 11 a.m.

<i>Lorenzo Jones</i>

Lorenzo Jones was a daytime radio series which aired on NBC in different timeslots over an 18-year span.

Charles Robert Douglas Hardy Andrews was a novelist, screenwriter and radio drama scriptwriter.

Hill Blackett was a radio daytime-advertising pioneer who played a major part in the development of the soap opera.

Kitty Foyle is an American old-time radio and television soap opera originally aired during the 1940s and 1950s that was based on the successful 1940 film of the same name starring Ginger Rogers. Kitty Foyle was created by soap opera mogul Irna Phillips of Guiding Light fame and produced by daytime radio monarchs Frank and Anne Hummert of Helen Trent recognition. The program starred originally Julie Stevens in the title role of Kitty Foyle on radio. On television, the title role was portrayed by Kathleen Murray.

Betty and Bob was a radio soap opera. The soap opera followed the lives of Betty and Bob Drake. Betty was a secretary who falls madly in love with her boss, bachelor Bob Drake. The two wed and each day, the subject matter dealt with everything from love to hate, jealousy to divorce, murder to betrayal, and collusion to insanity.

The American Melody Hour was an American old-time radio program. The American Melody Hour was designed as a musical variety show. The program showcased a half-hour playing and singing "the tunes of yesterday and tomorrow..." mostly sung by baritone Bob Hannon.

<i>Alias Jimmy Valentine</i> (radio program)

Alias Jimmy Valentine is an old-time radio crime drama in the United States. It was broadcast on NBC-Blue January 18, 1938 - February 27, 1939.

The Carters of Elm Street is an American old-time radio soap opera. It was broadcast on NBC from February 13, 1939 to January 19, 1940 and on Mutual from January 22, 1940 to July 19, 1940.

Helpmate is an American old-time radio soap opera. It was broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1941, until June 30, 1944.

<i>Johns Other Wife</i>

John's Other Wife is an American old-time radio soap opera. It was broadcast on NBC-Red from September 14, 1936, until March 1940. In that month it moved to NBC-Blue, where it ran until March 20, 1942.


  1. 1 2 3 Cox, Jim (2003). Frank and Anne Hummert's Radio Factory: The Programs and Personalities of Broadcasting's Most Prolific Producers. McFarland. ISBN   0-7864-1631-9 . Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  2. "Radio's Most Essential People Countdown: #75-#71: 71) Anne and Frank Hummert". Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Anne and Frank Hummert: American radio producers". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  4. "Frank and Anne Hummert". Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  5. "Frank Hummert (1879-1966) Blackett-Sample-Hummert, Chicago". Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  6. Cox (2003), p. 41
  7. Hummert Radio Factory: Ann and Frank Hummert Collection
  8. Sterling, Christopher H. (2004). Encyclopedia of Radio 3-Volume Set. Routledge. p. 1209. ISBN   978-1-1354-5649-8 . Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  9. Cox, Jim (1999). The Great Radio Soap Operas. McFarland. p. 18. ISBN   978-1-4766-0414-5 . Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  10. 1 2 Cox (2003), p. 13
  11. Cox (2003), p. 15
  12. 1 2 3 Cox (2003), p. 16
  13. Meyers, p. 108
  14. Meyers, Cynthia B. (2013). A Word from Our Sponsor: Admen, Advertising, and the Golden Age of Radio. Fordham University Press. ISBN   978-0-8232-5370-8 . Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  15. "Radio: Hummerts' Mill". Time . Time Inc. January 23, 1939.
  16. Robert McG. Thomas Jr. "Anne Hummert, 91, Dies; Creator of Soap Operas." New York Times, July 21, 1996, p. 27.
  17. 1 2 Meyers, p. 111
  18. "The Hummert Radio Factory". Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  19. Allen, Robert Clyde (1985). Speaking of Soap Operas. UNC Press Books. p. 116. ISBN   978-0-8078-4129-7.
  20. "Romance of Helen Trent - Radio Hall of Fame". National Radio Hall of Fame . Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  21. Meyers, p. 127
  22. 1 2 Heise, Kenan (August 1, 1996). "Anne Hummert, Creator Of Radio Soap Operas". Chicago Tribune . Retrieved September 22, 2015.