Lincoln Enterprises

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Name: Lincoln Enterprises
Date(s):
Profit/Nonprofit: profit
Country based in: USA
Focus: Star Trek
External Links:
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Lincoln Enterprises (originally known as "Star Trek Enterprises") is a mail-order catalog company started by Bjo Trimble and her husband John in 1967 as a subsidiary of the Norway Corporation.

It was shortly taken over and promoted by Majel Barrett.

Lincoln Enterprises is still in business and specializes in memorabilia pertaining to Star Trek. Currently, the company is headed by Gene & Majel's son, Eugene Roddenberry Jr., and run through the Roddenberry.com website.

a 1969 catalog
a 1970 catalog, see Unofficial Star Trek Catalog for a fan-made parody

Similar Companies

Mail and Merch

The company sold Star Trek merchandise through the mail, and was the hub, at least for a while, of official Star Trek fan mail.

Mail

In 1994, Ruth Berman wrote a letter to Multi-Species Medicine #8 describing her sorting through "hundreds of letters a week."

Merch

See Lincoln Enterprises: A Little Piece of Star Trek for an 1993 interview with Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

In 1993, the part that sold merchandise had two staff people, plus Majel.

See more at Lincoln Enterprises#Topic: Fandom and Profit.

In the late 1960s, early 1970s, Lincoln Enterprises was the only source of collectibles and memorabilia:
As a kid back in the '70s, one of the most exciting moments of my early Star Trek passion was the arrival of my catalog (sic) from Lincoln Enterprises. It was printed on very cheap pulp paper, and wasn't bound but rather folded several times into about 4 inches square. And I treasured it. Lincoln Enterprises was the one source at the time for devotees like myself to get the real juicy Star Trek merchandise — not model kits and books that you could buy in the stores, but even cooler stuff you couldn't get anywhere else, like pins, medallions, belt buckles ... the original "Star Trek Concordance" and [its] 3rd Season Supplement ... and scripts and writer's guides. (My first purchases were the Concordance15 and Supplement, a tribble and an IDIC16 medallion—my first true collectibles.) [1]

Started as Both a Gift, and a Way to Generate Profit

There are several origin stories for Lincoln Enterprises.

Numerous tie-in merchandise items were created and marketed while Star Trek: The Original Series was on the air, among them the AMT Enterprise and Klingon battle cruiser models, the Rayline tracer gun and the Ideal board game. All popular television shows had such tie-in merchandise at the time. It was Bjo Trimble's idea to take film clips left on the cutting room floor after editing, mount them in frames, and sell them to fans. At first, Roddenberry was skeptical, but then saw the way eager fans glommed onto the donated items he'd brought to NyCon 3 (Worldcon) in September 1967. He then hired the Trimbles to create a mail-order business to sell Star Trek souvenirs including autographed photos, copies of the scripts, film clip frames and so on.

According to Bob Justman and Herb Solow, Paramount was aware of the business and raised no objections. However, Harlan Ellison caught on early as to what was really happening. As he explained in his 1996 book The City on the Edge of Forever, Roddenberry was planning to divorce his first wife Eileen, moving out of the home in 1968 and proposing to his long-time girlfriend Majel Hudec in 1969. After setting up Star Trek Enterprises, Ellison says that Roddenberry exploited the Trimbles "by having them work their asses off independently until the divorce was finalized with Eileen Roddenberry, and thus avoiding the ex-Mrs. R’s claim to half those profits, and then freezing them out and giving it to his girlfriend, Majel Barrett."[2][3]

Bjo Trimble confirms this account in a 2012 interview with Marc Cushman. "We hadn’t worked there more than a year when we were fired,” Bjo Trimble said. “We were heartbroken. John and I had been looking at this, hopefully, that it would have been our career, for the next couple of decades, anyway. But, obviously, that didn’t happen. And, once we left that office, we weren’t allowed to go back in to pick up any of our personal stuff. Gene was doing it for Majel, but he was the one that fired us. We didn’t kowtow to him, and that bothered him. He said to me once, ‘You know, Bjo, I’d hire you to be on the Star Trek staff, but producers want yes people, they don’t need no-you-definitely-can’t-do-that people.’ He knew he was going to get that kind of ripple from me."[4]

Some 1974 Comments by Bjo Trimble

From a Equicon/1974 progress report:

Lincoln Enterprises has a communicator and phaser idea in the works -- perhaps ready by EQUICON 74, but no guarantees. These, according to our sources, will be the size of the original props, and you'll have to ask Lincoln for more details than that, including the price.

[...]

There is ABSOLUTELY NO CONNECTION between Lincoln Enterprises -- formally Star Trek Enterprises -- and any fan convention. Lincoln sometimes sends catalogs to the cons, but seldom will they offer their items for direct sale at cons. Don't write letters to us about this; we don't know why. Lincoln is a private, commercial, non-fan business, and they don't usually have much to do with fandom.

See TPTB Notices Some Merchandising Opportunities.

Some 1976 Comments by Gene Roddenberry

TT: Do you think STAR TREK is now being commercially exploited?

GR: This is something that concerns me. I think, generally, at most conventions the fans get a dollar's worth of stars, entertainment, and friendship and so on. I think that Lincoln Enterprises, which Majel [Barrett, his wife] runs has always given the fan a fair shake. As a matter of fact, the only rule I ever insisted on—I have nothing to do with Lincoln—is that if there's ever an argument it's got to be resolved in favor of the fan, if there's any doubt. It does worry me a bit when I see entrepreneurs beginning to move into the STAR TREK field because until now most of the people who have been involved in conventions and souvenirs and so on have been, pretty much, family— fan-type people themselves. I'm a little concerned when outsiders begin to get into it and say; "Oh, wow, here's a fast dollar!" [5]

Fan Comments

Despite it being a for-profit company, some fans saw it more as fan service. In 1974, Sharon Ferraro wrote:
The Welcommittee answers our questions; Lincoln Enterprises offers us collector's items; S.T.A.R./Central keeps track of everyone; conventions offer us enjoyable weekends and new friends and Star Trek inspires us. The Star Trek Fan Literature Archive: Memory Alpha, will preserve us. [6]
Some fans were not willing to overlook the connections between fannish goals and profit. From a 1974 letter:
...this may shock you: Although I like Star Trek and wouldn't mind its return, I do not wish to actively participate in campaigning for its revival. There seems to be too much influence by Roddenberry to use Star Trek to further his own pocketbook. For example, when ST was cancelled after second season, and the fans wrote it back on the air, NBC accused Roddenberry of inciting the fans to do so. (Or so I've been told.) Roddenberry claimed to have nothing to do with the save ST campaign. However, Lincoln Enterprises, owned by his wife, was actively campaigning to save ST (as it is still doing today). And look how much Lincoln Enterprises is capitalizing off of ST... Don't get me wrong; I'm not anti-Gene Roddenberry. He is a fine man and great producer who created the best go between for science fiction fans and the rest of the world. But let him keep his hands clean. [7]
Another fan in 2009 wrote:
The original idea of Lincoln Enterprises stemmed from Roddenberry’s unhappiness about Desilu getting the profits from the show he had created, and on which he had worked from as early as 1966 before all the contracts were signed for the production of the show. By creating a commercial venture as a wedding gift for his fiancé, Majel Barrett, who later became his wife, Roddenberry profited from licences for products that previously had not thought to be worth licensing by Desilu. He also bought licences for items that Desilu was supplying, in order to gain the profits from them. [8]

A fan's comment in 2011:

[Gene Roddenberry] beat Lucas to the punch on marketing his own work to the public… albeit on a much smaller scale.

Lincoln Enterprises (originally known as “Star Trek Enterprises”) came to prominence back in 1967. Originally set up to handle fan mail for Star Trek, the company quickly fell under Gene’s direct control after a piece of misdirected mail from legendary Sci-Fi writer Isaac Asimov. Asimov had written a personal letter to Gene which had somehow ended up in the fan mail department. Instead of a reply to his question, Asimov ended up with an autographed picture of the cast. A quick call from Asimov to Gene relayed the situation and Roddenberry decided that from that point forward he would take a personal interest in running Lincoln. Along with Majel Barrett, Gene would oversee the company, ensuring that it became an actual line of communication between the show and its fans.

Right around this time, Desilu started pulling the purse strings on Star Trek a bit tighter. While it had been customary in the past for the studio to pay for publicity pictures to send out to fans, the increasing demands of budgetary constraints forced them to abandon this practice. Roddenberry, in a brilliant move of salesmanship, decided that if the studio was unwilling to pay for these highly demanded pictures, then perhaps the public might be willing to foot the bill. The response from Star Trek’s fans was resoundingly positive, and Lincoln Enterprises quickly increased their available items enough to fill small mailer catalogs. [9]

A 1975 Location

In December 1975, two fans attempted to locate the physical location of Lincoln Enterprises.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Lincoln Enterprises. On December 15, Debbie Collin and I, armed with the current address listed in the phone book, tracked it down and found... a Barbecue Pit? — a restaurant by that name.

But in back, peering through dirty windows into empty rooms, we found the pirates' treasure. There were stacks and stacks of boxes and boxes labeled "Star Trek #24," "Star Trek #56," "Star Trek - Guest Stars," "Questor," "Search," and many more, A few lay open revealing reels of Star Trek film, some from Shore Leave quite faded in the morning sun. One could just imagine a monkey shackled to the roughly-hewn table before the window, scissors in hand, making Star Trek grab bags.

Sigh, We returned to the restaurant and dialed the number listed. A voice that sounded too similar to Majel Barret's informed us that Lincoln did mail order only. So, we trudged on. [10]

Publications

As a Source of Canon

The editors of STAG wrote in 1977: "Sources for our contests will be: Gene Roddenberry, other people connected with the show, the Lincoln Enterprises booklet, Fifty Most Asked Star Trek Questions, and Bjo's "S.T. CONCORDANCE." -- from STAG (March 1977)

History: As Per Majel Barrett Roddenberry

All quotes below by Majel Barrett Roddenberry from Lincoln Enterprises: A Little Piece of Star Trek:

Lincoln has been in existence for probably almost a hundred years. It was originally Lincoln Publishing and it was owned by another gentleman many, many years before. His attorney was Leonard Maislich. For some reason or another he gave the incorporation to Leonard. I don’t know how it basically happened, but it really belonged to Leonard Maislich until he gave it to me in the early eighties. It [Lincoln] was merely set up for Gene to handle fan mail for Star Trek. Isaac Asimov had once written a very intelligent question to Gene that had somehow or other ended up in the fan mail division. In answer to the question, Isaac received an autographed picture of the cast.
So Isaac called Gene and Gene in a fit of rage and everything said, "We’re gonna handle this fan mail ourselves, darn it!" So he asked me if I’d take it over and that’s basically how it started. Then when Desilu no longer had enough money -- you know, they figured they had a dying show anyway -- they said "Well, we’re not going to give you any more money to send out pictures." But fans were still sending in and asking for them, so the thought was now that "Gee, we don't have the money for this, but maybe if they want it enough, they’d be willing to pay for it." So we would send a letter, "Thank you for your request," and so forth and would you be willing to do this, to pay for it, and they said YES! So we made just a small list at first and told them how much the pictures would cost, or a calendar, or a writer's guide, or whatever they wanted, and that’s how we got started. We also answered questions, whatever questions they had, at the same time. So that was how it started. From there on in it got a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger. But we were always still doing peer group promotions . . . people just like us talking with others just like us.
We haven’t expanded beyond the original intent, actually, but we’re about to. We used to carry just memorabilia. If it didn’t exist in the show, we just didn’t carry it. In other words we weren’t into the games and things like that. We work with the Writers Guild so we can sell scripts exactly as they are used in the show. They look the same, they are the same. Page for page they are the actual script. We used to have [original] film clips which, of course, we’ve run out of. They were just little film clip frames, but everyone liked them so much because they were a little piece of Star Trek. And that was our aim, to let everyone have a small piece of Star Trek. That was basically how we kept the show on the air.
I’d like to get more commercial with it. I’d like to go in for the dolls and the plates, the games and the electronic parts and so forth. In other words, not just memorabilia, but merchandise.... We've always produced the merchandise ourselves. When we handle the other stuff, we won’t be making the games, of course, the action figures, etc. Those we will buy from the wholesalers.
Since we have the only legal place in the world to buy Trek scripts I would say that they do want a lot of scripts. But everything varies. There’s a lot of jewelry and the pins and the communicators and stuff that is worn; there’s a lot of interest in patterns, for example. We sell patterns to the costumes so fans can make their own. There are places that make them, but they’re terribly expensive and we’ve always kept our prices down way, way, way low because Gene felt as though he wanted everyone to be able to have them. So we’ve kept it way down. We really haven’t geared ourselves in all these twenty-seven years toward a profit and we’d like to change that.
I just had a marvelous time doing [making the hats sold at the Seatek '93 ]. I saw this great hat once. I liked it right away, and I asked how much it was. And, oh! It was far too much! I walked away from it. It took me two more times walking past it until I said I’ve got to have one. I was looking at it, and looking at it carefully, and I said, "I can make them cheaper than this, for heaven’s sake. Of course I can!" So I went downtown to all the wholesale houses and I bought the hats, I bought the ribbons, I bought the beads, and everything. Then I sat down to make one. Well, the first one I think took me about eight hours. It still takes about 2-1/2 hours. I’ve since found out that , no, you can’t make it cheaper than what I bought it for. There’s just no way. And, of course, when I pushed them off on my helper, she took one look at ‘em and said, "Not me, boy!" All those little coins that you see on them there, those have to be put on one by one, jump ring by jump ring, onto the loop on the braid. So I do it on airplanes, just from one place to another. I get ‘em done quite easily there as a matter of fact. They really didn’t have anything to do with Star Trek, but I managed to put an insignia on ‘em and so they became Star Trek hat.

Topic: Fandom and Profit

Where there are fans, there is financial opportunity.

some 1994 commentary by Glenn Lash, printed in A Difficult Concept: "'1970: STAR TREK?! Nobody's interested in that dog! Leave it to Lincoln Enterprises! I've got bigger fish to fry!' 1994: "... We've got the two TV series, with another in the works, the movies, 4 lines of books, 3 comics, videos, toys, board games, t-shirts, that QVC crap... Hey! Isn't it about time for a new cartoon series?!'"

Lincoln Enterprises has been financially entwined with the show since the beginning.

Fans first heard of the IDIC in the summer of 1968 via a "Vulcan Pendent" announcement, probably written by Roddenberry himself and published in the first issue of Inside Star Trek (July 1968, pp. 15–16). It describes "ardent rock hound and amateur lapidary" Roddenberry as having come up with the Vulcan philosophy after he presented Leonard Nimoy with a unique "hand-crafted piece of jewelry," a "pendent" [sic] of polished yellow gold (circle) and florentined white gold (triangle), with a stone of brilliant white fabulite — an artificial gem "developed by the laser industry and used in space mechanisms for its optical qualities," and thus well-suited as a gift for an actor in a science fiction show. Readers were encouraged to submit their interest in such a product to the then-Star Trek Enterprises mail order firm. It was noted that "less expensive materials" would keep costs down. The IDIC was first offered for sale in May 1969, first as a special announcement sent out to fans and then on page 4 of Inside Star Trek 12.

The Vulcan IDIC pendant was designed by Gene Roddenberry as a marketing premium long before the third season. As evidenced in some of his letters and memos, Roddenberry was fond of circle-and-triangle designs and had wanted to use them for purposes of theatrical unity as early as the first season's "The Return of the Archons".

In 1969, a flyer for the twelfth issue of the show's official newsletter Inside Star Trek, fans were told:

YES, STAR TREK HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Star Trek will return to the air Tuesday, June 3, 1969 at 7:30 on NBC with Gene Roddenberry's never-before-seen "Turnabout Intruder". They will then re-run eleven third season episodes before going off the air the first week of September 1969. In a few areas Star Trek has been picked up for re-runs by local stations starting in September, 1969.

This would not preclude the possibility of re-entering prime time network programming as a mid-season replacement in January, 1970 or even a fresh start in September 1970. Our best chance lies with ABC which usually has more openings than the other networks.

The realization of this rebirth is largely up to YOU.

The networks have been besieged by your letters; however, as soon as they see a drop in the mail count they will figure the storm is over, breathe a sigh of relief and promptly forget us....

WILL LINCOLN ENTERPRISES STAY IN BUSINESS? YES, as long as loyal fans would like souvenirs of the show. Thank you for all your support in the past.[11]
The line between fannish and not, and the official and unofficial was a trick one. The legality of film clips was discussed in 1976:
For the past few months we've been trying to shed some light on the filmclip legality. Anyone who has tried to investigate this himself knows that most everyone has their opinions about it, but very few people have any facts... Paramount's legal department might at first seem to be the logical choice to start, but after a few letters from them, you get the feeling that either THEY are mixed up, or are deliberately trying to mix US up. [they talk of Lincoln Enterprises' confusing activities and statements in the catalog]... We are also interesting in knowing the distinction between an activity that Paramount will not license and one that is illegal. [12]
By 1977, Lincoln Enterprises was well-known for many things, not of least was the amount of merchandise they sold and in their ever-presence. When a fan commented on the recent quality of fanfiction, they wrote:
I'm beginning to think you need a Star Trek barf bag to read fiction anymore... you might look for them in Lincoln Enterprises catalog #7. [13]
In 1991, there was conflict with Creation Con and the selling of Star Trek merchandise. From an exchange of letters in Southern Enclave #1:
Bjo Trimble was quoted in the ST letterzine Engage! that Creation Cons only had licenses for a few things, such as t-shirts. Their jurisdiction is nowhere near as vast as they claim. Bjo also said that all the cast have not signed exclusive contracts with Creation, but if fan-run conventions believe they do, well, that works out fine for Creation, doesn't it? (I wish I could have quoted her exactly, but I loaned out the zine to a friend before I started this.) I've also heard that Creation actually had the gall to send out one of those "cease and desist" orders to Majel Roddenberry and her company, Lincoln Enterprises. Majel tore the order up in their faces, right there in the dealer's room. If I remember, I'll enclose some anti-Creation flyers for Cheree to consider reprinting/excerpting. ((Ed: I haven't printed any of the flyers I've had in my possession for two reasons--(l) I don't know the whole story behind this and (2) I could be sued for slander.))

Further Reading

References

  1. a fan named Stone, quoted in effect of commercialisation and direct intervention by the owners of intellectual copyright : a case study : the Australian Star Trek fan community; WebCite, by Susan P. Batho (2009) (an academic paper which studies the effect of the Viacom Crackdown and Australian fan clubs)
  2. Harlan Ellison, The City on the Edge of Forever. Borderlands, 1995.
  3. Ellison along with several other writers for the show let it be known that they were not receiving royalty payments for the sale of scripts they had written. Roddenberry responded that Ellison's name was on the script, but that he had written it himself, with help from Gene Coon and D.C. Fontana. This was a typical Roddenberry practice according to Ellison, Robert Justman, composer Alexander Courage and many others; he would find ways to put his name on creative content, take the credit and amass more royalties.
  4. Marc Cushman & Susan Osborn, These Are the Voyages - TOS: Season Three (Jacobs Brown, 2015).
  5. from an interview with Gene Roddenberry in Trek Times #2 (July 1976)
  6. from A Piece of the Action #17
  7. from The Clipper Trade Ship #3
  8. effect of commercialisation and direct intervention by the owners of intellectual copyright : a case study : the Australian Star Trek fan community; WebCite, by Susan P. Batho (2009) (an academic paper which studies the effect of the Viacom Crackdown and Australian fan clubs)
  9. Star Trek Com, James Sawyer - September 07, 2011
  10. from The Clipper Trade Ship #9
  11. Inside Star Trek 11, p. 8.
  12. The Halkan Council #17
  13. from Spectrum #24