Thursday, January 8, 2015

Peter Arno's Leading Gag

Peter Arno, who was born on this day in 1904, liked to poke fun at weak men with difficulty standing up to domineering women. Original artwork for an early example of this sort of gag was sold at auction for $800 over the summer in Seattle. The auction listing offered a detailed publication history, citing the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper of November 23, 1935. Could Peter Arno have published this sophisticated gag cartoon in a Brooklyn family newspaper? That's a very interesting idea, but it's also very wrong.

The auction house was onto something though. They must have done an internet search for the caption and come up with this issue of the newspaper. If they just had taken things a step further, they would have found in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle not the gag cartoon itself but a book review of Peter Arno's For Members Only (1935) which directly quotes the caption in question. It is in this Arno collection that the cartoon was published, although it could have appeared elsewhere first. If you missed the newspaper's book review the first time around, it is reproduced here. See what informed Brooklynites were reading in 1935 when Mr. Arno was 31 and men still knew how to lead on the dance floor, mostly.

Peter Arno, "Now let me lead, stingy!"
Original artwork, For Members Only, 1935
Peter Arno, "Now let me lead, stingy!"
Original artwork, For Members Only, 1935
Peter Arno, "Now let me lead, stingy!"
Original artwork, For Members Only, 1935

Mroczek Brothers auction listing, July 17, 2014, Lot 27

"Passed in Review" by George Curry, a review of For Members Only by Peter Arno
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, November 23, 1935, page 14

Note:  It's a good day to read more Peter Arno. And it's okay if you want to lead.


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