Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Look at the New Yorker's Third Issue

It was a wide-open field. The only local journal doing anything like what [New Yorker founder Harold] Ross had in mind was the New York World of Herbert Bayard Swope. Swope had been named editor in 1920 and had transformed Jospeph Pulitzer's yellow sheet into a paper of estimable style and wit.
--Ben Yagoda
About Town. New York:  Scribner, 2000, page 37.

With the New Yorker's third issue, Rea Irvin has illustrated his second cover and drawn his second monocle. It is now clear that this new magazine promotes equality of the sexes, at least regarding the sporting of monocles. The New Yorker is also showing the world just how chic it is, depicting a fashionable woman of the day nonchalantly dangling a cigarette holder and blowing smoke rings. Irvin has taken the unusual step of hand-drawing the logo including the date and the price. He could easily have rendered the O in the logo as another smoke ring instead of just hinting at it, but for whatever reason he seems to have resisted the temptation to draw the letter at even the slightest angle. The strap along the left-hand border continues of course, allowing the easy accommodation of artwork of slightly varying dimensions regardless of the uncertainties of the binding process. Less widely-noted is the bar across the bottom, a design element from the first issue carried over here. The overall result: Irvin's flapper appears as a stylized art deco cut-out. No doubt for economy's sake, the cover has been printed in a two-color process with red and black ink only. The first issue may have used a four-color press.
Rea Irvin, The New Yorker, March 7, 1925
How frustrating that the masthead is no longer paired with "The Talk of the Town," but with "Behind the News." This rotation is maddening. The main story, echoed throughout the issue, is the New York World's campaign to restore decency to the theatre through the use of play juries which will determine just what a playwright may be allowed to say. The World's publisher Joseph Pulitzer II, son of the founder of the famous prize, was behind this initiative, and it cost him the services of Heywood Broun. The New Yorker's writers sound as if they spend most every night in the theatre and are eager to protect the arts from the crude hand of censorship. Could Ross also be thinking of hiring Broun?
"Behind the News"
Flappers decorate the magazine, but the editorial subject matter is more serious.

More from "Behind the News"

It you take a glance at The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker you will see this drawing by Miguel Covarrubias listed as the first cartoon of the issue. What it really is, though, is not a freestanding cartoon but an editorial illustration of the "Behind the News" piece.
Miguel Covarrubias, A Passing Parade Disturbs a Writing Gentleman

The discussion on theatre censorship and play juries continues into the next section. Indeed, it permeates the whole issue.
"Of All Things"

This entertaining spot illustration by George V. Shanks also made it into The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker. A mere 90 years goes by and suddenly the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will no longer be using elephants in their shows.
George V. Shanks, Spot drawing

"The Story of Manhattankind" continues. The illustrations remain better than the writing. Would anyone miss this feature if it were eliminated?
"The Story of Manhattankind"
Who doesn't just love happy endings?
Herb Roth, He Would Get There Just in Time

This week, "Profiles" covers V.A., or Carr Vatell Van Anda of the New York Times. Ross may wish to praise the Times as an alternative to the World.
Profiles:  Carr Vatell Van Anda
Illustration by Miguel Covarrubias

Spot drawing of a narrow street or alley

The Ku Klux Klan on parade is not a subject that lends itself to humor, but that didn't stop Al Frueh. The Klan was to hold a big March on Washington in August of 1925 and there had been smaller marches around the country. It's fair to say none of them looked quite like these. Was the New Yorker indulging in ethnic stereotyping or was it making fun of the KKK for doing so?
Alfred Frueh, Let the Ku Klux Do It

Ralph Barton's theatre piece on "Cape Smoke" continues the magazine's focus on censorship in the theatre. According to his humorous account, the Citizens' Jury was looking to censor the use of the word Goddam on stage.
Ralph Barton, Black Magic in West Forty-Fifth Street

Keeping up with new plays in 1925 can be a full time job. It's a good thing we have theatre critics to guide us.

This unfortunate bit of column filler already appeared on page 20 of the first issue. Once was more than enough.

"The Talk of the Town" is attributed to the fictitious Van Bibber III. Today "Talk" pieces carry bylines, but that's a relatively recent innovation.
"The Talk of the Town"
Eldon Kelley, Moss and Fontana at the Mirador
Eldon Kelley, Moss and Fontana at the Mirador
A couple of fake biographies were published under the title "Forgotten Celebrities."
Dudley Graham (The man who invented the Graham cracker)

Eugene Kelly (The Father of Kelly Pool)

This "Document" is a bit opaque. It might help to recall that the first crossword puzzle appeared in the World in December 1913. Is the artwork by Rea Irvin?
Rea Irvin? A Document That Has Come Into Our Possession
My Valentine

Terpsichore is the Greek muse of dance. This is Gardner Rea's funniest outing in the magazine to date.
Gardner Rea, "Why waste Terpsichore when there are always cocktails to be shaken?"

The versatile Ralph Barton draws and writes. Afterwards, the New Yorker proves that it is not afraid to make light (verse) of the President.
Ralph Barton, La Ville Lumière

"Jazz has become respectable and we might as well begin looking about for a new form of musical shock." Hear, hear! It's 1925, after all, and the jazz composer being defended by the magazine is none other than George Gershwin! Gershwin is a composer primarily of musicals and concert pieces with jazz elements. Today he is considerably more popular than Szymanowski, not that this is a popularity contest or anything.
Miguel Covarrubias, caricature of Italo Montemezzi.
This is the New Yorker's most innovative caricature yet. 

Those who think of the New Yorker as a periodical that is and was always scrupulously edited may wish to note at the bottom of the first column the acknowledgement of a typo ascribed to "the printer." Meanwhile, careful readers are advised not to confuse this third installment of Arthur Gutterman's "Lyrics from the Pekinese" with Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese."

Ooh, "Candida" looks good!
"Goings On"

Speaking of Pulitzer, this play by Sidney Howard was to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1925:

The Astaires are on Broadway doing Gershwin! Jazz has indeed become respectable.

Erich von Stroheim's "Greed" (1924) is still running in movie theaters. The film, at about two and a half hours in length, receives a favorable capsule review from the New Yorker. The director's cut, almost eight hours long and quite possibly a masterwork, has been lost to history. The von in von Stroheim comes from the same place as the Van in Van Bibber III.

Three of these four art show reviews are qualified with the word if. As in read them, if you like to read this sort of thing.

Tell me this isn't funny.  I dare you.

The fake limerick contest is amusing, but did it displace the subscription offer? Has the New Yorker, after just three issues, given up on getting new subscribers?
"$10,000,000 a Week for Limericks."
"In Our Midst"
In keeping with the theme of this issue, Joseph Pulitzer is due for yet more ribbing. He was indeed fishing in the Florida Keys. But there's only one l in Pulitzer.

So that's how that MGM mascot was filmed!

The New Yorker's first suggested reading list:

Thank goodness the fledgling magazine treats the President with the proper respect.

The last word:

This whole episode with the New York World has an unhappy sequel. Joseph Pulitzer's wife died in New York on March 13, 1925 following a car accident the previous day. Pulitzer had been fishing, as the New Yorker noted, and rushed back to town from the Florida Keys.
"Mrs. Pulitzer Dies of Hurts in Auto Crash"
The Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1925, page 1

Note:  Want more?  Join me in Dubuque for A Look at the New Yorker's Second Issue.

There's more here and there on cover artist Rea Irvin as well.


No comments:

Post a Comment