Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Look at the New Yorker's Tenth Issue: April 25, 1925

With the New Yorker's tenth issue, Ilonka Karasz becomes the first artist besides art advisor and editor Rea Irvin to produce a second cover for the magazine. She is also the first female cover artist. This will be on the quiz.

The Knave of Hearts is holding a padlock and a glass of white wine. To a thirsty readership in the midst of Prohibition, this is an obvious reference to the practice of padlocking speakeasies, a specialty of Emory Buckner, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Somehow that roguish Knave of Hearts has thwarted that padlock and he is now enjoying his contraband! As a practical matter, given the ingenuity of New Yorkers, padlocking simply doesn't work.

The cover art, on the other hand, works just fine. It is printed in three flat colors for economy's sake, but illustrators in 1925 seemed to be quite adept at handling this restriction. The style is totally different from that of Miss Karasz's cover for the seventh issue. It seems specifically created for the purpose of causing a sensation. Did it succeed?

Ilonka Karasz
The New Yorker, April 25, 1925

Here's a fascinating bit of background history by Michael A. Lerner from Dry Manhattan:
From Michael A. Lerner, Dry Manhattan:  Prohibition in New York City. Harvard University Press, 2009, page 157.

Greek mythology gets updated a bit for the Jazz Age on "The Talk of the Town" page:
Eldon Kelley
"The Talk of the Town"

Reginald Marsh depicts Spring in Central Park, but the unfortunate page layout disrupts his idyll.
Spring in Central Park
Reginald Marsh

Birdwatching as spectator sport:

Alfred Frueh demonstrates how Mayor Hylan can further enhance his reputation:
One That Mayor Hylan Hasn't Thought of Yet
Alfred Frueh

Humorist Ring Lardner, here "His Ringship," is noted to possess a solemn countenance to rival Calvin Coolidge's.
"The Hour Glass"

Eldon Kelley's six sequentially-timed panels might be a sensible take on what to do when your date doesn't show up, but the library lion's growing reaction culminating in the last panel seems rather juvenile. The main branch of the New York Public Library, incidentally, is famously presided over by not one but two lions, Patience and Fortitude. This also will be on the quiz.
The Library Lion
Eldon Kelley

The theatre illustrations are by W. E. Hill:
"Great Moments from the Drama"
A Spring Revival at the Forty-eighth Street Theatre
W. E. Hill

"This department, here and now, breaks down and admits that it is a department that has just seen 'The Mikado' for the first time." "The Theatre" writer retreats from the editorial we in favor of the deliberately inelegant this department. It seems the magazine has found itself a theatre reviewer who has never before seen Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado," perhaps the most popular and profitable show of the previous forty years. This may explain how Tom Burke can be said to play Yum-Yum; surely he is Nanki-Poo. Meanwhile, the unnamed writer toiling over the tenth issue of a financially-insecure magazine that could very well disappear before the year is out, wonders publicly how his words will fare forty years down the road. Note also the breezy use of the slur "Japs."

More G & S:  "Patience," "The Mikado," and now "Princess Ida" have been performed in New York over the ten weeks since the New Yorker first hit the stands.

Overcome by a woman's perfume--this is how it happens, gentlemen.

"Nevertheless Sam Goldwyn is a great man. Everyone agrees about that. His insensitiveness to the feelings of others is a trait often found in genius." Hmm. The modern reader might wish to see also Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs.
Henry Major illustrates Samuel Goldwyn

The Joseph Stella exhibition was reviewed in the last issue (April 18), so what is this illustration doing here this week?
Joseph Stella
Carl Fornaro

What do you think is on actor Adolph Menjou's mind?
"Goings On"
Adolph Menjou

Do you suppose the humor will be sophomoric?

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in concert?

The $6,000 a week earned by Fred and Adele Astaire has already been reported by the New Yorker, but it comes up again in this piece by the pseudonymous Tophat. To put the sum in perspective, that's more than enough for the siblings to buy a pair of Pierce-Arrow Series 80's each week. I know because I read the ads at the back of the magazine.
"When Nights Are Bold" by Tophat
Illustration by Charles Baskerville

Worse than merely passé:
"When Nights Are Bold" by Tophat
Fred and Adele Astaire
Illustration by Charles Baskerville

The magazine's humor may be slowly improving. Very slowly.
"Of All Things"

The writing can still try one's patience sometimes, but still there's something very satisfying about referring to a certain famous indoor arena as "the Mashem and Squashem Garden!" "Too Bad" is by William Slavens McNutt, a short story author turned screenwriter.
"Too Bad"

I. Klein's skyscrapers are every bit as askew as his office interior. Who else can draw buildings like this? Now if only he could do something about his captions....
"Yeh, the night watchman says, 'Say, whatcha doin'
tomorrow, kiddo?'--and I says, 'Say what kind of a girl
do you t'ink I am!' And him a married man too! I
ain't gonna break up no happy home! Not me!"
I. Klein


Once again, the magazine's subscription offer provides some of the most entertaining copy in the book. Nicky Arnstein is the husband of Broadway star Fanny Brice and he is currently serving a three-year sentence in Leavenworth prison for trafficking in stolen securities.

How odd of Gardner Rea to render the speaker, a large man, with his back toward us!
Indignant Side-Show Proprietor:  Yeah, lot you care 'bout my gettin' on in life!  Ten kids, an' not a decent freak in th' lot!
Gardner Rea

Why keep repeating "The Optimist?" Could the Optimist be a reference to editor Harold Ross, tirelessly working against all odds to make his brash new magazine successful?
"The Optimist"

Don't try this at home.
The Chorus Rehearses En Route
Frank Hanley

Lower Manhattan was never easy to navigate.

"Ya need it bad..."

A follow-up to Groucho Marx's short piece "Boston Again" in the seventh issue:

The "Sports" page, the New Yorker's newest department, becomes the latest to have a little fun at the expense of Dubuque, Iowa. You will recall editor Harold Ross's pronouncement that "The New Yorker will be the magazine which is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque." He meant it.

Custom-tailored shirts for $3.50. But how much for a whole tie?
"Burns" Distinctive Wearables for Men

Finally, The New Yorker seems to specialize in minimalist humor.
"A Few Truthful Social Items of a Fashionable Resort"

Note:  Did you miss the ninth issue? What have you been doing for ninety years?


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