Monday, May 11, 2015

A Look at the New Yorker's Twelfth Issue: May 9, 1925

Rea Irvin's street sweeper is not pleased to find that a pair of white butterflies are drawn to him. Irvin's working class cartoon figure is in many ways the opposite of his upscale dandy who deigns to regard a single butterfly through his monocle on the cover of the first issue. The street sweepers were called the White Wings because of their regulation white uniforms, but Irvin suggests another, even better reason for the appellation.

Rea Irvin, The New Yorker, May 9, 1925
With Ralph Barton off the list of  advisory editors, the first in the alphabetical listing is playwright Marc Connelly of the Algonquin Round Table. He is the subject of this issue's first "Talk" piece. Editor Harold Ross's friends from the Algonquin get a lot of press in his magazine. Meanwhile Eldon Kelley illustrates the Roman myth of Proserpine being abducted to the underworld by Pluto, although some classical scholars may dispute the historical details shown here. For added fun, try reading that license plate upside down.
"The Talk of the Town"
Eldon Kelley, Proserpine

Reginald Marsh returns to the "Talk" section with a new spread on the subject of golf, "the other great Scotch invention." In the New Yorker of the Prohibition era, it's pretty certain the writer isn't referring to bagpipes.
Reginald Marsh, Elegant America Does Its Duty By the Other Great Scotch Invention.

This "Talk" piece on illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson girl, gives some idea of the type of astronomical earnings top illustrators commanded back in the Golden Age.

Couple about town:

In Herb Roth's cartoon, the padlocking of the City's speakeasies has an all-too-familiar domestic analogy.
Herb Roth, An Early Padlocking--Showing That This Woe Has Long Been Known to Gas Consumers

Island girl:

Fiction, or a reasonable facsimile, by Tip Bliss...
"That's New York"

"Their most acute problem was Mayor Hylan. Hylan didn't want to be Mayor. He wanted to be Music Master. He was devoted to his art and gave concerts in his own parks all over the city." Herb Roth illustrates Mayor Hylan conducting. Note the radio microphone, the very latest communication technology embraced even by Silent Cal in the White House.
Herb Roth, "Story of Manhattankind."

Alfred Frueh demonstrates an ingenious contraption for circumventing the padlocking of speakeasies. Who needs Heath Robinson?
Alfred Frueh, A Crafty and Timely Device--The Turn-Table Club

"The small figure in the centre of the page is Miss Hayes, showing that even in those days there were flappers." In place of Ralph Barton, W. E. Hill has been providing many of the weekly theatre page illustrations, this one featuring the talented Helen Hayes.
"Great Moments front the Drama"
W. E. Hill, "Caesar and Cleopatra" at the New Home of the Theatre Guild

"The Theatre" reviewer who last week became carried away with the cumbersome phrase this department, formally announces the welcome return of the editorial we.

Gardner Rea's cartoon about a vacationing White Wing--a New York City street sweeper--appears in this issue perhaps as a companion piece to Rea Irvin's cover. Note that the White Wing dresses in black on his vacation and does his littering from a hired cab.
Gardner Rea, The White Wing's Vacation

Who Were the "White Wings?"
The New-York Historical Society

"We have known George Luks intimately and we have made the discovery that his most sincere attachment is to orange juice in the morning and raw oysters all the rest of the day." Artist George Luks illustrates his own "Profile"--a first--and signs it with the name of boxer Gene Tunney.
"Profiles:  The Illustrious George"
Illustration by George Luks

Robert L. Gambone elucidates:

From Life on the Press: The Popular Art and Illustrations of George Benjamin Luks by Robert L. Gambone, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2009.

"People heard of the Bronx River for the first time about ten years ago when somebody named a highway commission after it." This still rings true in 2015, with the Bronx River Parkway far better known than the Bronx River itself. E. B. White returns to the magazine, thank heaven, with "Defense of the Bronx River."
"Defense of the Bronx River"

An illustration on the "Music" page is one of the first to add elements of personality.

Rockewell Kent on the "Arts" page:
Rockwell Kent

Mayor Hylan deals with a growing murder rate. Prohibitionists react with alarm to a news item about using champagne to christen an airplane. Will Rogers reports on Calvin Coolidge's sense of humor. Motorcycles are banned at Yale. Surgeons are urged to sign their patients. (In 2015, they finally do.) Howard Brubaker's "Of All Things" is truly all over the place, but the punch lines, well, they really aren't so very amusing.
"Of All Things" by Howard Brubaker

 Straphangers by Eldon Kelley:
Eldon Kelley

"Broadway has had and still has its negro cabarets, patronized by white people, but the place to see the real colored shows unhampered by white management or tastes is in the center of the negro district of Harlem." Lest one mistake a minstrel show for the real deal...
"When Nights Are Bold"
Illustrations at Smalls, left,  and of dancer Bobbie, right, by Charles Baskerville

British cartoonist Lawson Wood stops by the New Yorker for his one and only appearance in the magazine.
Lawson Wood, "Look here, I'm going to give you a fiver, and you
fellersh musht fight it out among yourselves."

A Parisian bouquiniste:
Eldon Kelley

The New Yorker engages in some lowbrow play on the word colored. One Hundred and Thirty-Fifth Street would describe the neighborhood known as Harlem.

"The Optimist" shows up for its twelfth consecutive issue. Bring it on! Plus, some clear thinking from the military:

The New Yorker's subscription ads continue to provide some of the most humorous copy in the magazine.

Humorist Corey Ford writes about the art of the blotter:
"Blotters:  An Absorbing Medium" by Corey Ford

Last week the magazine reviewed Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra" and stated, "One--this department, to be exact--is conscious of being in the presence neither of a great play nor of a particularly high-grade production." This week, in the capsule review on the "Goings On" page, it is a "masterpiece." This shows a lack of editorial consistency; the New Yorker is speaking with too many voices. The review of "They Knew What They Wanted," on the other hand, delivers the kind of quick-witted punch that works so well on this page.

I think most Savoyards would state that it is "The Grand Duke" and not "Princess Ida" that is the most obscure of Gilbert and Sullivan's surviving works. Just last week, the New Yorker's capsule review of the "Ziegfeld Follies" called both W. C. Fields and Will Rogers "the funniest man in New York." This week Will Rogers plays second fiddle.

A familiar rite of spring, or so we've been told:

A new header for the "Sports" section featuring William Tell by Rea Irvin:

Some light verse to read on your next cab ride:
"Indifference" by Arthur Guiterman

"'..."Once a P. A. man, always a P. A. man."'" A humorous piece by Charles Street reimagines dime novel hero Frank Merriwell at the Police Academy. A misfire, to be sure.
"Frank Merriwell's Triumph"

Note:  Did you happen to catch the May 2nd issue? If you missed it in 1925, you can still read my full report.


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