Friday, March 11, 2016

Blog Post No. 1800: The Wrong Bag

Last week on his blog, Mike Lynch published all the Best of the Post: 1946-1960 postwar cartoons collected in the Saturday Evening Post issue of January 2, 1960. One of them by Irwin Caplan may sound a little familiar to readers of this blog. It shows a doctor making a house call—remember those?—and realizing that he'll "have to come back later" because he's "brought the wrong bag." The doctor has discovered that he's brought the little black bag filled with cash.

This is pretty much the same premise as a famous gag by Richard Taylor published in the New Yorker. In fact, Taylor used it as the title cartoon for his collection R. Taylor's Wrong Bag (1961).

So, which came first? The 1960 issue of the Post doesn't give the date of first publication, but a little sleuthing shows it was published on October 1, 1955. There, you can almost see the cartoon on the lower right:

"I'm afraid I'll have to come back later... I brought the wrong bag."
Irwin Caplan
The Saturday Evening Post, October 1, 1955, page 48

The Taylor cartoon, on the other hand, wasn't published until four years later in 1959!
"Pshaw!  I grabbed the wrong bag"
Richard Taylor
The New Yorker, September 19, 1959, page 35

So how did these two very similar cartoons come to be published in leading national publications? It's impossible to say, but Caplan's clearly came first. Was Richard Taylor aware of the Caplan cartoon? It seems unlikely he would have called his 1961 collection Wrong Bag if he were. What about the Post? Were they aware of Taylor's cartoon? It's possible that they were and that's in part why they chose to republish Caplan's cartoon in their 1960 issue.

Note:  This is Irwin Caplan's first appearance on the old blog. Follow the link to read about him on Wikipedia. There are earlier posts here devoted to Richard Taylor including one exclusively about the "Wrong Bag" cartoon.

Let's raise a glass to the time I documented how three New Yorker cartoonists drew a similar barstool gag in the post "Three Cartoonists Walk Into a Bar."

Almost four years ago, Mike Lynch noted a post of mine about Peanuts. I still haven't finished writing it. But I have written about his self-published magazine Raconteur No. 7.

The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts:
Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story
Blog Post No. 1700:  The New Yorker Apocrypha

If you'd like to know what's in the rest of the blog posts, take a look at the index.



  1. Hey! Saw this while looking into the same subject, the gag that is. The Caplan gag was published in 1955. I have a copy w/ date from the 1960 mag.There is also a mid-fities version by Bill Yates in True.
    This gag originated long ago in vaudeville or burlesque as part of the Doctor routines which were very popular.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dick Buchanan. As you know, I'm all about documentation here. Could you provide an image and an issue date and page number for the True cartoon by Bill Yates. I would love to include it in this post. Also, do you have a reference for the vaudeville stage acts in which doctors mistakenly carried bags full of money?

    2. By the way, Dick, I love your contributions to the Mike Lynch Cartoons blog.