Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Toast to E. Simms Campbell and H. T. Webster

Last week's big post on cartoonist E. Simms Campbell led off with an Esquire gag about a young woman burning the toast. There is a long and unhappily sexist tradition of cartoons about women who can't cook, and the introduction of the modern pop-up toaster in 1925 seems to have provided another angle, the idea being that even a woman who can't cook should at least be able to toast a slice of bread. The Esquire cartoon deliberately conflates using a toaster with cooking. It was mean-spirited and didn't sit well with me. Part of the reason is that this same territory is covered by my favorite H. T. Webster cartoon, from the gag panel series The Thrill That Comes Once in a Lifetime. In a 1948 panel Webster takes the opposite tack, and the woman who says she can't cook nevertheless has mastered the toaster and is now proclaimed a genius. Of course, it is implicit in the Webster cartoon and understated in the Campbell cartoon that each man's attitude toward the woman's "cooking" reflects the quality of the sexual relationship.

"Damn!  Can't you even cook?"
E. Simms Campbell
Esquire, April 1935, page 43

The Thrill That Comes Once in a Lifetime:
Newlywed[']s First Breakfast
H. T. Webster
November 27, 1948
The Best of H. T. Webster, 1953

Note:  H. T. Webster (1885-1952) is new to the blog today. E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971) at this point is decidedly not. Readers with access to original art by either artist are encouraged to submit high-resolution scans or photographs for consideration. Don't tell me you can't. You're a wizard.

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