Thursday, February 21, 2019

Peter Arno: No Offense?

Racial caricatures of Africans and others were common in mainstream American publications up until at least the 1950s and likely beyond. A left-leaning magazine such as The New Yorker was no exception. Peter Arno was the most popular New Yorker cartoonist of his day, and like many others he created images meant to be humorous that today redound as deeply offensive. 

A 1942 ad featuring two African tribesmen marveling over the potential use of an inverted Stetson hat is meant to appeal to and amuse an upscale and sophisticated readership in the pages of The New Yorker. It isn't hidden away in the back of the magazine; it's right there on page one where everyone can see it immediately. No advertiser could expect to sell a hat or any other product by offending potential customers. Racial and, let's face it, racist caricature would have to be broadly accepted by the culture for it to be used as a major element of such an advertising campaign. It would seem there wasn't a word of protest to be had from the artist, the magazine's editorial staff, the advertiser, its ad agency, and—so far as one can tell—the readers.
"A Stetson...a gentleman...a specially fine stew!"
Peter Arno

Stetson Hats advertisement
The New Yorker, January 24, 1942, page 1

Quick Links to the Attempted Bloggery Archives:

Peter Arno



Cannibals and Missionaries

Racism in Cartoons

Attempted Bloggery's Bare-Headed Index


No comments:

Post a Comment