Monday, August 31, 2020

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #722

Get in tune for my entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #722 for the date August 31, 2020. The drawing is by Teresa Burns Parkhurst.
"You're right. It IS too big for the house."

These captions struck the wrong note:

"Maybe a helicopter WASN'T the best way."
"Maybe a catapult WASN'T the best way."
"I've got a bone to pick with those piano movers."
"And we JUST had it tuned."
"Your mother warned you not to marry a musician."
"And that's why we aren't zoned for rooftop entertainment."

September 7, 2020 Update:  The Finalists

September 14, 2020 Update:  I voted with Alexandria. That caption is much funnier than mine with the helicopter or the catapult.

September 21, 2020 Update:  The Winner

Note:  Last week in the Caption Contest, cartoonist P. C. Vey gave us a woman in a sandcastle in a sandbox. My caption was all wet. Grab your pail and shovel and head over to Contest #721.

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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Helen E. Hokinson: Portrait of Marion Ellet

Helen E. Hokinson's portrait of journalist Marion Ellet is intriguing. The ink and wash drawing is unsigned and undated, so our understanding of it relies entirely on Ellet's sworn affidavit of 1969, dutifully included in the listing on eBay. In it, she affirms that the work is by Hokinson and that Ellet herself sat for it at the Smith College Club of New York City. She dates it to the winter of 1924, so that would be perhaps a year before Harold Ross's upstart magazine The New Yorker was to hit the newsstands for the first time in February of 1925. Hokinson's first drawing would appear there in the July 4, 1925 issue and the rest, as they say, is cartoon history. Had Hokinson developed her signature style as a cartoonist yet in the winter of 1924? On the basis of this sober portrait executed in a realistic style, it's impossible to say.

Helen E. Hokinson
eBay listing accessed August 29, 2020

Helen E. Hokinson
eBay item description

Before we say bon voyage, here's Hokinson's first drawing to appear in The New Yorker, a spot drawing from the issue of July 4, 1925.

The page at left, incidentally, is a parody of an ad for "Beggar on Horseback" with supposed testimonials from "'The Old Lady in Dubuque'—and Others." Harold Ross famously wrote in his prospectus for the magazine that "The New Yorker will be the magazine which is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque. It will not be concerned in what she is thinking about." Does The New Yorker seem unconcerned?

Note:  At the time of this posting, Helen E. Hokinson's seated portrait of Marion Ellet remains available on eBay. I would like to post images of other portraits or realistic subjects by the artist, but I would be willing to show an original cartoon or two as well.

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

Helen E. Hokinson: Portrait of Hendrik Willem van Loon

Hendrik Willem Van Loon was a bestselling author who illustrated his own popular histories, most notably The Story of Mankind in 1921. He was the subject of not one but two New Yorker Profiles, in 1926 and 1943. The latter profile was published over the course of three issues, creating the need for three distinct illustrated portraits of the subject to appear at the head of each installment. It seems likely that Helen E. Hokinson's illustration of van Loon, pronounced "van Loan" from the Dutch, was intended to accompany one of the segments of this three-part article. Her original artwork of van Loon in black tie is currently listed by James Cummins Bookseller.

Helen E. Hokinson
AbeBooks listing retrieved May 2, 2019

A younger and thinner van Loon was depicted with a cigarette holder in the Profiles illustration of June 19, 1926. The article is by Waldo Frank.
Section header by Rea Irvin, cartoon by I. Klein, Profiles illustration

Helen Hokinson's artwork did not appear in any of the three sections of van Loon's 1943 Profile by Richard O. Boyer. The first part appeared in the March 20, 1943 issue with an illustration that does not try to hide van Loon's double chin, collar size 17 ½". Was having a cartoon on the facing page a consolation prize for Hokinson?
Profiles illustration by Will Cotton, cartoon by Helen E. Hokinson

The March 27 issue has a Profile illustration by Abe Birnbaum that unflinchingly portrays van Loon's corpulence—he weighed 290 pounds—and his continued smoking. In the end, was Hokinson's portrait too flattering for The New Yorker's editors?
Profiles illustration by Abe Birnbaum, cartoon by Leonard Dove

 For the third installment, Miguel Covarrubias depicts van Loon with ambidexterity in his dual capacities as writer and artist. "He once drew a picture of himself confronting the world; of the two, van Loon was the larger and more impressive" writes Richard O. Boyer. Once again Hokinson's cartoon appears on the facing page. Just a coincidence?
Profiles illustration by Miguel Covarrubias, cartoon by Helen E. Hokinson

Note:  At the time of this posting, Helen E. Hokinson's portrait of Hendrik Willem van Loon is still available from James Cummins Bookseller.

I have not been able to identify the illustrators of the 1926 Profile or of the March 30, 1943 Profile, so I would appreciate some assistance with this. I have assumed the Hokinson portrait was never published anywhere; please tell me if I'm wrong about this.

August 31, 2020 Update:  Tom Bloom has identified the signature on the March 30, 1943 Profiles illustration as Will Cotton's. It seems very plausible, even obvious, once pointed out. Thanks, Tom.

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Friday, August 28, 2020

James Reid Parker's Copy of My Best Girls by Helen E. Hokinson

When Helen E. Hokinson's cartoon collection My Best Girls was published in 1941, she and gagwriter James Reid Parker had been formally collaborating for ten years. Parker wrote the memorable captions that in part kept Hokinson such a celebrated cartoonist. Here fresh from eBay is his copy of the book, gratefully inscribed to him by Hokinson. They were of course on a first-name basis, although Parker went by the name Reid, so there it's technically a middle-name basis.
My Best Girls (1941)
Helen E. Hokinson
"I want to report a winking man"

Title page

Inscribed "For Reid with many
many thanks for his
wonderful captions,

Note that the quotation from the unseen drawing on the far left below is by John Mason Brown. After her death in a plane crash, the theater critic would come to write an appreciation of the artist for The Saturday Review of Literature issue of December 10, 1949. His tribute appears in The Ladies, God Bless 'em! (1950) and The Hokinson Festival (1956).
The bottom caption reads in full, "We can't make up our minds whether to buy or build."
The New Yorker,
May 4, 1940

Helen E. Hokinson
eBay listing ended August 8, 2020

Helen E.Hokinson
eBay bid history
Sold for a Best Offer of $10.99


Note:  The papers of Helen E. Hokinson and of James Reid Parker reside in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. Wouldn't you like to see them? Me too. Somehow this book didn't make it over there, which ironically is the only reason so many can see it so easily today. Isn't it time for libraries to take their valuable papers out of dusty storage boxes and post digital copies online?

Attempted Bloggery would be only too pleased to document other books personalized by Helen or Reid, as I like to call them. 

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Aunt Lydia's Copy of The Hokinson Festival

In 1956, seven years after she perished in a plane crash, Helen E. Hokinson's final cartoon collection was published. The Hokinson Festival comprises work from four previous collections, including more than 450 cartoons and four color New Yorker covers. There is a memoir by her New Yorker collaborator James Reid Parker and an appreciation by drama critic John Mason Brown.

James Reid Parker (1909-1984), a short story writer and novelist, entered into a partnership with Hokinson in 1931 and provided splendid captions for her cartoons. After her death, he became the trustee of her estate. He and his wife Ruth gave this copy of The Hokinson Festival to their Aunt Lydia. Parker, who went by the name Reid, wrote the inscription and signed the book on the title page just above the mention of his contribution.

The Hokinson Festival
"The final Hokinson collection—more than 450 cartoons plus four New Yorker
covers in full color—selected by her New Yorker collaborator, James Reid Parker"

"Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
from Ruth and Reid to Aunt Lydia.
December, 1956."                         

James Reid Parker's signature

Helen E. Hokinson
eBay Listing Ended August 21, 2020

But wait a minute. That price of $29.99 is not the actual selling price. First off, the eBay seller originally listed this volume at $49.99 and automatically refused a Best Offer of $24.99:

Subsequently the seller lowered the price by $20 on August 15.

Then the seller made a special offer on August 21 below the rejected Best Offer, and that's when the book was sold.

So, to be clear, it was the seller's offer of $22.00, and not $29.99, that represents the final selling price. Could eBay possibly have an interest in overstating selling prices on the platform?

Five Hokinson books listed concurrently by the seller

Note:  The papers of Helen E. Hokinson and of James Reid Parker are in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. Go have a look next time you're in New Haven and let me know what you think.

Attempted Bloggery would like to document other books personalized by James Reid Parker or by Helen Hokinson. Or even by Aunt Lydia.

John Mason Brown, who contributed the appreciation of Hokinson's work, may have liked New Yorker cartoons, but he was highly critical of comic books. It was a 1950s thing.

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