Thursday, January 14, 2021

John Held, Jr.: My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions

In 1927, amidst the backdrop of Prohibition and its discontents, Frank Shay collected My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions. The book is "magnificently illuminated" by the cartoonist John Held, Jr., showing off his deliberately old-fashioned woodblock style. What caught my eye right off was the bold frontispiece illustration, The Rumrunner's Sister-in-Law. This had been Held's very first New Yorker illustration, appearing in the issue of April 11, 1925.

The Rumrunner's Sister-in-Law
John Held, Jr.
The New Yorker, April 11, 1925, page 5

An illustrator of Held's popularity gets his name to appear with the same prominence as the author's.

The book is marred by a hand-written dedication, which may have meant something in 1927, and by numerous emendations to the songs.

The tipped-in photo purports to show Held "At 3 A.M. in the Roaring Twenties." He was a night owl, evidently.

The Table of Contents is illustrated with a detail from Bygone Days, below.

The previous owner's notations document some variation of the song, perhaps based on a recording. The published lyrics highlight the mainstream acceptance of racist language at the time.

Variations on such lyrics were common:
"Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield"
Imperial Quartet, 1915

The Curse of the Opera House demonstrates how unsatisfying it is to look at a vertical image horizontally.

More notations to song lyrics:

Bygone Days shows what nostalgia for drinking looked like in the 1920s.

John Held, Jr.
eBay listing accessed January 13, 2021

John Held, Jr.
eBay item description

Cartoon by John Held, Jr.


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