Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Edward Gorey: Smooth Skating

A variety of holiday cards are based on the art of Edward Gorey. These are perilous times for vulnerable young children, so don't try reenacting this one at home.



Monday, November 29, 2021

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #782

The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #782, from the issue of November 29, 2021, left me speechless. My caption is shown below. The drawing is by Meredith Southard.

"Look, it's dumb and dumber."

The following rejected captions will have to remain muted:

"This is dumb on so many levels."
"I'll just suffer in silence."
"Tip them extra to go away."
"I was hoping maybe for the Naked Cowboy."

December 11, 2021 Update:  The Finalists

December 18, 2021 Update:
  I went with the caption from Waukesha.

January 1, 2022 Update:
  The Winner


Sunday, November 28, 2021

William Steig: Small Fry Fashions

In 1942, magazine promotions aimed at parents touted a new children's clothing line inspired by William Steig's "Small Fry." Just three months after Pearl Harbor, the outfits are marketed as "Defense Denims." Small Fry Fashions were created by Fairfame Sportswear located at 1350 Broadway, which is not far from the Garment District just north of Herald Square. It's interesting to see how a studio fashion photographer attempted to capture the feel of Steig's drawings in Glamour Girl and Her Hero.

"Small Fry" Come to Life in Defense Denims
The Parents' Magazine[?], March 1942

For the fall line, two girls' outfits are called "Sugar Ration" and "Back to School." Some of the advertising copy reads, "Double sweetness! There is no rationing of ingenuity in SMALL FRY's saucy dress with its dainty trimmed collar or her sophisticated suit..."

Fairfame Sportswear
The Parents' Magazine, September 1942, page 93

Note:  I would love to hear about other ads for Small Fry Fashions based on William Steig's drawings.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

William Steig's 1937 Small Fry Ad for Super-Shell

Distinguishing one brand of gasoline from another in the public's eye is one of those challenges that fall to the marketing industry. In the 1930's, well before the interstate highway system came into being, a Shell advertising campaign contended that four miles of every five were driven in stop-and-go traffic. The best gasoline for that situation was said to be Super-Shell, specially formulated to be "motor-digestible."

Motor-digestible? With advertising copy of that caliber, it's such a thrill to see William Steig's inspiring artwork for the campaign. A 1937 black-and-white print ad, under the banner "In the good old summertime"—the same as the name of the 1902 song—has one of the most pleasant depictions of stalled motor vehicle traffic imaginable. Characters indistinguishable from those of Steig's popular "Small Fry" series in The New Yorker cross the street with the traffic light on their way to play baseball. Even the waiting motorist is delighted. Surely it's enough to persuade readers to fill up the tank with some "high energy content," "motor-digestible" gas.

William Steig
1937 Shell advertisement


Friday, November 26, 2021

William Steig Illustrates Bing Crosby's "Small Fry" Album

The song "Small Fry" with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Frank Loesser was written for Paramount's "Sing You Sinners" (1938). In the film it is performed as an onstage musical number by Bing Crosby as Pappy, a young Donald O'Connor as Small Fry, and Fred MacMurray cross-dressing as Mammy. Crosby later recorded the song with Johnny Mercer and Victor Young's Small Fryers for a 1941 Decca album named "Small Fry: A Collection of Songs About 'Small Fry.'"

William Steig was already known for a long-running cartoon series in The New Yorker called "Small Fry." His cartoons may have done much to popularize the term or at the very least to associate it with his sophisticated and nostalgic humorous sensibility. It is therefore no surprise that Steig was asked to illustrate the album cover. Aside from the title song, his drawings seem to specifically draw inspiration from the songs "Shoe Shine Boy," "The Girl with the Pigtail in Her Hair," "School Days," "Sunbonnet Sue," and "Poor Old Rover." In addition, the boy hawking newspapers refers to "Just a Kid Named Joe." The boy leaning against the lamppost may or may not reference the song "If I Was a Millionaire." The same Steig drawings are used for the cover of the enclosed booklet, but with a different layout to accommodate the taller proportions. Steig's Small Fry was not collected in book form until 1944, so it's interesting that his series known primarily to readers of The New Yorker was used in this mainstream album promotion in 1941.

Bing Crosby
eBay listing accessed November 25, 2021

Bing Crosby
eBay item description

"Small Fry" from "Sing You Sinners" (1938)
Sung by Bing Crosby and Johnny Mercer (1941)
Music by Hoagy Carmichael
Lyrics by Frank Loesser



The published sheet music uses images from the movie and does not feature any art by William Steig:

"Small Fry"


Note:  To me it seems obvious that Bing Crosby's "Small Fry" album with its cover art by William Steig should have been advertised in The New Yorker, but I am unable to find any evidence of this. 

You can watch the song "Small Fry" as it appeared in the 1938 movie "Sing You Sinners" on Vimeo here.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Giving Thanks 2021

Turkey Day is upon us once again. This is my special time to give thanks and to offer my help by staying out of the kitchen.
Helen E. Hokinson
The New Yorker, November 27, 1937

I have been writing posts here for more than ten years now, but it's no secret that I am not entirely on my own. In my blogging pursuit I am fortunate to be aided by a dedicated group of knowledgeable readers and contributors with incredible resources and expertise that often seem to perfectly complement what I can provide. I owe so much to each of the individuals listed below for offering their generous help to me over this past year. Friends, I thank you all:

Linda Appleby

Tom Bloom

Daniel Borinsky

Steven D. Brewer

Dick Buchanan

Scott Burns

David from Manhattan

A Friend of the Blog

Joel Jacobus

Stephen Kroninger

David Leopold

Michael Maslin

Jeff Nelson

Joe Petro III


Sally Williams

Note:  Labels that link to posts made possible or more complete by each of these contributors may be found below, with a couple of exceptions. The post on the Lüchow's guest book is itself too full of celebrity names to have room for any contributor labels. Tom Bloom, Joel Jacobus, and David Leopold (the latter apparently through the miracle of Twitter) provided invaluable insights. I have no room below for a label linking to the older post helped along by TNBIB, who provided a valuable update on the topic of Ludwig von Drake cufflinks. Say what you will, no other blog covers these topics.

Last but by no means least, I wish to thank my family, who makes everything worthwhile. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The CartoonStock Caption Contest #143

Two heads are better than one in the CartoonStock Caption Contest #143. My three captions are shown belowThe drawing is by Jon Adams.

"I'd like to give you a peek into my process."
"Writing lets you play head games with your fans."
"I like to imagine I'm sitting on my reader's shoulder."

December 11, 2021 Update:  The Winner


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

William Steig's Small Fry: Thoughts of Arabia

Original cartoon art by William Steig from the 1930s depicts one of his older small fry characters showing off his maturity by smoking a cigarette and having big boy thoughts. These thoughts transport him to an exotic fantasy seemingly out of the Arabian Nights.

Steig's "Small Fry" series was published in The New Yorker, for the most part, and this original does bear printer's markings suggesting publication somewhere. Beyond that, specific printing history isn't indicated. The original once belonged to Frank Zachary, a pioneering editor and art director, who died in 2015 at the age of 101.

William Steig's signature

Verso with glue residue, but no New Yorker markings

William Steig
Oakridge Auction Gallery listing accessed the week prior to the sale

Note:  I hit a dead end here, but perhaps readers can do better. I would like to hear from anyone who can unearth this piece's publication history.

Previous owner Frank Zachary's obituary from the Times may be found here.

Motivated readers may submit original art by William Steig for possible inclusion in future blog posts.


Monday, November 22, 2021

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #781

I took a shot at The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #781 from the issue of November 22, 2021. My caption is shown below. The drawing is by Jason Adam Katzenstein. 

"Can you believe it? I'm also lit."

December 5, 2021 Update:  The Finalists

December 11, 2021 Update: I really can't remember if I voted this time around, but if I did it was for the caption from Brooklyn. But I probably didn't.

December 18, 2021 Update:  The Winner


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Creig Flessel: Sidelined

DC comic book artist Creig Flessel (1912-2008) provides the color cover cartoon for the Sunday Pictorial Review of October 9, 1955. There's quite a bit of action on and off the football field.

Creig Flessel
Pictorial Review, Baltimore American, October 9, 1955

Shermund's Sallies is cartoonist Barbara Shermund's humorous take on relationships. Here she depicts strong young women taking action on their marriages.
"I think I've softened Albert up enough—
so I've decided to feel better!"
* * *
"The last straw was when he didn't object to my dating other men!"
Shermund's Sallies
Barbara Shermund
Pictorial Review, Baltimore American, October 9, 1955

The Cheering Section features large cartoons by Syd Hoff and Irving Roir that riff on some widely accepted stereotypes of the 1950s.
"The trouble with you is you can dish it out but you can't cook it!"                                        
Syd Hoff                                        
* * *
                                        "I used to be attracted to young men with padded shoul-
                                        ders 'til I found out the older ones have stuffed wallets."
                                        Irving Roir
Pictorial Review, Baltimore American, October 9, 1955

"And there's no need to worry about the Central Intelligence Agency being too intelligent." George Dixon pokes fun at US government institutions. Otto Soglow illustrates.
And Dixon asks why not a Department of Loafing to counter-balance the Department of Labor?
Illustration by Otto Soglow
Pictorial Review, Baltimore American, October 9, 1955

Pete Howe's Where Wives Are Expendable reports as fact a World War II story about the order in which Arab men and women walk that certainly isn't true. The myth persists today in many versions and is debunked on Snopes.com here.
Illustration by Ralph Stein

Love that Bob:
Louella Parsons on Bob Cummings

Mel Heimer on Jackie Cooper

Pictorial Review
eBay listing accessed November 20, 2021

Pictorial Review
eBay item description
"...Don't believe anything eBay sends you in my name without checking." Wouldn't dream of it.


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Hilda Terry in College Humor, January 1940

The cartoon by Hilda Terry (1914-2006) from the January 1940 issue of College Humor takes us into the football stadium on game day. From seats high above the end zone we see two young women from behind, the only fully-shaded figures. One woman, the speaker, holds a pair of binoculars, but it becomes apparent she is not following the action on the field.

"Sally's wearing a new red hat, and Milly Watson's got on a silver fox. . .
looks like an imitation. . . ."

Hilda Terry
College Humor, Vol 11, No. 1, January 1940, page 47

Note:  Visit the 8 Henderson Place Foundation's website here.