Monday, January 31, 2022

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #789

This week I floated a caption to The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #789 from the issue of January 31, 2022. My entry is shown below. The drawing is by Christopher Weyant.

"I don't suppose you left any Red Bull for me?"

February 7, 2022 Update:  The Finalists

February 21, 2022 Update:  I voted for the caption from Melrose.

March 6, 2022 Update:  The Winner


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Kirk Stiles in College Humor, January 1940

Did readers of College Humor really identify with the injured football player in Kirk Stiles's cartoon from the January 1940 issue? The unsympathetic coach seems to be a caricature of the trainer who wants to win at all costs. Is it believable and, more importantly, is it funny? Finally, is it worthy of two exclamation points?

"Tie score, three yards to go for goal—and you break a leg!!"
Kirk Stiles
College Humor, Vol. 11, No. 1, January 1940


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Hilda Cowham: Mistress and Maid and an Earlier Pandemic

There have never been any good pandemics. British illustrator Hilda Cowham (1873-1964) published an undated drawing inscribed Mistress & Maid: If she thought her life was in danger. The perceived danger is that of infection. The art depicts a mistress peeking her head out from behind a smallpox curtain while her maid holds up to her face a bottle crudely labeled disinfectant (with spelling corrected) to protect herself. The illustration seems to refer to the smallpox pandemic of 1870-1874, possibly in the setting of London. The original is offered for 325 GBP on AbeBooks.

Mistress and Maid:  If she thought her life was in danger
Hilda Cowham

Hilda Cowham
AbeBooks listing accessed January 29, 2022
Hilda Cowham
AbeBooks item description

Note:  This work has printer's markings indicating that it was published. Now the only question is where and when—and who can figure it all out. 


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Alan Dunn: A Fender Bender

Readers of Michael Maslin's Ink Spill learned last week that over the course of his career cartoonist Alan Dunn (1900-1974) published an astonishing 1,981 cartoons in The New Yorker. Today we look at one that got away. 

In 1948, Dunn sent an original cartoon along with a typewritten letter to "Brother Hodgson," apparently a fellow Phi Gamma Delta, or more commonly Fiji, fraternity brother known either from his days at Columbia University or from the national organization. Dunn explains that the cartoon nearly saw publication. "The New Yorker once okayed the idea but asked for a few minor changes. Being long repressed about 'changes' I decided to assert myself. 'Either take it as is or don't take it at all[,]' I meekly shouted. 'Very well, they rejoined, 'We won't take it at all.' So here it is."

Hodgson was evidently affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, because Dunn offered the original drawing to him for publication in Tarnation, the student humor magazine. They should have been thrilled to publish it, but did they? Quite possibly. An exhibition on humor at the library of the University of North Carolina notes that Tarnation was published between 1947 and 1954, so there was adequate opportunity to get it into print.

Dunn ends his letter with the motto "Perge!" It is this that identifies him as a Graduate Brother, as one is called, of Fiji. It means "Press on!" or "Persist!" There can hardly be a better creed for a cartoonist, particularly one of Dunn's prolific achievement.

The cartoon itself shows Dunn's fascination with newfangled technology. Car phones were first introduced in the United States in 1946. In Dunn's gag, set at the site of a downtown fender bender, the new invention is already being exploited by lawyers. But how would they manage to obtain the correct phone number in less time than it would take to walk down the stairs? One wonders what "few minor changes" The New Yorker had insisted on. Were the editors eager to change the silly name of the law firm, perhaps?

"Good morning, sir—I represent the law firm of Lolly, Mire and Fish..."
Alan Dunn
Tarnation [?]

Alan Dunn's signature

Alan Dunn

Alan Dunn
eBay listing ended August 31, 2020

Alan Dunn
eBay item description 

Note:  Can any Tar Heels tell me whether this cartoon came to be published, and when?



Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Charles Addams: A Fender Bender

Beginning around 1946, the young Frank Modell served as assistant to New Yorker cartoon editor James Geraghty. Working at The New Yorker, he acquired some early original works by Peter Arno that had never been published in the magazine. Possibly, some of these forgotten works were left unclaimed in the office, or they may have been gifts received personally from Arno. 

Now we see that Modell also came to possess an early original drawing by Charles Addams. Apparently, this also was submitted to The New Yorker but not published. The cartoon, somewhat elongated in its proportions, shows two hunters involved in an unusual head-on car accident, no pun intended. The estate of Frank Modell attempted to sell this original at Bonhams, twice.  The auction house listing does an admirable job of summarizing other Addams cartoons on similar subjects. In June, the drawing was given an estimate of $6,000-8,000. Unsold, it was offered again in December with a lower presale estimate of $5,000-7,000. The minimum bid was set at $5,000 but once again the Addams work did not find a buyer.

Charles Addams
Bonhams, December 15, 2021
The earlier June 2021 sale:

June 25, 2022 Update:
  Having twice failed to sell this cartoon at Bonhams, the consignor took this Addams piece to Swann Galleries, where it found a buyer in the June 9 Illustration Art sale at a more reasonable price. A souvenir drawing of Uncle Fester, on the other hand, sold remarkably well.

Charles Addams
Hammer price
Swann Auction Galleries June 9, 2022 Illustration Art sale

  The blog archive has two posts about Peter Arno cartoons from the estate of New Yorker cartoonist Frank Modell. Find them both here.


Monday, January 24, 2022

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #788

This week I tried to fit a caption to The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #788 from the issue of January 24, 2022. My entry is shown below. The drawing is by E. S. Glenn.

"I'm just surprised they have you working from home."

February 1, 2022 Update:  The Finalists

February 7, 2022 Update:  I voted for the caption from Renfrew.

February 21, 2022 Update:  The Winner


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Syd Hoff: A Sketch of Danny and the Dinosaur

Syd Hoff's sketch of Danny and the Dinosaur, currently listed on eBay, is based on the cartoonist's popular 1958 children's book. Oddly, the drawing, which looks as if it were done in about two minutes, is dated 1994-5, as if it were done over the course of two years. Perhaps it was mailed in late December to arrive in the new year. 

Syd Hoff
eBay listing accessed January 22, 2022

Syd Hoff
eBay item description


Saturday, January 22, 2022

License Plate for a Dairy Farmer?

Thirsty? A license plate spotted in central New York has a suggestion for you.

New York State license plate


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Ronald Searle for Max Factor

Ronald Searle's vintage advertisement for Max Factor Gentlemen's Cologne makes full use of the cartoonist's penchant for drawing thin, elongated figures that can inhabit a narrow magazine column. The cologne is good enough, apparently, to counter the cigarette Searle has placed in the young man's hand. The ad showed up recently on eBay and appeared in Esquire at least twice, in May and November of 1965. Another Searle ad for the product appeared in the June issue, here with a different couple and with the gentleman this time smoking a cigar. Go figure. The ad copy for both reads, "Who knows what the day will bring when you start with Max Factor for Gentlemen?" The question mark is mine.

Ronald Searle
eBay listing accessed January 19, 2022

Ronald Searle
eBay item description


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The CartoonStock Caption Contest #147

I went three rounds in the CartoonStock Caption Contest #147. My submissions are shown belowThe pugilistic drawing is by Liam Francis Walsh.

"I can't believe you would hit a man with glasses."
"Fine, you can have your damn baby back."
"Shouldn't you be wearing kid gloves?"

February 1, 2022 Update:  Seven-time New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest winner Lawrence Wood, in his Caption Contest Commentary, mentioned one of my entries—twice. This is the fifteenth contest in which he's chosen to remark on one of my captions.

February 2, 2022 Update:  The Winner


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sight Unseen: The First Issue of The New Yorker, February 21, 1925

On New Year's Day, I came across an AbeBooks listing for the very first issue of The New Yorker, dated February 21, 1925. I was immediately taken aback by the asking price, an absurdly low $4.39.

The New Yorker
listing accessed January 1, 2021

Copies of the magazine's rare first issue currently listed on eBay are priced at $4,000 to $4,500, give or take a penny. There's no way a true copy could be selling for one one-thousandth of its market value, right? My best guess was that Discover Books of Toledo had mistakenly listed the 1953 reprint of the first issue.
Two current eBay listings of the first issue of The New Yorker, preceded by the 1953 reprint

The title of the AbeBooks listing was "The New Yorker, February 21, 1925 (Volume 1)." There was no accompanying photo. Listed authors were Ralph Barton, Marc Connelly, Rea Irvin, George S. Kaufman, Alice Duer Miller, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott. Those were indeed the advisory editors listed on the first issue's masthead. The listing's specific details were all absolutely correct, but the price was too good to be true. Who was I not to take a shot at it? I placed my order sight unseen. Ten days later, the package was in my hands.

Here then are the contents:

The New Yorker Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Album 1925-1950 was published in 1951 and reissued in paperback in 1986, some sixty-one years after the first issue's publication. How a scuffed copy of this paperback edition was erroneously listed as a copy of the original 1925 magazine is beyond me, but it strikes me as more careless than malicious. The book has a $1.00 price pencilled on the half title; the $4.39 price I paid included postage. For what it's worth, I did not previously own a copy of the paperback.


Monday, January 17, 2022

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #787

It's time to unpack my entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #787 from the issue of January 17, 2022. My caption is shown below. The drawing is by Tom Toro.

"I hope this trip will be a new beginning."

These captions were too primitive:

"Did you pack my loincloth?"
"I'm not bringing any screens."
"I'm not just packing heat."

January 29, 2022 Update:  The Finalists

February 1, 2022 Update:  I voted for the caption from Doylestown.

February 7, 2022 Update:  The Winner