Nize & Not So Nize

This entry opens with a “Nize Baby” comic illustration by Milt Gross, since Milt’s book by the same title was advertised in the May 22 issue (featured later in this entry). I thought it better to begin with a bright comic than with a depressing image of NYC’s “The Tombs” prison, which was featured in the May 15 issue’s “Reporter at Large” piece written by Morris Markey.

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May 15 cover by Ronald McRae.

The somber, colloquial name of the prison was actually derived from a previous prison that had occupied the area, designed in a fashion that resembled an “Egyptian mausoleum.” The original Tombs (pictured below) was built in 1838:

The-Tombs-First
(daytoninmanhattan)

The first Tombs was notorious as a place of extreme cruelty–most of the prisoners were simply detainees awaiting their hearings and few had been convicted of actual crimes. Nevertheless some remained imprisoned for up to ten months in horrible conditions. The city’s answer to the problem was simply to demolish the prison in 1897 and replace it in 1902 with a Châteauesque-style structure. This was the prison to which Markey paid his visit:

The_Tombs-built_1902
The prison (left) that replaced The Tombs connected to the 1892 Manhattan Criminal Courts Building with a “Bridge of Sighs” crossing four stories above Franklin Street.

The prison may have been an improvement over the original Tombs, but Markey nevertheless found it a gloomy place:

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Now on to something a bit cheerier. It is springtime in New York, after all:

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May 22, 1926 cover by Julian de Miskey.

“The Talk of the Town” briefly commented on Sinclair Lewis’s refusal to accept the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Arrowsmith. Lewis said he did not agree with contests where one book or author was praised over another. In the “Profile” section, Waldo Frank looked at the life of philosopher and education reformer John Dewey…through a jaded lens:

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The issue featured this advertisement for a new book by cartoonist Milt Gross. He was best known for his comic characters who spoke a Yiddish-inflected English dialogue.

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Gross is perhaps one of the first comic artists to publish (in 1930) what today we call a graphic novel–his pantomime tale He Done Her Wrong: The Great American Novel and Not a Word in It — No Music, Too. At nearly 300 pages, it was composed entirely of pen-and-ink cartoons.

Milt_Gross_(1930)_He_Done_Her_Wrong_(title_page)
Cover for He Done Her Wrong (Wikipedia)

And The New Yorker took its usual blasé tone in reporting on the latest world news, namely Admiral Richard Byrd’s attempted flight over the North Pole.

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Pathe cameraman filming the Josephine Ford as it was being prepared for flight to the North Pole. (The Ohio State University Archives)

The New Yorker editors had some fun taking jabs at the New York Times for its sensational headlines regarding the event:

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And to close, the first of what would be a series of ads for Grebe radios, including the weird testimonials by Confucius and “Doctor Wu”…

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Next Time: What to Drink During Prohibition…

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Published by

David O

I read and write about history from the perspective that history is not some artifact from the past but a living, breathing condition we inhabit every moment of our lives, or as William Faulkner once observed, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." I read original source materials, such as every issue of The New Yorker, not only as a way to understand a time from a particular perspective, but to also use the source as an aggregator of various historic events. I welcome comments, criticisms, corrections and insights as I stumble along through the century.

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