The Woes of Mr. Monroe

Whether probing the battle of sexes or exposing the secret lives of daydreamers like Walter Mitty, James Thurber (pictured above) had a knack for revealing the frustrations and various tics that plagued ordinary people.

Aug. 9, 1930 cover by Rea Irvin.

That included the fictional John Monroe, whom Thurber placed in various awkward situations in a series of humorous stories, including this encounter with some moving men that required the rather inept Monroe to make a series of decisions usually left to his wife, Ellen. Some excerpts from the Aug. 9 issue:

ODD COUPLES…Sue Randall, left, and Orson Bean portrayed John and Ellen Monroe on a 1961 episode of The DuPont Show with June Allyson…
…a decade later, William Windom, left, and Joan Hotchkis portrayed John and Ellen Monroe on the Thurber-inspired (and award-winning) NBC comedy My World and Welcome to It (1969-70). (Wikipedia/Amazon)

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Beats the Heat

In the hot August of 1930, film critic John Mosher probably found the air-conditioned theaters to be the best feature of the cinema, given the generally mediocre quality of the summer movies. Mosher also noted the new trend of adapting Broadway plays to the screen, a practice that continues to this day.

THE SOUND OF 1930…Joan Crawford (left) examines a boom microphone on the set of Our Blushing Brides. Although most films were produced with sound in 1930, it was still something of a novelty to actors who began their careers in the silent era; at right, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Anita Page in Little Accident. (IMDB)

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From Our Advertisers

Well who doesn’t love a whole chicken in jar, ready to “fry or cream” in just 20 minutes? This was actually a big deal in 1930, given that chicken dinners were not as common back in the days before factory farms and Chick-fil-A…

…the makers of Marlboro cigarettes abandoned their essay and penmanship contests and took another direction with their drab, back-page ads, appealing to a vague sense of status in the prospective smoker…

…this sad little bottom-of-the-page ad enticed readers to take a drive in the country to see Texas Guinan and her “Famous Gang” still whooping it up like it was 1925. The venture was short-lived…

…on to our cartoons, Peter Arno looked in on nightlife in the city…

William Crawford Galbraith took in an outdoor concert…

Ralph Barton offered his comic skills to a glimpse of domestic life…

Garrett Price observed some boaters on an outing that would be frowned upon today (or at least I hope so)…

…and Constantin Alajalov examined the pitfalls of modern art…

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Speaking of art, we move on the Aug. 16, 1930 issue…

Aug. 16, 1930 cover by Barney Tobey.

…in which Robert Benchley has fun with the foibles of the art world…

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Rough Riders

In his “Reporter at Large” column, Morris Markey looked in on the working world of one chain-smoking ambulance driver…some excerpts…

SOMEONE NEEDS TO CLEAN THIS UP…Clockwise, from top left, a 1930s Flexible ambulance and its rather cramped interior; scene of a 1933 Manhattan murder. (coachbuilt.com/NY Daily News)

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From Our Advertisers

Hard to believe that zippers were a novel invention just 90 years ago…in this ad from the leading manufacturer, Talon, this “hookless” wonder was still referred to as a “slide fastener”…

…the Chrysler Corporation was never the biggest car company in America, but it was always known as a leader in both technology and design, as in these graceful lines that flowed over its new “Straight Eight” models…

…the makers of Camel cigarettes continued to push their product as a sound way to stay fit and trim…

…in the cartoons for Aug. 16, this drawing by Peter Arno appeared for the fifth time in the magazine, always with a different caption (the others appeared in three consecutive issues — June 5, 12 and 19, and on Aug. 2, 1930)…

William Crawford Galbraith detected some wet vs. dry tension at the country club…

Ralph Barton returned with another full-page illustration of a weekend domestic scene…

Garrett Price found confusion in a lengthy queue…

…and Kemp Starrett gave us a bird’s eye view of a future New Yorker…

Next Time: Hell’s Angels…

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.

7 thoughts on “The Woes of Mr. Monroe”

  1. Hello, have you read any 1960 issues? I’m trying to figure out exactly where you’re starting. I have a question about one of the issues and am searching for someone who might be able to help. Thanks, love your site!

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    1. Hello Marian. I began with issue #1, Feb. 21, 1925, and have read (and have written about) every issue through August 1930. I have looked ahead a bit, through the early 40s, but haven’t spent a lot of time in the 1950s or 60s. However, I’ve done quite a bit of outside reading on the magazine and its history, so I might be able to help with your question. Thanks for your kind compliment and for reading the blog, and please let me know if I can help with your search. Best, David

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      1. That is incredible! What a task. 🙂 I am looking for info about the cover art from August 20, 1960. All I know is that it is by Leonard Dove…but I’m trying to figure out what the building is (pretty sure it is Little Harbor Club in Harbor Springs, MI) and why he created this particular image at this point in time.

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      2. Hi Marian-still no luck on the Leonard Dove cover. I agree it strongly resembles the Little Harbor Club, but I am wondering if it is similar-type club he might have visited on Long Island. Just a hunch.

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      3. Yes, this is definitely a possibility. Do you know if there have ever been descriptions of the covers in the magazine? I haven’t ever seen them mentioned in current New Yorkers but wondering if they did in the past. I never know how they get chosen.

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      4. That’s a good question. There’s a lot information out there on cartoon selection, but the cover process seems to be a bit more secretive. I would love it if they included a brief description of the cover for each issue. I highly recommend that you check out Michael Maslin’s Ink Spill site — https://michaelmaslin.com

        Maslin is a longtime cartoonist for the New Yorker, and writes extensively about the cartoons and the covers. You might find something there, or drop him a note. Chances are he’ll know the Dove cover. Happy hunting!

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