Going With the Flow

“We had the horse and buggy. We had the automobile. Now we have the first real motor car in history.” — Walter P. Chrysler. 

Classic motorcar collector and aficionado Jay Leno has more than 180 vehicles in his collection, but a pride and joy is a 1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial CX—one of the only three surviving CXs today.

Dec. 16, 1933 cover by Rea Irvin.

The 1934 Chrysler Airflow was a car of the future that came too early. The Airflow’s advances in engineering—including invention of the modern unibody—still inform car design today. But the streamlined look of the car was probably too advanced for those depressed times, and despite lots of media attention it flopped with consumers. E.B. White was among those who weren’t ready to jump on the Airflow bandwagon, and even poked fun at colleague Alexander Woollcott for posing in the backseat of an Airflow for a Chrysler advertisement:

The Woollcott ad in question, which appeared in the previous issue (Dec. 9):

Of the major car companies in the 1930s, Chrysler was perhaps the most revolutionary in terms of technological and design advances. The first car to be wind tunnel-tested, the Airflow’s lightweight, unibody design moved the engine over the front axle and positioned the passengers between the front and rear wheels for a much roomier, smoother ride. Chrysler claimed the unibody also made the car stronger and safer, as this newsreel attests:

Air truly flowed through the car; even the windshield could be cranked open for greater air circulation.

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE…Jay Leno’s Chrysler Airflow Imperial CX, one of only three CX’s known to exist today. Other versions of the Airflow included a model sold under the DeSoto brand name. You can see this car in action on Jay Leno’s Garage. (Blair Bunting)
AIR SUPPLY…Clockwise, from top left: The Chrysler Airflow featured a windshield that could be cranked open; advertising card for the Airflow; Indy veteran Harry Hartz set seventy-two speed and distance records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an Airflow, driving 97.5 mph over the flying mile; the roomy interior featured a nearly horizontal steering column, which freed up space in the driver’s footwell. Although normal today, it was revolutionary in 1934, when most cars had steering columns sprouting from the floor. (Blair Bunting/macsmotorcitygarage.com)

 * * *

No Fair, Doug

Few Hollywood marriages could ever match the legendary status accorded to that of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, darlings of the silent screen who who exchanged vows in 1918. When the couple separated in 1933, even E.B. White couldn’t resist a bit of Tinseltown gossip.

FAIRY TALE FIZZLE…The very public nature of the Mary PickfordDouglas Fairbanks marriage put a big strain on their matrimonial bonds. When both saw their careers fade at the end of the silent era, Fairbanks found escape in overseas travel, and in a romance with Sylvia, Lady Ashley (pictured above, center). Pickford and Fairbanks would divorce in 1936, and that same year Fairbanks and Lady Ashley would marry—just three years later Fairbanks would die from a heart attack, at age 56. Pickford would marry actor-musician Charles “Buddy” Rogers in 1937—they would remain married until her death in 1979. (Huffington Post/npg.org.uk))

  * * *

Drinking Problem

“The Talk of the Town” reported on the challenges facing both restaurants and patrons who were becoming reacquainted with legal drinking:

 * * *

Before Mr. Rogers

The “Profile” took a childish turn with this account of Don Carney (1896–1954) penned by Margaret Case Harriman. Carney is best remembered as the host of Uncle Don, a hugely popular WOR children’s radio program produced between 1928 and 1947. Excerpts:

MERCH…Don Carney’s popularity in the 1930s is evidenced in the output of merchandise including sheet music (1935), a 1940 activity book, and a 1936 “Strange Adventures” story book. (phantom.fan/ebay)

 * * *

From Our Advertisers

Speaking of fine cars, the folks at Packard pointed out one similarity between their automobile and the product manufactured by Rolls-Royce…owning a Packard in the 1930s was indeed considered prestigious, and like Rolls-Royce it competed in the international luxury car market…

…Bergdorf Goodman placed this helpful ad listing various gift ideas in descending order of price…and extravagance…

…and it wouldn’t be Christmas without the perennial Whitman’s Santa Claus touting his sweet wares…

…and New Yorkers were getting ready to celebrate a New Year without Prohibition, and pop some “good news” with Cook’s American “champagne”… 

…an “old friend,” Johnnie Walker, strode into the advertising pages of the New Yorker for the very first time…

…while another purveyor of Scotch whiskey, Teacher’s, raised a glass to the return of legal liquor in the colonies…

…the makers of Hennessy brandy celebrated the fact that “we can be ourselves once more”…

…the end of Prohibition saw the rapid expansion of the chain of Longchamps restaurants in New York City…in the 1930s the company hired top modernist decorators and architects (Winold Reiss and Ely Jacques Kahn, among others) to create some of New York’s most glamorous interiors…

LONGCHAMPS LONG GONE…Winold Reiss’s Louis XV mural behind the Chanin Building’s Longchamps bar, 1935. Hugely popular in mid-century New York, Longchamps all but vanished by 1970. Read more about one of New York’s most stylish restaurants at two wonderful sites, Driving For Deco and Restaurant-ing Through History. (winoldreiss.org)

…Schenley was a giant in the spirits industry…headquartered in the Empire State Building, it also had a giant impact in the United States…to assure consumers that quality hadn’t suffered over the thirteen long years of Prohibition, Schenley ran this two-page ad stating: on through the years—famous names, famous brands, secrets, formulae, warehouses, yes—and stocks of precious old liquor have been accumulated and guarded by Schenley for you when the day arrives

…here are some of the brands listed by Schenley in the side column:

Old Quaker was one of Schenley’s popular whiskey brands in the 1930s.

…and we sober up for our cartoonists, beginning with Mary Petty

…mixed company was always a recipe for trouble in James Thurber’s world…

…and we close with George Price, and an unexpected visitor…

Next Time: The Cold Light of Day…


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.

One thought on “Going With the Flow”

  1. My mother and aunt were avid Uncle Don listeners in the ’30s.One day their father arranged to have Uncle Don say at the end of his show that there was a present behind the piano waiting for them.But when they looked behind the piano there was nothing there.I think my grandmother took it as she and my grandfather were on the outs.


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