The Wages of Beauty

“The Very Golden Apple” was the title of an essay by E. A. Tosbell in the Sept. 3, 1927 issue that examined the transformation of the Miss America pageant–just seven years old–into a big money concern.

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September 3, 1927 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

Tosbell opened with the lament that Miss Los Angeles, Adrienne Dore, should have won the 1925 contest save for a lapse in table manners…

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PASS THE SALT, PLEASE…Adrienne Dore, left, was runner-up to fellow Californian Fay Lanphier, who was crowned Miss America in 1925. Dore would go on to a modest movie career through the mid 1930s. (Allure/Corbin)
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ALL-AMERICAN LINE-UP…Contestants from a hodge podge of states, cities and towns vied for the Miss America crown in 1925. (Wikipedia) Click to Enlarge

Tosbell offered us a taste of what contestants could expect upon their arrival in Atlantic City…

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Norma Smallwood from Tulsa, Oklahoma was crowned Miss America 1926, the first Native American to capture the title. Smallwood was highly criticized in the press for her business savvy as she went on to earn $100,000 through personal appearance fees and product endorsements. Tosbell noted:

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THERE SHE GOES…Norma Smallwood of Tulsa, Oklahoma was crowned Miss America 1926 by “King Neptune” as Miss America 1925 Fay Lanphier (right) held her scepter. (missamerica.org)

In 1927 Smallwood would again draw criticism when she requested $600 from the pageant for her appearance in crowning the new winner, Lois Delander. Delander was a high school student who won her local contest in Joliet, Illinois by reciting Bible verses. Unlike her predecessors, Delander turned down lucrative offers in show business and returned home to continue her school studies.

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IT’S NICE, BUT…Lois Delander of Joliet, Illinois was a most unassuming Miss America of 1927.

In the case of a 1922 Miss America contestant, Georgia Hale, you didn’t have to win the pageant to make it to the Big Time. Hale was chosen by Charlie Chaplin to be his “leading lady” in 1925’s The Gold Rush, and in the following year she would play Myrtle Wilson in the first filmed version of The Great Gatsby. A savvy businesswoman, Hale would become wealthy through real estate investments in Southern California.

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SHE STRUCK GOLD…Georgia Hale and Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, 1925. (Wikimedia Commons)

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The September 3 “Talk of the Town” offered some insights into the dressing habits (and tardiness) of New York’s dandified mayor, Jimmy Walker, who was preparing for an overseas journey. Excerpts:

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GOTHAM’S CLOTHES HORSE…New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker during a visit to Boston in the late 1920s. (voxart)

The New Yorker continued its commentary on the changing city skyline as urban residences continued their skyward climb, including the oddly named Oliver Cromwell apartment hotel:

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An advertisement in the same issue touted the Cromwell’s serene, park-like setting:

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There were numerous advertisements like these in the New Yorker. Another promoted the Beverly’s sky-high “wind-swept terraces…”

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The Beverly today (now the Benjamin Hotel). The 30-story building was designed by Emery Roth with Sylvan Bien and built in 1926-27. Commissioned by Moses Ginsberg to host middle-income visitors to New York City, it was recently submitted for landmark designation as an important fixture in Grand Central Terminal’s “Hotel Alley.” (Historic Districts Council)

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On to the Sept. 10, 1927 issue, and a couple of cartoons that aptly represented the spirit of Roaring Twenties…

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Sept. 10, 1927 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

…Johan Bull offered a glimpse of the new rich in the realm of culture…

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…while Carl Rose captured the spirit of investors during the waning days of the red hot 1920s stock market…

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Next Time: The Thurber Effect…

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The Movies Take Wing

The First Academy Award for Best Picture went to Wings, a romantic action-war picture directed by William Wellman and featuring Paramount’s biggest star at the time, the “It Girl” Clara Bow and the young Gary Cooper in a role that would launch his Hollywood career.

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August 20, 1927 cover by Helen E. Hokinson.

The film was shot on location at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, on a budget of $2 million (about $27 million today). About 300 pilots were involved in filming  realistic (and dangerous) air-combat sequences using both mounted and hand-held cameras.

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LOFTY AMBITIONS…Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Clara Bow in Wings, 1927. (BBC)

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NO CGI HERE…Director William Wellman, during production of Wings, 1927. (New York Times)
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WHERE DID HE BUY HIS INSURANCE?…Stunt pilot Dick Grace specialized in crashing planes for films, and was one of the few stunt pilots who died of old age. (ladailymirror)

 *  *  *

We leave the skies for the trenches in another World War I film–Barbed Wire–that was entertaining New Yorkers in 1927…

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LOOKS MORE INTERESTING OUT THERE…Pola Negri watches the Germans in Barbed Wire, 1927 (Wikipedia)

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The Duncan Sisters were back, this time on the silver screen in an adaptation of their Broadway hit play, Topsy and Eva. Yes, one of the sisters performed in blackface, which was acceptable to white audiences of the time (including New Yorker critics). You can read more about this duo in my recent blog entry, Fifteen Minutes is Quite Enough.

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Advertisement for the film, Topsy and Eva, 1927. (nilsasther.blogspot.com)

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Meanwhile, Paris correspondent Janet Flanner was noting some modern influences in the city thanks to the influence of the German Bauhaus…

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Rue Mallet Stevens was designed by Paris-based architect, designer and production designer Robert Mallet-Stevens, who founded the Union of Modern Artists (UAM) in 1929. (theredlist.com).

*  *  *

From the “they couldn’t see it coming” department, this item in “Talk of the Town” caught my eye. We have since learned that carbon emissions are indeed taking a toll on human life…

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…and a couple of cartoons from this issue, this one courtesy of Barbara Shermund…

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…and this from an unidentified cartoonist (Dussey?) that gives us a glimpse of the world to come thanks to merger of technology and tedious, proud parents…

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*  *  *

And to end on a “Wings” theme, the following week’s issue…

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August 27, 1927 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

…offered this advertisment from L. Bamberger & Co. that gave us a tongue-in-cheek glance at the future of aviation…

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Next Time: The Wages of Beauty…

 

Office Romance

The New Yorker’s founder and editor, Harold Ross, did not approve of office romances. He had a magazine to run after all, and didn’t want any distractions from Cupid’s arrow.

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August 13, 1927 cover by Julian de Miskey.

But then again, it seemed inevitable that Lois Long and Peter Arno–two of the magazine’s most lively personalities and important early contributors–would end up together. Arno cut a dashing figure as one the New Yorker’s most celebrated cartoonists. He often drew upon the same subject matter as Long, who covered the nightclub and speakeasy scene in her column, “Tables for Two” and in the process defined the lifestyle of the liberated flapper. Long is also credited with inventing the field of fashion writing and criticism with her other New Yorker column, “On and Off the Avenue.”

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OFFICE SWEETHEARTS… Arno and Long personified the witty, cosmopolitan image cultivated by the New Yorker. (Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia)

In Vanity Fair, Ben Schwartz (“The Double Life of Peter Arno,” April 5, 2016) wrote that Arno and Long “personified what people thought The New Yorker was, which was very fortunate…(Long was) tall, lanky, a Vassar grad with bobbed hair and a wicked sense of humor, a minister’s daughter to Arno’s judge’s son, and she matched him as a hell-raiser.” It was actually their raucous affair that set Ross on a “permanent scowl” regarding office romances.

Schwartz quotes Arno’s and Long’s daughter, Patricia (Pat) Arno, about her parents’ wild relationship: “There were lots of calls to (gossip columnist Walter) Winchell or some other columnist about nightclub fights…with my mother calling and saying, ‘Oh, please don’t print that about us,’ trying to keep their names out of the papers.”

Schwartz suggests that Arno drew on personal experience when in 1930 he published Peter Arno’s Hullabaloo, a “collection of cartoons that included a set of racy drawings featuring a dashing couple much like himself and Long. In one, a nude woman, in bed, yells at her sleeping lover: ‘Wake up, you mutt! We’re getting married to-day.'”

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Long and Arno were married by her father, the Rev. Dr. William J. Long, at her parents’ home in Stamford, Conn., on August 13, 1927. Their daughter, Patricia, was born September 18, 1929.

According to Schwartz, Arno’s first three books sold well (Whoops Dearie! 1927, Parade 1929, and Hullabaloo 1930) “allowing the young family to move into an East Side penthouse. Their social circle included New Yorker staffers, the magazine’s owner, Raoul Fleischmann, publishers Condé Nast and Henry Luce, Kay Francis (Broadway actress, future Hollywood star and Long’s former roommate), and some of the city’s financial powers. ‘Once my mother was having trouble with her Plymouth,’ says Pat Arno, “and Walter Chrysler took off his evening coat, rolled up his sleeves, and fixed it himself.'”

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STAR POWER…Actress Kay Francis, no stranger to wild living, was Lois Long’s longtime friend and also her roommate until Long married Peter Arno in 1927. (flickchick1953)
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HAPPY INTERLUDE…Arno and Long with their baby daughter, Patricia, in 1929. (Vanity Fair)

Less than two years after the birth of their daughter, Arno and Long would get a divorce in Reno on June 30, 1931. Arno later married debutante Mary Livingston Lansing in August 1935; they divorced in July 1939. After his divorce from Lansing, Arno moved to a farm near Harrison, New York, where he lived in seclusion, drawing for the New Yorker and enjoying music, guns, and sports cars. He died of emphysema on February 22, 1968 at the age of 64.

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Arno with second wife, debutante Mary Livingston “Timmie” Lansing, Winsted, Connecticut, 1939. (Digital Colorization by Lorna Clark)

In 1938 Long would marry Donaldson Thorburn, a newspaper and advertising man. After his death in 1952 she would marry Harold Fox, head of an investment brokerage firm. Long’s colleague at the New Yorker, Brendan Gill, described Fox as “a proper Pennsylvanian named Harold A. Fox.” They lived in an 1807 Pennsylvania-Dutch farmhouse, where Long delighted in the woods, farms and wildlife as well as in her two grandchildren—Andrea Long Bush and Katharine Kittredge Bush. In 1960 she wrote to her alma mater, Vassar College, that the “hectic fifteen years or so after graduation, when I thought I had New York City by the tail and was swinging it around my head, seem very far away.  Thank God. I like things this way.” Long would continue working as a columnist for the New Yorker until the death of Harold Fox, in 1968. She died in 1974 at age 72.

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BEFORE IT ALL BEGAN…Left, Lois Long’s photo in Vassar’s yearbook, The Vassarion. At right, during her senior spring, Lois posed for a photo by Sunset Lake. Long studied English and French, graduating in1922 with an English major. (vcencyclopedia.vassar.edu)

*  *  *

The big news in the Aug. 13, 1927 edition (the same date as the Long-Arno wedding) was President Calvin Coolidge’s brief, ambiguous announcement that he would not run for president. Almost everyone assumed he would run for a second term, given the booming economy in the age of “Coolidge Prosperity.”

Coolidge was summering in Black Hills when he gave his secretary, Everett Sanders, a piece of paper that read, “I do not choose to run for president in 1928.” Sanders then scheduled a midday press conference for August 2, 1927. At 11:30 a.m., Coolidge cut out strips of paper with this statement–I do not choose to runand at the conference handed each reporter one of the strips. Coolidge offered no further information, and only remarked, “There will be nothing more from this office today.” This led to considerable debate among the press as to intentions of the president. The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” mused…

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…Howard Brubaker’s “Of All Things” column offered this wry observation…

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…while humorist Robert Benchley (writing under the pseudonym “Guy Fawkes”) in his “The Press in Review” column continued the New Yorker’s stinging attack on the media for its continued attempts to sensationalize events or impart personality traits on colorless newsmakers:

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HAPPY TRAILS, CAL…No doubt the simple life of the Black Hills influenced Calvin Coolidge’s decision in 1927 to decline a second term as president. (Library of Congress)

Next Time: The Movies Take Wing…

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Babe Comes Home

After months of reporting on polo, golf, tennis and yacht races, the New Yorker finally mentioned baseball–sort of–reviewing a movie featuring Babe Ruth and penning a brief piece about Lou Gehrig in “The Talk of the Town.”

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August 6, 1927 cover by Ilonka Karasz.

But the magazine still made no mention of the incredible season that was shaping up for the legendary 1927 New York Yankees, or the feats of its feared  “Murderer’s Row” lineup. Although widely considered to be the best baseball team in the history of major league baseball, the New Yorker up to this point had given more ink to the game of ping pong. But we’ll take what we can get, namely Babe Ruth’s acting performance in Babe Comes Home…

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BETTER STICK TO BASEBALL…Lobby card for the 1927 film, Babe Comes Home, featuring Anna Q. Nilsson and The Bambino himself. (posterscancollections.com)

…and over in “The Talk of the Town” section the editors looked at another Yankee slugger, Lou Gehrig, who besides his hitting ability was Ruth’s opposite…

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MOM & APPLE PIE…Lou Gehrig and his mother, Christina, in 1927. (baseballfever.com)

 *  *  *

With the hullabaloo over Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, more Americans were becoming interested in flying as an actual travel option, although in August 1927 New York City had only one established passenger line:

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HUMBLE BEGINNINGS…On April 15, 1927, Colonial Air Transport (a predecessor of American Airlines) began passenger service between Boston and New York City. (Boston Globe)
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SORRY, NO WI-FI…National Air Transport, a predecessor of United Airlines and a prime mail carrier, brought the Travelair 5000 to their minimal fleet in 1927 to add passenger revenue to its Midwestern and Western hops that linked Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno and San Francisco. (traveler.com)

 *  *  *

The August  6 issue also featured this strange little review in “Talk” about the popularity (or fad) of attending Chinese theater. Note how the writer described it as an exotic curiosity, as though the Chinese actors were as unknowable as Martians. I suppose it didn’t occur to the writer that you could actually speak to these performers, and have them explain the meanings of the various rituals.

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OFF-BROADWAY…Actor Ma Shi-tsang posing with a riding crop in a 1920s publicity photo. Chinese theater actors performed in U.S. cities with large Chinese populations, including San Francisco and New York. (cdlib.org)

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And to close, a couple of cartoons from the issue by Barbara Shermund that illustrated two very different aspects of New York society:

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Next Time: An Office Romance…

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Picking on Charlie Chaplin

In 1927 silent film star Charlie Chaplin was working on his latest film, The Circus, when his second wife, Lita Grey, filed for divorce, accusing her husband of infidelity, abuse, and of harbouring “perverted sexual desires.” Life imitated art, and Charlie’s own life became a circus.

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July 23, 1927 cover by Stanley W. Reynolds.

The New Yorker’s Ralph Barton, who contributed countless illustrations for the magazine, wrote about Chaplin’s latest travails in a column titled “Picking on Charlie Chaplin.”

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LIFE ON THE HIGH WIRE…Charlie Chaplin in The Circus (1928). (MoMA)

The “2” Barton mentioned were teenaged actress Lita Grey and her mother, Lillian Parker.

In 1924 the 35-year-old Charlie Chaplin married the 16-year-old Lita Grey in a discreet ceremony in Mexico — because Grey was pregnant, Chaplin could have been charged with statutory rape under California law (it was Chaplin’s second marriage, and his second to a teenaged actress). Chaplin and Grey had two sons from their brief union–Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr., was born in 1925, followed by Sydney Earl Chaplin in 1926.

The divorce made headline news as Chaplin was reported to be in a state of nervous breakdown. Filming for The Circus was suspended for ten months while he dealt with the mess:

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Chaplin’s lawyers agreed to a cash settlement of $600,000 – the largest awarded by American courts at that time (Roughly equivalent to more than $8 million today). Groups formed across America calling for his films to be banned (no doubt the same groups that had earlier protested his marriage to a pregnant, teenaged minor). Barton mused that the protests might cause Chaplin to abandon America for the more permissive atmosphere in Europe:

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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU…Chaplin first became acquainted with the 12-year old Lillita McMurray (later Lita Grey) during the filming of The Kid (1921).
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PRATFALL…Charlie Chaplin and Lita Grey during their brief, tumultuous marriage. (The Artifice)

The Circus was released in January 1928 to positive reviews, and during the first-ever Academy Awards Chaplin received a special trophy “For versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus. Despite the film’s success, he rarely spoke of it again. For Charlie, it was a time best forgotten.

 *  *  *

And now, an advertisement from the July 23 issue urging readers to buy the 1920s equivalent of “Smart Water” endorsed by the Sun King himself…

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…and a cartoon by Reginald Marsh, portraying a distinctly American view of the grandeur of Niagara Falls…

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*  *  *

On to July 30, 1927 issue, in which the New Yorker once again takes a poke at our 30th President…

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July 30, 1927. (Cover is unsigned, but I suspect it is by John Held Jr.)

…and his latest adventures in the wilds of South Dakota’s Black Hills:

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BIG CHIEF CAL…President Calvin Coolidge donned a headdress while being named an honorary Sioux chief (“Leading Eagle”) in Deadwood, South Dakota. His advisers cautioned that the headdress would make him look funny, but he apparently replied, “Well it’s good for people to laugh, isn’t it?” (AP)

Safely back in the environs of the big city, the New Yorker continued to take stock of summer sports such as tennis, polo, and the yacht races at Larchmont (but still no mention of the legendary ’27 Yankees). This illustration of the races (unsigned, but I guess it is Reginald Marsh) graced a double-spread below “The Talk of the Town”…

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(click to enlarge)

…and if you were attending the races, or wanted to look stylish on your yacht (or if you just wanted to dress this way to appear that you owned one), you could check out the selections at B. Altman’s…

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…looking smart was everywhere in the issue, from multiple ads for fall furs, to this come-on from Buick, which suggests that even though it is no Cadillac, and certainly not a Rolls, its smartness will prevail “on any boulevard”…

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The Buick ad is somewhat revolutionary for an early automobile ad in that it doesn’t actually show the product advertised.

As for those not among the smart set, and not enjoying the races at Larchmont, there were other summer diversions, as rendered here by J.H. Fyfe:

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Next Time: Babe Comes Home…

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Fifteen Minutes is Quite Enough

Charles Lindbergh was all over the July 2, 1927 issue of the New Yorker, which reported that Lindy was a better a flier than a writer, and as a celebrity the press had to be inventive with a subject who would rather be alone in a cockpit with a ham sandwich than be feted at countless banquets.

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July 2, 1927 cover by Victor Bobritsky.

“The Talk of the Town” commented on the display at Putnam Publishing of a few manuscript pages penned by Lindbergh himself for his upcoming book, WE.

A draft of the autobiography had already been ghostwritten by New York Times reporter Carlyle MacDonald, but Lindbergh disliked MacDonald’s “false, fawning tone” and completely rewrote the manuscript himself–in longhand–using MacDonald’s manuscript as a template. Those early results were displayed in Putnam’s 45th Street window to whet the appetites of eager readers:

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FLYING THE ATLANTIC WAS EASIER…The dust jacket (left) for Charles Lindbergh’s WE. The ghostwritten first draft was disliked by Lindbergh, who in less than three weeks re-wrote the book in longhand. About a week later the book was published (July 27, 1927) and quickly became a bestseller. (Wikipedia)
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YEAH WHATEVER…Lindbergh appears less than thrilled during his ticker-tape parade in Manhattan on June 13, 1927. (Science Photo Library )

Nonplussed and often annoyed by all of the attention, Lindbergh was less than a colorful subject for the media. Philip Wylie (writing under the pseudonym “Horace Greeley Jr.”) in the New Yorker’s “Press in Review” column observed that reporters, seeking a more conventional image of a sentimental hero, decided to “supply him with emotions” he apparently lacked:

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Other reporters resorted to treacly tributes…

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…and if the subject himself isn’t very interesting, you can always resort to listing quantities of food and drink as a measure of the spectacle…

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WHERE’S MY DAMN HAM SAMMICH?…Invitation to the WE banquet at the Hotel Commodore (Wikipedia).

And if the reception at the Hotel Commodore wasn’t to your liking, you could go to the new Roxy Theatre and put in a bid for 300 pounds of home-made candy:

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 *  *  *

We’ll give Lindy a break and move on to excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s “How to be Obscene,” in which he tweaks the Boston bluenoses:

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And then we have this advertisement for the Orthophonic Victrola, promising to bring the clear tones of racism into your home courtesy of the Duncan Sisters:

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The Duncan Sisters were a vaudeville duo who created their stage identities in the 1923 musical comedy Topsy and Eva, derived from the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The musical was a big hit.

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THAT WAS ENTERTAINMENT…Rosetta (left) and Vivian Duncan as Topsy and Eva. (silenceisplatinum.blogspot.com)
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Rosetta and Vivian Duncan in a promo photo. (silenceisplatinum.blogspot.com)

After a brief foray into movies in the early 1930s, the duo mostly entertained at night clubs and for many years continued to perform their Topsy and Eva routine even though appearing in blackface was considered impolite or offensive by later audiences. One of their final performances was on Liberace’s television show in 1956. The act ended in 1959 when Rosetta died in a car accident.

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STILL TOGETHER…Vivian (left) and Rose Duncan on Liberace’s television show in 1956. They performed their Topsy and Eva routine, without the blackface. (YouTube)

 *  *  *

And to close, a cartoon from the July 2 issue, courtesy of Julian de Miskey:

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Next Time: Summer in the City…

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Île-de-France

On June 22, 1927, the legendary French ocean-liner, the Île-de-France, traveled from Le Havre to New York on its maiden voyage, soon to be greeted by the American media and the thousands who would crowd the docks at New York Harbor to see the great ship.

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June 25, 1927 cover by Ilonka Karasz.

Among those anticipating the visit was the New Yorker, which offered this account in “The Talk of the Town” for the June 25, 1927 issue:

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PRIDE OF FRANCE…Postcard image of the Île-de-France from 1935. During a post-war refurbishment, the three funnels were replaced with a pair of stockier, more stylish funnels. (Wikipedia)

The Île-de-France was unique in that it was the first ocean-liner to have an interior design that didn’t imitate “shore-style” interiors that resembled rooms in manor houses or grand hotels. The trend-setting ship sported a modern, sleek, art deco look that celebrated the present and the future.

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IN WITH THE NEW…The Main Foyer & Grand Staircase of the Île-de-France,(newyorksocialdiary.com)
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LEAVE YOUR FLIP-FLOPS AT HOME…The first-class dining room in the Île-de-France. (newyorksocialdiary.com)

Note that these photos do not contain images of water slides or all-you-can eat buffets. An ocean voyage, if you could afford it, was an elegant affair. The Île-de-France was especially popular among wealthy Americans who liked its stylish, youthful vibe.

The Île-de-France served as a troop ship during World War II, and in 1956 played a major role in rescuing passengers from the sinking Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket.

Unfortunately, anything that is youthful soon grows old, and as we all know, style is an ephemeral thing. With the advent of transatlantic jet transport, ships like the Île-de-France fell out of favor, and by 1960 the grand ocean liner was reduced to serving as a floating prop for a disaster movie titled The Last Voyage. The filmmakers partially sunk the poor ship, set fires and detonated explosions in the interior, and in a final act of desecration dropped one for the ship’s smoke stacks onto its deck house.

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NOT A BUFFET IN SIGHT…Still from the 1960 movie, The Last Voyage, shot on board the soon-to-be-scrapped Île-de-France. (Screen shot from movie trailer)
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FIERY END…Fires were set in the interior of the Île-de-France during the filming of The Last Voyage. (Screen shot from movie trailer)
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BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES…The Île-de-France (named the SS Clarion in the movie) is partially sunk with its forward funnel collapsed in a still from the film, The Last Voyage.

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The Ruth Snyder-Judd Gray murder trial and sentencing captivated Americans in 1927, but another trial and sentencing in the 1920s would bring worldwide attention and spark mass protests.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian-born Americans who were convicted of murdering a paymaster and guard during a robbery of a Boston-area shoe company in 1920. Although convicted of murder the following year, many critics of trial believed Sacco and Vanzetti, who held anarchist views, were innocent of the charges, and the case became one of largest causes célèbres in modern history with protests held on their behalf in major cities across the U.S. and around the world.

Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in handcuffs, circa 1920s. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).
Cause Célèbre…Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti handcuffed together at the Dedham, Massachusetts Superior Court, 1923. (Boston Public Library).

Sentenced to death in April 1927, they would be executed the following August. The New Yorker, predisposed to look down on Boston as something of a backwater, had this to say about the trial in an article by Gerald Day for the “Reporter at Large” column:

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The case also rekindled memories of other notorious trials:

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The governor did appoint a commission to review the case, but the final decision was in his hands…

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And so the only option left for Sacco and Vanzetti was clemency from the governor. More on this in another blog entry.

To close, a few illustrations from some of the magazine’s mainstay artists…this one from Johan Bull used to illustrate an article on the U.S. Open:

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…and keeping with the golf theme, this comic panel by Julian de Miskey…

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…and finally, a little fun with Barbara Shermund and her comment on social mores of the day:

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Next Time: Fifteen Minutes is Quite Enough…

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The Age of Innocence

After studying every page of the first 120 issues of the New Yorker, and after researching the lives of its writers and their subjects, the world as described by the New Yorker — 89 years distant — can seep into one’s imagination, not unlike a world created by a fiction writer, whose characters are very much alive in his or her mind even when the pen is idle. You become accustomed to their voices, their likes and dislikes, and begin to see their world as a contemporary of sorts.

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June 4, 1927 cover by H.O. Hofman

And so I find myself reading a review of Edith Wharton’s “latest” novel, Twilight Sleep, and think not of some author I haven’t read since college, but rather see her work as it was seen at its unveiling, albeit through the eyes of New Yorker book critic Ernest Boyd, who wrote under the pen name “Alceste”:

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NOT DEFEATED BY LIFE…Edith Wharton with her Pekes, circa 1920. (lib guides.com)

Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 for The Age of Innocence, making her first woman to receive the prize. Indeed, Wharton kicked off a great decade for women fiction writers — Willa Cather would win the Pulitzer for One of Ours in 1923, Margaret Wilson for The Able McLaughlins in 1924, Edna Ferber for So Big in 1925, and Julia Peterkin for Scarlet Sister Mary in 1929.

*  *  *

The June 4 issue offered some follow-up items on Charles Lindbergh, this from “Talk of the Town” regarding Lindbergh’s potential to claim perhaps more than the $25,000 Orteig Prize (about $350,000 today) for being the first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic — endorsements, book and movie deals, offers to serve on company boards, and so on…

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…and from Howard Brubakers “Of All Things” column, we learn that the aviation hero doesn’t like to be called “Lucky”…

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Baseball was still inexplicably shut out from the pages of the New Yorker, even as the Yankees (and Babe Ruth) were having one of their best-ever seasons. Instead, the June 4 issue covered horse racing (pgs. 63-65), rowing (pgs. 66-68), and lawn games (pgs. 69-72).

Among the “lawn games” reviewed, the New Yorker had this to say about the revival of ping-pong and the “spirited matches played between the sexes”…

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circa 1925: Hollywood film star, Dorothy Sebastian (1903 - 1957) (right) about to start a game of table tennis with fellow actress, Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977). The umpire is actor, Eddie Nugent (1904 - 1995). (Photo by Margaret Chute)
GAME ON…Hollywood film star Dorothy Sebastian (left) squares off with fellow actress Joan Crawford in a game of ping pong in 1925. The umpire is actor Eddie Nugent. Photo by Margaret Chute. (playingpingpong.tumblr.com)

 *  *  *

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June 11, 1927 cover by Rea Irvin.

In the following week’s issue, June 11, 1927, there was a bit more to say about Lindy’s future economic prospects…

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…and there is this item about New York Mayor Jimmy Walker. Given his love of late-night parties, speakeasies and chorus girls, it was no wonder that the New Yorker’s editors found him an attractive subject for “Talk of the Town”…

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Jimmy Walker and Betty Compton after their wedding in Cannes, 1933. (www.isle-of-wight-fhs.co.uk)

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Of course Walker’s aloofness would have consequences later when scandal and corruption would knock him and his cronies from office.

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The issue also included a profile of golfer Walter Hagen, written by Niven Busch Jr. In his “Portrait of a Dutchman,” Busch begins:

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The profile included this terrific portrait of Hagen by Miguel Covarrubias:

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We end with this great full-page cartoon, beautifully rendered in Conté crayon by Reginald Marsh…

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Next Time: Coney Island, 1927…

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The Flying Fool

Charles Lindbergh was “The Flying Fool” no more after flying nonstop across the Atlantic to worldwide acclaim. The New Yorker shared in the enthusiasm, although it tried its best to appear not too impressed by the feat. But as we shall see in subsequent issues, the New Yorker, along with the rest of the media, wouldn’t be able to get enough of the now “Lucky Lindy,” at least until he started spouting fascist sympathies.

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May 28, 1927, cover by Ilonka Karasz.

But that’s in the future. Here’s what the New Yorker had to say following Lindbergh’s famous flight in “Talk of the Town…”

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And from its distant perch the magazine also took some shots at the media hype surrounding Lindbergh, and the usual retinue of money-changers (see title image above)…

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So what was the New Yorker saying about the historic moment? Well, for most of us, life goes on…

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HE’S A GOOD BOY…Still from Movietone newsreel showing Lindbergh with his mother before the historic flight. (Movietone)

…and for those who missed it on TV (because it wasn’t invented yet), they could catch a newsreel of Lindbergh at the Roxy, complete with crude sound effects:

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OH CALM DOWN…A gendarmerie links arms in a futile attempt at crowd control as a mob closes in on the just-landed Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget airport in Paris. (parisdigest.com)

 * * *

On the other side of the pond, Paris correspondent Janet Flanner wrote about the Paris media’s complete denial or ignorance of the deaths of their own Atlantic flyers, Nungesser and Coli, who were lost at sea in their crossing attempt.

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 * * *

The New Yorker offered more observations on the Machine-Age Exposition, this time in a column titled “About the House,” by Repard Leirum, which was Muriel Draper spelled backwards. Under this pseudonym Draper served as interior decoration critic for the New Yorker — she was one of the most influential personalities in the American interior decorating in the early 20th century.

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Muriel Draper, as photographed by Carl Van Vechten on July 30, 1934. (Muriel Draper Papers, Yale)

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This model of a radio station by Knud Londberg-Holm was displayed at the Machine-Age Exposition in New York City May 16-28, 1927. (artblart.com)

About Muriel Draper: Although she wrote on interior design for the New Yorker during the late 1920s, she was more widely known as a “culture desk” writer, and was prominent in promoting the Harlem Renaissance. She became active in left wing politics after a trip to the Soviet Union in 1934, and in 1949 she was investigated by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee and thereafter ceased her political activities.

The Machine-Age Exposition Draper visited had a decidedly socialist flavor with its prominent inclusion of the Soviet Union and its touting of the International Style of architecture. Before it was appropriated by post-war corporate America, the International Style was developed as housing and workspaces for the masses.

A side-note: The Exposition was initiated by Jane Heap, who like Muriel Draper was a follower of the charismatic Russian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff (among Gurdjieff’s other followers were architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the writer P. L. Travers (Mary Poppins) and 1960s counterculture figure Timothy Leary).

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George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, circa 1925-35 (Library of Congress)

Marxists with spiritual yearnings — and especially guild socialists — were attracted to Gurdjieff’s ideas about something he called “The Work,” in which crafts and community life provided ways to cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and our purpose amidst the activities of daily life.

 *  *  *

And now on to a different kind of Marxism…this odd little item from the “Talk of the Town”…

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In 1927 the Marx Brothers were still known as a traveling vaudeville act–their first feature film was still two years away. But thanks to the vaudeville circuit of the day, an astonishing number of people in cities large and small across the country would see them perform. The “Talk” item concludes with this story that references Henry Ford’s well-known anti-semitism:

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OH THE MOVIES THEY WILL MAKE…The Marx Brothers, from left, Chico, Zeppo, Groucho and Harpo. (biography.com)

Next Time: The Age of Innocence…

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Shock of the New

The Roaring Twenties saw astonishing changes to American life, including a dramatic break from the technologies and habits of the past. Icemen gave way to electric refrigerators, broadcast radio brought entertainment and news into living rooms, and Lindbergh made flying something everyone wanted to try.

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May 21, 1927 cover by Ilona Karasz.

Despite the mechanized horrors of World War I, most people were enchanted by the idea of man and machine coming together to make a better world. In the U.S. the machine-age exuberance was expressed largely in capitalist terms, while many European and Soviet intellectuals saw the machine as integral to the progress of socialism. The Machine-Age Exposition in New York City (May 16-28 at 119 West 57th Street) celebrated all facets through a unique event that brought together architecture, engineering, industrial arts and modern art from a number of nations.

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Cover of the Exposition Catalogue. (monoskop.org)
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Scanned illustration of an airplane from the Exposition catalogue.

The exhibition, initiated by Jane Heap of the literary magazine The Little Review, included exhibits from the U.S., Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union. Artists in the exhibition represented a Who’s Who of modernists and futurists — Alexander Archipenko, Marcel Duchamp, Hugh Ferriss, Man Ray and others who celebrated the aural and visual cacophony of the age as well as the gleaming precision of machines and machine-like buildings.

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Model of a futuristic parking garage on display at the Exposition. (Scanned  image from the Exposition catalogue)

New Yorker writer E.B. White shared in the enthusiasm with this bit for “The Talk of the Town…”

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The Futurist Hugh Ferriss contributed this design of a glass skyscraper to the Machine Age Exposition. A thing of dreams in the 1920s, such buildings are now commonplace in cities around the world. (Scanned from the Exposition catalogue)

The sleek and glass-walled buildings featured at the Exhibition were fantastic images in 1927, when most large-scale buildings were still being rendered in brick and stone in various neoclassical, federal or gothic styles.

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Image from Exposition featured student studio apartments at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. (Scan from the Exposition catalogue)

Little did visitors to the Exposition realize that the radical Bauhaus style on display would become ubiquitous in the U.S. in the second half of their century, thanks not to some new machine age of peace and harmony but rather because of the annihilation of the Second World War and the mass migration from Europe of architects, artists, scientists and other professionals fleeing Nazi oppression.

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This image of giant steam boilers from Russia was displayed at the Exposition. (Scan from the Exposition catalogue)

It was also a time when it was believed technology was on the verge of conquering nature, and that the invention of air-conditioning and “Vita-Glass” would create indoor environments with all of the health benefits but none of the discomforts of the outdoors:

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Children at rest in a “Vita-Glass” pavilion, built in 1927 at Stannington Sanatorium, Northumberland. Used primarily in the treatment of those with pulmonary TB, the glass was designed to allow ultraviolet rays to penetrate easily while protecting patients from the elements. (northumberlandarchives.com)

The invention of sulfa drugs and antibiotics were still a few years away, so health providers were excited about the possibilities of these artificial environments.

 *  *  *

In the “A Reporter at Large” column, Russell Owen wrote about the intrepid flyers who were vying to become the first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic. He began the piece with a tribute to French ace pilot Charles Nungesser and his one-eyed wartime buddy François Coli, who disappeared during their May 8 attempt to fly from Paris to New York.

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A 1927 postcard commemorating Nungesser, Coli and their airplane, The White Bird (L’Oiseau Blanc).

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Owen also wrote about those who would soon be taking the same daring leap into “the illimitable terror of space”…

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Although Lindbergh had yet to accomplish his feat, he had already been singled out as a loner and a bit of an odd duck:

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Lindbergh preparing for his transatlantic flight. (Long Island Press)

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Editors of “Talk of the Town” also checked in on famed dancer Isadora Duncan, her eldest daughter Anna, and Isadora’s “amazing dancing family…”

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Anna Duncan dances La Berceuse, choreographed by Isadora Duncan with music by Frédéric Chopin, in 1920. Photo by Arnold Genthe. (Tanzarchiv, Cologne, Germany)

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Isadora’s Dancers, by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. (Wikimedia Commons)

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And finally, an excerpt of a poem contributed by Marion Clinch Calkins–who often wrote humorous rhymes for the New Yorker under the pen name Majollica Wattles. Here she riffs on Horace’s “poetry of pleasure…”

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Next Time: The Flying Fool…

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