Two Years Young

The New Yorker celebrated its 2nd anniversary by once again using the Rea Irvin cover from its first issue, which depicted a dandified character–soon to be dubbed “Eustace Tilley”–that would become a mascot of sorts for the magazine.

e5c3fabc5f1612a71442c78a3c71d654
February 19, 1927: 2nd anniversary issue cover by Rea Irvin.

For more than 90 years it has been a tradition to feature the original cover every year on the issue closest to the anniversary date of February 21, although on several occasions a newly drawn variation has been substituted, including several “alternative” covers for last year’s 90th anniversary issue. This one in particular, by Carter Goodrich, is appropriate for our times:

CV1_TNY_02_23_15Goodrich.indd

The magazine included this embellishment on the opening page of “The Talk of the Town” (also repeated from the previous year)…

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 4.54.08 PM

…and the editors opened with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek boast of the young magazine’s improving fortunes:

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 4.55.17 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 4.56.04 PM

The boasts about advertising were legitimate. Apparently the people at Rolls Royce felt that the magazine was worth a full-page, weekly advertisement. Note the third paragraph of the ad, third to to the last line: How many car makers today, or any at time for that matter, would tout that their car “meets every traveling situation blandly?”

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.02.21 AM

While on the topic of ads, this one from the back pages caught my eye:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.24.12 AM

Most of us have heard of vaudeville teams like the Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy, but there were many others who drew big audiences but are mostly forgotten today, including the trio of Clayton, Jackson and Durante.

clayton-jackson-and-durante0001
Jimmy Durante (center) performing with his vaudeville partners Eddie Jackson (right) and Lou Clayton. (New York Public Library)

Of the three, Jimmy Durante would go on to the greatest fame. Known for his gravelly voice, clever wordplay and his prominent nose (which he dubbed “the Schnozzola”), Durante would find great success in radio, film, and in early television. The singer, pianist and comedian would appear on many variety shows in the 1950s and 60s. Although he died in 1980, today he is still known to audiences young and old alike thanks to his appearance as the narrator in the animated Frosty the Snowman (1969), which is still broadcast every year during the Christmas season and is distributed through countless tapes and DVDs.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 1.26.10 PM
GOOD NIGHT, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…the animated Jimmy Durante in Frosty the Snowman (1969), and in a 1964 publicity photo. (YouTube/Wikipedia)

*  *  *  *  *

On to more advertising, and less savory topic. Beginning in the 1920s, Lysol was advertised for use in feminine hygiene as a guard against “odors,” a term that was widely understood as a euphemism for contraception. According to Andrea Tone (Devices and Desires) by 1940 it had become the most popular birth control method in the country. Unfortunately for many women, Lysol contained cresol (derived from coal tar) which could cause severe inflammation and even death:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.03.33 AM

Also popular (and a lot less harmful) in the 1920s was sheet music featuring the latest songs. So sidle up to the piano with your guy or gal and belt out one of these favorites:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.26.21 AM

And to close, a cartoon by the famed Peter Arno, who was well-acquained with New York nightlife:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.00.34 AM

Next Time: Clark’s Folly…

a4866ba5e836b04dce69f13fb06cf5df

 

Spring Fever

Piles of snow and slushy streets had many New Yorkers dreaming of spring, including H.O. Hoffman, who illustrated the cover for the Feb. 5, 1927 issue.

e4051b8c99ab27eb2272f12bb1634373

Another New Yorker illustrator, Barbara Shermund, offered a different take on the idea in this drawing for the “On and Off the Avenue” column on page 56:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.44.41 AM

At least New Yorkers had plenty of activities to take their minds off of the weather, including two important balls:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 8.38.15 AM

Inspired by the annual springtime costume ball given by the students of the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, American students held an annual ball to raise funds for their Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. The balls featured elaborate costumes and performances that were extensively reported in the city’s society pages.

Beuax arts 1928 NYT
LOOK AT ME…Margaret Thaw dressed as a “White Sultana” for the 1928 Beaux Arts Ball held at the Astor Hotel. The theme was “The French Occupation of Northern Africa — 1847.” A doyenne of international high society perennially named to best-dressed lists, Margaret and her husband, Lawrence Copley Thaw, were world-famous explorers of Africa and Asia and correspondents for National Geographic magazine. (New York Times)

Contrary to the ad pictured below, fashion plate Margaret Thaw was doubtless smarter than her ankles…

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 8.36.57 AM

If were investing in fine Onyx Pointex silk stockings, you probably wanted to get your legs “Zipped” in a new method described by fashion correspondent Lois Long:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.46.13 AM

If Lois Long were around today she would have to note that both men and women are getting “Zipped,” waxing everything including their nether regions.

And these days few of us are washing our hair with bar soap, as depicted in the ad below for Lux soap. Like so many other ads in the early New Yorker, this one makes a strong appeal to Francophile readers; if it’s French then it must be good (note that every paragraph and headline in the ad mentions either France or French at least once):

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.41.22 AM

While we are on the topic of advertisements, here is another installment of ads from the back pages of the magazine. Arthur Murray was a frequent advertiser in the magazine, mostly small ads like this that exploited the latest dance craze:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.51.23 AM

The offerings of the stage and screen were also prominent in the back pages:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.48.59 AM

And finally, these strange little ads (run as series) that were designed by photographers Anton Bruehl and Ralph Steiner to promote Weber and Heilbroner suits:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.43.00 AM

Specializing in elaborately designed and lit tableaux, Bruehl won top advertising awards throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s. He also co-developed the Bruehl-Bourges color process, which gave publisher Condé Nast a monopoly on color magazine reproduction in the early 1930s.

Next Time: Papa Pens a Parody…

7532b3c65dcb4c041db31d7c0c75b4c4

Holiday Shopping

With Christmas fast approaching, The New Yorker was getting into the spirit of holidays, especially with all of the advertising revenue it gained from merchants who targeted its well-heeled readership.

8912823cfdc5626785b13a431ae590de
November 27, 1926 — Peter Arno’s first cover for the New Yorker. He would go to do 98 more.

Lois Long continued to write both of her weekly columns for the magazine–her observations on fashion along with ideas for Christmas shoppers in “On and Off the Avenue” (“Saks’ toy department has some of the loveliest French notepaper for tiny children…”) and her musings on nightlife in “Tables for Two.”

In contrast to her rather light mood expressed in the fashion column, Long was feeling far from jolly in her “Tables” observations of New York’s nightlife:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 5.01.46 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 5.02.43 PM

As you might recall, in a previous column Long tossed a “ho-hum” in the direction of the famed Cotton Club. Perhaps Prohibition was taking its toll on the hard-partying columnist.

Nevertheless, the holiday spirit was upon with The New Yorker, in the cartoons (this one by Helen Hokinson)…

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.54.16 PM

…and in various advertisements.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.50.49 PM

Note this advertisement (below) from Russeks. The comics in The New Yorker famously poked fun at the comic pairings of rich old men and their young mistresses, but this ad seemed to glorify such a pairing while suggesting that an older man of means must invest in fine furs if he is going to hang on to his trophy wife or mistress, in this case a young woman who appears to be nearly eight feet tall…

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.51.10 PM

I liked this ad from Nat Lewis for the simple line drawing…
Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.57.27 PM

…but the ads for Elizabeth Arden, which for years featured this “Vienna Youth Mask” image, always creep me out.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.56.41 PM

The mask was made of papier-mâché lined with tinfoil. Although not pictured in the ad, it was also fitted to the client’s face. The Vienna Youth Mask used diathermy to warm up the facial tissues and stimulate blood circulation.

1937-arden-vienna
SLEEP TIGHT…The full “Youth Mask”applied to an Elizabeth Arden client in the mid 1930s. (cosmeticsandskin.com)

In a 1930 advertisement, Elizabeth Arden claimed that “The Vienna Youth Mask stimulates the circulation, producing health as Nature herself does, through a constantly renewed blood supply. The amazing value of this treatment lies in the depth to which it penetrates, causing the blood to flow in a rich purifying stream to underlying tissues and muscles…charging them with new youth and vigor. It stirs the circulation as no external friction or massage can possible do.”

I don’t believe this claim was backed up by medical research, but as we all know, Elizabeth Arden made a bundle from these treatments and the various creams and potions that came with it.

Next Time: Race Matters…

e0fa6079facd04a1d0611e2da7cd2519

Fun With Harold

The Nov. 6, 1926 issue of The New Yorker was actually two issues, one for the newsstands and subscribers and the other a rare parody issue privately published and presented to founding editor Harold Ross on his 34th birthday.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 3.03.49 PM
The cover of the “official” issue (left) for November 6, 1926, was illustrated by William Troy, the parody issue by Rea Irvin.

The parody issue’s cover featured a silhouette of Ross (drawn by Rea Irvin, as “Penaninsky”) in the pose of dandy Eustace Tilley, looking at spider bearing a strong resemblance to Alexander Woollcott, an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker who first met Ross overseas when the two worked on the fledgling Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.16.19 PM
Alexander Woollcott and Harold Ross (Britannica; Jane Grant Collection, University of Oregon)

Ralph Barton’s contribution to the parody issue…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 2.44.38 PM
(From About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made, By Ben Yagoda)

…and an unsigned contribution that took a poke at Ross’s efforts to create efficient procedures at the magazine’s office:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.32.46 PM
Excerpt from Defining New Yorker Humor, by Judith Yaross Lee

In the other Nov. 6 issue, “The Talk of the Town” editors commented on the death of the famed magician Harry Houdini:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.43.59 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.44.26 PM

6b32c48fe9a5da6be045694c35294681
ONE OF HIS FINAL ACTS…Houdini appearing before a Senate committee to expose fake spiritualists in February 1926. (Granger.com)

“Talk” also noted a new book called Elmer Gantry was being penned by Sinclair Lewis:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.45.20 PM

The book was a biting satire of the hypocrisy of fanatical preachers during the 1920s. It created a public furor when it was published in 1927. Another “Talk” item mocked the taste of wealthy New Yorkers for the latest exotic gadgets…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.40.08 PM

…but the same issue was also filled with the usual advertisements appealing to those very same desires of the “Smart” set. Here’s a couple of gems, so to speak…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.37.43 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.38.34 PM

Next Time: The Cotton Club & Other Distractions…

8a3e8956e7cf51e58975801865fdce55

On the Air

As much as they affected a refined disinterest in the latest fads, The New Yorker editors were nevertheless impressed by the many electronic innovations in the 1920s consumer market. Although electricity in cities had been around for awhile, inventions to exploit this new resource would come into their own in the Jazz Age with the advent of mass-produced electrical appliances (refrigerators, toasters etc.).

9d9134fa5d5971983bdff56839082757
Sept. 18, 1926 cover by Stanley W. Reynolds

So when the 1926 Radio World’s Fair opened at Madison Square Garden, the magazine was there to report on its many marvels in the Sept. 18 issue:

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 4.33.11 PM

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 4.33.20 PM

1920s-radio
IF ONLY THEY HAD SPOTIFY…Teens tuning in, mid 1920s.

Although New York’s radio fair was doubtless the largest (akin to today’s annual Consumer Electronics Show), similar fairs were held in other major cities where broadcast radio was taking hold.

tumblr_m1upqvc8Eb1rq0v7oo1_500
Promotional image for Edison Radio from the 1926 New York Radio World’s Fair. (artdecoblog.com)

…and for comparison, an image from the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas:

cf4c9628
(CES)

To give you an idea of some of the stranger innovations in the world of 1920s radio, here is an image scanned from the Oct. 16, 1926 issue of Radio World magazine demonstrating the wonders of a wearable cage antenna, which I believe was intended for use by the wearer for making wireless broadcasts…

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 9.43.31 AM

…and a detail of an advertisement from the same issue depicting a typical household radio for the time:

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 9.45.24 AM
Before tuning in for the first time, the radio’s owner needed to string a 100-foot outside aerial. Until 1927, when owners could plug their radios into electric sockets, radios required two types of batteries—a storage battery that required recharging every two weeks and a set of dry-cell batteries that needed to be replaced about every three weeks.

If all this looks crude, remember that in September 1926 broadcast radio was less than six years old. But it was big year for radio, with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) establishing a network of stations that distributed daily programs. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) would establish a rival network in 1928.

In other items, the magazine offered a lengthy profile on tennis legend Bill Tilden, and later in the sports section described his Davis Cup defeat to Frenchman René Lacoste.

lacoste-france-etats-unis_360
Tennis rivals Bill Tilden and René Lacoste meet in Philadelphia, 1927. (greensleevestoaground.)
Tilden is often considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. However, The New Yorker “Profile” described him as a reluctant star with artistic ambitions…
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.33.55 PM
…who distained the life of a sports hero…
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.35.08 PM
Samuel Merwin, referred to above, was a playwright and novelist.
Tilden was the world’s number one player for six years (1920-1925). He won 14 Major singles titles including ten Grand Slams. He also won a record seven US Open titles.
There is a sad footnote to Tilden’s career, however. Twenty years after The New Yorker profile, Tilden would be arrested for soliciting sex from an underage male, an offense he would arrested for again three years later, in 1949. He was subsequently shunned by the tennis and Hollywood world, although his old friend Charlie Chaplin allowed Tilden to use his private court for lessons, which helped him financially as he dealt with legal and financial problems.
* * *
The magazine editors continued to watch the rapidly changing skyline of the city, as beloved old buildings were demolished to make way for new skyscrapers. This time it was the old Park Avenue Hotel:
 Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.30.45 PM
The editors of “Talk of the Town” fondly recalled the time when the hotel, with its spacious courtyard of flowers and fountains, attracted “almost every dinner party of consequence in New York.”
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.32.03 PM
parkavenuesouth1890
This photo of the old Park Avenue Hotel was taken in 1890, only two years after Fourth Avenue was renamed Park Avenue. Constructed in 1877, the hotel was originally called Stewart’s Hotel for Working Women, designed to provide safe housing for the influx of single working women pouring into New York City. The name didn’t last long: the hotel was opened in April 1878, closed in May and reopened in June as the Park Avenue Hotel. It was razed in 1927. (Ephemeral New York)

The same site today:

parkavenuesouth2012
(Ephemeral New York)

The nearby Murray Hill Hotel mentioned in the article would last another 20 years, falling to the wrecking ball in 1947:

$(KGrHqZ,!jgE7jIy3h0zBO+884Q5Mw~~60_57
The Murray Hill Hotel, built in 1884, would outlive the Park Avenue Hotel by 20 years, falling to a wrecking ball in 1947. (Library of Congress)
 Next Time: Fight Night in Philly…
d9f3d5507a7bade4fc28276d12a63260