Life Among the Snowbirds

Florida’s Palm Beach became a popular destination in the 1920s for well-heeled New Yorkers seeking a respite from winter’s cold and gloom.

Jan. 26, 1929 cover by Rea Irvin / Feb. 2, 1929 cover by Sue Williams.

Among them was the New Yorker’s nightlife correspondent and fashion critic Lois Long, who (writing in the Feb. 2 issue) discovered that many snowbirds left their fashion sense back home, or in some cases didn’t have any in the first place…

THOSE GENTLE BREEZES…Dining at the Coconut Grove in Palm Beach, 1928. (Town and Country)
Sufficiently appalled by the fashion scene, Long then offered some advice for those seeking a smarter look in the southern climes…

AHOY THERE…Beach pajamas were a popular choice in the 1920s. (artdecogal.com)
BIG BOOSTER…The financier Otto Kahn was one of Palm Beach’s biggest promoters. Here he relaxes with friends at one of his Palm Beach “cottages” (this one is the Oheka Cottage, designed by August Geiger, on North Ocean Boulevard). L to R: New York socialite  Sarah Jane Sanford, Otto Kahn, Margaret “Nin” Kahn Ryan (Kahn’s eldest daughter), Betty Bonstetten (of the Rothschild banking fortune), and seated, Nancy Yuille (tobacco heiress who would later marry the Viscount Adair and become the Countess of Dunraven) and Swiss architect Maurice Fatio. (Ellen Glendinning Ordway Collection via New York Social Diary)
LOIS IS WATCHING YOU…A sampling of 1920s Palm Beach fashions Lois Long might have spotted during her visit. (vintage.es/picgran.com)

Long concluded her fashion advice with the dictum that when in doubt, keep it simple…

Long must have made the trip with her husband, the New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno, since he contributed his own take on the scene in the Feb. 16, 1929 issue — a two-page illustration titled “Go South, Young Man, Go South.” (click image to enlarge)

Palm Beach was also on the minds of the New Yorker editors when they composed the Jan. 26 issue, which featured a parody by Josie Turner of the popular Elsie Dinsmore book series: “Elsie Dinsmore at Palm Beach.” A brief excerpt:

Note: The Elsie Dinsmore books (there were 28 of them) featured an impossibly upright eight-year-old and were hugely popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The Feb. 2, 1929 issue featured another Palm Beach-themed parody — this one by Frank Sullivan — that took a poke at Addison Mizner (1872-1933) a fixture of Palm Beach social life who designed resorts and houses for the rich and famous. He is often credited with giving South Florida its signature Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles of architecture (Augustus Mayhew, writing for the New York Social Diary, begs to differ: he notes that architect August Geiger established the style in Palm Beach three years before Mizner). An excerpt from Sullivan’s New Yorker parody:

Later in the piece, Sullivan took a crack at a fictitious member of Palm Beach society, a “Mrs. Twink,” who was engaged in the latest “fad” — fishing:

STORYTELLER IN BRICK AND STONE…Addison Mizner epitomized the “society architect.” He was known for making new buildings look like they had taken centuries to construct, even creating stories for his houses that described how they “evolved” through their many owners and historical eras. At right, Mizner’s own Palm Beach residence, Villa Mizner, on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. It was built in 1924. (palmbeachdailynews.com/Merritt Hewitt)
HIS KIND OF PEOPLE…Fashionably dressed members of the Mizner-designed Everglades Club gather in the Marble Patio in the 1920s. (Historical Society of Palm Beach County)
STILL THERE…The Everglades Club today. Opened in January 1919, it was Mizner’s first big commission. (Wikipedia)

The Feb. 2 issue also featured this Peter Arno cartoon of one snowbird’s reaction to Palm Beach living:

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The New Yorker loved to take potshots at the news media, and particularly at the then rather staid New York Times, which apparently had secured exclusive rights to cover Admiral Richard Byrd’s famed exploration of the South Pole by airplane. In his Jan. 26 “Of All Things” column, Howard Brubaker quipped:

In the following issue, Feb 2, Rea Irvin imagined how a coddled Times reporter might cover the historic expedition:

ONE TOUGH BYRD…Admiral Robert Byrd (inset) led expeditions in the Antarctic from 1928 to 1930 by snowshoe, dog-sled, snowmobile and three airplanes that were transported (partially disassembled) by ship to a base camp on the Ross Ice Shelf. Pictured are Harold June, Commander Byrd, and Bernt Balchen in front of a Fairchild airplane, dubbed “Stars and Stripes.” The plane was used to take aerial photographs. (Richard E. Byrd Papers, The Ohio State University)

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Grouchy Groucho

Near the back of the Feb. 2 issue (page 61), comedian Groucho Marx contributed this tongue-in-cheek demand for a retraction from the New Yorker editors:

WIT…A young Groucho Marx in 1930. (Wikipedia)

* * *

Fun With the Rockefellers

John K. Winkler contributed this piece to the Feb. 2, 1929 “Talk of the Town” that described a “playhouse” John D. Rockefeller Jr. had built for his five sons:

NOT FOR PEEWEE…The three-story playhouse on the Rockefeller estate at Pocantico Hills. (New York Social Diary)

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…and we close with these comic observations of life among New York society, again featuring the work of Peter Arno

…and back to the cold New York City winter, with Leonard Dove

Next Time: Million Dollar Mermaid…

 

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:

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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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