Top Dog

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 11.29.29 AMNow that I have your attention (at least the dog lovers anyway; and yes, there is a dog-related item if you read on), it is worth mentioning that the Feb. 20, 1926 issue of The New Yorker marked the first anniversary of the magazine, and in what would become an annual tradition, the magazine reprinted the original Rea Irvin cover from its first issue.

The magazine nearly went belly up during the summer of 1925, but a new marketing campaign, along with noticeably better content, put the magazine firmly in the black as it looked to its second year.

In “The Talk of the Town,” the editors couldn’t help but boast about their prosperity, albeit in a winking manner:

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Jimmy the Ink (James Daugherty) marked the anniversary with this drawing…

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…and Corey Ford, who contributed more than twenty satirical house ads for the magazine under the title, “The Making of the Magazine,” returned to form in this issue with a recollection of the magazine’s imagined past (a device The Onion employs to great effect):

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The magazine’s prosperity was evident not only in its talented stable of writers and illustrators, but also in its pages crammed with advertising. As I’ve noted before, much of the advertising is directed at the Anglo- and Franco-phile tastes of the magazine’s readers. For example, this ad from Studebaker suggesting a connection to British royalty:

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Continuing on the theme of royalty, none other than Her Royal Highness, “La Princesse Genevieve” gave her nod to Produits Bertie skin cream (joining the ranks of other royal and society women who hawked moisturizers, cold creams and even cigarettes in those days…)

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Royal endorsements were not limited to France and England, as none other than the Maharajah de Kapurthala put his seal of approval on Melachrino cigarettes in an ad featured on the inside back cover…

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The issue was filled with car ads, appearing in the wake of January’s 26th Annual National Automobile Show at the Grand Central Palace. But the latest spectacle was the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at the new Madison Square Garden, with the Terrier Group once again taking the top prize. The “Talk” editors offered this observation on Westminster:

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BEST IN SHOW 1926…Signal Circuit of Halleston was a Wire Fox Terrier and winner of the the 50th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1926. The fourth Fox Terrier to win best in show, Signal Circuit was one of 200 Fox Terriers present at the 1926 Westminster show. He was handled by Percy Roberts, who had imported the dog from England and had just stepped off the boat before the show. The dog was described as having “phenominal length of head and sound movement.” (WKC)
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The New Yorker’s Helen Hokinson offered this illustration to mark the event.

An advertisement from Bonwit Teller even got into the spirit of the thing…

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From my How Times Have Changed department, this ad from Guaranty Trust:

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And finally, a detail from a center-page illustration by Rea Irvin depicting the result of a blizzard that blanketed the city in February 1926:

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Next Time: A Fine Mess…

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Making of a Magazine

Before we jump into the autumn issues of 1925, I want to briefly look back at The New Yorker’s first summer, when the magazine limped along week to week but managed to survive thanks to a fortuitous meeting between Harold Ross and Raoul Fleischmann during a bridge game.

Harold Ross and Jane Grant in 1926 (University of Oregon Libraries)

According to Thomas Kunkel’s book, Genius in DisguiseFleischmann was the wealthy scion of a New York yeast and baking family, and a frequent guest of the Algonquin Round Table. He hated the baking business, so when Ross pitched the idea of investing in his new magazine, Fleischmann obliged with $25,000. Ross and his wife, Jane Grant, together put up the other $25,000 (which included some IOU’s), but after the magazine was launched and struggled during its first months, Fleischmann was further obliged to pour in many hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the magazine afloat (and in spite teasing from his friends that he might as well dump the money in the river).

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Raoul Herbert Fleischmann with a woman identified as “Bride Mrs. Louis D. Munds” in a United Air Lines photo from Nov 30, 1939. (Oakland Museum of California)

The magazine was actually killed as early as May 8, when Fleischmann called Ross and other magazine directors together after Ross lost a large amount of money in a poker game (money he’d plan to invest in the magazine).

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Cover for July 11, 1925, by Bertrand Zadig. Funds were so scarce that the cover was printed in black and white.

Fortunately, the following day was fellow Round Tabler Franklin P. Adams’ wedding, and in the convivial atmosphere Ross and Fleishmann agreed to give the magazine another go.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the magazine struggled mightily through the summer, with thin issues featuring in-house promotional ads that claimed the most prime advertising spots (including inside front and back covers).

However, the house ads were clever and fun to read, as Kunkel explains:

To help camouflage the dearth of advertising, Ross asked (New Yorker humor writer) Corey Ford to come up with some promotional, or “house” ads. Ford’s response was the “Making of the Magazine” series, which not only represented some of the cleverest writing in the 1925 New Yorker but went a long way toward establishing the magazine’s droll, self-deprecating tone… Each article was accompanied by a Johann Bull illustration featuring the ubiquitous (Eustace) Tilley, who was based on the Rea Irvin dandy (who was featured on the magazine’s first cover). Ford had simply made up the moniker (“’Tilley’ was the name of a maiden aunt,” he explained, “and I chose ‘Eustace’ because it sounded euphonious”), and soon it came to be identified with Irvin’s monocled figure. Tilley began turning up by name in Talk items and Ross listed him in the telephone directory.

The creator of the name “Eustace Tilley,” humorist Corey Ford was an avid outdoorsman who would go on to write a monthly column for Field & Stream in the 1950s and 60s. (Image from 1952 True magazine)

More than 20 of these house ads were featured through the end of 1925. What follows are the first ads in the series from issues dated August 8, 15, 22, 29.

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