And Now We Are Nine

Above: It took a few issues for the editors to sort out regular features and their order of appearance. The opening section of Issue No. 1 featured the famous Rea Irvin masthead that would introduce “The Talk of Town” for many issues to come. In Issue No. 1, however, “Of All Things” appeared first under the masthead, followed by “The Talk of the Town." Let us hope the magazine restores the original Rea Irvin masthead for its 100th anniversary.

Despite the lingering Depression The New Yorker entered its ninth year on strong financial footing. With nearly equal numbers of subscribers and single copy sales, circulation would approach 125,000 in 1934, with more than $2.2 million in advertising income.

Feb. 17, 1934 cover by Rea Irvin (naturally).

In his “Notes and Comment,” E.B. White commented on the “more vigorous times” the magazine was enjoying, declaring “it is fine to be nine.”

THE NEW YORKER SEVEN…In 1924, baking product heir Raoul Fleischmann put up $25,000 to help Harold Ross get his new magazine off the ground. To assuage Fleischmann’s doubts regarding his investment, Ross persuaded some of his Algonquin Round Table cronies to appear on the magazine’s purely ceremonial masthead. The seven who appeared on the first masthead were, from top left, Ralph Barton, Marc Connelly, Rea Irvin, and George S. Kaufman; bottom row, from left, are Alice Duer Miller, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott.

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Daffy Dilettante 

Another Algonquin Round Table crony, Harpo Marx, was a skilled artist when it came to comedy, pantomime, or the harp, but when he decided to take up a brush and palette he struggled to properly paint a female nude. In this account from “The Talk of the Town,” Harpo eventually abandoned his painting and switched places with the model.

BRUSHING UP ON HIS ART…Undated photo of Harpo Marx putting finishing touches on his painting of an accordion player; Harpo was a one of the Algonquin Round Table originals: a 1919 photo features (standing, left to right) Art Samuels and Harpo Marx; (sitting) Charles MacArthur, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott. (Twitter/Wikipedia)

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Ode to Faraway Lands

A renowned author of children’s poetry, David McCord (1897-1997), was also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker for thirty years (1926-56). For the Feb. 17 issue he penned these sonnets to the Baedeker travel guide.

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Wimpy Vernacular

Architecture, art and cultural critic Lewis Mumford paused in his criticism of everything from liquor stores to cheap restaurants to offer some surprising praise to his city’s “black-and-white hamburger palaces.”

RED MEAT RIVALS White Tower and White Castle vied for customers in 1930s New York. Above, a 1933 photo of a White Tower in the 200 block of 2nd Avenue; below, a circa 1930 photo of a White Castle in the Bronx. (

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From Our Advertisers

Advertising income reached an all-time high at The New Yorker in 1934, and it showed with the numerous color ads enticing travel to Bermuda…

…or to the French wine country…

…Hiram Walker presented their Canadian Club whisky on what appeared to be a cloth napkin…

…artist Hans Flato continued his unusual Ruppert’s Beer series of mannequin people (and dogs) going about their lives stuck to yellow discs…

…according to the Ruppert’s ad, for six bottle caps you could get a tin coaster like those pictured below…


…from magicians and salesmen to sportsmen and high society, the folks pushing Camel cigarettes seemed to try every angle to get their product into the mouths of as many consumers as possible…

…the makers of Spud menthol cigarettes, on the other hand, tried a little humor to get smokers hooked on their “mouth happiness”…

…as one of the world’s most popular car brands, Chevrolet has long been considered a car for the masses, although this ad campaign launched in 1934 suggested that the ubiquitous Chevy was just the car for a connoisseur of the finer things…

…the staid luxury auto maker Pierce Arrow broke with tradition by placing this very modern, minimalist ad…

…the folks at Steinway also adopted a modern look with this single column ad touting the durability of their grand pianos…

…The Viking Press took out this full-page ad to announce the publication of Alexander Woollcott’s While Rome Burns, a collection of some of Woollcott’s writings for The New Yorker and other magazines…

…according to the ad, for six bucks you could get one of 500 limited edition signed copies…as of this writing, the inscribed and signed edition below was available for $350…


…on to our cartoonists, Al Frueh offered up this interpretation of Ziegfeld entertainers Willie Howard and Fannie Brice

Helen Hokinson took the plunge with 1930s water aerobics…

Kemp Starrett demonstrated how beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Reginald Marsh returned, taking temporary leave from life on the streets to look at life above the streets…

James Thurber’s “War Between Men And Women” took some new twists…

…and we end with Carl Rose, and one man’s solution to being stuck in the middle…

Next Time: Rocky’s Cover-up…

What Santa Brought in 1928

As we sweep up the tinsel and wrappings from another holiday season, let’s take a look back at 1928 and see what the New York “smart set” wished for under the Christmas tree.

Nov. 24, 1928 cover by Julian de Miskey.

We’ll start with the outlandish, namely this advertisement from Kurzman furriers on Fifth Avenue, which offered just two rare chinchilla coats for sale, one for $45K and the other for a mere $20K. That would be roughly equivalent to $630K and $280K in 2017 dollars. Oh Santa baby…

If you didn’t get the chinchilla, you could have asked for a Glycine Swiss watch, a gift “whose smartness reflects your taste”… and is “the supreme adornment of the patrician wrist.”

The New Yorker was filled with such ads that appealed to class pretensions, but thankfully the editorial side of the magazine mostly tweaked those pretensions, including this Nov. 24 cartoon by John Elmore:

In the following issue (Dec. 1), Elmore also contributed this unsigned cartoon (thanks to Michael Maslin’s invaluable Ink Spill blog for the identification):

Back to the ads for Nov. 24, Kolster Radio continued its series featuring illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno, this one borrowing from his familiar themes featuring gold-diggers and sugar daddies…

…and 56-year-old stage and silent film actress Fannie Ward offered proof that lighting up a Lucky could keep you slim and youthful. Whether or not she actually smoked the things, Ward was indeed best known for her seemingly ageless appearance.

Our comics from Nov. 24 issue are courtesy of Arno…

…and Helen Hokinson

We continue our Christmas wish list with the Dec. 1, 1928 issue…

Dec. 1, 1928 cover by Rea Irvin.

Regarding gifts for her, how about some fine French perfume, “originally created for the exclusive use of one of the present Nobility of France” (apparently a person descended from the line that managed to keep their heads attached to their necks)…

…and for him, the ubiquitous Christmas necktie, with a choice of patterns that would still serve him well in 2018…

Your “smoking friends” would doubtless have appreciated a rum-infused rumidor, available in a variety of finishes and sizes…

…or you could choose from the sundries offered up by Abercrombie & Fitch (bookends appeared to be a popular item)…

…and finally, for that special, anal-retentive someone on your list, “Fabrikoid” covers would keep his or her periodicals neat and tidy (note the New Yorker is conspicuously missing here).

Note: Fabrikoid “was one of DuPont’s first non-explosives products. Produced by coating fabric with nitrocellulose (yep, basically the same flammable stuff silent films were printed on) and marketed as artificial leather, Fabrikoid was widely used in upholstery, luggage and bookbindings during the early 20th century. In the 1920s, Fabrikoid became the preferred material for automobile convertible tops and seat covers” (text from

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Despite the holidays, there was still news to be reported. The Nov. 24 issue profiled violinist Fritz Kreisler, while the Dec. 1 edition featured a profile of Harpo Marx, written by his fellow Algonquin Round Tabler Alexander Woollcott. Two brief excerpts:

In this next excerpt, it is interesting to note that Woollcott couldn’t see ahead to the huge success in film that awaited Harpo Marx and his brothers. Just eight months after Woollcott’s profile, the Marx Brothers would premiere their first film, The Cocoanuts, and continue to draw on material from their vaudeville and Broadway days to produce a string a comedy hits throughout the 1930s and 40s.

In other news from the Dec. 1 issue, Frank Sullivan grumbled about the recent election of President Herbert Hoover and the state of politics in general, echoing the general sentiment of his New Yorker colleagues in dismissing the national elections as little more than silly sideshow. Two excerpts:

The New Yorker was less pessimistic when it came to the changing skyline, and was almost giddy at times about the latest technology seemingly transforming the city overnight. This time it was the gilded New York Life Insurance tower, and its impressive pneumatic tube system:

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP…Cass Gilbert’s newly completed New York Life Insurance Building in 1928. (Smithsonian)
YOU TUBERS…Women sporting fashionable bobs working the pneumatic tubes at the new home of the New York Life Insurance Company at 51 Madison Avenue, 1928. (Corbis)

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And to close, some more holiday offerings, this time for the kiddies, from Macy’s Department Store, as reported by writer Bertram Bloch:

WHAT THE?…Macy’s kicked off the Christmas season with their famed Thanksgiving Parade in 1924. In this image, from 1928, New Yorkers enjoyed an array of creepy balloon animals. (
NOT PC, DUDE…The Macy’s Christmas window display in 1928 featured the Tony Sarg marionettes in a tableau based on The Adventures of Christopher Columbus. (Pinterest)
SUPER SOAKER…With this 1928 sit ‘n ride toy, junior could hose down the living room thanks to its large water tank and hand crank-operated water tower. (

Next Time: Out of the Mouth of Babes…

Battleship Potemkin

American cinema did little to excite the writers or critics of The New Yorker, who considered European films, and particularly German ones, to be far superior to the glitzy and sentimental fare produced in Hollywood.

Sept. 11, 1926 cover by Eugene Gise.

So when it was announced that Russian/Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein would be releasing Battleship Potemkin in New York City, the magazine’s editors in “The Talk of the Town” expressed both anticipation for the masterpiece as well as worries that American censors would slice the film to bits or even ban it outright.

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The magazine’s film critic “OC” also expressed his concerns regarding censors:

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IT’S NOT WHAT’S FOR DINNER…Sailors examine maggot-infested meat in the film Battleship Potemkin. (themoviesnob)

The film was based on an historical event–a mutiny on the battleship Potemkin that occurred after the crew was served rotten meat for dinner. The sailors rebelled, seized the ship, and then attempted to ignite a revolution in their home port of Odessa, which in turn led to a massacre of citizens by Cossack soldiers on the city’s famed Potemkin Stairs.

Mutineers revel in a scene from Battleship Potemkin. (Wall Street Journal)
A still from a classic scene in Battleship Potemkin that depicts Odessa citizens being massacred by Cossacks on the city’s famous Potemkin Stairs. The image of the unattended baby carriage tumbling down the staircase has been re-created in many films, including Brian De Palma’s 1987 The Untouchables. (Film 4)

The film would ultimately be released in December of 1926. Perhaps more on that in a later post.

The Sept. 11, 1926 issue also noted the passing of famed silent film star Rudolph Valentino, who died at age 31 of peritonitis and other complications. The “Talk” editors suggested that if anything, it was good for newspaper sales:

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FUN AT THE FUNERAL…Valentino’s first funeral in New York (the second was in Beverly Hills) drew a huge crowd of in what was described as a “carnival setting”. More than 100,000 fans filed past his open casket at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home. Windows were smashed as fans tried to get in and an all-day riot erupted on August 24. Over 100 mounted officers and NYPD’s Police Reserve were deployed to restore order. A phalanx of officers would line the streets for the remainder of the viewing. Some media reports claimed the body on display was a wax dummy, and not “The Sheik” himself. (Wikipedia)
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SWEETHEARTS? Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri met in early 1926 at a costume party thrown by Marion Davies. Negri claimed she was engaged to be married to the actor at the time of his death.
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EVER THE DIVA…Pola Negri’s grief-stricken performance at Valentino’s New York funeral was considered by most to be over-the-top, even for a famous diva. Supported by a secretary and press agent (photo above), Pola declared to reporters that she and Valentino were secretly engaged to be married. She posed in dramatic fashion for the reporters and then threw herself, weeping and fainting, on Valentino’s open casket. (flickchick1953)

On the lighter side, The New Yorker men’s fashion columnist “Bowler” (I have not been able to identify the person behind this pseudonym) offered this observation of a new style suggested by Harpo Marx:

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Vaudeville star Harpo Marx in 1926. The first Marx Brothers movie was still three years away. (Wikipedia)

And to close, a couple of advertisements from the Sept. 11 issue…the first is a McCreery & Company ad illustrated by Gluyas Williams. These would become a series, featuring a milquetoast husband facing the daunting task of shopping for his wife, among other challenges…

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…and this ad from Park Central Motors, depicting a child who’s all too aware of her standing in society…

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Next Time: On the Airwaves…