The Perfect Gift for 1927

We close out 1927 by looking at the final December issues, which grew fat with Christmas advertising catering to the tastes of New York’s smart set.

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December 10, 1927 cover by Gardner Rea.

Before we jump to the ads, let’s look in on Lois Long, who in the Dec. 10 issue continued her lamentations regarding the quality of New York’s Prohibition-era night life and reminded readers that her job was far from a “soft snap”…

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The problem, as diagnosed by Long, was that there were not enough talented entertainers to fill the needs of an overabundance of nightclubs…

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LOIS THOUGHT BOBBIE ARNST WAS PRETTY SWELL when she appeared at Helen Morgan’s nightclub. A noted broadway singer and dancer, Arnst is pictured above in a publicity photo from the 1929 film Rhythms in Blue. (picking.com)
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ON THE OTHER HAND…Evelyn Nesbit’s tearoom (and later speakeasy) couldn’t survive on notoriety alone. In the early 20th century Nesbit’s face was everywhere—from advertisements to calendars—but in 1906 her fame took a nasty turn when her jealous husband, Harry Thaw, shot and killed suspected lover and famed architect Stanford White at Madison Square Garden’s rooftop theatre. At left, Nesbit in 1900. At right, Nesbit in her tea room on West 52nd Street, near Broadway, circa 1922. (Library of Congress / restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com)

Long also railed against the white appropriation of Harlem entertainment, which she felt was draining the place of its soulfulness. In particular she called out writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten, who among white writers was the most prominent in intellectualizing the “Harlem Renaissance”…

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What to Buy in ’27

The Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 issues grew fat with holiday advertising, averaging 120+ pages as opposed to the usual 60 or so pages. The advertisements mostly appealed to upscale readers, ranging from this almost Victorian-style ad from the staid Brooks Brothers…

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…to this ad from Rex Cole promoting the latest in modern conveniences…

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And I’ll toss in this comic from the Dec. 10 issue, in which Peter Arno allows us to listen in on an unlikely conversation between a couple of toffs…

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Lois is Also Tired of the Holidays

On to the Dec. 17 issue, in which Lois Long (who had recently married cartoonist Peter Arno, whose work is pictured above) also shared with readers her weariness of Christmas shopping in her column, “On and Off the Avenue.”

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December 17, 1927 cover by Theodore G. Haupt.

The “Parisite” Long referred to in this excerpt was actually Elizabeth Hawes, who occasionally contributed to Long’s column (with cables sent from Paris) regarding the latest in French fashions. More on Hawes another time…

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As for ads in the Dec. 17 issue, we get this one from Dunhill, maker of fine English cigarettes and accessories: a woman’s compact that resembles a lighter…

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…and the same issue offers this glimpse into the life a spoiled rich kid, home from college for the holidays. The cartoon is by Alan Dunn, one of the most published New Yorker cartoonists (1,906 cartoons from 1926 to 1974)…

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With Christmas advertising over, the magazine’s page length dropped by half from the Dec. 17 to the Dec. 24 issue…

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December 24, 1927 cover by Andre De Schaub.

…in which we find this holiday-themed illustration by Al Frueh:

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Why We Sing Auld Lang Syne

This advertisement in the Dec. 24 issue invited readers to celebrate the New Year at The Roosevelt Hotel…

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The Roosevelt Hotel after its completion in 1924 (Museum of the City of New York)
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AULD ACQUAINTANCE…If you want to know why we sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, you can thank Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian Band, which made the song a staple at his New Year’s performances beginning in 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel. Their performance that night was broadcast on the radio before midnight Eastern time on CBS, then after midnight on NBC radio. (neatorama.com)

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Now Let’s Get Out of Here

With the holidays out of the way, New Yorkers still faced a good three months of winter. That is, unless you were well-heeled enough to head south to Palm Beach.  Considering the abundance of ads promoting travel to southern climes in the Dec. 24 and 31 issues, apparently many of the magazine’s readers possessed the means to do just that…

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And we close this entry, and the year of 1927, with this cover…

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December 31, 1927 cover by Rea Irvin.

…and another tropical-themed advertisement, courtesy of Russeks…

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…and this cartoon by Mary Petty depicting those who were left behind, still returning their Christmas gifts…

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Next Time: Odious Odes…

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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.

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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:

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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)…

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…and in various advertisements.

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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…

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I liked this ad from Nat Lewis for the simple line drawing…
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…but the ads for Elizabeth Arden, which for years featured this “Vienna Youth Mask” image, always creep me out.

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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.

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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…

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A Flapper’s Night Out

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Feb. 13, 1926 cover by Ilonka Karasz. Image at the top of this entry is by Russell Patterson, circa 1930.

In reading all of these past issues of The New Yorker (a year’s worth, as of this post) one writer in particular jumps from the pages: Lois Long.

Perhaps it was her irreverent, high-spirited style and her fearless forays into any topic. She was the most modern of the New Yorker writers, developing a style that communicated directly to the reader as a confidant.

Her output was also impressive, writing about nightlife in “Tables for Two” under the pseudonym “Lipstick” and also about fashion in “One and Off the Avenue.” In his autobiography, Point of Departure, colleague Ralph Ingersoll wrote that Long “did a wheel-horse job of pulling The New Yorker through its first years,” with an “almost infinite capacity for being childishly delighted” while also possessing a “native shrewdness, an ability to keep her head.”

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LOIS AND THE GANG…(l to r) Silent film star Charlie Chaplin, Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield, sculptor Helen Sardeau, Lois Long and screenwriter Harry D’Arrast pose in a Coney Island photo booth, 1925. Photo scanned from the book Flapper by Joshua Zeitz.

Long was in rare form in the Feb. 13, 1926 issue, offering a comprehensive list of evening entertainments for everyone from a flapper to an aristocrat. Here’s the entire column:

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According to Long,  if you were an aristocrat, or a “rapacious visitor” wishing to rubberneck at the rich and famous, The Colony restaurant was a good choice for the dinner hour.

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DINING WITH MOMMY DEAREST…Joan Crawford was a frequent patron of The Colony restaurant near 61st and Madison Avenue. Here she is seen at at the restaurant with (ex-) husband Franchot Tone. The photo is dated 1940, but the two were divorced in 1939. They remained close, however, for the rest of their lives. (lostpastremembered.blogspot.com)

The Colony, which began as a speakeasy in the early 1920s, was one of the places to be seen in New York for many decades. According to the blog Lost Past Remembered, “there was a Colony ‘crowd’ that included Hollywood royalty Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, and Joan Crawford as well as the real deal ––The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were great fans (as were assorted bankers, brokers, wheeler dealers and gangsters and socialites).”

In those days you could display your status by where you were seated at The Colony. In later years the place was frequented by the likes of Jackie O and her sister Lee Radziwill. Writer Truman Capote, who enjoyed a special back table under a TV set, reportedly wept when the restaurant closed in 1971.

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FLAPPER FARE…Long suggested that the Biltmore might be a suitable dining destination for the “Village Flapper.” Pictured here is the Biltmore’s Cascades ballroom and dining area, circa 1915. (Museum of the City of New York)

On to a less glamorous subject, “The Talk of the Town” made note of the extension of traffic lights in the city:

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In 1926 traffic lights were still something of a novelty in New York, which didn’t install its first traffic light until 1920.

According to the New York Times (May 16, 2014), the first permanent traffic lights in New York went up in 1920, a gift from millionaire physician Dr. John A. Harriss who was fascinated by street conditions. His design “was a homely wooden shed on a latticework of steel, from which a police officer changed signals, allowing one to two minutes for each direction. Although the meanings we attach to red and green now seem like the natural order of things, in 1920 green meant Fifth Avenue traffic was to stop so crosstown traffic could proceed; white meant go. Most crosstown streets and Fifth Avenue were still two-way.”

The signals were so popular that in 1922 “the Fifth Avenue Association gave the city, at a cost of $126,000, a new set of signals, seven ornate bronze 23-foot-high towers (designed by Joseph H. Freedlander) placed at intersections along Fifth from 14th to 57th Streets.”

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Bronze traffic signal tower designed by Joseph H. Freedlander at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, 1922. (New York Times)

Within a few years it was determined that the towers were blocking the roadway, so in 1929 Freedlander was “called back to design a new two-light traffic signal, also bronze, to be placed on the corners. These were topped by statues of Mercury and lasted until 1964. A few of the Mercury statues have survived, but Freedlander’s 1922 towers have completely vanished.”

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Freedlander’s bronze corner traffic signal, topped by a statute of Mercury. (Untapped Cities)

Skipping ahead a few issues, this Hulett advertisement from the March 20, 1926 issue features a drawing of the Freelander signal:

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Although F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby received a brief, dismissive review from the magazine in 1925, a stage adaptation of the novel was received favorably by theatre critic Gilbert W. Gabriel:

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A Page From Playbill...The Great Gatsby, February 22, 1926 at Ambassador Theatre (Playbill Vault)

In the movies, critic Theodore Shane gushed over a new film by Robert Flaherty, famed director of Nanook of the North. This time around Flaherty turned his lens on a Polynesian paradise in Moana:

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Still image from Moana (Indiewire)

And to wrap things up, a drawing by Einer Nerman of German soprano Frieda Hempel…

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And this advertisement exhorting readers to stay at the Hotel Majestic. The hotel, built in 1894, would fall to a wrecking ball in 1929, just three years after this ad appeared:Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.49.08 PM

Next Time: The Magazine Marks One Year…

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