Fifteen or more years ago when I was just beginning to gather material for my biography of Peter Arno, a good friend who worked at The New York Times offered to get hold of what that newspaper had on Arno in its morgue (soon after he reported back, that, unfortunately, the Arno files were missing).
I don’t think I’d heard the word “morgue” used in that way before. For me “morgue” meant that dreary way-station for the deceased before they moved on to a final resting place. This new (to me) definition was of great interest as I immediately recognized that I had a home morgue: clippings I’d been filing since the mid 1970s about anything to do with the New Yorker, and especially New Yorker cartoonists. All of these clippings now rest in files in plastic storage boxes; files and boxes organized chronologically,of course.
Apart from the boxed files are two essential three-ring binders: one labeled “New Yorker Obits” and the other labeled “New Yorker Cartoonists Obits” — these are my go-to sources, usually in cahoots with an online search. The amount of information now available online (including, for subscribers, full access to the New York Times archive) has resulted in an abandonment of clipping random articles (almost all of those usually make it onto the Spill site itself); the focus now is on clipping obits. Each is, in itself, a mini history, not only of the deceased cartoonist, but of their times.
This isn’t to say that the boxed material is no longer used. It’s quite a trip to go through the files. Several colleagues, knowing of my penchant for “saving everything” have contributed generously to the files. Some of my favorite donated archival materials came from Jack Ziegler; he always addressed the package this way: Michael Maslin (Boy Archivist). He himself was quite the collector (his papers are now with The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, Ohio.
Below are two photos of the binders. The top is of two pages in The New Yorker Obits, and the bottom from the New Yorker Cartoonists Obits: