From time-to-time Ink Spill looks way way back at The New Yorker’s cartoon universe. Today, we’ll drop in on the issue dated fifty years ago, July 30, 1966 and take a brief look around at the cartoons and cartoonists within. In 1966, William Shawn was in his 14th year as editor of The New Yorker; the Art Editor, James Geraghty, was in his 27th year (back then the Art Editor was responsible for all aspects of the magazine’s art: the spot drawings, the covers and the cartoons).
The cover — a beauty — was by Donald Reilly. It was the first of Mr. Reilly’s sixteen covers for the magazine (his last, Feb 10, 1992). Though sixteen covers is impressive, even more impressive are the thousand-plus cartoons he contributed during his time at the magazine.
Here’s his Ink Spill “A-Z” entry:
The Table of Contents back then looked like this (readers were left on their own to identify the cartoonists and the contributors to the Talk of The Town):
The cartoonists in the issue: Whitney Darrow, Jr., William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Joseph Mirachi, James Stevenson, Donald Reilly, Charles Saxon, Frank Modell, Alan Dunn, Robert Day, Warren Miller, Stan Hunt, and Mischa Richter
A deep, albeit all-male, bench of talent. This New Yorker Cartoonists Hall of Fame line-up doesn’t even include a number of the other regular contributors of the time including Peter Arno, Charles Addams, Syd Hoff, Dana Fradon, Al Ross, Barney Tobey, Robert Weber, Edward Koren, Lee Lorenz, and many more (the work of the great George Price, that master of the quirky split-line is represented in a ¾ page drawing for Iberia Airlines).
The newest addition to The New Yorker’s stable in this issue was Warren Miller, whose first cartoon appeared in the magazine in 1959. The most senior cartoonist was the aforementioned Mr. Dunn. His work first appeared in The New Yorker in 1926.
Of particular note is the six page spread “Come to Britain” by Charles Saxon. We don’t see spreads like this in the magazine anymore – at least on the somewhat regular basis they once appeared. Generally speaking – or even specifically speaking — cartoon spreads are history (A Roz Chast spread in 2014 comes to mind, but it was a bird of a different feather as it was an excerpt from her forthcoming book and not a spread created for the magazine).
What to make of The New Yorker’s cartoon culture fifty years ago: the magazine was seven to eight years away from the end of Geraghty’s long run as art editor (Lee Lorenz was his successor). Although the Geraghty era is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of New Yorker cartooning – it’s tough to argue it wasn’t –I believe the Golden Age extended beyond Geraghty and into Lorenz’s years as well. Geraghty presided over an amazing collection of cartoon worlds: a mix of veterans, and stellar new additions like Edward Koren, who began contributing in 1962, Henry Martin who began in 1964, and William Hamilton, whose first drawing was published in 1965.
When I think of this era of the magazine I’m reminded of something William Shawn wrote for Brendan Gill’s Here at The New Yorker. In the piece, which was headed “Shawn on Ross” [Harold Ross, the magazine’s founder and first editor]:
“It was certainly not the least of Ross’s talents that he was able to see talent in writers and artists before it was plainly visible to everyone. Also, he understood that talent developed more slowly in some than others, and he was willing to wait. He gradually learned that the primary function of the magazine’s editor, including him, was to create a structure and an atmosphere – a little world apart from the world – within the writers and artists could fulfill themselves.”
Creating that “structure and atmosphere” was, I believe, the secret sauce of The New Yorker. It gave us, the readers, the opportunity to enjoy the worlds these artists found their way into.
The New Yorker 1955- 1965 Album is an excellent cartoon collection gathering work by all these artists (it’s available for a song on ABEbooks.com).