A Hmmmmm About Spinach

The Monday Tilley Watch, which usually appears in this place at this time, will be back next Monday as we’re in the second half of the last New Yorker‘s double issue week (the issue dated July 9 & 16, 2018).  In its stead, this brief puzzlement:

A Hmmmm About Spinach

Above: Carl Rose, E.B. White, A Can of Spinach

 

In December of 2013 the Spill posted a piece about the evolution of the caption of one of the most famous New Yorker cartoons.  The piece was updated and reposted in January of this year.  Here’s a further update (following the short burst of asterisks **********) — this time there’s a curious twist:

E.B. White is remembered as author of one of the most popular cartoon captions of the magazine’s earlier days, but perhaps it might be more accurate to say he was co-author, having adapted the caption from the artist’s original submission. The published caption, as it appeared beneath Carl Rose’s drawing in the December 8, 1928 New Yorker:spinach

“It’s broccoli, dear.”

“I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

 

The original caption, below, as submitted by Rose himself provided the framework for White’s sterling re-working. Rose’s original caption:

“Mother, if I eat my spinach, may I have some chocolate pudding?”

“No, dear, there isn’t any chocolate pudding today.”

“Well, then, the hell with the spinach.”

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This morning while rereading Carl Rose’s New York Times obit (June 22, 1971), I was somewhat startled to see the quote from Mr. White included in the paragraph below (I’ve bolded it).  I’d read Mr. Rose’s obit before without this quote causing a scene here.  This is why I re-read what I’ve read, and then re-re-read:

“With the December, 1928, publication of the cartoon, “spinach” took on a new, inedible meaning as a slang synonym for the distasteful. E.B. White, the man who supplied the caption, recalled in a telephone interview yesterday: “The spinach drawing came in with a caption that he (Rose) had put on it — some entirely different thing.”

Here’s the Hmmmm part: Was Mr. White’s caption an entirely different thing?  I immediately went to Scott Elledge’s wonderful biography of Mr. White hoping for clarification and/or amplification. Curiously, Mr. Elledge glides quickly over the spinach drawing, saying only: 

Soon nearly every issue of The New Yorker carried ten or twelve of his [White’s]  newsbreaks, five or six of his paragraphs of “Notes and Comment,” and one or more cartoons whose captions he had written or rewritten (Mother to child at the dinner table: “It’s broccoli, dear.” Child to mother: “I say it’s spinach and I say to hell with it.”).

From Elledge I went to The Letters of E.B White (the revised edition, published in 2006). In a letter dated April 12, 1980, White says (in part):

“The spinach cartoon was not a collaboration in the strict sense of the word…one day a Carl Rose cartoon turned up on my desk for a fix. I didn’t think much of Rose’s caption, so I wrote an entirely new one…”

And after checking several other possible sources (Kunkels’s Ross biography for one), I finally came across a letter from Harold Ross citing the “spinach” drawing (it can be found in Kunkel’s Letters From The Editor: The New Yorker’s Harold Ross).  Here, in part is his letter to a Mr. Stark, dated June 5, 1931:

The dope on the “spinach” caption is this.  Sometime, not very often but occasionally, we get a caption in the office here for a picture, rather than use the artist’s caption.  This is because we insist on the artist putting the idea into the picture rather than into the wording…Carl Rose sent that drawing in and E.B. White saw it and wrote the caption we used in the picture…I didn’t think it was anything very hot. I went away to Florida and Mrs. Katharine Angell, who subsequently became Mrs. E.B. White, and who always insisted it was hilariously funny or something, printed it. It very shortly became a by-word much to my surprise.

I return to Carl Rose.  In his one and only collection One Dozen Roses: An Album of Words and Pictures, published in 1946, Rose devotes considerable space to talking about his famous drawing:

Obviously, Rose felt it necessary to let it be known that he had a part in the caption itself.  For without his original submitted captions that included the words subsequently used in the published caption:  “spinach” and “the hell with” Mr. White would’ve been faced with a drawing of a mother and little child sitting at a table, and nothing more. Could White have come up with the published caption without seeing Rose’s captions?

It seems fair that Mr. Rose receive some credit for the published caption (much as Yoko Ono was finally granted co-credit for John Lennon’s song, Imagine). Ordinarily, gagwriters receive no credit for their work (the Spill has covered this in previous posts. Here’s one).  But as Mr. White’s contribution to the drawing became public knowledge and his authorship of the published caption undeniable, Mr. Rose’s contribution to the published caption should be accepted as well. 

I leave you with this quote from One Dozen Roses. Mr. Rose, obviously proud of his skill as both writer and artist, writes:

I did not originate every idea in this book.  Of the 115 drawings in this collection, 92 are mine, mine!

 

 

 

 

 

Personal History: Tearsheets

Quite a while ago (decades, in fact) I began collecting tearsheets of my New Yorker work (and back then, tearsheets from other publications that would have me). The New Yorker drawings  were kept in the black 3-ring binders you see above (non-New Yorker work was placed in 10″ x 13″ envelopes).  The binders seemed like a great idea, as the only record keeping I knew of were the black books the New Yorker kept (and keep) of everyone’s work. Here’s a shot of my black book (book-ended by some recognizable names) in the New Yorker‘s library. 

For a very long time this household received two copies of each issue, making it easy to rip out my work (and/or my wife, Liza Donnelly’s work) from issues and save the other issue.  This practice went on until the early 2000s when I decided that the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank was, in effect, doing my work for me by running a well-organized easily searchable database.  While it wasn’t ever a complete picture (a hundred or more of my drawings never made it into their database), it was a good source.  Along with that was the publication of several databases: The Complete New Yorker‘s 8 discs, and The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker‘s 2 discs (just 1 disc in a later edition).

As all the work, up that time, was right there, all printable, it seemed silly to continue ripping out pages from the print magazine. The Complete New Yorker‘s discs covered February of 1925 through February of 2005 — with a promise to continue updating the work; The Complete Cartoons covered 1925 thru 2004.

Now some ten years after abandoning the tearsheet practice (the last tearsheet in my black volumes shown above is dated October 20, 2008), I regret not continuing.  There is currently no reliable contemporary archive online or on disc. The magazine’s online search function (available to subscribers) is inadequate.

I’d hoped that any forthcoming celebration of the magazine’s cartoons for The New Yorker‘s 100th birthday in 2025 might update the cartoon database. Heck, update the database for the entire magazine. If you own the aforementioned 8 discs from the Complete New Yorker, you’ll eventually discover that the discs will not work with modern computer systems. Luckily I have an ancient  iBook around and use that to search the database. 

So far, there is no mention in any of the promotional text accompanying the upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons that it includes a database — its interests seem to be fashioned around cartoon “tropes” — but we’ll see.

Interesting then that it’s back to where it started here: with collecting hard copies.  In my case, I held on to a large number of back issues of the magazine, but not enough issues to fill in these past 8 years. In the last year I’ve started ripping out tearsheets, but they’ve yet to be placed in the binders.  The chronologist in me wants to pick up where I left off, in 2008, and move forward. 

Perhaps I should’ve known better.  Having a binder in front of you, with everything in chronological order is the best way to go. I’ve used these binders as reminders of certain moments tied-in to the drawings (if there was something memorable to record). Here’s an example: a drawing published March 16, 1987.  As you see in the note attached, the drawing includes a nod to William Shawn. 

 

 

 

Tilley Watch Online, The Week of July 1-6, 2018; Cartoon Companion Rates the Very Latest New Yorker Cartoons

The Daily cartoons were 100% Trump or Trumpian this week.  The contributing artists: John McNamee, Jason Chatfield (with Scott Dooley), Sofia Warren, David Sipress, and Peter Kuper.

And over on this week’s Daily Shouts, the contributing New Yorker cartoonists were: Will McPhail and Liana Finck

You can see all of the above and more by following this link.

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Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons

The CC’s Max and Simon are  back at week’s end with their rated takes on each and every cartoon in the most recent issue of The New Yorker  — the double issue, July 9 & 16 — the one with the floating dog (or dog floating) on the cover. Read it here!

Another Two Pages From the New Yorker Ency of Cartoons; Podcast of Interest: Liza Donnelly

Another Two Pages From the New Yorker Ency of Cartoons

Back on June 19th, The Spill had this to say about the upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons:

Stylish packaging…can’t wait to see what more is inside. Especially curious to see how the two volumes incorporate the advertised 3000 cartoons (or “classic images” as the publisher calls them). Actually, since we now can see 3 classic images, curious to see how the other 2997 are incorporated. 

Well , the publisher, Blackdog & Leventhal, has just eeked out two more pages showing 4 more cartoons (by myself, Charles Barsotti, Danny Shanahan, and Gahan Wilson), These are, as you’ll see, under the “Clowns” heading (the encyclopedia is organized around subjects):

Alrighty then.  Now we’ve seen 7 of the 3000 images promised. Only 2,993 to go!

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Podcast of Interest: Liza Donnelly

While live-drawing in Dublin last week (I’ve shown a few of her Dublin drawings here), Liza Donnelly sat for an interview with Roisin Ingle of The Irish Times.

Link to the Irish Times podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Thursday Round-up: Fall Cartoonist Panel of Interest Includes Eckstein, Acocella, Borchart, and Weyant; New Yorker State of Mind’s Look at the Issue of June 8, 1929; Fawkes’ Bronte Book

Fall Cartoonist Panel of Interest

Not too early to pencil this one in on your Fall calendar: Bob Eckstein, Marisa Acocella, David Borchart, and Chris Weyant will appear September 29th at the Milford Readers & Writers Festival. Here’s a piece about the festival.

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A New Yorker State of Mind Goes deep into the New Yorker issue of June 8 , 1929. One of the Spill‘s favorite blogs continues to inform and entertain. Read it here.

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Fawkes’ Bronte Book

Above: an excerpt from Glynnis Fawkes’ graphic piece on Seven Days Vermont, “A Cartoonist/Writer Draws Parallels With Charlotte Bronte” (See the rest here). Ms. Fawkes’ work has appeared on newyorker.com. According to the bio provided on Seven Days Ms. Fawkes’ bio of Charlotte Bronte will appear in 2019.

 

 

The New Yorker’s First Fourth

 This stunning Ilonka Karasz cover graced the New Yorker‘s first fourth of July issue. Ms. Karasz  contributed a remarkable 187 covers to the magazine; her first was on the 7th issue, April 4, 1925, her last appeared on the issue of October 22, 1973. Of note within the issue: this Helen Hokinson drawing appearing on the Talk of The Town’s lead page:

In 1925, Ms. Hokinson, newly arrived in New York (from Chicago) enrolled at Parsons School of Design. According to Liza Donnelly’s book Funny Ladies:

One day [Hokinson’s] instructor sent the students out to sketch in the streets of New York. Hokinson drew an elderly woman waving goodbye to a departing ocean liner. Upon her return to the classroom, her teacher, Howard Giles, laughed and suggested she take this and other drawings to the new magazine down the street.

This simple drawing of a woman waving immediately won over Harold Ross and Rea Irvin. Her work had an ease to it: Ross recognized the humor in her line quality, but also in what she chose to draw. Ross purchased her first submission and invited her to return every Tuesday  with more sketches for consideration.