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.”

***********

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Fairfield County (CT) Cartoonists; E.B. and Katharine White’s Home for Sale; Lots of Peter Arno on Pinterest; William Steig’s Connecticut Home For Sale

Fairfield County Connecticut’s Cartoonists

Here’s a really nice article in Vanity Fair, “When Fairfield County Was the Comic-Strip Capital of The World” written by Cullen Murphy, whose father drew “Prince Valiant” — a number of New Yorker artists show up (as you might expect as the county also had a large concentration of  cartoonists from the magazine…see this link for more on that).

 

_______________________________________________________________________________

E.B. and Katharine White’s Home For Sale

From Town & Country, this article  — with photos — on the home previously owned by E.B. and Katharine White, now up for sale.

Why is this on Ink Spill, you might ask?  The White’s were major figures in the development of the New Yorker; both intersected with the magazine’s cartoons. One of Mr. White’s many duties at the New Yorker  was tinkering with cartoon captions. The most famous tinkering resulted in the Carl Rose drawing that appeared in the December 8, 1928 New Yorker:spinach

“It’s broccoli, dear.”

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

To read a little more about that particular caption, go here.

In the earliest decades of the New Yorker, Katharine White headed the fiction department. The cartoons fell under the fiction department’s umbrella until James Geraghty was appointed in 1939, when a stand alone art department was created.  In his book, The Art of The New Yorker: 1925-1995,  the magazine’s former Art Editor, Lee Lorenz wrote of Ms. White: “She remained a powerful voice in the selection of the magazine’s art even after she and her second husband, E. B. White, moved to Maine in the mid-thirties.”

Two recommended biographies: Scott Elledge’s E.B. White: A Biography (Norton, 1984)

and Linda Davis’s Onward and Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White (Harper & Row, 1987)

And for a wonderful read on that era of the New Yorker: Thomas Vinciguerra’s Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, And the Golden Age of The New Yorker (W.W. Norton & Co.,  2016)

_____________________________________________________________________________

A lot of Peter Arno on Pinterest

Billed as “182 Best Peter Arno Images on Pinterest” — it doesn’t disappoint. The post even includes the dummy cover for my Arno biography.

Anyway, it’s fun to see so much Arno in one place. New Yorker cartoons, New Yorker covers, advertisements — all kinds of wonderful art by the master.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

William Steig’s Kent Connecticut Home For Sale

Fear not — Ink Spill is not pushing real estate.  It’s just coincidence (or as Curly of the Three Stooges would say, “a coinkydink”) that two homes by three major New Yorker figures are up for sale. This is William Steig’s home in Kent, Connecticut. Read all about the home here.

Mr. Steig’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

William Steig Born in Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 14, 1907, died in Boston, Mass., Oct. 3, 2003. In a New Yorker career that lasted well over half a century and a publishing history that contains more than a cart load of books, both children’s and otherwise, it’s impossible to sum up Steig’s influence here on Ink Spill. He was among the giants of the New Yorker cartoon world, along with James Thurber, Saul Steinberg, Charles Addams, Helen Hokinson and Peter Arno. Lee Lorenz’s World of William Steig (Artisan, 1998) is an excellent way to begin exploring Steig’s life and work. NYer work: 1930 -2003.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprise By Way of E.B. White’s “The Lady Is Cold”

The Lady is Cold

Late yesterday afternoon two New Yorker cartoonists (oh, all right, it was my wife, Liza Donnelly & I) were walking across the street from The Plaza Hotel, when I realized we were near the statue of Pomona (the goddess of abundance) that stands atop the Pulitzer Fountain on The Grand Army Plaza. I wanted a closer look at Pomona because of a series of events earlier this year that resulted in a surprise addition to Ink Spill’s New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z .

Back in the Spring I happened upon and fell in love with E.B. White’s poem, “The Lady is Cold”; the lady who is cold, is in fact, the very same Pomona situated on top of the Pulitzer Fountain. I soon discovered that the poem was also the title of White’s first book (published in 1929), a collection of his poems that had appeared in The New Yorker as well as FPA‘s column, “The Conning Tower.”

The book’s cover, depicting Pomona outside The Plaza, was by someone I’d never heard of, a fellow named Ernest F. Hubbard. From Scott Elledge’s excellent biography of E.B.White I then learned that Mr. Hubbard was a friend of White’s wife (legendary New Yorker editor Katharine White) as well as a contributor of short pieces to the magazine.  Ernest Hubbard was also — surprise! — a New Yorker cartoonist. Had it not been for the poem, I doubt I would’ve ever known about Mr. Hubbard. His two drawings were published in 1926, the first in the October 30th issue  and the second in the issue of November 6th. The latter appears below.

Hubbard

E.B. White’s Lady is Cold Cover Surprise

 

 

 

This morning’s outside temperature of 8 degrees made me think of the cover of The Lady is Cold,  E.B. White’s first book, published in 1929. I knew of the book — a collection of his poetry published in The New Yorker and FPA’s column, The Conning Tower — because I’ve had the cover image on my desktop for months thinking I’d someday include it in a piece called  “Books I Wish I Had.”

 

Preparing this post I stumbled upon a nice surprise while conducting online research as well as looking through Scott Elledge’s wonderful biography of White.

 

White’s book’s title and cover art refers to the statue of Pomona, the goddess of abundance, that sits atop a tiered fountain on the Grand Army Plaza out front of Manhattan’s famed Plaza Hotel.  The artist responsible for the book’s cover was a fellow named Ernest F. Hubbard.  From the Scott Elledge biography I learned that Mr. Hubbard was a friend of White’s wife, legendary New Yorker editor Katharine White. The surprise mentioned earlier in this piece was discovering that Ernest Hubbard was also a New Yorker cartoonist.  Until today, I’m afraid I’d never heard of him.  He had two drawings published: October 30, 1926 and November 6, 1926.  It’s likely that Mr. Hubbard was also a writer and contributor to the magazine’s Talk of the Town section (I’ll just leave that possibility hanging until verified). Should I be able to obtain permission, I’ll post at least one of the Hubbard drawings in the next few days.