The Long Island Connection: Wolcott Gibbs, John O’Hara, and Charles Addams

Photo, left-right: John O’Hara, Elinor & Wolcott Gibbs, Charles Addams

Here are three stellar New Yorker contributors whose private lives intertwined with their professional lives — i.e., they were friends. Curiously, or maybe not so curiously, they all at one time  called Long Island home (Gibbs on Fire Island, O’Hara in Quogue, Addams in Westhampton Beach).  Here’s a quick look at their professional intersections (not including within the pages of The New Yorker itself).  Let’s begin with Charles Addams’s wonderful cover art for Brendan Gill’s 1975 Here At The New Yorker, in which all three of these fellows appear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top left, John O’Hara by Addams; top right: Wolcott Gibbs by Addams; bottom: Charles Addams by Addams

 

 

 

 

Gibbs wrote the Introduction to Addams’s 1947 collection, Addams and Evil. Here’s a portion of it:

“Altogether, if you have to have the dismal facts, I’m embarrassed to say that as far as I can tell he is just a hell of a nice guy, whose habits are probably a good deal less sinister than yours or, for that matter, even mine.”

 

Jonh O’Hara wrote the foreword to Addams’s 1950 collection, Monster Rally.  It reads, in part:

“Addams is a big man, about 6’1″ and around 195, a toxophilist who can handle a sixty-pound pull, but I don’t think he’d hurt a fly. I never have seen him lose his temper, although that is not to say he doesn’t get mad. He happens to be what is called easy-going, and has a decent contempt for the opinions of mankind.”

 

 

 

Addams provided the book jacket art for Gibbs on several occasions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on Wolcott Gibbs and his role in The New Yorker‘s Art Department, here’s an Ink Spill piece from a few years back.

For much much more on Gibbs I highly recommend Thomas Vinciguerra’s recent book, Cast Of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as for Charles Addams, there’s no better place to go than Linda Davis’s Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life (Random House, 2006)

 

 

For Addams’s work:  any of his cartoon collections will do just fine.

 

 

 

 

Mr. O’Hara has been the subject of a number of biographies. Here’s one: The Life of John O’Hara by Frank MacShane (E.P. Dutton, 1980).  There’s a mountain of work by Mr. O’Hara available and another mountain of information available online.

 

 

 

 

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Cast of Characters Cover: Thurber, St. Clair McKelway, Gibbs, Maloney & Parker; More from A Case For Pencils

Cast of CharactersIt being The New Yorker’s 90th anniversary, how fitting that the cover has been revealed for Thomas Vinciguerra’s Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and The Golden Age of The New Yorker.

Quite a crew gathered for a book party at the Algonquin Hotel in 1938: seated, left to right, Fritz Foord (who ran Foord’s Sanitarium in Kerhonkson, NY*), Wolcott Gibbs, Frank Case (owner of The Algonquin Hotel) and Dorothy Parker; standing, Alan Campbell (Ms. Parker’s husband), St. Clair McKelway, Russell Maloney and James Thurber.

*according to a Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney, Thurber heard that “O.Henry had used Foord’s as a drying-out place, and later psychically exhausted colleagues would periodically turn themselves in there, too.”

(W.W. Norton & Co. will publish Mr. Vinciguerra’s book in November of this year).

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Note: A Case For Pencils asked me to participate in a survey of tools of the trade.  You can see it here.

 

Books of Interest

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Following in the footsteps of The 40s: The Story of a Decade comes The 50s: The Story of a Decade (Both edited by Henry Finder, both published by Random House). No cover image available. The book will be out in September.   If the 50s is anything like the 40s, we can expect classic New Yorker fiction, nonfiction and assessments of the decade by contemporary New Yorker contributors.  Can’t wait for the other collections in what now appears to be a series, especially the The 20s and 30s.

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Coming in November by way of W.W. Norton & Company, is a must-read from  Thomas Vinciguerra:  Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (Cover image not available yet).  The last we heard from Mr. Vinciguerra he brought us Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs From The New Yorker. 

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Ink Spill will update information on these books as it becomes available

Did Arno Write Thurber?

Arno Workbooks a  A lot of material accumulates when you’ve been researching a subject for fifteen years. In my case, much of it was placed in a ramshackle assortment of black binders pictured here.  There was also a binder [not pictured] labeled “Next” that contained a very very  long checklist of things that needed looking into. The more I uncovered about Arno, the more I needed to discover. Over time, as the checklist dwindled, I was left with a handful (maybe two) of  unresolved questions. Some will likely never be resolved, but  I was certain that one question in particular could be answered by a visit to the Beinecke Library at Arno’s alma mater, Yale University (Arno didn’t graduate, but spent a busy freshman year there).

 

By visiting the Beinecke I could finally answer the question of whether Arno wrote James Thurber. Back in the late 1950s Thurber reached out to his fellow New Yorker contributors  while putting together his memoir, The Years With Ross. I’d discovered years ago that the Beinecke holds Thurber’s papers from that project, including a file located in Box 2 that contains all the correspondence between Thurber and his colleagues.  Did Arno write Thurber? I could wait to find out, and I did. Over the past few years I decided to save this last field trip for when my Arno biography had sold — a celebratory final run.

 

A couple of days ago, sitting a large table in the Beinecke’s well guarded reading room, I was handed Box 2.  The correspondence folder inside was so thick it took up two-thirds of the box (the other third contained a folder of fan mail to Thurber); clearly, this was going to take awhile — a fun while. After two hours, after reading letters from Thurber to E.B. White and Katharine White, and their letters in response, and rounds of letters between Thurber and St. Clair McKelway, William Shawn, and Wolcott Gibbs, etc., etc., I found a letter from Thurber to Charles Addams.  Thurber mentioned that he’d written Arno several times and never heard back.  I realized, then and there, I wasn’t going to find a letter from Arno in this mountain of correspondence.

 

It fit an Arno trait I’d discovered to be mostly true: as an adult, he wasn’t much of a letter writer. Heck, I’d even been forewarned some years ago when I found a great little privately printed book of biographies, Faces & Facts by a fellow named Willis Birchman. Birchman (a caricaturist more than a biographer) allowed one page per subject, plus a page for a self-portrait.  The first biography in the book is Arno’s, and it contains a sentence highly relevant to this blog post:

Arno never opens his mail.

Rea Irvin, Beyond The New Yorker

SnootHot WaterNeuroses

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rea Irvin, who gave us the impossibly perfect Eustace Tilley (the top-hatted dandy on the first issue of The New Yorker, February 21, 1925) was no budding flower when Harold Ross hired him to guide the  magazine’s art. Irvin was an established artist, with his cartoons and covers widely published (especially for the old Life magazine, where he also served as Art Editor). Once aboard The New Yorker, he continued working elsewhere, with a string of book illustrations to his credit.  Just for fun, I’ve shown a few.  (my thanks to the wonderful illustrator,Tom Bloom for the scan of Snoot…)

 

Snoot If You Must, Lucius Beebe; D. Appleton-Century Company, New York. 1943.

Hot Water, P.G. Wodehouse; P. F. Collier & Son Corporation, New York. 1932.

Bed of Neuroses, Wolcott Gibbs; The Bobbs-Merrill Company; Charter Books Edition edition. 1963

The Unsuccessful Elf, Paul Wing;  Rinehart & Company, New York. 1947.

 

 

 

And a few others illustrated by Mr. Irvin (no scans available at the moment):

The Nan Patterson Case, Newman Levy; Simon and Schuster, New York. 1959

Music With a Feather Duster, Elizabeth Mitchell; Little Brown & Company, Boston. 1941

The Ritz-Carletons, Fillmore Hyde; Macy- Masius, New York. 1927.

Alice in the Delighted States, Edward Hope; Lincoln MacVeagh /Dial Press, New York.  1928

 

Mr. Irvin’s Ink Spill “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z” entry:

Rea Irvin  (pictured above. Self portrait above from Meet the Artist) *Born, San Francisco, 1881; died in the Virgin Islands,1972. Irvin was the cover artist for the New Yorker’s first issue, February 21, 1925.  He was the magazine’s  first art editor, holding the position from 1925 until 1939 when James Geraghty assumed the title. Irvin became art director and remained in that position until William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross. Irvin’s last original work for the magazine was the magazine’s cover of July 12, 1958. The February 21, 1925 Eustace Tilley cover had been reproduced every year on the magazine’s anniversary until 1994, when R. Crumb’s Tilley-inspired cover appeared. Tilley has since reappeared, with other artists substituting from time-to-time.

 

The New Yorker’s New York…an Ink Spill Map

Maslin Big map New Yorker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   What better way to begin to close out the year here at Ink Spill than with a map of Manhattan highlighting some of the people and places most associated with The New Yorker. I’ve stayed away from current contributors & editors for privacy reasons – that updated map will have to wait a few decades. 

Here’s the who and why of the map:  people have a habit of not living in one place on the island of Manhattan.  For instance, Peter Arno’s Park Avenue pad was not his only New York City address  – it was his last city residence before he moved north to plant a garden. And Dorothy Parker lived in numerous places, but I’ve just indicated the address where she spent the last 15 years of her life.  Some of the names below are so well known that I’ve provided no information other than when they were born and when they died.  There are many more New Yorker writers, artists and editors who lived in the city but who do not appear on the map. Perhaps another map, another time. (I believe if you click on the map, it’ll enlarge and make reading much easier)

As you’ll see below, the Key is divided into Places & People.  Have fun!

 Places:

The New Yorker  has moved four times in its history, and will be moving again shortly, down to the new World Trade Center.  The map shows (in the circular zoom-in of the 42nd Street area) the four addresses:

1.  25 West 45th St  The magazine began publishing here in 1925  and remained at this address until 1935, when it moved downtown to…

2.  25 West 43rd St.  This magazine stayed here the longest, from 1935 until 1991. It was here that Thurber wrote and drew on the walls (a fragment of wall bearing Thurber’s drawings from here was removed and has since been relocated at  the magazine’s newer offices.

3.  20 West 43rd St.  Basically a move right across the street, just south and due east a few feet.

4.  4 Times Square.  The current address, but not for long. 

 

Bleeck’s  Artist & Writer’s (formerly Club) Restaurant  215 West 40th St.

Bleeck’s (pronounced “Blake’s”) was a regular hang-out for, among others, the Herald Tribune and New Yorker crowd.  It was here that something called the Match Game (not the one on tv with Gene Rayburn) was played with increasing seriousness (or maybe just increasing losses and gains).  And yes, that’s the actual name of the place, parentheses, singular spelling of “Artist” and all.  Decor was English tavern with wood paneling, heavy furniture, dim lighting and a tarnished suit of armor near the door. Life magazine  profiled the joint in its issue of November 26, 1945.

Costello’s  East 44th St. 

Once Thurber tired of Bleeck’s, Tim Costello’s place became his favorite place to hang. Like Bleeck’s, Costello’s was favored by more of The New Yorker crowd than you could shake a monocle at.  The murals Thurber drew here became the stuff of legend (and contention). 

The Algonquin  59 West 44th St. 

It’s not where The New Yorker began (it began in Harold Ross’s brain), but it’s where so many of its ingredients gelled, most especially around and because of the famous Round Table crowd. The Algonguin will always be closely tied in spirit to The New Yorker in more ways and for more reasons  than can be gone into here.

 

 The Corner of Madison & 42nd St

This is the intersection where the five month old New Yorker, just killed off by Raoul Fleischmann at the Princeton Club, suddenly sprang back to life as Fleischmann waited with his fellow business partners for the light to change. Fleischmann overheard John Hanrahan (Fleischmann’s publications advisor) say to either Ross or Hawley Traux (Ross’s financial expert), “I can’t blame Raoul for a moment for refusing to go on, but it’s like killing something that’s alive.”   Fleischmann later wrote that Hanrahan’s remark had “gotten under his skin” and so he changed his mind about closing The New Yorker and gave the magazine a reprieve.  The rest is, well, you know…

 

People:

 

Charles Addams  25 West 54th St. (b. 1912  d.1988) Charles Addams! Need I say more?

Peter Arno  417 Park Ave. (b.1904  d.1968) Harold Ross called him “the greatest artist in the world”  — Arno’s name appears on a metal plaque outside the old New Yorker offices on 25 West 43rd St..  William Shawn included Arno in his list of four New Yorker contributors and editors who “did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”  (E.B. White, Katharine White, and Thurber  were the other three).

Donald Barthelme  West 11th St. (b.1931 d.1989) Writer.  Read his Snow White to understand why he was the toast of fiction world.

Ralph Barton  419 e.57th. ( b.1891 d.1931)  Cartoonist extraordinaire.  Ross included his work and listed him first in his Advisory Editors in The New Yorker’s very first issue (he was followed by Marc Connelly, Rea Irvin, George S. Kaufman, Alice Duer Miller, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott).  

Robert Benchley  44West 44th St. The Royalton NY Hotel (b.1899 d.1945).  A member of The Algonguin Round Table, and so much more.  Humorist, actor, New Yorker Theater Critic.  Note that he lived just across the street from The Algonquin.  

Gardner Botsford  Grammercy Place (b.1917  d.2004) long time New Yorker editor of non-fiction, his writers included Joseph Mitchell, Roger Angell, and A.J. Liebeling. Step-son of Raoul Fleischmann.

John Cheever  Hudson & Horatio (b.1912 d.1982)

Peter De Vries 32 West 11th  (b.1910  d.1993)  Novelist, humorist, Cartoon Doctor. 

Alan Dunn  12 E.88th St.  (b.1900 d.1974) One of the most prolific of the magazine’s cartoonists.  Married to Mary Petty.

Raoul Fleischmann  955 Fifth Ave.  (b.1885  d.1969)  In 1924, when Harold Ross proposed he and Fleischmann start a “new comic paper” Fleischmann put up the money.

Wolcott Gibbs  East 54th St.  (b.1902 d.1958) Writer, editor, critic, playright (“Season in The Sun”) (New Yorker theater critic – he took over the job from Robert Benchley)

Philip Hamburger  East 80th St.  (b.1914  d.2004) Writer of non-fiction for The New Yorker for over 60 years (serving under all of the magazine’s editors from Ross to Remnick).  He occasionally wrote under the name, Our Man Stanley.

Gus Lobrano  West 13th St.  (b.1903 d.1956) New Yorker fiction editor from 1938 – 1956.  Following Lobrano’s death,  E.B. White wrote of him: “His contribution to The New Yorker was deep and extensive; it is hard to get it all down in a brief report. Probably his most telling contribution was this: that because of knowing and loving him many writers felt that The New Yorker was their home.”

Russell Maloney  413 East 50th St. (b.1910  d.1948) A wildly prolific Talk of The Town writer, on staff from 1934 – 1945.

William Maxwell  East 86th St. (b.1908 d.2000) Author & fiction editor to Salinger, Cheever, Nabokov, and Updike, among many others.

Joseph Mitchell West 10th St. (b.1908 d.1996) Writer. A New Yorker staff writer who became known  for not writing after writing so well for so many years.

Grace Paley West 11th St. (b.1922 d.2007) Writer

Dorothy Parker  23 East 74th St. (The Volney) (b.1893 d.1967)  Ms. Parker was perhaps the most, if not one of the most celebrated members of the Algonquin Round Table. One of Ross’s original contributors and listed as an Advisory Editor in the very first issue of the magazine. The subject of numerous biographies.

S.J. Perelman 134 West 11th St.  (b.1904  d.1979). One of the great humorists of the 20th century. 

Mary Petty  12. East 88th St. (1899 – 1976) New Yorker cover artist and cartoonist. (See Alan Dunn).

Harold Ross  52 East 11th & 412-414 West 47th St. (b.1892  d.1951).  Ross dreamed up The New Yorker.  Thomas Kunkel wrote an excellent biography of Ross, Genius in Disguise

J.D. Salinger  300 East 57th St.  (b.1919 d.2010)

Willam Shawn  East 96th St.  (b.1907  d.1992) The New Yorker’s  legendary second editor.  He succeeded Harold Ross in 1952.  Would someone please write a biography of Mr. Shawn.  

Saul Steinberg 6th Ave. & 11th St…and at the end of his life: East 75th St.  (b.1914 d.1999).  The New York Time’s front page obit labeled him an “epic doodler” – how  I wish they could take that back. The man was a genius.

Otto Soglow 330 West 72nd St. ( b.1900  d.1975) He created The Little King.

John Updike West 13th St.  (b.1932  d.2009)

E.B. White  A number of addresses, beginning with 112 West 13th St., and later, with Katharine White at 16. East 8th St., then uptown at Turtle Bay Gardens, and in the mid 1940s, 37 West 11th St.  (b.1899 d.1985) In his earliest days in Manhattan, White roomed  at 112 West 13th Street along with Gus Lobrano. 

Katharine White  Several addresses, including 16 East 8th St. (see E.B. White above). (b.1892  d.1977) The New Yorker’s first fiction editor. She was hired in August of 1925, and shortly thereafter was involved in nearly all editorial aspects of the magazine. Listed by William Shawn as one of the four who “did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”

Alexander Woollcott E.52nd St.  (b.1887 d.1943) Wrote The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” column, also the magazine’s drama critic. He was a member of The Algonquin Round Table, and was among those listed as one of  Ross’s Advisory Editors in the first issue of The New Yorker.   He shared the 412 West 47th St address with Harold Ross and his wife, Jane Grant.  Woollcott later moved to the very far east end of East 52nd St., the place Dorothy Parker dubbed, “Wit’s End.”