The Making Of A Magazine: A Potted History

Mention The New Yorker and it’s highly likely the image, or one of the first images, that pops into one’s mind is of Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley, the magazine’s mascot.  He appeared on the inaugural issue of the magazine dated February 21, 1925, and on every anniversary issue until Tina Brown broke the streak in 1994 by publishing R. Crumb’s Elvis Tilley. 

Those fond of New Yorker history may know that the magazine was nearly killed after just four months of publication; barely anyone was reading it, and what advertising there was was drying up.  The magazine’s founder and editor, Harold Ross, seeing a need to fill space on the inside cover, summoned one of his writers, Corey Ford, to discuss the problem.  Ford described the moment in his memoir, The Time Of Laughter:

In his impulsive way, he called me into his office and began jangling coins and pacing the floor.  Could I do a series of promotion ads to fill the goddamn inside cover? Rea Irvin thought I might burlesque those house organ brochures about publishing a magazine.  Have the first one by tomorrow? Done and done. God bless you.

The result was a twenty part series called The Making of a Magazine.  The first one ran in the August 8 issue:

You’ll notice the illustration, by Johan Bull, shows a little top hatted fellow, who is identified as “Our Mr. Tilley.” We have to wait until the second in a series (the issue of August 15th) to learn his full name: “… Mr. Eustace Tilley.” Tilley was to be the readers tour guide through Ford’s twenty installments, pointing out the various departments needed to turn out The New Yorker.

More from Corey Ford:

The New Yorker‘s man-of-all-work, who personally supervised all these departments, was Mr. Eustace Tilley. (“Tilley” was the name of a maiden aunt, and I chose “Eustace” because it sounded euphonious.) In Johan Bull’s illustrations, he appeared as a silk-hat dude, with morning coat and striped trousers and a monocle, based on the figure in Rea Irvin’s anniversary cover. In time Irvin’s creation became known as Eustace Tilley…

The series ended in the issue of January 2, 1926.  The cover, by Rea Irvin, bore Tilley himself (a coincidence?) coming ala a cuckoo bird, through the clock’s double doors.

In that final installment, Ford ends with this reveal:

In the very same year, bound copies of The Making Of A Magazine appeared. The Spill archive is not fortunate enough to have one (shown at the top of this post is a charming small — 4″ x 6″ — promotional paper version gifted to the Spill ), so I’m showing a scan from AbeBooks, where a copy can be had, signed by Ford, for $1,000.00. 

Now if you don’t want to spring for that copy, or the few others listed at lesser prices ($750.00 – $375.00), you can, believe it or not,  buy a modern copy (shown below) on AbeBooks for $7.57. You’ll notice this issue is part of a series, “Forgotten Books” and the book is by “Author Unknown”  — hmmm, do we laugh or cry, or sniff, Tilley-like?  

Below: Johan Bull’s last Tilley in the last of the series:

 

 

Making a Splash at Esquire

 

 

 

 

I found something I was looking for the other day: a log of cartoons I kept in my nascent years of cartooning.  Looking through I realized that the only drawings I sold in the Fall of 1977 — right after breaking into The New Yorker — were to Esquire. During that year Esquire was being retooled by its new owner, Clay Felker, whose long career in magazine publishing included founding New York magazine.

Following the purchase of five of my cartoons, I was summoned uptown to Esquire’s offices to meet Clay Felker and Milton Glaser, who was redesigning the magazine. I don’t know why I was called in –- my memory is that it was a meet and greet and not really a meeting about cartoons. The old Esquire had a long history of publishing cartoons; the current thinking must’ve been that they’d continue the tradition.

Sometime after my meeting, I received, via mail, the bought cartoons.  The legendary Harvey Kurtzman ( their cartoon editor, I suppose – it wasn’t made clear to me) included notes for me to follow as I did finishes for what the editors assumed were rough drawings (I thought they were already finished).   Harvey had taped tracing paper over the drawings with his penciled edit instructions pointing to the required changes.  He also told me I needed to put overlays on my work and add some kind of ink as wash (he was precise about the ink, I just don’t remember what it was called).  I’d never heard of overlays, but my local art supply store was more than happy to sell me some. I was in the process of learning what to do with these overlays and the inky substance when word came to me that Esquire had decided not to use cartoons after all. Although there was the following in the notification: “We will continue to run cartoon material, such as strips and an occasional feature…” the Esquire single panel cartoon was history.

I must’ve sent some of my overlay attempts back to Esquire — only one remains in my files. I include it here, with and without the overlay. I’m still not sure what that red inky stuff is that I splashed all over the overlay. Whatever it was, it was more than I could handle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal History: Work Wall

I’ve always worked at home, sometimes in a dedicated corner of the living room, sometimes using the arm of any old comfortable chair as a desk. But for many years I worked in a converted 6′ x 8′ laundry room. My desk faced a wall, part of which is shown above.  One day, after about twenty years of working in front of that wall, I felt I needed open space, and so I picked up my Rapidograph and a small stack of bond paper, then walked fifteen feet or so into our living room and set up shop at a table with no wall in front of me.

I left my old work area completely intact — a stack of bond paper still rests in its usual place —  and every so often I return to work there (I’m working there now).  What you see above is fragment of the wall above my desk. The collection of cartoons has always been a kind of rotating mini-gallery. There are a lot of New Yorker materials on the shelves (mixed in with childhood train set buildings, metal toys, art made by my kids, etc., etc.).  Just for fun, I’ve provided a key to anything New Yorker-related (and a few not)

1.  Joe Dator New Yorker original drawing. Published February 28, 2011.

2.  Stan Hunt original drawing.  Publishing history unknown. The fellow on the porch swing is saying to the woman: “Darling, your eyes are like dark limpid pools! …What’s the matter, aren’t you getting enough sleep?”  Mr. Hunt contributed to The New Yorker from 1956 though 1990.

3. Charlie Hankin original drawing. Unpublished. The sign on the lawn reads “Beware of Clam”

4. George Booth original. Titled Dog, Chair, and Chicken. Unpublished. Mr. Booth drew this in The New Yorker‘s cartoon department a few years ago while being filmed. Luckily, Liza Donnelly was also there being filmed.  Mr. Booth generously handed the drawing to her when filming wrapped. 

5. E.B. White’s The Lady Is Cold.  His first book. This became the subject of an Ink Spill piece.

6. Batman Giant No. 182.  In the late 1960s,  when my family moved from one end of town to the other end, only two comic books of my vast comic book collection made the transition (sad, I know). This is one of them.

7. The New Yorker Album.  Published in 1928 by Doubleday, Doran & Co. The very first New Yorker cartoon album.

8. A Rox Chast letter from the pre-personal computer days, probably late 1980s. In this New Yorker cartoon crowd, exchanged letters were usually illustrated.  I’m especially fond of this one because of the White Castle drawing at the very top (it’s possible my White Castle coffee mug made an impression on her).

9. We’ll Show You The Town. A 1934 promotional book from The New Yorker‘s business  department. You can see a little more about this if you go to the From the Attic section of the Spill and scroll down.

10. What! No Pie Charts?  An undated promotional book from The New Yorker‘s business department. Profusely illustrated by Julien de Miskey. As the copy refers to the magazine’s original address as 25 West 45th Street, we can safely assume this was published pre mid-1930s.

11. The American Mercury. August 1948.  Up on the shelf because of the great cover of the magazine’s founder and first editor, Harold Ross along with a re-drawn (i.e., non Rea Irvin) Eustace Tilley. The cover story “Ross Of The New Yorker” by Allen Churchill is a good read.

12. Curtain Calls of 1926. From the title page:

In which a few choice rare bits that have occasionally appeared in the pages of The New Yorker repeat themselves.

This is a lovely little book spotlighted on the Spill in July of 2013. Rea Irvin did the Tilley drawing on the cover.

13. Batman In Detective Comics Vol. 1 (Abbeville Press 1993).  Covering the first 25 years.  Vol. 2 is sitting right behind it. 

14. A Thurber Garland. Published by Hamish Hamilton in 1955.

15. The Making Of A Magazine. Undated. A promotional booklet collecting some, but not all of Corey Ford’s pieces. Drawings by Johan Bull.   Link here for more info.

16. James Thurber’s New York Times obit, dated November 3, 1961. The headline reads: James Thurber Is Dead At 66; Writer Was Also A Comic Artist . I’ll say!    Read more here on the Spill’s morgue.

***unnumbered, appearing just below #6’s Batman Giant, and the toy helicopter, is Otto Soglow’s Little King pull toy.  You can see it close up in the From the Attic section.

 

Book Of Interest: Corey Ford’s Time Of Laughter; Today’s New Yorker Daily Cartoonist Is Michael Shaw

Here’s an interesting read, published in 1967 by Little, Brown. Corey Ford’s The Time Of Laughter: A Sentimental Chronicle of the Twenties — The Humor and the Humorists.

Ford will be forever remembered (I hope!) as the fellow who gave name to the New Yorker‘s top hatted butterfly inspecting dandy, Eustace Tilley. Here’s Ford talking about naming Tilley:

The New Yorker’s man-of-all-work…was Mr. Eustace Tilley. (“Tilley” was the name of a maiden aunt, and I chose “Eustace” because it sounded euphonious.) In Johan Bull’s illustrations [for Ford’s New Yorker series “The Making of a Magazine”] he appeared as a silk hat dude, with morning coat and striped trousers and monocle, based on the figure in Rea Irvin’s anniversary cover. In time Irvin’s creation became known as Eustace Tilley, and “Our Man Tilley” showed up now and then in the “Talk” section. Ross even listed a private telephone under Tilley’s name. During the guerilla war between The New Yorker and Luce publications, Time appropriated Eustace Tilley as a member of its own editorial staff, but he was hastily dropped when Ross threatened suit for plagiarism.”

You could, of course, read the whole book (it’s easily found online), but if you want to dive right into Ford’s New Yorker material I direct your attention to Chapter 6 (My Ugly Roomer) and beyond.

Above: The promotional pamphlet collecting most of Ford’s The Making of a Magazine

For an overview, here’s the Wikipedia page for Mr. Ford.

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Today’s New Yorker Daily Cartoon

Today’s Daily cartoon (Trump-centric, but of course) is by the terrific New Yorker cartoonist, Michael Shaw. Mr. Shaw began contributing to The New Yorker in 1999. Link here to The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Bank site to see more of his work.

Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated; More Von Riegen, and Some Corey Ford

 

 

 

It’s good to see those anonymous critics, Max and Simon, are staying the course and digging into the cartoons appearing in each and every new issue of The New Yorker. This week they look at (and rate) cartoons featuring, among other things, a snail, a yodeler, a proud woodsman, subway rats, and some gangsters wearing matching pants and shirts. 

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And swinging back over to Attempted Bloggery, the William Von Riegen material keeps on-comin. I like that this book jacket cover featuring Mr. Von Riegen’s art was featured.  One of the book’s co-authors is Corey Ford, who will be no stranger to New Yorker history buffs (he gave name to Eustace Tilley).  Here’s the very rare book containing the Making of a Magazine pieces Mr. Ford contributed to the New Yorker in its infancy (this is a screen grab — the book is, alas, not in the Spill’s library, although a promotional booklet of the material, donated by a generous collector, is).  

You can read Mr. Ford’s pieces here