It 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).
Note: A Case For Pencils asked me to participate in a survey of tools of the trade. You can see it here.
The holiday season reminds me of the Algonquin Hotel, and once reminded I only have to look across my desk to the snowglobe pictured above. It was given to me years ago by friends who stayed at the hotel for a day or two.
I threw together the little scene above for Ink Spillers. The snowglobe sits atop Margaret Case Harriman’s Vicious Circle: The Story of The Algonquin Roundtable (Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1951. Illustrated by the late great Al Hirschfeld). Behind the globe is Frank Case’s Tales Of A Wayward Inn (Garden City Publishing, Inc., 1941. With seven illustrations, including one by James Thurber and another by Covarrubias ). My thanks to Jack Ziegler for adding Wayward Inn to our collection many moons ago. The Empire State Building and Chrysler Building are Times Square souvenirs. I found the tin Yellow Cab someplace years ago. There’s a sign on the trunk: “Always Be Careful Crossing Streets” — excellent advice then and now.
The mention of the Algonquin brings to mind a flood some of the biggest and brightest names associated with the earliest and earlier years of The New Yorker: Harold Ross, Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Benchley, E.B. White, and Thurber, who made the place his second home when he wasn’t at his “great good place” in Connecticut. It was in the Algonquin lobby that Thurber and another of the magazine’s giants, Peter Arno, met for the last time just before Thurber’s death. And of course it was where William Shawn went for his cereal and orange juice lunch every week day during his long tenure as editor.
For those wanting much more on the Algonguin and its part in The New Yorker’s story, there are the books in the photo (Frank Case owned the Algonguin), as well as Thomas Kunkel’s terrific biography of Harold Ross, Genius in Disguise (Random House, 1995). There are plenty of other books with tales of the Algonquin — too many to mention at the moment. I will however note a few more books that go right to the heart of the matter:
Wit’s End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table by James R. Gaines (Booksurge Publishing, 2007)
The Algonquin Wits Edited by Robert E. Drennan (The Citadel Press, 1985)
The Lost Algonquin Round Table Edited by Nat Benchley and Kevin C. Fitzpatrick (iUniverse, Inc., 2009)