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!

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty in Pink: The New Yorker’s 25th Anniversary Album; More Spills: Moore Tweets Out a Ziegler… More Soglow

Judging by what I’ve noticed over many years of visiting used book stores, The New Yorker 25th Anniversary Album must have been the most popular in the series of their cartoon anthologies. This is the one you’re likely to find if you find any at all. Bonus: it’s easily found online for just a few bucks. The Album sports a series of firsts on the cover: the first time a monochrome Eustace Tilley appeared on an Album (the next time he would appear this close to so much solid color was on the magazine’s 60th Anniversary issue.  Then editor, Tina Brown presented Eustace surrounded by, um, gold). 

The 25th Album was the first to reproduce a number of full cartoons on the cover (minus the captions, which due to the size of each cartoon shown, would’ve been virtually impossible to read without a magnifying glass. The exception is John Held, Jr.’s work where the text is within the piece).  And it was the first to be divided into sections: The Late Twenties, The Early Thirties, The Late Thirties, The Early Forties, and The Late Forties.

All the big names are here, of course, and so are some of the most memorable cartoons in the magazine’s history, including Thurber’s Seal in the Bedroom, Addams’ skier, and Arno’s “Well, back to the old drawing board.”  This is the Album for anyone who has heard about the New Yorker‘s Golden Age, and wants to know what all the fuss was about.

The design of the book is excellent, with paper of good quality, allowing for Gluyas Williams’ masterpieces, run full page, to glow.  Arno’s brushstrokes look as if he just swept them across the page fifteen minutes ago. On the pages where a number of cartoons appear, the layout is handled with great care, never too busy; each page was obviously fussed over by someone (or someones) who knew what they were doing. Just look at the graphic balancing act directly below:

The contributors are a Who’s Who of the magazine’s pantheon of great artists, including the founders, and the ones who showed up while Harold Ross was still messing around with the ingredients.  Steig’s Small Fry are here, as is Soglow’s Little King.  Helen Hokinson’s Club Ladies are generously presented, as are spreads by Rea Irvin, and and and…gee willikers, so much more (to see more scroll down to the back cover’s list of artists).  This is one of the very best Albums of cartoons the magazine ever produced (as another 67 years have passed since its publication it shares the top shelf with a few others). 

The flap text (above) reminds us that the cartoons are a record of the times. I’ll go along with that. As the magazine moves closer to its 100th year it’s essential for the cartoons to change with the times and reflect the times. I expect that the Introduction to The New Yorker’s 100th Anniversary Album will express something close to that sentiment, if not exactly that.

If you’ve read Genius In Disguise, Thomas Kunkel’s great biography of Harold Ross, you might remember that book’s prologue has a wonderful section devoted to the party at the Ritz-Carleton celebrating the New Yorker‘s 25th Anniversary. It was a party, wrote Kunkel, “celebrating accomplishment, about creating something of enduring importance.”  

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Michael Moore Tweeted out a drawing this morning by the late Jack Ziegler that’s right on the money (so to speak):

— My thanks to Bruce Eric Kaplan for bringing this to the Spill’s attention.

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…A lot More Soglow

Attempted Bloggery has posted a cart full of rare Otto Soglow drawings (some of them are what used to be referred to as “naughty” — nowadays we’d call them not-PC. ) 

 

 

Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Pt. 22: John Held, Jr.; More Booth!

Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Pt. 22: John Held, Jr.

I know, I know… you woke up this morning wondering if John Held, Jr., who became famous for his drawings of flappers in and on the cover of the pre-Luce Life ever did advertising work.  Well courtesy of Warren Bernard‘s detective work, we have some examples of Mr. Held’s commercial work. My thanks to Mr. Bernard for sharing his findings with Ink Spill.

New Yorker readers who have dipped into the magazine’s cartoon anthologies or looked through ancient issues would certainly have come across Mr. Held’s work — but it wasn’t the style that brought him fame. His New Yorker work looks like this:

  Harold Ross, the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor (who met Held in high school when they both worked on the school newspaper,The Red and Black)  wanted Held in his new magazine, but he didn’t want Held’s famous flapper style work. According to Thomas Kunkel, in his magnificent biography of Ross, Genius in Disguise:

“Ross and [Rea] Irvin eschewed his [Held’s] overexposed flappers, instead publishing his contemporary twists on the Gay Nineties woodcuts Ross had loved as a boy.”

So what you see here are examples of Held’s non-New Yorker style. The Ovington Gift Shop ad was published during the heart of the Roaring 20s (1926), and the others were published in 1929 — the year that ended so badly.

Here’s John Held, Jr.’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

John Held, Jr. (Pictured above. Source: Sketchbook of American Humorists, 1938) Born, January 10, 1889, Salt Lake City, Utah. Died, 1958, Belmar, New Jersey. New Yorker work: April 11, 1925 – Sept. 17, 1932.

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More Booth!

Mike Lynch and Jane Mattimoe have posted pieces about the wonderful George Booth exhibit at The Society of Illustrators.  The exhibit, as you can see in the poster, is up now and will run through the end of this year. Do not miss!

 

 

 

Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Part 12: Gluyas Williams

According to Genius in Disguise , Thomas Kunkel’s must-read biography of The New Yorker’s founder and first editor, Harold Ross, Gluyas Williams “was the artistic equivalent of E.B. White, in that to Ross (and to thousands of fans) he simply could do no wrong.”

In that same book (pp. 333-335) there’s a fun section about Ross’s “secret” project: running Mr. William’s Wedding series (16 drawings) all at once in the magazine. It appeared in the issue of June 5, 1948.

Note: All of the scans (except for the Absolut Vodka campaign)  in this on-going series of ads by New Yorker cartoonists are courtesy of SPX’s Executive Director, Warren Bernard.  

 

 

 

 

 

Dates of ads: Log Cabin Syrup, 1934; GE, 1941; Texaco, 1942; McCreery & Co., 1926; Bristol Brass, 1945. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Williams’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

Gluyas Williams (photo above) Born, San Francisco, 1888. Died, Boston, Mass., 1982. One of the pillars of Harold Ross’s stable of artists, and one of Ross’s favorite cartoonists. His beautiful full page drawings were a regular feature in the magazine. Mr. Williams illustrated a number of Robert Benchley’s collections, providing the cover art as well as illustrations. NYer work: March 13, 1926 – Aug 25, 1951. Key collections: The Gluyas Williams Book ( Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929), The Gluyas Williams Gallery (Harper, 1956). Website: http://www.gluyaswilliams.com/

Harold Ross & “Specific People” New Yorker Covers

 

Irvin Nov '41

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was leafing through Thomas Kunkel’s book, Letters From the Editor (the Editor: The New Yorker’s founder and first editor, Harold Ross) when I came upon the one letter in the book to Rea Irvin (Irvin was The New Yorker’s art consultant from the magazine’s inception through 1952).  Written in May of 1942, Ross’s letter concerned a recently purchased cover of Irvin’s. It reads, in part:

Irvin:

I put through the Halloween cover with Hitler, although it violates my solemn stand about no more specific people on covers.

Ross

 Ross’s mentioning “no more specific people on covers” meant that there had to have been previous New Yorker covers with specific people, or at least one cover with a specific person. Curious, I took The Complete Book of Covers from The New Yorker off the shelf and began looking at the magazine’s covers, beginning with the very first New Yorker cover –- you know the one: Irvin’s very own top-hatted dandy commonly referred to as Eustace Tilley. Paging through the book I didn’t find a “specific person” cover until I arrived at the issue of November 22, 1941. A child at the door of a wealthy home is sporting a Hitler mask. The artist: Rea Irvin.

The next issue with a specific person is the cover Ross referred to in the May ’42 letter to Irvin. It’s a Halloween themed cover (the issue is dated October 31, 1942) and again Hitler is the specific person -– this time he’s a witch.

Irvin: OCt 31 '42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paging through the years and all those magnificent covers, it wasn’t until July 15, 1944 that another cover with a specific person (in this case it’s persons) presented itself. The subject matter: D-Day. Besides President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery, there again was Hitler. The artist: Rea Irvin.

Irvin's DDay Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that was the end of the string of specific people on New Yorker covers in Ross’s lifetime (he died December 6, 1951), unless you count Santa Claus, Abe Lincoln, and busts of philosophers.

 

Reading Ross’s letter was also a reminder of how The New Yorker has completely turned around, specific-people–on-the-cover-wise from those long ago days. A look back at just the past three years turns up close to 25 specific people covers. The specific people represented include the Pope, President Obama (numerous covers), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Nelson Mandela, Derek Jeter, President Putin, Anthony Wiener, Mitt Romney…well, you get the idea.