Al Frueh’s Stage Folk
Here’s a true oddity, and an expensive one at that: Al Frueh’s Stage Folk: A Book of Caricatures, published in 1922. A copy went for a little over a thousand bucks when sold by Hakes Auction in 2010.
I know what some of you might think: The New Yorker didn’t begin publishing until 1925, so why is a book published in 1922 of interest. Some Frueh context:
The very first cartoon in the very first issue of The New Yorker was by Al Frueh.* He was also responsible for the magazine’s second cover.** He never had another, but in his case perhaps once was enough as he was to carve out a space and a place in the magazine for nearly four decades (1925-1962) as its theatrical caricaturist (according to this Illustration Age piece, Frueh “contributed four hundred and seventy theatre caricatures and some four hundred other illustrations and cartoons for the magazine”).
His four hundred and seventy theatre caricatures brings us back to Stage Folk, published three years before Frueh began his long run at The New Yorker. As explained by Frueh himself in the Hakes copy, he hand printed all but one of the 37 prints in the book, which was limited to 500 copies. Frueh’s work in Stage Folk (which I assume appeared in the New York World, his home before The New Yorker) is the same wonderful minimalist flowing style The New Yorker readership enjoyed for so many years. Two examples from Stage Folk: below, left, Ethel Barrymore, and right, George M. Cohan.
* and **: Below left, Mr. Frueh’s drawing in the first issue of The New Yorker, February 21, 1925; below right, Frueh’s cover for the magazine’s second issue, February 28, 1925.
For those wanting more about Frueh, there’s Frueh On The Theatre: Theatrical Caricatures 1906-1962, a catalog from The New York Public Library, published in 1972 (preface by Brendan Gill).
Tim Hamilton on secret tactics.
Mr. Hamilton has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2016. Visit his website here.