In May of 1935, New Yorker founder and editor, Harold Ross sent a six word memo to Wolcott Gibbs, at one time the artists so-called hand-holder, i.e., the middleman between the cartoonists and the editors:
“Best ideas lately come from Maloney.”
“Maloney” was Russell Maloney, a Harvard graduate, who peppered the New Yorker with so many impressive cartoon ideas, Harold Ross invited him into the fold. Maloney’s stock rose fast, soon inheriting James Thurber’s position as prime Talk of the Town editor/writer. He wore many hats, contributing profiles, stories, ideas for cartoons, Talk pieces, etc., etc. – all told, an impressive amount of work in a short period of time at the magazine (he was there for eleven years, retiring at age 35. According to his obit in The New York Times, Maloney said he retired because he couldn’t keep up the pace).
One of Mahoney’s signed pieces stood out from all his contributions: “Inflexible Logic” published in the issue of February 3, 1940. The fiction piece revolved around a theory that six chimpanzees with six typewriters “just pounding away at the typewriter keys, would be bound to copy out all the books ever written by man.”
For at least one of The New Yorker’s cartoonists, Carl Rose (his drawing at the top of this post was based on a Maloney idea) the quality of Maloney’s contributions to the art department were ranked exceptionally high. From Rose’s 1946 collection, One Dozen Roses: An Album of Words and Pictures:
The two best gagmen in the world, for my money are E.B. White and Russell Maloney…for a couple of years he sold an incredible number of picture ideas to The New Yorker and has been represented anonymously by most of the regular contributors to the magazine.
Maloney died of a cerebral hemorrhage in September of 1948 at age 38. Following his retirement from The New Yorker he went on to write for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Life, and The Saturday Review (where he published “Tilley the Toiler” — a profile of The New Yorker). At the time of his death he was a radio book critic for CBS. A collection of some of his New Yorker pieces, It’s Still Maloney, or Ten Years in the Big City, came out in 1945 ( Sorry about the poor image of the book below — it appears the cover illustration is by the New Yorker cartoonist, Richard Taylor).