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First and Last – James Thurber & The New Yorker

James Thurber‘s first drawings appeared in the The New Yorker dated ninety years ago today.

In the New Yorker issue dated February 22, 1930 a short James Thurber contribution included two illustrations, the first Thurber drawings to appear in the magazine.

[James Thurber’s words first appeared in the February 26, 1927 New Yorker, but since prose and poetry have no import here we’ll ignore those. So why do I own a half dozen Thurber books?]

There seems to be some disagreement over whether the above drawings constitute cartoons. A New Yorker State of Mind, where the above screenshot comes from, calls them cartoons; whereas others disagree, calling them spot art. Cartoonist and New Yorker cartoon historian Michael Maslin claims the first real Thurber cartoon appeared in the January 3, 1931 issue (below).


As a bonus, here’s Thurber’s fist New Yorker cover (a cartoon):


Michael Maslin also gives us Thurber’s last New Yorker cartoon from the issue of March 23, 1946.

Michael has to inform us about other, later cartoons though:

Now before I get sympathetic emails telling me I’m woefully misinformed, and that Thurber’s drawings were appearing in the magazine well into the late 1950s, let me explain…

Which brings us to the last original James Thurber drawing for the New Yorker.

The very last original Thurber drawing to appear in the magazine was a spot of two men boxing (November 1, 1947).

above: not all together sure this is the last Thurber spot art.

That last bit of Thurber art comes from Literary Hub, where they reprint Dorothy Parker’s delightful (you expect less from Dorothy?) introduction to Thurber’s The Seal in the Bedroom and Other Predicaments. (Notice that the LitHub caption has a different date for the above ‘last’ drawing. Did I grab the wrong image for a last?)


The most recent Thurber book:


Since I invoked cartoonist Michael Maslin‘s name, he has returned the favor(?) by expounding on (and correcting me on) what is a cartoon versus what is a drawing versus what is spot art in The New Yorker.
A delightful and informative read.


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