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First and Last: Alan Dunn and The New Yorker

Today Michael Maslin corrects a couple misconceptions that have taken hold
about Alan Dunn and the cartoons he did for The New Yorker:

In my earliest days at The New Yorker it seemed to be a gospel truth that Alan Dunn was the most prolific New Yorker artist. I’ve long been fascinated by how such facts are established as fact. I suppose it could be as simple as someone offhandedly saying to a colleague in an elevator one day, “Hey, did you know that Alan Dunn was the most published cartoonist ever at The New Yorker?”  and that tidbit, overheard by a fellow elevator passenger, is passed along to a nephew, who passes it along to his mother, and so on and so on.

probably Alan Dunn's most famous drawing for The New Yorker

Perhaps Alan Dunn was the most prolific at the time of his death in 1974
as The New York Times proclaimed in their obituary of him dated May 22, 1974: 

The most prolific of New Yorker cartoonists, Mr. Dunn was represented by 1,906 drawings and nine covers published between Aug. 7, 1926 and the issue of May 6, 1974, when his most recent work…appeared.

He left behind other cartoons, and a spokesman for The New Yorker said they, too, would probably find their way into the magazine’s pages.

I like this aside in the obit about Alan Dunn:

Unlike many other cartoonists, [James] Geraghty [the former art director of the magazine] noted, Mr. Dunn never drew an idea that wasn’t his own. He spurned the offering of gag writers and changes in his wording.


It seems both the “most prolific” and the “1906” have been written into the history books
with no consideration for subsequent years.

Michael Maslin informs us that in the decades after Alan Dunn’s death others have surpassed his record, and that old (now non-) record should have nearly four score added to the 1906 number:

Alan Dunn had 1,981 cartoons published and 9 covers. For Mr. Dunn, those numbers are nothing to sneeze at. He sits comfortably at the top of the list of most published New Yorker artists, along with James Stevenson, Lee Lorenz, and of course, Steig. I can’t say for sure who is #1, #2, #3, and #4 at this point in time because the database ends in February of 2005. At that time Steig was #1, Stevenson #2, Dunn #3, and Lorenz #4. Mr. Lorenz went on to publish many more drawings after 2005. I should point out that James Stevenson’s total New Yorker contributions (he wrote for the magazine as well as contributed covers and cartoons) places him at #1, but we’re only concerning ourselves with art here on the Spill.  

Michael’s column about Alan Dunn also presents his last published New Yorker cartoon.

All of this Dunn/Petty business came about this evening because I (finally) wondered what Dunn’s last published New Yorker drawing was, and when it appeared (I find firsts and lasts interesting). At the top of this post is Mr. Dunn’s 1,981st New Yorker drawing, published in the issue of September 16, 1974.


But Michael disappointed when he didn’t give us Alan Dunn’s first New Yorker cartoon from the August 7, 1926 issue. Some searching came up with the cartoon from Defining New Yorker Humor (page 209).

all drawings © Condé Nast

After reading Maslin’s appreciation  you may want to stroll through the Alan Dunn New Yorker cartoons and covers at the Condé Nast Store.


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