Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Obscurity of the Day: The Young Lady Across the Way
The panel broke some new ground. It was single-column, a rarity in the day it was created, and it featured the malapropisms of a stylish, pretty, but slightly dim damsel, very much in the same fashion as the much later debuting Flapper Fanny, Rolls Rosie and others.
That's what I can tell you for sure. From there on, the details get a little murky. The first problem is that for the longest time I believed that the feature began in July 1913. I have two papers that started it then -- figured I was good to go. Only problem is that Alex Jay just shot a rather large hole in that theory with the information that there were two books of the cartoons published in 1908! Okay, back to the drawing board. Now my theory is that the feature was picked up for syndication by George Matthew Adams Service in 1913, but was apparently running in the Ohio State Journal at least as early as 1908*. Saying any more than that will require some microfilm research of the 1900s Ohio State Journal, which I have not reviewed as yet. I do know, however, that the feature moved from Adams to the McClure Syndicate in 1919, so I do have something worthwhile to contribute.
The next problem is the end date. The feature was never to my knowledge advertised in the E&P yearbooks for some reason, so they're no help. As best I can tell the feature stopped being produced in 1928. But that is hard to say for certain because both McClure and Adams sold off their backstock of the panels to reprint syndicates even before they stopped producing new material, and you can easily find the feature running into the 1930s in smaller papers. But the material I find in bigger papers up to 1928 looks to me like first-run material -- the references seem timely, and the reproduction isn't muddy and full of type lice, as is often the case with the reprint material.
Next question that bothers me is that I've never seen Robert Ryder credited on the panel in the newspaper -- only in the books of 1908 and 1913. So it could well be that he didn't have anything to do with it after a certain point. But I dunno. Well, hopefully Alex Jay will make up for all this uncertainty with some hard facts for us tomorrow, when his Ink-Slinger Profile of Harry Westerman is the post of the day.
* Allan sez, in 2015: I've since found a late 1907 newspaper running just the caption from a Young Lady... cartoon, so start date has been moved back another year.
Westerman kept his 'young lady' up-to-date in both fashions and drawing style. The samples shown here are all from the 20s. It would be interesting to see a 1908 sample or two if you can send scans.
Interesting that you have both of these scarce books -- was it a result of collecting the work of Westerman or Ryder?
Ryder was an editor of the Ohio State Journal, a rival to the Columbus Evening Dispatch, where Thurber worked for a few years in the early 1920s. Ryder wrote a daily column, and a Sunday one called "Round About Ohio." He also wrote paragraphs, usually consisting of humorous observations, that filled out the bottom of the page in lieu of a blank space.
As for "The Young Lady Across the Way," Kinney wrote that Ryder started the feature in the "early 1900s." Thurber even took one of his captions ("They always succeed in making a girl who is as pure as the driven snow sound less interesting than one who is no better than she ought to be") and used a variant in a 1938 New Yorker cartoon.
Thurber devoted a chapter to Ryder in "The Thurber Album," and claimed that he was as great a humorist as Mark Twain or E.B. White, which is laying it on a bit thick.