Part 5 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #5 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

As we complete our look at New York City books from 80+ years ago, some of these dust jackets incorporate photography into their covers which the other dust jackets we have featured do not. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Portrait of New YorkPortrait Of New York by Felix Riesenberg & Alexander Alland, New York: Macmillan, 1939 dj illustrator, Alexander Alland

Felix Riesnberg (1879-1939) was a civil engineer and master mariner. He was a polar explorer and wrote numerous books with nautical themes. Portrait of New York ventures among the populace and is an accurate description of the city and its people.

Alexander Alland (1902-1989) was a master photographer and the book shows a small sample of his immense talents.

Art Deco dj New York Oddly EnoughNew York Oddly Enough by Charles G. Shaw, New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938 dj illustrator, Charles G. Shaw

Once again, Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974) focuses on New York City after 1931’s Nightlife. In this book he photographed unusual places and sights of New York, many of which were in danger of vanishing, such as “Cobble Court” at 1335 York Avenue and 71st Street which housed a hidden 18th century farmhouse. That house was eventually demolished in 1966 to make way for The Mary Manning Walsh Home for the Aged. The book is packed with quaint and unusual gems like this.

Art Deco dj Tammany HallTammany Hall by M.R. Werner, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928, dj illustrator, Thomas Nast

Tammany Hall, the home of the New York Democratic party machine is given a thorough examination by Morris Robert Werner (1897-1981) who highlights all the corruption that plagued city politics. Werner portrays all the Tammany leaders and their minions in the worst possible light. Born in Harlem, Werner started his career as a reporter for The New York Tribune and later wrote for The New Yorker as well. He went on to author more than a dozen books on historical figures and events.

Illustrator Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was long dead when Werner chose the dust jacket cover: a Harper’s Weekly illustration entitled, “The Tammany Tiger Loose -What are you going to do about it?” showing the Tiger slaying the Republic. Nast is the single most important illustrator of the 19th century. It was Nast’s cartoons that helped bring down Boss Tweed and his cronies through a relentless campaign of illustrations showing the corruption that plagued Tammany. As Tweed himself said, “I don’t mind them printing all those terrible things about me in the newspaper, my constituents don’t read. But they can’t help seeing those damned pictures!”

Art Deco dj A Key To New YorkA Key To New York by Rosalie Slocum & Ann Todd, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1939, dj illustrator, Rosalie Slocum Goldberg

Using pseudonyms, Rosalie Slocum Goldberg (1906-2000) and Anna Ruth Epstein Bernstein (1893-1968?) wrote this well researched guide to the city for native New Yorker’s and those just visiting the city. Besides the lists of general recreation and amusements there are several unique notations in this guide such as: where to play billiards, get a quick lunch, and listen to folk singing.

Goldberg ran an advertising agency and besides being an author was also an artist and development executive.

Anna Bernstein co-wrote several books with Goldberg.

Art Deco dj New York Fair or No FairNew York Fair or No Fair A Guide For The Woman Vacationist by Marjorie Hillis, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1939, dj illustrator, Cipe Pineles

Born in Peoria Illinois, Marjorie Hillis (1889-1971) moved to Brooklyn when she was ten and grew up a minister’s daughter. She became a staff writer for Vogue Magazine. In the 1930’s Hillis began authoring books for women from the perspective of self-sufficiency and independent money management by living on your own terms. One of her greatest sales successes was Live Alone And Like It (1936). New York Fair or No Fair with the intended pun is a guide to New York written for women who would be visiting the 1939 World’s Fair.

Cipe Pineles (1908-1991) was born in Austria and came to the United States in 1921. Pineles became one of the most acclaimed illustrators and graphic designers. She worked for many magazines including, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Vogue, Seventeen and Charm. Pineles was the first woman member of the Art Directors Club and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1975.

Art Deco dj Manhattan Side ShowManhattan Side-Show by Konrad Bercovici, New York: The Century Company, 1931, dj illustrator, Norman Borchardt

Konrad Bercovici (1881-1961) was an author who focused time and again on writing stories and books that had Gypsy related themes. Manhattan Side-Show is a tour of Manhattan from top to bottom and the people who make the island so interesting. Bercovici later became a screen writer and sued his former friend Charlie Chaplin for purloining the story of The Great Dictator (1940). Chaplin ended up paying Bercovici $95,000 in an out of court settlement.

Norman Borchardt (1891-1975) was primarily an illustrator for magazines such as Boy’s Life, Collier’s and Harper’s. He did jacket designs for a number of books in the twenties and thirties.

Art Deco dj So You're Visiting New YorkSo You’re Visiting New York by Clara E. Laughlin, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1939, dj illustrator, unknown

Native New Yorker Clara E. Laughlin (1873-1941) has an interesting authorial life story.  Unless you’ve read her autobiography, it is one that is as unknown as she is today to modern audiences.

Laughlin’s first magazine story was published when she was only 14 years old. Without attending college, at age 18, Laughlin was appointed the literary editor of The Interior Magazine a religious weekly. She soon after became an author of novels, also cutting her teeth in history, profiles and home and etiquette books. During her youth she traveled extensively. She worked with famed author James Whitcomb Riley on his book The Golden Year (1898) and struck up a lifelong friendship with him.

Laughlin hit upon a winning franchise in her writing career after she returned to France towards the end of World War I and saw first-hand the destruction of the country from the conflict. Because of her sympathetic books about Foch (1918) and The Martyred Towns of France (1919) she was a made a member of The French Legion of Honor in 1923. Enchanted with Europe and especially France with its colorful history, customs and people, she began writing pamphlets at the request of  friends of how to plan a summer in Europe with an insider’s perspective.

At the urging of a book department manager at a large Chicago store, Laughlin was urged to write a dynamic guide book to Paris. In 1924 after much rejection from publisher after publisher, “So You’re Going to Paris!: and if I Were Going With You These Are the Things I’d Invite You To Do” was published by Houghton Mifflin. It was a success and Laughlin became a 20th century Baedeker in her own right, writing travelogues to places all over the world starting with the title: So You’re Going to or So You’re Visiting; Scandinavia; England; Ireland; Italy; Spain; Rome; etc.. All this success occurred after she was fifty years old. The series did not make her wealthy but enabled her to do what she loved best, to travel and then write about it.

The New York version is a slim 84 pages packed with concise descriptions of where you should visit and tips to make your stay more enjoyable.

Art Deco dj The Night Club EraThe Night Club Era by Stanley Walker, New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1933, dj illustrator, unknown

Stanley Walker (1898-1962) was the city editor of The New York Herald Tribune from 1928-1935. Walker was a mentor to many newspapermen who learned from him the art of composing sharp sentences with pointed words. He was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the most talented editors and writers of all-time. His three books about New York all written in the 1930’s hold up very well today.

I find in general that the old newspaper writers bring forth the most entertaining books about New York. In The Night Club Era, Walker tells the rollicking story of prohibition New York where “mayors got down on hotel floors and  shot dice and everywhere was debauchery, bad taste, profligacy and cruelty.”

Celebrities of stage and screen, millionaires and professors mix with gangsters, murderers and other shady characters. It’s all true and makes for great reading

Walker unfortunately died prematurely at age 64, shooting himself with a shotgun, fearing he would not survive going under the knife for a throat cancer operation.

Gracious acknowledgment for the photographs of the books in the collection at Old New York Books.
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