"These New Yorkers were a cultural lifeline for Florence Firstenberg Alper. Born in Brooklyn during the early 1920s, she spent her young adult years in the whirlwind of New York City. She was a fashion editor at Cue Magazine in the 1940s and knew her way around town.

After her marriage in 1949, she drove across the continent with her beloved and settled in Los Angeles. Other than the mesmerizing sounds of West Coast jazz on Central Avenue, Los Angeles offered little to replace the pizzazz of New York City. To keep a finger on the pulse of her old haunts, Florence subscribed to the New Yorker shortly after arriving in LA. She read the magazine faithfully until a few years before her death in 2017 at the age of 95.

Many of her earliest New Yorkers are here; perhaps they'll enliven your days as they did for Florence."


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In the beginning
The New Yorker was founded in 1925 by Harold W. Ross, former editor of Stars and Stripes with financial backing from Raoul Fleischmann. The Associate Editor was Russell Maloney, who wed child star Miriam Battista in 1938.

Located a stone's throw from the Algonquin Hotel at 25 West 43rd Street (until 1990), the New Yorker's inaugural issue on February 13, 1925 cost just 15 cents and sold 15,000 copies. Subsequent issues didn't fare so well and Harold W. Ross (who famously touted that it was not edited "for the little old lady from Dubuque.") made some changes and within time, the New Yorker soon attracted sophisticated readers throughout Gotham. By 1926, the magzine was already considered 'in vogue'.

One of the most iconic features of the magazine would be an illustration. Created by Rea Irvin, the symbolic caricature of a monocle-wearing Regency-era dandy (given the name Eustace Tilley) has endured to this day.

The venerable magazine employed a vast array of writers and artists over the years, among them; James Thurber, E. B. White, S. J. Perelman, Kenneth Tynan, Garrison Keillor, James Baldwin, Wolcott Gibbs, Dorothy Parker, Charles Addams, Peter Arno, Virginia Woolf, Woody Allen and cartoonist Ralph Barton, who sadly took his life in 1931 at his Manhattan penthouse.

Among the vast array of notable writers was film critic Pauline Kael, who joined the magazine in 1968. One newspaper wrote at the time: "Hollywood producers are shuddering at the news Pauline Kael is one of the two new movie critics for the New Yorker. Miss K. has a reputation for only liking pictures made in Italy on a $20,000 budget, using a hand-held camera."

The magazine editorially reflects the smugness that is typically New Yorkish. It has a jeer for the provinces and a cheerio for almost everything bearing the Manhattan trade-mark. And it thrives on this sort of sophistication. April 17, 1928. O.O. McIntyre. Times Herald.

During the mid-1940's the magazine increased its coverage of world affairs and in 1946, famously devoted an entire issue to John Heresy's article on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. For the magazine's 25th anniversary in 1950, one newspaper wrote, "It's influence has extended far beyond its 325,000 circulation. It has had more than 200 imitators, none successful. It has affected journalism and fiction, notably the short story."

The magazine hadn't lost any potency upon reaching its 40th anniversary. Sticking to a longstanding format of no photographs or promotion, circulation grew to approximately 466,000. In fact the New Yorker carried more advertising than any other magazine in circulation at that time, quite a feat given it's 248 pages per issue limit.

According to a February 1965 article by Richard Whalen ("Haughty New Yorker"), the magazine "did not accept advertising for medicines, deodorants, yogurt, vitamins, and foundation garments; superlatives must be proven or crossed out". That year, a full-page color advertisement cost $5,550 and a yearly subscription was eight dollars - in cash and in advance.

By the late-1980's, the "the weekly magazine most educated Americans grew up on", hit a rough patch. Competing with frenetic publications like People and Spy, the veteran magazine was considered a dinosaur. Many of its writers moved on and advertising took a hit - no surprise given the long held view that the magazine was less concerned about circulation, revenues and advertising, and more about creating a forum for literary giants, at any cost.

Condé Nast takes control
But in what turned out to be prudent move, the owners agreed to sell to Condé Nast owner S.I. Newhouse Jr. for almost $200 million in 1985. The fabled weekly would now join other Newhouse operations including Mademoiselle, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Vogue and GQ. Other holdings under the Newhouse umbrella included newspapers as well as the publishing houses Alfred A. Knopf and Random House.

William Shawn is out
One pivotal repercussion of the new ownership saw the unwelcome removal of longtime editor William Shawn (rumors of his alleged retirement were widely reported). The reclusive and much-admired Chicago native started with the magazine in 1933, becoming managing editor six years later. After the death of founding editor Harold Ross in 1952, the camera-shy William Shawn was appointed editor.

In the dedication to his novel Franny and Zooey, author and New Yorker contributor J.D. Salinger called his friend William Shawn "the genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born-great artist editors."

But like the magazine itself, Shawn had his fair share of critics over the years, none more vocal than author Tom Wolfe. In his 1965 two-part series for New York titled "Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street's Land of the Walking Dead", Wolfe characterized Shawn as "the museum curator, the mummifier, the preserver-in-amber, the smiling embalmer..."

Shawn's departure was not taken well by the magazine's loyal staff, many of whom were overcome with emotion when Shawn announced the news of his replacement. Perhaps not so shocking to New York Daily News columnist Liz Smith, who offered a more somber take: "Those pampered, self-indulgent, well-cushioned refugees from the hard life of publishing just can't get with the idea that this is 1987, the Algonquin Roundtable is gone, William Shawn - as great as he is - has served his time, and this incredibly important magazine, almost an anachronism, must survive under a dynamic and younger outlook."

And indeed it did. Toward the late 1980's, the New Yorker's revamping also included various changes; swapping the traditional mailing wrapper from clear plastic to recyclable brown paper, the inclusion of four-letter words, implementing photographs and printing cartoons in color.

Talk of the Town
Once the height of Jazz-Age sophistication, Vanity Fair magazine returned in 1983 as a slick, glossy magazine for the "new elite" - at a cost of anywhere between $10 and $15M for new owner Si Newhouse. Efforts to catch the sparkle and excitement of the 80's proved difficult. After only a few issues, critics were unkind and two editors had been given their walking papers; Richard Locke and Leo Lerman respectively.

Taking the reigns was British-born editor Tina Brown, formerly with society magazine The Tatler. While beneficial changes were made, the magazine was losing money and by 1985, Newhouse was looking to call it quits.

Enter Nancy and Ronald Reagan. Agreeing to be featured for the struggling Vanity Fair, the President and First Lady took part in a photoshoot at the White House. Behind the lens was acclaimed photographer Harry Benson and orchestrating this last gasp for the magazine was editor Tina Brown. With Si Newhouse calling last rites on the plush magazine, Brown implored him to hold out just a bit longer. That turned out to be good advice.

The June 1985 issue of Vanity Fair featured a photo spread of the Reagans in addition to featuring them on the cover. The issue became a hot item on the newsstand. The glitzy Vanity Fair would be resuscitated and went on to become a 1980's success story.

After putting her stamp on Vanity Fair, the gossip-loving Tina Brown was looking to move. And in 1992, Tina Brown became the New Yorker's fourth and only female editor, replacing Robert Gottlieb, who stepped down over "conceptual differences". Her move was met with skepticism by those who saw her as "the woman who scandalized traditionalists as she turned Vanity Fair into publishing's most gaudy '80s success story..."

In a statement, Brown said she felt "honored and challenged" and added, "It is my intention to preserve The New Yorker's literary and intellectual standards, to contribute to its reputation, and to introduce it to a new generation of readers."

And while the New Yorker enjoyed a turnaround, Brown had her detractors. Purists argued the provocative editor dragged the magazine down the path of sex and celebrity worship. Nevertheless, during her time, the magazine nabbed various awards ("Ellies") at the National Magazine Awards between 1995 and 1998. In fact, the New Yorker had won 21 times since the awards were instituted in 1967.

But despite an enticing new five-year contract, Tina Brown abruptly exited in 1998 and headed West to start a new-media venture with Disney-owned Miramax Films. A year later, Brown launched her glossy gossip periodical The Talk.

Following Tina Brown's departure, the magazine appointed its fifth editor, former staff writer and author, David Remnick - who still leads the charge today.


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