Memos From Gurney Williams

More material from my old files:

As everyone knows by now, in the Golden Age of magazine gag cartooning, Wednesday was "Look Day", when local cartoonists made the rounds in Manhattan, showing their roughs in person to Cartoon Editors. One important stop was the office of Gurney Williams, the long-time Cartoon Editor of "Look" magazine, a major market. As such, Mr. Williams was venerated and had achieved a certain amount of fame in his own right. But unquestionably one of the nicest things he ever did was to "publish" a monthly broadsheet (size 7 inches by 20 inches, printed on heavy paper stock) for cartoonists to pick up when they dropped in to see him on Wednesdays. It was entitled "Memos from Gurney Williams", had a notation of "250 Not Paid Circulation" (the number was later reduced to 200 for some reason), and it was chock full of cartoon news, stories, gossip and photos. It even had a few running cartoon panels about the funny business of magazine gag cartooning. One panel was "How Not to Get an Okay" by Stan Fine, and another was "The Rat Race" by Jack Tippit.

I don't know for how many years Gurney Williams provided this invaluable newsletter, but I have 26 copies, dating from April 1957 to August 1959, which I picked up at his office.

In the future I will be posting a lot of material from this gold mine of "Look Day" memorabilia. For starters, here are a few of Stan Fine's "How Not to Get an Okay" -- they're still funny, and appropriate, after all these years. How Not To 6.JPGHow Not To 17.JPGHow Not To 31.JPGHow Not To 20.JPG


I love reading these backstories -- how neat!

Great stuff! Would love to see more and are glad that you're going to be doing just that. Thanks, Eli!



Thanks, Bill -- it's good to see your name outside of that rarified Litkicks atmosphere.

I looked up the name Gurney Williams after it came up in a conversation I had with the son of Chon Day, creator of "Brother Sebastian". This gem of a site was one that was listed. Thanks for the background on Gurney Williams...just what I needed. And thanks for the cartoons because we can always use a good chuckle!

Thanks for that note, Helen . . . and don't think I'm not impressed by the fact that you were talking to Chon Day's son!

Just a note about the notation on circulation on Gurney Williams's newsletter. My aunt, Kay Nelson, was one of Gurney's stable of writers of domestic humor who became his friend, and I have a collection of his newsletters from her papers--that circulation figure at the head of the newsletter changed quite a bit. I particularly remember one that went something like "considerably less than 6,500,000."

Thanks for sharing that bit on the "circulation" of the newsletter, Alison. I always get a kick out of hearing from people who had some connection to the stuff I'm writing about -- even if the connection is very remote.

Eli, Don't know that my connection to "the stuff [you're] writing about" is all that remote. I'm working on a piece about my aunt, Kay Nelson, and relying all the correspondence between her and Gurney Williams. Once she cracked the LOOK market, Gurney added her to the list of those to whom he sent MEMOS, so I have copies of Memos from 1958 through the very last one that came out the month after Gurney Williams died of a heart attack in 1965. (My aunt's pieces appeared in several of them.) Williams even sent out some of these "how not to get an okay" in annual Christmas collections. As part of my work I've been going through the correspondence between Gurney Williams and my aunt, and I am bowled over by what a wonderful, wonderful editor he was.

Right you are, Alison -- remoteness is a very relative concept. I think my mind must have been clouded over with jealousy when I wrote my comment. I was jealous that you have an almost complete collection of MEMOS and I don't.
What are the chances that I could actually see copies of your MEMOS collection, and maybe even share parts of them with my blog readers?

I met Gurney Williams in his LOOK office in March 1964. I was graduating University of Michigan & editor of UM's humor magazine, Gargoyle. Gurney wrote for Gargoyle in 1929-30. Delightful all-morning talk. "I would hire you as my assistant, but this magazine isn't going to make it." What a gentleman!

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