The Definitive Dwiggins no. 11—Woman’s Home Companion (December 1932)
At the second Heller Fili book sale (see my earlier post) I was astonished at the range of magazines they have collected. Along with the obvious titles (copies of Print, Eye, Fortune, Fact, etc.), there was also Modern Priscilla, Youth’s Companion, The Delineator, Woman’s Home Companion and much more. When I saw these titles I picked through the issues in the wild hope that I might ﬁnd an issue with work by W.A. Dwiggins in it. No such luck with the ﬁrst three titles, but I struck pay dirt with the fourth.
There was a copy, with several pages cut up, of the December 1932 issue of Woman’s Home Companion, an issue that I had been looking for in libraries and online without success. In it were seven small designs that were unmistakably by Dwiggins, even though they were neither signed nor credited. There may have been others among the items cut out of the magazine by whoever owned it prior to Heller and Fili.
Here is one of the designs. I have chosen this one to show because the illustration is reminiscent, both in style and content, of several Christmas cards that Dwiggins designed in the years from 1908 to 1910. While the drawing still has an old-fashioned air to it, the lettering shows the maturation Dwiggins had undergone as a designer in the intervening two decades. It also has a small sample of the stencil-based ornaments he had begun to create in the mid-1920s.
The greeting cards were two of many items that Dwiggins designed for Alfred Bartlett, a Boston publisher and pioneer of the greeting card as a genre. The card with the three musicians was later used by Willis A. Boughton, an assistant chemistry professor in the Chemical Laboratory of Harvard College who wrote poetry and dramas on the side. In 1915 he was also a stockholder in The Poetry Journal, whose ofﬁces were at 67 Cornhill, next door to those Dwiggins had occupied until September of that year. But Boughton did not commission the card directly from Dwiggins. Instead C.F. Whitmarsh acted as the intermediary, but how he and Boughton knew each other is a mystery.