Monday, December 17, 2007

Less Edward Tufte, More Don Martin

A New York Times blog post on holiday tipping linked to a gem from the Times archives, its own ancestor from 1911.

The most striking feature of the article, which appeared on page six of the magazine section, is the large political cartoon-like illustration in the center (drawn by Reginald Russom, who evidently went on to help found what later became the Australian Cartoonists' Association.) From what I've noticed, while the Times Magazine still employs plenty of illustrations, they're mostly charts and graphs; when there's a lead image that's not a more or less realist photograph of the article's subject, it tends to be a photo like this one.

I love how one old newspaper article can shed light on:

  • Other concerns of the period (the legality of a state (or city?)-wide income tax debate was argued before the State Supreme Court)
  • Typical incomes and wages (a bit over $1M/yr in 2006 dollars is their example income for a "well-bred" New Yorker)
  • Types of service-sector employees one might utilize (such as elevator boy, charwoman, furnaceman, telephone operator, milkman, and stenographer, in addition to less remarkable professions)
  • Things that one might fear malfunctioning in an apartment (how little some things change; here we have the electric buzzer, hot water, windows (by the glass being broken, not routine mechanical failure), and mail delivery)

Maybe this is still routine in Manhattan, at least in the more highfalutin co-ops, but I also found it noteworthy that the building's management was expected to send you candidates if you wanted to sublet your apartment (but watch out; if you anger your super by not tipping around Christmas, he might send "several negroes and a Chinaman" your way!)

When I first got Times archives access (by subscribing to TimesSelect back in the day), I trawled the archives, there's a lot of good stuff there. If anyone else has a favorite, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.