On this day, a hundred and twenty-eight years ago, Rea Irvin was born in a Californian town named San Francisco. A hundred and three years ago, Irvin traveled to the East Coast to assist in a birth that occurred eighty-four years ago—the founding of The New Yorker.
Thomas Edison invented the Kinetoscope as well as the lightbulb, and Rea Irvin did more than simply create the Eustace Tilley cover portrait.
Irvin lent his good taste and good sense towards the creation of The New Yorker’s page design, headings, spot illustrations, as well as the archetype of the typical New Yorker single-panel cartoon.
As Emily writes in her important and much-needed article on him, “it was Irvin’s own intimacy with classic form and craft, and his genial willingness to share that expertise, that allowed him to create a complete device: a design, a typeface, a style, and a mood that would be instantly recognizable, and eminently effective, almost a century later.”
Emily and I have worked to pull Rea Irvin out of the shadows that seem to enshroud his life and his work. I wrote the initial Wikipedia article on him, and, in the true spirit of Wikipedia, others have contributed to it, the latest contribution being a series of Irvin drawings.
Rea Irvin is one of our heroes, and one of the patron saints of this publication that we love so much.
In his honor, we declare August 26 to be Rea Irvin Day. Celebrate accordingly.
Hello! I’m Emily Gordon, an editor, critic, copywriter, and pre-web internet nut. Emdashes, born in 2004, spent many years as a New Yorker fan blog. The project garnered some nice compliments and press.
The blog’s now treading the territories of punctuation, publications, movies, design, and other things that stir me.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a brilliant brigade of culture writers, editors, and artists. You can read all about the people who've helped build Emdashes here at “Who We?” (That’s a New Yorker joke. Old habits die hard.)
I welcome submissions, questions, corrections, and ardent, obsessive contributors. I also host occasional book-related contests and giveaways. Questioners and publishers, just email me.
Jennifer Hadley designed the original Emdashes pencil logo, based on a 1943 Dorothy Gray ad.