As a student worker for the MGHL, I have been cataloging magazine tear sheet illustrations from the Walt Reed Illustration Archive in Shared Shelf, a project funded by the CLIR Grant. The collection I’m currently working on features many illustrations by Frank Craig — made between 1874 and 1918. These objects are approximately a century old and many of the tear sheets seem to be in excellent shape. Sometimes, a sheet is worn around the edges or is torn unevenly, but that’s nothing like what I came across last week!
Due to the nature of these delicate materials, it is normal for some tear sheets to be, well, torn. Last week I was going through the archives and came across this image:
The tear sheet is clearly the top half of a piece. It seems like an innocuous illustration of two women looking at something on the floor during a dinner party. Maybe someone dropped a glass of wine? There was a mouse? I went through and cataloged the image with,honestly, pretty objective and generic identifiers: “women” and “dinners and dining.”
Then I got to the next image, clearly the bottom half. This half completely upended what I perceived from the previous illustration. It wasn’t a glass of wine or a mouse…it was a man who shot himself, lying on the floor while the two women processed what had just happened. This completed the story.
This image’s identifiers were much different than the top half: instead of “women,” it was “pistol shooting” and “suicide.” An excerpt from the caption below the image, “Mrs. Gilbert, back from her dinner party, entered and took in the situation,” lets the viewer gain more context to the top half of the image: the characters were still processing the situation.
Without the top half, the viewer wouldn’t know the where the figures were looking and without the bottom half, the viewer wouldn’t be aware of the gravity of the situation. These two pieces of the same image tell very different stories and this situation speaks to the delicacy of working with paper ephemera. I am so glad that the DMGHL had these images in proximity to each other and I was able to piece this together!
This tear sheet is part of the Walt Reed Illustration Archive at the Dowd Modern Graphic History Library. Please contact us for an appointment if you would like to view items from the collection. The tear sheet will be publicly available through Shared Shelf Commons in January 2018.