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From Longhorn to the "Mayor of Greenwich Village"

By Kelsey McKinney

Lew Ney was a member of the Glee Club while he attended The University of Texas. He's pictured here in a photo from the 1906 Cactus yearbook on the bottom row, second from the right.
Lew Ney was a member of the Glee Club while he attended The University of Texas. He's pictured here in a photo from the 1906 Cactus yearbook on the bottom row, second from the right.

Before Lew Ney became the Mayor of Greenwich Village (and a signer of the door featured in the current exhibition The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920–1925), he was a Longhorn. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, as Luther E. Widen, Lew Ney graduated from Austin High School and enrolled in The University of Texas in 1904. He began his undergraduate career in the College of Engineering but after one year transferred to the Humanities Department. He was an active member of the Glee Club as a second tenor for three years before leaving the University in 1907.

Ultimately, Ney received his undergraduate degree from Nebraska and his

Detail of Ney from the Cactus yearbook photo.
Detail of Ney from the Cactus yearbook photo.

master’s degree  in psychology at Iowa State University. He moved to Greenwich Village in the early 1920s and married Ruth Thompson in 1928. He was known in the Village as a writer, printer, type designer, and publisher. Most notably, he published the magazine Parnassus and the early works of writers Parker Tyler and Maxwell Bodenheim.  He is most famous for his creation of the exquisite typesetting font (L283) that was well suited for poetic works.

Eventually, Ney would become a community character proclaimed “the Mayor of Greenwich Village.”

The bookshop door with Ney’s signature is on display in The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920–1925 through January 22. Also, visit the related web exhibition, which uses the door as an entryway into the lives, careers, and relationships of New York bohemians of that era.

Special thanks to The Alcalde for assisting with the yearbook images.

Published by Lew Ney, 'Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 8' was founded by Parker Tyler, and Charles Henri Ford, who dropped out of high school to edit it. This spring 1930 issue was published when Ford was just seventeen. It features several writers whose archives reside at the Ransom Center: Tyler, Ford, Paul Bowles, and Louis Zukofsky. The Center also houses important collections of contributors Kay Boyle, John Herrmann, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams.
Published by Lew Ney, 'Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 8' was founded by Parker Tyler, and Charles Henri Ford, who dropped out of high school to edit it. This spring 1930 issue was published when Ford was just seventeen. It features several writers whose archives reside at the Ransom Center: Tyler, Ford, Paul Bowles, and Louis Zukofsky. The Center also houses important collections of contributors Kay Boyle, John Herrmann, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams.

Only three days left to see Frida Kahlo's "Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird"

By Alicia Dietrich

Photo by Pete Smith.
Photo by Pete Smith.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940) is on display for only three more days at the Harry Ransom Center. This Sunday is the last day visitors can view the work before it travels to its next destination.

The painting, one of the Ransom Center’s most famous and frequently borrowed art works, has been on almost continuous loan since 1990. During that time, the painting has been featured in exhibitions in more than 25 museums in the United States and around the world.

You can view an interactive map that illustrates the travels of Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.

Later this year, Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird will be on view in a three-venue exhibition In Wonderland: The Surrealist Activities of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The exhibition will be on view at LACMA from January 29 through May 6; at the Musee National des Beaux-arts du Quebec in Quebec City, Canada, from June 7 to September 3; and at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, Mexico, from September 27 through January 13, 2013.

In the Galleries: A map of Greenwich Village from The Greenwich Village Quill

By Kelsey McKinney

A map of Greenwich Village from 'The Greenwich Village Quill' (1925). The shop was near the corner of Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue.
A map of Greenwich Village from 'The Greenwich Village Quill' (1925). The shop was near the corner of Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue.

As it is today, Manhattan was the center of American magazine publishing in the 1920s. The vast majority of those who signed the door in Frank Shay’s Bookshop in Greenwich Village had some role in the business as editors, publishers, printers, or contributors to a variety of publications.

While some bookshops in New York at the time were havens for experimentation and likely carried few magazines beyond the “little magazines” produced for a small literary audience, Frank Shay’s tastes were much broader. His friends and customers alike worked for and likely purchased a wide range of the available publications of the day. Magazines are a valuable source for reconstructing literary movements and shifts in popular and coterie tastes. Works that we recognize as monuments today were often first experienced by readers in little and big magazines alike: landmark poems and chapters of serialized novels were read alongside forgotten avant-garde manifestoes or advertisements for household products

This map, drawn by Robert Edwards, was published in Quill, a magazine popular with the Village community. The map shows the bookshop in its final year in business, 1925. Shay no longer ran the shop, as can be seen in the description of the shop at number 49 in the legend. Frank Shay is called “Parnassuswaggoner” because he had moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, with his travelling bookshop, “Parnassus on Wheels.” Of particular note are the map’s designation of two distinct immigrant communities, “Erin” (Ireland) and “Italia,” concentrated in particular areas of the Village, and the presence of “Aristocrats” and other wealthy community members in the elegant blocks surrounding Washington Square. Immigrants and “Aristrocrats” alike are frequently absent from the Bohemians’ descriptions of their community, so Edwards’s decision to highlight them here is notable.

A hard copy of Quill magazine and an enlarged version of Edwards’s map can be seen in the current exhibition The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920–1925, on display through January 22.

Recommended Reading: "The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia: 1920–1925"

By Kelsey McKinney

'The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia: 1920–1925' runs through January 22.
'The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia: 1920–1925' runs through January 22.

The Ransom Center’s current exhibition The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920–1925 is overflowing with literary history. To learn more about the history of Greenwich Village and the work of the bohemian artists and writers whose signatures cover the door, view the reading list that tempted the curators to stop researching and start reading.

Holiday Hours

By Alicia Dietrich

Twenty of Santa's helpers attend a March of Dimes Christmas party for Patricia Reilly and the Volunteers of America at the Tavern-on-the-Green. New York Journal American collection.
Twenty of Santa's helpers attend a March of Dimes Christmas party for Patricia Reilly and the Volunteers of America at the Tavern-on-the-Green. New York Journal American collection.

Holiday hours for the Ransom Center are as follows:

Ransom Center Galleries
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Thursday
Noon–5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Please note that the Ransom Center Galleries are closed Mondays and the following holidays:
Christmas Eve Day (Saturday, December 24)
Christmas Day (Sunday, December 25)
New Year’s Day (Sunday, January 1)

Please also be aware that the Reading and Viewing Rooms and administrative office will be closed during the University holidays from Friday, December 23, through Monday, January 2.

Visitors can see the current exhibitions, Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored and The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920-1925, as well as Frida Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.

The First Photograph and the Gutenberg Bible remain on permanent display.

Docent led gallery tours occur on Tuesday, December 27, at noon and on Saturday, December 31, at 2 p.m. The public tours meet in the lobby, and no reservations are required.

Admission is free. Your donation supports the Ransom Center’s exhibitions and public programs. Parking information and a map are available online.

The Cultural Compass blog will be on hiatus during the University’s winter break and will return the week of January 2.

In the Galleries: Ogden Nash’s padlocked collection of poetry

By Elana Estrin

One of Ogden Nash's copies of  'Hard Lines' with padlock and chain. Photo by Pete Smith.
One of Ogden Nash's copies of 'Hard Lines' with padlock and chain. Photo by Pete Smith.

“All of these books are worse than opium… I would rather have a child of mine use opium than read these books,” declared Senator Reed Smoot of Utah in March 1930, speaking from behind a desk towering with “smutty” books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Robert Burns’s poetry.

In 1929, Senator Smoot and Representative Willis Hawley of Oregon introduced a tariff bill to Congress that included a section restricting the importation of obscene materials, which inspired the widely repeated news headline “Smoot Smites Smut.” Senator Bronson Cutting of New Mexico led a protest against the proposed ban on obscene literature, and the House approved an amendment that removed books from the list of obscene materials.

But the battle wasn’t over. When the full bill reached the Senate in March 1930, Smoot brought book censorship back into the spotlight. After much debate, the Senate returned books to the list of obscene materials with the exception of “classics” and works of “established literary and scientific merit.” The Smoot-Hawley Tariff became law on June 17, 1930.

In response to the controversy, poet Ogden Nash penned “Invocation” and submitted it to The New Yorker, his first published contribution to the magazine, in January 1930.

The first verse reads:

Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)
Is planning a ban on smut.
Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverend occiput.
Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l__ns,
Smite h_p and th_gh,
We’ll all be Kansas
By and by.

“Invocation” appeared in Nash’s collection Hard Lines. As a publicity stunt, Simon and Schuster sent out advance copies with a chain, padlock, and key attached.

One of Nash’s copies of Hard Lines appears in the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored, on display through January 22. Nash intended to send this copy to book critic Alexander Woollcott. The inside front cover of the book includes the beginning of an inscription to Woollcott, but Nash misspelled Woollcott’s name (he forgot the second “l”) and inscribed the book to himself instead:

“For Ogden Nash with the very best wishes of the author. This is one of several advance copies equipped with lock and chain for attention-catching which were sent to current celebrities in hope of eliciting favorable comment. I started to mis-spell Alexander Woollcott’s name in this one, so kept it for myself. Woollcott didn’t like the one he got, even though I spelled his name right.*

*It sold nearly 40,000 copies in spite of him.”

Holiday hours at the Ransom Center

By Alicia Dietrich

The Harry Ransom Center. Photo by Pete Smith.
The Harry Ransom Center. Photo by Pete Smith.

The Ransom Center will be closed for Thanksgiving Day. The galleries will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, November 25, and from noon to 5 p.m. on this Saturday and Sunday.

Visitors can see the current exhibitions, Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored and The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920-1925, as well as Frida Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.

Free docent-led tours of the gallery exhibitions are offered at 2 p.m. on this Saturday and Sunday.

Visit the Harry Ransom Center as part of Austin’s Cultural Campus “Museum Crawl” on Saturday, November 26. Enjoy the exhibitions with your family, friends, and out-of-town guests. Join us at 2 p.m. for a docent-led tour of the exhibitions. Kick off your holiday shopping with one-day discounts on Ransom Center merchandise, including postcards, totebags, and books. Purchase a gift membership specially packaged in an archival box and receive a free set of postcards ($10 value). Complimentary beverages will warm you on your walk to your next Austin’s Cultural Campus destination.

The Reading Room will be closed on Friday, November 25, and Saturday, November 26, but will reopen on Monday, November 28.

Parking information and a map are available online.