I’m delighted to report that I’ve been getting stuck in to some work in the archives. This always makes me feel a) happy b) as though I’m achieving something, and c) as if I am a ‘real’ researcher. I find the orderliness, the solitude, the purposefulness, the seriousness of archives pleasing. And the strict use of graphite pencils transports me back to school days.
I’ve spent the last few days trawling The New Yorker magazine archives, every issue of which has been digitised from 1925 to the present. Needless to say, this task is not for the myopic: my eyes were boggled by the end of a long afternoon slaving over a hot database. Having cast my research net deep and wide I am close to having a fit-to-bursting suite of folders and sub-folders on every (and any) reference to Hawes in this magazine from the last seventy-five years or so. Of course, the real labour is involved in making sense of these references and their historical meaning and significance (if any). Working with the original sources in the archives does, however, at least begin to engage the brain in this regard.
One of the many little gems that I have unearthed is an advertisement for Cusenier liqueurs carried in a November issue from 1934. Featuring a photograph and quotation from, none other than, our-very-own Liz, this appears to be a remarkable piece of celebrity endorsement (the same ad also features the feisty contemporary actress, Ilka Chase). I was aware already that Hawes was sometimes ‘accused’ of a fondness for self-promotion but this was an unqualified criticism that I had assumed referred to the aggressive marketing of her self-authored books and also the media storm generated around her first fashion show in Paris. It seems, however, that by 1934, Hawes had become a conduit for the selling of products beyond fashion design.
“‘A dinner without Apricot Liqueur is no dinner at all’ says Elizabeth Hawes. This famous designer is the pride and joy of nationalists because she is living proof that fashions may originate elsewhere than Paris. We were glad to find that her sure taste extends to liqueurs. (She also likes Curacao).”
The ad itself was quite a find amidst the metaphorical haystack. But imagine my astonishment when, in The New Yorker of one month later (1st Dec. 1934, p.66), I came across the following ‘ditty’ penned by Henrietta Fort Holland, a regular contributor to the magazine, short story writer and novelist. Titled ‘Hurrah For The Fun’, an extract from her satirical poem reads:
“Over the river and through the woods/The guests are flocking fast,/To Grandma’s roof for the pudding’s proof/And the holiday repast./Oh, the pies smell lovely, Grandma/You’re proud and you have just cause,/But what of the shears that shape careers?/What of Elizabeth Hawes?/What if she turned up, Grandma?/I’m sure you’d want to be right./Let Fleurs Alpines remain unseen/And Cointreau out of sight./And dinner’s never a dinner,/In fact it is simply not,/If it should end with other blend/Than one of apricot.”
This thread is a charming ‘discovery’ but what sense might be made of it (if any)? My labour continues.