Family of cartoonist Darrow donates collection

Whitney Darrow cartoon

This Darrow cartoon is from Johnny Carson’s 1965 book, “Happiness Is … a Dry Martini.” The caption reads, “Happiness is … having the machine that replaced you figure out that the man who bought the machine should be fired.”

Image courtesy of the University Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

From the Oct. 23, 2006, Princeton Weekly Bulletin

The family of Whitney Darrow Jr., a 1931 Princeton alumnus and longtime cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine, has donated a collection of more than 1,000 of Darrow’s original drawings to the Princeton University Library.

The gift includes works from numerous projects over Darrow’s 60-year career, including 325 drawings for New Yorker cartoons from 1936 to 1982 and 746 drawings for 18 books, among them Louise Armstrong’s “A Child’s Guide to Freud,” B.M. Atkinson Jr.’s “What Dr. Spock Didn’t Tell Us” and Johnny Carson’s “Happiness Is … a Dry Martini.”

The gift was made to the Graphic Arts Collection of the library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. It adds to Princeton’s extensive holdings in comic art, cartoons and pictorial satire, which include other original works by Darrow and fellow Princeton alumni such as Henry Martin, Michael Witte and Henry Payne.

“I’m thrilled to see students already making use of this wonderful resource,” Julie Melby, the library’s graphic arts curator, said of the new Darrow collection. “The drawings are windows into the social life and culture of the United States over five decades.”

Darrow was perhaps best known for his work in The New Yorker, which published more than 1,500 of his cartoons from 1933 to 1982. He was considered a master draftsman and, in contrast to some of his colleagues, wrote his own captions. He often drew upper-middle-class suburban couples, taken from his life experiences in Wilton, Conn. He also was fond of drawing children and illustrated many children’s books, including Shirley Gordon’s “Grandma Zoo,” Art Linkletter’s “Kids Sure Rite Funny!” and Marie Winn’s “Shiver, Gobble and Snore.”

In a review of a Darrow exhibition at a Manhattan gallery in 1978, John Russell of The New York Times wrote: “Whitney Darrow has been one of the best cartoonists around for as long as anyone can remember. He is an environmental cartoonist, in that he goes on setting the scene in that misleadingly easygoing style of his until he is ready for a one-liner. And what a one-liner!”

Darrow was born in Princeton, where his father was one of the founders of the Princeton University Press. As a Princeton student, Darrow wrote a humor column for The Daily Princetonian and was art editor of the Princeton Tiger humor magazine.

After graduation, Darrow studied with Thomas Hart Benton and others at the Art Students League and in his early 20s began selling cartoons to publications such as Judge, Life and College Humor. In 1933, at 24, he made his breakthrough at The New Yorker and remained a regular contributor for 50 years.

Darrow published four collections of his cartoons: “You’re Sitting on My Eyelashes,” “Give Up?” “Stop, Miss” and “Please Pass the Hostess.” He died in 1999.

The collection is available for use without appointment in the reading room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Firestone Library.