A family friend, Susi, just turned 90. Since I’m home in Oregon, I attended the B-Day party. Her Jewish family got out of Germany in ‘39 and she found herself a teenager in the US. Got an education, got married, raised a family. She was – is – an artist, and she ended up teaching. But she worked as a gag strip cartoonist in New York, from ‘46 to ‘50. I’m interested in the history of comics, so she loaned me a rather large file box (which I am being very careful with!) Lots of old clippings, old battered bristol board with typed captions taped on. Neat!
I have an undated piece of paper here stating that, ‘during recent months cartoons by Susi Steinitz have appeared in: Holiday, Colliers, This Week, Ladies Home Journal, American Legion, Look, True, Esquire, Argosy, Saturday Review, American Weekly, Nation’s Business, Parade, 47, Parents Magazine, Everybody’s Digest, The Woman, Pathfinder, Everybody’s Weekly, Judge.’
I talked to her for a while at her party, and have talked to her about this stuff once before. She and her husband worked out the gags. He was an aspiring playwright but that never went anywhere. She did the drawing, and Wednesdays was the day you shopped them around New York to the two dozen editors who might be buying. You also mailed them around the country, but mostly you did it in person in New York. Apparently her husband was good at figuring out who might be buying, so after a while the other cartoonists started following him around. On the other hand, Susi was the only female cartoonist in town, so she couldn’t attend poker night with the editors and cartoonists. It never worked out great, career-wise. She ended up working in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, later, teaching art in St. Louis.
Here are a few Susi cartoons from the clipping box:
I’d like to say she’s an undiscovered cartooning genius but, honestly, it seems like pretty standard post-War magazine cartooning. (But this isn’t exactly an era of comics history I consider myself expert about.) Some of it is pretty good. Some ok. A lot of corny, rather dated material – how not? Some of these jokes I do not get. She apparently got work from FM magazine (?), so she had to make jokes about … FM radio? Several of those here. That’s a narrow row to have to hoe. (There’s a lot of stuff in this box. I love this stuff, but, then: I love comics.) I’m planning on interviewing her in a couple days. Ask questions. Record the answers. She’s got to be the oldest living post-WW II New York female gag cartoonist Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. I’ve got this list of magazines and I’m planning to run down it, trying to jog her memory for good stories. I really should get in contact with historians and other obsessives who would really like to know things about this small world. Who was who? How did it all work? What should I ask her, do you think? Some of the questions are obvious, but, for me, there are a lot of unknown unknowns. What do we not know about this world that we would like to know, and that Susi might know?
I should probably email Seth and ask him what I should ask. Anyone have Seth’s email?