Monday, January 14, 2013

"A Magazine Offering Comment on Schenectady's Sophisticated Side": The Schenectadian

Campaigners march down State Street on the cover of the November 1933 Schenectadian, drawn by Walter Reagles. Notice the Nicolaus Restaurant's parrot in the background. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.  

There are many interesting local periodicals that have been published over the years. One of the most interesting -- and certainly the most cosmopolitan -- is The Schenectadian, a very New Yorker-esque magazine published from 1933 to 1935. From burlesque show reviews, commentary on wrestling, and a narrative of sailing down the Klondike Ramp in a wagon to analysis of local politics, discussion of up-to-the-minute fashions for women and men, and modern poetry, The Schenectadian captured the "high" and the "low" of culture in Schenectady during the era, and did so with humor and style.

An eye-catching subscription notice in an early issue of The Schenectadian by an uncredited artist. "You may prefer to see her in a grass skirt or a full beard, but those things take time and money. Just remember that she is doing her best and so are we." From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.  

Walter Reagles remembered that he, along with Milton Enzer, the director of Union College's news bureau, and GE employees Kenneth Patrick and Ross Lindblom, "felt the need of a local magazine which contained a metropolitan point of view" and set out to create a magazine that "imitate[d] the style of the New Yorker." Reagles was at that time the art director at General Electric. The team published the first issue of The Schenectadian in October 1933. The Schenectady Gazette described it as "a magazine offering comment on Schenectady's sophisticated side." The magazine continued to be published monthly through at least May 1935.

Illustration by James Gisondi from The Schenectadian. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.  

Illustration by Mary Sauter from The Schenectadian. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

The Schenectadian presented a clever, urbane look at local politics, local history and personalities, theatre, community events and social news, movies, radio, and concerts. Other pieces in the magazine explored the worlds of the city's bars and burlesque shows (under the heading of "Sin and Sociology"), and an ongoing series of articles traced the effects of the Depression and New Deal efforts locally. The magazine also included fiction and poetry, and offered reviews of the fashions available for purchase at local clothiers such as the Lady Lee Shop, the Evelyn Shop, Gelber's, and the Vanity Fair Shop, as well as department stores such as Barney's, the Wallace Company, and the Carl Company. Readers were encouraged to send in reminiscences for a "Do You Remember?" column, and the "Dorplets" column provided a tongue-in-cheek look at all aspects of life in Schenectady. Walter Reagles' "Vignette" series highlighted local people from William "Buck" Ewing, catcher for the Mohawk Colored Giants baseball team, to Monsignor John Reilly, to police officer Thomas William Walsh. Another semi-regular feature, "Business Women," written by Frances Travis, profiled women in local business and government. In ubiquitous sprinklings throughout the magazine, The Schenectadian also poked fun at ill-worded headlines from local papers such as the Schenectady Gazette and the Schenectady Union-Star.

Sketch of a burlesque dancer by Dora Abrahams from The Schenectadian. Abrahams (later De Vries, then Mathieu) moved to New York City and had success as an illustrator. Her work was published in the New Yorker, Life, Vogue,  and Glamour. A Schenectady native, she credited Walter Reagles with "discovering" her and encouraging her as an artist. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

Like the New Yorker, The Schenectadian also provided a showcase for talented cartoonists and illustrators. Artists such as Dora Abrahams, James Gisondi, Edwin Sauter, Mary Sauter, Walter Reagles, Bradley Wilson, Howard Blanchfield, and James Barstow were regularly featured in the magazine. Many of the artists whose work was featured in The Schenectadian worked in the General Electric Company's art department.

The cover of the June 1934 issue of The Schenectadian, by Edwin Sauter, is a satirical sign of the times during the Depression; new graduates go from diploma to shovel to work on Civil Works Administration (CWA) projects. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

Illustration by Bradley L. Wilson from The Schenectadian. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

This sketch of Mohawk Giants catcher William "Buck" Ewing, drawn by Walter Reagles, accompanied  a vignette written about Ewing. It appeared in the November 1933 issue of The Schenectadian. From the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

The Grems-Doolittle Library has several issues of The Schenectadian available for researchers to view. A complete listing of issues in our holdings is provided below. Please contact Librarian Melissa Tacke (; 518-374-0263, option 3) if you have issues of The Schenectadian not listed that you are willing to donate.

The Schenectadian
Vol. 1, No. 1 - October 1933
Vol. 1, No. 2 - November 1933
Vol. 1, No. 3 - December 1933 / January 1934
Vol. 1, No. 4 - February 1934
Vol. 1, No. 5 - March 1934
Vol. 1, No. 6 - April 1934
Vol. 2, No. 1 - May 1934
Vol. 2, No. 2 - June 1934
Vol. 3, No. 1 - November 1934
Vol. 3, No. 2 - December 1934 / January 1935
Vol. 3, No. 3 - February 1935
Vol. 3, No. 4 - March 1935
Vol. 3, No. 5 - April / May 1935

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