Eustace Tilley, a monocled dandy, first appeared on the cover of The New Yorker’s inaugural issue, in 1925. He appeared on the cover for a second time one year later, in celebration that the magazine had survived. (It almost didn’t.) Since then, the dandy has returned—in some form or another—nearly every February for ninety-eight years, as the herald of the magazine’s anniversary issue. On the cover of our February 13 & 20, 2023, issue, the discriminating fop lends his aesthetic to a canine counterpart. John W. Tomac, who contributed the image, described his process thus: “One thing I have learned over my years as an artist trying to survive is to include a dog in the sketches I send out. It greatly increases the chances of my image being picked.”
While we owe the original image to the pen of the magazine’s first art editor, Rea Irvin (who also designed the typeface), his name is a bequest of the New Yorker humor writer Corey Ford (“Tilley” for Ford’s aunt, and “Eustace” because the name, in Ford’s words, “sounded euphonious”).
Tilley the man cuts a dashing figure through the early pages of the magazine: snappily dressed, as, on one occasion, in a cornflower boutonnière and a pigeon-gray hopsack suit—though he preferred to view himself as “clothed in good manners and firm opinions.” Irvin featured Tilley’s image at the top of The Talk of the Town section, where the petit-maître has overseen all the local goings on for decades. The editors, meanwhile, saw fit to make clear that Tilley was not merely a man of taste but a man of action; in the twenties, the magazine’s pages held dispatches with Tilley reporting at Grant’s Tomb and the Metropolitan Tower clock. In mid-1925, the dandy began to appear in a section called The Making of a Magazine, in which he presides over various departments, including the emphasis department, where words are hammered into italics using steel mallets, and the margin department, where open spaces are shipped in from Montana and Wyoming.
Of Tilley’s many accomplishments, however, his greatest may be his ability to weather the years. He has become an icon known the world over and a favorite subject for artists. Since the first reimagining, in 1994 (by R. Crumb, as a punk in Times Square), he has appeared on the cover as “Eustacia,” as a Weimaraner dog posed by photographer William Wegman, and as a hipster, among many other iterations.
On the occasion of this anniversary, we asked a few artists for their take on Tilley ninety-eight years later, and were delighted to see Eustace’s spirit channelled in even more new ways, not all of them canine.
And see below for more covers featuring Eustace Tilley:
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