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Harold Ross, the son of Irish immigrant George Ross and schoolteacher Ida Martin Ross, was born in Aspen, Colorado, on 6th November, 1892. When he was a child his family moved to Silverton before settling in Salt Lake City, Utah.
At the age of thirteen he became a reporter on the Salt Lake City Tribune . He also worked for The Denver Post, Marysville Appeal-Democrat in California, the Sacramento Union, the New Orleans Item-Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the San Francisco Call and Post. He also worked for several magazines. The journalist, Richard O'Connor, commented: "The unpolished but ambitious Ross, formerly a wandering newspaperman, Western-born, and determinedly anti-metropolitan, was rattling around the magazine world trying to find a footing."
During the First World War Ross enlisted in the U.S. Army Eighteenth Engineers Railway Regiment. He was later assigned to the recently established Stars and Stripes, a weekly newspaper by enlisted men for enlisted men. Ross was appointed editor and others working on the newspaper included Alexander Woollcott, Cyrus Leroy Baldridge, Grantland Rice, Adolf Shelby Ochs, Stephen Early and Guy Viskniskki. Another recruit was Franklin Pierce Adams whose main contribution was a column entitled "The Listening Post". Woollcott introduced Ross to Jane Grant and she later admitted she did the "sewing and mending" for all of the soldiers working on the newspaper. Grant became romantically involved with Ross. Although she later commented: "No one, not even his prejudiced mother, could deny that his body was badly put together."
Ross went to live in New York City after the war where he worked for the American Legion Weekly. Soon afterwards he became editor of Judge Magazine, a comic weekly. He took lunch with a group of writers, artists and actors in the dining room at the Algonquin Hotel. This included Robert E. Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Donald Ogden Stewart, Edna Ferber, Ruth Hale, Franklin Pierce Adams, Jane Grant, Neysa McMein, Alice Duer Miller, Charles MacArthur, Marc Connelly, George S. Kaufman, Beatrice Kaufman , Frank Crowninshield, Ben Hecht, John Peter Toohey, Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt and Ina Claire. This group eventually became known as the Algonquin Round Table.
In 1920 Ross married Jane Grant in the Church of the Transfiguration in Manhattan. However, she refused to be known as Mrs. Grant. She later recalled: "Never for a moment had I considered the possibility of losing my name." Grant said she and Ross agreed to give each other complete independence. At the time Ross was working for the Judge Magazine and Grant the New York Times.
For a while Ross and Grant shared a house with the journalists, Heywood Broun and Ruth Hale. Whereas Broun was sympathetic to feminism, Ross was not. According to Howard Teichmann, Ross, particularly after drinking whiskey, told anyone who would listen, "I never had one damn meal at home at which the discussion wasn't of women's rights and the ruthlessness of men in trampling women. Grant and Ruth Hale had maiden-name phobias, and that was all they talked about, or damn near all."
Samuel Hopkins Adams, the author of Alexander Woollcott: His Life and His World (1946), has argued: "The Algonquin profited mightily by the literary atmosphere, and Frank Case evinced his gratitude by fitting out a workroom where Broun could hammer out his copy and Benchley could change into the dinner coat which he ceremonially wore to all openings. Woollcott and Franklin Pierce Adams enjoyed transient rights to these quarters. Later Case set aside a poker room for the whole membership." The poker players included Ross, Heywood Broun, Alexander Woollcott, Herbert Bayard Swope, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Deems Taylor, Laurence Stallings, Harpo Marx, Jerome Kern and Prince Antoine Bibesco.
On one occasion, Woollcott lost four thousand dollars in an evening, and protested: "My doctor says it's bad for my nerves to lose so much." It was also claimed that Harpo Marx "won thirty thousand dollars between dinner and dawn". Howard Teichmann, the author of George S. Kaufman: An Intimate Portrait (1972) has argued that Broun, Adams, Benchley, Ross and Woollcott were all inferior poker players, Swope and Marx were rated as "pretty good" and Kaufmann was "the best honest poker player in town."
Grant and Ross developed ideas about publishing their own magazine. In her book, Ross, The New Yorker and Me (1968) Grant argued: "Ross had great humility then. He assured me he'd try anything I decided upon, that he wanted to be anything I wanted him to be. I’m afraid I did a good deal of prodding. But I felt he really could accomplish what he set out to do - with his talent and his enormous drive - even though many people doubted his ability. He would have given up, I am sure, if I hadn’t encouraged him; fortunately I was able to influence him."
According to Beverly G. Merrick: "The couple agreed that they would attempt to live on her earnings, and save his salary of $10,000 for a magazine of his own invention. Grant said she persuaded Ross to put his ideas on paper. He reportedly had three in mind: a high-class tabloid, a shipping magazine and a weekly about life in Manhattan. Ross and Grant were opposites in the truest sense of the word. For instance, Ross was tone deaf and could not abide her dancing, singing or whistling around him. But as is often true in the case of opposites, it took that combination to make the magazine reach fruition. Grant had a good business sense. Ross had a unique sense of humor, the kind of humor that would come to characterize The New Yorker. Grant encouraged him to go with the third idea. She intuitively knew that it would best suit him, as well be a success in the marketplace. It apparently took them five years to raise the capital for the venture."
Ross approached Raoul Fleischmann in 1925 about funding a new magazine, The New Yorker. Fleischmann later recalled: "I wasn't at all impressed with Ross' knowledge of publishing, I had no reason to doubt his skill as an editor, nor any reason to believe in it." Despite these comments he agreed to invest $45,000 in the magazine. The first edition appeared on 21st February, 1925. Early editions were not very popular. Marion Meade has pointed out: "Five months after its birth, the magazine's original capital was depleted and it seemed unlikely to survive the summer season, customarily a slow period even for prosperous publications. Raoul Fleischmann had been advised that the wisest course would be to suspend publication until the fall, but Harold Ross and Jane Grant were convinced that this would mean ruin for the magazine. They had begun to seek capital elsewhere. In the midst of Adams's nuptial festivities, Fleischmann arrived with a miraculous last minute reprieve and announced that he had persuaded his mother to invest $100,000, enough to assure the summer issues at least."
Initially the magazine concentrated on the social and cultural life of New York City but eventually widened its scope and developed a reputation for publishing some of the best short-stories, cartoons, biographical profiles, foreign reports and arts reviews. Its contributors included Dorothy Parker (poems and short-stories), Robert Benchley (theatre critic), James Thurber (cartoons and short-stories), Elwyn Brooks White, John McNulty, Joseph Mitchell, Katharine S. White (also fiction editor), Sidney J. Perelman, Janet Flanner (correspondent based in Paris), Wolcott Gibbs (theatre critic), St. Clair McKelway and John O'Hara (over 200 of his short-stories appeared in the magazine).
In 1929 one of the most famous journalists in America, Alexander Woollcott, left the New York Times to join the New Yorker. Carr Van Anda, the managing director of the Times, was disappointed by this decision: "In spite of the brusqueness and other peculiarities of conduct developed with his rise in the world which amused or annoyed his friends, according to mood, he was by nature really a sensitive, sometimes almost a shrinking soul. What began as a defence mechanism led to the invention of the almost wholly artificial character, Alexander Woollcott, persistently enacted before the world until it became a profitable investment.... It is a matter of extreme regret to me, as an old friend, that his sacrifice of brilliant gifts and varied acquirements to the dramatization of himself as a personality has left him with a far less secure literary fame than he might well have achieved."
Soon afterwards Ross, and his wife Jane Grant, purchased with Woollcott purchased a large house on West Forty-Seventh Street. They were joined by Hawley Truax, Kate Oglebay and William Powell. She later wrote: "It was a mad, amusing ménage, made up of Aleck, Hawley Truax, Ross and myself as owners and at first there were two others, Kate Oglebay and William Powell, as tenants and participants on the top floor. It soon became the hangout for all the literary and musical crowd and I well remember that on one Sunday evening I had twenty-eight unexpected guests for supper... We all had separate apartments, sharing only the dining-room and kitchen."
John Keats, the author of You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker (1971) has commented: "Harold Ross was a young man who looked to be put together all wrong: he wore what looked, on him, to be a farmer's Sunday suit. His hair suggested a picket fence."
Harold Ross remained the controlling influence over the magazine until his death in Boston on 6th December, 1951, during an operation to remove a tumor.
Harold Ross was a young man who looked to be put together all wrong: he wore what looked, on him, to be a farmer's Sunday suit. His hair suggested a picket fence. He had been an itinerant newspaperman before the war; he was new to the city; he dreamed of founding a magazine, and he was regarded by his erstwhile colleagues on Stars and Stripes to be an editor of genius.
After The New Yorker was solidly established, Ross, pretending ignorance, would often listen with an imbecilically gaping mouth to something being said by a crony of which he had more knowledge than the speaker. At the conclusion of an incorrect statement he would yell with make-believe fury. "That shows you're a God-damned ignoramus!" and then proceed with lordly politeness to state the facts. However, if a comparative stranger pretentiously said something inaccurate, Ross would merely grunt an acceptant "Uh huh" and walk away.
Sometimes Ross's highly articulate ability to express editorial opinion would be oddly demonstrated. Once when he was being shown an illustration submitted for publication, he was baffled by the perspective. He looked at the picture, running his fingers through his unruly hair. (George Kaufmann once said the jungle scenes in Chang were shot in Ross's pompadour.)
Things were going badly when the Round Tablers and their friends gathered to attend Frank Adams's wedding to Esther Root on May 9. The ceremony was performed at the home of friends who lived near Greenwich, Connecticut. A number of the wedding guests arrived in extremely low spirits, because it looked as if The New Yorker would fold. Five months after its birth, the magazine's original capital was depleted and it seemed unlikely to survive the summer season, customarily a slow period even for prosperous publications. In the midst of Adams's nuptial festivities, Fleischmann arrived with a miraculous last minute reprieve and announced that he had persuaded his mother to invest $100,000, enough to assure the summer issues at least.
The couple agreed that they would attempt to live on her earnings, and save his salary of $10,000 for a magazine of his own invention. He reportedly had three in mind: a high-class tabloid, a shipping magazine and a weekly about life in Manhattan.
Ross and Grant were opposites in the truest sense of the word. Ross had a unique sense of humor, the kind of humor that would come to characterize The New Yorker.
Grant encouraged him to go with the third idea. It apparently took them five years to raise the capital for the venture.
Ross had great humility then. He would have given up, I am sure, if I hadn’t encouraged him; fortunately I was able to influence him.
© John Simkin, April 2013
Harold Ross Bio
Harold Ross was born in Aspen, CO on November 6, 1892. Founder of The New Yorker magazine. He served as its editor-in-chief until his death. He was part of the Algonquin Round Table intellectual club with Marc Connelly. He dropped out of high school and served in the United States Army during World War I.
On Popular Bio, He is one of the successful Entrepreneur. He has ranked on the list of those famous people who were born on November 6, 1892. He is one of the Richest Entrepreneur who was born in CO. He also has a position among the list of Most popular Entrepreneur.
|Died||Dec 6, 1951 ( age 59)|
|Birth Date||November 6, 1892|
|Birth Place||Aspen, CO|
[Photograph of Harold Ross]
Photograph of Harold Ross, a member of the 66th Armored Infantry Battalion.
1 photograph : b&w 13 x 10 cm.
This photograph is part of the collection entitled: Abilene Library Consortium and was provided by the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum to The Portal to Texas History, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. More information about this photograph can be viewed below.
People and organizations associated with either the creation of this photograph or its content.
Person who is significant in some way to the content of this photograph. Additional names may appear in Subjects below.
The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
This Museum is located in Abilene and serves as a display and teaching museum for the study of World War II and its impact on the American people. It primarily contains 12th Armored Division World War II archives, memorabilia, and oral histories, along with selected equipment and material loaned or donated by others.
Hot Spots on the Campaign Trail
The founder of the Bettendorf Maid-Rite got so fed up with the campaigns in 1950 that he added baloney to the menu on Election Day because he said politicians were “full of it,” according to his daughter, Cynthia Freidhof.
“He would give speeches every day and tell folks ‘If you don’t like it, get out and go eat up the street,’” she recalled with a laugh. “He was a real character and people loved him. They still talk about him and he’s been gone since 1980.”
It’s hard to say what Ross would think of today’s crop of candidates, but his eatery — now called Ross’ Restaurant — has become one of the almost-mandatory stops on the campaign trail to the Iowa Caucuses. Joe Biden, Newt Gingrich, Amy Klobuchar, Rand Paul, Ron Paul and Michael Bennet have all paid their dues.
But Barack Obama’s visit in 2011 may have been the most memorable. The president tried two of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the Magic Mountain (grilled Texas toast with loose-ground beef and cheese sauce) and the Volcano (same thing, topped with chili).
“The Secret Service guys stood by the cook and watched the food being made,” said Freidhof, who co-owns the place. “MSNBC called later on and wanted the recipe. But we said no, so they invited us onto ‘The Rachel Maddow Show.’ It’s serious business, but it can be a lot of fun.”
Candidates have visited countless eateries across the state and have helped turn a few into legends. Places like the Hamburg Inn #2 in Iowa City, the Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa and Cronk’s Cafe in Denison have all basked in the media spotlights.
Many of these sites are featured in a caucus-themed exhibit called “First in the Nation” at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines.
The exhibit includes a nod to Mike Huckabee, who famously traveled the “Pizza Ranch circuit” in 2008, renting out the chain’s party rooms for little more than the cost of a few pepperoni and mushroom pies. The company’s faith-based mission is popular with evangelical Christians but has served customers of all religious traditions and political stripes, from Huckabee and Rick Santorum to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
“It gets really busy when we have a candidate come in, and we treat all of them equally,” said Teresa Van Voorst, the guest services manager at the Orange City restaurant, where the company is based.
In Denison, Cronk’s has hosted Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tim Ryan and Beto O’Rourke during the current cycle, as well as Donald Trump, John Kerry, Bob Dole, Obama, Jesse Jackson, George and Barbara Bush, Mitt Romney and Bill Richardson in the past. As far as anyone can remember, George McGovern was the first candidate to visit more than 40 years ago.
Ever the gracious host, owner Eric Skoog once got to switch roles as a guest at the White House. A Secret Service agent he’d met at Cronk’s gave him a behind-the-scenes tour during a trip to Washington, D.C., back in the ‘90s.
“That was the best benefit I ever got from these things,” Skoog said.
So which part of the White House did he want to see first? The Oval Office? The Lincoln Bedroom?
“Nope, I wanted to see the kitchen,” he said. “The Secret Service guy thought it was the weirdest thing, but I wanted to see where they made all the food for the big events they have there. It was a lot easier to get in back in those days.”
HAROLD ROSS AND THE STAFF
Certainly one of the most interesting of the characters drawn to the new paper was Pvt. Harold Wallace Ross, who later founded and for a long time directed the fortunes of The New Yorker magazine. Born in Aspen, Colorado, he had earlier served on The San Francisco Call, and some 78 other American newspapers (one at a time), joining The Stars and Stripes editorial staff from the 18th Engineers (Railway).
Ross was known for his energy but also for his rather abrasive character. It is noteworthy that later [his last superior, Major Mark Watson] recommended Ross and only one other enlisted man for the Distinguished Service Medal observing that his work stood out so conspicuously as to entitle [him] to special mention above even the admirable work performed by [his] associates. However, as it transpired that the DSM was rarely awarded below the rank of colonel, Ross did not receive his medal, but then Ross had never asked for credit, though Watson clearly felt that he richly deserved it.
[A second key individual] was Alexander Woollcott, from New Jersey, who had been a drama critic for The New York Times. In the army, he had been safely ensconced in the registrars office of Base Hospital No. 8, when captured and borne off to Paris. But, when the war suddenly became warlike [its] last spring , he was sent to the front, where he remained for the most part until the armistice was signed, serving as chief war correspondent of The Stars and Stripes and living in constant danger of death at the hand of some division that thought he was giving too much attention to the wretched craven divisions on either side. Soon others joined him in working the front, for it took many men to cover that fairly lively beat. Woollcott was later put in charge of the amusement column, which became a regular, rather lengthy, well-written feature of the paper.
These [two men along with Privates Hudson Hawley and John Tracy Winterich] long remained in charge of the papers editorial destinies. From December 1917 to April 1919, Ross functioned as probably the lowest paid managing editor in the history of journalism. The four were also responsible for nearly all of the editorials--which were unsigned--making it virtually impossible to ascribe authorship to any particular piece. Many of them are brilliant pieces of sparkling journalistic prose, some certainly attaining the level of essays of marked literary merit. The role that these editors played had another dimension also: They have helped make the world safe for democracy by serving as models for [the house cartoonists], as one account playfully recorded.
These four editors, sometimes joined by the cartoonists, for fourteen months of the paper's sixteen and one-half months of life, formed the main editorial board at Paris--not to be confused with the Board of Control at Chaumont--which X-rayed every article that came in, in the process of which they brought many limelight seekers and overzealous promoters to grief, shocked many a chaplain, Y.M.C.A. man and visiting congressman by their deafness to pleas that The Stars and Stripes should run a religious column . . . [or one] . . . entitled Happy Thoughts (or something killingly funny like that), enraged many a divisional publicity officer, and in general thumbed their collective noses at the martial universe. In so doing, they naturally worked always with one foot in the hoosegow, for practically every one of their callers and advisers ranked hell out of them. Their attitude was necessary, however, since they from start to finish . . . held the paper to its original intention of being by and for the enlisted man. Since the editorial staff were enlisted men themselves, who had done their share of KP along with everyone else, they insisted that they knew what the enlisted men wanted in their paper and that, by the shade of George Washington's spurs, they were going to give it to him (S&S: 13 June 1919).
Captain Guy T. Viskniskki, an assistant press officer of the AEF, was one of the founders of the Stars and Stripes . Having launched the publication, he became its first officer in charge and was [always] at some pains to emphasize the role of the enlisted men. Barring an officer or two, who had to be around to satisfy Army tradition, he once stated, the paper was produced by the men, many of the lowly, or buck, variety. He went on to explain: A handful of enlisted men has written and illustrated the greater part of the paper--I believe, for its size, the most brilliant and erratic editorial staff ever possessed by an American newspaper. This fact did not dismay him because, in his view, the American private is the greatest man in the world at fighting or writing or anything (S&S: 7 February 1919). To be sure, the officer-in-charge, as commander of the men attached to the staff, had something to say about the papers operations, but the enlisted editors mainly ran the production side of the sheet.
Many of the contributors to The Stars and Stripes went on to great journalistic achievement after the war. Harold Ross with the help of Woollcott would create the New Yorker and make it America's leading magazine. First Lieutenant Henry Grantland Rice, of the AEF's 115th Field Artillery, was, for a time, on the staff of the Stars and Stripes . A professional journalist in civilian life, he had worked on the New York Mail (1910-1911) and the New York Herald Tribune (1911-1930). After the World War, he wrote the influential syndicated sports column, the "Sportlight." In his day, he was widely regarded as the "dean of American sportswriters." He was also a prolific versifier, and producer of documentary sports films. [Harold Ross's superior Major Watson would himself one day win a Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun.]
The number of editors grew so as to keep up with the papers steadily expanding operations. Other prominent members later included Sgt. Seth T. Bailey, of the 162nd Infantry, part of the Sunset Division, and future editor and presidential press secretary Steve Early.
The Stars and Stripes was published every Friday from February 8, 1918 to June 13, 1919. It would return for the Second World War and would again be staffed by future notables of journalism like Bill Mauldin and Andy Rooney.
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Harold Ross and Henry Luce may not ring a bell but The New Yorker and Time magazine probably do. Ross and Luce were publishing rivals that shared one common goal: success.
The New Yorker article, “Untimely,” by Jill Lepore gives a great look back at the history of Luce and Ross. The in-depth story discovers the mutual respect and rivalry between the two publishers and their legacies. Lepore beings with a brief history and the magazines they left behind. Luce and Ross had very different beginnings.
Luce was born in China to missionaries and said at one point, ‘An American can always explain himself satisfactorily by citing where he comes from.” He went on to graduate from Yale and then Oxford and start Time with Briton Hadden, a classmate.
Ross on the other hand, was born in Aspen, CO. He dropped out of school at 13 and became a journalist, writing for a number of different publications. He started The New Yorker only two years after Luce, in 1925 and that is when the “rivalry” began.
I put rivalry in quotes because Alan Brinkley, author of “The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century”, wrote that feud between Luce and Ross was “short-lived and silly” but lasted still for 25 years.
The first third of Lepore’s covers the history of the two men, their enlistments in the army (neither of them ever fought) but Luce were inspired by their time to create magazines. Luce was surprised by the lack of information amongst the soldiers and decided he would create a magazine that informs the people. Ross wanted to create a magazine that reached to the metropolis of Manhattan.
Much of Lepore’s article is spent on Luce–his beginnings, his stint with the army, his relationship with Hadden (who was in fact the first editor of TIme), all of his other magazines and other endeavors. The biggest standout was Ross’s profile of Luce in The New Yorker.
McKelway interviewed Luce a fleet of reporters interviewed dozens of people at Time Inc., and then they all handed their notes over to Gibbs, who wrote a brutal parody of Timestyle, called “Time . . . Fortune . . . Life . . . Luce”: “Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind.” He skewered the contents of Fortune (“branch banking, hogs, glassblowing, how to live in Chicago on $25,000 a year”) and of Life (“Russian peasants in the nude, the love life of the Black Widow spider”). He made Luce ridiculous (“ambitious, gimlet-eyed, Baby Tycoon Henry Robinson Luce”), not sparing his childhood (“Very unlike the novels of Pearl Buck were his early days”), his fabulous wealth (“Described too modestly by him to Newyorker reporter as ‘smallest apartment in River House,’ Luce duplex at 435 East 52nd Street contains 15 rooms, 5 baths, a lavatory”), or his self-regard: “Before some important body he makes now at least one speech a year.” He announced the net profits of Time Inc., purported to have calculated to five decimal places the “average weekly recompense for informing fellowman,” and took a swipe at Ingersoll, “former Fortune editor, now general manager of all Time enterprises . . . salary: $30,000 income from stock: $40,000.” In sum, “Sitting pretty are the boys.”
Luce then met Ross about the profile, he was not thrilled. Luce and Ross did in fact have a rivalry, but the shots taken at each other in their respective publications summed up its severity.
In the beginning, when it came to subscribers and success, Luce won. He had much larger readership and Time was not his only magazine. Fortune, Life, and Sports Illustrated (published first in 1954) were all of his doing. Luce’s goal was to inform everyone, including the average joes of the news of the world. But as a someone who felt passionately about politics, he used his magazine as a gateway to his views. He had Chinese Nationalist leaders on the cover 11 times from 1927-1955 and his publicity of them played a large role in American politics.
Another interesting tidbit that Lepore writes about is Luce and Ross’s fascination with language. For Time, this can be attributed to Hadden.
Hadden liked to coin words, compounds like “news-magazine.” He imported “tycoon,” “pundit,” and “kudos” into English. He filled a notebook with lists. Famed Phrases: “flabby-chinned.” Forbidden Phrases: “erstwhile” (use “onetime” instead). Unpardonable Offenses: failing to print someone’s nickname. He was fond of middle names, of inverted subject and predicate phrases, of occupations as titles: “famed poet William Shakespeare” and “Demagog Hitler.” (What next? one reader wanted to know. “Onetime evangelist Jesus Christ?”) Hadden was uncompromising and, not infrequently, explosive. His Timestyle manual listed his cardinal rules: “Be specific. Be impersonal. Appear to be fair. Be not redundant. Reduce to lowest terms. You cannot be too obvious.” Scowl-faced was Editor Hadden, forgotten mag-man, called by the boys “the Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang.”
Ross, not nearly as specific, also had his own views.
A few years later, Ross wrote a staff memo: “I earnestly recommend that we abandon the word understandably, which has been a fad word with us for a good many months and creeps into all sorts of pieces. I saw it in Life the other day and when Life takes up a word it is time for us to unload, I think.”
But what really differentiates Luce and Ross from other publishers of the era, apart from language, is their success, or rather, legacy. Both Time and The New Yorker are still relevant magazines bring great news and coverage still in the new millenium and they haven’t changed much. Yes, they’ve change with the times but their target audiences remain the same. Time continues to deliver world news with memorable covers and excellent news coverage by revered writers and excellent writing. The New Yorker also continues to serve Manhattanites but also a younger, more urban crowd.
In their famed history, both magazines have had memorable covers. Here are some of the most famous ones:
Ernest Hemingway and the New Yorker: the Harold Ross files. (Notes).
Since its inception in 1925, The New Yorker magazine has been one of the most important venues for modern fiction. Yet Ernest Hemingway published only one short piece there, "My Own Life" in 1927. Scholars often attribute Hemingway's absence from The New Yorker to the magazine's inability to pay writers as well as its mass market competitors. However, the files of the magazine's founding editor, Harold Ross, tell a more complex story and reveal how, between 1942 and 1948, Ross repeatedly sought Hemingway contributions for The New Yorker and very nearly succeeded.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S LIMITED ASSOCIATION with The New Yorker magazine--a major influence in contemporary fiction since its debut in 1925--is striking. His sole contribution to The New Yorker, "My Own Life" a short parody of Frank Harris's My Life and Loves (3 vols., 1923-1927), appeared in the 12 February 1927 issue. If we think of Hemingway in connection with The New Yorker at all, we probably recall Lillian Ross's notorious and variously interpreted profile of him, "How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?", printed in the magazine on 13 May 1950. Even Dorothy Parker's fawning profile of Hemingway in the 30 November 1929 issue, published in the wake of The New Yorker's review of A Farewell To Arms, (1) is more memorable than Hemingway's own brief attempt at drollery.
Hemingway's lone New Yorker piece, "My Own Life," was a heavy-handed attempt to parody Frank Harris's inflated account of his sexual conquests. In 1922, when Sylvia Beach asked Hemingway's advice about publishing Harris's My Life and Loves, Hemingway encouraged her to go ahead, saying it would be "the finest fiction ever written" (Baker, Life 100). As such, Hemingway felt the Harris autobiography merited ridicule, and sent a short parody to Maxwell Perkins in the fall of 1926, hoping that Scribner's magazine would publish it. If Perkins could not use the piece, Hemingway suggested, he might forward it to Edmund Wilson at The New Republic. When both of these possibilities failed, Hemingway was finally able to place the parody, several months later, in the fledgling New Yorker.
The New Yorker's chronic shortage of money explains in part why "My Own Life" would prove to be Hemingway's only contribution to the magazine. In its early years, The New Yorker could not afford to compete with mass market magazines for writers such as Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sinclair Lewis, among many others. The New Yorker did draw contributions from John O'Hara in the late 1920s, and by 1935 John Cheever began what would be a half-century association with the magazine. As The New Yorker persevered through the Depression, it steadily attracted a generation of younger authors, including Irwin Shaw, Jean Stafford, and, by 1941, J.D. Salinger, among so many others. But in The New Yorker's early years, as Thomas Kunkel points out, "serious fiction . simply was not a . priority" (306) for its founding editor, Harold Ross (1892-1951). In his prospectus for the magazine, Ross wrote that he sought to publish "prose and verse, short and long, humorous, satirical and miscellaneous."
Nonetheless, an examination of the Harold Ross files--housed since 1991 at the New York Public Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division (2)--reveals a more complex picture. While the magazine was frequently cash-strapped in its early years, Harold Ross corresponded with Hemingway between 1942 and 1948, and eventually interested him in writing again for The New Yorker. All indications suggest the two men enjoyed each other's company and maintained a friendship. On 4 September 1945, Hemingway wrote to his future wife, Mary Welsh, about plans to visit New York that fall. The letter suggests his respect not only for Ross, but for The New Yorker and its staff:
Ross, described by one of his biographers as "a now-and-then fishing companion of Hemingway's," had a decidedly mixed opinion of Hemingway as a writer (Kunkel, 248, 306). Roger Angell, both a New Yorker fiction editor and renowned baseball writer, (3) recalls Ross asking, "`What about this Hemingway? Is he any good?'" (in Kunkel, 248). According to Kunkel, "Ross might have his own opinion of Hemingway . but at this moment his curiosity had overtaken his doubts, and he was genuinely interested in a different and younger perspective" (248). Ross may not have whole-heartedly embraced everything Hemingway wrote, but was a shrewd enough editor to realize the value of having a writer of Hemingway's stature among the magazine's contributors.
The Ross-Hemingway correspondence at the New York Public Library begins with Ross's letter of 20 November 1942 to Hemingway, then living at the Finca Vigia in Cuba. Ross complained about a letter he had received from Marshall Best of Viking Press concerning reprint rights, and enclosed a copy for Hemingway (Ross, Letters 194-195). Ross felt that he was "being driven to violence by these book publishers, half of whom are not above suspicion." The editor also reported on dining with their mutual friend, Kipper LaFarge, and observed that "one-third of our conversation was about you, practically all of it admiring." Ross looked forward to "get [ting] over" his ulcer, when he will "take to drinking again. I have had no fun in two years." He wrote about "the great pleasure" of taking Hemingway's "bride," Martha Gellhorn, to dinner at "21" during her recent visit to New York City, and closed with "Love and admiration for her and you."
Hemingway responded promptly on 28 November 1942, lambasting the publishing industry. Book publishers were all bastards, and the anthology business was a racket. Although Hemingway acknowledged that his own publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons, had been damned good to him on occasion, he was outraged by the fact that the firm would earn more from reprint rights to his work than he made as the author. He encouraged Ross to give Viking hell, responded favorably to his account of dinner at "21" with Martha, and sympathized over Ross's recurrent problem with ulcers, joking that the idea of Ross unable to drink was so distressing he had to mix himself a cocktail. Hemingway closed by inviting Ross to visit him in Cuba during the coming winter, and conveyed his regards to Ross's beautiful third wife, Ariane.
Ross replied on 6 December 1942, enclosing a copy of his six-page "exhaustive" letter of 3 December 1942 to Marshall Best (Letters, 195-98 [which Kunkel has dated incorrectly as "2 December 1942"]), and asked that Hemingway "Please read the God-damned thing." As for Hemingway's invitation to the Finca, Ross sent his regrets but added that perhaps he could make the trip after the war. In his closing paragraph Ross wrote pointedly: "If you do some short stories for us, they would be God-damned welcome, I'll tell you." (Ross, Letters, 198-99).
There is no record of any reply from Hemingway, but two months later Ross did hear from Martha, who wrote to chide Ross gently about problems she and Hemingway were having in Cuba with their subscription to The New Yorker. Although they had paid their bill, Martha wrote Ross on 8 February 1943, they had not received the magazine for some time. She also lamented the recent death of former New Yorker columnist Alexander Woollcott. Ross responded on 15 February 1943, explaining that due to personnel changes brought on by the war and a significant increase in the volume of subscriptions, the magazine's circulation department had gone "belly up." Nonetheless, he vowed to handle the matter for the Hemingways and shared his thoughts on Woollcott's death. Ross also took the occasion to make another pitch for Hemingway to contribute to The New Yorker. Sending along his "regards to Ernest," Ross added:
Hemingway did not accept Ross's offer, but on 19 March 1943 Martha mailed Ross her first submission. Titled "War Correspondent," it was a short piece of "mild mockery" at the expense of wartime reporter Alice Leone Moats [whom Hemingway referred to as "Alice Baloney Bloats"]. Ross rejected Gellhorn's offering on 2 April 1943, explaining "the lamentable fact . that we're choked up" on such parodies. Tactfully, he did not pass on the terse verdict of his managing editor for fiction, Gustave Lobrano, who wrote in a memo to Ross: "Hopeless piece." Ross also raised once again, albeit obliquely, the issue of a contribution by her husband. Noting how awkward it was to reject the submissions of his friends, Ross added "it doesn't embarrass me to get stories from my friends. It sometimes embarrasses me to ask friends for pieces, though, although I've made a couple of school-girl passes at Ernest in my day."
Because Hemingway still did not send any stories to the magazine, Ross tried again the following year to solicit a submission. Dated 3 February 1944, an unsigned, handwritten memo in the New Yorker files states that Ross sent Hemingway "a personal note" asking his friend to submit "some stories" to the magazine. No copy of Ross's "personal note" has survived, and there is no record of a Hemingway reply.
More than four years would pass before the next flurry of Ross-Hemingway correspondence, spanning a three-month period between 16 August and 24 November 1948. By then, Hemingway's marriage to Martha Gellhorn had ended and he was married to Mary Welsh. A young reporter for The New Yorker, Lillian Ross (who, incidentally, was not related to her employer), emerged to play the role of go-between in Harold Ross's quest to secure a Hemingway contribution. Lillian Ross's efforts began with an undated letter to Harold Ross--probably written in mid-August 1948--passing along information from a letter Hemingway had written to her on 29 July 1948. Lillian wrote that Hemingway planned to sail from Cuba to Paris on 7 September, and quoted him as writing: "`Maybe [Harold] Ross would make me a roveing [sic] correspondent'" (see also SL 649). Lillian explained to Harold what she saw as the great potential for the magazine in pursuing Hemingway, and she was careful to point out that his letters to her were far more interesting than his wartime contributions to Collier's. She also gave Ross Hemingway's address in Cuba.
On 26 August 1948, Harold Ross wrote Lillian to thank her for her suggestions. That same day he also wrote Hemingway a short note getting directly to the point: "Is it true that you're going to Europe, and if so would you want to do some pieces for us? I miss you." Hemingway responded warmly, on 6 September 1948, the day before he sailed on the Polish liner Jagiello. He asked Ross about what kind of pieces The New Yorker wanted, and how much the magazine could pay. He also sent along the address where he could be reached in Paris.
Harold Ross responded to Hemingway on 14 September 1948:
About payment, Ross noted that while length would be a factor, he guessed the price would range between $1,000 and $1,200, "more or less, and maybe more" (Letters 343-44).
No direct reply from Hemingway followed, but an undated letter from Lillian Ross to Harold Ross did. She reported that Hemingway had since moved on to Italy and had asked her to convey his idea of writing about "the environs of Venice" for The New Yorker. If Harold liked that idea for an article, Hemingway explained to Lillian, he should cable Hemingway regarding length and price. If Harold didn't like the idea, Hemingway emphasized, it would not be a problem, as they were both professionals and understood each other.
At last Harold Ross had what he had sought for six years. However, he was faced with a dilemma that "broke [his] heart," as he explained to Hemingway briefly in a cablegram and at length in a letter, both written on 24 November 1948. As it happened, Ross told Hemingway, he had already contracted with Alan Moorehead--who had earlier written on Portofino for the 25 September 1948 issue of The New Yorker--to write a piece on Venice. Moorehead's "Letter from Venice" was subsequently published in The New Yorker on 15 October 1949. Clearly embarrassed, Ross tried to move on to the lighter topic of saying how he would like to join his old friend in Italy now: "I wish to God I could get there, or anywhere else, but I was a damned fool and started a weekly magazine. One step like that blights a whole life." He closed his letter by gamely asking Hemingway to contact him "by mail, wire, pigeon, or somehow if you get ,any more urges for pieces, you might let me know."
Unfortunately for Ross, Hemingway apparently never had any more urges to write for The New Yorker. Nor is there any other correspondence between them in the magazine's files. Yet the two men remained friends. According to Mary Hemingway in How It Was, a later Hemingway-Ross social evening at "21" was the setting for Hemingway's famous confrontation with Irwin Shaw over his thinly-disguised portrayals of Ernest, Mary, and the author's brother Leicester Hemingway in Shaw's 1949 novel, The Young Lions. While Hemingway and Mary dined with Harold Ross and, as Mary put it, Ross's "blonde, giggly wife" Irwin Shaw "came to the table and Ernest exploded." According to Mary, her husband's "violent, scarifying critique of Shaw, his character, his person, his writing. caused Ross to wiggle on the seat" (How It Was 261).
Be that as it may, Hemingway's most important appearance in Harold Ross's New Yorker remains as the subject, not the author, of Lillian Ross's 1950 profile, "How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?". Yet, when Harold Ross died unexpectedly on 6 December 1951, during surgery for lung cancer, Hemingway was saddened by the loss of a man he clearly considered a friend. In an unpublished letter to Malcolm Cowley, Hemingway wrote of his affection for Ross and his sorrow that he could not be of help to him during his final illness. And to his own son Gregory, Hemingway penned the simplest and most correct epitaph for Harold Ross--He was a great editor--despite his failure to land Ernest Hemingway.
(1.) In a 26 September 1929 cablegram to Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross wrote: "WE HAVE ALREADY GONE TO PRESS WITH HEMINGWAY REVIEW BUT LISTEN WONT YOU DO TWO THOUSAND WORD PROFILE HEMINGWAY? AND AVERT CALAMITY OF HAVING HIS BOOK COME OUT AND YOUR NOT WRITING SOMETHING ABOUT HIM PLEASE PLEASE LOVE / ROSS." Ernest Hemingway Collection, Incoming Correspondence, Box 70, John F. Kennedy Library, Boston.
(2.) The Ross-Hemingway file at the New York Public Library fills two folders dated 1942 and 1948, runs to 21 pages, and is kept in Box 50, one of 2,566 archival boxes comprising The New Yorker's records from 1924 to 1984. Ross also corresponded with Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn. His letters to her comprise 37 pages and fill another two folders, dated 1942-1943 and 1946, and filed in Box 47. Only a few of these letters have been published in Thomas Kunkel's Letters From the Editor: The New Yorker's Harold Ross. The 1946 file of Martha Gellhorn's correspondence with Harold Ross is not relevant to this article. This material concerns her submission of an article on java, which Ross eventually rejected.
(3.) Roger Angell was also the son of New Yorker fiction editor Katharine S. White.
Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner's, 1969.
Hemingway, Ernest. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Scribner's, 1981.
--. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 14 December 1951. The Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library. Boston, MA.
--. Letter to Gregory Hemingway. 11 December 1951. The Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library. Boston, MA.
Hemingway, Mary Welsh. How It Was. New York: Knopf, 1976.
Kunkel, Thomas. Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1995.
The New Yorker Records, 1924-1984. Boxes 47 and 50. New York Public Library. New York, NY. Quoted by permission.
Ross, Harold. Letters From the Editor: The New Yorker's Harold Ross. Ed. Thomas Kunkel. New York: Random House, 2000.
The Moorings of Arlington Heights is located on 45 acres formerly part of the Old Magnus Farm. The Mooring is gated retirement community and nursing home/assisted living. The Moorings of Arlington Heights, 811 E. Central Rd., Arlington Heights, Illinois 60005. http://www.themooringsofarlingtonheights.org
the Old Magnus Farm Round Barn still exists and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1992. Also located at 811 E. Central Rd., Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Source: Rockford Morning Star December 4, 1959
The Old Magnus Farm was owned and operated by Alexander B. Magnus until 1965. Alexander B. Magnus was succeed in farm ownership and management by his son, Alexander Benzine Magnus Jr., b. 3 Mar 1926, d. 21 Aug 2002.
The New Yorker
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The New Yorker, American weekly magazine, famous for its varied literary fare and humour. The founder, Harold W. Ross, published the first issue on February 21, 1925, and was the magazine’s editor until his death in December 1951. The New Yorker’s initial focus was on New York City’s amusements and social and cultural life, but the magazine gradually acquired a broader scope that encompassed literature, current affairs, and other topics. The New Yorker became renowned for its short fiction, essays, foreign reportage, and probing biographical studies, as well as its comic drawings and its detailed reviews of cinema, books, theatre, and other arts. The magazine offered a blend of reportage and commentary, short stories and poetry, reviews, and humour to a sophisticated, well-educated, liberal audience.
The New Yorker’s contributors have included such well-known literary figures as S.J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, Ogden Nash, E.B. White, John O’Hara, Edmund Wilson, J.D. Salinger, John Updike, Rebecca West, Dorothy Parker, Alice Munro, Jane Kramer, Woody Allen, John McPhee, and Milan Kundera. Among its great cartoonists have been Charles Addams, Helen Hokinson, George Price, James Thurber (a writer as well), Roz Chast, Saul Steinberg, Gahan Wilson, William Steig, Edward Koren, and Rea Irvin, who was the magazine’s first art director and the creator of Eustace Tilley, the early American dandy (inspired by an illustration in the 11th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica) who appeared on the cover of the first issue and on annual covers thereafter.
In 1985 The New Yorker was sold to the publisher Samuel I. Newhouse, Jr., this being the first time in its history that the magazine’s ownership had changed hands. William Shawn was the magazine’s editor in chief from 1952 to 1987, when he was succeeded by Robert Gottlieb, formerly a book editor and executive at Alfred A. Knopf publishers. In 1992 a Briton, Tina Brown, formerly editor of Vanity Fair, replaced Gottlieb. Under Brown’s editorship, cosmetic changes to the magazine’s traditionally conservative layout were introduced, coverage of popular culture was enhanced, and more photographs were published. In 1998 Brown left the magazine and was replaced by staff writer David Remnick. The New Yorker continued to attract leading writers and remained among the most influential and widely read American magazines.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.
The Mysterious, Murky Story Behind Soy-Sauce Packets
Right now, whether you're at work or at home, in a drawer somewhere near you is probably a packet of soy sauce—a squishy, likely clear pouch of transclucent saltiness left over from a late-night Chinese-takeout binge or a hurried workday lunch. These packets are remarkably common: In terms of sales, soy sauce is the third-most-popular condiment in the U.S., behind only mayonnaise and ketchup.
But as ubiquitous as soy-sauce packets are, no one knows where they first came from. The major players in the to-go soy-sauce industry today—KariOut and W Y Industries—don’t claim to have created the packet. Some have attributed the design to Ben Eisenstadt—the founder of the sugar-substitute manufacturer Sweet’N Low and the designer of his company’s trademark bubblegum-pink packets—but that connection remains unconfirmed.
The first sign of a soy-sauce packet that resembles the one popular today is a 1955 patent, filed by two men named Harold M. Ross and Yale Kaplan, that outlines a “dispensing container for liquids.” The packet would hold “a single serving” of “sauce or syrup,” which could be extracted with a squeeze.
Ross and Kaplan's 1955 patent for a
"dispensing container for liquids" (United
States Patent and Trademark Office)
But a key feature of Ross and Kaplan’s design that differs from soy sauce packets today is that “the flow of fluid will stop and any possible leakage will be prevented” as soon as the pressure is released. As anyone who has stained his or her shirt with errant soy sauce can attest, the brown, salty liquid isn’t nearly viscous enough for this to hold true Ross and Kaplan’s brainchild was much better suited to ketchup.
From this vantage, soy-sauce packets appear not to be optimized for the substance they contain—a substance that, it should be noted, isn’t even technically soy sauce. Packaged soy sauce is often a cocktail of processed ingredients that resemble the real thing: water, salt, food coloring, corn syrup, MSG, and preservatives. But soy sauce, strictly defined, refers to a fermented combination of soybeans and wheat whose earliest direct predecessor was first mentioned in writing in the year 160. (Less-direct ancestors of modern-day soy sauce existed in China as far back as about 3,000 years ago.)
In the millennia since, arguments have brewed over what exactly constituted soy sauce. William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi trace these disputes in their book History of Soy Sauce (160 CE to 2012). The manufacturers of traditional fermented soybean paste at one point banded together and, through a proposal authorized by the Japanese government, contested the right of companies such as La Choy and Kari-Out to call their products soy sauce. These old-school outfits outlined an elaborate classification system for varieties of the product. In the end, it was too hopeful, and the proposal was withdrawn in 2005.
Even though the soy-sauce packet’s origin is an unsolved mystery, the story of how it became popular is not. That’s the story of Howard Epstein, who, as the founder of the dominant soy-sauce brand Kari-Out, is seen as the ambassador of packaged American soy sauce.
Epstein became interested in food packaging because his father manufactured the long, flimsy plastic packaging for freezer pops. Epstein's first venture into his father’s trade was a popcorn-packaging business, which he bought for $5,000 over 50 years ago.
That business failed to gain traction, and Epstein, now 81, was looking for a change when one of his father’s salesmen, who sold tea bags, suggested he consider the soy-sauce-packaging business. In 1964, Epstein founded Kari-Out, and he says he arrived to the industry right as it was becoming commercially viable. He ran his new business out of the popcorn factory he owned.
At first, Epstein was regarded with suspicion, primarily because he, a Jew from the Bronx, was different from most people in the industry. “No one trusted me because it was the old times. The Chinese ran the business,” Epstein says. His attempts to sell his packets to wholesalers were met with apathy and even cold-shouldered silence. “I had one potential customer,” he says. “I went in and asked him if he would be interested in selling my soy sauce. He didn’t speak. He never talked to me.”
But Epstein persisted, and his familiarity with freezer-pop packaging proved helpful in solving the problems with soy-sauce packets at the time: They leaked and they were too flimsy. “The only difference is a freezer pop has a much longer bag,” Epstein says.
Epstein’s break came in the form of affordable air travel, which went mainstream in the 1970s. To serve the newly airborne hordes of families and businessmen, airlines began offering prepared foods onboard. Epstein found his first major foothold as the primary provider of soy sauce for these in-flight meals.
Cheap airfare also allowed Epstein to travel the country in search of new customers. He was scouting at a time when Chinese takeout joints were becoming as commonplace as nail salons and convenience stores in strip malls around the country. “Chinese business was growing at this time because China was not as business-friendly,” he says. “People were leaving China and coming into the United States to open a restaurant and cook. The industry was booming.”
He soon built up a widespread network of customers, and Kari-Out’s products appeared in the Chinese restaurants across the country. Now, he estimates that Kari-Out has a 50 percent market share. The company’s soy-sauce packets remain ubiquitous—Epstein recalls finding Kari-Out packets at a concession stand in rural Iceland a couple years ago. “We’ve survived 50 years,” Epstein says. “I never get sick of Chinese food or soy sauce.”
But has the American public gotten sick of soy sauce packets? Sometimes they squirt their contents in unintended directions, and they’re fairly wasteful, often dispensing too much sauce, or not enough. But in the more than 50 years that they’ve been around, little has been done to change their design.
Reinventing a condiment package with decades of cultural inertia is difficult, but it has been done before. H.J. Heinz Company upgraded its traditional ketchup packets—the tear-at-the-corner annoyances that invariably produce messes and yield too little sauce—by hiring an industrial design firm to think about alternate sauce-delivery mechanisms. They came up with the Dip & Squeeze, a small plastic tub that can be opened fully from the side and dipped in, or opened partially from the top and squeezed out cleanly.
Can soy-sauce packets be made better too? Gary Murphy thinks so. Murphy, the founder and CEO of Little Soya, is an unlikely soy-sauce pioneer with a loud laugh. A Texan, he has built up a business reselling Chinese furniture in America and once owned a legal courier company in Houston. Even when Murphy started working as a food-services consultant, soy sauce was plain and ignorable—just another nuisance to deal with when eating late-night Chinese takeout on the road.
His perspective changed when, in 2008, he was approached by Jeffrey Frederick, who helps oversee the food and beverages served at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Frederick wasn’t satisfied with the soy sauce being served at the casino's buffets—he deemed it too salty, too metallic-tasting, and lacking in the rich, savory dimension of flavor known as umami—and its disposable packaging bothered him as well. When Murphy, at Frederick's request, sought out a more natural, authentic, and sustainable alternative, he found nothing. So he set out to make his own.
On top of his packed work schedule, Murphy went to grocery stores near and far, buying bottles of soy sauce to taste, sniff, and swish about. He’d prowl aisles for hours—“People would get suspicious of me," he says—and study the products’ packaging and ingredients.
What Murphy found was that the market was concentrated among a few Japanese brands, such as Kikkoman, which all produced a similar brown liquid that has come to symbolize soy sauce in the U.S. Murphy says that American soy sauce is sweeter than Asian soy sauces, which leads to the metallic taste that many complain about. He says his sauce corrects this, and is gluten-free to boot. (While this fact may play into American food trends, it’s worth noting just how far a departure gluten-free soy sauce is from the fermented wheat paste of yore.)
But the most interesting feature of Murphy’s work for Little Soya is the packaging that Frederick requested—the first meaningful improvement on the classic disposable soy-sauce packet. Where the soy-sauce packet is straightforward and defined by right angles, Little Soya’s packaging, which was modeled on existing packaging from other parts of the world, is quirky, rounded, and efficient. It is a small translucent plastic fish whose mouth puckers into a bright green cap, which can be screwed back on to save any unused sauce for later.
The fish is not just a cute brand differentiator but also a means of avoiding waste. Its top screws back on to save soy sauce for later—a solution that Murphy noticed had already caught on in Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Norway. Little Soya and its fish have seen a growth in popularity as the company has negotiated deals with gourmet home-delivery services, such as Plated and HelloFresh, which place a higher premium on aesthetics than the average Chinese restaurant.
The market presence of Little Soya's upscale, diet-trend-friendly sauce plays into an industry-wide rise in production of premium condiments. A report put out by the market-research firm Euromonitor International last November stated that even as the economy has recovered, many Americans still elect to eat at home, but now seek out high-end sauces and condiments to replicate the experience of eating at a restaurant. Sales of high-priced barbecue sauce, salad dressing, and soy sauce are seeing large gains as a result Little Soya, while still small, now brings in about $1 million in revenue per year.
The cap proved useful in another, more unexpected context, too. After hearing that astronauts complained about the messiness of using traditional soy-sauce packets in space, Murphy provided NASA with some of Little Soya's fish. While the fish might be the long-awaited soy-sauce solution here on earth, mainstream soy sauce still isn't fully optimized for interstellar travel—Murphy had to boost the flavors in the NASA batch because space turns people into less-sensitive tasters.