Frederick Burr Opper

Frederick Burr Opper and other New York artists sign and illustrate 1907 Players Club menu

A Players Club menu card signed and illustrated by eleven New York artists verso, including cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937) as "F. Opper". The menu card is printed on gilt edged cream stock. The Players Club logo, with its wreath-encircled pair of theater masques, is embossed in gilt in the upper left corner while a quote from The Taming of the Shrew appears at top. In very good to near fine condition. Overall toning and minor discolored spot recto, and a little edge toning verso. The signatures and illustrations are clean and bright. The card measures 4.25" x 6.875".

On June 10, 1907, members of New York's prestigious The Players Club enjoyed a ten-course meal complete with a squab on toast entrée with julienne potatoes. The dinner guests commemorated the occasion by signing and doodling on the back of the menu card.

Frederick Burr Opper is the most well-known of the menu signatories. He was the creator of the "Happy Hooligan" comic strip, and also illustrated numerous magazines and books of the day. Opper's rotund cigar-smoking businessman here labeled as "The Trusts" resembled his Hearst-era political cartoons satirizing Taft and Roosevelt. The remaining six illustrations in pencil and ink depict comical faces, possibly self-deprecating self-portraits.

Other recognizable artist's names on our menu include James Wall Finn (1866-1913), a muralist and interior designer, and artists Harry Davis Ives (died 1938) and Edward M. Welch (born 1861). Historical records tell us that Ives lived in the Art Village of Southampton, Long Island, and that Welch lived in Gramercy Park.

The New Music Review and Church Music Review, Volume 8, circa 1909 provides us with a description of what this raucous 1907 party might have been like. The magazine reported, under a reproduction of Opper's caricature of "The Flying Dutchman": "From a series of illustrations of Wagner's Niebelungen Ring, drawn by Mr. Fred Opper at a private luncheon at the Players' Club on Decoration Day, May 30. The Players' Club, like the Savage Club of London has always been noted for its gatherings of men famous in the world of art … "

The Players Club was established in 1888 by Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth. This socially exclusive gentlemen's club attracted members of a creative bent. For example, glancing through the membership roll of The Players Club from 1917 is like a who's who of American artists: Childe Hassam (joined 1891), John Philip Sousa (1906), A. Sterling Calder (1910), James Montgomery Flagg (1914), etc. Our menu signers Frederick Burr Opper, Edward M. Welch, and Harry Davis Ives joined its rolls in 1894, 1898, and 1905 respectively.

A whimsical relic from turn-of-the-century New York!


Item: 63508

Price: $500.00
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