Cartoonist Henry Martin ’48 Donates His Drawings and Books to Princeton

August 1st, 2010 / Development Com...

Making a living by being funny is hard work, as retired cartoonist and author Henry R. Martin ’48 well knows. Martin, who spent more than 50 years creating drawings for The New Yorker and other magazines, has donated nearly 700 original drawings and a selection of humorous books he wrote and/or illustrated to the University Library.

An art history major whose first published cartoon appeared in the Princeton Tiger in 1946, Martin mastered the witty tweak of middle-aged corporate types and their social milieu. An example from a 1986 New Yorker renders a timeline from youngster in overalls to college undergrad to buttoned-down businessman to retired duffer. It’s captioned, “The Seven Ages of Man: Dalton School. Greenwich Country Day. Deerfield. Princeton. Harvard Business School. Paine Webber. Hilton Head.” This cartoon, as well as Martin’s first for The New Yorker and almost 100 others, is part of the recent gift.

The donation includes some 600 drawings that appeared in Punch, the now-defunct legendary British comic magazine first published in 1841. Martin’s cartoons appeared between 1976 and 1989. “I tried to think of things the Brits would be interested in,” Martin said. But he also learned that American humor could cross the Atlantic: “One day, trying to fill out a batch of 20 drawings, I sent one on the Alamo—it was the only one (of that group) they bought!” Two Alamo-related cartoons are part of the new gift.

Not all the treasures in the collection were created by Martin. Among the items is a framed placemat from the famed Punch Table, the site of a weekly gathering for conversation and a multi-course meal attended by longstanding Punch staffers such as William M. Thackeray and A. A. Milne, and distinguished guests including James Thurber. Martin was invited twice to join the staff for lunch around the oval mahogany table where some of these stellar predecessors had carved their initials. The placemat depicts the carved tabletop with the names spelled out on the periphery.

Martin also donated materials he created especially for the University: a copy of Going Back: The Uniqueness of Reunions and P-rades at Princeton University, a 1999 collaboration with the late William K. Selden ’34, and six Thanksgiving-themed illustrations sent as annual thank-you cards by the University’s Office of Gift Planning to members of the 1746 Society—alumni and friends who have arranged a bequest or planned gift to the University.

“I’m thrilled Princeton wants them,” the cartoonist said of his drawings, which are available for viewing without appointment in the reading room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Firestone Library.

Martin has not put his pad and pencils away; he said he’ll keep creating the Thanksgiving cards as long as requested and now draws inspiration from the Pennsylvania community where he lives—sketching cartoons for its weekly bulletin.