Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Touring Topics / Westways: The Phil Townsend Hanna Years and "Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Cover Art Program, 1928-1981"

The Auto Club of Southern California was founded in 1900 by a group of automobile enthusiasts with a mission of providing member services such as organizing social activities, sponsoring car races and lobbying to spend public money to improve roads. The house organ, Touring Topics, began publishing in February of 1909. (see premiere issue below from the Auto Club web site). The Club began installing sign posts to aid motorists and creating maps to guide tourists to the area's beaches, mountains and desert resorts.

 Premiere issue of Touring Topics, February, 1909 (from the Auto Club web site)

By 1920, Touring Topics had become the West Coast's most popular periodical for motorists and a major force in local and regional issues impacting the driving public. Southern California's dramatic growth in the 1920s and the editorship of Phil Townsend Hanna beginning in 1926 took the magazine in a new direction.

Hanna was born on August 24, 1896 in Los Angeles. He attended University of Southern California and worked for the  Los Angeles Tribune from 1915-16, was night city editor, then night editor for the Los Angeles Times from 1917-1919, manager of the Los Angeles Bureau of the Associated Press from 1919-20, editor of Western Highway Builder for six years beginning in 1920, and art editor in 1922 and editor in 1926 of Touring Topics (Westways after 1934).

Hanna was a regular at the salons, exhibits, and discussions centered around Jake Zeitlin's bookstore and gallery in downtown Los Angeles (see below). He was also a prominent member of the  Zamorano Club, producers of the now legendary California rare book list, The Zamorano 80.

 Jake Zeitlin's Bookstore, Lloyd Wright, Architect (from LA's Early Moderns and Dept. of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA)

Once Hanna became editor he started commissioning works from among his literary and artistic friends from the Zeitlin circle including Paul Landacre (see below), Edward Weston, Henrietta Shore, Will Connell, Ernest M. Pratt, Karl Struss, Grace Marion Brown and many others. During his 30 year tenure as a successful arbiter of West Coast taste, the magazine became culturally important in it's own right and was deemed a reliable venue for art, photography, literature, food and wine while still effectively promoting automotive tourism.

"Bundle-Stiff's Dream," by Jake Zeitlin, Paul Landacre illustration. Touring Topics, February 1929, p. 11. (From my collection).

LA'S Early Moderns by Victoria Dailey, Natalie Shivers and Michael Dawson, Balcony Press, 2003 (from my collection)

Victoria Dailey's essay, "Art, Naturally Modern" from the above highly recommended LA'S Early Moderns covers this period of LA's rich avant-garde past very effectively. She provides an excellent comparison of Touring Topics and California Arts & Architecture and both publication's importance in bringing modernism in all its forms to a broader audience in 1930s Los Angeles.

Touring Topics, July, 1929, "On Sentinel Dome, Yosemite" by Evylena Nunn Miller. (from my collection)

Hanna commissioned painters such as Evylena Nunn Miller (see above), Conrad Buff (see below), Carl Oscar Borg, Grace Marion Brown, Alson Clark, Millard Sheets, Henrietta Shore (see below), Alvin Lustig and Maynard Dixon (see later below) to produce Western landscapes for the cover in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Shore, a close friend and confidant of Edward Weston who advised her to travel to Mexico for inspiration and attracted her to move to Carmel in 1930 shortly after his move there, had her first group of lithographs exhibited at Zeitlin's Bookshop in September 1928.

Touring Topics, June 1932, "Grand Canyon" by Conrad Buff. From The Art and Life of Conrad Buff  by Will South, George Stern Fine Arts, 2000, p. 56.

Left, Conrad Buff and Maynard Dixon in southern Utah and right, Conrad Buff portrait of Maynard Dixon, ca. 1939. From The Art and Life of Conrad Buff  by Will South, George Stern Fine Arts, 2000, p. 58.

Photographer unknown (Edward Weston?), Henrietta Shore painting a Cypress Root, Carmel, n.d. Published in Touring Topics, December, 1929, p. 9. (From Henrietta Shore: A Retrospective Exhibition: 1900-1963, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Modern Art, 1986, p. 30).

Henrietta Shore, California Cacti, Touring Topics, December 1929. (From L.A.'s Early Moderns, p. 57.

Maynard Dixon was called upon to do all twelve covers of Touring Topics in 1930 with a theme of transportation in the American West. Hanna more than likely decided on hiring Dixon after viewing his exhibition at Zeitlin's bookshop gallery in January of 1929. Dixon's series for Touring Topics spanned centuries in a single year, starting with January's Indian Burden-Bearers to December's The Airplane. See the June cover with Pony Express below. Hanna's sponsorship was crucial to Dixon during a slow period in his sales. The covers commission enabled Dixon and his wife, photographer Dorothea Lange, to relocate to Taos, where he produced some of his now famous images of American Indians. For more on the Hanna-Dixon commissions see From Packhorse to Packard by John Ott.

Touring Topics, July, 1930, "Overland Stage" by Maynard Dixon. (from my collection)

Touring Topics, June, 1930, "Pony Express" by Maynard Dixon. (from my collection)

In the same June, 1930 issue of Touring Topics Hanna included an 8-page Rotogravure Section featuring "The Photography of Edward Weston" by Merle Armitage (see below), both of whom were also involved in the Zeitlin salon circle of artists, writers and architects. Dailey characterizes Armitage as "impressario, collector, manager, publisher, writer, epicure and booster." (LA'S Early Moderns, p.54).  Zeitlin's second exhibition in his bookshop gallery was of Weston's work. Armitage was also a fan and promoter of Henrietta Shore's work which was also featured in the Rotogravure Section during 1930. Armitage also produced the first monograph of Shore's work in 1933. (See below).

Henrietta Shore by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1933. (From Designed Books by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1938, p. 116).

Will Connell portrait of Merle Armitage and Jake Zeitlin, ca. 1930. (From L.A.'s Early Moderns, p. 45).

The Photography of Edward Weston by Merle Armitage, June, 1930 issue of Touring Topics. (from my collection)  

The Daybooks of Edward Weston, II California edited by Nancy Newhall, Aperture, 1973. (from my collection)

Armitage, like L.A. Times art critic Arthur Millier, became a huge Weston fan immediately upon exposure to his work. See Weston's California Daybook above for much on the Armitage-Millier-Weston-Shore relationships. Armitage was the driving force behind Edward Weston's first monograph (see below) published in 1932 which has become one of the most important American photography books of the 20th century. Armitage designed the book and the printing was done by Lynton Kistler. Weston's close friend Ramiel McGehee edited the literary contributions by Charles Sheeler, Lincoln Steffens, Arthur Millier, and Jean Charlot. The quality of the full page reproductions of Weston's work was unprecedented for the time. Armitage was also responsible for finding Weston work with the Public Works of Art Project, Southern California Region of which he was the director during 1934. (See my California Arts & Architecture: A Steppingstone to Fame: Harwell Hamilton Harris and John Entenza: Two Case Studies for more on Armitage's modernizing influence on California Arts & Architecture).

Edward Weston by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1932. (From Designed Books by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1938, p. 97)

Jose Clemente Orozco, Carmel, July 20, 1930. Edward Weston photo. Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.

One of the artists Weston befriended while in Mexico where he took the previous photo of the maguey was Jose Clemente Orozco (see above). Edward and Tina Modotti, accompanied by 15-year old Brett Weston, photographed Orozcco's murals at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City in 1926. While Orozco was creating his Prometheus mural at Pomona College he asked young Brett to photograph his completed work in June of 1930, a month before he and his New York dealer Alma Reed visited Weston in Carmel. Professor Pijoan of Pomona College, who was responsible for brokering Orozco's masterpiece in the campus's newly completed Frary Dining Hall, submitted the below article to Hanna which was illustrated by young Brett's images. (For much more on Orozco see my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club").

Pijoan. Joseph, "Orozco's Great Fresco," Touring Topics, October, 1930. Courtesy Santa Monica Public Library. Photos by Brett Weston.

Pijoan. Joseph, "Orozco's Great Fresco," Touring Topics, October, 1930. Courtesy Santa Monica Public Library. Photos by Brett Weston.

Schindler, Pauline, "Carmel Hours," Touring Topics, November 1931. Photos by Edward Weston.

Pauline Schindler, estranged wife of architect R. M. Schindler and editor and publisher of the Carmel weekly newspaper The Carmelite during 1928-9, taught Weston's sons at the Walt Whitman School in Boyle Heights in 1921. (See my "The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School" for more details). After Weston moved to Carmel in 1929 she named him to her editorial advisory board. She frequently featured Weston's work on the cover and after leaving Carmel continued publishing articles with Weston photo illustrations in such publications as The Handicrafter, Dune Forum and Touring Topics. (See above and later below). (See also my "Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism" for much more on this).

Mildred Lewis Wilson painting, Touring Topics, July 1933. (From my collection).

Alvin Lustig cover design, Touring Topics, May 1933. From Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig by Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen, Chronicle Books, 2010, p. 23.

An 18-year old Alvin Lustig sent an unsolicited cover design to Hanna in early 1933 (see above) which was to become his first published illustration, no less the cover of a prestigious regional publication. Hanna presciently recognized Lustig's burgeoning talent as he also allowed the graphic design prodigy to "talk his way into" a job as the magazine's art director. With only a high school education and no practical experience, he was given a title that would look good on any veteran designer's resume. (Heller, p. 22 and  California Arts & Architecture: A Steppingstone to Fame: Harwell Hamilton Harris and John Entenza: Two Case Studies).

Hanna changed the name of the magazine from Touring Topics to Westways in 1934, the same year he hired UCLA librarian Lawrence Clark Powell to start writing regular book reviews. (see Westways masthead below). In February 1935, the magazine ran an essay by a young M.F.K. Fisher, the first published work of a woman who would go on to become one of the country's most influential food writers.

Lamont, Barbara, "California's Castles in the Air", Westways, 1934. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

Barbara Lamont, author of the above article, "California's Castles in the Air" featuring a Richard Neutra rendering of a proposed penthouse in the Hollywood Hills was a frequent contributor to Touring Topics and Westways on architecture and housing during the 1930s. (See my related Neutra's "Skyline Apartments" Penthouse, Westways, 1934).

 Robert Sterner cover design. Westways, February 1934. (From my collection).

The February 1934 issue above features an article by Pauline Schindler, "Oceano Dunes and Their Mystics," which describes the Dune's colorful inhabitants and a new publication. Dune Forum, which she co-edited with Ellen Janson for publisher Gavin Arthur, grandson of former president Chester A. Arthur. (See my Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism, 1927-1936 for a more detailed discussion.)

Schindler, Pauline, "Oceano Dunes and Their Mystics", Westways, February 1934, pp. 12-13, 36. (From my collection).

Photographer unknown, Westways, January 1937. (From my collection).

The January 1937 number of Westways happened to include an early photograph by fledgling architectural photographer Julius Shulman. The Dunes photo (below left) features his soon-to-be wife Emma beautifully composed within the curve of the meandering ridgeline and described in the caption as"...a gentle work of genius held in restraint." 

Julius Shulman, Dunes, Westways, January 1937, p. 26. (From my collection). 

Raymond Winters cover design, Westways, November 1935. (From my collection).

Paul Landacre, ca. 1934. Courtesy Willam Powell Clark Memorial Library. (From L.A.'s Early Moderns, p. 88).

Paul Landacre was an intimate of the Jake Zeitlin circle which included Carey McWilliams, photographers Edward Weston and Will Connell, architect Lloyd Wright, and writer-librarian Lawrence Clark Powell and Touring Topics editor Phil Townsend Hanna. Landacre had one of his first public showings in 1930 at Zeitlin’s bookshop, which at the time was one of the earliest venues in Los Angeles exhibiting modernist works. (See earlier).

Paul Landacre, Glendale Blvd. Bridge, Westways, September 2009. (First appeared on the cover of the May 1936 issue).

Landacre’s work first appeared in Touring Topics in August 1928; the series of woodblock prints accompanied the article “We Had a Lovely Ride!,” written by his wife, Margaret McCreery. In February 1929, a Landacre print illustrated a Zeitlin poem titled “Bundle-Stiff’s Dream.” More Touring Topics illustrations followed. Landacre’s first Westways cover, a wood engraving of the Glendale Boulevard Bridge (see above), ran in the May 1936 number. (Morgan P. Yates, "The Artistry of Printmaking," Westways, September 2009). Landacre’s biggest splash to date came in 1939, when Hanna commissioned him to produce six wood engravings of birds for consecutive Westways covers from July through December. (See below ad).

Paul Landacre woodblock print. Westways, December 1939. (From my collection).

Paul Landacre cover designs in ad, Westways, December 1939, p. 18). (From my collection).

From an early age, Landacre had developed a love of nature, particularly birds. He spent many hours observing the birds attracted to the custom birdbaths and feeders he installed in the large yard surrounding the house he and Margaret occupied just east of Silver Lake. He even charted the activities of individual birds as they returned to the yard over several seasons. These close observations and the heartfelt affinity for his feathered friends must have made the Westways bird covers an especially pleasing project. Landacre created a stylized black petrel bird symbol, which appeared in the margins on many of his prints.

Photographer unknown), Westways, August, 1937. (From my collection)

From 1934 to 1939, Hanna hired another personality from the Zeitlin crowd, Carey McWilliams, a young lawyer and journalist, to write the new Tides West column. (see masthead below). For a nice piece on this see Tides West: The Coming of Age of Carey McWilliams by historian Kevin Starr at the following link.

"Tides West" masthead, Westways, November, 1937. George Peterson photo. (from my collection)

Of course, McWilliams would go on to pen Southern California Country: An Island in the Land after cutting his literary teeth under Hanna's editorship at Westways. McWilliams' opus is one of the most cited books on Southern California written to date and is still a wonderful read. I finally got around to reading it a couple months ago and certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in our rich and colorful history. The first edition in collectible dust jacket is very hard to find. McWilliams acknowledges the mentorship he received from both Hanna and Zeitlin in the foreword.

Southern California Country: An Island in the Land by Carey McWilliams, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946. (from my collection)

Endpapers from Southern California Country: An Island in the Land by Carey McWilliams, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946. (from my collection)

Even though Hanna paid increasing attention to the arts and literature, he continued to promote automotive tourism with photo essays of the Southwest and Mexico. Writers and prominent photographers, including Will Connell, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston documented their journeys for Westways. Together they created a historical photographic record of California. Hanna commissioned Weston, for example, to do a 21-part series, Seeing California with Edward Weston which was published in 1937 and 1938 (see below). Hanna paid Weston $50.00 per month for 8-10 photos while he was also on a $2,000 Guggenheim fellowship. The fee made possible the purchase of a new Ford V-8 sedan for the trip. Reenactment footage of Edward and Charis Wilson on their Guggenheim travels can be seen in the film on Edward and Charis's relationship, Eloquent Nude: The Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson.

Edward Weston photographs, Westways, November, 1937 issue. (from my collection)

Seeing California with Edward Weston, a collection of the 21 Westways articles from the Guggenheim travels, was published in 1939 by the Automobile Club of Southern California. (See below). (See my related "The Sands of Time: The Oceano Dunes and the Westons").

 Seeing California with Edward Weston, Automobile Club of Southern California, 1939

In the late 1930s Hanna hired Jack Courtney to write a monthly housing column, In and About the House.  Below we see the first published appearance of the C. H. Edwards House designed by Gregory Ain, another one of  LA'S Early Moderns, who also worked on a house for Galka Scheyer while in the employ of Richard Neutra, both of whom were also in the Zetlin crowd. Scheyer commissioned Ain to design the second story addition to her house after he left the Neutra office and started out on his own.

Westways, November, 1937 (from my collection)

 Farewells to Phil Townsend Hanna, by Members of the Sunset Club, the Wine and Food Society, and the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles, 1957. (From my collection)

Touring Topics and Westways, under Phil Townsend Hanna from 1926 until his death in 1957, mirrored the culture and lifestyle of Southern California. Not only was Hanna an important tastemaker of sorts and author and publisher in his own right, he played a major role in keeping artists and writers fed during the Great Depression with his commissions for cover and article art work. Hanna was revered by his friends in the Automobile Club of Southern California, Sunset Club, Wine and Food Society, California Club, California Historical Society, Huntington Library, Southwest Museum, Claremont Colleges and the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles evidenced by the above publication for his June 4, 1957 memorial service in the Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. The booklet, printed in a limited edition of 500 copies at the Press of Anderson, Ritchie & Simon included tributes by Marcus Esketh Crahan, J. E. Fishburn, Jr., Lawrence Clark Powell, and Pierson M. Hall.

Past issues of Touring Topics and Westways have not only achieved collectible status but have become an important source of regional history for scholars and authors. An exhibition featuring the magazine's cover art Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Cover Art Program 1929-1981 is currently on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art through February 27, 2011. (See below).

Matthew W. Roth, "The Westways Cover Art Program, 1928-1981," Westways, November/December 2010, pp. cover, 52-55.

Special Centennial Issue, Westways, January/February 2009.