07 December, 2018

Arnold Gingrich


Arnold W. Gingrich, co-founder, editor and publisher of Esquire Magazine.

Gingrich created Esquire in 1933 and remained its editor until 1945. He returned as publisher in 1952, serving in this role until his death in 1976. For several years he left the post of editor vacant while several young editors competed for it. The two most serious contenders were Harold Hayes and Clay Felker. Hayes won, and Felker went on to found New York magazine. During the Hayes-Gingrich era, Esquire played a leading role in launching the New Journalism, publishing writers like Tom Wolfe and fellow fraternity brother, Gay Talese.

Gingrich was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, of Mennonite parents in 1903. He attended the University of Michigan where he was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, and was noted as a member of the class of 1925. Gingrich brought numerous skills and interests to bear in the formation of Esquire magazine, notably his skill in editing, identification of talent and in publishing. His partner, David Smart led the business side of the magazine with Henry Jackson responsible for the fashion section, making up a more substantial portion of the magazine in its first fifteen years. Over his four-decade career, Gingrich published such authors as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passes, Garry Wills, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer. He was also one of the few magazine editors to publish F. Scott Fitzgerald regularly in the late 1930s, including Fitzgerald's The Pat Hobby Stories. Gingrich also published stories by Jack Woodford, whom he befriended when they worked together at an advertising agency in the late 1920s. He wrote the introduction to Woodford's famous book on writing and publishing, Trial and Error.

The magazine’s name Esquire was inspired by a letter from Gingrich's friend Robert Klark Graham, facetiously addressing him as "Arnold Gingrich, Esquire." The magazine he created set the template for future men's magazines of the mid-century period; for example, Playboy, a variation, essentially Esquire with nude photographs (Esquire had famously published a series of "Varga Girl" paintings and other "cheesecake" imagery since its founding). Similar periodicals include GQ (originally Gentlemen's Quarterly), Field & Stream, Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. Further afield, even The Atlantic and other regional and national publications exhibit styling and content first evidenced in the pages of Esquire. Indeed, Esquire was one of the forerunners of this genre, blending aspects of traditional, if upper-crust masculine pastimes such as armchair discussions of Ivy League pedigree, East Coast fraternalism, and literary interest with "the sporting life," such as horses and angling, fashion, love of tobacco and whiskey, and admiration for the feminine. More recently Maxim has continued this tradition with a more edgy appeal to Gen-Xers and millennials.

His autobiography, Toys of A Lifetime, with illustrations by Leslie Saalburg, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1966. It has long been out of print. In it, Gingrich recounts his experience with cars (he owned several notable Bentleys), including a classic R-series and S-series "Countryman" (obtained through the late J.S. Inskip in Manhattan), as well as an early Volkswagen. Other interests include transatlantic liners (notably the Normandie), French hotels, Dunhill pipes and Balkan Sobranie tobacco, clothes and all manner of other possessions and accommodations.

Gingrich was an accomplished fly fisherman, writing several books on the subject and lifestyle of the gentleman angler.

Gingrich was also an accomplished violinist. He would arrive at his office hours early to practice before the staff arrived, participated in amateur chamber music ensembles, and owned several highly prized instruments. He published a musical memoir titled "A Thousand Mornings of Music: The Journal of an Obsession with the Violin."

He died in 1976 at his home in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

No comments: