Life Magazine

August 12, 1957 -The Return of Ringling Brothers

Ringling Brothers Life

Ringling Brothers’ aerial ballet in Washington, DC’s Griffith Stadium

On August 12, 1957, Life magazine reported that new technology was saving an old tradition – the circus! The unfortunate demise of Ringling Brothers had been reported by Life a little over a year earlier. “Beset by skyrocketing costs,” the July 30, 1956 issue explained, “President John Ringling North folded the big top and publicly called it quits.”

“But this year the circus has confounded its mourners by springing back to life – out of doors instead of under canvas. On tour for 11 months, it is playing at ball parks and fair grounds in the clear light of day, thanks to a new 35-ton system of aluminum rigging which can also be set up in covered arenas.”

Operating costs for the canvas “big top” had been running at about $21,000. The new rigging would add only $9,000 a day to the Ringling Brothers’ bottom line.

So let’s go! And how do they get all those clowns into that little car?

Image Credit: Life/Google Books

Vintage 1957 – Illustrator Edna Eicke

Edna Eicke - Tom Funk - (c)The Estate of Edna Eicke

Illustrator Edna Eicke

1957 was a prolific year for Edna Eicke. The prestigious New Yorker magazine tapped the accomplished illustrator to create six covers for the weekly publication. Over the course of her career, Eicke’s illustrations would grace the magazine’s cover fifty-one times, spanning the years from 1945 to 1961.

Eicke was born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1919. She graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in advertising and fashion and started her career sketching window displays for Sue William’s Display Studio in New York. After marrying fellow Display Studio staffer Tom Funk, Eicke started a family and a new career as a cover and interior illustrator for House and Garden, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Women’s Day, and many other magazines.

At first, Funk and Eicke lived in Greenwich Village. They were profiled by Life Magazine and photographs of their apartment appeared in House and Garden. They later moved to the artists’ enclave of Westport, Connecticut with their three children.

Eicke’s popular New Yorker covers usually depicted metropolitan landscapes and scenes from childhood. Games of hide and seek in the park, lights glowing from house windows at dusk, small ghosts going trick-or-treating, leaves changing color in autumn – how comforting these scenes must have been while the Cold War, Cuban unrest, and atomic weapon threat hovered in the background.

Prints of Eicke’s 1957 New Yorker covers – from January 19th, April 20th, June 8th, July 27th, August 24th, and December 14th – are still available from Conde Nast.


Portrait Image Credit: Tom Funk, the Estate of Edna Eicke
Illustrations Image Credit: The New Yorker