Monday, May 02, 2011

Fluffy Ruffles

In the early 1890s color printing came to the big New York daily papers. The Herald was an early adopter and by mid-decade was putting out weekly color supplements. Here are some posters they produced to advertise them. All these come from the NYPL Digital Gallery. You can find other posters in this collection here.

1. February 1896.

2. Easter 1896.

3. April 1896.

4. Easter 1897.

5. November 1897.

Here's an ad for the Herald's Easter Number of a decade later.

{source: New York Evening Telegram, March 1, 1907, on Old Fulton Postcards}

Beginning in 1906 the Sunday Herald featured full-color drawings of a young lady with the engaging name of Fluffy Ruffles. As you can see her artist was Wallace Morgan. The text, in verse, was contributed by Carolyn Wells.

As wikipedia points out, the 1890s earned a reputation as a frivolous decade. It may therefore seem odd in that from 1893 to 1897 or so, the US was mired in a deep economic depression. But on second thought isn't it pretty much usual for hard times to stimulate a need for distraction, particularly the frivolous kind? Whatever the reason, Fluffy Ruffles had the right stuff for those years. She was attractive and well-attired, poised and quite correct, but also lots of fun to be with. In time, Macy's would develop a line of clothing in her style. There were also a book, a Broadway musical, sheet music, and even a brand of candy named after her.

Here's a full page Fluffy feature with legible text, though, sadly, not in color. It appeared in the spring of 1908 and it shows Fluffy's remarkable aplomb. (Click image to view full size.) Fluffy might seem to have a lot in common with her contemporary, Mary Poppins. They both were skilled in navigating the complex rules of maiden behavior, both were assertive without being also aggressive, and both were capable of accomplishing marvelous feats. Of the two, however, Fluffy was the more flirtatious and charmingly feminine. They were both known for their parasols and dressed much alike in shirtwaists and fitted jackets, but Fluffy was a lot more fashionable.

{source: wikipedia}

The Herald sold a colorful paper doll collection to those who couldn't get enough of the lady. This example appeared in with the December 29, 1907, edition of the Herald.


As you can see, Jerome Kern contributed to Fluffy Ruffles, the musical, which opened in New York on September 1, 1908, and lasted through half of October. Hattie Williams played Ruffy. This is Hattie.

And this is she as Fluffy.

{source: wikipedia}

The Herald pushed for increased sales with ads like this.

{From the New York Telegram August 10, 1907; source:}

It's tempting to think this painting helped Wallace Morgan conceptualize Fluffy but there's no evidence that it did.

{Woman buying paper from newsboy on Broadway, looking north toward the New York Herald Building on 35th Street, painted 1899 by Herman Hyneman; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}



Satisfied with Fluffy's success, the Herald added another attractive heroine of the Sunday Supplements.

{From the Herald, September 10, 1911; I got these two images from eBay ads}

As you see, the Widow Wise drawings came from William H. Loomis and its verse from Paul West.


Some sources:

The New Journalism 1865-1919

The Penny Press

Fluffy Ruffles

Six thousand years of history see other blog post

The Daily Newspaper in America see other blog post

Fluffy Ruffles Carolyn Wells (D. Appleton, 1907)

William H. Loomis New York Times, December 1, 1917

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