The Yale Club Bookplate

Howard Pyle was born on this day in 1853. He was the first of the golden age American illustrators, followed by his pupil N.C. Wyeth. Through Pyle a faint Pre-Raphaelite influence came to characterize the genre.

It interested me to discover a work by Pyle that I had seen many times before noticing his initials: the ex-libris of The Yale Club of New York City. Pyle’s design was commissioned in 1905. The plate was engraved by Edwin Davis French, whom Pyle described as “the best engraver in the world.” The ex-libris is affixed to every book in the clubhouse library.

Pipe Smoking at Yale in the 1950s

Pictured above: a pipe smoker from the 1957 Yale Class Book. In a back issue of the Ivy’s alumni magazine, Andrew Legendre writes:

Back in the 1950s, smoking a pipe was as much the fashion at Yale as button-down Gant shirts and scuffed white bucks. I wasn’t a smoker, but when I received my acceptance to Yale, my mother bought me a Dr. Grabow Yellow Bowl pipe and a can of Prince Albert tobacco. She thought smoking a pipe would have a calming influence on me. Her father smoked a pipe for over 60 years and was rarely, if ever, stressed out.

Over the summer, I practiced stuffing and puffing on my new pipe. It didn’t take long that fall to learn that Dr. Grabow and Prince Albert were not the choices of discerning Yale pipe smokers. The pipe smoker set in New Haven was big enough to support two local purveyors: Johnny’s Pipe Shop at College and Chapel streets, and the older and more upscale Owl Shop, around the corner on College. Johnny’s is gone now, but the Owl Shop is still smoking.

Legendre’s description of a civilized habit segues into an absolutely queasy description of the college radio station’s annual endurance pipe-smoking competition. Life Magazine covered the 1959 contest, capturing photographs of the hijinks.