• Steven Heller

The Daily Heller: Little Books With Pithy Lines

The Linebook was an annual collection of writing assembled from Richard Henry Little's popular literary and humor column in the Chicago Tribune during the 1920s - 30s. Each long, narrow copy was designed with a wraparound illustrated cover. And reminds me how wonderful was the era of "little magazines."


Little (1869-1946) was a well-known Chicago newspaper reporter. He went to school at the Illinois Wesleyan College of Law, but while completing his degree he began a job in journalism, writing for The Daily Leader. After he graduated, he practiced law for only a year before returning to journalism in 1895 and beginning a job as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He reported from Cuba, the Philippines, and Haiti during the Spanish-American War. From 1904–1905, he was in charge of documenting the Russo-Japanese War.


Little also covered Chicago's theater scene and wrote critiques for the Chicago Herald from 1915 until 1917, at which point he was assigned to Venice, Italy, to cover World War I. He remained in Europe to continue covering the war for the next couple of years. Here resided in Berlin in 1919 as the Tribune's official correspondent of the armistice. Later that year, he was assigned to Petrograd to cover the Russian Civil War, and was seriously injured by flying shrapnel. In 1923, writing under his initials R.H.L., he took over the Chicago Tribune's "A Line O' Type or Two" column, which to me sounds like the perfect job.


Little's little literary booklets, which premiered in 1924 and continued until 1939, contained verse, prose, limerick, anecdote, diversion, and grammatical miscellany. It was arguably similar in terms of its wit to the the New Yorker (founded in a year later in 1925), although there is no record of founding New Yorker editor Harold Ross ever seeing RHL's masterpiece. The Linebook billed itself as "A compilation of the choicest verse and prose published in the "Line o' Type of Two" and falls into the category of chapbook (a genre that has since gone to seed). Each cover, featuring a portrait of Little until 1936 (presumably when R.H.L. handed his column off to another), was illustrated by a popular artist or cartoonist of the period, including Peter Arno, Pete Hawley, Stan Ekman, Hugh Chenoweth, and Boris Artzybasheff among others.


Like other kindred publications The Linebook always ended with the motto "Hew to the Line, let the quips fall where they may." So for the pure enjoyment of it, here are the covers.

















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