The great Al Hirschfeld had been supplying his much-loved caricatures to the New York Times for 37 years when, in 1962, tipped over the edge by the newspaper’s accounting department, he sent the following amusing letter to the Sunday editor, Lester Markel.
His request for a raise was granted.
(Source: The Paper’s Papers: A Reporter’s Journeys Through the Archives of The New York Times; Image above: Al Hirschfeld in his studio, 1999, via.)
Lester Marel Esq.,
New York Times
West 43rd Street
New York New York
I should like more money for my drawings. The realization that I am not a member of a Union, I have no agent, no boodle from a loving relative awaits me, Foundations ask ME for gifts, in short..gevalt! It also occured to me that perhaps the Times management may never offer me a raise and so I make this belated request for myself.
I was thrown into this mercenary mood by a check I received from the Times for my expenses to Philadelphia and return on a drama assignment. My bill for the day in Philly was $20.35. The accounting department in its infinite wisdom deducted .50 cents for ‘meal disallowance’ and forwarded to me the balance of $19.85. Needless to say, I have returned the offending draft with commendable restraint…offering no suggestion of ultimate disposal by shoving the promissory note up their alimentary canals.
It would be the height of folly to point out to those humorless drones that it was not my intention to rook the Times out of .50 cents. This knowledge gives me small comfort. I find it difficult to explain my sudden need for brooding darkly in corners, frustrated and furious..unhappy and sorry for myself…pride in my work no longer enough to satisfy my ego..I take refuge in wife screaming and child yelling..even thought of shaving off my beard.
To get back on the rational trolley would it not be possible for the Times to put up the extra fare…..
Your friend and mine,
May 30th 1962