The Sea of Matrimony

On June 10, 1931, Elmer Adler (1884-1962) wrote to the artist Tom Cleland (1880-1964) to say Harvey T. White, of R. Tyson White’s Sons, manufacturers of paper boxes, had contacted him. White was confirming a previous conversation in which Adler, acting as Cleland agent,  “authorized us to reproduce the The Sea of Matrimony by Wm [sic] Cleland for use on trays, waste baskets, lamp shades, cigarette boxes, etc., on the conditions. . . Print royalty is 3-7 cents each up to a total of $300. Depending on size.”


The Colophon (New York: Pynson Printers: The Colophon, 1930-1940). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Z1007 .C71

The image was published on the colophon page of vol. 2, part six (1931) of The Colophon and proved much more popular than the cover image, also by Cleland.

cleland colophon six2 cleland colophon six

This was the middle of the Great Depression in the United States but Cleland had a good job as art director for Fortune Magazine.  He went on to design for Cadillac; Newsweek; and the newspaper PM.

The artist would not agree to Adler’s arrangement with White, but not because Cleland objected to seeing his art on waste baskets and lamp shades. He felt that so many people would want to license the image that $300 was not an appropriate price ceiling. Cleland would only agree if the company either bought the design for $300 or continue to pay royalties forever.

It is unfortunate that the response from White is not in the Cleland papers at the Library of Congress or Adler papers at Princeton University. If anyone has a lampshade with The Sea of Matrimony, please contact us. Thanks.