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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Her Masterpiece: The East Side

The writer Zoe Anderson Norris (1860-1914) published portraits of herself in her bimonthly magazine, The East Side (1909-1914), focused on impoverished immigrants. She wrote every word and granted herself all masthead titles, from bootblack to “the whole shebang.” Her illustrator, William Oberhardt (1882-1958), later renowned for Time magazine covers (descendants have donated his archive to the New-York Historical Society), made this lithograph stone and proof for her portrait in the March/April 1913 issue. (The four bound volumes are digitized here, and the 1913-1914 issues are here.)


Zoe Anderson Norris. Excerpts from The East Side’s bimonthly run, nos. 1-29, 1909-1914. Illustrations by William Oberhardt.  

Top row: Spring 1909 first issue with portrait of Zoe, Winter 1909, early 1910, Fall 1910 with immigrant newly arrived, September 1911 with Zoe observing tenement life from her apartment window at 338 East 15th Street.

Bottom row: May/June, July/August, November/December 1913, and January/February 1914 issue, with Zoe posing in immigrant garb on cover—in this last issue she described a dream accurately foreshadowing her death.

Zoe Anderson Norris. Illustrations by William Oberhardt.

In The East Side, usually on back covers, Zoe published poems lamenting slum dwellers’ harsh conditions, musing on fate’s vagaries, or puzzling over New York’s contradictions.  

Zoe wrote every word in her magazine and performed all duties, from bootblacking to subscriber dunning. She gave herself all the masthead titles, changing them with each issue.

Her Masterpiece: The East Side