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NYPL Exhibitions

The Algonquin

One day in the spring of 1919, a group of friends gathered for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street, not far from the newspapers, magazines, and theaters where they all worked. They returned a week later, and the week after that, and then carried right on through most of the 1920s. Maybe it was the chicken hash that kept them coming back, but more likely it was one another—the critics, essayists, playwrights, and editors whose voices, in person and in print, created a smart new version of American humor. Some of them, including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Alexander Woollcott, were already known for their sharp opinions when the lunches at the Algonquin began; others polished their style right there at what came to be known as the Round Table. But not until one of their number, Harold Ross, founded The New Yorker in 1925 did they find a natural home for the sort of writing they did best. The unforgiving wit, urbane sense of irony, and perfect phrasing that characterized what Ross heard around the Algonquin table were precisely what he hoped to capture in his new magazine. More than 85 years later, the influence of the Round Table is still discernible in the pages of the New Yorker