May 4, 2012

Mary Petty's Final Cover...

March 19, 1966 Petty final cover

The last cover self taught artist Mary Petty drew for The New Yorker Magazine showed the Dowager Mrs. Peabody reaching for the bell pull to call her maid Fay. Sadly the old ribbon cord breaks from age as does the string of pearls that always hung around her neck.

The cover series, which appeared from 1927 until the last one on March 19,1966, were about the fictional Peabody family and their wispy maid Fay ("half sylph and half butterfly") .  
Mrs. Peabody by Mary Petty

For 40 years readers followed the family as one by one they disappeared from the story and only Mrs. Peabody was left.

I find the last cover haunting and sad.
 How hard for the elderly to be left alone in a world where all their contemporaries are gone on ahead of them.

In learning more about Mary Petty, I discovered this sad quote at American National Biography Online about her own ending.

Petty's career was tragically cut short when on 1 December 1971 she was assaulted and badly beaten by a mugger. She was found on Ward's Island three days afterward, bruised and incoherent, and never wholly recovered. She died five years later at the Pine Rest Nursing Home in Paramus, New Jersey.

Fay," half  sylph, half butterfly". by Mary Petty

Reports say she had been beaten to the point that she was left with the mind of a 3 year old child.
So sad an ending but she left a bit of herself for us to enjoy and her legacy lives on in new admirers of her work.

She  illustrated a few books which included Goodbye Mr. Chippendale and This Petty Pace, a collection of her work from the New Yorker.


  1. How sad! It makes you think when you read something like that. She was talented and made a lot of happy things for people to enjoy and then had such a sad ending in real life. Very interesting

  2. Hi Annie;

    What wonderful and yet so sad two posts. I remember a few of those covers by Mary Petty as my father read The New Yorker magazine. I didn't know about her life or the cruel way she was beaten and the sad ending. She was a wonderful artist. Thanks for sharing my friend. Hugs

  3. Hi Annie that is so tragic. Hope you have a great week. Hugs


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