Gumby's Events > Leigh and Lil Whipper's Beefsteak
This announcement for a birthday party in honor of Lillian "Lil" Whipper, actress and wife of actor Leigh Whipper, is precisely the sort of ephemera relating to a unique event that appears to have only survived due to Gumby's personal interest. In this case, that interest involved Leigh Whipper's acting: most of the volume revolves around documenting Whipper's lengthy stage and film career, including highlights such as his roles in the stage production of Porgy and both Broadway and film versions of Of Mice and Men. Also recorded are Whipper's positions as the first African-American member of the Actors' Equity Association and as a founder of the Negro Actors Guild of America.
The circumstances through which Gumby collected this invitation are lost. The "beefsteak dinner"--a popular form of party in turn-of-the-century New York that centered around a feast of steak and beer and little else--that it memorializes occurred in 1909, not long after Gumby's arrival in New York. So perhaps Gumby personally attended the event. It seems equally likely that he may have acquired it in his general pursuit of memorabilia related to Leigh Whipper, which included other unique items such as the fake mustache Whipper wore in a production of Porgy. Either way, it represents an intimate view into Gumby's own interests. Moreover, it is the sort of record that is perhaps not of paramount importance from the perspective of understanding Leigh Whipper's career or Lillian Whipper's life--as Gumby intended--yet nevertheless provides a unique view of the context in which they each unfolded.