Monday, April 22, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Our Own Movies
I'm ambivalent about posting today's obscurity, Our Own Movies, because I have a great affinity and respect for the work of Nate Collier. This series unfortunately affords me few opportunities for compliments.
Our Own Movies seems to have debuted on November 3 1919*, syndicated by Baltimore's International Syndicate. International was an important early syndicate twenty years earlier, but by 1919 they were just getting by with some second-rate material that they sold to smaller papers. Nate Collier was a perfect fit for them because he was always on the prowl for another outlet for his constantly drawing pen, and he wasn't precious about who signed his checks.
Collier was creative enough that he didn't need to resort to plagiarism, but for some reason he offered International a bald-faced copy of Ed Wheelan's Minute Movies**, less the most original aspect of Wheelan's creation, the recurring 'actor troupe'. For my own happiness, I'm going to assume that International ordered him to produce this me-too strip.
When first offered, the strip was designed so that it could run as a very thin page-width strip, like Bert Link's A Reel of Nonsense. However, I have yet to find a paper that ran it that way. The strip was also offered formatted as a three-column three-tiered square (as seen above). This succeeded in making the captions sometimes refer to a drawing on a different tier, making the strips a bit confusing to readers. Nevertheless, this was the format everyone seemed to pick.
By early 1920, the strip was reformatted to fit in the standard six-column comic strip format of the day, and now looked exactly like Minute Movies by switching to its two-tiered format. By then Collier was beginning to offer continuities, also like you-know-who.
The strip was actually running in a goodly number of papers (by International Syndicate standards), when it disappeared on August 28 1920***, not even a full year into the run. My bet is that International stiffed Collier and he flew the coop, but that's just a guess. No harm done, though, since it was not doing Collier's resume any good to be producing copycat material for an over-the-hill syndicate.
* Source: Ottawa Journal
** Actually, it was still titled Midegt Movies in 1919. The Minute Movies moniker would not come until 1921.
*** Source: Salina Evening Journal
Unlike you I greatly enjoyed the Our Own Movies series, at least the samples you provided.
The art (of course), the script, the lettering - it all worked for me.
The love story with the enigmatic ending, the gangster "film" with all the slang, and the fairy tale about the Ananias River; all of them wonderful. And completely different.
If he kept up the variety on the done-in-one installments I would have hated the change to serial format.
Since "there is nothing new under the sun" Nate nicking someone else's device doesn't bother me.
Looking forward to Alex's profile of Collier (I hope).
Saturday, April 20, 2019
December 20 1909 -- The first version of Herriman's Mary's Home from College comic strip appeared in Hearst's New York flagships, the Journal and American, and a smattering of papers around the country, back in February to May 1909.
When Herriman ended his Baron Mooch strip in December, which also got some spotty Hearst syndication, he returned to Mary's Home from College for a few episodes before heading on to new ideas. As far as I know, this iteration of the strip ran only in the Los Angeles Examiner, though I could be wrong.
Bill Blackbeard's By George Volume One makes nary a mention of these Mary strips. He jumps straight from Baron Mooch to Gooseberry Sprig. This is odd since he was evidently working from LA Examiner bound volumes. Only explanation I can think of is that maybe he believed they were re-runs from the earlier series. Could he be right? I dunno, because I have only seen a few examples from the earlier series. Apparently some (or all?) from that series were printed in the Fantagraphics Krazy Kat Volume 8, but I do not have that book. Can someone tell me the extent of the Mary's Home from College strips presented there (or anywhere else)?
Anyhow, here is the first Mary's Home From College strip from the Examiner run.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
The only Mary's Home From College strips I could find were included in the Fantagraphics 1933-34 book. I don't know if that's Volume 8 or not. There are five Sunday half-page Marys from 1909 in there. They are not otherwise dated. Thanks again for your blog,
Friday, April 19, 2019
Wish You Were Here, from Dave Breger
Here's another of the wartime Private Breger cards by Dave Breger. This one is Graycraft #303. Note the King Features copyright on it indicating that it is presumably just reused from the newspaper series.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Betty Swords
Betty Swords born was born Betty Armella Edgemond on August 17, 1917, in Gilroy, California. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. The birthplace is based on the address found on her father’s World War I draft card, which he signed June 5, 1917. Swords’ full name was published in the 1938 University of California at Berkeley yearbook, Blue and Gold, however, the U.S. Federal Censuses for 1920, 1930 and 1940 said her first name was Elizabeth.
In the 1920 census, Swords was the youngest of three children born to John and Gertrude. Swords’ siblings were John, Jr. and Iris, and her father was a school department auditor. The family lived in Oakland, California at 1955 35th Avenue.
The San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 1927, named Swords’ elementary school.
Young Pupils Build TheaterThe 1930 census recorded the Edgemond family in Oakland at 6225 Hillegass. As “Betty A Edgemond” she was listed at the same address in Oakland city directories from 1937 to 1939.
Scenes of Old Italy Will Be Presented
Pupils of the fifth and sixth grades of the Peralta School, in Oakland, are building a theater in which scenes illustrating ancient and modern Italy, and episodes from the lives of American inventors will be shown.
The chief architects pf the theater are Carl Theile, Billy Seabury and Lloyd The. Their able assistants are Betty Edgemond, Jean Thursby and Florence Williams. Miss S.M. Thompson is the teacher in charge of the project.
In connection with the building of the theater, the students have turned playwrights and are writing plays which will be produced in class. These plays deal with the lives of American inventors.
in the miniature little theater, a large box was used. Curtains for the stage were made by members of the class and a system of lighting was worked out.
The students plan to make their own motion pictures, which can be shown in their tiny theater.
The Milwaukee Journal (Wisconsin), October 25, 1935, published a photograph that included Swords.
Swords graduated in 1938.
According to the 1940 census, Swords was the last child living with her parents at the same Oakland address. Her occupation was new worker.
The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, Volume 5 (1983) said Swords ”entered the Academy of Advertising Art in San Francisco to prepare for a career as a fashion designer but abandoned this intention upon her marriage.”
The Oakland Tribune, December 15, 1941, reported Swords’ marriage.
Another bridal couple whose honeymoon will be cut short by war duties, is Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Swords (Betty Edgemond), married Friday night, in Piedmont Community Church. Wedding plans were disrupted so that a mere handful of guests arrived instead of the 250 bidden. The reception took place in Oakland later where the company was augmented when the all clear signal was given.Swords’ husband was Henry Leonard Swords, a 1935 UC Berkeley graduate. He was a Western Geophysical Company employee when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. His sister, Mary Elizabeth, was a 1937 UC Berkeley graduate.
Swords’ husband’s job required them to move frequently, from California to Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. During World War II Swords mailed cartoons to various magazines but did not sell any. In the 1950s, Swords sold gags to Hank Ketcham of Dennis the Menace fame, and other cartoonists. (see The Comics Journal, R.C. Harvey’s 1995 interview with Swords, “At Sword’s Point: Humor as Weapon”).
Swords illustrated the book, Making the Most of Every Move (1958).
In August 1966 Swords was thanked in Jimmy Hatlo’s They’ll Do It Every Time.
Swords was a subject in Robin Orr’s column in the Oakland Tribune, July 18, 1974.
Writer-cartoonist Betty Edgemond Swords, who illustrated the 1974 Male Chauvinist Pig Calendar, is visiting here from her home in Denver and being entertained by friends from her University of California Class of 1938. … Betty’s an active member of of the Denver chapter of NOW, worked like sixty on the campaign that put a colorado woman in Congress two years ago and has just joined a coalition of the Denver chapters of NOW and Gray Panthers (“a fantastic group of people”) dedicated to championing the causes of senior citizens.The Colorado Springs Gazette, October 15, 1975, mentioned Swords’ upcoming talk.
Among other things, Betty is a regular contributor (“both writing and cartoons”) to the magazine Modern Maturity, published for the five million members of the National Association of Retired persons. She also writes for the Christian Science Monitor, review books for the Denver Post, had had cartoons published in the old Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and Look, and this February had an article on no-fault divorce in McCall’s
In any event, from her vantage point of long experience in the talent jungle, Betty thinks the women’s movement has come a long way, baby. As she and her friend left for St. Helena yesterday, she said, “I was just about to tell Virginia, ‘See, we’ve become respectable.’ The very idea of a women’s liberation movement has become respected and respectable. We’ve stopped being those bra-less bubble heads.”
Betty Swords, Denver Post political cartoonist and book reviewer will be the guest speaker in conjunction with Women’s Week, 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Women’s Week Center, Palmer Wing of Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave. Her topic is “Humor as a Weapon Against Women,” illustrating how American jokes perpetuate myths and stereotypes about women. Ms. Swords teaches courses, workshops and seminars in women’s studies and various fields of humor. She has published articles in McCalls, Christian Science Monitor and other national publications, her subjects being feminism, agism, the handicapped, and legal rights of women. She is founder of Denver’s chapter of National Organization for Women and is a charter member of both the Colorado Women’s Political Caucus and the Democratic Women’s Caucus. Ms. Swords has lectured extensively in behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment and was the 1972 television panel moderator for Gloria Steinem and the Democratic Women, aired nationwide. Ms. Swords’ lecture is free and open to the public.The Olympian (Washington), September 14, 1986, published columnist James J. Kilpatrick”s response to Swords’ letter.
The other day I innocently wrote something about “women’s lib,” which provoked a hot letter from Betty Swords of Denver. The proper term is “women’s movement,” and I am not to forget it.Swords’ husband passed away December 8, 2004. The status of her two children is not known. Swords passed away August 14, 2005, in Denver.
Swords sent me a booklet (you will never know what pain it causes me to identify a woman by her last name only) put out by McGraw-Hill providing “guidelines for equal treatment of the sexes.” …
Further Reading and Viewing
Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators
Robert C. Harvey
University Press of Mississippi, 2014
Mike Lynch Cartoons
Photos of Betty Swords
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Those Girls
The mid-teens were the last waning days for what we here at Stripper's Guide term "weekday features". Weekday features are those that appear in daily format but don't appear six days per week. A weekday feature might manage up to 3, 4 or even 5 times per week, or it might show up just a few times per month, but it was the norm back when cartoonists were under a loose enough rein that they could flit around from feature to feature more or less as they felt the creative urge upon them.
Jack Callahan had a daily spot in the New York Evening World, and in 1916 he most often used that for his panel WhenYou Were a Boy. Every once in a while, though, he felt the urge to draw a bunch of catty gals, and he titled those panels Those Girls. The panel isn't at all memorable; I think they all had names, and they seemed to work at a department store, but that's about all I can say. Callahan didn't put much effort into Those Girls, but it is, I suppose, notable as one of the late examples of the "weekday feature."
Those Girls appeared in the Evening World from June 20 to September 20 1916.
I notice there is no copyright line on this one, so would I see this in syndication, alternating with the When You Were A Boy panel, or was it only in the Evening World? Also, I'm guessing the crack wise about the statue of liberty indicates this episode is after 30 July, when the deadly Black Tom explosions shattered the lights in Lady Liberty's torch, among other devastations.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Gerald O. MacConachie
Gerald Oscar MacConachie was born in Detroit, Michigan. The Michigan, Births and Christenings Index at Ancestry.com said his birth date was March 15, 1888. But his World War I draft card said April 15, 1888 and the 1900 U.S. Federal Census had April 1888. His World War II draft card had the birth date April 15, 1889.
In the 1900 census MacConachie was the second of three children born to Peter and Martha, both Canadian emigrants. His father’s business was groceries and meats. The family lived at 109 Greenwood Avenue in Detroit. MacConachie was listed at the same address in 1906 to 1909 Detroit city directories.
MacConachie graduated from Detroit Central High School in January 1907. His artwork graced the cover of the school yearbook Stylus.
The Enduring Legacy of the Detroit Athletic Club: Driving the Motor City (2012) said MacConachie played baseball as a catcher for the Detroit Athletic Club Deltas.
The 1910 census recorded the MacConachie family in Detroit at 55 Noble Street. MacConachie was a newspaper cartoonist. The 1911 city directory said he was a Detroit Free Press sporting reporter.
The Detroit Times, January 15, 1912, mentioned MacConachie and his baseball team.
Three Detroit Players Slated for Jobs with Roesink’s League ClubIt’s clear how long MacConachie played minor league baseball.
Dickinson and Schaub, Semi-Pro. Players, and MacConachie, Have Places.
Cleveland May Come In.
Chick Lathers Is Mentioned as a Tiger Who May Be Offered Position.
A. J. Roesink returned this morning from Chicago where he attended a meeting of the magnates of the newly organized Columbian Baseball league, with a franchise for the Detroit club.
He announced that three men now in Detroit would be among the players in the new team. Horace Dickinson and Joe Schaub, outfielders who have played with Roesink’s semi-pro teams for some time, and Gerald MacConachie, who belongs to the Norfolk, Va., team, are the men.
With these three men as a starter, Manager Roesink will build up his team from players who may be obtained from semi-pro teams all over the country or from the league teams in the national organization.
… “The players in the Detroit club will be paid from $200 to $250 a month …”
The New York Clipper, October 11, 1913, reported the Wortham & Allen Carnival at the Michigan State Fair and mentioned MacConachie as a Detroit press representative.
The 1914 city directory said he was a clerk residing at 306 Hogarth Avenue. MacConachie was at the same address in 1915 and a secretary of the Essex-MacConachie Company.
In September 1915 MacConachie produced a thrice-weekly comic strip for the Free Press.
In the 1916 city directory he was cartoonist at the Free Press. MacConachie’s occupation and address were the same when he signed his World War I draft card June 5, 1917.
The 1918 city directory listed him in the United States Navy.
MacConachie was featured in Editor & Publisher’s “Little Tragedies of a Newspaper Office”, April 6, 1918.
In the 1920 census, newspaper editor MacConachie and Nell were Wilmington residents at 1103 West Sixth Street. According to Presbyterian baptism records, they had two children, Katherine in 1922 and Gerald Jr. in 1926.
MacConachie was profiled in the Fourth Estate, November 12, 1921.
MacConachie Started His Career as a ReporterThe Evening Star (Washington, DC), January 3, 1922, said MacConachie was appointed to the Civil Service Commission personnel board.
G. O. MacConachie, who, in addition to fulfilling his duties as assistant to President Joseph W. Powell of the United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation, will have entire supervision of the personnel of the corporation, was born in Detroit.
In 1908 he joined the editorial staff of the Detroit Free Press, later transferring to the Toledo Times. He returned to the Free Press and was with that newspaper until 1914, when he entered the employ of Campbell-Ewald Company, advertising agents.
Mr. MacConachie in 1917 joined the Harlan plant, at Wilmington, Del., of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, and was appointed head of the service department. During the three and a half years he was stationed with this corporation he supervised the general publicity work and had editorial supervision of its weekly plant publications in the shipyards at Sparrows Point, Md., at the Harlan plant, Wilmington, Del., at the Moore plant, Elizabeth, N.J. and at the Fore River plant, Quincy, Mass.
As cartoonist for the Detroit Free Press and as a writer on industrial subjects, particularly those connected with the shipbuilding industry, Mr. MacConachie has obtained an enviable reputation.
The 1922 Washington, D.C. city directory listed MacConachie as a Shipping assistant manager who resided at the Chateau Thierry.
MacConachie pursued real estate in New York City; excerpt from the New York Herald, May 7, 1922.
When Mr. Day was asked to undertake the sale of the lots he immediately dispatched a squad of his experts to the section to look over the ground and make an estimate of the possibilities of the place from the viewpoint of both the home buyer and the speculator. In this squad was Gerald O. MacConachie of Detroit, Mich., a young man who had come to New York to take charge of the idea Incubator or to use a more technical term, the advertising department of the Day organization. All that Mr. MacConachie had to do was to produce at least one fresh idea a day, a job that he had performed satisfactorily for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and the Emergency Fleet Corporation. On his first trip to Throgs Neck Mr. MacConachie got as far as the Junction of Eastern Boulevard and East Tremont avenues, where he was so impressed by the health and spirits of the child life thereabouts that ge forgot all about the lots. He had his one his idea for that day so he dashed back to the offive and made this report:Advertising & Selling, April 1923, reported MacConachie as director of advertising at Dunlop Rubber Tire Corp.
“They raise everything but rents in Throgs Neck section. And because they are their own landlords the folks in this rapidly developing district raise other little things. Hundreds of homes have sprung up where none existed less than a year ago and with the building of the homes there has been the sunshine of childhood to brighten them. The kiddies there are typical wholesome examples of what life in the open, with the green grass under their little feet and the blue sky overhead, will do for youthful eyes and cheeks. No crowded tenement atmosphere could have contributed to such robust happy childhood. They are red-blooded products of the out-of-doors and tributes to the far sightedness of parents who wanted their children to have a chance to grow up next to the heart of nature.”
The 1923 and 1924 Buffalo, New York city directories listed MacConachie as the advertising manager of Dunlop Tire & Rubber Co. and his address 840 Richmond Avenue. The same address was found in the 1925 New York state census.
In 1926 MacConachie moved to New York City. Editor & Publisher, November 20, 1926, announced the following, “G. O. MacConachie has resigned as advertising director of the Dunlop Tire and Rubber Company to become vice-president in charge of new business of the Brieger Press, New York. He was formerly advertising manager for Joseph P. Day, Inc., New York, assistant to the president of the United States Shipping Board, and publicity director for the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation.”
The Otsego Farmer (Cooperstown, New York), June 24, 1927, said New York City resident MacConachie won third prize in the twenty-third annual tournament of the Summer Advertising Golf association.
Printers’ Ink, November 8, 1928, said MacConachie started his own business, “G. O. MacConachie, for the last two years vice-president in charge of new business of the Brieger Press, New York, has started his own advertising service at New York.”
In the 1930 census MacConachie made his home at 3506 146 Street, Flushing, Queens, New York. The family of four was assisted by a servant.
MacConachie was involved in car racing as noted in the Evening Star (Washington, DC), January 13, 1931.
The New York Sun, March 13, 1934, noted the debut of Silver Lining News, published by the Silver Lining Supper Club of Hotel Piccadilly. MacConachie was the main artist on the News.
In 1940 writer-artist MacConachie was a Flushing, New York resident at 35-32 Utopia Parkway. His two children were teenagers.
MacConachie signed his World War II draft card April 27, 1942. His home was in Bayside, Queens, New York at 215-18 36 Avenue, and his employer was the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ships.
In 1946 MacConachie shared a copyright on a drama.
MacConachie passed away January 2, 1957, in New York. He was laid to rest at Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, April 15, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: The Gerald O. MacConachie Comic Strip
Gerald O. MacConachie worked at the Detroit Free Press from the late 1900s to the early 1920s, dabbling in sports writing, column-writing and every variety of cartooning -- editorial, sports and comics. He even produced at least one animated cartoon in association with the Freep in 1918. Since his byline doesn't begin appearing until 1915, there's no telling what other jobs he might have had there in the early years of his employment*.
Mr. MacConachie was very much into sports. In the late 1900s he tried for a berth with several minor league baseball teams, though it isn't evident to me if he succeeded. After his days as a newspaperman he seems to have been all over the map -- his name pops up in association with baseball, handball, even auto racing. There was also a Detroit sporting goods company called the Essex-MacConachie Company, though I can't determine if Gerald was the MacConachie in the name. Never fear -- Alex Jay will be here tomorrow with lots of information on Mr. MacConatchie's very active life.
MacConachie was probably employed by the Free Press at least partially on the strength of his sporting world ties, because I have to say that his cartooning started out pretty crude, and may have actually gotten worse over the years. He had a good lowbrow sense of humor, though, as his saving grace.
MacConachie began producing a regular comic strip for the Free Press on September 17 1915, running three times per week. The strip itself had no running title, but there were running titles to his 'bonus panel'. Some of these were Little Moments in the Lives of Big Men, Hall of Fame, Really Great Men, Wise Cracks by Kid Koo Koo, Squirrel Fodder and There's No Sense To It.
The three per week schedule began to break down before the end of the first year, and thereafter you could expect no more than one or two strips per week, with sometimes a stretch of several weeks without any. By 1918 the strip rarely ran more than once a week, and these appearances were often in the Sunday automobile section with gags related to cars.
MacConachie ended his title-less series with the installment of April 28 1918 in favor of a new series he'd just begun, called The Kaiser and his Six Simps. We'll discuss that series some other day here at Stripper's Guide.
* He was referred to as a Free Press cartoonist in a 1908 article, but I'll be darned if I can find any by him in the paper nearly that early.
Saturday, April 13, 2019
December 18 1909 -- According to the article writer, the Big Ditch project in Los Angeles has come to a screeching halt because of a dispute over the spelling of a certain word. One faction says it is "expendable", the other "expendible". Apparently the factions have dueling dictionaries, each of which offers their spelling as the correct one. Supposedly the ditch workers have appealed to the Examiner to provide a solution. The Examiner article writer, showing Solomon-like wisdom and diplomacy, says his dictionary offers both spellings as perfectly good alternatives.
What tiny insignificant germ of truth might exist at the core of this story I have no idea.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, April 12, 2019
Wish You Were Here, from Dwig
Here's another card from Dwig's Raphael Tuck "Cheer Up" Series #176.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Magazine Cover Comics: Sylvia the Deb Detective
After our big project of Hearst magazine cover indexing back in January, here finally we're covering one of those series. This one is Sylvia the Deb Detective, by R.F. James. I'll spare you from going back to the index and tell you that the series ran from June 5 to October 23 1932.
This wacky series begins with a rich debutante who is just about to appear at her coming out party. Her doting papa has given her an extravagant present for the occasion, an enormous jewel. Dressing for the party, she discovers that the jewel has been stolen.
Sylvia Ritzmore, the rich deb, decides that rather than call the cops or a private dick, she will play detective and find that priceless jewel herself. Apparently this is just fine with Mama and Papa, and she proceeds to drag her boyfriend Hugh off to help her find the rock.
The fast-paced story follows Sylvia all over the world, always just one step behind the jewel thieves. Poor Hugh gets left behind after awhile, though Sylvia hardly seems to notice. No problem, she just picks up another handsome beau, Bob, a few installments later. He's better anyway because he's a flier, and they have a lot of travelling to do.
After lots of adventure and intrigue, Sylvia recovers not only her jewel, but a whole treasure trove of additional sparklers, making her even richer than she was. In the final installment (spoiler alert!) Bob proposes to the Deb Detective and Everyone Lives Happily Ever After.
Labels: Magazine Cover Comics
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Your Host Interviewed plus My Comeuppance on Amazon
Oh, and as long as you're following links, go check out my book, American Newspaper Comics, on Amazon.com. After all those ever so boring laudatory 5-star reviews, someone has finally decided that the book is a rip-off and given it a one-star review. It's about time I get some tough love. Unfortunately rather than impugn the quality of the research or something, he's pissed because he couldn't be bothered to read a description of the book before handing over a C-note and a half. Finally I'm in the company of the greats -- Hemingway, Orwell, Twain, even Shakespeare have received one-star ratings on Amazon, and now I follow in their footsteps.
Tuesday, April 09, 2019
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Michael Berry
Michael Berry was born Hans Michaelis on September 10, 1907 in Lindow, Germany, according to his 1935 Petition for Naturalization (viewed at Ancestry.com). The petition said his occupation was cartoonist, race Hebrew and nationality German.
Japan: Overseas Travel Magazine, April 1932, profiled Berry and said
Hans Michaelis, if you don’t know, is one of Germany’s talented sons, a youthful master of humor in caricature and prose. And as he wanders about the world, to strange lands and far ports on the seven seas, he heads a merry parade for, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, wherever Michaelis goes there follows in his wake an amusing and motley throng who have answered the muse of his deftly wielded brush and pencil.Berry’s first visit to the U.S. began March 17, 1929, when he arrived in New York City from Bremen, Germany as recorded on a passenger list at Ancestry. com. Less than four months later The New York Times Magazine July 7, 1929, published a full-page of Berry’s comments and sketches about Americans. In a twist, Berry’s impressions were made before he even set foot in America. Three years later Berry revisited his impressions in an article published by The New York Times, July 17, 1932. He offered an apology for some of his comments.
It is just as this world-wandering artist declares, “Everyone has an idea of the people of other nations, though he hasn’t been there. I too, had these many preconceived characters in the gallery of my imagination. But they did not suffice … I must see them for myself. Was it true that the Frenchman always wore a silk hat, frock coat, a goatee and a mustachio, and said ‘You first, my dear Alphonse!’ Did the Englishmen never fail to drop his ‘H’s’, and under the Cyclopean stare of his ubiquitous monocle drawl ‘H’l s’y, Bah Jove ... You’ cawn’t do thaht. Not cricket, you knaow’!”
Hans Michaelis is now on his way to Japan. It started when he left Berlin for London several years ago, after winning acclaim for his sketches in leading German magazines while still in his ’teens. In London he acquired a slight British accent, a renovated slant on Anglo-Saxon humanities and the desire to move across the “Big Pond”. New York teemed with “types” for our globe-trotting artist. The ochre of Harlem beaux and belles, the seething hodgepodge of the East Side, the eclat of Park Avenue, and Broadway's constellation of Mazda’s were food and drink to Michaelis’ sketchpad. On to New Orleans where, amid the soporific charm of the Old South, new inspiration was found in Creole life, in quaint Negro hovels, and the haunts of Louisiana bayous.
“But I had long ago given up the quest for an American type ... this ... image of a bulging torso in checkered golf knickers, tortoise shell glasses and a bewildered glare, created by our mingled impressions of the average American citizen racing through Europe with guidebook and pocketbook open … has been forever rejected.”
After visiting San Francisco’s beauty spots and the cosmopolitan Latin area of North Beach, Michaelis responded to the call of the Far East. Out through the Golden Gate, past the Ferry Tower with its circling gulls, the twenty-five year old artist cast eager eyes toward the bizarre charm of Japan, and of ancient Cathay.
His sailing from San Francisco on the Shinyo Maru for Hawaii and to Japan on the Chichibu Maru had been planned since Michaelis’ student days in Berlin. For his first prize was a prize of ten yen which he won in a poster competition sponsored by a Japanese firm. No prize won since those days has made so indelible an impress on his mind as that first prize which came from far-off Tokyo to start burning the fires of wanderlust within him.
And as to that which he seeks:
“There are the vendors of Nippon ... the gogai, or Japanese newsboy with his jangling bells and unintelligible shouts ... and the tofu seller, who patrols the town with his strident horn and wooden tubs of bean cake for house-to-house consumption. There are the new types of East and West blending … the modern boy and girl of Tokyo’s Ginza with their modern clothes, bobbed hair and slang. There is a mint of these “types” of Japan ... from rickshaman to merchant, innkeeper to shopkeeper … whose dress and mannerisms will reveal a fascinating, picturesque facet of the Island Empire. I want to find these bits of Japan that will be appreciated by the Japanese, for to laugh with my unknown models is my aim, and not to laugh at them, The human funnybone has no boundaries though every nation has an individual sense of humor.”
Michaelis possesses a hypodermic perception of the fundamental human foibles. His is a twinkling eye that penetrates the skin of the pompous, and the mannerisms of the poseur. His chuckling retina inverts the simple, the gossiping, the shrewd, and the substantial citizen of each land to his or her lowest common denominator, and registers them in irony, in satire, or in kindly lines of caricature. For Hans Michaelis and his art … despite their mutual youthfulness, holds universal appeal … and his harlequin pen and brush are bound to travel far under sagacious guidance.
Another visit to the U.S. began from Cherbourg, France to New York City where he arrived October 7, 1931. Berry headed west and had an interesting visit in Texas as reported in the El Paso Herald-Post, November 27, 1931.
Juarez Arrests Artist for Sketching Natives
Hans Michaelis, Germany’s wandering artist and writer, who has traveled through 14 countries, was arrested in Juarez for sketching native characters of the street.
Michaelis presents the world in writing and drawing in newspaper and magazine articles.
He was drawing a Juarez pool player when he was arrested and taken to the Juarez jail. His drawings were destroyed.
Michaelis said Americans have a finely developed sense of humor. He finds Mexican people serious, Cubans happy and frivolous. He thinks cowboys are colorful and original.
Michaelis said Egypt is the most humorous country he has visited. Tousists [sic] listening to tales of the pyramids, and buying relics and antiques at any price, without questioning the elaborate stories of their age, present many funny scenes, he said.
Michaelis will visit Hollywood, Honolulu, Sumatra, Singapore, China, Japan and other countries.
“When I get to Hollywood I’m going to meet Will Rogers,” Michaelis said.
Hans Michaelis, of Berlin, young artist and correspondent for a string of German and Scandinavian newspapers, including Der Tag and the Scherl, who is touring the world and giving amusing writings and drawings of the foibles of different countries. He sailed from New Orleans Saturday for Cuba and will return in two weeks.On January 23, 1932, Berry left San Francisco and arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on the 29th. Aboard the steamship Chichibu Maru, Berry sailed from Honolulu on February 16, 1932. He was due to arrive in Yokohama, Japan on the 26th.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 5, 1932, said Berry contributed to the March issue of Paradise of the Pacific, “The Paradise has a distinguished foreign contributor In Hans Michaelis, Berlin humorist, who tells in amusing words and pictures his experiences at a luau.”
The Hawaiian Calabash (1989) mentioned Berry’s experience eating poi.
In 1932, visiting German humorist Hans Michaelis wrote of poi: “Judging this stuff by its taste, it must be very healthful. I used to think it was only clay but now it seemed to me like a mixture of glue and gray soap.”Berry was sighted by the Malaya Tribune, April 30, 1932, who was on his way to Singapore and then Naples.
In 1932, Hans Michaelis attended a formal poi supper in his tuxedo and had a similar experience: “The first portion of POI landed on my white, freshly starched dress shirt, the second load preferred my silk lapels. But my fingers kept working and finally succeeded in putting a sample of this wonderful dish into my mouth.
“I guess the party got a big kick out of my ‘eating’—nothing is so entertaining as POI on other people’s tuxedos.”
The New York Times, January 1, 1933, printed Berry’s observations about the Japanese.
On April 1, 1935, Berry returned to New York City from London, England, his home for an unknown period of time. On September 18, 1935, Berry filed a Petition for Naturalization which included his pen name “Michael Berry”. His address was 120 West 86th Street in Manhattan. His description was five feet ten inches, 158 pounds with brown eyes and hair.
On January 7, 1936, Berry’s mother, Johanna, and sister, Margot, arrived in New York City from Southampton, England. The passenger list said Berry’s address was 126 Riverside Drive.
In 1938 Berry went on two ocean voyages. Both passenger lists mentioned his mother, Johanna, who lived at 120 West 86th Street in Manhattan.
The 1940 U.S. Federal Census said Berry, his mother and sister were Manhattan residents at 120 West 86th Street. The self-employed artist had two years of college.
Berry became a naturalized citizen on June 23, 1941.
During World War II Berry enlisted in the army on March 12, 1943. The Miami Herald (Florida), October 31, 1943, reported on Basic Training Center 4 and its publication Alert.
The first issue of Alert was a success and in view of demands, not only locally, but throughout the country, as wells from men overseas, about twice the number of copies are printed of the second issue s were the first.
There are a number of pages of original cartoons by men, who, in civilian life, were outstanding in their profession, like S/Sgt. Dink Siegel, who also did virtually all of the photographic work; Sgt. Samuel Schwartz and Corp. Michael Berry, internationally known cartoonist and illustrator.
The Morning Herald (Hagerstown, Maryland), January 17, 1951, reported Berry’s upcoming one-man show.
The Mercersburg Art Gallery will open a one-man show of water colors and drawings by Michael Berry on Sunday, according to an announcement made yesterday by Thomas Danaher, director of the gallery. The exhibition will continue through Friday, February 2, and will contain the artist’s impressions of both the United States and abroad.The New York Post, March 18, 1956, reported Berry’s gallery show.
Berry has been a roving artist-reporter since 1926. For several years he teamed with a Japanese artist on a daily feature, “East and West,” in which the two presented the Nipponese and Western viewpoints of a given subject.
During the war, the artist illustrated a weekly feature poking fun at the Japanese Army and Navy for Collier’s magazine. A recent example of his work can be found in Collier’s edition for December 30, 1950.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has exhibited his war drawings and has planned another showing in May. Berry has also appeared on television with a number of sketches of France which will be included in the exhibition.
The Mercersburg Art Gallery will be open evenings, excepting Thursday, from 8 to 10 and Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5.
Michael Berry is a deft young artist-cartoonist who delights in sketching his way around the world. His Japan and Points West has brought his water colors and drawings to Arthur Q. Newton Galleries, 11 E. 57th St., where they will remain through March 24.Some of Berry’s original art can be viewed here and here.
There are also Haitian pictures and some from Korea, from Germany and Spain. A traveling group from the National Cartoonists Society visited many of these lands last year, and Berry and his pens and brushes were among them.
The New York Times, September 20, 1964, published Berry’s article, “Squaring the Artistic Circles at Woodstock”.
The Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain’s publication AJR Information, November 1967, printed this item, “Berlin-born cartoonist, Hans Michaelis, who now goes under the name Michael Berry, celebrated his 60th birthday in New York, where he has become well known.”
Berry’s mother passed away August 15, 1966. Thirty years later, his sister died October 1, 1996.
Berry passed away July 10, 2000 according to the Social Security Death Index. His last known residence was New York City.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, April 08, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: You Know How It Is
Michael Berry eventually settled into a career of drawing cheesecake cartoons for some major publications, but the earliest comic strip work I know of by him is this Sunday newspaper cartoon series, You Know How It Is. I have only ever seen it running in the Philadelphia Inquirer, but my guess is that he was trying to self-syndicate based on each installment bearing his own copyright. Trying to self-syndicate a color Sunday feature is an extremely bold move for anyone, let alone a young cartoonist. Why he felt that this sort of series, a collection of gag cartoons on a common subject, would be worth all the trouble and work of self-syndication I cannot imagine. There were already very fine series available that offered the same thing -- Vignettes of Life, Family Portraits and Among Us Mortals being the most notable -- so it wasn't as if he'd come up with anything terribly original.
The series ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer from December 15 1940 to April 20 1941, so it was a very short-lived experiment, assuming it is not found elsewhere running longer. Berry would try again later with a wacky daily strip titled Boogie Woogie, but once that also quickly tanked he took up magazine cartooning and found a ready and lucrative market for his wares.
Apparently little is known about Michael Berry's life, but you can read more about him and see samples of his other work at American Art Archives and on Ger Apeldoorn's blog. Alex Jay, however, has uncovered a full and interesting life story for the man, which we will see tomorrow on the blog.
Thursday, April 04, 2019
This Week's Heritage Auction Offerings
First up we have this rare survivor, an original hand-lettered show card from one of Al Capp's infamous personal appearances at which he hurled invective at hippies, liberals and non-conformists. Whether you love the younger more liberal Al Capp or the older arch-conservative, this is quite an amazing souvenir of Al Capp's tumultuous life.
Next up we have a group of 8 original art panels from the 1920s Baby Mine series by Paul Pim. These are fun little cartoons, and show how Pim managed to cut his work load significantly through the use of stats (note that the bottom two pieces are the same except for some details). A neat bonus is panel #9 which has Pim's pencil lettered caption, but no art has yet been applied. Hey, try creating your own Baby Mine panel!
Here are five delightful color cartoons dedicated to summer seaside fun. At the top we have a Don Tobin gag cartoon, and believe me when I say that the watercolor work on this is just beyond description. This is definitely one you want hanging on the wall. When I lived in Florida this one was prominently displayed in my home.
The other four are about boating (evidently for some boat publication) and are signed "Landi", but Heritage and I agree that this can only be Frank Interlandi, here working under a highly transparent pseudonym.
Finally we have a classic piece of Puck magazine art by Frank Nankivell depicting in a series of vignettes our journey from childhood to second childhood. All of life boiled down into one gag. This is a very large piece and displays really well.
Labels: Heritage Auctions
Wednesday, April 03, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: What a View
Andrew Prendimano, an illustrator with a fun underground comix influenced style, began working for the Asbury Park (NJ) Press in the 1980s. In between his other art duties he penned a weekly strip titled What a View that began appearing on the Sunday op-ed page on October 19 1986. Prendimano showed a real gift for contemporary and personal comedy in a strip that really should have had syndicates sniffing around, but probably didn't.
Around April 1987 the Press started an experiment in which they added a Sunday-style comics section to their Wednesday editions. What a View was moved over to this venue, where it rubbed shoulders with an eclectic mix of comics, from Heathcliff to Zippy the Pinhead. The strip maintained its four-to-six panel stacked format after the transition.
Whatever the point was of the experimental Wednesday comics section (presumably to boost sales on Wednesdays), apparently it didn't succeed. The section was dumped at the end of 1988. Readers were polled about which of the Wednesday comics should be moved into the regular Sunday comics section, and What a View put up some respectable numbers. However, it was passed over in favor of a strip that had through-the-roof polling (I am not making this up) -- Marmaduke.
I really like What a View and hoped to get exact information on it, so I was delighted when the Asbury Park Press was added to newspapers.com. Delight soon turned to disappointment when I discovered the the Wednesday comics were never microfilmed. Aargh. The microfilmer hated all comics equally, too -- the Sunday comics were also considered too unimportant on which to waste a few inches of film.
Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Dillon
Steve Dickenson decided at an early age that he was destined to be a syndicated comic strip creator, and he began working toward that goal after he got out of the Navy in 1980. Many submissions later, he finally got a few syndicates interested in Dillon, a strip about a 6-year old kid. Tribune Media Services signed him and he worked with editor Evelyn Smith for over a year at turning the submission into a strip they were willing to solicit. In my opinion, what they came up with was way too self-consciously sassy, with kids behaving and talking in ways that serve only the gag, and are completely inappropriate and out of character for their ages. But this was still the '80s, and I guess you could get away with 'hip' kids written with that awful sitcom sensibility of the day (think Diff'rent Strokes, Family Ties, and all those dozens of others that TV watchers endured back then).
The daily and Sunday strip was supposedly picked up by about 70 papers according to a promotional article, and debuted on January 9 1989*. The strip didn't exhibit any particular growth during its run except that Dickenson's art improved along the way. The gags remained firmly dependent on that annoying precocious child syndrome. Dickenson and the syndicate finally gave up and the strip ended on June 28 1992**. That end date is for the Sunday; I believe the daily probably ended a few weeks earlier.
Steve Dickenson learned from his experience on Dillon (perhaps to not take the opinions of syndicate editors as gospel) and he tried again with Tar Pit, which I liked but didn't catch on. Finally he hit paydirt in 1999 teamed with Todd Clark on Lola, which is now embarking on its third decade in syndication, though Dickenson bowed out in 2008.
PS: Dickenson is credited with two more syndicated strips -- My Brother's Keeper and Retro Geek. Unfortunately I can only find either these appearing in newspaper reader's choice contests (which they apparently didn't win). Can anyone tell me of newspapers that ran these as regular features?
* Source: Des Moines Register
** Source: Tallahassee Democrat
And as a tryout in the Casper Star-Tribune in 2007:
Monday, April 01, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Skeets
As a young cartoonist right out of college in the 1920s, Dow Walling showed promise with several syndicated comics. The features' short lives had as much or more to do with their small distributors (Johnson Features, Editors Feature Service) as their own qualities. Then at the dawn of the 1930s, Walling landed at King Features where he was tried out as the artist on a new feature (Nutty News, written by Ed Roberts), which tanked. Then was tapped to take over the ailing panel cartoon, Room and Board*, which he worked on for eight months before being replaced.
Finally Walling hit paydirt, or at least a steady job, when he created the kid strip Skeets for the New York Herald Syndicate. It debuted on May 1 1932** as a Sunday only feature. Walling's creation, an unassuming pale facsimile of all the other kid strips, succeeded mostly in never making weaker readers hurt themselves due to too much uncontrolled laughter. The strip was never widely syndicated and never gained a daily version, but apparently made the syndicate and Walling happy enough to keep it going for almost two full decades, flying under the radar the whole time.
Despite his rather light work load, Walling apparently couldn't handle it on his own by the 1940s. Al Plastino says that he and Jack Sparling helped out on the strip***. Skeets was finally cancelled, last running on July 15 1951. No word on whether Walling voluntarily ended the feature or it was cancelled.
* The Room and Board title was later resurrected for Gene Ahern, when he jumped ship from NEA to bring a bald-faced copy of Our Boarding House to King.
** Source: start and end dates from Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on the New York Herald-Tribune.
** Source: Alter Ego #59.
As for killing off Room and Board (version one), He should not be blamed for it, he was good with the panel, but in what would seem a paranoid lack of faith in their cartoonists, the King Features/Central Press editors kept replacing the man behind the pen before they could get very far with it. The instability just didn't appeal to clients, and the feature only lasted four years. Walling was actually the second to last artist on it, the final one being Herman Thomas. I wrote a more in-depth peek at the panel here: