Monday, June 17, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Muffy Shuffles

In 1907 there debuted a newspaper magazine cover series, one of the earliest on record, called Fluffy Ruffles. The series concerned a gorgeous young debutante who was looking for a job. The gag in each installment was that the girl would get a job, but was such a magnet for men that the boss would tire of the lovesick throngs hanging around the place of business and can the beauteous Miss Ruffles.

That series did well enough that it was turned into a book, which you can see online here.The popular series spawned a satire version, which is our subject today. The satire was titled Muffy Shuffles, it was written and drawn by B. Cory Kilvert, and it ran from March 8* to May 24 1908**. In it the star is changed from an opulently dressed Venus to a rag-wearing ghetto girl.

Now this might seem like a great jumping-off place for biting social satire, but Mr. Kilvert had no such ambitions. Instead he seemed to think that the girl's appearance alone was pretty much all the comedy needed. The situations she gets into are essentially the same except that the jobs she applies for are with the down-and-out employers of her neighborhood. They play out pretty much the same as in the original series except that the merely curious substitute for love-starved boys.

The series was sold to a goodly number of papers; I'd not be surprised if almost as many ran Muffy Shuffles as had taken Fluffy Ruffles.The question, though, is who syndicated it. Kilvert had done some work for the New York World earlier in the decade, and was just about to do some work for Hearst, but I've seen this series in neither of their flagship papers. I wonder if the Philadelphia Press was the syndicate, because they ran the series, or maybe it was distributed by World Color Printing, whose sections it tends to be found alongside.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

* Source: Louisville Courier-Journal
** Source: Philadelphia Press


I love these obscure old comics. Really enjoying your blog.
In a promo announcing Muffy's arrival at the Washington(D.C.)Star,(12 March 1908) the cut is attended by the identia: (Copyright 1908 Associated Literary Press), which I've never heard of. I suppose that would mean that Muffy is more or less self-syndicated. The strip is sold like a any independent series, for instance the Sunday Star's comic section was a mix of McClure and Philadelphia Press, otherwise.
I also learned a nugget of information from the same promo; B. Cory Kilvert was the married name of Fanny Cory.
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Saturday, June 15, 2019


Herriman Saturday

December 23 1909 -- Herriman adds graphic interest to a news round-up on polar explorers, showing Cook's reputation melting like a snowman under scrutiny of his claims.


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Friday, June 14, 2019


Wish You Were Here, probably from Norman Jennett

Here's another card that I think is by Norman Jennett. Each card in the series has the parrot and the 'signature' of a circle with a dot in it. The series was not copyrighted, and the reverse is pre-divided back, meaning 1906 or earlier. However, this card was postally used in 1910.


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Thursday, June 13, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Hints to Society

Robert A Graef produced three series for the New York Herald -- The Leap Year Society for the Getting Back at Mere Man, Hints to Society and a third we've still not covered here on Stripper's Guide. At this rate, I calculate we'll cover that last one around 2026. Stay tuned!

Hints to Society was Graef's longest-running series for the Herald, appearing from August 21 1904 to May 21 1905*. In it he makes tongue-in-cheek etiquette suggestions for the upper crust. Above we see him addressing a problem in the automobile's brass era -- riders wore much-needed dust protection in these open vehicles, and therefore could not tell which other high society folk they were meeting. Adding an etched calling card on the all but useless windshields of these vehicles allowed members of the 400 to determine whether they should greet or high-hat those in the other cars.

* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index in StripScene #20.


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Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: C.W. McElfresh

Charles William McElfresh, Jr. was born on October 12, 1900, in Knoxville, Kentucky, according to his World War II draft card which also had his full name. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, McElfresh was the second of three sons born to Charles, a bookkeeper, and Margaret (Voglesong). The family resided in Portsmouth, Virginia at 515 Owens Street.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 16, 1988, said

Mr. McElfresh had played minor league baseball as a young man and at 16 was offered a contract by the St. Louis Cardinals. He turned it down, instead heading to art school in Baltimore. When he finished his schooling, he spent several years at the Baltimore Sun before moving to Philadelphia.
McElfresh was recorded in the 1920 census as a helper at the navy yard. He continued to live with his parents in Portsmouth on Nashville Avenue. The 1921 city directory listed the house number as 1907.

The Inquirer said “In 1920, Mr. McElfresh joined the Evening Bulletin’s news art department.”

In 1924 McElfresh married Anna M. Eagan in Philadelphia according to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index at The Inquirer said Anna was the Evening Bulletin librarian.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said McElfresh drew Charles A. Lindbergh's Life and Adventures from June 13 to July 23, 1927. The series was written by A.J. Wilde and distributed by the North American Newspaper Alliance.

According to the 1930 census, staff newspaper artist McElfresh lived with his wife and one-year-old daughter, Joan, in Philadelphia at 5511 Florence Avenue.

In 1940 McElfresh was a home owner in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania at 282 Sanford Road. In addition to Joan were Charles, Jr. and Anne. McElfresh’s highest level of education was the fourth year of high school. In 1939 he earned $3,500.

On February 19, 1942 McElfresh signed his World War II draft card. His address was unchanged. He was described as five feet six inches, 170 pounds with brown eyes and hair. He was employed at the Evening Bulletin.

The Inquirer said “He stayed at the paper for 45 years, the last 21 years as director of the department. He retired in 1965, but continued to work part time for about six years. … He was an avid golfer and a 35-year resident of Drexel Hill. His wife, Anne M. Eagan McElfresh, whom he met at the Bulletin, died in 1981.”

McElfresh passed away August 14, 1988, in Wayne, Pennsylvania according to the Social Security Death Index. The Inquirer said he was survived by “his son, Charles W.; daughters, Joan M. Greisiger and Anne B.; seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.”

—Alex Jay


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Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Charles A. Lindbergh's Life and Adventures

In the wake of Lindbergh's landmark flight across the Atlantic, every newspaper syndicate was in a race to supply the ravenous hunger for material about Lindy and his feat. The newspaper reading public could not be sated. However, as far as I know only one closed-end comic strip was created specifically to tell his life story, which I find quite surprising.

What is even more surprising is that it was syndicated by the North American Newspaper Alliance, which as far as I know never produced another comic strip in all their years in existence. NANA was a news-gathering organization, and they normally left this sort of thing to Bell Syndicate, which was aligned with them. I guess that shows the enormity of this news event and the desire to cover it every possible way.

NANA assigned writer A.J. Wilde and artist C.W. McElfresh to the task, and they produced a strip that ran from June 13 to July 23 1927* in lots of papers. It ran under the title Charles A. Lindbergh's Life and Adventures, or Colonel Lindbergh's Life and Adventures, depending on the paper. It was billed in promos as offering "fresh information ... and romantic and authentic facts about his ancestry" that will "throw fresh light on this world hero." Whether the strip did much of that is doubtful, but it did offer a decently well-rounded history of Lindbergh, his family, and of the race to fly solo across the Atlantic. Considering that the strip began running in papers a mere three weeks after Lindy touched down in Paris, Wilde and McElfresh can be forgiven for any roughness around the edges of their presentation, especially since this was an apparently one-time foray into the world of comic strips for both of them.

* Source: Lincoln State Journal


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Monday, June 10, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Katinka

Ken Kling would eventually hit paydirt with a horse-racing tip strip, Joe and Asbestos, but in the 1910s and early 20s he was looking under every rock for his ticket to fame and fortune. His quest led him to a lot of syndicates, big and small, but his closest brush with early success came with Pulitzer's Press Publishing, which syndicated Katinka.

The star of the strip was a new Swedish immigrant to America, an ungainly looking middle-aged cook and housemaid. Katinka seemed to settle right in, vying with the Gessits, her employers, for the crown of biggest wiseacre. A mild-mannered dopey cop named Ferdie added a love-interest for Katinka, and an additional opponent for her employers. That about sums up the regular cast. Kling kept things very earthy, with lots of lowbrow humor, put-downs, insults, and a dash of physical comedy to keep the drawing interesting. In an era when strips of this type were often adding continuities, Kling showed little interest in the concept.

The strip debuted on February 9 1920, and was syndicated to an unimpressive number of papers. However, it was apparently enough to please the powers that be, and therefore lasted until April 7 1923. On the final date Katinka was wired that she had inherited money and a husband back in Sweden, and she caught the next boat home.


True fact: Wallace Beery's silent film career began with him playing Sweedie, a similarly outsized Swedish domestic. Oafish Scandinavians persisted even after Gardo made Swedes sexy, gradually modified into the midwestern Ole and Lena.
And don't forget Yens Yensen, Yanitor.
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Saturday, June 08, 2019


Herriman Saturday

December 22 1909 -- Another installment of the 'LA Examiner only' (?) run of Mary's Home From College.

I can't decide if papa is really a jazz fan or if he's trying to embarrass his daughter, or both. It's interesting to consider that this same gag will be played out in comics and elsewhere about a bajillion times in the 1920s, by then with the roles reversed. The college kids by then were the hepcats who scandalize their parents with their love of 'race music'.


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Friday, June 07, 2019


Wish You Were Here, from Clare Briggs

Here's one of the few Clare Briggs postcards I've encountered, this one featuring his popular Chicago Tribune Sunday funnies character Danny Dreamer.

That it was published in 1908 by R.W. Hammond we can plainly see, but if there is more information on the reverse I cannot tell because the postcard user pasted a newspaper clipping to cover everything but the address portion. Fittingly, this postcard was used to let someone know about the bad flooding in Des Moines Iowa -- an inspired choice of postcard I'm sure you'll agree.


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Thursday, June 06, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Leo the Little Leaguer

Leo the Little Leaguer, a daily panel feature about a kid who plays sports, was created by Walt Lardner and distributed by the small syndication operation of Long Island's Newsday newspaper in 1966.

This was Lardner's second foray into newspaper syndication. His first was with Mr. President, an ill-fated attempt to poke fun at the Kennedy White House. It fell flat well before it would have been cancelled due to horrific real life events. Leo the Little Leaguer seemed to be off to a much better start, though, as Newsday Specials miraculously got a lot of high-profile newspapers to take the panel. It debuted on March 14 1966 and seemed like a shoo-in for a long and prosperous run with its robust client list.

What happened to nix the deal I don't know, but many of these big papers dropped the panel after mere months. They presumably liked what they saw when the first bought it, and I see no reduction in quality, so these mass cancellations are a mystery. With all those high-paying papers just a fond memory, Lardner or his syndicate decided to pull the plug. The latest I can find the panel running is in Wayne Today, where it ran ROP through at least mid-October 1966.

Lardner later went on to have much better luck in TV animation and as an editorial cartoonist for South Carolina's The State newspaper.


My idle speculations:

-- Despite broad usage, Little League is not a generic term. It's a specific organization, and perhaps they made some legal moves that made newspapers shy away.

-- Maybe a negative news story made the name -- or kid sports in general -- briefly toxic.

-- Maybe editor interest was at least partly based on some tie-in that didn't materialize, like a TV show or a big merchandise push.

-- Perhaps the syndicate, emboldened by a strong launch, upped the price.

-- Was this a case of everybody but the readers loving it? Recall reading of a lunch box maker in the 50s or early 60s doing a line of boxes featuring NFL teams. The company, the sales staff, and the buyers -- mostly male football fans -- all loved them. But at that moment in history, actual kids weren't interested.

I recall seeing a paperback of newspaper panels centered on a little girl who lived in the White House, clearly referencing Caroline Kennedy despite a different name. Don't know if that lasted long enough to collide with history.
Hi DBenson --
All possibilities. I rather like the one about the syndicate upping the price. That would be a dumb rookie move that sounds likely.

The feature you're thinking of is "Miss Caroline", and its bad timing was truly extraordinary. I haven't had the heart to do a post about it in all these years.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Henry

Long before the comic strip name Henry became linked to a silent, butt-faced, bald-headed boy, it was briefly associated with a much older bald-headed fellow.

Well after Vic Forsythe found his success with Joe's Car (later Joe Jinks), which debuted in 1917, the Pulitzer organization continued to expect more out of him than a mere 6-day per week comic strip. In 1920 they asked for a feature to go on an interior page of their Sundat comics section, and Forsythe reponded with Henry, a strip about the travails of a married man. Why Press Publishing didn't simply ask for a Sunday version of Joe's Car I cannot imagine, but that's basically what they got in everything but name.

Forsythe was only allowed a quarter-page for the strip because the Pulitzer organization had figured out that their four page section could sound more impressive to Sunday paper buyers if it offered more features than other competing sections. Pulitzer had one of their interior pages hold four strips, which made for a more impressive feature count. Forget the fact that those features were small, single-color jobs that the cartoonists produced while they were half-asleep. Just as with toppers later on, it wasn't the quality that counted, just the number of features listed on the masthead.

Forsythe really did sleepwalk through Henry, whose gags are so lethargic and hackneyed that they could be marketed as sleep aids. The strip ran from June 13 1920 to February 6 1921, and I'd bet not one reader noticed on February 13th 1921 that it had disappeared.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.


It's a "Mr. and Mrs." fake!
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Tuesday, June 04, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Mr. Hankinson

Here's an historic obscurity, Mister Hankinson by famed illustrator John R. Neill. Although Neill's career is the subject of quite a bit of scholarship, there seems to be no mention of this feature, which was his first newspaper comic strip.

Mister Hankinson appeared at least twice in 1901. It ran in the Sunday comics section of the Philadelphia North American on September 29 and October 13*. The North American's Sunday comics section debuted on September 29, so Neill got a plum new spot, produced a quite sumptuous looking strip, yet for some reason didn't follow through. He did not have another series in the North American's comics section until 1905.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.

* It could have also run on October 6 and/or October 20, as those sections may be incomplete on the microfilm that I indexed.


I have the notes on the North American I made when I did a breakdown on it many years ago. As far as I can Tell, the sections for 6 & 20 October 1901 were complete, they have as much material as the weeks surrounding them. I notice that in those two weeks Neill is represented by one shots. But I have Mr.Hankinson as a two shot (and two other two-shot series) indexed under the name of Thomas Neill:

Ye Strange Adventures of ye two knights of ye round table (1 & 8 December 1901.
Feline Town (29 June & 6 July 1902)

I have John R. Neill as creator of the 1905-6 series Toyland and his most famous series, Little Journeys of Nip and Tuck in 1909-10.

Nothing by any Neill in 1903.

have I befouled by scholarship with erroneous misinformation?
Hi Mark --
Sorry for the slow response; I've been travelling.

First, my apologies about that 1903 series I cited, it was a typo and I meant 1905 (Toyland).

Looking now at my PNA index, which was compiled with the microfilm available at Harrisburg's state library, I can't confirm your 1901 or 1902 series. On 12/1/01, I have the McDougall page plus Flipp Boys and Muggsy. On 12/8/01 I have just McDougall and Muggsy. On 6/29/02 I have McDougall, Flipp Boys, Airship Man and Sallie Slick. On 7/6/02 I have McDougall, Airship Man, Beelzebub Boys, Drowsy Dick, Flipp Boys, Sallie Slick.

I don't think I was intentionally omitting one-shots on that index, so I'm at a loss how we're not matching up. Might those Neill strips you're referring to have appeared outside the section? I could certainly have missed that.

That early in the NA's history, they had no extra cartoon pages for a magzine section like the Inky did, or anything like that. In fact I don't think they ever did. This is from the North American microfiles at the Philadelphia Free Library.
Here's my complete breakdowns for the dates in question:

6 October 1901
Why Bims Lost the Election by Walt McDougall
Reputations Made By Accident are as Good As any Other Kind by Tho. R. Neill
Unknown Perils of Carrying a Cane by Tho. R. Neill
untitled spot gag by Penfield
Shirkers Sometimes get Their Just Deserts by Tho. R. Neill

20 October 1901
Don't Be Too Familiar with Strange Babies by Walt McDougall
The Venerable Dr.Bear Vaccinates the Entire Zoo by "Sore Arms"
untitled spot art by McDougall
Kidnapping made Difficult by Maybell
The Up-To-Date Insurance Man by Jean Mohr

1 December 1901
How Schnitzer Recovered his Pretzel-with interest by McDougall
Sauntering Sam Discovers the Cause of His Insomnia and Works a Quick Cure by George Herriman
The Flipp Boys Try To Play Circus With Fatty Felix by McDougall
Muggsy Wants To Be Bad, But Fate is Against Him by Crane
Ye Strange Adventures of Ye Two Knights Of Ye Round Table (UNSIGNED, but my guess at the time was Neill)

8 December 1901
Santa Claus: "Hang These Newfangled Automatic Toys, Anyhow" by McDougall
A Stolen Ride With Santa Claus- Little Johnny's Terrible Dream by Haver
untitled spot art by Marcus A. Ide
Ye Strange Adventures Of Ye Two Knights of Ye Round Table (UNSIGNED, looks like Neill)
Muggsy Again Tries To Be Bad but Luck Is Against Him by Crane
Modest Old Santa Claus Gets A Shock (UNSIGNED, looks like Neill)

29 June 1902
The Village Of Romance, The Village Of The Real Estate Advertisement, and The Village as It Usually Is by McDougall
This Little Pig Went On a Rampage by Elliot
How Uncle Si Lost His Fourth Of July Dinner by Geo. Hopf
An Exciting Chase In Feline Town After The Puss That Stole The Bottle Of Milk by Tho. R. Neill
The Cruise Of the Good Airship "Skyrocket" by Kahles (Gets shot down with firecracker)
Why Mr. Bondclipper Tired of His New Panama Hat by Jean Mohr
Fatty Felix, The Flipp Boys And the Bees by McDougall
Sallie Slick And Her Suprising Aunt Amelia by Jean Mohr (An independence day firecracker spells out "Sallie")

6 July 1902
Uncle Hiram's Frantic Efforts to Escape The Automobile Fiend by McDougall
A Thrilling Rescue On The Briny Deep When Hope Had Fled by T.S. Allen
The Cruise Of the Good Airship "Skyrocket" by Kahles (Farmer traps him in barn with dogs)
The Beezlebub Boys and Their Uncle Tom by "Bow Wow"
Drowsy Dick In The Navy- His Heroic Action Saves the Admiral's Life by Chas. Reese
A Naughty Puss on Trial In Feline Town by Tho. R. Neill
Fatty Felix and the Flipp Boys in the Orchard by McDougall
Sallie Slick and her Suprising Aunt Amelia by Jean Mohr (She tricks Amelia from a window during Edward VII's coronation)

It occurs to me that as the name of the famous artist John R. Neill might be a little too close to "Tho. R. Neill", I may have misinterpreted a hard to read signature, and "Tho." could actually be "Jno."

I haven't a guess who "Sore Arms" and "Bow Wow" might have been.

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Monday, June 03, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Stuff and Nonsense

E. N. "Eggie" Clark only has two short-lived series to his name, but wow, they are real beauts. Here is his first series, titled Stuff and Nonsense, that was produced for the Boston Herald from March 6 to June 12 1904. Each episode had two recurring features, Little Willie and An Unnatural History for the Little Tots, plus some extras.

I know nothing about Mr. Clark, though one can probably safely assume that he was a Boston resident at this time. His later series was produced out of Pittsburgh, so he wasn't tied inextricably to the city.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.


Certainly no Alex Jay, but...
Clark seems to have been quite a successful magazine illustrator and cover artist:

Clark, Egbert Norman (1872-1942)

Clark, Egbert Norman, magazine and book illustrations; born in Milwaukee, Wis., August. 15th, 1872; son of Darwin and Ellen P.C.; studied in Frank Holmes’ School of Illustration, Chicago; married to Chloris Cochran, 18989.

Illustrates for Life, Success, Cosmopolitan, and all the current magazines.
Address, 15 Clark Place, Columbus, O.

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Saturday, June 01, 2019


Herriman Saturday

December 21 1909 -- A one-shot strip from Herriman in which a black man gets a beating for agreeing that Jack Johnson is going to clean Jim Jeffries' clock. The most charitable thing I can say about this is that we could choose to believe that Herriman was helpfully reminding black folk to be careful of being too exuberant in their excitement about Johnson in mixed company. As if they really needed a reminder.

The last panel offered a word new to me, which turns out to be yet another offensive term for a black person.

PS: Note the typo in Herriman's name. Oops.


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Friday, May 31, 2019


Wish You Were Here, from Charles Dana Gibson

Here's another Gibson card from Detroit Publishing. This one is #14004, and based on the copyright we know that it originally appeared in a 1900 issue of Life. What we don't know is why an unused postcard like this one is all chewed up around the edges.


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Thursday, May 30, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Gummi Bears

As an example of bizarrely successful cross-promotion, Gummi Bears is a master's class on crass commercialism and rapacious capitalism. Supposedly it all began when Disney head honcho Michael Eisner noticed his kid eating Gummy Bears candies (note the spelling difference). For some strange reason he decided that the company should turn these squishy, rubbery, tooth-rotting candies into Disney's first foray into TV animation. I'm betting that part of that 'inspiration' was also the success of American Greetings' Care Bears characters. Kudos Disney for piggybacking your new product on the backs of a candy franchise and a greeting card company, yet no pesky licensing fees to pay --- score!

So was born Adventures of the Gummi Bears, a cartoon show set in medieval times and starring a group of bears who, after drinking magic juice, are able to bounce around not unlike Tigger. The plot sounds utterly inane to me, but I've come across plenty of fandom in my little bit of research on the subject, so I gather the cartoons were not completely and utterly without redeeming value.

So once you've created your mildly successful TV kid's show based on candy and greeting cards, what's next? Well, a newspaper comic strip series, of course. But whatever tiny amount of charm and thought might have gone into the animated series, it failed to reach from one division of the company to the next. The Gummi Bears comic strip, which debuted via partnership with King Features Syndicate on September 1 1986, offered incredibly lame one-liner jokes in the dailies, and the Sunday did the same plus added attractions of  a "Bear Fact" (pre-school level trivia), and a couple of puzzles or games. None of it exhibited an ounce of creative thought, and managed to annoy even fans of the Gummi Bears by ignoring most of the characters and plotlines set up in the TV show.

The creators of this waste of space, which thankfully found few clients, were probably very happy to be uncredited and anonymous. That is, they would be anonymous if it weren't for Disney researcher extraordinaire Alberto Becattini, who unmasked them as Rick Hoover (writer) and Lee Nordling (art).

The Gummi Bears TV show lasted until 1991, but the comic strip was such a stinker that it fell by the wayside on April 1 1989, a fitting end date for a feature that was a practical joke on the newspaper-reading public.


A little credit for mixing up the Sunday page a little, even if they were hardly the first (flashing back to old full-page funnies, especially Popeye with his cutout novelties and Cartoon Club). "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" had a similar feature, likewise geared to the youngest readers.

"The Simpsons" version was slicker and tuned to the show's sensibilities. That appeared to come and go equally quickly, perhaps because they weren't sure whether it was a kid feature or an adult parody.

"Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids" appears to be the hardiest survivor, unless there are others I don't know about.
There is a bunch of the strip posted as a pdf by a fan blog. Thanks for the start/end dare so we can finally update the Disney Comics Wikipedia page.
The cartoon series (and the characters I guess) were co-designed by Daan Jippes when he worked there. Was Lee Nordling related to form Eisner assistant and Barker artist Klaus in any way?
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Wednesday, May 29, 2019


Magazine Cover Comics: Curious Kitty

Carolyn Wells and Fish were both tremendous talents, but I think Wells was a better artist than she was a versifier, and Fish was a better writer than she was an artist. So what does the American Weekly do but put the two together and assign each the role in which they're weaker.

Curious Kitty is a pretty forgettable cover series that ran in the American Weekly from June 28 to August 30 1931. The plot is that Kitty keeps getting in trouble because of her insatiable curiosity, until the final installment ... well, go ahead and read it yourself, because our sample is the concluding episode of the saga. All's well that ends well.


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Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Punch and Judy Up To Date

Due to racist language and stereotyping, Punch and Judy Up To Date may well be just fine staying forgotten, but that's not how we roll here at Stripper's Guide, so here it is.

Taking a cue from the long-standing British tradition of Punch and Judy puppet shows, Mark Fenderson claims to be updating them by focusing on Mr. Punch and a black character, Toby. Only problem with that thesis is that Punch and Judy shows had been occasionally including a black character, often named Jim Crow, for probably a hundred years or more.

Fenderson was a sloppy cartoonist who seemed to put exactly as much effort into his work as he could get away with. Some of his strips for the McClure Syndicate, where the Punch and Judy strip appeared, are downright painful to look at. Not so with this strip, which was well-drawn for what it is, and Fenderson was proud enough to sign it consistently, which he seldom bothered to do. The gags, on the other hand, are hardly worth the name, but for that maybe Mark can't be blamed -- after all, real Punch and Judy shows offer simple-minded violence as a primary source of humor.

Punch and Judy Up To Date had a short run, no shame that, from December 6 1903 to February 7 1904*. Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

* Source: San Francisco Chronicle


I think the second Punch and Judy Up To Date strip should be the one on top, because the story of Punch butting the cook naturally leads into Punch getting the services of a goat to butt Toby. The goat seems to be the ultimate "butt" of the joke.
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Monday, May 27, 2019


Toppers: Simple Sylvia in Gags and Gals

The cheesecake artist Jefferson Machamer, looking for a steady paying gig during the early years of the Great Depression, accepted an offer from Hearst's New York Mirror to contribute a weekly color Sunday page to their paper. Naturally the chosen subject was the female sex. Machamer had a marked preference for statuesque beauties, and at least for humor purposes he loved the mercenary gold-digger type, so Gags and Gals abounded with those "Machamer Girls."

In addition to the gag panels that dominated the page, Machamer included a strip, never named, in which the artist, using a rather cruel self-caricature of himself, chronicled his experiences with women. This unnamed strip could be considered a topper, I suppose, but since I've never once seen Gags and Gals cut down to half-page format (in which that strip would be lost), I think of it as an integral part of the feature.

I can trace Gags and Gals back to 1932, with the earliest example in my collection being from September of that year. However, since Mark Johnson tells me that the Sunday Mirror debuted on January 10 1932, it wouldn't surprise me if Gags and Gals was there right from the start (can anyone supply some facts to go along with my guesswork?).

The strip doesn't seem to have been offered in syndication until late 1933, and it ran in very few papers until 1936, when it finally started accruing more of a substantial client list. The new popularity of the feature probably had something to do with its translation into a series of movie shorts that began making the theatrical rounds in early 1936. Here's a fun installment of the series:

Soon after this new spate of popularity began the feature finally added a real topper, presumably at the request of newspaper clients trying to fit Gags and Gals into different formats. The new topper was titled Simple Sylvia and it debuted on February 14 1937.The feature was really just a 'more of the same' for the Gags and Gals package, starring one of Machamer's Amazonians beauties.

Simple Sylvia was later joined by another topper, Bubbling Bill, and both lasted until the end of the Gags and Gals feature on February 6 1938.


Hello Allan- I have a copy of the complete first issue of the Sunday Mirror, and G&G is a no show. Oddly enough I have a copy of the last one too, (13 October 1963.) It's been said the Mirror never made a profit.
The film included in your posting has the title of Gags & Gals but it is not the one from 1936, which was one of a short series of Jefferson Machamer-starring short subjects made in the waning years of the Educational Pictures studio. What the film shown here is from the 1940's. Official Films served the home use and film library markets. They licenced second hand Hollywood products like old Columbia or Hal Roach shorts, and Vanburen and Terrytoon cartoons, often giving them new titles. The only credits there are for "Zarek & Zarina" are to some "Soundies", and "Gags and Gals/ Male Order" seems to be retitled Soundies too. (Soundies were short musical films that were seen in a coin-op contraption called a "Pan-o-ram" that was supposed to replace juke boxes, but it was a bad idea, and the machines were in constant need of repairs, so they were only around 1940-47.)
Mark, your comment sent me looking for a REAL Gags and Gals short, and I'm delighted to say I found one, now seen above. The print quality is hideous but nonetheless I found it very entertaining.

Thanks, Allan
Also Mark, any chance you could tell me what DID appear in that first NY Mirror Sunday?

Thanks, Allan
Here's the breakdown:
Bumps/Pete by CD Russell
Honeybunch's Hubby/Smatter Pop by CM Payne
Tailspin Tommy by Forrest
The Lovebyrds/Etta Kett by Robinson
Silly Symphonies/Mickey Mouse by disney
Tarzan by Foster
Phil Fumble/Fritzi Ritz by Bushmiller
Fisher's Foolish History/Joe Palooka by Fisher

I know that's the first Mickey Mouse sunday, Maybe the first also for Etta Kett and Pete (the Tramp)?

Just for the record, the last Sunday Mirror's line up:
Lil Abner by Capp
Steve Canyon by Caniff
Mickey Finn by Leonard
Henry by Anderson (Liney)
Rex Morghan MD by Bradley & Edgington
Dan Flagg by Sherwood
Kerry Drake by Andriola
Life' Like That by Neher
Priscilla's Pop by Vermeer
Better Half by Barnes
Apartment 3-G by Kotzky
Emmy Lou by Links
Louie by Hanan
There Oughta be a law by Shorten & Whipple
Our Boarding house by Freyse
Out Our Way by Cochran
Joe Palooka by Depreta

Palooka was in every single Sunday Mirror section!

As a show of just how poorly the Mirror was doing, in all this, there's only one ad in the whole section.
The following week The New York Daily News would add 6 pages to their comic section taking many strips from the Mirror -

L'il Abner
Kerry Drake
Rex Morgan
Dan Flagg
Apartment 3-G
Mickey Finn
Joe Palooka

Steve Canyon would be picked up by The New York Journal-American.

I forgot to add that in the black and white pages of that first Mirror were the page of "It Is to Laugh" by Ving Fuller, which was seen here back on May 6; and "The Sunday Mirror Puzzle Page" by A.W. Nugent.
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Thursday, May 23, 2019


Heritage Auction Items from my Collection

Last week Heritage almost literally gave away some of my art collection. I'm still stifling sobs. Hopefully some folks will bid this week with something more than the contents of their change purse. This week Heritage has another batch of beautiful and interesting items, all of which can be seen at the Heritage site by clicking here.

This lot of six originals all thrown together makes my heart heavy, but if there are discerning comics lovers out there, hopefully it won't all crash and burn. First we have a wonderful funny piece by E.A. Bushnell, an accomplished editorial cartoonist who sometimes jumped over into the realm of humor. This 1919 piece chronicles the hard life of the travelling salesman.

Next is a special drawing of Uncle Eph by Oscar Hitt. What is amazing about this piece is that it was done for the fabled Wheeler-Nicholson Syndicate in 1926 during their brief existence. Only piece of Wheeler-Nicholson art I think I've ever seen. Yep, this is the Major Nicholson who went on to found DC Comics.

Next is a beautiful piece by Magnus Kettner, a real tear-jerker that almost certainly was done for either Editor & Publisher or The Fourth Estate and pays homage to the editor of a small-town paper. Very displayable if you are a newspaper lover.

Next we have a rare surviving example of Paul Robinson (famed for Etta Kett) during his very very brief time on Embarrassing Moments, the King Features panel in which many elite cartoonists toiled -- George Herriman, Billy DeBeck, Jay Irving and more. Earliest Paul Robinson you're ever likely to find.

Next we have an early and obscure comic strip rarity from 1912-- Amos Roach by Andy Hettinger. The history on this strip is hard to pin down, but it definitely ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1913.

Finally we have a real jewel ... if you're from Indiana. A rare original of Roger Bean by Indiana's favorite son, Chic Jackson, complete with all the major characters. If you're outside of Indiana you probably won't care, and if you're from Indiana, I need say no more.

What am I bid for this series of treasures? A whopping $12 as of Wednesday. Shoot me now.

These Heritage people are killing me. Selling one lot with both an Otho Cushing and a Kemp Starrett original? This one really slays me, especially when I watch people on Heritage bidding hundreds of dollars for a 'slabbed' copy of Marvel Two-In-One number who-gives-a-crap or for an X-rated convention sketch of Aunt May. 'Tis a strange world.

Anyway, if you don't know who Kemp Starrett and Otho Cushing are, well, just look at the art. There is literally not a single bid on this lot as of Wednesday, and so obviously the world has gone mad.

Okay, I.m not going to freak out about this lot of art by Ralph Dunagin. Yes, it includes two nice  space exploration editorial pieces, and yes, if you're into murderers, then the courtroom sketch of the Black Satin Killer (complete with tattooed words on his fingers), are pretty freaking cool. But surely not worth more than a buck, which is the current bid.

Obviously the main attraction in this lot is the lovely Barbara Shermund color piece, and that's just as it should be, but don't ignore the Franklin Folger The Girls panel, showcasing some brilliant zipatone work along with sensitive portraits of his husband and wife subjects. The sleeper here is a fun piece by Bill Thomas, who was an artist with the San Francisco Examiner at the time. Ostensibly his drawing is a headpiece for a ladies fashion column, but you can rest assured this never made it into the paper, what with that conspicuously bulbous bare ass. No, this was a gag piece that he gave to Jim Ivey back in the early 60s when both were in the bullpen there. The drawing, though, is of amazingly high quality considering it was just made to break up the monotony in the art department.

Here are a set of four promotional posters put out by the Louisville Courier-Journal to advertise their comic strips. They are odd posters, I admit. They're black and white and they have a lot of small print. When I bought these the seller claimed thy were meant for those overhead advertising spaces on buses, but I just don't think I buy it. Any guesses as to the intended use of these impressive though curiously bargain-basement class posters? If you're a fan of Freddy, Smidgens, The Neighbors or The Country Parson, and who doesn't fall into one of those camps (he said with a snicker), you just can't live without these.


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Wednesday, May 22, 2019


News of Yore 1905: Winsor McCay on the Creation of "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend"

[When a book of Winsor McCay's "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" was published a publicity article was sent out to newspapers nationwide. Many newspapers edited it for length, but I think I worked from a pretty complete version for this reprinting. I worked primarily from the version that ran in the Minneapolis Tribune on October 9 1905]

 How The Rarebit Fiend Happened

by "Silas" (Winsor McCay)

Author of "The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend"


 How did the Rarebit Fiend happen?

What can I say about him?

Well, as author of "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend," I have been asked to tell about my work in connection with this "justly celebrated" comic series.
How the Rarebit Fiend came into existence is about as easily explained as it is to tell how a Patagonian field became full of Scotch thistles. I fear I cannot tell the whole story in the space that this paper will permit unless it should decide to run it as a serial for a couple of years. But it will not, and I don't blame the editor -- much. So I will be brief, merely hitting the high places in presenting the sad tale.

In the first place, I am not a funny man. I am not a humorist. I am a plain, ordinary newspaper artist, and that is distinctly a sad affair.

I woke up about ten years ago from a dream which lasted -- well, as long as I can remember. It was a dream that I was to be a "master" whose works would hang on the line a dozen centuries or so hence. My mother used to tell me I was a clown. She knew me better than I did, I guess, for I have since discovered it to be only too true.

I love the serious side, and have done considerable work along that line. No! No! Nothing worth mentioning, but just enough to acquaint myself with the fact that I never was or never will be a "master." I would rather picture a man falling in battle than one falling down stairs. They are both falling, but there is that funny something about the man falling down stairs that I can't keep out of the battle scene.

I once painted an oil of a man dying of thirst in Death valley, and almost every one that visited the exhibition turned away from my sad picture with a smile. I asked an old critic what caused the merriment, and he replied: "Because it's funny: the dying man looks like he is kidding."

From that on I have been drawing a salary as a comic artist.

I feel so flustered and fidgety about receiving the great honor of telling I came to draw "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend" that I hardly know how to start. I can now realize how other "great" authors and artists felt when called upon to tell their troubles, too. However, about a year ago, when nothing disturbed the calm morning air except the noise in the street, the machinery in the building and the yells of the other employees going to and fro in the halls, my brain gave birth to a tiny idea. I blew in its face and it opened its little eyes, and it blinked at me. Swathed in flannels, I tucked it away and began a system of coddling and caresses that threatened my health. After one week's nursing, he was able to go and see the editor.

If that gentleman had used that word that causes so much pain in this world, and which has given me so many pains, that cruel word "unavailable," this great universe would have never known of this great Rarebit Fiend. Although on wobbly legs and covered with pin feathers, he made quite a showing, and the next day readers knew that he had been born.

At first his bed was in my card case, then in a stamp drawer. He soon grew so that from a shoe box filled with cotton he required a soap box filled with saw dust under my desk. I fed him regularly, groomed and petted him fondly and exhibited him semi-weekly, while he kept on growing until today he reaches from coast to coast both ways.

I have partaken of Welsh rarebit (I know the preferred spelling is rabbit, but artists could never spell any more than great men can write, so let it go as it happened to begin) on several occasions with hospitable friends, but not often enough fortunately, to become addicted to the habit. It was not their magnanimity that inspired the birth of this monster now prowling throughout the land, but the tales my friends told of the dreams they had had after retiring that made him a possible quantity.

About the time that my pet was shedding his baby teeth and his mouth looked like an unfinished subway entrance, I inserted a note inviting the public to send in their dreams, as you may remember. In telling this I not only modestly confess my utter inability to furnish food to him, but also that the public assisted me by sending in thousands of good ideas in nourishing my child up to the proportions he has now assumed. For which I am so thankful that to express it would require pages.

As I said before, I am an illustrator. One newspaper artist is sent to a big fire, another to a banquet, another to a railroad wreck or murder. I am assigned to illustrate the rarebit dream of some unfortunate in Hoboken, N.J.; Kokomo, Ind., or Oshkosh, Wis. If the dream is funny, that is not my affair. It is the public who is responsible and not I. I merely tell the story, like any other newsgatherer or reporter.

I come to work in the morning and on opening my mail read of some woman in Albany dreaming of taking a bath in hot tar to beautify her complexion. It might upset me for a minute, but I soon am at work putting it in news shape that readers may know what is going on up state.

Some people take those dreams seriously.

They all should. A dream is no joke. It is a condition in the mind of a sleeping man which, if it existed when he was awake, would land him in the psychopathic ward. The most dignified person will, while innocently slumbering, pass through an apparent and lifelike experience that he awakes weeping, perhaps; perhaps shrieking or laughing over some incident of his dream.

A man comes home early from church, perhaps and without malice aforethought partakes of a luscious rarebit and retires for the night. Three or four hours later he is fighting like a demon with hundreds of hungry Igorrotes who seek him for the succulent rib roasts, steaks, chops and broilers which comprise his general makeup. Not until he bumps his head or barks his shins on some nearby furniture does he awake and breathe a sigh of relief. Then I come along looking for an item for my paper.

All is not rosy, though, with me. I have been unmercifully condemned by some for, as they declare, driving people away from rarebit emporiums. Other say, "Rarebits do not make one dream." My only reply is that I am in the hands of the public.

Mrs. ------ surely would not deliberately lie to me when she writes that after eating a rarebit she dreamed that her husband used her biscuits for paperweights down at his office, and that he had a trained wart hog to do his short hand work.

The dream of the young man who could not keep from laughing, try as he might, when his mother-in-law was being hanged, brought down on me the wrath of one Mr. -----, to whom I can only say, "I did the best I could with that dream."

While I prefer to stick to the facts, in this case, for the old lady's sake, I treated the subject tamely compared to what my correspondent reported.

The real situation was the old lady had twelve married daughters and their twelve husbands formed a lynching bee and -- well, it was cruel to draw. But do you know, I have had that "dream" pronounced at least twenty-five times by married men -- who, however, were particularly confidential in their manner of expressing their appreciation -- as being the best dream I ever drew.

I could say volumes about the odd letters I get. The queer dreams and comments on dreams that come in daily have convinced me that the people like and look for the "Rarebit Fiend." It is a very remarkable news sections of the paper. I try to put the facts just as I receive them. I shall stick to the truth. The "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" is no joke, satire or burlesque; it is a plain, ordinary every night occurrence in our daily life illustrated and published for the public good.

I go at my work as seriously as my co-worker down the hall who is writing the obituary  notice of some great political organization. I might occasionally be deceived; some one might send in a dream -- a hair raiser -- who, instead of eating a rarebit the night before, had eaten sauerkraut dumplings. In that case I innocently do the rarebits a wrong.

I have enough letters stacked away to pad a carpet for the state of Texas telling me I spell the word wrong; that it should be "rabbit." I wish people would be a little more considerate of my young life. Poor spelling is an artist's prerogative.

I may as well say a few words as to how I feel during the time I am at work on a dream. I am first overcome with a strange bearing down on my shoulders. A something seems to push me to my desk. I may be gazing out of the window, but my mind is far away. I resist gently at first as the desire to gaze possesses me, but presently I find myself struggling with the something with no small effort, when my boss will appear on the scene and say, "Get busy." I then sink into my chair with a somewhat pained expression and mechanically reach for my pencil and go to work.

Yes, I do feel my work. I put my heart into my drawings and act them in imagination as an actor might. Thus when I am illustrating a man having his skeleton pulled out through his mouth by a dentist you can imagine the terrible sufferings I endure.

When I draw a man frantically dodging some monster green baboon every muscle in my body is in full tension. If I am making a man laugh, I grin like a pet fox; if he scowls, I scowl also. The result is I am as busy as a man with eczema counting money. My face looks as though I had St. Vitus dance, my hands working like a shuttlecock and my feet doing a sand jig.

Yes, occasionally I laugh at my own work, but it's more hysteria than mirth. When I have finished I am blue in the face. I am then taken in charge by my trainer, who, with bottle and sponge, quickly revives me. I am placed in the sun to bleach out.

My book, "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend," which is now on the market, promises to add to my millions considerably, as I expect every man, woman and child to buy one if they have the price handy. I am almost tempted to believe a man would steal enough money to purchase one of these books. Libraries throughout the country will do well if they send in their orders early, thereby avoiding any panic which might occur at their doors. Mr. Carnegie, I am told, expects to throw in a carload with every new library. I hope so.

In conclusion, I will say for the rarebit it is a great game. The lady who can make good rarebit might have to chain her husband down when sleep comes to him, but, like glue, he will stick to her through thick and thin.


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Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Slagg Diggins, Millionaire Miner

There is nothing in the history of newspaper comics that can compare to the art and coloring of the major New York City Sunday sections of the 1890s. As with many new technologies, especially in printing, in the early years they haven't yet learned how to cheapen the process, speed it up, cut corners. Those early practitioners of color printing on high-speed presses were trying to perfect a very cumbersome technology, and each Sunday they pointed with pride at what they accomplished. Readers responded to the quality by buying papers in quantities never even dreamed before then.

I don't know if these full-page panels of Slagg Diggins, Millionaire Miner are impressive to you, but my breath is taken away by the combination of J. Campbell Cory's intricately crosshatched art and the colorist's masterful performance to bring the images to life. If the artwork isn't enough of a treat, then the history-minded comic strip fan can also get a good chuckle out of this New York World series, which is a pretty obvious dig at W.R. Hearst's papa, who was very much  a real life version of Mr. Diggins. William Randolph probably had a fit over these obvious taunts. Too bad Cory didn't take it one step further and highlight Mr. Diggins' son to bring the insult even closer to home.

Slagg Diggins, Millionaire Miner ran on the cover of the Pulitzer newspapers from March 19 to April 30 1899.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans, especially since he must not have done those obviously frail tearsheets any favors getting them onto the scanner.


You say "the Major New York City Sunday sections", but one might be puzzled that these are from a St.Louie sheet. Obviously the Pulitzer parent paper was the New York World, and with but a masthead change, this is the same section that would appear in both towns. Do you think they printed these in NY at the same time for both papers?
If Diggins was a takeoff on WRH's father, might we infer that's young WRH leering at a mannequin's bust? One wonders if the Diggins heir was featured in other pages.
I seem to recall that the P-D had their own 4-color press pretty early in the game, but would they not have received their color separations from New York?

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Monday, May 20, 2019


Mystery Strips: Pepless Pete

Here is a mystery strip from the collection of Cole Johnson. This tearsheet of Pepless Pete ran on October 5 1919 in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Cole told me he had no idea if it was a series, but that he'd never seen another. As far as I know, the G-D is not available digitally, so unless someone happens to have more material in their collection, someone needs to go old-school and get to a library that has the paper on microfilm if we're going to solve this mystery.

Although the strip is signed, it is obscured by a combination of flaky newsprint and archival tape. To me it looks like "K. Jay B-----". Anyone?


There is a microfilm run of the Globe-Democrat. Cole would borrow reels via interlibrary loan, while trying to complete his Philadelphia Inquirer project. (the G-D was a reliable client for years, and sometimes ran the Inky's fifth page that they themselves didn't.) He stopped bothering with them when the microfilmers perversely stopped capturing the comics, though they were evidently in the volumes used. That obtained for the final years of the Inquirer's full section offerings, about 1914-5. At that time, The G-D switched to a NY Herald section and maybe 1917 or 1918 started knocking out a page so they could feature their own home made stuff, like ol' Pepless here.
If anyone wants to give it a shot, by this time, they may have started to include the comics again in the microfiles.
About the condition of the page: This was once the property of the St.Louis Public Library. There, in the late 1930's, A new idea in unneeded, useless make-work projects was launched by the WPA; do something with the hundreds of years of newspapers in big volumes in public library stacks. What they proceeded to do was disbind the runs of the Post-Dispatch and the Globe-Democrat, the two leading papers of that day. They then covered each page, front and back, with a weird, very thin white gauzey fabric, pasted on. It left them opaque, and presumably useless, though a strip of new paper was glued to the edge, presumably for a re-binding project later.
But that never happened, perhaps they realized just how nuts the whole fiasco was, or the taxpayer's money was suddenly spent sensibly. But this fiasco left behind hundreds upon hundreds of large boxes of these strangely done pages, filed away in some kind of madman's obsessive order; 32 pages of second sports pages from 1909, 77 pages of magazine section back covers, 1921, 46 third want ad pages, 1917, 10 pages of page 9, 1901, etc.
They were all just warehoused until the 1970's, when Cole and I had a look. Some comics, here and there could be found, But you'd have to have unlimited amounts of time, body strength and patience to sift through the whole lot. A few pages were extracted, but then the removing of the cruddy covering was sometimes impossible to rub off (and I'm talking half an inch at a time)and it seemed to suck all the moisture out to the paper as well, making them as brittle as the dead sea scrolls, especially at the edges.
Fortunately these paper's runs were preserved in other repositories.Some fun.
An entertaining but very sad story, one of many in the lore of newspaper archives. Thanks Mark.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019


This Week's Heritage Auctions

This week Heritage Auctions is selling these items from my collection. Follow this link to see them all at Heritage:

Here's a fun grouping of original gag cartoons. You get a Country Parson, missing his caption, a fun Kickin' Around by Wally Falk featuring his recurring characters Hildegard and Olivia, a mystery cartoon by Camillus Kessler titled Nicholas and his Jobs (I've never found such a series), an Off the Record by Ed Reed, a panel from Dorothy Bond's panel The Ladies featuring her character Cosynose, and best of all, an early Berry's World daily from 1964.

Here's a treasure trove of material from the short-lived detective newspaper strip The Duke of Manhattan, including original art, syndicate proofs, correspondence and promotional materials. The strip ran for a very short time in the New York Sun in 1946.

A big group of 25 original editorial cartoons by Jim Ivey, mostly dating from the 1970s when he was the featured political cartoonist for the Orlando Sentinel. Subjects range all over - national politics, sports, local stuff, you name it.

Here is a group of two fabulous cartoons which should probably be sold separately. Heritage decided to put them together because of the shared subject of football.

On the left we have a masterpiece of grease pencil work by famed editorial cartoonist Burris Jenkins Jr. This piece dates from the 1930s, probably produced because of a slow day on the sports pages, so Jenkins takes the opportunity to look back sentimentally at peewee football.

The piece on the right is an amazing cartoon by Russell Patterson, dating from the 1920s and probably from Life or Judge. Prison convicts get into the swing of Roaring 20's football, wearing raccoon coats and waving pennants at a prison football game. The washes used on this give it a wonderful feeling of dimensionality, something I sometimes find lacking in Patterson's work.

Here are two early panel cartoons from Mischa Richter's long-running Strictly Richter daily panel. I really love that bold slashing line of Richter's. One piece is nicely mounted and framed.


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