Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: H.A. MacGill


Harold Arthur MacGill was born on November 5, 1875 according to his World War I draft card which also had his full name. Newspaper profiles of MacGill said he was born in November 1881 in Yarmouth, Canada.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded MacGill in Queens, New York at 130 Palace Boulevard. The newspaper cartoonist was married to Agnes and had a son and daughter. MacGill employed three servants.

MacGill signed his world War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He resided in Bayside, Queens County, New York on Palace Boulevard. The cartoonist was employed by Frank Munsey, the publisher. MacGill was described as medium height, slender build with blue eyes and brown hair.

In the 1920 census MacGill and his family lived in Flushing, Queens County, New York on Odell Avenue. MacGill was a self-employed artist.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said MacGill produced over twenty comic series. His best-known and longest-running series was The Hall-Room Boys also known as Percy and Ferdie. It ran from October 8, 1904 to April 3, 1924 with various syndicates. Percy and Ferdie was collected in a book.

The syndicate provided a profile of MacGill to newspapers subscribing to Percy and Ferdie. Space limitations affected the length of the profile. Three versions were found in the Rockford Republic (Illinois), April 22, 1922, News-Dispatch (Endicott, New York), April 26, 1923, and Cortland Standard (New York), March 8, 1924. Texts from each newspaper were combined to create the following long version.

* * *

This is the story of a comic cartoonist who got his start putting designs on tombstones. The professional artistic career of Harold A. MacGill began in his father’s monument plant at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It developed into the production of a newspaper comic strip that has the longest run in America.

Percy and Ferdie, the Hall-Room Boys, have been on the newspaper stage for 18 years. It is remarkable how they have kept their youth, snap and swank, after appearing 365 times a year since they sprang to life under MacGill’s pen in a New York newspaper office long ago. They swagger through a week-day strip and full Sunday page in over a hundred newspapers, amusing with their bluff and effrontery, hundreds of thousands of readers from Maine to California, and from the Isthmus of Panama to the Arctic circle.

Harold A. MacGill was born in Yarmouth of New England-Scottish parents in November, 1881. He attended Yarmouth schools, but gave more attention to caricaturing his teachers, putting wigs on the pictures of bald statesmen in the history and turning to comics the serious illustrations in the geography than he gave to his studies. He covered the backs of maps with designs of his own which pleased his fellow students but annoyed his instructors and decorated the walls of the Y.M.C.A. locker room with [illegible] which began his considerable [illegible] reputation.

“When I was old enough,” he said, “my father put me to work in the monument plant. There I was supposed to draw the conventional ivy leaf and the cross and crown for the tombstones of the town’s celebrities.

“But my heart was not in the work,” he added, with a twinkle in his eye. “Much of the time that I was supposed to be designing stone lambs and wreathes I was in a little abandoned shop next door to the plant which I had arranged as a studio. As I had the door as will as the walls covered with drawings and paintings, my father could not see me at work, and many a time when he tried the knob and got no answer I was inside, quietly working with pen and ink.”

The fame of young MacGill got him a number of odd jobs making advertising cards, posters for the street railroad and signs for various shops. Harold also collected the usual number of rejection slips. He saved his money with the idea of going to New York to make his fortune. In 1900 he realized his ambition in coming to the city and as to whether he has made his fortune his six-cylinder car and comfortable suburban home can testify.

With the parental blessing he received a $10 gold piece which is still in his possession, and fortifies his claim that he was never really “broke”. MacGill did not exactly starve in a garret at any time in his career, but when he first arrived he did spend a week in a boarding house which gave him the background for The Hall-Room Boys who live out of tin cans, cook over the gas when the landlady does not catch them and put all of their slender capital into clothes. From the boarding house he moved to a little apartment which was dignified by the name of studio. Here he and other cartoonists now famous had many a good time in the irresponsible joyousness of their impecunious youth.

Like the heroes of the [Horatio] Alger books, MacGill was soon rewarded with a position and he got a newspaper job but it didn’t bring him into contact for a long time with the illustrators he yearned to meet. He became a “slip boy” in the old New York police headquarters on Mulberry st. The slip boys handled the routine police reports for the newspapers and assisted the older reporters.

“I wasted several years down there,” he said, “I should have been carrying around photographs and retrieving erasers in the art room of some newspaper office. However, I went to Cooper Union for a while at night, where they tried to teach me to draw hands and feet. Finally I drew a cartoon on a subject involving the police headquarters which pleased the editor of a New York daily newspaper, and he gave me a job. I drew cartoons for a while and later worked as a reporter at $5 a week. This reporting was something I wasn’t fitted for or interested in, so I devised a series of “future punishments” which got me a job on another evening newspaper. In this series I imagined a just reward for men in various walks of life. A cab driver, for instance, would be [illegible] get between the shafts and [illegible] as passenger around streets that are paved with good intentions.

“You want to know where I got the idea for the Hall-Room Boys?” he said. “Well, I got a number of suggestions from real life. As an illustration: One evening on the gay white way of the Broadway theatrical district, I saw an elegantly dressed man, in a top hat and all the accessories, with a young lady whom I knew. I was curious as to who he was, and found out that he lived in a boarding house, kept his shiny hat under the bed, timed his rising in the morning by an alarm clock, punched the time clock at a department store, and there juggled rugs in the rug department for the balance of the day.

“Another young fellow who displayed the same kind of swank lived where I did. He was good looking and appeared to advantage in a dress suit. One evening he suggested that we go to the Waldorf, where there was a fashionable affair of some sort.

“What do you want to go there for?” I asked. “You haven’t an invitation.”

“He explained that he wanted to stand around in the lobby where people could see him. It gave him a good time just to be looked at.”

MacGill is neither a Percy nor a Ferdie. The more he draws flashy persons the deeper becomes his dread of being like them. The features of Ferdie might be a caricature of MacGill’s, but that’s just a coincidence.

The cartoonist is smooth-shaven, and does not show all his forty years. He is of medium height and by exercise has maintained a slender figure. He has a heavy shock of light hair on which time has not yet laid a finger, and he shows pride in it by wearing it a little long—but not of poetical length.

The author of Percy and Ferdie is quiet in manner, deliberate in speech, unaffected and easy of approach. He has a quaint chuckle which goes well with his dry Scotch humor, but he is no more a loud-voiced back-slapper than he is glum. He would probably fail completely as a book agent.

“I am fond of outdoor sports, such as mowing lawns, and clipping hedges,” he said. “Hence my attenuated waistline. This proved especially advantageous when the doctor called one day for my appendix.”

MacGill admits he is even-tempered. He claims to be the only man living who, without losing his equanimity taught his own wife how to run the car.

But to return to Percy and Ferdie:

The boys have been on the stage and are now in their third year in the movies. They appear also between book covers.

Although reluctant to talk about his work, MacGill need not be urged to discuss his two beautiful children. He is exceedingly proud of them and of the fact that Mrs. MacGill is more likely to be mistaken for their sister than their mother.

Laurence Leighton MacGill is 13, and will resent the word “beautiful” as applied to him. He is at present filled with the radio fever, and keeps the electric light switches in good repair. Laurence’s father was first convinced of the boy’s genius when he refilled a non-refillable bottle.

While the son has embarked on a career in mechanics, his sister Vivian, a year younger, hesitates between the graphic arts and classic dancing.

The MacGill home is in a suburb of New York city on Long Island, out where the lawns begin. The village in which it is situated, and which contains a considerable colony of artists, writers and actors, is in Greater New York, but is actually rural and has not yet arrived at the metropolitan dignity of street numbers.

In this peace and quiet, MacGill can work without interruption and need only go into New York once a week with his drawings. If he wishes to attend the theater or shop, however, an electric train takes him to the heart of Manhattan in half an hour. The grounds of the inviting home show the cartoonist has been busy with the lawn mower and hedge clippers when he could get away from his drawing board.

* * *

Other strips by MacGill are J.M. Muggsby’s Social AspirationsThe Economical Husband, and The Second Mrs. Mac.

According to the 1930 census, MacGill emigrated in 1898 and made his home at 205-15 42 Avenue in Bayside, New York. He had submitted naturalization papers. MacGill’s occupation was “Cartopracter”.

At some point MacGill moved his family to Manhattan. The 1940 census said the MacGill family was at 65 Seaman Avenue. MacGill was still an alien.

MacGill passed away December 1, 1952, in the Bronx, New York City according to the New York, New York Death Index at Ancestry.com.

—Alex Jay


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Monday, July 16, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: The Economical Husband

H.A. MacGill's fame is not secured by the fact that he was the cartoonist on the first true daily comic strip*, nor is it because of his appealing and unique art style. No, those few who do remember him tend to remember only that his comic strips, in particular the long running Hall Room Boys/Percy and Ferdie, were ridiculously text-heavy. In fact most of McGill's strips take the better part of a cup of coffee to read, and probably took him longer to letter than to draw.

MacGill's weekday strip The Economical Husband is no exception to the rule, though I've tried to spare you by picking some less text-heavy examples. The strip concerns a skinflint who ends up in trouble because of his frugal ways. The strip focuses also on his wife, though she seems to have no noticeable personality. Despite her often taking the brunt of his penny-wise ways, she rarely offers any opinion on the matter.

MacGill produced The Economical Husband on a stint at the New York Evening Globe, where it ran from August 21 1911 to December 1 1913**, mostly alternating space with his Hall-Room Boys, which he brought there after its long run with Hearst. All of MacGill's work at the Globe was syndicated through Associated Newspapers. The Globe assigned copyright to MacGill's strips not to the newspaper, but to H.P. Staton, the art director of the paper from 1904-1912, and then to J.G. Lloyd, whose role at the Globe is unknown but presumably he took over as art director***.

* Source: my article in Hogan's Alley issue #12
** Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt's index of the New York Evening Globe.
*** Alex Jay has found a citation that he was the private secretary to the Globe's publisher, and another source stating that he was a "member of the editorial staff."


Have you heard, or know anything about the TRADER HORN newspaper strip, illustrated by Paul Berdanier? It ran in THE NEW YORK AMERICAN and other Hearst newspapers. Some of Berdanier's illustrations were used in the Simon & Shuster edition of THE BOY'S TRADER HORN by Kenneth Payson Kempton. Based on Berdanier's art for TRADER HORN he was once considered to take over the Tarzan newspaper strip and did illustrate TANAR OF PELLUCIDAR by Burroughs.
Hi Robert --
No I haven't. The microfilm record of the NY American is spotty, and that feature may well have fallen through the cracks. Anyone seen this series?

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Saturday, July 14, 2018


Herriman Saturday

August 11 1909 -- The Angels face a pivotal homestand against the Seals, one that will likely determine whether the Angels end the season at first place in the standings.


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Friday, July 13, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Dwig

This lovely Dwig card features his mirror image text motif, along with an aquiline-nosed beauty. The card is embossed with gold on the mirror frame, which as usual doesn't reproduce well on the scanner.

This card must have sold well, because although there were other cards in this series (Series #30 according to the reverse), this is the one that shows up most often today.  The maker is, as best I can tell, R. Kaplan. The maker is not directly identified, but it does have a logo on the back. It is a little fellow wearing a smock on which is shown the Swiss cross, and in one hand is a beer stein and the other a U.S. flag. Pretty sure that's Kaplan, although the high quality of the card initially had me thinking Tuck. The usually very dependable postcard research site metropostcard.com doesn't cover Kaplan for some reason, so take my word with the appropriate meaure of salt.

The divided back card is undated but was postally used in 1910.


In March 1907, an act of congress provided that from henceforth post cards could have the bifurcated backs. It's good that congress is ever concerned with such wieghty issues.
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Thursday, July 12, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: The Onion Sisters

World Color Printing offered up some truly bizarre comics in their early years, and The Onion Sisters must rate at least a nine on the bizzarometer. The series featured characters with the heads of various fruits and vegetables, and sported a naive art style that seemed perfectly designed to leave the kiddies with fodder for Sunday evening nightmares. It was the one of only two series penned by 'Nixon', the other being The Up-To-Date Uncle Tom's Cabin Company.

While Nixon's other series showed some rustic charm, The Onion Sisters is just plain odd. The factor of  the vegetable heads rarely has anything to do with the gags, which kinda amps up the creepy factor if you ask me. The overarching thread of the series was that all the neighborhood veggies are fighting over the attentions of the beautiful Onion Sisters. Corn Fritter (a cob of corn) is the guy we are supposed to root for in this struggle. Now if the sisters had only been lima beans rather than onions, then you'd have something -- if Corn Fritter had triumphed, you'd have a lovely succotash!

 Cole Johnson supplied me with one of the few strips in the series that takes advantage of the nature of the characters, making it the strongest entry in a run that went from December 18 1904 to February 19 1905*. If you want to see the other strips in this crazy series, click on over to Barnacle Press to enjoy (?) the whole run. Over at that site, I made a happy discovery. On the February 5 1905 episode, it looks like Nixon has for once offered us his first name. If my eyes do not deceive, he is Guy Nixon.

* Source: St. Louis Star


More creepiness: It might be some kind of "Turnabout-is-fair-play" for the vegtables to dine on an herbivore for a change, but they're obviously vegtacannibles too.
Truly nightmare-inducing!
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Professor Howler's Calamities

Professor Howler's Calamities ran in the New York Herald's Sunday editions from July 23 1911 to April 14 1912*. The strip concerns a fellow who looks like a perfect milquetoast, but he actually has the call of adventure in his bones. Meek little Professor Howler will not shrink from any challenge, but he always ends up looking the fool (or worse).

This well-drawn and written strip was never signed by the creator. Now I may be totally off-base here, but when I look at these strips I hear a little whisper in my noggin saying "Ding Darling." I'm very likely wrong, I suppose, but Darling had just arrived in New York at this point to work at the New York Globe, and maybe he shopped his portfolio around town and had this strip accepted at the Herald. Of course, he wouldn't have been able to sign the strip. Any comment on my guess?

* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index


Do you have David Lendt's biography of Darling? If not, my copy is waiting for me in NYC (I just got it), and I can check that. Not dispositive if it doesn't list it...
Never thought of that - duh! Unfortunately both my Darling biographies are stuffed in boxes in Florida. Let me know if you find anything.
Lendt's biography has this to say at page 26: "He [Darling] also resisted management pressure to do comic strips for the Globe." In the next para, Lendt notes that Darling at this time had issues with his drawing arm that threatened to derail his career. This doesn't settle the issue, but in my mind, the facts that Darling didn't want to do strips and he was having drawing issues makes the ID for this strip unlikely. Feel free to disagree, since this is a guess on my part.
I guess so. Darling was in fact producing a general humor cartoon series for the Globe in 1911-12, which eventually was focused and became Professor Specknoodle 1912-13 (you'll find samples on this blog). But I suppose if he was doing that against his will, he wasn't likely to do another. Thanks for checking!
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bert Mann

Bert Mann was the pseudonym of Herbert R. Kaufman according to the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Etc., New Series, Volume 6, Group 2, Numbers 22–25, June 1909 (below).

Kaufman was born on March 6, 1878 in Washington, D.C. as recorded on his World War II draft card and Social Security application, both viewed at Ancestry.com. In the 1880 U. S. Federal Census, Kaufman was the youngest of two sons born to Abram, a dry goods merchant, and Gertrude. The family resided at 1241 or 1247 Eleventh Street South East, Washington, D.C.

Who’s Who in America (1910) said his parents were Abraham Kaufman and Gertrude Raff. (I believe Kaufman’s middle name was Raff as it was common to take the mother’s maiden name.) He graduated from Emerson Institute in 1893, and Johns Hopkins in 1898. On August 12, 1900 Kaufman married Helen Herzberg.

Who’s Who identified Kaufman’s publishing activities. He headed the Herbert Kaufman newspaper syndicate in New York; served as the American adviser to C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd., in London; was a special American correspondent for the London Standard and American representative for W.T. Stead, also in London. Kaufman was associate publisher of Review of Reviews Encyclopedia and Continental Magazine. He was president of Herbert Kaufman & Handy Co., Chicago, since 1908; adviser to Frank A. Munsey, Chicago Tribune, as well as editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Record-Herald, and chain of syndicated Sunday papers.

Kaufman authored the songs Songs of Fancy, 1905; The Stolen Throne (with May Isabel Fisk), 1907; and Why Are You Weeping, Sister?

A similar listing appeared in The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, Volume 2 (1911).

National Magazine, September 1910, profiled Kaufman and Arthur Brisbane.

Not mentioned in the profiles was Kaufman’s Billiken and Bobby. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the series ran from March 7 to September 19, 1909. The artist was Tod Hunter or Todhunter. In November 1908 Kaufman had copyrighted a number pieces, possibly posters based on the dimensions, with the characters Billiken and Bobby.

According to the 1910 census, Kaufman was the president of an advertising agency. He, his wife and son Herbert Jr. lived in Chicago at 4830 Kenwood Avenue.

On January 19, 1913, Kaufman returned from a trip to England where he had departed from Liverpool on the eleventh. The passenger list had his address as 12 East 46th Street, New York City.

The Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index at Ancestry.com, recorded Kaufman’s intended marriage to Alta Esther Rush on the intended date August 2, 1913. The couple visited England in 1914; they returned October 9, 1914 to the port of New York from Liverpool. Their home was in Chicago. The Tarrytown Daily News (New York), September 6, 1947 said Kaufman moved to Tarrytown in 1916.

On September 12, 1918, Kaufman signed his World War I draft card. He was a resident of Tarrytown, New York and lived on Cobbs Lane. Kaufman was employed as special assistant and writer to the Secretary of the Interior of the federal government. He was described as tall, medium build with blue eyes and brown hair.

The 1920 census said writer Kaufman was in Tarrytown on Cobbs Lane. His son, Herbert R. Jr., was five years old and daughter, Joan, four. Kaufman remained in Tarrytown until his death on September 6, 1947 according to the New York Death Index at Ancestry.com and the Tarrytown Daily News which said he passed away at home. The newspaper also said Kaufman was known “as an outstanding collector of original art and antiques and one of his special hobbies was chemistry.”

—Alex Jay


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Monday, July 09, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Billiken and Bobby

One of the more offbeat fads I've encountered is Billiken. A character who came to young artist Florence Pretz in a dream, she sculpted the vaguely Asian looking imp sitting on a sort of throne rather Buddha-like, and declared that he was "The God of Things as they Ought To Be." She began marketing the little sculptures in 1908, first taking Chicago by storm, then becoming a hit nationally and internationally. In addition to the little statuettes, the fad was parleyed into a number of products, including a Sunday comic strip series. For the most part the fad blew over quickly, but Billikens still retain their popularity today in a few places.

Billiken and Bobby was a sumptuously drawn fantasy of the Billiken character going on adventures with a kid named Bobby Jones. Bobby's father bought the child a Billiken statuette as a present, and Billiken comes to life and whisks Bobby away to various fantasy worlds. The series debuted on March 7 1909* (top example is the inaugural episode), and ran until September 19 1909**. The poems were credited to Bert Mann, and the art, which may have only been signed in the first episode, was by Tod Hunter (Todhunter?). Mr. Hunter is an enigma to me, but he certainly makes quite an impression with what is apparently his only foray into newspaper comic art.

Billiken and Bobby was at first copyrighted to The Billiken Company, but soon changed to credit one L.M. Berwin. I have no idea who this person might be, as that name does not come up in the Billiken histories I've read. The syndicate that distributed this series to papers is not officially credited, but I have a note that it was likely the McClure Syndicate; unfortunately I failed to say why I thought that was so. Looking at the tearsheets in my collection, I also find Billiken and Bobby strips paired with New York World and Hearst strips on the reverse, not just McClure material -- which in itself would not be proof anyway.

Like to know more about Billiken? It's a pretty interesting subject, and you'll find several really top-notch articles about it at the Church of Good Luck website. At Mondo Mascots they offer a good article on the continued popularity of the figures in Japan with lots of great pics.

The Billiken also has another newspaper comics connection; in the 1920s the Chicago Defender decided to create a sort of editorial mascot for their kids/comic page. Based on a Billiken statuette that perched on an editor's desk, they named their mascot Bud Billiken ... apparently not worried about copyright infringement. The Bud Billiken page became a Chicago institution, inspiring a Bud Billiken Club and an annual parade in Chicago.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

* Source: Philadelphia Public Ledger
** Source: San Francisco Chronicle


As a kid, I have a vague memory of a Japanese comic from 1969 called "Biri Ken", about a magical dog.

I didn't realize until now that the name is a pun on "Billiken", which would have been well-known in Japan by then ("Ken" means "Dog" in Japanese, hence the pun)
Billiken was a licensing fad too, I've had post cards of him, and for many years I had a small statue of him sitting on my window sill. There was, at the time (ca. 1908) a series of comedy records featuring an old hick farmer character called "Uncle Josh Weatherbee". One was "Uncle Josh and the Billiken", where he is given one for a good luck charm. At first he's dubious about it, but he does as instructed and rubs it and makes wishes, and it unfailingly causes multiple disasters on his farm, and if I recall, he wound up at the bottom of a well.
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Saturday, July 07, 2018


Herriman Saturday

August 10, 1909 -- Prioir to their championship fight, Jim Jeffries has sailed for Europe where he is being feted by the glitterati, while Jack Johnson feels left out. Herriman could do a better job of focusing on the racism at the core of this imbalance, but shirks that to concentrate on the financial aspect.


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Friday, July 06, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from R. Edward Shellcope

R. Edward Shellcope is remembered among know-it-all newspaper strip fans for his work at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1900s. He had a style that owed a lot to William F. Marriner. This is the only postcard work of his that I've encountered; the company that published this series of cards neglected to take credit on them, but they did remember to say that it was a Post Card in no less than eighteen different languages. Since the card was postally used (in 1909) in Philadelphia, Shellcope's home digs, I'm guessing that it may never have gotten distribution much further than that. Makes the eighteen languages seem like a bit of overkill.

This card is a divided back, postally used in 1909.


In those days one of the standard layouts for a Post Card backing was to say it in all the languages of the Universal Postal Union. Perhaps this was to assure other countries it may be sent to that the card was acceptible for delivery there, as I've seen cards from Europe that will sometimes do this also. Not always, though, so it obviously wasn't an actual law.
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Thursday, July 05, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: The Mannikins

John Booth must have had a rock solid ego to stick with his given name in spite of inevitable comparison to President Lincoln's assassin. Assuming our fellow was in his 20s when he worked at the New York World in the 1890s, his parents stuck him with that name not all that long after the dastardly deed, too. Poor guy! It would be like being born in the 1950s and having your parents christen you Adolf. Good luck with that, kid. 'Sue' would be a cakewalk by comparison.

Anyhow, I know nothing about this Mr. Booth except that he penned two short series for the New York World. The Mannikins was the second of those and ran for just two installments on March 6 and 13th, 1898*. These busy panoramas were given short shrift in the Sunday comics section by running quite small -- small enough that to actually decode all the frenetic action was tough on the old peepers. Booth may have meant for them to be run that small though, since the classical definition of "mannikin" (or "manikin") is "little person", not the clothing display figures we associate with than word today.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans (the whole series!).

* Source: Ken Barker's New York World index.


They seem like all head and no body- Is it possible "Mannikin" might have been a term used to describe masks as well?
Some of these early comic strips are almost nightmarish! Creepy....
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Tuesday, July 03, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Mrs. Brass

I know nothing about cartoonist Jack Rogers except that he worked for the World Color Printing shop from at least 1906 to 1909, and then as far as I can tell, fell off the face of the Earth. Barring a miracle, I'm guessing Alex Jay will have little luck tracking down a fellow who has such a common name.

Mr. Rogers was no great shakes as a cartoonist. As the sample above shows, his cartooning was rather wooden and his gags, at least for the Mrs. Brass series, weren't exactly going to keep Mark Twain up at night worrying about his place at the top of the humorist pantheon. Mrs. Brass was one of only two series which Rogers created himself; the other two he worked on were inherited from other cartoonists.

The one-note Mrs. Brass, who puts her doting hubby through the wringer with her unreasonable demands, ran in the WCP section from July 25 to October 17 1909*. It was Rogers' last new series, and apparently closed out his cartooning career.

* Source: Canton Repository


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Monday, July 02, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: TV Tee-Hees

Henry Scarpelli is best known for his work on the Archie line of comic books and the newspaper comic strip, but his work in comics started long before that in the 1940s. His first brush with newspaper work came when he signed on as assistant to John Henry Rouson, working on the Sunday of his strip Little Sport. That would have been in the early to mid-1950s.

Little Sport was syndicated by General Features, and Scarpelli must have made a favorable impression with the syndicate, because they awarded him his own bylined feature, TV Tee-Hees. Newspapers were deathly afraid that TV was going to kill their market, but tried to embrace it to stay relevant. In the mid-1950s it became common for papers to issue daily or weekly television program listings, giving TV junkies a reason to buy the paper even if they didn't read it otherwise. As always, the syndicates latched onto the new feature by offering a cartoon or comic strip specifically designed to accompany the listings.

The most popular of these features was Bil Keane's Channel Chuckles, but it was hardly alone in the genre. Henry Scarpelli's TV Tee-Hees covered the same ground, starting as a weekly panel in August 1956*. The weekly panel, which ran 2-columns wide, usually came in the actual shape of a TV set complete with dials, though some papers cut off some or all of that (see top three samples). Newspapers used the panel in their weekly TV listing sections, generally included with the Sunday paper.

General Features must have been pleased with the reception, because they asked Scarpelli to begin producing a daily 1-column version of the panel, which could run in papers that printed daily TV listings. This version began in July 1957** and met with enough newspaper buyers to keep it afloat.

Although the panel never rivalled Channel Chuckles in popularity, at a small syndicate like General Features it was counted as a success. There was even a book version offered by Fleet Publishing in 1963.

The panel even outlasted General Features itself. The syndicate was bought out by the LA Times in the late 1960s, and the imprint was dropped in December 1974, along with many of its features, but TV Tee-Hees was retained. A bigger syndicate meant higher expectations, though, and apparently TV Tee-Hees didn't quite make the top of the ratings there. The panel went off the air in 1978 (lasting until at least July of that year***).

* Source: Creator in The Cartoonist magazine, December 1968.
** Source: Editor & Publisher, 7/27/1957.
*** Source: Springfield Leader and Press.


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Saturday, June 30, 2018


Herriman Saturday

August 9 1909 -- The Angels are about to take on the San Francisco Seals in a series considered pivotal to the outcome of the season, and Herriman avers that between pep, fan support, nerve and ginger that they will be able to successfully defend "Ole Bald Dome", manager Hen Berry.


When I commented last week on Herriman leaving his signature off I had failed to notice he had been leaving it off for a month or more (and continuing, as above). The Examiner doesn't seem to be getting very much out of him during this time, assuming you're not leaving out a number of items. I wonder, was he working somewhere else at the same time?
Eddie -- Yes, Herriman was trying to get something to stick with the national Hearst chain at this time. 1909 saw him try Mary's Home From College, Baron Mooch and several others, some of which never even ran in his home paper.

of course! I had forgotten that you were leaving out the various strips that have been thoroughly covered elsewhere.
keep 'em coming!
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Friday, June 29, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Jimmy Swinnerton

Here's another Swinnerton card from the Hearst giveaway series of 1906. Amazing attention to detail from Swinnerton on that Egyptian sarcophagus! This particular postcard must have been especially popular, as I see it more than any of the other Hearst cards.

This particular example was complimentary of Hearst's Los Angeles Sunday American, one of his less successful papers.


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Thursday, June 28, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Out of the Frying Pan

When NEA started including cartoons as part of its blanket service around 1903, they offered lots of little one-shot gag panels, and no continuing series. It took about three years before they started getting the hang of the continuing series concept, and the fellow who led them by the nose into the new age was Frank R. Leet. Leet was a real workhorse in his NEA days, offering up a steady stream of graphic humor. He came up with lots of little series, one of which was Out of the Frying Pan. This little two panel "before and after" weekday cartoon was offered by NEA from January 7 to February 21 1908*.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

* Source: Ohio State University's NEA archives


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Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Isn't It Always the Way?

Isn't It Always The Way? is one of the countless precursors to Hatlo's They'll Do It Every Time, in which each episode shows a hapless boob's plans going awry. This particular one appeared as a weekday strip in the New York Evening World from August 4 to November 2 1908*. It represents the only continuing title ever created, as far as I know, by a fellow who was bylined as H.A. Sohl. Sohl created a few one-shot cartoons for the World, but that's as far as I can track him down. It's too bad because although his work is a little rough around the edges, he definitely had the prized "drawing funny" gene.

It's probably just my base imagination, but in the top sample are we seeing a steno gal in the universal cartoon pose of getting dressed after, well, you know? And in the last panel it seems wifie is also out philandering in a most frank way? Either I have a dirty mind, or an editor was really asleep at the wheel letting this one into the paper.

* Source: New York Evening World


There's a clock showing 5, so she's getting ready to leave. The odd identifying label of "stenographer" suggests an editor had an imagination similar to yours.

The cartoonist does seem to find huge hats amusing. The last strip has a little side gag of a guy leaning away from an outsized chapeau. And the final panel again offers a young lady putting on a hat of scale. Reminded of the "School Days" panels where the pretty teacher not only affected huge hats, but a hairstyle that incorporated walking sticks.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Alston

Charles Henry Alston was born on November 28, 1907, in Charlotte, North Carolina. His full name was published in the 1929 Columbia College yearbook the Columbian, and the birth date is from the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Alston was the youngest of three children born to Primers P. and “Hannah”. The household included a niece, nephew, and mother-in-law. They resided in Charlotte, North Carolina at 416 West Third Street.

About six months after the census enumeration, Alston’s father died on October 18, 1910, according to his North Carolina death certificate which has transcribed at Ancestry.com.

The North Carolina, Marriage Records recorded the marriage of Alston’s mother, Anna, to Harry P. Bearden on August 21, 1913. Whitney Museum of American Art: Handbook of the Collection (2015) said Alston moved “with his family to Harlem in 1915”.

Bearden signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address was 55 West 98th Street in Manhattan, New York City. He was superintendent of service at Bretton Hall.

The same address was recorded in the 1920 census and 1925 New York state census.

African-American Artists, 1929–1945 (2003) said Alston graduated from “DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he served as art editor of the school magazine”. Alston continued his education at Columbia University in New York City.

1929 Columbian

The New York Age, December 6, 1930, reported the Arthur Wesley Dow Scholarship was awarded to Alston and added, “His career while an undergraduate of Columbia College is worthy of mention. He was art editor of the school’s humorous monthly, ‘The Jester,’ also art editor of the ‘Varsity,’ the literary organ of the college, and of the Morningside independent magazine of the Heights institution. He received the gold King’s Crown while at Columbia. He is vice-president-elect of Eta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He is specializing in modern art at Columbia.”

According to the 1930 census, Alston was with his family at 1945 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. His occupation was “boys worker” at Utopia House. African-American Artists said “During this time, he offered free art classes to young people at neighborhood centers, including Utopia House and the Harlem Community Art Center. His now-famous art students included Jacob Lawrence, Robert Blackburn, and Romare Bearden.”

In the 1940 census, Alston lived alone at 306 West 141 Street in Manhattan. The artist was with the WPA Art Project. The New York Age, May 4, 1940, said Alston was one of 68 people, from over 600, to receive a Julius Rosenwald Fund Scholarship.

During World War II Alston enlisted in the army on December 27, 1943.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Alston drew The Color Guard from January 24, 1943 to September 21, 1944. The series was produced for the Office of War Information (OWI).

The New York Age, April 15, 1944, reported Alston’s marriage.

Prominent Doctor Marries Soldier
Dr. Myra Logan, one of Harlem’s most prominent women doctors, and daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Warren Logan, of Tuskegee Institute, was married Saturday to Pvt. Charles Henry Alston, son of Mrs. Anna Bearden and the late Rev. Primus Alston, of Raleigh, N. C. Rev. John H. Johnson, rector of St. Martin's Church, officiated at the informal ceremony in the presence of the immediate families at the home of her sister, Louise Logan.

Dr. Arthur Logan gave his sister in marriage. The bride’s sister, Miss Louise Logan, served as her attendant. Wendall Alston was his brother’s best man.

Dr. Logan who received her degrees from Atlanta University, Columbia University, and New York Medical College, is on the staffs of Harlem Hospital and Cancer Institute.

Pvt. Alston who completed his undergraduate and graduate study of fine arts at Columbia University, has had his paintings on exhibit at the Downtown gallery at the Museum of Modern Art. Prior to joining the army he was on the art staff of the Office of War Information in Washington.
Alston visited Europe. Sailing aboard the S.S. Liberte, Alston arrived in New York City, from Le Havre, France, on July 22, 1953.

Alston’s career as an artist and teacher is detailed here.

Alston passed away April 27, 1977 in New York City. His death was reported the following day in The New York Times.

Further Reading and Viewing
Art in America
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
The Johnson Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Slate, Biographical Cartoons of Notable Black Americans, Drawn to Promote Unity During WWII 
Smithsonian, Oral history interview with Charles Henry Alston 
U.S. Air Force, Air Force Art

—Alex Jay


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Monday, June 25, 2018


Public Service Features: The Color Guard

During World War II, the Office of War Information offered newspapers many free patriotic features designed to help with morale and sell war bonds. Among these were some comic strips and quite a few panel cartoon series. So far I've only found a single such feature that was designed to run in black newspapers, and that was The Color Guard.

The Color Guard was a panel series about heroic figures of black men and women of history, going heavy on those whose stories had either a patriotic or military component. The series was produced by a competent cartoonist who signed himself only Alston, and he did not get a byline. Alex Jay has discovered his identity, and we'll have his Ink-Slinger Profile tomorrow.

The earliest I've found this panel showing up was on January 16 1943*, and the latest I've seen it running in a paper that offered it on a regular weekly basis was April 9 1944**. The Atlanta World offered one additional panel on September 21 1944, but I'm guessing that was a repeat to fill a hole, since other papers ended the series in April as well.

The samples above are from the New York Age, which ran the series minus its title bars.

* New York Age
** Atlanta World

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Saturday, June 23, 2018


Herriman Saturday

August 6 1909 -- I'm not going to attempt to give a capsule explanation of the 1909 anarchosyndicalist insurrection in Catalonia Spain (to be honest I thought Monty Python had invented that term), but suffice to say that it was quickly met by the inhumanly brutal hand of the government, as detailed in the news story above. Here's a site that offers some historical perspective on the event and the conditions that led to it.

I am not entirely sure this is a Herriman cartoon. Although it certainly looks like his work, it seems to be signed with the initials "CL."


Just dropping a note to say you got me coming back to this one. The 'CL' monogram (if that's what it is) is drawn with a different pen from the rest of it. Rather than looking for another artist I'm thinking we should be figuring out why Herriman might have found the job so distasteful he left his signature/mark off. That may be hooey but, as you said elsewhere, he usually managed to at least get his little cross in a circle in somewhere if he didn't feel like doing the whole name. And the other suspect, Dan Leno, never rejected an opportunity to put his pseudonym before the public.
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Friday, June 22, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Charles Dana Gibson

Here's another Gibson card from Detroit Publishing, #14003, and this one was postally used in 1906. That puts the kibosh on what I read on the web about the series being issued in 1907. Sumptuous Gibson work, originally published in Life in 1899. The humor of this card was still current by 1906, as monopolies were still very much in the news then.


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Thursday, June 21, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Hardy Hiram

Vet Anderson, who signed himself with a figure of a rooster sporting his first name as its tail feathers, had a long and varied career, but is most remembered today for his work in animation. Although he wouldn't move into the animation world for well over a decade after creating the short-lived Hardy Hiram, you can certainly see in this example that he was a natural at the form. Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, anyone?

Despite working for over a decade at major newspapers in various artistic capacities, Hardy Hiram is one of only two comic strip series of his of which I'm aware. It ran in the New York Herald Sunday comic section from March 2 to April 13 1902*.

* Ken Barker's New York Herald index


Hi Allan,

Thanks for plug, and thank for posting this! So beautiful, I'd love to see the other 3 or 4 "Hirams" he did in color someday. Best, CJ
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Dearie

When a cartoonist would set out to (or was commanded to) copy an existing hit strip, sometimes things went just a little awry. When Gene Carr decided to try his hand at a Buster Brown imitation with Dearie, for instance, things got a little out of hand.

Outcault's Buster Brown was hell on wheels behind an angelic facade, and Carr's Dearie took the idea and turned the control knobs up to eleven. Dearie goes right past rosy-cheeked cuteness into a kid who looks like he's auditioning for a drag show, and he's way past hell on wheels, he's a sadistic little freak who makes Alex from A Clockwork Orange seem positively well-adjusted. (In fairness to the strip, the example above is the most extreme of the short series).

The World syndicated this odd strip as the cover feature of their Sunday comics section from July 10 to August 28 1910*.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.

* Chicago Inter-Ocean


"Dearie" has his own gang, too. It's just wierd enough to have been part of a series, maybe as featured adversaries for Dick Tracy. In 1910 it was still okay for criminalaity to go unpunished if it was pulled off by boys.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Clyde Ludwick

Clyde E. Ludwick* was born on September 28, 1885 in Texas. Ludwick’s birth date is from her gravestone; the birthplace is from the censuses; and her middle initial is from Seattle city directories. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Ludwick’s parents, Oliver (1850–1939) and Ellen (1860–1938), were residents of Blanco, Texas.

In the 1900 census, Ludwick, her parents and two older siblings lived in Justice Precinct 4, Burnet County, Texas. Ludwick’s father was a farmer.

The 1903–1904 Austin, Texas city directory listed Ludwick, her sister, Forrest, and brother, Wayne, at 1401 East Second Street. Information about Ludwick’s art training has not been found. At some point, Ludwick moved to Seattle, Washington.

In the 1910 Seattle city directory, Ludwick was an artist at the Western Engraving Company. Her address was 4071 Second Avenue NE. The same address was recorded in the 1910 census which also said newspaper artist Ludwick and her dressmaker mother were roomers. The head of the household was a stenographer.

The 1911 city directory listed Ludwick at 4233 Thackeray Place. The house was owned by her father. According to the 1912 directory, Ludwick was a Seattle Post-Intelligencer artist who lived on “Blanchard corner 6th Ave”. The 1913 and 1914 directories listed Ludwick at 4233 Thackeray Place and a Seattle Times artist.

So far the earliest samples of Ludwick’s work were found in Times of 1912. In some Seattle publications Ludwick and Nell Brinkley were mentioned together.

Such was the interest in Ludwick’s work that readers demanded to know what the artist looked like. The Times complied and published two photographs of her in its October 3, 1913 edition.

The Seattle Star, January 26, 1914, printed a Bon Marche advertisement that featured “Clyde Ludwick” pennants. Ludwick’s last illustration for the Seattle Times appeared May 13, 1914.

Ludwick was not listed in the 1915 Seattle city directory. At some point she moved to California.

So far the earliest Ludwick art found in the San Francisco Chronicle was dated March 17, 1915. She contributed drawings until the last day of the year. Ludwick also contributed an illustration to the Los Angeles Herald, March 23, 1915. 

Ludwick was listed as an Express-Tribune artist, whose address was 451 South Figueroa, in the 1916 Los Angeles city directory. 

Ludwick produced another Easter drawing for the Chronicle on April 23, 1916. Starting in July her art was published by the Sacramento Bee through September 1916.

The September 9, 1916 New York Herald said Ludwick was one of four people who leased studio apartments at 64 West 9th Street. Ludwick was on the third floor. The same address was listed in the 1917 New York City directory.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Ludwick drew Once Upon a Time, from January 7, 1917 to January 27, 1918, for the New York Tribune.

Ludwick has not been found in the 1920 census.

Dry Good Economist, March 12, 1921, reported the National Silk Week. “…Gold, silver and bronze medals are to be awarded by the Silk Association of America for the best window displays made during National Silk Week….The board of judges in the contest consists of Albert Blum, M. D. C. Crawford, Stewart Culin, Herman Frankenthal, Julio Kilenyi, Clyde Ludwick, A.M. Waldron and L.E. Weisgerber.”

On June 10, 1921, Ludwick and Matthew Hubert Harcourt obtained a marriage license in Manhattan. According to census records, Harcourt was a widower and this was his second marriage. 

During June and July 1921, the New York Evening World published Ludwick’s New York Spooning Places.







Ludwick’s illustration graced the cover of the Sunday Eagle Magazine, March 11, 1923.

In 1925 Ludwick was a Portland, Oregon resident when she copyrighted this work: “Harcourt (Clyde Ludwick)* Portland. Or. 11332 Roses. Model of bust of girl with roses. © 1 c. Aug. 8, 1925; G 75237”.

Seattle Times 6/27/1936

Ludwick passed away November 21, 1927 in Tacoma, Washington. The following day an obituary appeared in the Seattle Times.

Mrs. M.H Harcourt Is Called by Death
Services for Former Staff Artist with The Times to Be Held Friday.

Mrs. Clyde Ludwick Harcourt of Seattle died in Tacoma last evening after an illness of several months. She is survived by her husband, Matthew H. Harcourt, Seattle hotel man; their daughter, Natalie, who is attending school in Highland, N.Y.; her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver B. Ludwick of Steilacoom; her sister, Mrs. Louis Wire of Tacoma, and her brother, Wayne D. Ludwick of Los Angeles.

As Miss Clyde Ludwick, Mrs. Harcourt was a staff artist for The Times twelve years ago. She returned to her work with The Times last year but was forced to give it up because of ill health. Mrs. Harcourt, whose sketches were popular with Times readers, was a native of Texas. She lived for many years in New York. She was an active member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Hotel Greeters of America.

Funeral services will be held from Piper’s at 5433 S. Union St., South Tacoma, Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock. The Rev. Ralph Sargent of Lincoln Park Christian church will officiate.
Ludwick was laid to rest at the Tacoma Mausoleum.

Several months before her death, Ludwick applied for a patent for a mechanical manikin. The patent was granted September 25, 1928. Several mechanical devices used her work.

* There was another woman named Clyde Ludwick, who lived in Kentucky; her middle name initial was J. 1940 census records include scores of women named Clyde, many born between the 1880s and 1920s.

—Alex Jay


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