Sunday, October 17, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from Rudolph Dirks


Here's one of those freebie cards published in the Hearst papers. This series, from 1906, offers kids all the fun of burning the house down to reveal the hidden figure. Go ahead kids, climb up to that gas jet on the wall! It's perfectly safe! Oh,you have electric lighting? Well, just go ahead and find the matches wherever mommy hides them. Notice how they say "Safety Matches" right on them -- no worries there. Mommy and daddy will never know you used them.


It does seem a bit irresponsible to urge the tykes to mess with a flat iron, gass jet or matches, with no more cautious advice than "Don't Burn it" (!)
I have another of these cards, another Katzie one, in fact, and the edges are actually singed!
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Saturday, October 16, 2021


Herriman Saturday: February 22 1910


February 22 1910 -- Southern California is experiencing the greatest influx of winter heat-seekers from up north in its history. Herriman somehow equates this with the cartoon above. More importantly, though, he offers us his interpretation of the call of a kangaroo, "Klaff klaff". Must be a kangaroo who smokes too many Camels.


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Friday, October 15, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Eureka!


Gary Larson's The Far Side opened up a long-moribund vein of humour in newspaper comics, one that hadn't really been seriously mined since the early days of the form -- science and scientists. Back in the 1890s-1900s wacky scientists were a regular sight in comics sections, fueled by the rapid-fire scientific advances that were coming out of their labs. 

The genre never died out completely, but Larson brought it back with a new twist -- he wrote gags often featuring off-kilter scientists, but as often as not readers were expected to have at least a modicum of scientific literacy to get the gags. Larson's syndicate might well have admonished him for that approach with the idea that he was excluding a portion of newspaper readership, but thankfully they didn't, or at least were unsuccessful at reining him in. The Far Side in effect told scientific illiterates that they should look elsewhere on the comics page for their laughs. 

The Far Side appealed to an underserved target audience, the so called nerds and geeks. That audience turned out to be far larger than newspaper editors imagined, and so The Far Side took a long time to catch on -- with editors that is, not readers. For proof, check out Jeffrey Lindenblatt's The 300 posts here on the blog to see how slowly the panel gained papers. 

Once The Far Side had proven that there was an audience, naturally everyone wanted on the bandwagon. While many me-too entries focused on the unusually deadpan delivery of the gags, a few tried to latch onto the science aspect. That brings us, finally, to Eureka! by Munro Ferguson, a strip unapologetically and emphatically about science and scientists. This strip began in Canada at the Globe and Mail, but eventually got a small foothold in the States.

Not having access to the archives of the Toronto Globe and Mail*, I can tell you only that it is supposed to have started there sometime in 1985**. I don't know if it was a Sunday, daily or something else at the time. It was not until three years later that Universal Press Syndicate picked up the daily strip for US syndication, which began on November 28 1988***. A Sunday might have been available from the beginning, but the earliest I can find is January 8 1989 (and it's about the Big Bang, which would make for a good first Sunday). 

Eureka! is all about science and scientists, unlike The Far Side which is not so single-minded. This seems to have made Ferguson's strip a harder sell, even to editors whose eyes had been opened by the popularity of Larson's panel. Eureka! also has a much different tone, more whimsical and goofy, that sets it apart in a good way. Readers don't need a carbon copy of The Far Side, but some editors frankly can't see beyond the obvious. And even if they did, you can see them wondering what exactly they would drop in order to add this strip, which seems to offer a somewhat narrow base of interest. 

A few papers added the strip to their weekly science pages, but the clientele that ran it every day was vansishingly small. No wonder, then, that Universal Press pulled the plug sometime in 1990; my latest examples are from May of that year. 

According to an online bio of Ferguson, who is also known as a filmmaker/animator, the strip continued in the Globe and Mail until 1992.


* If you have a Toronto library card then you have access to those archives online. If you'd care to do a little research on the strip I'd be very appreciative if you could share the definitive start and end dates and frequency of Eureka!

** Source: a widely printed article from Gannett about the strip, printed in November to December 1985 in various papers.

*** Source: Santa Fe New Mexican.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ale Ting

Ale Ting produced the comic strip, Felix and Fink. Ale Ting was actually an advertising partnership by Chicago artists Morris Bibby Aleshire and, possibly, Horace B. Tingle, who was profiled here. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Felix and Fink ran from October 13, 1911 to May 25, 1913, and was distributed by the North American Press Syndicate. The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Etc., 1911, New Series, Volume 8, Number 11, listed Felix and Fink. Another entry appeared in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Works of Art, Etc., 1912, New Series, Volume 7, Number 3. 

The 1912 Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago listed Ale Ting in the commercial (Advertising Agents) and residents sections which said “Ale Ting Advertising Service M B Aleshire mngr 1619, 139 N Clark”. This was how the identity of Aleshire was discovered. Ale Ting did not appear in the 1913 directory. 

The Decatur Herald (Illinois), May 19, 1913, published a farewell message from Felix and Fink that said Tingle was the creator of the series.

Morris Bibby Aleshire was born on January 28, 1881, in Gallipolis, Ohio, according to the Ohio, Births and Christenings Index at His parents were E. S. Aleshire and Justina Onderdouk

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census listed Aleshire in Chicago at 675 Union Avenue where he was a roomer. His occupation was newspaper artist. Information about his art training has not been found. His address in the 1901 directory was 229  28th Street. The next year he resided at 3915 Calumet Avenue. 

In 1904 Aleshire made drawings of prominent Chicagoans, which were published in “Chicagoans as We See ’em”: Cartoons and Caricatures. The 1904 Syllabus, of Northwestern University, said he was a staff artist on the Chicago American and Examiner

From 1905 to 1907, Aleshire lived at 6246 Jackson Park Avenue. He was artist with the Journal. He worked at the Post from 1908 to 1911. His address was 1246 North State Street from 1911 to 1916. Aleshire was an advertising agent in 1913 and 1914. He resumed being an artist in 1915 and 1916. 

On September 12, 1918, Aleshire signed his World War I draft card. His address was 1246 North State Street in Chicago. He worked at the Wilfred. O. Floing Company. Aleshire was described as medium height, slender build, with brown eyes and red hair. 

At some point Aleshire moved to New York City. He and Kathleen Marjoribanks obtained a marriage license on December 15, 1919 in Manhattan, New York City. 

A Chicago Tribune advertisement in Printers’ Ink, September 21, 1922, announced Aleshire’s return to Chicago. The Fourth Estate, October 7, 1922, reported Aleshire’s new job. 
Chicago Tribune Appoints New Art Director.
Morris B. Aleshire, veteran Chicago newspaper man, has become art director of the Chicago Tribune. He has general supervision of the art activities of the editorial and business departments of the Tribune and its affiliated organizations, including the New York Daily News, P. & A. Photos, etc.

Mr. Aleshire worked on several Chicago newspapers as a reporter and cartoonist, making sketches of the events he covered. For some years he has been in the advertising business in New York. After his own company, the M. B. Aleshire Advertising Service, merged with the Wilfred O. Floing Company, he was vice-president of that concern. For the last three and a half years he has been art director of Calkins & Holden, advertising agents, New York.
When Liberty Magazine was conceived, Aleshire was named art director and moved back to New York. The 1925 New York state census said Aleshire and his wife employed a maid. They lived in Forest Hills, Queens, at 196 Burns Street. 

According to the 1930 census. Aleshire and his wife were Manhattan residents at 325 East 41st Street. Aleshire was a magazine artist. 

Aleshire passed away on October 27, 1931, in New York City. The Chicago Tribune, October 28, 1931, said 
M. B. Aleshire Is Dead—Artist on Newspapers 
Morris Bibby Aleshire, former art director of The Tribune, died in a New York hospital yesterday at the age of 50 years. An operation was performed on Friday, but he failed to rally from it Mr. Aleshire was born In Gallipolls, O. He was at one time connected with the Chicago Inter Ocean and later was art director of the Calkins & Holden Advertising agency in New York, leaving there to become art director of The Tribune. When Liberty magazine was founded, he filled the same post on its staff and had been associated lately with the New York News. He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Katherine Marjoribanks Aleshire, and by one brother, Edward Aleshire. Funeral services will be held today in New York.
The New York Daily News, October 28, 1931, published an obituary.  


Morris Aleshire, Artist and Art Director, Dies 
Morris B. Aleshire, 50, former art director of Liberty magazine and a widely known illustrator, died yesterday at the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled. He was taken to the hospital Friday night from his home at 325 E. 41st St. to undergo a major operation. 

Resigning a position as art director for Calkins & Holden, advertising agency, Aleshire joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune in 1923 to assist in the development of the colored rotogravure process. When Liberty was started May 7, 1924, he assumed the management of the magazine’s art department. In the past several months he had illustrated many fiction stories for The News. 

Aleshire is survived by his widow, Mrs. Kathleen Marjoribanks Aleshire, and a brother, Edward, who lives in Huntington, W. Va. Services will be held at 5 P. M. today in a funeral parlor at 140 E. 57th St. His body will be sent tomorrow to Gallipolis, O., his birthplace. 


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Monday, October 11, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Felix and Fink


For a strip that lasted only about a year and a half, Felix and Fink sure has taken an outsized share of research to try to pin down its large variety of mysteries. But let's start with the not at all mysterious fact that this strip is about as bald a rip-off of Mutt and Jeff as one could imagine. Tall skinny guy? Check. Short fat guy? Check. Short fat guy is dumb as a sack of rocks and gets the tall somewhat more intelligent guy in trouble? Check. The two are partners in crime, or at least ne'er-do-well-ery? Check.

About the only thing missing from Felix and Fink compared to Mutt and Jeff is the humour brought to the latter by Bud Fisher. Whatever we might think of Fisher's work ethic and his use of ghosts, it has to be admitted that the strip was quite a hoot in its early days, the oughts and teens. Felix and Fink on occasion can get a laugh out of me (the cop's secret beer provider gag, for instance, is ably done), but usually the set-up is sloppy, the gags creaky, the pacing awful and the dialogue inane. On the positive side, the art is delightful, though one might grumble that the artist is cribbing a lot from George Frink -- in fact Felix is pretty much the spitting image of Circus Solly/Slim Jim

But let's get on to the mysteries. Felix and Fink bursts into being in a pretty decent number of papers, including major ones, in October 1911. As one of the earlier imitators of Mutt & Jeff, a very hot property at this time, it makes sense that a lot of papers that missed their chance to get the original were willing to take this second-rate copy.

The first strips we find in these papers seem to read like we are picking up an ongoing series. So for the longest time I assumed that Felix and Fink was created earlier and finally had a spurt of marketing to explain its new clients that month. 

The strip gives some clues, but they aren't exactly giveaways. The earliest strips carry a copyright to C.N. Mather, and then it switches to North American Press Syndicate for the remainder of 1911. I know nothing of Mr. Mather except that his byline appears on a few syndicated articles in 1909-10, and then starting in mid-1911 he gets the copyright notice on a small selection of syndicated columns.  That makes it sound to me like he was running a syndicate. The only problem is that it apparently is NOT the North American Press Syndicate. I say that because I found an incorporation notice for the North American Press Syndicate in E&P and three principals are named, but no Mather.

According to the tiny bits and pieces I can pick up, the North American Press Syndicate was originally based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was either a subsidiary or aligned somehow with the Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. That sent me off to review the Grand Rapids Herald, hoping I'd found Felix and Fink's home paper. The Herald is digitized, but only available on a painfully slow website, so I could not review the paper in depth. But what I found out is that Felix and Fink seems to have only run there on a few occasions, and not near the beginning of the syndicated run. That didn't necessarily mean that the strip wasn't produced there, but that the syndicate was not having all their material run in the Herald for whatever reason. I also didn't find other material in the paper (like editorial or sports cartoons) by the creator of Felix and Fink. If this cartoonist worked for the Herald, surely I'd find something by him ... but no. 

Then I found a mention of the syndicate in Editor & Publisher saying that they were moving their operation from Grand Rapids to Chicago in May 1911. So probably the Grand Rapids Herald was a blind alley, and by the time Felix and Fink debuted the syndicate no longer had any ties to Grand Rapids at all.

On a tip from Alex Jay I checked the 1911 US copyright records. What I found is that C.N. Mather claims copyright to two dates of Felix and Fink, October 7 and 11. The earliest I've found the strip running is October 13, but that can easily be explained by a not uncommon lag between the copyright claim and the actual appearance in papers. But then things change, because the North American Press Syndicate claims copyright to a batch of Felix and Fink strips, the earliest of which is dated October 26. 

So my guess based on all this is that the strip originated in Chicago, and was originally solicited and sold by this Mather fellow who had a number of features that he successfully peddled. Maybe Mather then went to work for North American Press Syndicate, or the syndicate bought the feature from him. But in less than a month, Felix and Fink was being distributed by that syndicate. 

So did Felix and Fink have a home paper in Chicago? Well, the strip was in the Chicago Daily News from the apparent start. That's pretty weird because as I mentioned before, the strip's drawing style owes a lot to George Frink ... who drew his strips for that selfsame paper! But we'll get into the question of authorship later.

Back to the syndicate mystery. The syndication through North American Press Syndicate seems not to have lasted very long. As of the beginning of January 1912 the strip no longer carries a copyright notice at all. Going back to the copyright books, we find that copyright of the feature was next applied for in April, this time by the Ale-Ting Service of Chicago. This would prove to be the last copyright I can find for the strip. This odd name seems a little less odd when you note that the strip was signed "Ale Ting". This leaves me with the impression that this "Ale Ting" person began self-syndicating the strip at the beginning of 1912.

So now that we're presented with the name "Ale Ting", do we not have the creator of the strip? It's an odd name, to be sure, and one can search for it on the interwebs to no avail, but certainly that doesn't make it unique. Lots of creators have left a light footprint. But I am not the one who unravelled the mystery of "Ale Ting", so you'll have to wait for Alex Jay to weigh in with his Ink-Slinger Profile coming up next. 

Before I sign off, though, let's put an end to Felix and Fink. It ended on May 25 1913, perhaps a victim to all the other Mutt & Jeff copycats that were coming online. In any case, some papers that lost the strip lamented its departure woefully. For instance, here's the announcement that ran in the Decatur Herald:

This announcement gives us a few tantalizing clues that may or may not lead anywhere.The fact that the announcment heralds the arrival of Scoop the Cub Reporter may have been something inserted by this paper, but if it was boilerplate sent out by the creator/syndicator, does that mean the feature was being syndicated by International Syndicate? They rarely put copyrights on their strips, so there's no strike of that nature against them. 

The second clue I leave it for you to ponder, and Alex Jay will soon have something to say about it.


Hello Allan-
These characters remind me more of Osgar and Adolph than Mutt & Jeff, and A & O, were modelled after Vaudeville stars Weber and Fields.

Hello again-
It would seem that maybe the debut date is actually 12 October 1911, as the SYRACUSE JOURNAL ran it that day with a box on the front page announcing Felix and Fink would be at the World's Series, and to "Start" it on p.17. So it would seem the "series" series would be the launch strips.
A few days after the strip folded, this appeared in THE PERTH AMBOY (NJ) EVENING NEWS:

Died at their home, Felix and Fink, well known to readers of this and numerous other sporting pages, demise due to author's decision to discontinue drawing them.
(29 May 1913)
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Sunday, October 10, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from Rose O'Neill


Here's a Rose O'Neill Kewpie card published by the Gibson Art Company of Cincinnati. I can find no copyright date, but the card was postally used in 1928.


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Saturday, October 09, 2021


Herriman Saturday: February 19 1910


February 19 1910 -- Herriman invents a pair of young fighters -- the Covina Dumpling and the Long Beach Shrimp -- to make a point that the boxing world rankings and titles are sometimes determined by a lucky punch, a slippery mat, a distracted referee, or in this case an opponent who keeps coming back until luck finally goes his way. 


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Friday, October 08, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Margaret Ahern aka Margarita

Margaret Ahern was born Margaret O'Connell on February 16, 1921, in Manhattan, New York City, according to the New York, New York Birth Index at Ahern’s Social Security application said her middle name was Teresa and parents were John McCrohan and Margaret M. O’Connell. McCrohan was an Irish emigrant who arrived in New York City on August 11, 1921, almost six months after Ahern’s birth. He and O’Connell obtained a marriage license on April 29, 1922 in Manhattan. On November 30, 1927, McCrohan became a naturalized citizen. McCrohan’s Petition for Naturalization said he resided in Detroit, Michigan at 4249 West Maypole Avenue, and his daughter lived in Chicago.  

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census said Ahern and her parents lived in Chicago at 4701 Gladys Avenue. Her father was a factory worker. 

According to the 1940 census, Ahern lived with an aunt in Chicago at 4159 Adams Street. Ahern completed four years of high school and was a new worker. 

The Irish American Who’s Who (1984) said Ahern’s art training was at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. 

Ahern visited Mexico in June 1946. A Pan American Airways passenger list said she returned to the U.S. through Brownsville, Texas. 

Ahern’s marriage was reported in The Garfieldian (Chicago, Illinois), July 17, 1947. 
Creator of ‘Little Reggie’ Is Married
Miss Margaret McCrohan, 4159 Adams, known to readers of the Garfieldian and Austin News as “Margarita,” artist and creator of the comic strip “Little Reggie,” was married in St. Mel’s church last Saturday to Edward M. Ahern of Wheaton, Illinois. Miss McCrohan was graduated from Providence High school and attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. During the war she was editorial cartoonist of the “New World,” Catholic Diocesan weekly newspaper, but is now a free lance artist. She has used the pen name “Margarita” since returning from a trip to Mexico. “Little Reggie” is syndicated throughout the United States.

Miss McCrohan wore a wedding dress made with a satin bodice and marquisette skirt. Her fingertip veil fell from a headpiece of orange blossoms. The bridal bouquet was made of gardenias, white roses and gladioli. Attending the bride were Miss Mary Lauer, maid of honor, and Miss Katherine O’Grady, bridesmaid. They wore gowns of aqua marquisette and carried bouquets of red carnations. Ahern was attended by James A. Newsham, best man, and George Peper and Thomas A. Wood, ushers. Following the ceremony a breakfast was held at the Graemere hotel.

The groom, son of Mrs. John J. Ahern of Wheaton, is secretary of the Chicago Post Office Clerks association, and a clerk at the Garfield Park post office. He was graduated from Crane Technical High school and attended Crane Junior college and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. An ex-sergeant of chemical warfare intelligence with the air corps he saw service in England, France and Germany.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Little Reggie was distributed from December 20, 1945 to May 26, 1949 by Western Newspaper Union. 

Wikipedia said Ahern worked for the Chicago Archdiocese’s New World newspaper and WGN’s television show, Cartuna. The Chicago Tribune, August 28, 1999, said 
Her cartooning skills paralleled the pioneering days of television in Chicago and were featured in an early 1950s program called “Cartuno.” The program, essentially a game show, had Mrs. Ahern illustrate some aspect of a song while contestants tried to guess its title.

“On the screen you could see her hand drawing clues to the song,” said her son.
For The Waifs’ Messenger, Ahern produced two series, Beano and Angelo. Her best known series was An Altar Boy Named Speck for the Catholic News Service. The Speck cartoons were compiled in three books. Ahern used a pen name, Peg O’Connell, for the series, Our Parish

Ahern passed away on August 27, 1999, in Wheaton, Illinois. She was survived by her husband, two sons, two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Further Reading
Bleeding Cool, After 70 Years, About Comics Revives Speck The Altar Boy 
Lambiek Comiclopedia


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Wednesday, October 06, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Sy Grudko

Sy Grudko was born Seymour Grudka (possible misspelling) on October 3, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, according to the New York, New York Birth Index, at Passenger lists said Grudko’s parents, Sam and Ida “Grudki”, and two siblings, Isidor and Hilda, were Polish emigrants who arrived in New York City: his father in August 1920; his mother and siblings in November 1921. The family settled, with help from Sam’s brother-in-law, in Brooklyn. Three months later Sam “Grudko” declared his intention to become a citizen. 

The 1925 New York state census recorded the “Grudka” family of five in Brooklyn at 280 Sumpter Street. Two-year-old Rose was latest addition to the family. Her father was a carpenter. Sam Grudko became a naturalized citizen on January 4, 1926. His Brooklyn home was at  854 Stone Avenue. Grudko’s mother was naturalized on November 24, 1942.

In the 1930 census (below), the “Groudkay” family resided in Brooklyn at 769 Hopkinson Avenue. However, Grudko and sister Rose were not listed. It’s not clear if the omission was intentional or they lived elsewhere. 

The entire Grudko family was named in the 1940 census. They lived at 1721 East 14 Street in Brooklyn. Grudko was twelve years old and had completed the seventh grade. He attended James Madison High School and, apparently, did not graduate.

On October 3, 1945, Grudko signed his Word War II draft card which said he was unemployed. He enlisted on the first day of November. Grudko’s record said he was a commercial artist who had two years of high school.

In a telephone interview with Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, Grudko said he was discharged in 1946 and used the G.I Bill to enroll at the Art Students League in Manhattan. He studied illustration and anatomy. In late 1947 he heard about an apprenticeship opening at Timely Comics and took samples to Timely’s office in the Empire State Building. Stan Lee hired him to be on the staff. Grudko’s first work was a two-page Human Torch filler. In the bullpen he sat in front of Syd Shores. The staff was let go in 1949. 

The New York, New York Marriage License Index, at, said Grudko and Selma J. Launberg obtained a marriage license in Brooklyn on January 20, 1950. 

Grudko said he did some freelance work, in the 1950s, for Ace Magazines and Atlas Comics

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Grudko drew the comic strip So It Seems which was distributed by the Bell Syndicate. The strip originated with Lou Cameron on March 3, 1952. Cameron became very busy and asked Grudko to do it. Lou Cameron’s Unsleeping Dead (2018) said Cameron sold the strip to Grudko for one dollar. The last strip signed by Cameron was September 13, 1952. From September 15 to 20,  the strips were signed by Cameron and Grudko. The series was drawn and signed by Grudko from September 22, 1952 to March 21, 1953 although Cameron’s name remained on the strips.

During the 1950s the comic book industry contracted and many freelancers left the field. In the mid-1950s Grudko moved his wife, daughter and son to Lindenhurst in Long Island, New York. Grudko went to work for his brother in retailing. In 1961 he started his own business in Kings Park. That was followed by his successful women’s clothing shop, the Cheryl Ann Shop, in Farmingdale, through the mid-1990s. Grudko and his wife were mentioned in the Babylon Beacon newspaper November 30, 1967; December 14, 1967; November 4, 1971; and June 8, 1972. The Farmingdale Observer, September 16, 1971, mentioned Grudko and his shop. The Farmingdale Post, February 28, 1974, said Grudko was the vice president of the merchant’s association.

Grudko passed away on February 18, 2011. He was survived by his wife, three children, seven grandchildren, and two sisters. The Social Security Death Index said his last residence was Hainesport, New Jersey.

Special thanks to Diane Schoer, Grudko’s daughter, who provided additional information and corrections. 

Further Reading
Grand Comics Database
Lambiek Comiclopedia
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999


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Monday, October 04, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Mary and her Little Lamb


In William F. Marriner's long stint at the McClure Syndicate (about 1905 to his death in 1914), his mainstay strip was Sambo and his Funny Noises; few other series of his lasted very long. An exception to that rule is Mary and her Little Lamb, which ran for about two and a half years. It had the one necessary element of any classic Marriner strip -- a cute kid -- and a bonus -- a madcap lamb.

And the strip IS good as long as you learn one simple rule: Read the strip via the wonderful speech balloons, where Marriner shines with his slangy patois, but do NOT read the nursery rhymes underneath that repeat everything above in stilted verse form. I downright hated this strip until I learned the rule and felt that it was an utter waste of Marriner's towering talent. 

Mary and her Little Lamb debuted on August 12 1906* in the Otis F.Wood copyrighted version of the McClure section, and is one of the strips that Marriner never (or at least rarely) signed. Other cartoonists at McClure also metered out their signatures in moderation so I assume there was some sort of rule against a creator signing too many features in the section. That lack of a signature makes it hard to say whether Marriner eventually grew tired of this strip to the point where he he really dogged it, or if the strip was handed off to an untalented assistant. Whichever the case, in 1909 the strip degraded in quality week by week until it was finally put out of its misery on March 28 1909*. 

* Source: San Francisco Chronicle

I wish I'd seen your reading directions first. The poetry not only scans poorly, it also constantly changes verb tense in mid-sentence. The English teacher in me weeps.

This format reminds me of British comic strips during the long transition away from the text-only format. Typeset blocks under each panel described the action. There were also dialogue balloons within the panels. As in these samples, the text often repeated the spoken dialogue. And just like here, 99% of the time a reader could get the entire story without reading the text. In fact many of these hybrid strips were later reprinted as straight comics, without text. If you hadn't seen the original you'd never know it.
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Sunday, October 03, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from C.D. Gibson


We've had a number of postcards on the blog from the Gibson series issued by the Detroit Publishing Company, but this one is from a British maker, James Henderson & Sons, Ltd. This is card #189 in their Gibson series.


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Saturday, October 02, 2021


Herriman Saturday: February 18 1910


February 18 1910 -- Post office clerk Joseph Billings either celebrated a wedding or failed at an attempted robbery, depending on who you believe. If you believe Billings, he at the very least chose a very peculiar way to send off newlyweds. He shot off several rounds at the post office in the early morning hours, then sent off a rented cart and horse team careening driverless out of town, and hid for hours in the post office as a posse searched for the cause of all the ruckus. Mazel tov?


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Friday, October 01, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Sylvia Sneidman aka Sylvia Robbin

Portsmouth Herald, July 6, 1948

(This is an update of the profile posted on March 26, 2012.) 

Sylvia Sneidman was born on November 16, 1909, in Baltimore, Maryland, according to East Hampton Star (New York), January 26, 1989, and a 1931 passenger list at 

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Sylvia was the youngest of two daughters born to Maurice and Rose. They lived in Baltimore at 2820 Parkwood Avenue. Her father was a traveling salesman. 

The 1920 census said the family lived in Newport News, Virginia at 76 33rd Street. 

The Sneidmans were residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 5821 Phillips Avenue, according to the 1930 census. 

The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), July 10, 1931, reported the Maryland Institute students, including Sylvia, had reached Europe‎. She returned from the trip on August 14, 1931, in New York City, as recorded on the passenger list.

Sylvia found work at the Pittsburgh Press. The June 20, 1934 edition published her fashion drawings. The Star (Wilmington, Delaware) published her illustration for a serial story on May 12, 1935. 

Flapper Fanny Says was a daily panel created by Ethel Hays. Gladys Parker was the second artist on the series, starting March 21, 1930, which added a Sunday page. Sylvia did the daily from December 9, 1935 to June 29, 1940. The series was distributed by NEA. 

Sylvia’s marriage was covered in the Press on April 17, 1937. 
Former Pittsburgh Artist Weds in East

Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Sneidman, of Shady Ave., have announced the marriage of their daughter, Miss Sylvia Sneidman, to Dr. Sidney Robbin, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robbin of New York City. The ceremony took place yesterday in New York, where the couple will reside.

The bride is a graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art, where she was winner of a traveling scholarship on which she toured Europe. Formerly a member of the art staff of The Pittsburgh Press, she is now an artist for Newspaper Enterprise Association, handling fashion drawings and such features as “Flapper Fanny,” used daily in The Press and other newspapers. Dr. Robbin is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.
The move to New York was an opportunity for Sylvia to join the art staff of the Associated Press (AP). 

The 1940 census recorded Sylvia, her husband, and housekeeper in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, at 3760 88th Street. In 1956 they moved to Montauk, Long island, New York. 

One of her fashion drawings was printed in the Evening Leader (Corning, New York) on July 3, 1946. 

Editor and Publisher, March 1, 1947, announced Don’t Do That was available, “AP Newsfeatures has started distribution to afternoon papers of a weekly panel on personal deportment, ‘Don’t Do That’, written by Women’s Page Editor Dorothy Roe and drawn by Sylvia Robbin.” The panel began in the Jersey Journal (Jersey City, New Jersey), on April 10, 1947 (below). The series ended in the 1950s.

Below are samples of Sylvia’s art of AP material.

Omaha World-Herald, 3/12/1947

San Antonio Express, 12/18/1949

Democrat and Chronicle, 1/15/1950

Independent-Press-Telegram, 7/7/1955

In 1950 Sylvia produced How Christmas Began for the AP. 

Editor & Publisher, February 10, 1951, said the AP distributed ten health strips titled "The Latest On...", written by Alton Blakeslee and drawn by Sylvia. Editor & Publisher, March 10, 1951, announced another short feature by Sylvia, “The First Holy Week,” three-column panel drawn by Staff Artist Sylvia Robbin, is offered in six installments by AP Newsfeatures for release March 19. The test is a condensation from St. Matthew.

Sylvia produced “The Works of Christ” according to Editor & Publisher, March 22, 1952. 

Santa and the Flying Pup” was written by Lucrece Hudgins Beale and illustrated by Sylvia. It ran in the Evening Star (Washington, DC) from December 3 to 21, 1953. 

Sylvia was featured in an AP series of do-it-yourself projects. The December 20, 1953 Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho) showed how she used tiles to decorate a table top. 

In December 1955, Beale and Sylvia produced “Santa and the Dumdiddy”.

In December 1956, Beale and Sylvia produced “Santa and the Secret Room”.

The April 27, 1959 Dispatch (Lexington, North Carolina) featured her drawing of a table and various stools made of driftwood and stone. 

Sylvia contributed four illustrations (here, here, here, and here) to the second edition of the Montauk Guide and Cook Book (1959).

The East Hampton Star, December 31, 1959, mentioned Sylvia’s holiday card. 
Dr. and Mrs. Sidney Robbin of Montauk send a pretty card which I think Sylvia Robbin must have designed (she is an artist) showing the Montauk peninsula complete with deer, Indians, and swans; the land in white, ponds and ocean in black dotted with snowflakes; the Light sheds its beams on land and sea; there are seagulls, a fish, and a fishing boat.
It’s not clear when Sylvia retired. 

Sylvia passed away on January 21, 1989 in Southampton, Long Island, New York. Five days later an obituary appeared in the East Hampton Star.
Sylvia R. Robbin, who lived on Es­sex Street in Montauk for 33 years, died Saturday at Southampton Hos­pital. She was born Nov. 16, 1909, in Baltimore, and grew up in Newport News, Va., and Pittsburgh. 

Mrs. Robbin moved to Montauk in 1956 with her husband, Dr. Sidney Robbin, who set up a practice there. Dr. Robbin died in 1979. In 1942, when he became a Lieutenant Col­onel in the Army Medical Corps, his wife joined the Associated Press in New York, where she worked as a staff artist for 11 years. At that time, she also did drawings for a cartoon strip called “Flapper Fanny” in the New York World-Telegram. 

She was a graduate of the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, from which she received a European scholarship in costume design. 

Funeral arrangements were being made by the Williams Funeral Home, East Hampton. There were no imme­diate survivors. 


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Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: The Latest On ...


In February 1951 Associated Press science and medicine writer Alton Blakeslee contributed a series of ten short articles about the latest advances in the treatment of various diseases. For some reason the news service decided to present them in the form of comic strips which seems like a remarkably unlikely choice considering the serious, even grim, subject matter.The series went under the title The Latest On... and seems to have been distributed as a batch of ten with no particular directions as to presentation dates. Some papers ran them daily, some weekly, but most ran them haphazardly. Therefore I cannot offer definitive start and end dates.

Sylvia Robbin (nee Sneidman) did a beautiful job on the strip, respectful and clear without sacrificing dashes of her lovely clean-line style. Sylvia, for that's how she generally signed herself, had done a fine job taking over on Flapper Fanny back in the 1930s, holding her own against two superb predecessors, Ethel Hays and Gladys Parker. After the war she worked out of the AP bullpen, contributing style illustrations, spot cartoons, and illustrated the syndicate's Christmas stories. 

Much more on Sylvia Friday, with Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile.


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Monday, September 27, 2021


Selling It: Uncle Abner Says


At first blush you'd think Uncle Abner Says, a panel that ran from 1936-38, is just another one of those ubiquitous panels of cracker-barrel wisdom like Abe Martin, Ching Chow or their many copycats. When you look over the gags, though, you find that ol' Abner is a bit of a one-note local yokel. He's pretty gosh darn unhappy about the gov'ment, specially the way they pick his pocket with them goldurn taxes. And not just his pocket, by cracky, he's fuming over the way that Roosevelt feller is taxing big corporations, too!

Hey, wait a minute now. A bewhiskered rustic like Abner complaining about taxes? Well, sure. But concerned about corporations? Hmm, that seems a bit out of character. I hate to even suggest it of such a kindly old soul as Abner, but .... could he be on the take?

I hate to be the one to break the news, but it's true; Abner is a shill. He doesn't say a word that isn't bought and paid for by secret interests. Not surprisingly, those interests just happen to be big corporations. To lay all the cards on the table, Uncle Abner Says was a production of Six Star Service, a newspaper syndicate created by the National Association of Manufacturers*, a trade association and lobbying group of big businesses. They sent out propaganda material like this to newspapers free of charge: the newspaper filled some space with something mildly entertaining for free, and the manufacturers got their message out surreptiously, without running ads that few would bother to read. You might call it a win-win situation, except there were losers involved -- the newspaper readers who got a daily brainwashing session from what seems like an innocuous panel cartoon. 

This sort of hidden advertising material was usually sent out in small batches, but in the case of  Uncle Abner Says it was a full blown daily panel that ran for a very long time. I can track it from June 22 1936 to April 30 1938**, an unheard of almost three year run.

For almost the first year the feature was unsigned, but finally in March 1937 Nate Collier was allowed to start signing his work. I'm a big fan of Collier, but his talents, which skew to the goofy, are utterly wasted on this panel. But hey, it put food on the table at the Collier household, no foul there. I also feel sorry for Nate if he was tasked with creating all these gags, which get pretty darn monotonous in their one-note dirge for lower taxes. Not only did Nate have to write six gags a week on the same subject, but undoubtedly had to submit them for review to some corporate minister of propaganda who last smiled when Herbert Hoover was elected.  

* Source: reported in Pittsburgh Press, June 26 1936.

** Sources: start date from Belvidere Republican, end date from Edinburg Courier.


Hello Allan-
Odd you should, (in jest, naturally) mention a possible "corporate minister of propaganda" who would have some sort of oversight to a N.A.M. project. The Trotskyite weekly "THE MILITANT" shrilly decried said project, citing the Abner componant with feigned indignation that it was a COMIC STRIP! FOR CHILDREN!Like it was pornography or something. They concluded that Goebbles would be green with envy.
Obviously they didn't ever really see what they were outraged about, or care, really. The effectiveness of the panel utterly negligable. Goebbles would not be impressed. That The Militant made this observation in 1944,eight years after the N.A.M. news release about the project, and six years after Abner ended, makes one wonder what they're bothering about.
Collier, however, was happily content to keep putting out toons for the N.A.M.,with a new batch of one-shot editorial panels offered by them just after the war. Don Herold contributed too.

Being nearly a decade late to the protest, I guess one could perhaps forgive The Militant for having bigger fish to fry in their goal to foster a worker's utopia. Normally I'd be interested to read an article like you've uncovered, Mark, but having indexed decades worth of The Daily Worker, I've seen how their reporting can drain the interest out of any subject with their monotonous Marxist droning. I imagine The Militant was just as bad or worse.

Hello Allan-
Though, if we were to be strictly in keeping with seeking obscure strips, There's an untapped Pyrite mine of them in the leftist papers like the various iterations of the Daily Worker, the New York Call, etc. I used to have a batch of them, and they are indeed, joyless things. Though they look like regular comic strip art, the funny, cartoony characters do cringemaking treks to join the Wobblies or to Tom Mooney rallies, or kids that tell'em where to get off at a Dies committee hearing. Maybe the funniest part is they're so deadly serious about it.
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Sunday, September 26, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from August Hutaf


This is another in August Hutaf's 1907 collection of apple cards produced for the A.B. Woodward Company. 

The Baldwin apple is practically forgotten today, but was once one of the most popular apples in North America. Baldwin apples tended to be on the smallish side, quite hard but delicious. They were prized also for shipping well, being very resistant to blemishes, and keeping for long periods. Not just a hand fruit, they were also standouts for baking and making cider.

According to Wikipedia, the Baldwin apple is lost mainly because of a bad New England winter in 1934 which wiped out most of the trees. Red Delicious and other apples took the Baldwins place in the market, and the New England Baldwin orchards were never replanted. Few Baldwin trees are left, but it could stage a comeback as an heirloom variety.


When Raymond Baldwin (successfully) ran for Governor of Connecticut in 1938, he issued campaign pins that featured his name on the background of an apple. It's highly likely that folks in Connecticut in that era got the joke.

The Great Hurricane of 1938 probably didn't do the apple orchards any favours, either.
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Saturday, September 25, 2021


Herriman Saturday: February 16 1910


February 16 1910 -- The big Johnson-Jeffries fight is still many months away, but Herriman accurately reflects the feverish anticipation.


Have you seen the word "jodie" anywhere else?
Not a clue here.
Is it an inside reference to someone named Jodie? Maybe a co-worker?
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